About Bhutan

Destinations Information

Tourist Season

SEASON PERIOD: March, April, May, September, October and November.

LOWER SEASONS PERIOD: December, January, February, June, July and August.

Also there are several festivals taking place during these months, offering an added attraction. Winter in Bhutan is from mid November to mid March and at this time of the year, climate is dry and sunny for the most parts with perfect blue sky, temperatures peaking at around 15c in the daytime and falling below zero at night. The monsoon usually arrives in mid-June, with rain falling mainly in the afternoons and evenings.

Bhutan is best known to world today as ‘The last Shangrila’. Few visitors who make rare journey into this extraordinary kingdom will discover that there is no other destination like this land of pure and exotic mysticism. In this kingdom known as Druk Yul or ‘Land of the Peaceful Dragon’, fortunate visitor will find a rare combination of harmony and accord, amidst a landscape of incredible natural beauty.

The Royal Government of Bhutan recognizes that tourism is a world-wide phenomenon and an important means of achieving socio-economic development particularly for developing countries like Bhutan. It also recognizes that tourism, in affording the opportunity to travel, can help in promoting understanding among people and building closer ties of friendship based on appreciation and respect for different cultures and lifestyles.

Towards achieving this objective, the Royal Government, since inception of tourism in the year 1974, has adopted a very cautious approach to growth and development of tourism. Bhutanese tourism industry is based on principle of sustainability that is ‘tourism must be environmentally and ecologically friendly, socially and culturally acceptable and economically viable’.

Organized Tours

As per Royal Government of Bhutan tourism policy, all tours to the kingdom are in form of pre-planned, prepaid guided package tours for which tariff is set by the Government. Independent travel is not possible and tours need to be booked in advance through local Bhutanese tour operator like us and we take care of all travel arrangements like hotel, transport, guide and visa. However, there is no restriction on number of persons travelling and even single person is welcomed.

Accommodation

In Bhutan, the star categorization of hotels is only recently introduced however at all tourist destinations there are accommodation establishments approved by Tourism Council of Bhutan, Royal Government of Bhutan. More popular tourists destinations such as Thimphu, Paro, Punakha, Wangduephodrang, Bumthang, Phuentsholing has good standard of hotels however modest and inadequate accommodation is available in smaller towns such as Mongar, Trashigang, Gangtey, Samdrup Jongkhar. Interestingly all hotels / lodges / guest houses are built in traditional architecture providing reasonably decent, clean, accommodation and good cuisine. Away from main towns there are purpose built huts on some of principal trekking routes. Otherwise there is nothing like camping out under the clearest skies that you have ever seen. Wherever you spend the night, warm Bhutanese hospitality will make you feel welcome.

Apart from Government approved standard category hotels, there are luxury and deluxe hotels establishments in form of Amankora (in Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Gangtey, Bumthang) Uma in Paro & Punakha, Hotel Zhiwa Ling (Paro), Hotel Taj Tashi (Thimphu), Le Meridien (Thimphu), Termalinca Resort & Spa (Thimphu), Gangtey Goenpa Lodge (Phobjikha), Haven Resort (Paro), Nak-Sel Hotel & Spa (Paro), Druk Hotel (Thimphu) etc.

Transport

Comfortable surface transport is available in Bhutan, making journey in this mountainous terrain really pleasant. Latest model Toyota and Hyundai vehicles are offered to our tourists depending upon the group size. Our experienced, courteous drivers are well trained and licensed by Tourism Council of Bhutan and the Department of Motor Vehicles in safety and driving on mountainous terrain. Tourists are at ease riding in Bhutan mountains. The transport and guide accompanies the tourists right from arrival until departure.

Tour Guides

All our tours are escorted by well trained, knowledgeable guides who are certified by Tourism Council of Bhutan. All our trekking guides and cooks undergo an additional mountain training, including safety and first aid. We generally provide English speaking guides however the services of Japanese, French, German speaking guides can be provided with sufficient prior information and on an additional cost.

Food & Drink

Bhutanese food is generally good. Set meals for travelers tend to be on the bland side, because local food is heavily seasoned with red chilies and can be quite hot. However, more adventurous can try the local delicacies like the tasty and fiery the national dish of Bhutan, Emma Datshi which is made with chilies and Local Bhutanese cheese. Most hotels provide meals buffet-style. There are usually continental, Indian, Chinese and Bhutanese dishes. The food in hotels is often the best in town, but in main towns now there are few restaurants increasingly becoming popular. All tourist hotels have good selection of international and Bhutanese beverages.

Food provided during tour is quite elaborate and generally consists of followings :

On Cultural Tour

BREAKFAST: Canned juice with choice of orange, mango, pineapple, apple etc, Porridge/cornflakes/cereals, Fresh fruits, Sausages/bacon, Toast, butter and Jam, Eggs, Tea/coffee

LUNCH: Salad, Rice, 2 Non-vegetable items, 2 Vegetable items, Roti/Nan, Desert, Tea/Coffee

DINNER: Soup, Salad, Rice, Noodles, 2 Non-vegetable items, 2 Vegetable items, Desert, Tea/Coffee

EVENING TEA: Tea/Coffee, Cookies/sandwich, Biscuits/pastries

 

On Trek

BREAKFAST: Canned juice with choice of orange, mango, pineapple, apple etc. Porridges/cornflakes/cereals, Fresh Fruits, Sausages/bacon, Eggs, Tea/Coffee

LUNCH: Vegetable cutlet/sandwich/boiled potato, Chicken roast/roast beef, Boiled eggs, Roti/Naan, Fresh fruits, Canned juice, Boiled drinking water

DINNER: Soup, Salad, Rice, Noodles, 2 Non-vegetable items, 2 Vegetable items, Desert, Tea/Coffee

EVENING TEA: Tea/Coffee, Cookies/sandwich, Biscuits

 

Health Information

No vaccination is currently required for entry into Bhutan . However if you are arriving from an area infected with yellow fever, you are required to have a yellow fever vaccination.

If you are arriving from Cholera infected area then officials may ask for evidence of Cholera vaccination. Anti –malarial medication is recommended for all travelers to Bhutan who are visiting rural areas in the districts that border India.

It is suggested that you assemble a traveler’s medical kit appropriate to destination, length of trip and general health. On a tour in Bhutan, there are long drives, and roads are winding so medication for motion sickness is strongly suggested. You should also pack an adequate supply of any prescribed medications you may require while traveling.

Travelers who plan to visit Bhutan should consult a physician about high-altitude travel. After a brief period of acclimatization, most people do not suffer from altitude sickness ; but elderly travelers or those with high blood pressure or heart conditions need to exercise caution at high altitudes.

Custom & Immigration

Visitors are required to fill up the Custom Form and hand over to concerned authorities on arrival. Following articles are exempted from duty :

Personal affects and articles for day to day use by the visitor

2 litres of alcohol, 150 gms of pipe tobacco

Instruments, apparatus or appliances for professional use

Photogrphic equipment, video cameras and other electronic goods for personal use.

The articles mentioned under c) & d). must be declared in Custom Form. If such items disposed off in Bhutan by sale of gift, they are liable for custom duty.Bhutan is non-smoking country and smoking at public places is prohibited however tourists can smoke inside their hotel room.

Import and Export of following goods are strictly prohibited :-

Arms, ammunitions, explosives and military stores

All narcotics and drugs except medically prescribed drugs

Wildlife products, especially those of endangered species

Antiques

Also visitors are advised to be cautious in purchasing old and used items. Custom authorities will not allow any old / used items to be taken out of the country if they have not been certified as non-antiques. Imports of plants, soils etc. are subject to quarantine regulations. These items must be cleared on arrival.

Clothing and Accessories

Comfortable clothing and sturdy, soft-soled shoes are essential for travel in Bhutan. Warm clothing is recommended and except for summer months, jackets and woolen sweaters are suggested. In summer, heavy cottons and lightweight woolens will be acceptable. Altitudinal differences account for a wide range of temperatures from day to night year round. It is therefore suggested that clothing be layered so that you can adapt to the changing conditions.

