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About Bhutan

About Bhutan

Bhutan is a small Himalayan country lies between the two giant nations of the world- India to the south and China to the north. Bhutan is popularly known to outside world by name - The Last Shangrila or the Land of Happiness. In this 21 Century, Bhutan has been one of the top tour destinations for the tourist from all over the world because of several unique and beautiful features of Bhutanese. 

History

The traditional name of the country (Bhutan) since the 17th century has been Drukgyel, Land of the Drukpa (Dragon People), and a reference to the dominant branch of Tibetan Buddhism that is still practiced in the Himalayan kingdom.

For centuries, Bhutan was made up of feuding regions until it was unified under the King Ugyen Wang chuck in 1907. The British exerted some control over Bhutan's affairs, but never colonized it. Until the 1960s, Bhutan was largely isolated from the rest of the world, and its people carried on a tranquil, traditional way of life, farming and trading, which had remained intact for centuries. New roads and other connections to India began to end its isolation. In the 1960s, Bhutan also undertook social modernization, abolishing slavery and the caste system, emancipating women, and enacting land reform. In 1985, Bhutan made its first diplomatic links with non-Asian countries.

In 1998, King Jigme Singye Wangchuk, who is Bhutan's fourth hereditary ruler, voluntarily curtailed his absolute monarchy, and in March 2005 released a draft constitution (not yet put to a referendum) that outlined plans for the country to shift to a two-party democracy. In Dec. 2006, he abdicated in favor of his son, and Crown Prince Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuk became king.

Parliamentary elections, Bhutan's first national election, were held in March 2008, with turnout at about 80%. The pro-monarchy Druk Phuensum Tshogpa, translated as the Bhutan Peace and Prosperity Party, won 45 out of 47 seats in Parliament, trouncing the People’s Democratic Party. The election marked Bhutan's transition from an absolute monarchy to a democracy. In April, Lyonpo Jigme Yoezer Thinley, of the Peace and Prosperity Party, became the 1st elected prime minister. A new constitution went into effect in July. Universal suffrage was implemented under the new constitution. Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wang chuck was crowned as king in November. At age of 28, he became the world's youngest monarch.

In 2013, the second parliamentary election was held. Unlike in first election, there were five political parties participating in the election. The parties were: Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT), People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Druk Nymrup Tshogpa (DNT), Druk Chirwang Tshogpa (DCT) and Bhutan Kingyum Party (BKP). In the first round of general election, the PDP and DPT won and went for final election. In the final election, PDP won the 32 seat out of 47 seats. Thereby, PDP becoming the ruling party while DPT was the opposition party in the parliament of Bhutan. Tshering Tobgay, is the current and second Prime Minister of Bhutan.

Geography

Mountainous Bhutan, half the size of Indiana, is situated on the southeast slope of the Himalayas, bordered on the north and east by Tibet and on the south and west and east by India. The landscape consists of a succession of lofty and rugged mountains and deep valleys. In the north, towering peaks reach a height of 24,000 ft (7,315 m).

Biodiversity

Bhutan, as located in the Himalayan Region has rich biodiversity. To the south, the plains of Indian and to the north, the snow capped Himalayan region makes Bhutan, one of the hottest spot for the bio diversity.

Forest ecosystem is the most dominant ecosystem in the Bhutan with 70.46 percent of the total area under forest cover. The temperate zone lying between 2000m to 4000m contains the temperate conifer and broad leaf forest. The subtropical zone, which lies between 150m to 2000m, contains the sub-tropical and tropical vegetation. Mixed conifer and broadleaf forests are the two dominant forest types, constituting 62.43 and 22.69 percent of the total forest cover respectively.

Bhutan's Ecosystem

Alpine Ecosystem: The alpine ecosystem in Bhutan is found in areas above 4000m. It is rich in many species of grasses and herbs with over 200 medicinal plants used for traditional medicine found in this region. It is also the habitat of the famous Chinese caterpillafungus (Ophiocordyceps sinensis), and a haven for wild fauna, such as the snow leopard, blue sheep and takin.

Aquatic Ecosystem: Bhutan has different forms of aquatic habitats scattered throughout the country, ranging from rivers, lakes, marshlands to hot springs. Agricultural Ecosystem: The country is has six major agro-ecological zones corresponding with altitude range and climatic conditions. The agricultural ecosystem in the country extends from as low as 600m to about 4500m above sea level.

