People

The people of Bhutan can be divided into three broad ethnic types, the Sharchops, who live mostly in the eastern region; the Ngalops, who live in the western part of Bhutan, and the people of Nepalese origin who live in the southern part of Bhutan. Over 50% of the population is Bhotiyas of Tibetan origin. The majority of them belong to the Tibeto–Burmese language group. There are a large number of Nepalese who belongs largely to tribes such as the Rai, Gurung and Limbu. Since 1959, the immigration of Nepalese has been banned and Nepalese are not allowed to move into the central plain. There are various other tribes like the Lepchas, an indigenous tribe and the Santals, who migrated from Northern Bihar.

The unity of the Bhutanese people and independence of the country is under control of the state religion, Buddhism. There is very limited religious freedom, as government and social pressure do not allow for public expressions of other faiths. The people of Bhutan are very sociable. This feeling of content is due to their Buddhist faith or security felt by them which is provided by the lofty Himalayas which protects them from the outside world. Most of the people live life as they did several hundred years ago. They live in rustic rural homes surrounded by fields of rice, maize, buckwheat and wheat. At higher altitudes, they live in nomadic tents woven with yak hair.

All the citizens of Bhutan (whether Government officials or the common public) wear the national dress at all times in public. The men wear traditional Gho, a knee-length robe tied at the waist and pouched over the belt to form a pocket usually made from hand-woven fabric in interesting patterns. The women wear an ankle-length Mira, which is tied at the waist with a wide sash and fastened at the shoulders with silver broaches and woven in patterns distinct to each valley. Government senior officials carry a sword on ceremonial occasions. The most important sport is archery. Archers throughout Bhutan take great pride in hitting any part of a plate the size of a dinner plate from a distance of 450 feet. Every village has its own archery range, and high-spirited competitions are held as the part of every festival.
  • Geography

    Bhutan is situated in the heart of the great Himalayas, the world’s mightiest mountain ranges. Bhutan is a landlocked country surrounded by mountains. The kingdom of Bhutan is spread over an area of 75,000 square km. It is bordered in the north and north-east by Tibet and in the west and east by rugged mountain ranges that separates Bhutan from India and the states of Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim, in the south by Assam and West Bengal. In the far north, it is bordered by the snow clad peaks of the Himalayas, some of them soaring over 7500 meters high and extend southward losing height, to form the fertile valleys of the Lesser Himalayas that are divided by the Wang, Sunkosh, Trongsa and Manas rivers.

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  • History

    Mystery surrounds Bhutan’s distance past as priceless irretrievable documents were lost in fires and earthquakes. It is believed that in the 8th century AD, Guru Padma Sambhava made his legendary trip from Tibet to Bhutan on the back of a flying tigress. He meditated at Taktsang, Tiger’s Nest, at Paro. Guru Rinpoche is the father of the Tantric strain of Mahayana Buddhism, practiced in Bhutan.


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  • Religion

    Religion plays a very important role in the social affairs of Bhutan. Buddhism is followed by 70% of the population while Hinduism is practiced by 25%. The rest are either Muslims or Christians. Lamaist Buddhism is the state religion. It belongs to the school of Mahayana or Tantrik Buddhism. Buddhism has shaped the country’s destiny since it was introduced 100 years ago. It is practiced throughout the country and has also played a vital role in the life of the people. The Bhutanese belongs to the Drukpa School, a 12th century splinter movement from the Kagyupa (one of the Red Hat sects). The religious goal of the Drukpa is redemption from the cycle of rebirth, entering into Nirvana. With Lamaism this is believed to be achieved by castigation, magic deeds and formulas. There are about 8 major monasteries (which are also dzong – fortresses) and 200 small shrines (gompas) scattered throughout the country.
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  • People

    The people of Bhutan can be divided into three broad ethnic types, the Sharchops, who live mostly in the eastern region; the Ngalops, who live in the western part of Bhutan, and the people of Nepalese origin who live in the southern part of Bhutan. Over 50% of the population is Bhotiyas of Tibetan origin. The majority of them belong to the Tibeto–Burmese language group. There are a large number of Nepalese who belongs largely to tribes such as the Rai, Gurung and Limbu. Since 1959, the immigration of Nepalese has been banned and Nepalese are not allowed to move into the central plain. There are various other tribes like the Lepchas, an indigenous tribe and the Santals, who migrated from Northern Bihar.

