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Bhutan: World's Happiest Country

    

 

Wold’s Happiest Country in the world is a big statement but when you actually visit Bhutan once, you won’t deny it. Nestled between India and Tibet, Bhutan is truly one of the most mysterious and mystical places you could travel to. It is a place where rice is red and chilies are considered to be a vegetable, where development is measured not by Gross National Product, but by Gross National Happiness. From abundant heritage sites, warm and temperate climate, welcoming people and the never-ending festivals surely make Bhutan a place to visit once in a lifetime.

Things to do in Bhutan

Visit Taktsang Palphug(Tiger's Nest Monastery)

Bhutan: World's Happiest Country-1 Located atop a mountain 1200 Mts above the Paro Valley, this monastery resides amidst the surreal beauty of nature. Famously called as Tiger’s Nest Monastery, Taktsang Palphug Monastery is one of the most prominent centre of Bhutan tourism. It is the perfect place to witness the great traditional values of the country. The centuries-old legend of this monastery makes it more mystical. Cocooned in an isolated location, Tiger’s Nest can only be reached by following the wearying mountain paths.

Bird Watching

Bhutan: World's Happiest Country-2 Boasting with 900 species of birds, Bhutan is getting popular with the label of being the birding capital of the world. Today, this Himalayan province is one of the most important places of biological significance in the world as 50 species of the known birds are winter migrants. The country harbors more than 16 species of vulnerable birds. Such rich fauna is surely a reason to visit Bhutan, right?

Mountain Biking

Bhutan: World's Happiest Country-3 Offering both on-road and off-road trails with breathtaking scenery, Bhutan is the ideal landscape for mountain biking. Many of the biking trails lead through small villages and temples which can provide interesting and informative diversions should you wish to take a break.

Considered one of the most challenging one-day events in the world, The Tour of the Dragon (Bicycle race) is annually held in Bhutan. Spanning over a distance of 286, this race is the considered as one of the most challenging one-day events in the world.

Trekking

Bhutan: World's Happiest Country-4 Situated in the Himalayas, Bhutan offers an excellent opportunity to undertake a trekking adventure. It is a bountiful destination for nature lovers with virgin mountain lakes, imposing glaciers, a rich Himalayan ecosystem which is home to many endangered birds and animals. Complemented by crystal clear air and views that sometimes defy description makes it a must visit place for trekking.

Attend Festivals

Bhutan: World's Happiest Country-5 Bhutanese culture is painted with the colours of various traditions and festivals that are celebrated throughout the country. If you take a festival tour to this country of beautiful nature’s beauty and colourful celebrations, you are in for a show as you get to enjoy and experience the vibrant local traditions of the country. One of the prime cultural festivals of Bhutan, Tsechu is held year round, throughout the country at various monasteries, temples and Dzongs.

Kayaking and Rafting

Bhutan: World's Happiest Country-6 Fed by the glaciers rivers, Bhutan offers plenty of opportunities for adventure water sports like Kayaking and rafting. The six key rivers in Bhutan and their tributaries provide a unique opportunity to explore Bhutan’s beautiful wilderness. If you are an adventure freak, you won’t be disappointed by the rugged, pristine waterways of Bhutan. The best time for rafting and kayaking is from March-April and October -December.

Bath in Hot Springs

Bhutan: World's Happiest Country-7 Commonly known as Tshachus in Bhutan, Hot Springs are believed to have healing properties. For a very long time, Bhutanese have visited these hot springs to cure themselves of body aches and even sinus. Moreover, it is a tradition to visit the hot springs in the months of winter. There are numerous hot springs across the country. Surrounded by lush green forests on a backdrop of snowy mountains, small treks will lead you to one of the hot springs where the bath houses are made with bathing facilities. The famous hot springs are Gasa Tshachus, Gelephu Tshachu, Duenmang Tshachu and Dur Tshachu.

Visit Dochula Pass

Bhutan: World's Happiest Country-8 More than 10 thousand feet above sea level, Dochula Pass is one of the most famous places to visit in Bhutan. This place is blessed with the panoramic view of snow-capped mountains and colorful prayer flags fluttering in the wind. The Dochu La Wangyal Festival where the colorful mask dance can be witnessed also makes this place illustrious.