While visiting temples and other religious institutions, dress modestly and respectfully. Slacks are more appropriate for men and longer – length skirts are more appropriate for women. Shoulders must also be covered when inside religious buildings. Please keep in mind that shoes must be removed when entering temples. It is therefore suggested that you carry a pair of socks to wear inside religious buildings.

Following is fairly exhaustive list of what you should pack for the trip; clothes as per season, sunglasses / spare glasses, pair of casual shoes, knife, hat, umbrella, insect repellent, hand cream, small sewing kit & safety pins, torch or flash light with spare batteries, mirror, scissor, sun cream, lip salve, soluble aspirin, antiseptic cream, anti-histamine cream, anti-diarrhea pills, a preparation for relief of sunburn and any medication you take regularly.

Camping Equipment Whilst on a trek

Whilst trekking you are provided with foam mats but we recommend you bring a self-inflating mat pack called Thermarest. This packs up small but when inflated gives very good insulation and is more comfortable than a single closed-cell foam mat. We do not recommend that you bring an airbed. You should also bring your Sleeping bags which should be 4-seasons bags as the temperature will decrease especially at 4,000m camp sites.

Other useful items

It would be prudent to bring all essential items from home; razor blades (or battery operated shaver), toothpaste, shampoo, make-up etc., insect repellent, soap, alarm clock, binoculars, torch, sunscreen, sufficient reading material and plenty of batteries for all electrical appliances.

Communication

Bhutan has an efficient telecommunication system. All accommodation units have facilities of international dialing, fax, internet and also majority of them provide Wi-Fi services. The satellite earth station in Thimphu was installed in 1990 along with a sophisticated international telephone services and now direct dial calls go through quickly and clearly. Travelers can send mail from hotels and post offices and this mail service is quite reliable. DHL provides efficient courier service to and from Bhutan.

Photography

Bhutan’s landscape, buildings and people are some of the most photogenic in the world. While photographic local people, it is always better to take permission first. There are certain places such as monasteries and temples, where photography is prohibited however there is no restriction on photographing Dzongs and Goembas from outside. If you are uncertain about whether or not photography is permitted, please check with your local guide. You should refrain from taking pictures of military installations.

Newspaper

‘Kuensel’ is country’s most popular newspaper published in three languages English, Dzongkha and Nepali. Also newspaper is online through its website : www.kuenseloneline.com. Bhutan Times, Bhutan Observer, Bhutan today are other prominent local newspapers. Indian newspapers and magazines are available in few main towns.

Radio & TV

Bhutan Broadcasting Service has programmes in Dzongkha, English and Nepali. Television started in year 2000 and various channels are now available for the viewers such as BBC, CNN, Discovery, Star TV, ESPN etc.

Dzongkha – the National Language

Dzongkha’, one of the Tibetan family of languages is Bhutan’s national language. English is commonly spoken in main towns and also it is the medium of education in schools throughout the kingdom.

Electricity

In Bhutan, electricity runs 220 / 240 volts. If you do bring electrical appliances, take along an international converter kit complete with a set of adapter plugs.

Shopping

Items that are most frequently purchased by travelers to Bhutan include postage stamps, lovely hand-woven fabrics, carved masks, woven baskets, Thangkhas, wooden bowls, handmade paper and finely-crafted metal objects. In Bhutan, buying and selling of antiques is strictly forbidden.

Laundry

Laundry service is available in most of the hotels at main destinations. However, it is advisable to check the hotel’s individual laundry return policy before choosing to have laundry done at a hotel.

Gratitude

Tipping is not compulsory for tour, nor there is any fixed amount for this. Nevertheless the bottom line in determining whether and how much to tip is to ask yourself how much the individual contributed to make your travels more enjoyable.

Money

Bhutanese currency is Ngultrum (Nu.). The Ngultrum is officially pegged to the Indian Rupee. Also Indian Rupee is acceptable all over Bhutan. As of date, only American Express card and Visa Cards are acceptable in the country and that too by very limited service establishments.

Time

Bhutan time is six hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. There is only one time zone throughout the country.

Holidays & Special Events

17th December, the date of establishment of the monarchy in 1907, is celebrated as National Day. Other important holidays are the King’s birthday on 11th November and Coronation Day on 02nd June. ‘Losar’, New Year of the country normally falls between mid January to mid March. Festivals are scheduled according to Bhutanese calendar.

 

Opening & Closing of Places of Tourist Places

There are certain places which are closed on weekends and other days. These places are listed below :

Ta Dzong – Paro (national museum) : closed on Sun & Mon

National Library – Thimphu : closed on Sat, Sun & Government Holidays

Folk Heritage Museum – Thimphu : closed on Government Holidays and on Sat open from 10.30 a.m to 1.00 p.m and on Sun open from 11.30 a.m to 3.00 p.m

Textile Musuem – Thimphu : Closed on Government Holidays and on Sun and on Sat open from 9.00 a.m to 4 p.m

Institute of Zorig Chusum (Arts & Crafts School) – Thimphu : Closed on Sun & Government Holidays and on Sat open from 10 a.m to 12 o’clock

Institute of Traditional Medicine – Thimphu : Closed on Sat, Sun & Government Holidays.

Ta Dzong – Trongsa (museum) : Closed on Sat & Sun

About & Facts

This kingdom, in the midst of the Eastern Himalayas is in many ways the world’s most exclusive travel destination. Bhutan Known to the world, as the Last Shangri-La is a tiny kingdom about the size of Switzerland (38,398 Sq.Km), perched high up on the snow-capped mountains of the Himalayan range. Its 552,996 (2005) people with a colorful culture, tradition, unique architecture, peace and tranquility live in this unpolluted habitat. This makes the kingdom a unique Travel destination.

Bhutan is also the Last bastion of Mahayana Buddhism. It is not merely the religion but the way the people live their daily lives. Bhutan opened to the outside world in 1974 and the government adopted a cautious tourism policy from the beginning to avoid the negative impacts that mass tourism could have on a small country. Planned development was initiated with Gross National Happiness as its development vision. Bhutan hopes to survive by clinging on to age old values that the rest of the world has lost. Television and Internet was introduced for the first time in 1999.

Bhutan took a momentous step in 2008 and made the transition from a hundred year old monarchy to parliamentary democracy. Then Bhutanese people elected a new government in March. As an exemplar tourist destination, this little Himalayan Kingdom has its own unique specialties. Here the Land, the Nature and the People have blended to a perfect harmony that indicates Peace, Tranquility and Depth. For the traveler in quest for peace, tranquility, inspiration and enchantment Bhutan is the perfect answer. Here amidst monasteries, fluttering prayer flags, friendly people, pristine scenery, running streams, green valleys, lakes and awe inspiring architecture the traveler wakes up to a deep and pleasant realization that his inward journey has been as much valuable as his outward trip.

Nature in Bhutan has an amazing diversity. Its rich and diverse flora and fauna earned the world’s recognition as one of the Top 10 Global Hot Spots. Be it fiery rhododendrons galore in the months of spring or expanse of blue poppies in rolling fields, the beauty is simultaneously pristine and primeval. Rich flora and fauna are yet to be explored. The Bhutanese traditional reverence for nature has delivered the country into the third millennium with its environment – both natural and popular – still richly intact.

And as the world begins to discover the Land of the Thunder Dragon, many go away with a sense of having been in a special place far from the insanity of modern living. Here is a land where life may not be materially luxurious but it provides much that is good for a society that is not yet caught up with the global rat race. As Bhutan steps into the 21st century, it is determined to keep its heritage, its spirit and its culture alive in a fast homogenizing world.

