Bhutan often revered as the 'Land of the Peaceful
Dragon' is still regarded as one the last 'Shangrilas'
in the Himalayan region because of its remoteness,
it's spectacular mountain terrain, varied flora
and fauna and its unique ancient Buddhist monasteries.
It is in the relatively unexplored pockets of
Asia and Bhutan allows only limited number of
discerning travelers to enter the country in
order to protect its fragile environment and
Bhutan a purely Buddhist Himalayan Kingdom
is unsurpassed in its scenic majesty and vibrant
culture. The kingdom shares with Nepal the world's
greatest concentration of mountains and living
heritage of Buddhism. The fifty minutes flight
from Kathmandu to Paro can truly be described
as a flight into fantasy. During the flight
a first hand close up view of Mt. Everest, Mt.
Kanchenjunga and other famous peaks become reality.
Biweekly flights between these two kingdoms
have made easier travel to the long isolated
Dragon Kingdom of Bhutan.
Drukpa Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism is
the state religion but the Nyingma school is
also well represented in the central and eastern
The monsoons starts in mid June and lasts until
the end of September. The climate within the
mountains varies greatly according to precipitation
and wind conditions. In the Duars plain and
upto 1500m the climate is sub-tropical with
high humidity and heavy rainfall. The climate
of mid-mountain belt varies, such that low-lying
parts of Punakha Mongar, Tashigang and Lhuntse
have cool winter and hot summers, whereas the
higher valleys of Ha, Paro, Thimpu, Tongsa and
Bumthang ranging from 2,500 – 4,500m.
endure an temperate climate with cold snowy
winters and some what cooler summers.
Spring is rhododendron season in Bhutan. The
mountain-sides all over the country are ablaze
in shades of red and orange. Days are warm but
nights are still cold. As the monsoon rises
from the Bay of Bengal, spring turns to summer
and three months of heavy monsoon rains. Arguably
the loveliest time of the year in Bhutan, autumn
brings clear skies and warm days.
In 1995, the per capita income was estimated
at US$ 500 with the annual growth at 5%. Although
these figures places Bhutan among the lease
developed nations the country is unlike others
within that category as no famine, little malnutrition,
good housing, exists. Over 91% of the population
depend on agriculture and livestock rearing
which together account for some 50% of GDO,
despite the fact that only 2% of the land is
The National currency is Ngultrum (Nu) 100
Chetrum = 1 Nu. Exchange rate is approximately
USD 1 = Nu. 42.75 (1999) Indian Rupees circulate
PLACE OF INTEREST
Generally visitors enter the Kingdom at Paro
by the National Airline, Druk Air. This beautiful
valley, if ever a place exists, here nature
and man consulted to create their dearest image,
it must be the valley of Paro. Mt. Chomolhari
7320m reigns in white glory at the northern
end of the valley and its glacial waters plunge
through deep gorges to form the Pa – Chu
(Paro river). Paro is one of the most fertile
valleys in the kingdom producing a bulk of the
famous red rice from its terraced fields home
to some of Bhutan's oldest temples and monasteries.
Drugyal Dzong: which means victorious fortress
was built in 1647 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel
to commemorate his victory over the Tibetan
invaders, led by Mongolian warlord, Gushri Khan
in 1644. Strategically built over the only passage
into Paro valley, the dzong helped to repel
numerous invasions all through the course of
Bhutanese history. It so impressed early visitors
that in 1914 the dzong featured on the cover
of the National Geographic magazine. The dzong
was gutted by an accidental fire in 1951. The
ruins, as it stands today still attract tourists.
Taktsang Monastery: literally means the Tiger's
den. This temple clings precariously to a granite
cliff 800m above the Paro valley. Legend has
it that the great Guru Padmasambhava flew to
this spot on back of a tigress and meditated
in a cave during the 8th century. The temple
was built around the cave and is a hallowed
shrine for Bhutanese pilgrims. A terrible fire
in April 1998 destroyed Taktsang's medieval
wall paintings and all inner temples. A new
construction has already begun by the royal
Rinpung Dzong: meaning the fortress on a heap
of Jewels was built during the time of Shabdrung
in 1646. The approach to the dzong is through
a traditional covered bridge. A walk to the
dzong offers a good view of the architectural
wonder of the dzong as well as life around it.
