How to reach Bhutan
Reaching Bhutan has been made easy and convenient for the tourists;
- There are few airlines available to Bhutan from the places like India, Nepal, Thailand and Bangladesh. However, Paro International airport is only connecting airport of Bhutan to rest of the world as there are a good amount of airlines available.
- No trains or railways available for Bhutan.
- By Road, the main gates of entry are via Phuentsholing in the south that connects Bhutan with Indian Plains of West Bengal. You can also enter via Gelephu and Samdrup Jongkar that links Bhutan with Assam in India through Paro. Entering through road needs special approval from the immigration officers. Immigration in Bhutan:
Immigration to Bhutan has been made systematically as per the rules set by the custom authorities. All the visitors to Bhutan has to complete a declaration form after the arrival.
However, few articles are exempted from this that includes, Personal affects and articles of the day to day visit by the passengers/visitors, alcohol or Spirits (upto 1 liters), Cigarettes (200 pieces) after paying the import duty of 200%, Professionally used items, personally used electronic goods and cameras.Goods such as explosives and anything that causes destruction or harm is strictly prohibited. The illegal drugs or any medicines without proper medical prescriptions is also prohibited to be taken inside.
The declaration form has to include the usable items or the items meant for persona use because the authorities would like to see them along when you return. No usable items mentioned in the declaration form could be sold. Thus, on the departure all the visitors are meant to submit the declaration form to the Custom Authorities.
Bhutan is a place that gives an exception of ready Visa for India, Maldives and Bangladesh visitors. However, they can obtain the visa with a 6 months valid passport on the arrival. An exception has been made on the India passengers that they can even use their photo identity card in the absence of passport to gain the Visa. Rest all the other countries should have an active visa prior the travel to Bhutan. They can contact a travel agent to get the Visa at the right time from the licensed Bhutan tour operators.
The process is very simple, you just need to send a photo copy of your passport to the tour operator, which is after verification sent to Tourism Council of Bhutan for approval. The Visa is approved only after you make a full payment of your holiday fee which also includes visa fees. The clearance process of the Visa will take around 72 hours and the visa will be stamped onto your passport during the arrival once you submit the Visa clearance letter.
It’s always advisable to consult a physician before opting to travel to higher altitude areas as there are few people who exhibit sickness because of high altitude.
There are no much health hazards or precautions that you would need to take in specific. However the officials advice to take an anti-malaria medication especially for the visitors who are in a verge to visit all the rural areas. If you are travelling from the disease infected area then you would be asked to take a vaccination for the particular disease.
In general if you travel, you should keep a medical kit in handy which should include all the basic necessities that might ease your health disturbances. Learn about quick remedies that can cure you on any medical emergencies. The most common ones would be dehydration, nausea, vomiting which might cause because of the travel.
Cuisine in Bhutan
Bhutan cuisines are amazing and unique as it blends most of the spices in preparing the good delicacies.
- It is well-known for the dairy products made from Yaks and cows that includes variety of cheese, butter and milk.
- The popular meat used in the cuisines are chicken, pork, beef, mutton (goat and sheep) and Yak. There are good variety of fish dishes available in Bhutan.
- Most amazing delicacy in Bhutan are the Stews that are prepared combining the vegetables, meat and spices.
- The white rice and pink rice are commonly served in Bhutan which is either boiled or steamed.
- Bhutanese have love for spicy food and thus spice never misses the plate not as a seasoning but as a main ingredient of cooking. The red and the green chilies dried and fresh are used considerably on most of the delicacies.
- The national dish of Bhutan consists of Cheese and Chilli and called as “Ema-Datsi” which is surely going to excite your taste buds.
- If spicy food is not your comfort level then Bhutan also has many western cuisines for the visitors.
- Among Beverages, tea and Sura is widely consumed by the people of Bhutan. Alcohol beverages includes Chang and Arra which is locally popular.