Visitors Facts

Area: 47,000 sq km.
Location: Nestled in the Eastern Himalaya between India and China.
Population: 0.7 million (approximately).
Capital: Thimphu.
Time: Bhutan is plus 6 hours GMT.
What to Pack: During the warmer Spring and Summer months (Mar-Aug), light clothing with an additional layer for the evenings (jacket or jumper) is advisable. In the Autumn and Winter months (Sep-Feb), a warm jacket, hat, gloves and fleece are recommended. Our travel consultants will provide a detailed list of what to bring when you book your trip.
Politics: Constitutional Monarchy.
Official Religion: Tantric form of Mahayana Buddhism in Drukpa Kagyupa sect.
Language: The official language of Bhutan is Dzongkha, however English is widely spoken across the country.
Currency: Ngultrum (on par with Indian rupee).
Exchange Rate: US$ 1 = Approx Nu. 54.
Electricity: 220-240 volt. Primary Socket Types Euro, British and Indian.
National Bird: Raven (Corvus Corax Tibetanus).
National Flower: Blue Poppy (Meconopsis Grandsis).
National Tree: Cypress (Cupressess Corneyana).
National Animal: Takin (Budorcas Taxicolor).
National Day: December 17 (1st King Sir Ugyen Wangchuck enthroned 1907).
National Dress: Gho for Men and Kira for women.
Tipping: Although not compulsory, tipping has become common practice in Bhutan. Tipping is entirely discretionary.

GNH Philosophy

Gross National Happiness: Development Philosophy of Bhutan

World over economists have been arguing that the key to happiness is obtaining and enjoying material development. Bhutan however, adheres to a very different belief and advocates that amassing material wealth does not necessarily lead to happiness. Bhutan is now trying to measure progress not by the popular idea of Gross Domestic Product but through Gross National Happiness.

His Majesty the third king Druk Gyalpo Jigme Dorji Wangchuck expressed his view on the goals of development as making “people prosperous and happy”. With this strong view in mind, the importance of “prosperity and happiness” was highlighted in King’s address on the occasion of Bhutan’s admission to the United Nations in 1971.

While emphasis is placed on both, prosperity and happiness, latter is considered to be more significant. Fourth king Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuk emphasized that for Bhutan “Gross National Happiness” is more important than “Gross National Product”. Thus, Gross National Happiness is now being fleshed out by a wide range of professionals, scholars and agencies across the world.

Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck said that the rich are not always happy while happy people generally consider themselves rich. While conventional development models stressed on economic growth as the ultimate objective, concept of Gross National Happiness is based on the premise that true development of human society takes place when material and spiritual development occur side by side to complement and reinforce each other.

The Philosophy of Gross National Happiness has recently received international recognition and UN has implemented a resolution recognizing that gross domestic product does not adequately reflect the happiness and well-being of people and that “the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal”.

History

It is believed that Bhutan was inhabited as early as 2000 B.C. due to presence of early stone implements discovered in the region.

The kingdom was originally known by many names including Lho Jong ‘Valleys of the South’, Lho Mon Kha Shi ‘The Southern Mon Kingdom of Four Approaches’, Lho Jong Men Jong ‘The Southern Valleys of Medicinal Herbs and Lho Mon Tsenden Jong ‘The Southern Mon Valleys where Sandalwood grows’. Mon was a term used by the Tibetans to refer to Mongoloid, non-Buddhist people that populated the Southern Himalayas.

The kingdom came to be known as Druk Yul or ‘Land of the Drukpas’ sometime in the 17th century. Name refers to the Drukpa sect of Buddhism that has been dominant religion in the region since that period.

Initially Bonism was dominant religion in the region that would come to be known as Bhutan. Buddhism was introduced in the 7th century by Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo and further strengthened by arrival of Guru Rimpoche, a Buddhist Master who is widely considered to be the Second Buddha.

The kingdom was first unified in 17th century by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel. After arriving in Bhutan from Tibet he consolidated his power, defeated three Tibetan invasions and established a comprehensive system of law and governance. His system of rule eroded after his death and the kingdom fell into in-fighting and civil war between various local rulers. This continued until the Trongsa Poenlop Ugyen Wangchuck was able to gain control and with the support of people, establish himself as Bhutan’s first hereditary King in 1907. His Majesty Ugyen Wangchuck became the first Druk Gyalpo (Dragon King) and set up Wangchuck Dynasty that still rules today.

In 2008 Bhutan enacted its Constitution and converted to a democracy in order to better safeguard the rights of its citizens. Later in November 2008, currently reigning 5th Druk  Gyalpo Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck was crowned.

Environment

Due to Bhutan’s location, unique geographical and climatic variations it is one of the world’s last remaining biodiversity hotspots.

Bhutan’s pristine environment, with high rugged mountains and deep valleys, offers ecosystems that are both rich and diverse. Recognizing the importance of environment conservation of its rich biodiversity is one of the government’s development paradigms.

The government has enacted a law that shall maintain at least 60% of its forest cover for all time. Today, approximately 72% of the total land area of Bhutan is under forest cover and approximately 60% of the land area falls under protected areas comprising of 10 national parks and sanctuaries.

National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries

Each of Bhutan’s National Park and Wildlife Sanctuaries are an essential part of the Bhutan Biological Conservation Complex – a system of national parks, protected areas and forest corridors covering 60% of the kingdom. Each of these parks and sanctuaries has its own special character and are home to endangered animals, birds and plants.

Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park

Located in central part of the Kingdom, Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park covers 1,300 sq.km and is the second largest protected area of Bhutan.

High ice peaks fall away to low conifer and broadleaf forests. The park remains one of the largest undisturbed tracks of forest anywhere in the Himalayas. Varying altitude and rainfall have created a wide range of climatic conditions, making it home to many species of plants, animals and birds.

Both musk deer and Himalayan black bear can be found here. The golden langur which is quite common in Bhutan, rare clouded leopard, red panda and Royal Bengal tiger are among some of the many species found here. Eastern side of the park supports about 20% of Bhutan’s tiger population and the park itself forms an important link between northern and southern tiger populations.

It is also home to 391 bird species of which seven species are among some of the world’s most endangered species. Phobjikha valley, a buffer zone to the park, is winter habitat of Black Necked Cranes. More than 260 majestic cranes visit Phobjikha every year towards the end of November.

Thrumshingla National Park

Situated in the very heart of the kingdom covering 768 sq. km was officially opened in July 1998.

Pristine forests ranging from alpine to subtropical broadleaf combined with dramatic mountains are home to snow leopards, tigers, red pandas and rare plants. This creates a globally important and unique environment.

With its elevation ranging from 1,000 m to more than 4,000 m, and temperature ranging between –21 C to +28 C, the park has some of most diverse climatic variations and habitats in the world. The park made news in 2000 when a WWF-supported survey team captured a camera-trap image of a tiger at 3,000 meters. First photographic evidence of the magnificent creature exists at such high altitudes. Besides that, the park has 341 species of birds making it truly a birdwatcher’s paradise.

Tourism helps to sustain lives of communities within the park, with an effective management plan in place and dedicated park staff along with WWF support. The park is set to remain in pristine condition for generations to come.

Royal Manas National Park

Bhutan’s Crown Jewel, the Royal Manas National Park is Bhutan’s oldest national park representing the largest example of tropical and sub-tropical ecosystems in Bhutan.

This park has only recently been opened to the public and offers thousands of animal and plant species, many of which are globally endangered. It is not only most diversely protected area in the Kingdom but also noted as one of the world’s biologically outstanding parks.

Lying in southern central Bhutan, the park is connected at southern border with India’s Manas Tiger Reserve, a World Heritage Site. To the north it borders Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park. Royal Manas was designated a wildlife sanctuary in 1966 making it Bhutan’s oldest protected area. The area was upgraded to a National Park in 1993.

There are wide climate variations in Royal Manas Park. May-September monsoons bring up to 5,000 mm of rain. Rainfall is negligible in winter and the climate is extremely pleasant from November till March.

The park is also extremely rich in wildlife species, including the highly endangered Royal Bengal tiger, Asian elephant, great one-horned rhinoceros, clouded leopard, Himalayan black bear, gangetic dolphin and pangolin. Found virtually nowhere else in the world is the especially rare golden langur, a primate of extraordinary grace and beauty with its long, silky blond fur.