 Economy

Bhutan has one of the world’s smallest and least-developed economies. Until a few decades ago, it was agrarian with few roads, little electricity, and no modern hospitals. Recent inter-regional economic cooperation, particularly involving trade with Bangladesh and India, is helping to encourage economic growth. Connections to global markets are limited and dominated significantly by India.

Bhutan’s economic development is guided by the concept of Gross National Happiness. Literally, according to GNH concept of economic development, all development should bring happiness to the general public. Bhutan believes in sustainability.

Culture

Bhutanese believe that happiness is contributed by the preservation of cultural and traditional values. Developing cultural resilience, which can be understood as the culture’s capacity to maintain and develop cultural identity, knowledge and practices, and able to overcome challenges and difficulties from other norms and ideals. Cultural expression in Bhutan is a unique and sacred as the holy kingdom. Culture is preserved in formal ways through the requirement to wear the traditional clothing during work hours; for all buildings to adhere to the national architecture standards; and mandatory mindfulness training in schools.

Festivals or “Tshechu” are an important colorful social annual event in Bhutan: displaying a rich culture and heritage through dance, song and performance. Tshechu are held in each district or Dzongkhag of Bhutan. No country in the world has as unique culture and tradition as Bhutan, and Bhutanese are very conscious in preserving, upholding and promoting these culture and tradition as their identity.

 Religion

MAHAYAN BUDDHISM is the state religion of Bhutan. The introduction of Buddhism occurred in the seventh century A.D., when Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo (reigned A.D. 627-49), a convert to Buddhism, ordered the construction of two Buddhist temples, at Bumthang in central Bhutan and at Kyichu in the Paro Valley. It was the Buddhist literature and chronicles that began the recorded history of Bhutan.

In A.D. 747, a Buddhist saint, Padmasambhava (known in Bhutan as Guru Rimpoche and sometimes referred to as the Second Buddha), came to Bhutan from India at the invitation of one of the numerous local kings. After reportedly subduing eight classes of demons and converting the king, Guru Rimpoche moved on to Tibet.

Upon his return from Tibet, he oversaw the construction of new monasteries in the Paro Valley and set up his headquarters in Bumthang. According to tradition, he founded the Nyingma sect--also known as the "old sect" or Red Hat sect--of Mahayana Buddhism, which became for a time the dominant religion of Bhutan. Guru Rimpoche plays a great historical and religious role as the national patron saint who revealed the tantras--manuals describing forms of devotion to natural energy--to Bhutan. Therefore, the Mahayana Buddhism became the state religion of Bhutan.

Gross National Happiness

If there is one thing Bhutan is known for outside country, it is Gross National Happiness. With his famous declaration in the 1970s, the former King of Bhutan (His Majesty King Jigme Singye Wang chuck) challenged conventional, narrow and materialistic notions of human progress. He realized and declared that the existing development paradigm – GNP (or GDP) – did not consider the ultimate goal of every human being: happiness.

Perhaps inspired by age-old wisdom in the ancient Kingdom of Bhutan, the fourth King concluded that GDP was neither an equitable nor a meaningful measurement for human happiness, nor should it be the primary focus for governance; and thus the philosophy of Gross National Happiness: GNH is born.

Since that time this pioneering vision of GNH has guided Bhutan’s development and policy formation. Unique among the community of nations, it is a balanced ‘middle path’ in which equitable socio-economic development is integrated with environmental conservation, cultural promotion and good governance.

Bhutan remained largely isolated from the world; GNH remained largely an intuitive insight and guiding light. It reminded the government and people alike that material progress was not the only, and not even, the most important contributor to well-being.Therefore, the GNH (Gross National Happiness) is the guiding philosophy for the developmental activities.

 Current Status

1

Name of Country

Bhutan

2

King (Monarch)

His Majest – King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk

3

Present Government

People Democratic Party

4

Prime Minister

HE Lynchen Tshering Tobgay

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Total Area

 38394 km2

6

Total Population

 779666

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Currency

Ngultrum (Nu)

8

Economic per Capita income

 Nu.172814 as of 2015 per persons per annum

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National Flower

Blue Poppy

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National Animal

Takin

11

National Bird

Raven

12

National Sport

Archery

13

National Language

Dzongkha

14

National

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trip Inquiry Format and Contacts