Languages of Bhutan
The most commonly used language in Bhutan is Dzongkha, Tshanglakha, Lhotshamka, Khengkha, Bumthapkha and Nepali. Other languages which are in practice are Simbu, Assamese, Santali, Sherpa, Gurung and Magar.
Bhutan Fairs and Festivals
Bhutan is culturally rich and named for its ethnicity. A popular tourist spot embracing the Himalayas has so much to offer that it can easily termed a dream destination accessible to the world that asks for beauty and simplicity. The religious festival of Bhutan is notably termed as “Tsechu”. It is celebrated 10th day of the month in accordance with the lunar calendar. During the festival, localities join together to witness the popular mask dances, receive blessings and greet and meet people. The festivals comprises all the vibrant cultural programs associated with the Bhutanese. Indeed, if you get to witness the festivals of Bhutan during your visit, then it is indeed a treat to your eyes.
Below are the list of Fun Fairs and Festivals celebrated;
- THIMPU TSECHU: A prominent and biggest festival of Bhutan, celebrated by a large group of people. As stated the festival is celebrated in pomp for 5 days in Thimpu which is the capital of Bhutan. According to the lunar calendar, the festival is celebrated on the tenth day of the eighth month. The festival has been attracting lot of crowds locally and from the neighboring countries. The festival has the famous masked dance and other dances which are strictly performed only by the monks. The mask dances includes Shaw Shachi and Guru Tshengye and these forms were introduced by King Jigme Dorji.
- PARO TSECHU: Yet another Tsechu celebrated popularly in Bhutan. The festival consists of trained monks performing the mask dances. It is a Buddhist festival and the main event of the festival is unfurling of silk thangka which is very big and it is considered most sacred blessings in Bhutan. A festival that brings all the cultural vibrant at one place which attracts people all over Bhutan and also the neighboring districts.
- PUNAKHA TSECHU: Punakha is situated in the west part of Bhutan and famously called as the “Winter home” of Je Khenpo, a chief abbot of Bhutan. The festival is celebrated as a mark of the Tibetans Victory and thus it hosts a dramatic play that narrates the story of the battle with the Tibetan army. It is beautiful and mesmerizing to watch. Punakha Tsechu came into existence after the request was made by Punakha District administrators to preserve the Buddhist preaching and the respect for Guru Rimpoche.
- WANGDUE PHODRANG TSECHU: After the completion of Dzong, Zhabrung Ngawang Namgyal introduced this beautiful festival Wangdue Phadrang Tsechu. The festival is celebrated for 3 long days which is full of life and entertainment. The natives of Thimph and Punakha have all the space to enjoy the amazing festival with great enthusiasm. The festival has amazing dance performances that shouts about the Bhutan Culture and Ethnicity.
- JAMBAY LAKHANG DRUP: The Tsechu is celebrated in Jambay Lakhang which is an oldest temple in Bhutan. The place was founded by a Tibetan King, Songsten Gampo in 7th Century AD. The story revolves around the King who built 108 temples called as “ThadulYangdhul” in order to defeat the demons that are said to be residing in the Himalayas. The story also says that Guru Rimpoche has been called it exceptional every time he visits the site. Later the temple was renovated by Chakhar Gayab who is said to be the King of the Iron Castle of Bumthang. The Jambay Lakhang is an amazing festival that is hosted here and is known for its splendor. The festival consists of the amazing cultural dances and plays which are entertaining and has a unique touch.
- MONGAR TSECHU: The festival is held for 3 days every November and it is celebrated in Mongar. It is exciting and entertainment event that consists of fun fairs and cultural programs.
- NIMALUNG FESTIVAL: The festival is celebrated as per the Buddhist Calendar and this was started by Doring Trulku. The festival is celebrated as a mark of Guru Rimpoche and consists of the cultural dances and plays in Nimalung.
- NOMAD FESTIVAL: The Nomad Festival is beautifully celebrated in Bumthang Dzongkhag district of Central Bhutan. The festival includes a grand procession of Chipdrel which is reserved for the Royal Clans.