The dzong now houses the Paro monastic school
and the office of the civil administration.
It is also the venue of the great Paro Tshechu
(festival) held once a yea in spring.
Ta Dzong: looking down upon the Rinpung dzong
was built in 1651 as a watch tower. The Ta Dzong
is round more like parts of an European castle.
Since 1967 the dzong was re established as the
national museum and holds a fascinating collections
of arts, relics and religious thankha paintings.
Farm house: the beauty of Paro valley is embellished
by cluster of quaint farm houses. Bhutanese
houses are very colourful and traditionally
built without the use of a single nail. The
house looks very big from outside but is quite
simple inside. Its normally three storey. The
ground floor is always used for cattle while
the attic is used to store hay. The families
live in the middle floor. The best room is always
kept for the family chapel. A visit to a farm
house is very interesting and offers a good
glimpse into the lifestyle of a farmer.
The modern capital of Bhutan, lies at an elevation
of 2300m in a valley traversed by the Wang Chu
(river). Tashichho dzong the main Secretariat
building which houses the throne room of His
Majesty and a summer residence of the central
monk body. Although not what one expects from
a capital city, Thimphu is a fitting and lively
place. Home to civil servants, expatriates and
the monk body, Thimphu maintains a strong national
character in its architectural style. It is
also an ideal spot for day walks. Phajoding
monastery is a 4 hrs hike form the Motithang
area, Tango and Cheri monasteries are alos another
¾ hrs hike from the capital or all the
way to the top of telegraph hill where thousands
of prayer flags obscure the view over Thimphu.
Memorial Chorten: this stupa was built in 1974
in the memory of late third King Jigme Dorji
Wangchuk. The paintings and images inside the
monument provide a rare sight into Buddhist
Tashichho Dzong: was initially built in the
17th century, was rebuilt in early 1960s by
the third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk. Tashichho
Dzong houses the main Secretariat building and
the central monk body. It is open to visitors
during Thimkphu festival and when the monk body
moves to their winter home in Punakha.
Changangkha Temple: built in the 15 century
by lama Phajo Drigom lies on a hill top commanding
the Thimphu valley. The temple has very old
scriptures and Thankhas. The main deity of the
temple is Avalokiteshvara, God of compassion.
Simtokha Dzong: the oldest dzong in the country
stands on a lofty ridge at the end of valley.
It was built in 1627-1629 and now houses the
school for Buddhist studies. All the Bhutanese
language teachers pass out from this university.
Indigenous hospital: Since Bhutan has its own
brand of Himalayan medicine the "Government
has given equal emphasis to both allopathic
and traditional medicines. The rich herbal medicine
is prepared here. The old art healing like acupuncture
is still practised.
National Library: the history of Bhutan lies
imprinted in archaic texts which are preserved
at the National library. Besides thousands of
manuscripts and ancient texts the library also
has modern academic books and printing blocks
for prayer flags.
Painting school: where young children learn
the ancient art of paintings. One can actually
see students at work. Education is free for
the students since the Government wants to attract
more students. These children after passing
out they are distributed to different districts
to apply the same art of traditional paintings
in these areas which is one reason that the
Bhutanese houses have almost the same type of
colour and design.
Vegetable market: Every Saturday and Sunday
most of the Thimphu's population and many valley
dwellers congregate on the banks of the river
where the weekend market is held. This is the
only time in the week when fresh vegetable are
available and Saturday mornings are a hive of
Punakha Dzong built between two rivers in the
17th century by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel served
as capital of Bhutan until 1955 and is still
the winter residence of the central monk body.