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12 Days Itinerary

DYNAMIC ART OF LIVING IN CENTRAL BHUTAN

This 12 days cultural tour offers an opportunity to experience with the different customs and cultures of the western and central valleys of Bhutan. At Paro, the highlights include the cycling for leisure covering 73 km, Ta Dzong Museum, Rinpong Dzong and the infamous Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest) in the beautiful Paro Valley, The National Memorial Chorten, National post office, Wangditse hike and a visit to karaoke in the evening. Then after crossing the 3050m Dochula Pass with spectacular Himalayan views, a journey into the sub-tropical Punakha Valley featuring the incredible Punakha Dzong and Chimi Lhakhang, temple of the ‘Divine Madman’. Continue onto the central districts of Trongsa, the birthplace of monarchy, and the Bumthang Valley, Bhutan’s spiritual heartland featuring 7th century Jambay Lhakhang, Kurje Lhakhang and many more with its rock imprint of Guru Rinpoche. Further, you will make school visit, charity to for the sick people at hospital. The tour then returns westward to the glacial valley of Gangtey/Phobjikha, the winter home to the rare black necked cranes.

OVER VIEW

DAY 01: PARO

DAY 02: THIMPHU

DAY 03: PUNAKHA

DAY 04: TRONGSA

DAY 05: BUMTHANG

DAY 06: BUMTHANG

DAY 07: BUMTHANG

DAY 08: BUMTHANG

DAY 09: PHOBJIKHA

DAY 10: PARO

DAY 11: PARO

DAY 12; DEPART

Day 01: Arrive Paro Check in hotel and visit Paro Museum an ancient watchtower housing the National Museum, with abundant culture relics. Next visit to Paro Dzong built in 1646 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, perhaps the finest example of Bhutanese architecture as well as a local religious administrative Centre. 

Outdoor Hot Lunch

Bhutan is not just a best place for sightseeing. It is also one of the best places to plan for Hot Picnic Lunch. Normally the picnic spot are located at the river banks, with spectacular view of surrounding mountaintops and green vegetation on a clear weather. Today you will take the outdoor Hot Picnic lunch, and make your trip the memorable one. The hot packed lunch will be carried to Chelela.


Cycling from Paro to Chelela Pass (3700 m) 73 km-3 hours: The road condition is good and the route zig zags uphill to eventually reach the pass (3700m). You will stop at the top to enjoy the wonderful views of the Himalaya; on a clear day it is possible to see Chomolhari and Jichudrake, the two most famous mountains in Bhutan. Enjoy with lunch and cycle back to Paro.

Day 02: Paro to Thimphu (65 km-1½ hours). Upon arrival check in hotel and visit National Post Office where you can make stamps with your own photos and Next visit Folk heritage Museum provides glimpse into the traditional Bhutanese life. The artifacts which are kept inside the house remind the visitors about how the rural Bhutanese live today. Then   Memorial Stupa built in 1974 in the memory of Bhutan‘s third King. Chorten literally means ‘Seat of Faith’ and Buddhists often call such monuments, the ‘Mind of Buddha. Next visit Buddha Point the tallest statue of Buddha and could get a superb view of Thimphu Valley   later visit Sangay Gang the best place for photographers. You can also have a panoramic view of the valley.  On the way back we will visit the small zoo dedicated to the Takin, the national animal of Bhutan.

Hike to Wangditse (1-2 hours) Sangaygang Cross Country Hike or Wangditse Hike It starts from Bhutan Broadcasting Service (BBS) tower and ends at Dechenphodrang, through Pine forest. It is a very easy hike and it takes about 2 hours. Through this hike we can see Thimphu valley & Tashichho Dzong so beautifully.

Wangditse Goemba was founded in 1750 by the attendants of Bhutan’s 8th Desi, Yeshey Rabgye. It was renovated in 2002 after it suffered serious damage by a windstorm in 1995. The goemba houses the statues of the guardian deities Yeshey Gonpo (Mahakala), Palden Lhamo (Mahakali) and Tsheringma (the Goddess of Longevity). At present, the old Goemba has been destroyed in order to construct a superior one.

In the evening visit Tashi chho dzong “fortress of the glorious religion” was initially erected in 1641 and rebuilt by King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck in the 1960s.  Tashi chhodzong houses some ministries, His Majesty’s secretariat, and the central monk body. 

Karaoke /Night club: Karaoke usually takes place in the evening in pubs, clubs and bars are popular events. It is also a place where people hang out, meet friends, come across new people and get to know more people. Karaoke is for everyone and not necessarily for people with a good voice. It’s not the voice that counts, but the enjoyment one derives from singing that does. There are many night clubs that the guest can choose where the western music is being played. Night Club offers endless entertainment to their customer. They stage all forms and kinds of dance acts at the venue. You can witness the young Bhutanese talents giving their best performance. Club also serves food and drinks.

