Bhutan has four distinct seasons. Each has its advantage and disadvantages for the visitor. Notice should be taken of the predictable weather patterns before making decisions when to visit. Remember even predictable weather can vary dramatically plains close to the Indian border are warmer and more tropical than higher central valley.
Spring is arguably the most beautiful time of the year in the Kingdom. The fierce cold that characterized the winter months tend to subside towards the end of the February (around Bhutanese New Year, Lhosar). Rhododendron begins to bloom, first in the warmer east. At the height of spring, the end of the march, the whole kingdom comes to life with the spectacular flaming red, pink, and white of the rhododendron blossom.
The annual monsoon from the Bay of Bengal affects the south and central regions. The north is in habited in the summer months when nomads return to the higher plains to tend to their yak herds
The name Bhutan appears to derive from the ancient Indian term Bhotanta that means the end of the land of the Bhots. Bhot was the Sanskrit term for Tibetans, thus Bhutan could mean the end of the Tibet. It could also extend from the Sanskrit word Bhu’uttan or high land. No one seems to be sure. Ancient’s Tibetan writers called their fertile neighbour Lho Mon or Mon Yul, paradise of the south or land of the Monpas. The Bhutanese themselves refer to their country as Druk Yul or the Land of the peaceful Dragon. Druk meaning dragon and extending from the predominant Drukpa school of Tibetan Buddhism.
Archaeological evidence suggests Bhutan was inhabited possibly as early as 2000 BC. Buddhism was probably introduced in the 2nd century although traditionally its introduction is credited to the first visit of Guru Rinpoche in the 8th century. Guru Rinpoche is one of the most important figures in Bhutan’s history, regarded as the second Buddha.
The people of Bhutan can be divided into three main ethnic groups: The “Sharchops”, who live in the east of the country and are believed to be the original inhabitants. The “Ngalongs”, who live mostly in western Bhutan and are the descendants of Tibetan immigrants who arrived in Bhutan from the 9th century, The “Lhotshampas”, settled in the south of Bhutan in the late 19th century. The Lhotshampa (meaning Southern Bhutanese) represent Nepali- speaking groups.
Bhutan is one of the least densely populated countries in the world, with 79 percent of the people living in rural areas.
Bhutan is the only country to maintain Mahayana Buddhism in its Tantric Vajrayana form as the official religion. The main practicing schools are the state sponsored Drukpa Kagyupa and the Nyingmapa. Whereas Buddhism is the main religion in the northern and eastern Bhutan, Southern Bhutanese are mainly Hindus.
The way to Bhutan
Until the early sixties, the Kingdom of Bhutan was accessible only by foot through the high passes of Tibet and the plains of India. The construction of a road in the late sixties from Phuntsholing on the Indian border to Thimphu and Paro made travel by car and bus possible. In 1982, the first international airport was opened in Paro, 65 km from the capital of Bhutan, Thimphu.
Travel by Air
Bhutan’s only international airport is located in Paro, which is located in a deep valley at an elevation of 7300 ft above sea level. The Paro Valley is surrounded by hills as high as 16,000 feet, whereby making the approach of Druk Air into the Paro International airport entirely by visual flight rules.
The national air carrier – Druk Air, Royal Bhutan Airlines has two A319 and operates in seven cities in six different countries. It operates several times a week to Bangkok, Delhi, Kolkata, and Kathmandu. The national airline carries passengers through one of the most spectacular flight paths in the world. A particular highlight is the stretch between Kathmandu and Bhutan, where one passes 4 of the 5 highest mountains in the world. Weather permitting; passengers will be treated to intimate views of Mt. Everest, Lhotse, Makalu und Kangchenjunga.
Travel by Land
The town of Phuntsholing in south-western Bhutan is currently the only land border access open for international tourists. Phuntsholing lies approximately 170 km east of the Indian national airport Bagdogra and nearby Darjeeling. From here begins a mountain journey of almost unbelievable beauty. The road leads from the northern Indian tea plantations through endless turns, hair-pin bends and daring stretches carved into the mountain rock via Chhuka to Thimphu. The travel time for the 176 km stretch can be more than 6 hours.
A combination of overland and air travel is also possible. All overland travel requires an Indian visa.
Those who want to enter Bhutan from Samdrup Jongkhar in the south eastern part of Bhutan, you must either book Indian flight till Gawahati Airport in Assam.
The minimum daily package covers the following services
The minimum daily package for tourist travelling in a group of three or more is as follows: