If there’s one country in the world that I thought I’d never visit, it’s Bhutan. The Land of the Thunder Dragon is not only a remote Himalayan Kingdom, it also has a notoriously expensive visa policy.
One morning in Rishikesh, India, I was presented with the opportunity from Juno. We were sitting on the second story balcony, working on our laptops, with a view out to the surrounding mountains.
“I just got an email inviting me to Bhutan. Do you want to go?” she asked.
Of course I wanted to go. This was the opportunity of a lifetime—even for me, a person who is constantly traveling, sometimes to 10-15 new countries per year. Bhutan never seemed to be a viable place for me to travel.
A few more emails later and the deal was sealed; we would be traveling to Bhutan in a few days with Bridge to Bhutan. They were eager to get the word out about traveling to Bhutan in the summer (June, July, and August) which is actually a low season here. At this time the visa fee is reduced. Most travelers visit in the spring or fall.
Some interesting facts about Bhutan:
- Bhutan was never colonized and has maintained its sovereignty and independence throughout the centuries, repelling invasions from the strongholds of its fortified monasteries called “Dzongs”
- Gross National Happiness is an official government policy. Bhutan is ranked as one of the happiest countries on earth.
- Bhutan is almost entirely mountains, with terrain rising from 180 meters (600 ft) in the south (sub-tropics) to over 7,000 meters (21,000 ft) in the north (alpine).
- The government has adopted a very cautious approach to the development of tourism in an effort to avoid its negative impacts on the culture and the environment.
- The capital Thimphu is the only capital city in the world without a traffic signal.
- 72% of the country is forested.
- Buddhism was first introduced to Bhutan in the 7th century AD. Today the state religion is Vajrayana Buddhism. The second largest religion is Hindusm, practiced by about a quarter of the population.
- 105,414 tourists visited Bhutan in 2012.
- Bhutan’s government is a constitutional monarchy. In 2008, the country transitioned from absolute monarchy and held its first general election
- Bhutan is the first country in the world to have banned the sale of tobacco.
- In Bhutanese families, inheritance generally passes through the female line. Daughters will inherit their parents’ house. A man is expected to make his own way in the world and often moves to his wife’s home.
- The Bhutanese ngultrum is the currency and is pegged to the Indian rupee. Rupees are also legal tender.
- Bhutan’s national sport is archery, and competitions are held regularly in most villages.
Over the next few weeks on Bohemian Traveler I will share stories, photos, and practical travel information with you about Bhutan.
I hope to get across the point that Bhutan is more accessible than I thought and ways of making a visit there more affordable (for example visiting in the summer, when the visa fees are less expensive).
Have you traveled to Bhutan? What were your impressions?
would love so much to go to Bhutan, cause in fact i m living in the same continent, hope one day 🙂
I’m so envious right now! Have fun in Bhutan!
Before today I never knew Bhutan existed! Happiness as a government policy is something sounds awesome unless their stance is too Big Brother 1984.
Hey Eric, Thanks for commenting. No, I think the govt is genuinely interested in the peoples welfare and happiness.
I have read a fair bit about Bhutan and look forward to the articles. Sounds like an awesome place.
I never visited Bhutan but I heard you can find lots of monasteries, valleys, arts and paintings there.
I visited Bhutan last year and it is really a beautiful country. Peoples are so helpful there. Electricity is little problem i found but everything was ok. There are beautiful monasteries and you can see the monks debating. It’s really a must visiting country. Thanks for the information.