Day 03: Thimphu to Punakha (70 km-3 Hours). Today after breakfast you will drive to Punakha (1300m/4265ft) the former capital of Bhutan. On the way after 45 minutes’ drive from Thimphu will reach at highest pass between Thimphu and Punakha the place called Dochula pass (3140m) where you can have a superb view of the Eastern Himalayas on clear day.

Then drive further to Botanical Park-where varieties of flowers and entertainment facilities are available. Then, visit Chhimi Lhakhang a temple dedicated to the Devine Madman and a sacred place where people pray for children. Upon arrival check in hotel and visit Punakha Dzong a very beautiful Bhutanese architecture armed by the Pho Chu (Male River) and Mo Chu (Female River) rivers, built in 1637 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the unifier of Bhutan which houses some rich Buddhist collections.

Camping: It is one of the great ways to enhance travel experience. Bhutan has a clean environment and pristine forest. You will further enjoy with delicious meal featuring local ingredient, fresh vegetables and regional cuisines, which is freshly prepared onsite. Dinning in relaxed and comfortable atmosphere, you will have a Restroom – Simple Toilet tent. A dug-out pit toilet with chairs. In the evening, you can share telling tale and fun around cozy camp fire and many more.

Day 04: Punakha-Trongsa (195 km-7 hours). After breakfast we will drive to Trongsa. On the way at Pelela   Prayer Flag Hoisting at Pelela: Traditionally, prayer flags are used to promote peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom. You will hoist prayer flags to accumulate the good deeds for the present and next life

You will stop at Chendibji Chorten. Approximately four hours’ drive from Wangduephodrang is Chendbji Chorten, patterned on Swayambhunath temple in Kathmandu. It was built in 18th century by Lama Shida, from Tibet, to cover the remains of an evil spirit that was subdued at this spot.

Upon reaching Trongsa visit Trongsa Dzong the home of the royals and the unique watchtower which houses a newly converted museum and is very impressive. Then, short walk in and around Trongsa . Then visit Ta-Dzong (watch tower) a museum dedicated to the monarchs of the kingdom of Bhutan. The museum is equipped with state of the art technology and includes a media room where visitors can watch a documentary program me on the history of the monarchy.

Day 05: Trongsa to Bumthang (68 km-3 hours). After breakfast, you will further proceed to Bumthang (2600m-4500m / 8530ft-14765ft) the religious heart land. . On the way visit Wangdichholing Palace built in 1857. As it was the first palace not constructed as a fortress. The palace was the principal residence of the first king and was used by the second and third, but it is now vacant. The King's aunt presently owns the palace. Then visit Chumey weaving Centre. Then visit Jakar Dzong Centre of the Bumthang region. It played an important role as the fortress of defense of the whole eastern Dzongkhag. It was also became the seat of the first king of Bhutan. At present the Dzong is use as administrative and monastery body.

Day 06: Bumthang: After breakfast you will make a School Visit; the school in Bhutan remain open almost for 9 months except in December, January and July.  We can make appointment for your visit. Take this opportunity to interact with students and teachers during break time, and get to learn and know the education system in Bhutan, take pictures with them. Your gesture of donating stationaries like, pen, pencils, books and even desktop or in cash is always appreciated but not compulsory.

Jakar Dzong Centre of the Bumthang region. It played an important role as the fortress of defense of the whole eastern Dzongkhag. It was also became the seat of the first king of Bhutan. At present the Dzong is use as administrative and monastery body. Next visit

Later visit Jampa Lhakhang one of the first two Buddhist temples built in the country built by Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century A.D. Also visit Kurje Lhakhang the site where royals are cremated.

Dart/Khuru: Khuru is a favorite traditional game played in Bhutan. Nearly everyone including the women play khuru for enjoyment and to mark the important occasions. It's not easy for beginner to give the hit but with little practice, you'll bet better quickly.  More than just the game is the spirit of the game which makes it lively. Teams sing and dance on each strike making the game even more interesting. Cheering and jeering is the part of the game. There is no age limit or retirement age for any players. As long as one can throw it straight and at the target one can qualify as a player. Away from home you can explore it, we are arranging it on this day. No extra payment is required

Day 07:  Bumthang-Ura-Bumthang; (128 km-5 Hours) Ura Valley is located in a broad valley (3100 m), Ura is the highest of the four valleys in Bumthang district. The village of Ura has about 50 or so clusters of traditional homes with cobbled walkways, that gives somewhat a medieval atmosphere. The people of this region are primarily sheep and yak herders. Women here traditionally cover their head with white scarf against cold wind and wear sheepskin behind their back, which is used as cushion and as well as to protect their cloth from the loads they carry. You will enjoy being there and interacting with locals.