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  • Festivals

    The people of Bhutan love festivals. Many of the festivals last for several days. The largest and most colorful festivals take place at Bhutan's dzongs and monasteries once a year, especially in honor of Guru Rimpoche. They are normally celebrated in spring and autumn. Tsechus consist of up to five days of spectacular pageantry, masked dances and religious allegorical plays that have remained unchanged for centuries. Besides being a vital living festival and an important medium of Buddhist teaching, Tsechus are huge social gatherings. Bhutanese revel and exult together, dressed in their finest clothes and jewelry, in a welcoming ambiance where humor and devotion go hand in hand. For guests, the tsechu provides an ideal opportunity to appreciate the essence of the Bhutanese character. Dancing, singing, feasting and sports are an integral part of each festival. The tourists can also take part and enjoy the festival. Spectacular masked dances are part of the festival.
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  • Art & Culture

    In the high Himalaya Mountains, colors take on an intensity and beauty that often seem almost unreal to the observer. The deep green of the valleys and hillside, the vivid blue colors of swift flowing rivers and skies, and the snow – capped peaks above brown gold alpine pastures all form the backdrop of Bhutanese artistry. The artists use a myriad of colors that spring not only forms the stimulus of nature but also from religious heritage. In Himalayan Buddhism, the contemplation and visualization of colors is an integral part of meditation and worship, bringing the believer closer to his goal of enlightenment. Transcendental reality is also believed to be experienced in the form of different components of light. From the mystic patterns of the Mandala to the swirling skirts of the dancers and to the ornate galleries of the dzongs, the artists of Bhutan celebrate color in its most vivid and expressive form.


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  • Flora & Fauna

    Like the climate, there is also wide difference in the flora and fauna of the country. The rivers of Bhutan fall down from the frozen glaciers to feed the fertile valleys. Bhutan is a botanist paradise. In the ancient times, Bhutan was also known as Southern Valley of Medicinal Herbs. Fern and forests of pine, oak and other deciduous trees are found at the lower altitudes, whereas the evergreen forests like pine, spruce, hemlock, cypress and juniper are found in the higher altitudes. Mountains of rhododendrons blaze with colors in the spring. Even on the high mountain passes above the tree line, tiny alpine flowers can be seen dotting the wind-swept ground. Magnolias, carnivorous plants, rare orchids, blue poppy (the national flower), edelweiss, gentian, medicinal plants, daphne, giant rhubarb abounds here. Some of the rare and exotic faunas found in Bhutan are the golden langur, red pandas, black-necked crane, snow leopard, Takin or wild boar, musk deer, Himalayan brown bear, Himalayan marten, tiger, hornbills, pheasants, mountain goats and timid blue sheep. In the higher altitudes, herds of yaks and blue sheep can be seen. The Manas wildlife sanctuary is the only wildlife sanctuary in Bhutan which extends into Assam. Elephant, tiger, rhinoceros, buffalo, deer and Bhutan’s golden langoor monkeys are found plenty in the sanctuary.
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  • Visa & Immigration

    All visitors to Bhutan require a visa.

    Indian, Bangladeshis and Maldivian nationals can obtain a visa at the port of entry on producing a valid passport with a minimum of 6 month validity (Indian nationals may also use their Voters Identity Card (VIC)).

    All other tourists must obtain a visa clearance prior to travel to Bhutan. Visas are processed through an online system by your licensed Bhutanese tour operator, directly or through a foreign travel agent. You are required to send the photo-page of your passport to your tour operator who will then apply for your visa. The visa will be processed by the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) once the full payment of your holiday (including a USD $40 visa fee) has been wire transferred and received in the TCB bank account. Once received the visa clearance will be processed within 72 working hours.