- PEMA GATSHEL TSHECHU: The festival is celebrated by Tshanglas of Pema Gatshel whose main occupation is agriculture and animal husbandry. The festival consists of cultural events, folk songs and masked dance that will unravel the stories of Buddhists practices.
- SAKTENG FESTIVAL: The festival is a prominent one for the locals of Sakteng Valley. The festival is celebrated for 3 days. Just like the other Tshechu festival, this attracts lots of people from Bhutan and the neighboring places who come together for celebration and worship.
- TAKIN FESTIVAL: The festival is celebrated as a mark of bringing the national animal Takin into the limelight for the people of Bhutan. The animal is going extinct and this event marks the importance of the animal and its survival. The festival is hosted in Jigme Dorji National park.
- TRONGSA TSHECHU: Trongsa is a place that is in the heart of Bhutan and it is marked for its sacred and holy triumph. It is a three day grand festival and falls usually in the month of December. The festival consists of the monk mask dances, cultural programs and fun fairs.
- URA YAKCHOE: The festivals revolves around a story that says that a Lama visited an old lady and asked for a glass of water. When the lady came back with the glass of water, the lama vanished leaving a sack in the doorstep. When the lady opened the sack she found a statue, thus the same statue is displayed during the festival.
- DOCHULA DRUK WANGYEL FESTIVAL: An amazing festival that is celebrated in the month of December which truly represents the culture and ethnicity of Bhutan. The festival is famous as the sign of the King and the armed forces.
- TRASHIGANG TSHECHU: The festival is amazingly celebrated for three days during the seventh, eleventh and tenth month as per the Bhutanese Calendar. During the festival, the monks perform ceremonial purification. There are a lot of preparation that takes place before the festival including the rehearsals of the performance that are going to go live.
- THE BLACK-NECKED CRANE FESTIVAL: Yet again a festival to bring into limelight the Black necked cranes which are being endangered at present. The festivals speaks about the importance of conserving the cranes and it also consists of the cultural programs as an entertainment.
- CHORTEN KORA FESTIVAL: The festival is celebrated during the month of March every year. It revolves around a story that says that a young girl from Tawang who decided to be buried inside a Chorten. As the mark the festival is celebrated every year which involves the people from Arunachal Pradesh.
- GOMPHU KORA FESTIVAL: It is said that, Myongkhapa which is an evil spirit escaped from Samye in Tibet when Guru Padmasambhava was spreading the Dharma in the Himalayas. The devil wanted to hide itself and decided to hide inside the rock. The Guru went behind the devil for three days to finally defeat. Thus the festival consists of the plays and cultural dances that commemorates the legend.
- HAA SUMMER FESTIVAL: The festival is celebrated in pomp for two days in the month of July that brings about the culture and ethnicity including the practices, cuisines, sports, artifacts, dances, songs and all the other performances. It is an amazing festival which attracts people all over the place.
- KURJEY FESTIVAL: It is a great festival that is celebrated by people all over Bhutan. The celebrated brings together that Bhutanese residing all over the world where they meet and take the blessings of the well-wishers. The festival has lots to offer including the mask dance and the cultural practices.
- LHUNTSE TSHECHU: A unique festival celebrated in Lhuntse for three days in the month of November. It attracts large number of people for this special celebration. Again it consists of the famous mask dance, cultural plays and fun fairs.
- MATSUTAKE FESTIVAL: Popularly known as the mushroom festival, is celebrated as a mark of the mushroom season by the people of Ura in Bhutan. The festival is usually celebrated in the month of august. The festival consists of the mushroom picking event as the major event and various cultural programs.
- MERAK TSHECHU: The Merak valley which is the land of semi-nomadic tribes. It is a three days even that is full of events and entertainment. The tribes present their wares, crafts and popular dances like Yak dance and Ache Lhamo. The festival has been attracting lot of visitors across.