On the way back visit to Membartsho (The Burning Lake): Tang valley is a wide spot on the Tang Chhu (chhu - water / river) and is considered to be one of the greatest pilgrimage sites of Bhutan. Pema Linga found several of Guru Rinpoche's hidden treasures here. The importance of this site is indicated by the extensive array of prayer flags and the small clay offerings called 'Tse Tsa' in rock niches.

Day 08: Bumthang:-After breakfast visit Jampa Lhakhang one of the first two Buddhist temples built in the country built by Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century A.D. Also visit Kurje Lhakhang the site where royals are cremated. Afternoon visit Tamshing Lhakhang there is very old religious paintings around the inner walls of the temple, which was restored at the end of the 19th century. Kharchu Monastry The buildings are composed of the Guru lhakhang, Tshokhang (Prayer hall) capable of housing about 500 monks, residences for high lamas and teachers, classrooms, Library, Monastery offices, Monks’ hostels, Kitchen, store and dining room.

Charity for Hospital Patients; There are a lot of poor patients who travel from far flung areas. Since they do not have any relative in Thimphu, they have to depend solely on the hospital management for basic necessities. The hospital provides meals for the patients. However, the meals are not nutritious and healthy enough for the sick. If interested you may donate in cash and kind thorough us or we can also arrange visits to the hospital guest house to interact with the patients. 

Day 09: Bumthang-Phobjikha (237 km-8½ hours) Drive to Phobjikha (3000m/9845ft) valley a paradise for nature lovers and hikers. Phobjikha valley is one of the winter roosting grounds of the rare Black-necked Cranes. Upon arrival check in hotel and visit Gangtey Goempa the largest and the only monastery of the Nyingmapa sect in western Bhutan.

Gangtey Village: Phobjikha is a wide glacial valley with a central stream meandering through the open grassland and thickets of dwarf bamboo. Farmlands occupy the peripheral slopes where potatoes and turnips are grown. The forests beyond the farms are mostly coniferous. The general vegetation is composed of mainly blue pine, birch, maple and several species of rhododendrons. 

Day 10: Phobjikha to Paro (195 km- 7 Hours) after breakfast we will drive back to PARO but at Dochula Lungchutse Hiking Trail (3.5 Kms) which is about 2 hours travel time (one way). The highest point on the trail is about 3569 meters above sea level. You will trek from Dochula Pass, climb towards the Lungchutse Lhakhang (highest point on the trail) and then descend towards Yusipang via the Tashigang Gonpa covering 9.2 kms.  From Lungchutse one could see the spectacular view of Mount Jomolhari, Gang Bum, Gangchen Tag, Masagang, Tsenda Gang, Teri Gang, Table Mountain, Hinglae La, Gangkar Puensum and Dagala to mention few.

National Game: Archery in Bhutan is more than a sport, it is a living example and a dynamic manifestation of the unique traditions and culture of the Bhutanese people, and it is a celebration of the Bhutanese way of life. No festival and no celebration is complete without a game of archery and the game itself is a combination of physical talents and spiritual influences where the deities and spirits are called upon to help a player or a team to perform better and win the contest. You can explore this game and feel the taste of game

Day 11: Paro-Hike to Taktshang (3-4 hours round trip). After breakfast you will drive to Paro and hike to Taktshang, the Tiger’s Nest. “Trip to Bhutan is never complete without climbing to Taktsang”, says one tourist. Indeed it’s true as the journey there fills you with spiritual bliss.

Taktshang monastery is located atop an 800 meter cliff in Paro. Taktshang or the Tigers lair as the monastery is widely regarded is one of the most important in Bhutan. Its history is associated with the visit of Guru Padmasambhava, the Indian saint who came to Bhutan in the 8th century AD. The cave was named Taktshang after Guru Rinpoche flew into the cave from Kurtoe Singye Dzong in eastern Bhutan riding on a tigress. 

On return visit Kichu Lhakhang one of the oldest temples to have been built in Bhutan by the Tibetan King Songtsen Gamp o in the 7th century AD.

Culture Program: Bhutan’s tradition and culture are very much alive in its language & literature, arts & crafts, drama, music, architecture, and basic social interactions. Traditional age-old ceremonies, religious festivals, and belief systems continue to have a special significance in the daily lives of the people. There are types of items such as Boedra, Zhungdra, Rigsar, Merak dance and mask dances. This kind of program is arranged on the last day of departure.

Day 12: Departure

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