More than 365 species of birds have been officially recorded in Royal Manas National Park with an additional 200 believed to be in residence. Species found here include the globally threatened rufous-necked hornbill, Pallas fishing eagle, great white-bellied heron, spotted wren-babbler, blue-headed rock thrush and emerald cuckoo. Many of the park’s more than 900 types of plants have commercial, medicinal, traditional and religious significance.

Jigme Dorji National Park

With an area of 4,349 sq. km, the park is largest protected area in Bhutan. It is one of the most biologically rich areas in the Eastern Himalayan region, and stretches from warm broad-leaved forests to permanent ice fields and glaciers on Bhutan’s north-western border.

The monsoon rains and a varied topographical gradient, from just over 1,000 m to more than 7,000 m above sea level account for this rich plant and animal diversity.

Sacred peaks such as Jomolhari, Tsherimgang and Jichu Drakey are prominent landmarks in the park. Glaciers and glacial lakes are interspersed in the mountains forming important head waters for some of Bhutan’s main rivers.

The alpine region houses numerous flowers such as the national flower blue poppy, edelweiss, orchids and rhododendrons among many others. Charismatic animal species like the Snow Leopard, Takin, Tiger, Black Bear, Blue Sheep and Red Panda inhabit the forests and mountains of the park. This may be the only place in the world where Royal Bengal tiger and snow leopard habitats overlap. Most of Bhutan’s popular trekking routes can be found inside the Jigme Dorji National Park.

Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary

Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary is located in north-western part of Bhutan covering an area of 1,545 sq. km with 420 sq. km of buffer zone encompassing parts of Trashiyangtse, Lhuntshe, and Mongar district. It shares international borders with Tibetan region of China in the north and India in the north east. The sanctuary is home to around 100 species of mammals, including globally endangered species such as snow leopard, Royal Bengal tiger and red panda.

About 150 black necked cranes spend their winter in Bumdeling every year from mid-November to early March. Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary is also a paradise for butterflies: as of now 130 species have been recorded and another 120 are expected to inhabit this area. Besides natural beauty and diversity many significant religious and cultural places can be found inside the sanctuary, such as Rigsum Gompa, the mystic Singye Dzong and Dechenphodrang Lhaghang– maybe the most scenic monastery in the  kingdom.

Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary

Located in easternmost part of the Kingdom, Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary spans an area of 650 sq. km and is Bhutan’s newest protected area (launched in 2003). The sanctuary is a lost world of biodiversity waiting to be discovered. It presents a wide diversity of Himalayan terrestrial ecosystems, namely alpine meadow, temperate forest, and warm broadleaf forest.

The Sanctuary is home to people of isolated nomadic tribes. It is characterized by thick carpets of rhododendrons and is home for snow leopards, red pandas, Himalayan black bear, barking deer, Himalayan red fox, hoary-bellied Himalayan squirrel and even the mythical Yeti or the “Abominable Snowman”. Sakteng is virtually untouched by development. Bird species include the Assamese macaw, blood pheasant, grey backed shrike, grey headed woodpecker, common hoopoe, rufous vented tit and dark breasted rose finch.

Plant life includes Bhutan’s national flower the blue poppy, rhododendrons, primulas and gentiana, all of which transform the park into a garden of colors during spring time. There are also many plants with medicinal values- such as cordyceps.

Khaling Wildlife Sanctury

With an area of 273 sq km, this is the smallest protected area in the kingdom.

Despite its relatively small total area, this sanctuary’s altitude ranges from 400-2200m and it is inhabited by exotic animals like Elephants, Guars, Pygmy Hogs and Hispid Hares. As it is located on the kingdom’s southern border, Khaling Wildlife Sanctuary adjoins a neighboring Indian wildlife sanctuary.

Philsoo Wildlife Sanctuary

This relatively small protected-area is located near the Southern border to India, approximately 50 km from Phuntsholing.

It encompasses 278 sq.km. and ranges from 200-1600 m in altitude. It is home to rare and exotic animals such as Elephants, Tigers, Gaurs, Spotted Deer, Axis Deer, Hornbills and Golden Langurs. This park is Bhutan’s only natural Sal Forest.

Wangchuck Wildlife Sanctuary

The Wangchuck Centennial Park was formally inaugurated as a National Park in June 2008. With an area of 4149 sq.km, it is largest National Park in the kingdom. Several high mountains such as Mt. Gangkar Puensum are found within the park’s boundaries.

The park is located in north-central region of Bhutan and encompasses regions of 6 different Dzongkhags. With Bomdeling Wildlife Sanctuary to its East, Jigme Dorji National Park to its West and a continuous biological corridor to its South, the park is a crucial part of network of protected areas in Bhutan.

Within the park there are two main types of vegetation, Fir trees and Hemlock, Spruce, Juniper trees. It encompasses 3 ecological zones and 6 different habitat types namely cool broad leaf forests, mixed-conifer forests, Fir forests, Juniper forests, Alpine meadows and Scrubs and Alpine Scree.

The Wangchuck Centennial Park is home to several incredibly rare and protected species such as the Royal Bengal Tiger, Snow leopard, Himalayan Musk Bear.

Torsa Strict Nature Reserve

Located in Western Haa, the Torsa Strict Nature Reserve covers an area of 644 sq km.

It ranges in altitude from 1400-4800 m and its vegetation includes Broad-leaved Forests and Alpine Meadows. This is the only nature reserve in kingdom that has absolutely no human inhabitants.

Climate

Bhutan is a year round tourist destination which enjoys varied climatic conditions. This variation in climatic conditions and average temperature can be attributed to two main factors, vast differences in altitude present in the country and influence of north Indian monsoons.

Southern Bhutan has a hot, humid sub-tropical climate that is fairly unchanging throughout the year. Temperatures can vary between 15-30 degrees Celsius. In central Bhutan the climate cools a bit, changing temperate and deciduous forests with warm summers and cool winters. In Northern part of the kingdom weather is cold during winter, mountain peaks are perpetually covered in snow and lower parts are still cool in summer owing to the high altitude terrain.

Annual precipitation ranges widely in various parts of the country. In the northern border region close to Tibet gets about 40 mm of precipitation a year which is primarily snow. In Central Bhutan region, yearly average of around 1,000 mm is more common with 7,800 mm per year being registered at some locations in the humid, sub-tropical southern Bhutan ensuring thick tropical forest. Thimpu experiences dry winter months (December through February) and almost no precipitation until March, when rainfall averages 20 mm a month and increases steadily thereafter to a high of 220 mm in July & August for a total annual rainfall of nearly 650 mm.

Bhutan’s dry spring starts early March and lasts until mid April. Summer weather commences mid April with occasional showers and continues until late June. The heavier summer rain starts late June until late August which is more monsoonal along the southwest border. Bhutan’s dry spring starts early March and lasts until mid April. Summer weather commences mid April with occasional showers and continues until late June. The heavier summer rain starts late June until late August which is more monsoonal along the southwest border.

Autumn, from early September until mid November, follows the rainy season and is characterized by bright, sunny days with some early snowfalls at higher elevations.

From mid November until late February, winter sets in, with frost throughout much of the country and snowfall common above elevations of 3,000 meters. The northeast winter rain brings gale-force winds at the highest altitudes through high mountain passes, giving Bhutan its name – Druk yul in Dzongkha language, which means Land of the Thunder Dragon

People

Bhutanese people can be generally categorized into three main ethnic groups. Tshanglas, Ngalops and Lhotshampas.

Other minority groups are Bumthaps and Khengpas of Central Bhutan, Kurtoeps in Lhuentse, Brokpas and Bramis of Merak and Sakteng in eastern Bhutan, doyas of Samtse and finally Monpas of Rukha villages in Wangdue Phodrang. Together multiethnic Bhutanese population number is just over 700,000.

