Officially known as the Kingdom of Bhutan, is located at the eastern end of the Himalayas and bordered to the south, east and west by the Republic of India and to the north by the People’s Republic of China.

Trips to Bhutan:

Bhutan Highlights: The Land of Thunder Dragon

Chomolhari Trek

Bhutan’s landscape ranges from subtropical plains in the south to Sub-alpine Himalayan heights in the north, with some peaks exceeding 7000m (23,000ft). Stone tools, weapons, elephants, and remnants of large stone structures provide evidence that Bhutan was inhabited as early as 2000BC. The earliest transcribed event in Bhutan was the passage of the Buddhist saint Padma Sambhava (Guru Rinpoche) in 747. The early history is unclear as most records were destroyed after the ancient capital of Punakha was ravaged in 1827. By the 10th century, Bhutan’s political development was heavily influenced by its religious history. Various sub-sects of Buddhism emerged which were patronized by various Mongol warlords. After the decline of the Mongols in the 14th century, these sub-sects vied with each other for supremacy. Bhutan existed as a patchwork of minor warring fiefdoms until the early 17th century, when the area was unified by the Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, who was guided by a prophecy, and fled religious persecution in Tibet and cultivated a separate Bhutanese identity. Namgyal built a network of impregnable dzong (fortresses) to defend against Tibet forays. These dzong still exist and are active centers of administration, religion, and tourism. After Namgyal’s death, Bhutan fell into civil war and Tibet attacked again, the assault was thwarted and finally an armistice was signed in 1759. In the 18th century, Bhutanese invaded the kingdom of Cooch Behar, which led to the Duar War, which involved the British – border skirmishes would continue for 100 years. In 1907, Ugyen Wangchuck was unanimously chosen as the hereditary king of the country by an assembly of leading Buddhist monks after many years of civil wars and rebellions. In the late 1980’s, the country expelled or forced to leave nearly one fifth of its population in the name of preserving its Tibetan Mahayana Buddhist culture and identity. In one of the world’s least known episodes of what many scholars believe was an ‘ethnic cleansing’, the Nepali-origin, mainly Hindu Bhutanese fled their homeland. By 2008, 107,000 Bhutanese are living in seven camps in eastern Nepal. Today, Bhutan is the only country to measure happiness (Gross National Happiness).

Entry Requirements

You will need a passport and Visa to enter and exit Bhutan. All visas are approved from Thimphu and are only issued to tourists booked with a local licensed tour operator, directly or through a foreign travel agent. You need to pay $20 to get your passport stamped at Immigration upon arrival. Visas are issued for 15 day period. The Bhutanese Department of Tourism sets a non-negotiable minimum daily tariff for all visitors to Bhutan for all accommodation, meals, transportation, services of licensed guides and porters, other cultural programs of $250 per person per day. Entry by Air is only via India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Thailand – China is closed. Visitors staying longer than 15 days have to present results of HIV/AIDS test.


Hepatitis A and B, Tetanus, and Typhoid immunizations are recommended for all travelers. Malaria prophylaxis is recommended for travel in rural areas below 1700m in the southern belt districts along the border with India. You should consult your local doctor or physician to advise which malaria medication is best suited for you. Dengue is a risk in areas near the south from July to December. Yellow Fever is not required by Immigration, but officials will ask you for proof of certificate if you are coming from a country with Yellow Fever. Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the CDC’s Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel


Thimphu, Bhutan

Month             Jan       Feb      Mar     Apr      May     Jun       Jul        Aug      Sep      Oct      Nov      Dec

Avg High F       54        58        62        68        73        76        66        77        74        71       64        58

Avg Low F        27        33        39        45        56        60       56        60        59        51        41        30


Bhutan – country code +975. Most areas will have mobile access and Internet available. Some areas while trekking or on safari may not have mobile access.


Bhutan – Electrical current is 220-240 volts (Type C; electrical plug with two circular pins) (Type D; electrical plug has three circular pins) (Type G; electrical plug has three flat pins)

Travel Advisories

Make two photocopies of valuables such as your passport, tickets, visas and travelers’ cheques.  Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.

Be sure to inform your credit card company as well as your bank you will travel internationally into Bhutan. This will eliminate any credit card holds for fraudulent activity.


Carrying cash, an ATM or traveler’s check card and also a credit card that can be used for cash advances in case of emergency is advisable. The best places to exchange money are normally bureau de change, which are fast, have longer hours and often give slightly better rates than banks. Local currency is Ngultrum (BTN) equal to the Indian Rupee (INR), which is also accepted. Better hotels, lodges, and camps will accept credit cards, however it is advised to withdraw cash when visiting remote areas and villages.


Bhutan is a constitutional monarchy.


It is estimated that between two thirds and three quarters of the Bhutanese population follow Vajrayana Buddhism, which is also the state religion. About one third are followers of Hinduism. Other religions account for less than 1% of the population.

Ethnic Groups

There are many ethnic groups in Bhutan, and no one group constitutes a majority of the Bhutanese population. The Bhutanese population comprises four main ethnic groups, which themselves are not necessarily exclusive: the politically and culturally dominant Ngalop of western and northern Bhutan; the Sharchop of eastern Bhutan; the Lhotshampa concentrated in southern Bhutan; and Bhutanese tribal and aboriginal peoples living in villages scattered throughout Bhutan.


Bhutanese, or Dzongkha, is the language of the Ngalop. It is a Southern Tibetan language that is partially intelligible with Sikkimese and spoken natively by 25% of the population. Tshangla, the language of the Sharchop and the principal pre-Tibetan language of Bhutan, is spoken by a similar number of people. It is not easily classified and may constitute an independent branch of Tibeto-Burman. Nepali constituted some 40% of the population as of 2006. The larger minority languages are Dzala (11%), Limbu (10%, immigrant), and Kheng (8%)


Bhutan’s economy is one of the smallest in the world. The economy is based on agriculture, forestry, tourism and the sale of hydroelectric power to India. Agriculture provides the main livelihood for more than 80% of the population. Agrarian practices consist largely of subsistence farming and animal husbandry. Handicrafts, particularly weaving and the manufacture of religious art for home alters, are a small cottage industry. A landscape that varies from hilly to ruggedly mountainous has made the building of roads and other infrastructure difficult and expensive. This, and a lack of access to the sea, has meant that Bhutan has not been able to benefit from significant trading of its produce. Bhutan does not have any railways, though Indian Railways plans to link southern Bhutan to its vast network – India and Bhutan have a free trade agreement. Bhutan had trade relations with Tibet but then closed its border with China.


The climate in Bhutan varies with altitude, from subtropical in the south to temperate in the highlands and polar-type climate, with year-round snow in the north. Bhutan experiences five distinct seasons: summer, monsoon, autumn, winter and spring. Western Bhutan has the heavier monsoon rains; southern Bhutan has hot humid summers and cool winters; central and eastern Bhutan is temperate and drier than the west with warm summers and cool winters.