In spite of four catastrophic fires and an earthquake
that destroyed many historic documents, Punakha
Dzong houses sacred artifacts and embalmed body
of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel. Punakha's climate
and warmer temperatures make its valley one
of the most fertile in Bhutan. Chime Lhakhang
located on a hillock among the rice fields is
picturesque and is a pilgrimage site for childless
couples. The temple is associated with the famous
saint Drukpa Kuenlay "The Divine Madman"
who has built a chorten on the site during the
To the south of Punakha lies Wangdiphodrang
Dzong at an elevation of 1300m. It is the last
town on the highway before entering central
Bhutan. This Dzong built during the 17th century
played a critical role in unifying the western,
central and southern Bhutanese districts. Further
up is Gangtey Gompa, an old monastery dating
from the 16th century. It is in fact the only
monastery which follows the Pelling Nyingmapa
sect of school. This valley of Phobjikha is
also a home of the rare Black Necked Crane,
an endangered species which migrate from the
Tibetan plateau in winter. There are about 450
– 500 cranes residing in Bhutan out of
which 250 – 300 live in this beautiful
Trongsa at an altitude of 2200 m. forma the
central hub of the nation and is historically
the place from where attempts at unifying the
country were launched. The Royal family has
strong links with Trongsa. Both His Majesty
King Ugyen Wangchuck and his successor, King
Jigme Wangchuck ruled the country from this
Trongsa Dzong: built in 1648 is an impregnable
fortress. The massive structure is built on
many levels into the side of the hill that includes
countless courtyards, passage ways and corridors
in addition to the twenty three temples inside
the Dzong. Due to its highly strategic position
as the only connecting route between east and
west the Trongsa Penlop (Governor) was able
to control the whole region effectively for
centuries. Above the Dzong a Ta Dzong (watch
tower) was built to watch out for invaders and
travellers. Now its a temple dedicated to the
great hero Ling Gesar.
BUMTHANG or JAKAR
To the east of Trongsa lies the Bumthang valley
at an altitude of 2,600m, has an individuality
that charms its visitors and separates it from
other regions. Comprised of four smaller valleys,
the deeply spiritual region of Bumthang is shrouded
in religious legend. Here tales of Guru Padmasambhava
and his reincarnation known as Tertons still
linger in most nooks and corners. The town of
Jakar is the largest between Thimphu in the
west and Trashigang in the east. Jakar is famous
for its honey production, cheese, apple juice
and apricots. Visitors to Bumthang should plan
to spend a few days taking advantage of the
valley's relatively gentle slopes to walk nearby
medieval temples and glimpse Bhutan's mostly
rural population. It is also known for its wooklen
material (yathra) which can be seen hung outside
of houses for sale. Further east there is the
Ura valley with the village of Ura in its centre.
A small but old dzong and cobblestone paths
give the village a medieval feel. Many excursions
can be done at this valley like Tharpaling monastery,
Kunzangdra, Tang Mebartso and many more...
Jambey Lhakhang: built in the 7th century by
a Tibetan King Songtsen Gempo believed to be
the reincarnation of the Buddha of compassion.
This temple is one of the 108 temples built
by him to subdue a large demon which was stopping
the spread of Buddhism.
Kurje Lhakhang: located above Jambey Lhakhang
consists of three temples. The one on the right
was built in 1652 on the rock face where Guru
mediated in the 8th century. Second temple is
built on the site of a cave where Guru Padmasambhava
left his body imprint on the rock. The cave
is not visible as it is concealed by a large
statue of the Guru Rinpoche. The 3rd temple
was recently built by the present Royal Queen
mother and these three temples are surrounded
by 108 stupa wall symbolic of each joint of
the Human body.
Tamshing Lhakhang: located opposite Kurje Lhakhang
on the other side of the river was founded in
the beginning of the16th century by Terton Pema
Lingpa, the reincarnation of Guru Padmasambhava.
The monastery has very interesting religious
painting like 1,000 Buddhas and 21 Taras (female
form of Buddhisatawa). The temple was restored
at the end of the 19th century.