Tshanglas: Commonly known as Sharchops are considered aboriginal inhabitants of eastern Bhutan. Tshanglasare according to historians, descendants of Lord Brahma who speak Tshanglakha. They are common inhabitants of Mongar, Trashigang, Trashiyangtse, Pema Gasthel and Samdrup Jongkhar. Besides cultivation of maize, rice, wheat, barley and vegetables, the Tshanglas also rear domestic animals to supplement their living. Weaving is a popular occupation among their women and they produce beautiful fabrics mainly of silk and raw silk.

Ngalops: Have settled mostly in six regions of western Bhutan area of Tibetan origin. They speak Ngalopkha, a polished version of Dzongkha, national language of Bhutan. Agriculture is their main livelihood. They cultivate cereals such as rice, wheat, barley and maize along with a variety of other crops. In regions of Thimphu and Paro, apples are also cultivated as a cash crop. They are known for Lozeys, or ornamental speech and for Zheys, dances that are unique to the Ngalops.

Lhotshampas: Settled in southern foothills of the kingdom. It is believed that they migrated from Nepal in the beginning of 19th century, attracted by employment opportunities provided by many constructions works taking place in the kingdom. They speak Lhotshamkha (Nepali) and practice Hinduism. Their society can be broken into various lineages such as Bhawans, Chhetris, Rai’s, Limbus, Tamangs, Gurungs and lLepchas. Nowadays they are mainly employed in agriculture and cultivate cash crops like ginger, cardamom and oranges.

Bumthaps, Mangdeps and Khengpas: People who speak Bumtapkha, Mangdepkha and khengkha respectively inhabit the central areas of Bhutan. The Bumthaps cultivate buck wheat, potatoes and vegetables. A section of this population also rear yaks and sheep and produce fabrics of wool and yak hair. Mangdeps depend on cultivation of rice, wheat, maize, vegetables etc. besides rearing domestic animals. Khengpas are also dependent on agriculture much like Mangdeps, however they are also known for bamboo and cane craft.

Kurtoeps: Inhabit eastern part of the kingdom.  Specifically district of Lhuentse, villages are found spread along the banks of Kurichu.  Khoma women are expert weavers and are known for their skill in weaving grandiose Kushithara.

Brokpas and Bramis: Brokpas and Bramis are a semi nomadic community. They are settled in two villages of Merak and Sakteng in eastern Bhutan. They mostly depend on yaks and sheep for their livelihood and do not typically grow crops due to high altitude zones they inhabit. They speak a different dialect and have their own unique dress that is made of yak hair and sheep wool. They are also experts in cane and bamboo crafts.

Layaps: To the extreme north are Layaps who speak layapkha. Like Brokpas, they are semi-nomadic and their livelihood is dependent upon yaks and sheep.  They use products of their herd animals to barter rice, salt and other consumables with people of WangduePhodrang and Punakha.

The Doyas: A tribal community that has settled mostly in southern Bhutan. They are considered the aboriginal inhabitants of western and central Bhutan, who over the years migrated to and settled in the present areas in Dorokha. They have their own unique dialect and style of dress.

Monpas: A small community in Rukha under WangduePhodrang. Together with Doyas they are also considered the original settlers of central Bhutan. They have their own unique dialect but it is unfortunately slowly dying out as they are now being absorbed into main stream Bhutanese society.

By Air

Paro is the only International operational airport in Bhutan and it is connected by Druk Air & Bhutan Airlines. Druk Air is the national carrier of Bhutan, which operates flights Indian cities of New Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Gaya, Bagdogra & Guwahati all these Indian cities are conveniently connected with Domestic Indian Carriers with almost all parts of India. Bhutan Airlines operates regularly from Kolkata only.

 

Bangkok (BKK – Thailand)

Delhi (DEL – India)

Mumbai (BOM – India)

Kolkata (CCU – India)

Bagdogra (IXB – India)

Gaya (GAY – India)

Guwahati (GAU – India)

Kathmandu (KTM – Nepal)

Dhaka (DAC – Bangladesh)

Changi (SIN – Singapore)

Bangkok (BKK – Thailand)

Delhi (DEL – India)

Kolkata (CCU – India)

Kathmandu (KTM – Nepal)

By Surface

If you wish to travel overland, you can enter and exit Bhutan through its southern gateway of Phuentsholing into the Indian state of West Bengal. It is approximately a five hour drive from Thimphu. The nearest airport is at Bagdogra, located approximately four hours by road from Phuentsholing. This border point is an ideal junction for those wishing to combine their exploration of Bhutan with the Indian states of Sikkim and West Bengal.

For those who would like to journey across Bhutan, there is an exit only border crossing at Sumdrup Jongkhar in southeast Bhutan to India. The closest airport is 110 km away in Guwahati. From here you a number of destinations you can fly on to including Delhi, Bombay, Kolkata and Bangkok. This is convenient for those flying into Paro in the west and touring across Bhutan without back tracking.

By Rail

Though Bhutan does not have any rail link but it is conveniently connected by the Indian Railway to the nearest border city of New Jalpaiguri (Siliguri), Hasimara, Alipurdwar, & Guwahati they are well connected to the all major cities of India.

Road Traveling Distance

Bhutan’s  Road Traveling Distance:

From To Distance (kms) Driving Time
Paro Thimphu 65 kms 1 hour
Paro Haa 65 kms 1.5-2 hours
Thimphu Haa 115 kms 3-4 hours
Thimphu Phuentsholing 176kms 7-8 hours
Thimphu Wangduephodrang 70 kms 3 hours
Thimphu Punakha 77 kms 3 hours
Thimphu Gangtey (Phobjikha) 135 kms 5.5-6 hours
Punakha Wangduephodrang 13 kms 45 min
Punakha Gangtey (Phobjikha) 78 kms 3 hours
Punakha Bumthang 212 kms 8 hours
Bumthang Gangtey (Phobjikha) 188 kms 5-6 hours
Gangtey (Phobjikha) Trongsa 120 kms 4.1/2-5 hours
Gangtey Wangduephodrang 65 kms 2.5-3 hours
Trongsa Wangduephodrang 129 kms 5 hours
Trongsa Punakha 142 kms 6 hours
Trongsa Bumthang 68 kms 2 hours
Bumthang Mongar 198 kms 7-8 hours
Mongar Lhuentse 76 kms 3 hours
Mongar Trashigang 91 kms 3-4 hours
Trashigang Chorten Kora 52 kms 2 hours
Trashigang Samdrup Jongkhar 180 kms 3 hours
Trashigang Trashigangtshe 55 kms 2 hours
Samdrup Jongkhar Guwahati (Assam, India) 110 kms 7 hours
Samdrup Jongkhar Phuentsholing 400 kms 10 hours
Phuentsholing Bagdogra (West Bengal, India) 165 kms 4.1/2 hours
Phuentsholing Siliguri (West Bengal, India) 155 kms 4 hours
Phuentsholing Darjeeling (West Bengal, India) 200 kms 6 hours
Phuentsholing Kalimpong (West Bangal, India) 185 kms 5 hours
Phuentsholing Gangtok (Sikkim, India) 220 kms 7 hours
Phuentsholing Dooars (Chalsa) (West Bengal, India) 110 kms 2.1/2 hours

Sight Seeing Places

SIGHTSEEING PLACES IN BHUTAN

 

Thimphu:         

Thimphu is a bustling town on the bank of Thimphu Chu & set gloriously in the hills of the Thimphu valley. The capital has an interesting combination of tradition and modernity, and includes some of the most advanced and remotest parts of the kingdom. It is the home of the Bhutanese Royal family, Civil servants & Expatriates. We will take you through temples, dzongs, chortens, museums, handicraft stores, nunneries, parks and many more.

Memorial Chorten: The Memorial Chorten, also known as the Thimphu Chorten, situated in the centre of Thimphu City. The chorten, built in 1974 to the honour of 3rd King of Bhutan, is a prominent landmark in the city with its golden spires and bells and also contains many religious paintings and tantric statues. It is popularly known as “the most visible religious landmark in Bhutan”.