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  • Entry to Bhutan

    By Air

    Druk Air, the National Air Carrier of Bhutan, operates regular flights to / from Paro to Delhi (India), Kolkatta (India), Gaya (India), Kathmandu (Nepal), Bangkok (Thailand) and Dhaka (Bangladesh). Not many airlines are available if you want to travel to Paro from India, then Drukair is the only airline available. Paro is the only airport connecting Bhutan with rest of world through a well network of flights. Drukair is also regarded as one of the safest airlines in the world. However it is advisable to book your air tickets well in advance to avoid the tourist season rush. For detailed information about airline, schedule and tariff, please visit Druk Air.

    By Surface

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  • Activities

    Cultural Tours

    Of all the things that Bhutan is known for, it is perhaps the rich religious and cultural tradition combined with the pristine environment of the country that puts it on the tourist map as one of the most exotic and must-visit destinations in the world today.

    Bhutan’s unique cultural heritage has remained intact and untarnished. Centuries-old traditions are in practice to this day and continue to have tremendous value and significance in the daily life of the people. Cultural traditions practiced before the advent of Mahayana Buddhism is still practiced and in some cases combined with Buddhism playing a dominant role in enriching and strengthening the socio-cultural fabric of the country. Mahayana Buddhism is the state religion and is most popular.

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  • Weather

    Bhutan has four distinct seasons. Spring is the most beautiful time of the year in the kingdom. The fierce cold that characterizes the winter months tends to subside towards the beginning of March (around the Bhutan New Year, Lhosar). Rhododendron begins to bloom. At the height of spring, the forests come to life with the spectacular red, scarlet and orange colors of the rhododendron blossom.

    During the summer months, nomads returning to higher pastures to tend their yak herds inhabit the mountainous north, while the annual monsoon from the Bay of Bengal affects the south and the central regions. The monsoon often disrupts roads and flights during the rainy months of late June, July, August and September.

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  • Clothing

    Comfortable clothing and sturdy, soft-soled shoes are essential for traveling in Bhutan. Warm clothing is recommended; and except for summer months, down jackets and woolen sweaters are suggested. In summer, heavy cotton and lightweight wool will be acceptable. Altitudinal differences account for a wide range of temperatures from day to night the year round. It is, therefore, suggested that clothing should be layered so that one can adapt to the changing conditions, since temperatures may vary greatly within a single day.

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  • Language

    Bhutan is linguistically rich with over nineteen dialects spoken in the country. The richness of the linguistic diversity can be attributed to the geographical location of the country with its high mountain passes and deep valleys. These geographical features forced the inhabitants of the country to live in isolation but it also contributed to their survival.

    The national language is Dzongkha, the native language of the Ngalops of western Bhutan. Dzongkha literally means the language spoken in the Dzongs, massive fortresses that serve as the administrative centers and monasteries. Two other major languages are the Tshanglakha and the Lhotshamkha. Tshanglakha is the native language of the Tshanglas of eastern Bhutan while Lhotshamkha is spoken by the southern Bhutanese of Nepali origin.

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  • Communication

    All major towns and cities have basic communication facilities, including phone, fax, and internet service. Local and international calls can be made from all hotels and public phone booths for a fee. Cell phones with a Bhutanese SIM card can also be used in most urban places and some rural places as well, and can be used with a commonly available pre-paid mobile voucher.

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  • Currency

    Bhutanese currency is Ngultrum (Nu.) and is officially pegged to the Indian Rupee. Also Indian Rupee is acceptable all over Bhutan except Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency notes.

    Credit Cards have limited acceptability and payment through credit card is accepted mainly by deluxe hotels and few selected Handicrafts establishments only.

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  • Drinking Water

    The Bhutanese drink water from the tap. However, you should avoid drinking tap water. Bottled water is widely available. On all treks in Bhutan, boiled water will be provided.
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  • Electricity

    All major towns are well connected with electricity that runs on 220/240 volts with round hole two-pin and three-pin power outlets.

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