An aura of quiet contemplation envelopes you as you travel through Bhutan. Monasteries (dzongs) are the country’s biggest allure, along with stupendous scenery, and a friendly populace. Looking down on the capital Thimphu, from the 12th-century Changangkha Lhakhang monastery, you realise it’s incredible to be in a Himalayan Buddhist kingdom that measures its development by Gross National Happiness.
Paro has over a hundred temples and monasteries. Its most famous is the iconic Taktsang or Tiger’s Nest monastery, which clings to the mountainside 10,000 feet above sea level. Thick oak and rhododendron forests lead to it, and you have to hike a vertiginous slope to get to the entrance. This monastery’s significance cannot be overstated, for it is here that Buddhism first began in Bhutan.
From Punakha to Bumthang or Mongar, wherever you go, you are greeted by prayer flags fluttering in the breeze, and women and men in brightly colored traditional garb with ever-ready smiles. At Enchanting Travels we’ve taken after the Bhutanese; our Bhutan consultants are always smiling, happy to answer queries and plan your holiday to every last detail.
The most physically fit can go on fully-assisted treks through ancient pine forests, past yak herders and tiny villages. Stupendous views of Himalayan peaks and high-altitude lakes are just some of the pleasures of traversing this country on foot. In the cold mountain air, warming thukpa, the local hot noodle soup, and meat-filled momos are supremely comforting. As is a soothing Bhutanese dotsho, a hot-stone bath.
The best time to travel to Bhutan depends on what you wish to do. Winter is ideal for rafting and birding, while springtime is ideal for hiking. Our destination experts share an overview on when to travel to Bhutan.
For centuries, Bhutan has preserved its heritage and the influence of ancient culture is still evident. Bhutanese are similar to Tibetans in their beliefs and practices, although the exact dates when Tibetan people began to enter Bhutan, are uncertain.
A Bhutan tour will certainly include visits to the beautiful Buddhist monuments the country is known for. Buddhism is the official religion and a strong spiritual aura is evident everywhere – monks clad in traditional red attire, local temples and old fortresses known as Dzongs.
Dzongkha is the official language of Bhutan and, although most schools teach English, the number of books in the local language is on the rise. The Driglam Namzha, imposed in 1990, decides the etiquette and mannerisms that people follow, and men and women are treated as equals with both sharing in household and external work.
Bhutanese names can be confusing as men and women often bear the same names. Many children from a local village often end up with the same names as well!
Top Bhutan Travel Tips – Culture:
Don’t be shocked to find a giant penis painted outside traditional Bhutanese houses. Although discouraged in urban centers, this traditional protective symbol is expected to drive away evil, according to the teachings of the ‘Divine Madman’ Drukpa Kunley!
According to the Gross National Happiness Index, Bhutan is one of the happiest nations in the world!
Prepare yourself for hot and delicious meals! The use of chilli and spices in almost every dish is the first thing you will notice about Bhutanese food! A Bhutan tour is incomplete without sampling some of the local delicacies. During the long winters, delicious warm soups and stews are served everywhere.
Cheese is quite popular with the Bhutanese and cheese-based dishes are popular all over the country. Cheese is used to prepare various types of sauces or added to soupy preparations. Don’t forget to include a scrumptious cheddar and Gouda cheese tasting spree during your Bhutan tour. Most restaurants in the country serve dishes influenced by the surrounding countries of India, Nepal, Tibet and China.
Try some authentic Bhutan cuisine:
Ema Datshi: Bhutan’s National Dish, made with large chilli peppers and a cheesy sauce (naturally, the cheese is locally made).
Red rice: grows readily in higher altitudes, is a staple part of the diet. This is usually served with vegetables or meat such as chicken, pork, beef and lamb.
Phaksa Paa: a pork and chilli dish
Jasha Maru: a dish made with spicy minced chicken and tomatoes
Goep: a spicy tripe dish as it has been cooked with chillis and chilli powder
Momos: the ubiquitous Tibetan-style dumplings, filled with cabbage, onion, cheese or meat, are consumed everywhere in the Mountain Kingdom.
Top Bhutan Travel Tips – Cuisine:
All authentic dishes of Bhutan are spicy and if you prefer simpler meals we suggest you indicate this at the start!
Do try the butter tea – a national favorite!
Enchanting Travels is happy to help you plan your very own private Bhutan tour.
Stories of saints, demons and spirits dominate early Bhutanese history. Few historical manuscripts have survived the devastating earthquakes and fires the country has witnessed.
Historians believe that the country was occupied as early as 2,000 BC and to this day, Guru Rinpoche’s visit to Bhutan, to rid the nation of pesky demons, remains one of the highlights of early Bhutanese history. Bhutan experienced an influx of Buddhist influence after the 7th century, and Drukpas – followers of the Tibetan Druk (dragon) monastery, united parts of Bhutan through their teachings. In the 17th century, Ngawang Namgyal – an expatriate from Tibet, was established as the Zhabdrung Rinpoche – the spiritual leader, and introduced the office of the desi – an elected leader.
Bhutan had its first tryst with the British and the East India Company when the Bhutanese people were driven out of Cooch-Behar in the 18th century. Bhutan travelpackages became possible only after peace was established several decades and many skirmishes later.
After 1972, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck introduced the concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH) – a means to measure progress in relation to the good of the people. Today, people from all over the world can explore the country through a private Bhutan tour and see a nation finally emerging from centuries of isolation!