Changangkha Monastery: Changangkha Lhakhang is one of the oldest monasteries in the Thimphu valley. It was built in the 15th century by a descendant of Lama Phajo Drugom Zhipo, the man who spread the sect drukpa kagyu in Bhutan. The main statue at the temple is of Avalokiteswara (the eleven-headed Buddha manifestation with 1000 arms and 1000 eyes). The temple courtyard offers good views over the city of Thimphu.

National Zoo: It Contains national animal Takin. The Takin is a goat-antelope found in the Eastern Himalayas. Bhutan selected the Takin as the national animal based on both its uniqueness and its strong association with the country’s religious history and mythology.

National Library: The National Library was established in 1967 to preserve many ancient Dzongkha and Tibetan texts. (9am – 4pm, Closed on Sunday, Monday & National Holidays)

BBS Tower: It is located North-West of the Thimphu Valley. The Places has the top hill which gives a clear view of the entire Thimphu valley in a nutshell and the feeling from there is just fantastic.

Folk Heritage Museum: The house replicates a traditional farmhouse and is furnished as it would have been about a century ago. A guided tour of this almost-living museum is included in the admission and provides a glimpse into traditional Bhutanese life. The house design and many of the implements are also reminders of how many rural Bhutanese still live today. Bring a torch (flashlight) as some of the rooms are quite dimly lit.

National Textile Museum: This museum is worth a visit to get to know the living national art of weaving. Exhibitions introduce the major weaving techniques, styles of local dress and textiles made by Bhutanese. (Everyday 9am – 4pm & Saturday 1pm – 4pm, Sunday 10am – 3pm, Closed on Monday & National Holidays)

School of Arts And Crafts: The School of Arts and Crafts, commonly known as painting school, offers an eight year course which provides instruction in many of Bhutan’s traditional arts to boys throughout the country. (Everyday 2pm – 4pm & Saturday 9am – 12noon, Closed on Sunday & National Holidays)

National Institute of Traditional Medicine: This institute was established in 1978. It prepares and dispenses traditional herbal and other medicines. There is an impressive laboratory and production facility that manufactures quality products. All kinds of pills, tablets, ointments and medicinal teas from here are distributed to regional health-care units around the country.

Jungshi Handmade Paper Factory: It is a 1 km drive from main city of Thimphu to the factory. The factory manufactures the traditional Bhutanese paper using the bark of two tree species in the manufacture of traditional paper the Daphne tree and Dhekap. The entire process of traditional manufacturing of the handmade paper can be observed. It was previously operated by the government. Now it is run by a private entrepreneur.

Optional sightseeing with additional cost

Tashichho Dzong: Tashichho Dzong, “Fortress of the Glorious Religion”, built on the hill above Thimphu in 1216 by the lama Gyalwa Lhanampa. It is the most stately and most impressive building in Bhutan. The dzong housed the original National Assembly and now houses the secretariat throne room and the offices of the King of Bhutan. Visit to Tashichho Dzong permitted only after office hours (4pm – 5pm) in winter months when the monk body is not in Thimphu.

Weekend Market: Every Saturday & Sunday most of the Thimphu population congregate on the banks of the river, where the weekend market is held. Here villagers from the valley & other nearby places come to sale their agricultural products.

 

Paro:

The beautiful valley is home to many of Bhutan’s oldest monasteries & temples. The countries only airport situated is in Paro. The valley is also home to Mount Chomolhari (7300 meters.) situated at the northern end of the valley whose glacier, water forms the Pa Chu which is flowing through the valley.

Ta Dzong: It overlooks the Rimpung Dzong and was built in 1951 as a watch tower. It is an unique museum, which was established as the National Museum of Bhutan since 1967 with its wonderful and varied collection of arts, relics, religious thangkha, etc. It provides an excellent introduction to Bhutanese art and culture. (9am – 4pm, Closed on Sunday, Monday & National Holidays)

Rinpung Dzong: Means “fortress of the heap of jewels”. The massive three hundred and fifty years old fort is the center of governance for the Province of Paro. The governor, the chief judge and other government official keep office within the walls of this fort following old traditions. Half the fort is permanently occupied by 200 resident monks. The fort host’s one of the Bhutan’s biggest Paro Tshechhu (festival) is held in spring.

The Ruin of Drukgyel Dzong: The dzong was built in 1646 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to commemorate the victory over the Tibetan Invaders. This fort is fifteen minutes’ drive from Zhiwa Ling and set on a hill with a spectacular view of the valley. It provides a wonderful architectural insight to the structure of forts in Bhutan. The dzong was destroyed by fire in 1951 and is now preserved as a heritage site. The Dzong is situated in Drukgyal, overlooking the beautiful village with Mountain.

Jumolhari in the background. Drukgyel is also the starting point of Bhutan’s most famous trekking routes.

Kitchu Lhakhang (Monastery): It is one of the oldest monasteries in the country built in the 7th century by the Tibetan King Songsten Gampo. The story goes that a giant demoness lay across the whole area of Tibet and the Himalayas and was preventing the spread of Buddhism. To overcome her, King Songtsen Gampo decided to build 108 temples, which would be placed on all the points of her body. Of these 108 temples, 12 were built in accordance with precise plans. This is one of the oldest monasteries in Paro district. There’s a belief that the two orange trees here in Kyichu Lakhang miraculously bears fruits throughout the year.

Taktsang Monastery (Full Day): Taktsang Monastery is situated on a nearly vertical cliff at 3000mtr altitude north of Paro in Bhutan. It is also known as “Tiger’s Nest” the tantrum mystic Dorje Droloe who brought Buddhism to Bhutan, he came riding over a flying tigress in the 8th century and he meditated in a cave here for three months to subdue the evil and demon which were obstructing the spread of Buddhism in the Himalayas. The cave is said to be the origin of Buddhism in Bhutan.

Optional sightseeing with additional cost

Chele-La-Pass (Full Day): Chele-La-Pass, at an elevation of 13,088 ft., is considered to be one of the highest motorable pass in Bhutan. About an hour’s drive from Zhiwa Ling it passes through lush valleys, pine and rhododendron forest. The pass provides stunning views of the sacred mountain Jomolhari and Jichu Drake.

 

Punakha:

Punakha served as the capital of Bhutan until 1955. It’s the winter seat of the Je Khempo (Chief Abbot)

the monk body. It has a temperate climate & its rich fertile valley is fed by the Pho Chu & Mo Chu rivers.

Dochu-La-Pass: The most known pass in Bhutan, about 30 km drive from the Capital City Thimphu on the way to Punakha/Wangduephodrang. It is at around 3150 mtrs. height. On a clear day, spectacular view of the mighty Himalayas mountain ranges can be seen. You will admires the sterling view of snow-capped Himalayas and the hundreds of “broadcasting” prayer flags. During winter road to Dochula pass is covered with mild snow. Prime attraction to visit Dochula pass is 108 chortens / stupas. The sharp peak that stands at the Dochula pass is dominating the region.

Chimi Lhakhang: Chimi Lhakhang is a very popular temple built in 15th century and revered temple that lies on the periphery of the fertile valley of Lobesa, where the borders of Thimphu, Punakha and Wangdue Phodrang districts meet. Being dedicated to Lama Drukpa Kuenley, the Divine Madman, the temple is popularly considered to be a temple of fertility.

Punakha Dzong: The Punakha Dzong was known in ancient times as the Druk Pungthang Dechhen Phrodang or “the palace of great happiness”. It was built in 1637 at the junction the Pho Chu and Mo Chu Rivers. This gigantic dzong was damaged 6 times by fire, once by flood and once by an earthquake. It is the second dzong to be built in Bhutan and was the seat of government when Punakha was the capital of Bhutan. Today, the dzong is the winter home for the clergy. The spectacular Kuenrey (assembly hall) in Punakha Dzong is unique which is now open for tourist. Closed in winter months when the monk body is in Punakha. The annual Punakha Tsechhu (Festival) is held here.

Wandgue Dzong: It’s an easy drive to the very impressive 17th century Wangdue Phodrang dzong, home of over 200 monks and a monastic school. The dzong is the largest wood roofed dzong in Bhutan and the style and architecture is very grand.