Jakar Dzong: founded by the great grandfather
of Shabdrung. The dzong was initially built
as a monastery in 1549 but was upgraded after
the Shabdrung had firmly established his power
in 1646. The Dzong is now used as the administration
centre for Bumthang valley.
MONGAR & LHUENTSE
Arriving in Mongar is a great relief from the
turns and heights of the journey over the pass.
The town is small with a sprinkling of shops.
Mongar Dzong is modern compared to others in
the Kingdom. It was reconstructed by the order
of the Third King. No drawings and nails have
been used. A visit to the dzong gives visitors
an impression of how traditional Bhutanese architecture
has continued to thrive through the centuries.
A hydroelectric project is under way and after
completion it will have the capacity to output
60 megawatts of hydroelectricity which will
change the industrial emphasis of the eastern
Lhuentse: is 77 kilometers from Mongar and
is one of the most isolated districts in Bhutan.
The landscape is spectacular with stark cliffs
and gorges and dense coniferous forests. The
region is notably famed for its weavers and
special textiles and fabrics, generally considered
to be the best in the country. The Kurtoe region
of Lhuentse is also the ancestral home of the
TRASHIGANG & TASHI YANGTSE
Trashigang lies above the Gumri river and is
the largest district in Bhutan. It is much busier
than other Bhutanese towns due to its proximity
to Samdrup Jongkhar in the south has enabled
it to grow as a centre of commerce. Trashigang
is used as the market place for the hill people
from Merak & Sakteng who are known for their
exceptional features and for their costume made
of Sheep skin and Yak wool. The hat that they
wear is unusual but has a significance of its
own. It is very different from customary Bhutanese
clothing. The 17th century Dzong is built on
top of a cliff and serves as an administrative
Tashi Yangtse: formerly a subdivision of Trashigang
is one of the new districts. Yangtse Dzong is
half an hour walk from the road. A town has
developed around Chorten Kora, one of only two
chortens built in a Nepalese style and a spot
where Guru Padmasambhava is believed to have
had a vision that a temple and a chorten would
be built. The area is also known for its exceptional
woodcraft. Another temple lies on the banks
of the Gumri river known as the Gom Kora dedicated
to Guru Padmasambhava where he supposed to have
subdued a demon in form of a Garuda. A festival
takes place every year at this temple.
The road from Trashigang to Samdrup Jongkhar
was completed in the early 1960s. This town
is small and bustling and acts as a commercial
hub and entry and exit point in the south east.
Phuentsoling, a border town to the south bordering
the Indian state of West Bengalis a hub of commercial
activity. Jaigaon, a small Indian town is located
near Phuentsoling and you can make road connections
from Jaigaon or Phuentsoling to the airport
in Bagdogra or the railway station in Siliguri,
both in the state of West Bengal (169 kms. a
drive of about 4 – 5 hours) of India.
There are also convenient connections to the
Nepal border at Kakarvitta or the hill Indian
stations of Kalimpong, Gangtok and Darjeeling.
THINGS OF INTEREST
Festivals (Tshechus) are held in Bhutan throughout
the year at different locations. There festivals
are celebrations of faith, legends, myths and
history of Bhutan in ancient rituals of colourful
dance and music. The most popular for tourists
are those held in Thimphu, Paro and Bumthang.
They mark the busiest time of the year for tourism
and reservation are difficult to come by. Festival
time is one of the only periods during a year
when tourists are permitted inside the courtyard
of the dzongs. The dzongs come to life with
colour, music and dancing as valley dwellers
and townsfolk dress in their best clothes and
join together to exorcise evil spirits and rejoice
in a new harvest. Rate masked and sword dances
and other rituals are performed in the dzong's
courtyards and temples. Each dance has its own
significance and can be performed by monks or
lay men dressed in bring costumes. Certain festivals
end with the unveiling and worship of huge religious
appliques or T hongdrels. the moment of the
unveiling is shrouded in secrecy and creates
great excitement amongst all the participants.
