Congratulations for your interest in visiting one of the world's most remarkable, unspoiled, richly-cultured destinations, the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan. The very first thing you need to understand about visiting Bhutan is that you cannot book a hotel online, go there and do your own thing. Bhutan has a system in place to minimize potential negative impact of tourism on the country's culture. To visit Bhutan you must pre-arrange a tour package * that includes hotels, meals, local transportation and a guide. Since you are planning to go there to enjoy the scenery and the culture, and because you undoubtedly do not speak the local language, this system is not such a bad thing because you will have a very rich cultural experience.
Where is Bhutan?
Bhutan is landlocked Kingdom about the size of the U.S. state of Iowa with a population of a mere 700,000 sandwiched between India and Tibet. This is a land of boundless spectacular beauty with an environment that is still pristine. It is a liberal constitutional monarchy that observes centuries-old traditions yet is, in many ways, one of the most progressive of Earth's countries. It was the last country on earth to get TV and the first non-smoking country. Due to its massive forests Bhutan is carbon negative.
Bhutan's culture remains as it has long been, and the country's leaders have gone to great lengths to keep it that way. The Kingdom has never been occupied or colonized. It was completely closed to tourism until 1974. Regardless of the introduction newspapers, cell phones, the Internet, air travel, and of many of the things visitors take for granted, Bhutanese live much as they did a century ago. Life here is uncomplicated and the country measures the progress of society in terms of "Gross National Happiness.
An Authentic Cultural Experience
Because the number of visitors has always been controlled, Bhutan is very unspoiled. This means that lucky visitors enjoy a very authentic cultural experience, while at the same time enjoying hotels with modern amenities. Seventy percent of the country is virgin forest, and you can expect magnificent scenery as you travel.
Buddhism is the nucleus of Bhutan's culture and people here are very devout. The country's most significant architectural treasures are its monasteries and temples. Colorful festivals take place throughout the year.
People & Language
Bhutanese people are well educated and many speak English. Traditional dress is the norm for local people, though not for visitors. People in the countryside live very much as they have for hundreds of years, although most have modern plumbing and electricity, and many also have things like mobile telephones, television and microwave ovens. The tallest building is merely five stories tall. Virtually every town has at least one ATM connected to a global network.
Tourist Seasons in Bhutan
There is no bad time of year to visit Bhutan. The Kingdom is magical in every season. July and August are "green season" (occasional rain). Winters are cold but not freezing except in high elevations. Tourism is divided into high season and low season.
How to Get to Bhutan
The only international airport is Paro. There are currently two airlines serving Bhutan: Drukair and Bhutan Airways. Flights to Bhutan are from Delhi, Kathmandu, Kolkata (Calcutta), Dhaka, Bagdogra/Siliguri, Bangkok and Singapore, with most flights originating in Delhi and Bangkok.
There are now domestic flights in Bhutan between Paro and the smaller cities of Bumthang in central Bhutan and Trashigang in the eastern part of the Kingdom. Fights are currently only several times a week, but this may change. Private aircraft are not allowed to land in Paro for technical reasons.
There is one main road connecting Paro with the capital city of Thimphu and continuing far across the country to Trashigang. We use late model vehicles equipped with climate controls and safety equipment necessary for mountain roads.
Is Bhutan for you?
If you have a sense of adventure, are well traveled, eager to learn about new and fascinating places, tolerate small inconveniences, love history and religion, and "go with the flow" you will probably enjoy Bhutan immensely. Bhutan is difficult but not impossible destination for people with serious physical limitations, including severe motion sickness or inability to adjust to high altitudes, and those addicted to tobacco. If you need a walker or wheel chair to get around, your experience will be limited to what you can see from the road in most cases.
If you cannot stand to be in a car for more than an hour, need a hamburger, bacon and eggs, or pizza every day, or you are picky about the thread count of bed linens, there are probably better destinations for you to consider. But if you like our concept about quality and service, we can probably help you choose a destination in Asia more appropriate for your requirements. This does not mean that Bhutan means "roughing it." Traveling with us is very comfortable and civilized.
You will need a visa for Bhutan
A visa is required to visit Bhutan. We take care of that for you while we are taking care of every other element of your adventure.
* We really loathe the word "tour" because all of the journeys we offer are private. You will not be in a bus full of strangers or follow someone around with a flag on a stick. We believe that everything that goes into a special adventure should be as individual as you are. We think that you should have some control over your time, that you should be able to skip what you don't want to see, and linger at places you really like. Ultimately, we are purveyors of quality experiences, not mere "tours."