Optional sightseeing with additional cost

Gantey Gompha & Phobjika Valley (Full Day): Situated south of the road and east of Wangdue Phodrang, is Gantey Gompa, an old monastery dating back to the 17th century. The gompa, on the valley floor, is the village of Phobjika. This is the winter home of the famous black-necked cranes. The cranes migrate from the high plains of the Tibetan plateau in winter to the milder climate of Phobjika.

 

Trongsa:

Trongsa forms the central hub of the kingdom & historical place from where attempts at unifying country were launched.

Trongsa Dzong: It is The most impressive Dzong in Bhutan. The Dzong was built in 1648 by Chogyal Minjur Tempa, the official who was sent by Zhabdrung to unify Eastern Bhutan and enlarged at the end of the 17th century by Desi Tenzin Rabgay. Trongsa Dzong is the ancestral home of the Royal family. Both first & the second king ruled the country from this ancient seat. All kings hold the post of Trongsa Penlop prior to being crowned as King.

Ta Dzong: Perched above the Trongsa Dzong this is a watch tower which once stood guard over the Trongsa Dzong from the internal rebellion. It’s now being turned into a heritage museum.

 

Bumthang:

This fascinating valley is the religious heartland of the nation & home to some of the oldest Buddhist temples & monasteries. Its gentle sloping hills offer plenty of walking opportunities to the many temples that dot this valley. The valley is also famous for its production of honey, cheese, apple & yathra- a woolen material that has multiple uses.

Jambay Lhakhang: It is one of the 108 monasteries built by King Songtsen Goenpo in the 8th century to subdue evil spirits in the Himalayan region. In October one of the most spectacular festival, “Jambay Lhakhang Drup” is staged here.

Kurje Lhakhang: Kurje Lhakhang named after body print of Guru Rimpoche which is located just a few meters beyond Jambey Lhakhang. It is dedicated to the saint Guru Padmasambhava who was supposed to have meditated there in 8th century.

Tamshing Lhakhang: Literally meaning the Temple of the good message, this monastery lies on the other side of the river opposite the Kurje Lhakhang. It was built in 1501 by Terton Pema Lingpa, a re-incarnation of Guru Padmasambhava. The temple was restored at the end of the 19th century.

Jakar Dzong: Literally meaning the Castle of White Bird. The Dzong was initially built as a monastery in 1549 by the great grand father of the Zhabdrung. It is now used as the administrative center for the Bumthang district. The Bumthang Tsechu is one of the most popular festivals. It is held mostly at night & is said to bring fertility to any woman wanting a child.

Mebar Tsho (Lake of Burning Fire): This is a sacred lake of the Bhutanese who believe that Pema Lingpa discovered religious treasures from this lake in the 12th century. On auspicious days many Bhutanese offer butter lamps on this fresh water lake.

Ura Village: Ura lies in the Tang valley, a one & a half hours drive from Bumthang town. The drive is mainly through sheep pastures & along the way one can glimpse magnificent view of the Mount Gangkar Puensum from Ura la. The main characteristics of this village is the closely cluster houses of weavers and villagers. It is the last settlement before the climb to the highest road pass at Trumsingla.

Mountain Altitudes in Bhutan

Mountain Altitudes in Bhutan

Sl #

Name of the Place(s)

Altitude (M)

1

Paro Airport

2200

2

Thimphu Capital

2300

3

Punakha

1350

4

Wangdue

1300

5

Phobjikha, Wangdue

2900

6

Trongsa

2200

7

Jakar, Bumthang

2650

8

Tang, Bumthang

2800

9

Mongar

1600

10

Lhuntse

1700

11

Trashi Yangtse

1550

12

Trashigang

1500

13

Samdrup Jongkhar

450

14

Phuentsholing

450

Famous Dzongs

Famous Dzongs In Bhutan

Sure, Bhutan is a small country. It is roughly about half the size of the US state of Indiana, but it is by no measure small in terms of historical and cultural heritage. Also known as the Land of Thunder, the country is awash with an astonishing number of landmarks from the past that boast of the nation’s illustrious past. One such wonders from the past is Bhutan’s Dzongs. Dzongs are fortresses, found in each valley which houses prominent administrative and religious powers. With magnificent stonework and woodwork, these Dzongs remind the Bhutanese of the victories they had over the Tibetan invasions from north and the brutal British-Indian attacks from the south. These ancient fortresses are living, breathing heritage of Bhutan that sings the songs and narrates the fables of the past.

Trongsa Dzong

Founded in 1648, the Trongsa Dzong is strategically situated in the Trongsa Dzongkhag district in central Bhutan on what was at one time the only route between east and west Bhutan. During its heyday, the Dzong was very prominent in controlling the kingdom, which is reflected in its majestic size and location, as it is built atop a ridge above the MangdeChhu river and the town. The dzong inarguably boasts of one of the most stunning locations in Bhutan with an eagle’s eye view of the surrounding valleys and a sheer drop to the south. With its beautiful assemblage of buildings, alley-like corridors, beautifully paved courtyards and stone stairs, it is one of the most beautiful and popular Dzongs in the country.

Lhuentse Dzong

Built in 1654, Lhuentse Dzong is in the least visited eastern province of Bhutan. It is situated at the end of the narrow KuriChhu valley atop a rocky peninsula with hill sides with near-vertical drops on all sides The dzong houses a small body of monks and thus receives a small number of visitors compared to other Dzongs. So, naturally, visiting this Dzong is a more leisurely and laid-back experience. The dzong also is home to five beautiful temples dedicated to gods like Padmasambhava, Mahakala, and Avalokitesvara that have added to its beauty. Also, an ancestral home to the Bhutanese royal family, the region is also a major center for traditional weaving. A good portion of the country’s impressive weaving is produced here.

Jakar Dzong

Originally built in 1549 as a monastery, Jakar Dzong was once the seat of the first king of Bhutan. Situated high above the scenic Chokhor Valley which is also known as “Little Switzerland” it was expanded into an illustrious dzong only in 1667. As the name of the location gives away, the dzong offers magnificent views of the lush valley beneath. One interesting feature of the Dzong is that its central tower is located on an outside wall, which means there is no way to circumambulate it. In addition to the walled passages, beautifully carved courtyards, lofty towers and chapels, the walk and climb up to the dzong are worthwhile in themselves for the serene and picturesque views of the Chokhor Valley.

Your Next Travel Destination

5 Reasons Why Bhutan Should Be Your Next Travel Destination

Bhutan, the Land of Thunder Dragon, is no ordinary place. One of a kind, it is an amply modern yet traditional country, with one foot still rooted in its medieval grounds. Bhutan has learned well about the downsides of fast-paced modernization and has decided to move cautiously without losing its soul or charm. You will be taken aback by Bhutan’s breathtaking landscapes, legendary temples and fortress, hot yet delicious cuisine, vivacious festivals and mostly, its authenticity. If you’re looking to slow down your fast-paced city life and relax a moment or two in the laps of Himalayans, Bhutan is the ideal destination country for you. Here we have listed five reasons why Bhutan should be your next travel destination:

Experience cultural and spiritual magnificence

In Bhutan, Buddhism it is a way of life, with two-thirds of the Bhutanese following Mahayana Buddhism. The reason Bhutan is so serene and peaceful is maybe that Buddhism and its practice is deeply ingrained in social way of life. So, naturally, the country is home to a great number of monasteries, religious centres and meditation retreat. Thus, if you are looking for a travel destination to quench your search for an authentic cultural and traditional destination, make sure to add Bhutan to your bucket list.

Witness unspoiled natural beauty

While in Bhutan, you might take the picturesque natural scenes for granted, since they are in abundance, but once you leave the country, you will realize how unspoiled and naturally intact Bhutan is. The country only gets a fraction of visitors in comparison to its Asian neighbors and doesn’t mind forfeiting tourism to preserve its natural and cultural heritage. Here, you will experience a fascinating, rural life that has mostly remained unaffected for centuries, an ironic luxury in the 21st century.

