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Trekking
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Rafting
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Safari
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Tibet
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Bhutan
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Bhutan is best known to the world today as the last Shangri-La. The few visitors who make the rare journey into this extraordinary Kingdom will discover that there is no other destination like this land of pure and exotic mysticism.

It was the mighty Himalayas, which protected Bhutan from the rest of the world and left the kingdom blissfully untouched. The Drukpa Kagyu School of Mahayana Buddhism provided the essence of a rich culture and a fascinating history. The Bhutanese people protected this sacred heritage and unique identity for centuries by choosing to remain shrouded deeply in a jealously guarded isolation.

More than 90 per cent of the 600,000 Bhutanese people are farmers who live in small villages sparsely scattered over 46,000 km of rugged mountain land. Buddhist teachings and philosophy play an important role in their peaceful lives.

Today, the quality of life is dramatically improved ever since a cautious development policy brought in basic services such as education, health, power, roads and modernized agricultural techniques.

Because of a deep traditional reverence which the Bhutanese have for nature, the kingdom is one of the leading countries in environmental preservation. More than 65 per cent of the land area is still under forest cover. Its rich Himalayan flora and fauna, dazzling white peaks and lush valleys provide Bhutan's stunning beauty and aesthetic grandeur. It is often said that even the most experienced traveler will find Bhutan to be 'a revelation'.

To the visitor who respects the delicate sensitivities of this pristine land and shares the sacred values of its people, Bhutan has now gently opened its doors. In this country known as Druk Yul, the 'Land of the Peaceful Dragon, the fortunate visitor will find a rare combination of harmony and accord, amidst a landscape of incredible natural beauty. The air is clean and unpolluted the mountains magnificent and the architecture inspiring.

 Whatever the purpose, a visit to Bhutan is indeed a journey into an enchanted realm.

Facts for the traveler

 Bhutan maintains a policy of strictly limiting the number of people who can visit the country in a single year. All visitors are charged fixed tariffs for services such as the provision of accommodation, transport, guides and meals. By doing this, the country is able to earn the foreign currency that it requires for careful development program's, while at the same time keeping the number of tourists to a level which does not significantly affect the natural environment or the lifestyle for the Bhutanese people.

The only way to visit Bhutan is as a member of a tour group, which is organized through a recognized travel agency such as Alternative Travels & Tours Pvt. Ltd.

Entering Bhutan

The convenient way for tourists to enter Bhutan is by air. Druk Air, the Bhutanese national airline, operates flights to Paro from Delhi, Calcutta, Bangkok, Dhaka, Kathmandu and Rangoon.

Passing directly along the eastern end of the Himalayas, the flight to Paro from Kathmandu offers remarkable views of the Everest, Makalu and Kanchenjunga, as well as the Bhutanese peaks of Chomolhari and Gangkar Puensum. Another way to enter is by surface from Darjeeling to Phuntsholing.

Visas

Everyone who visits Bhutan requires visas. Our agent will make all arrangements, which involves relaying visa numbers to the Durk Air office at the airport where the visitor meets his flight into Bhutan. Without a visa number it is impossible to board a Druk Air flight. The visas themselves are issued on arrival in Paro.

The tour operator in Bhutan will apply for the visa, which will take a minimum of five working days to process. It is mandatory for tourists to get his visa clearance from the local operator before departing for Bhutan. The National Airline, Druk Air, will not issue tickets without the clearance and no visa is entertained upon arrival.

The visa will be stamped at the port of entry upon payment of the fee of US $ 20. Two passport photos are required for the visa. The visas can be extended in Thimpu, for up to six months, at a cost of Nu 510.

Money

Bhutan's unit of currency is the Ngultrum (Nu), with 100 Chetrum is equal to 1 Ngultrum. The Ngultrum is at par with the Indian rupee. Money should be carried in the form of travelers cheques, preferably American Express, with a little cash (US dollars) set aside for incidental expenses on departure and return. (Keep a track of your travelers' cheque serial numbers). Only American Express credit cards are acceptable in Bhutan and that too by a limited number of establishments.

Accomodation

There are many comfortable hotels and lodges in all districts. Away from the towns and villages there are purpose-built huts on some of the principal trekking routes.

Otherwise, there is nothing like camping out under the clearest night skies that you might have ever seen. Wherever you spend the night, the warm Bhutanese hospitality will make you feel welcomed.

Climate

The southern part of Bhutan is tropical, and in general the east of Bhutan is warmer than the west of the country. Winter in Bhutan is from mid-November until mid-March, and at this time of the year the climate is dry, with day temperatures falling 16-18 degree Celsius and night temperatures falling below zero. The monsoon usually arrives in mid-June, with the rain falling mainly in the afternoons and evenings. At the end of September, after the last of the big rains, autumn suddenly arrives-a magnificent season for trekking-lasting until mid-November.

The Culture

Bhutan is the last Mahayana Buddhist kingdom, and the teachings of this school of Buddhism are a living faith among its people. The air of spirituality is pervasive even in the urban centers where the spinning of prayer wheels, the murmur of mantras and the glow of butter lamps in the houses are still important features of everyday life. Bhutan's religious sites and institutions are not museums, but the daily home of its people.

One of the most striking physical features of Bhutan is its architecture. The characteristic style and colour of every building and house in the kingdom is a distinct source of aesthetic pleasure. They Dzongs themselves – imposing 17th century structures built on a grand scale without the help of any drawings and held without a single nail – are outstanding examples of the best in Bhutanese architecture. Patterns of rich colours adorn every wall, beam pillar, door and cave in traditional splendor.

Baggage

All visitors are required to complete the customs form upon arrival at Paro. The following items are exempted from customs duty:

  •  Personal effects for day to day use

  •  2 litres of alcohol, 400 cigarettes; 150 gms of pipe tobacco

  • Instruments, apparatus or appliances for professional use

  • Photographic equipment, video cameras and other electronic goods.

The articles described in c) and d) must be declared on the customs form. If these items are disposed of in Bhutan, they become liable for customs duty.

Import and export of arms ammunitions, explosives, narcotics and drugs, and wildlife products are strictly prohibited.