How to reach Bhutan

There are two ways to reach Bhutan.

One is to enter via Phuentsholing on road and the other is to fly directly to Paro. If you decide to go via road to Phuentsholing then the nearest airport is at Bagdogra in West Bengal. The last major station is at Jalpaiguri from where one needs to take a shared taxi or cab to Phuentsholing.

If you choose to fly then Druk Air takes you to Paro directly.

To come out of Bhutan you can use the above two routes or come out through Samdrup as well. If you plan to come out through Samdrup route, the nearest airport is Guwahati air terminal.

Note: One CANNOT enter Bhutan through Samdrup, only exit is possible.

Visa and Permits

Bhutan: World's Happiest Country-9 Let’s get it straight! The Bhutan tourism encourages only responsible travellers visiting their country. If you look at the set of rules that they have laid for outsiders, you’ll understand why we made that statement.

Unlike other countries, you can’t just buy tickets, get your visa done, pack your bags and land up in Bhutan. There are a set of rules that you need to follow.

For Non-Indians

Tourists should visit the place only through approved agents from Tourism Council of Bhutan. They have set a minimum daily package for every tourist who visits their country. This is basically called tourist tax and its mandatory to pay the price. The costs are around $200 per person per night during off season (January, February, June, July, August & December) and $250 per person per night for high season(March, April, May, September, October & November).

This $200 / $250 per person per night is applicable only if you are traveling in a group of 3 or more. Else you have to pay a surcharge of $40 per night if you are traveling alone and $30 per person per night if you are traveling in a group of 2.

If you go through any local agent, he might charge you additional cost because these local agents will in turn need to get in touch with the Tourism Council of Bhutan’s approved agents as they are the only authorized people to guide you around. There are discounts that you get if you’re a student or if you travel in large groups, once you get in touch with these agents, they will help you with discount details.

One important thing, you need to wire transfer the entire amount before the Bhutan trip to Tourism Council of Bhutan, only then you’re visa will be processed. This is a must because when you enter Bhutan, you need to show your visa clearance letter to get inside the country.

For Indians

Indians are exempted from these set of rules but they need a permit to visit Bhutan. You can get permit done from the Immigration Office in Phuentsholing. This permit will be valid for 7 days and can be used to visit Thimphu and Paro. In case you want to visit other remote places in Bhutan like Punakha, Haa Valley, Bumthang etc you need to get another permit from Thimphu Immigration office. There is no fee involved in any of this process.

Important note: Carry a valid photo id (passport, voter id, driving license) and 10 passport size photos to get the permit from the Immigration office.

Mobile & Wifi

Bhutan: World's Happiest Country-10 This is one important detail that for all of us need to know, only Airtel has connectivity in Bhutan but on international roaming charges. It’s best to take a B- Mobile sim or tashi sim from any telecom store in Phuentsholing, there is one very close to the Immigration Office itself. The sim costs 100 rupees and you can activate additional data packs if needed. Most of the hotels in Bhutan provide free wifi to its customers so there wouldn’t be a need for additional data pack, until otherwise. You need to show the permit to get the sim. If you don’t want a Bhutan sim, then activate international roaming in your airtel number before starting to Bhutan.

What to eat in Bhutan

Bhutan: World's Happiest Country-11 During Bhutan tour, you’ll eat a range of Bhutanese, Tibetan, Nepali, and Indian food, which are all very common and well represented throughout Bhutan. If you haven't already noticed, there's just about no way you can go to Bhutan and eat Bhutanese food without eating lots of cheese.

Ema Datshi is among the most famous dishes in Bhutanese cuisine, recognized as a national dish of Bhutan. It is made from chili peppers and cheese; "ema" means "chili" and "datshi" means "cheese" in the Dzongkha language of Bhutan. No matter if you are spice lover or not, you won't be able to resist this dish.

Want to know about dishes to try in Bhutan? If yes, click here.

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