Tour: For booking during the months of March/April/May
and September/October/November full passport
particulars of all participants should be provided
minimum 60 days in advance for us to hold all
services on confirmed basis.
Visa Formalities: Visa is required for travelling
to Bhutan and it is processed and arranged by
....................... No foreign mission grants
Bhutan tourist Visa.
All Passport details (full name, nationality,
date of birth, passport no. issued & expiry
date, address & profession) should be forwarded
at least 3 weeks prior to the date of arrival
and can be mailed or faxed. Actual visa is stamped
on arrival in Bhutan while it is cleared in
advance and a visa clearance number is issued.
For all travellers entering Bhutan by Druk
Air, the Visa clearance number is forwarded
to the concerned overseas Druk Air stations
and without clearance number passengers are
not allowed to board the flight.
Visa clearance number is also required while
issuing Druk Air tickets. For travellers entering
into the country by surface through Phuntsholing
(Border in South Bhutan) the visa clearance
number is forwarded to Foreign Ministry's office
in Phuntsholing for reference.
Three copies of original passport size photographs
are required on arrival. Visa fee of US$ 20
for 14 days visa and US$ 10 as Tourism development
must be paid on arrival. Visa can be further
extended with an additional fee of US$ 15.
CULTURAL TOUR PROGRAMMES
Bhutan is a remote independent kingdom in the
eastern Himalaya and the last bastion of the
Tibetan Buddhist culture and religion in its
purest form. Despite opening up to tourism in
the late '70's it has managed to minimise the
effect of outside influences and the country
is virtually untouched, in terms of the environment,
religion, architecture and lifestyle. Bhutan
has the youngest reigning monarch in the world,
King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, who guards Bhutan's
culture and national identity fiercely.
It is a remarkable country and Snow Leopard
Trek offers the opportunity to see not only
Bhutan's exquisite Himalayan scenery but to
experience its rich and ancient traditions in
Thimphu, the capital and Paro, its second largest
town. Few people have the privilege of experiencing
Bhutan and in the light of the fragility of
such a small nation and traditional culture
in this age of superpowers this slice of an
old world may, in the future, be denied us.
OTHER SPECIAL TOUR PROGRAMME
ARTS AND CRAFTS
Bhutan boasts of a variety of high quality
arts and crafts and carpentry, blacksmithing,
weaving, painting, sculpture, casting, bamboo
works, embroidery, masonry, leather works, paper
works and textiles from different ethnic groups.
The most common fish in Bhutan is the Rainbow
trout and salmon are found in fresh water lakes
Bhutan is a Buddhist country and offers plenty
of holy places and shrines.
Dating back to the 7th century, the Kichu Temple
in Paro and Jambay Temple in Bumthang are a
few of the many to see.
There are about 675 species of birds in Bhutan
and the list grows longer each year. Geven the
density of forest cover and the steep vertical
descents, the road is often the best place from
which to watch the birds, as there is very less
vehicular traffic. Recommended sites include
the stretch of road down from Dochu la to Wangduephodrang,
from Wangduephodrang,to Nobding and before Trongsa.
For those who go east, the 2000 m. descent between
Sungar and Limithang is spectacular for bird
watching. Trekking will provide you with a greater
chance of seeing high altitude birds at close
ALPINE FLOWERS AND BOTANICAL TOURS
60% of Bhutan is covered in forests of fir,
conifers, temperate and broadleaf species. It
is also known as the land of medicinal herbs
and over 5000 species of plants are found in
Bhutan. Some alpine flowers include lichens,
mosses, tiny rhododendrons, nivale, edelweiss
and varieties of primula. At he end of winter,
the high altitude grazing lands are carpeted
with a multitude of wild flowers and during
monsoons, even more vibrantly coloured flowers
are found. During early September, some varieties
include anemones, forge-me-nots, dwarf irises,
dwarf rhododendrons, primulas, delphiniums and