Unwind in nature’s lap

The Himalayan nation houses some of the world’s best-loved trails. There are over 23 major treks and walks that can take between 3-25 days to complete. Some of the best-known treks are Zuri Dzong Trek and Gantey Valley Trek. The former will take you to the top of Zuri Dzong peak for a stunning bird’s-eye view of the Paro valley with the gorgeous Himalayans in the backdrop and to the caves where Buddha is believed to have meditated. The latter referred to as Bhutan’s Shangri-La, will take you to the historic Gangtey monastery passing through the lush forests of juniper, magnolia, and rhododendrons.

Be part of fairy-tale festivals

It’s well known that there is no better way to under the skin of any place than to experience it during festive times. Luckily, Bhutan celebrates beautiful and vivacious festivals throughout the year. For instance, Tshechu is an annual festival celebrated across all Dzongs and monasteries, where a large number of colourfully dressed folks gather to observe incredible masked dances. The country also celebrates other equally fun and interesting festivals like Black-necked Crane Festival, Royal Highlander Festival, and Rhododendron Festival.

Savor in unique spicy cuisine

Bhutan has one of the unique cuisines of the world, as the most distinctive characteristic of Bhutanese cuisine is its spiciness. Bhutanese national dish, Ema Datshi, is a very spicy food made with cheese and chillies. Chilies are an important part of almost every dish and Bhutanese take it with great pride. Other equally yum and mouthwatering dishes one should try are JashaMaroo (spicy chicken) Momos (dumplings) and PhakshaPaa (pork with red chillies).

What To Expect

What To Expect In Bhutan?

You probably knew Bhutan is nestled in the laps of Himalayans, but what you may not have known is that during your stay in Bhutan, you will be at an elevation of 4000-11000 feet the entire time! Also, Bhutan, which translates to “Land of Thunder Dragon” has earned the nickname due to the thunderous storms that often roll in its mountains. These trivia aren’t meant to scare you – only prepare you for what to expect and what not to expect when travelling to Bhutan.

Knowing your budget

Bhutan is not your budget holiday destination or the place for backpacker-style drifting from your imagination. Shut to the foreigners until the 1970s, the country still closely guards its ecology and illustrious heritage, even at cost of its budding tourism. Travels must be planned through government-appointed agencies and paid in full advance before you receive a visa. The visa cost amounts to USD $250 per day during peak season (March-May and September-November), and $200 during off-seasons (December-February and June-August). However, the visa covers most expenses like a guide and a custom-made itinerary including accommodation, transportation, sightseeing and meals. If you need spending money, you’ll need cash. There are ATM machines in larger towns but they aren’t always reliable. You can spend the money in US dollars, Indian rupees, or the local currency – Ngultrum (Nu).

Timing and priorities

Now, it really boils down to what you want to see and do. If you are planning a trek to the high hills and mountain bases, months of April, May, September, and October are the optimum months with best clearance and visibility. Note that winter lasts in Bhutan from July to August. While summer is best suited for mushroom-picking in Phobjika Valley, winter’s a good time to catch the rare black-necked cranes in their winter homes.

Similarly, Bhutan celebrates numerous festivals throughout the year, although the most famous ones like ThimphuTshechu and Paro fall during peak tourist season. Other than religious ones, Bhutanese people also celebrate festivals like Black-necked Crane Festival, Royal Highlander Festival, and Rhododendron Festival to name a few. Most Bhutanese festivals include spirited dances in colourful costumes, with a huge number of on-lookers dressed in ornate traditional costumes. But, if you are looking for a more spiritual experience, consider going to a lesser-known festival.

5 Interesting Things

Five Interesting Things About Bhutan You Probably Don’t Know

Sandwiched between India and Tibet, we all know that Bhutan is a tiny landlocked national tucked neatly in the laps of the Himalayans. But did you know that it only recognition from the United Nations as a country in 1974? Here we have presented five interesting facts about Bhutan on what makes the country so compelling and captivating. 

Always a sovereign nation

Given its size and stand in the world as a tiny landlocked country, it may be hard to believe that Bhutan is one of the twenty-two countries in the world to have never been conquered or colonized. This is partly due to its inaccessible geography of high mountains and lush forests, but also thanks to the smart negotiations made by previous kings and gurus with the British India that have helped in carving an independent status. Due to the lack of intermingling with the foreign culture, Bhutan today stands as one of the finest examples of what a nation can build with self-reliance and individuality.

Index for measurement of happiness

Sure, you all might have guessed that Bhutan is not an economic powerhouse. But, what’s so peculiar and special about the country is that Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross National Product. His Majesty JingmeSingyeWangchuck, the former king of Bhutan, created this parameter of happiness to ensure all of his subjects are happy and content. This goes on to show that the Bhutanese government is more concentrated on uplifting the quality of life in comparison to economic progress.

A capital with no traffic lights

What’s the capital city like in your country? Bustling traffic and always living in the fast lane? Bhutan is the only country in the world that doesn’t house a single traffic light in its capital. Instead, Policemen in Thimpu guard in major intersections and direct traffic. Well, it helps that there aren’t as many cars around and that the citizens are well-behaved, drive peacefully, and are patient.

Home to the highest unclimbed mountain in the world

Tucked in the laps of the Himalayans, Bhutan is home to some of the most iconic ranges and peaks in Asia. But don’t get too excited if you’re a mountaineer. Bhutanese people believe these mountains to be a holy abode of gods and spirits and thus are barred from climbing. This religious belief makes Mt. Gangkar Puensum the highest unclimbed mountain in the world at an elevation of 7,570m. In 1994 AD, the Royal Bhutanese Government banned climbing of mountains above 5400 meters (18,000 feet) as a respect to Bhutanese notion of them being sacred.

The only carbon-negative country in the world

One of the most impressive and enviable facts about Bhutan is that it is the world’s only country with negative carbon footprint, which means it produces less Carbon Dioxide that it absorbs. To some extent, the milestone can be credited to Bhutan’s practically nonexistent industries, but also because they take their sustainability and environmental laws quite seriously. According to the constitution, at least two-thirds of the country must be covered by forests and that figure stands at 72% today.

Never Miss 4 Things

4 Things You Should Never Miss Experiencing In Bhutan

When it comes to visiting a nation, which has its status measures in terms of GNH (Gross National Happiness), there are several things one must experience. Bhutan is a Himalayan nation which embodies some of the sanctioned Shangri-la like the Tiger’s Nest and Phobjikha Valley are few among many.  Regardless of the pristine scenery, Bhutan also offers some of the experiences with the likes of the nightlife of Thimpu and Tsechu dance of the locals.

Here are the 4 things you should never miss experiencing in Bhutan.

Know Bhutan Through Trekking

The land of the thunder dragon offers several treks which trekkers can savor for memory keepsake. Jhomolhari trek is one of the most preferred treks in Bhutan. This 8 day trek is a lifetime experience which encapsulates the moderate challenge for fellow trekkers with several cultural villages near Jhomolhari base camp. If you want a short trek then the 6 dayDruk Path trek is the right one for you. Treks like Snowman Trek have an itinerary of 25 days which makes it considerably a long trek for the wistful trekkers.

The Tiger’s Nest

Tiger’s Nest is the cliché term for Bhutan’s wonder. An uphill ascend unto the Tiger’s Nest will grant you the overview of the monastery. Legends have said that the Rinpoche lama flew on a tigress back from Tibet to this Shangri la. The hike has been facilitated with elementary stairs which makes the hiking easy for most people. If you have a guide as your company then you can know more about the historical architecture of the monastery.

Dance & Aim

Archery is the national sport of Bhutan which makes it a popular sport everywhere in Bhutan. You will be amazed by the precision of the archers wearing multi-colored through local archers who make it seem effortless on hitting the bulls’ eye of the A4 sized paper target. Cheering Women in their silk dress for their favorite archer makes the event even livelier to watch.  The Tsechu festival is one of the most popular festivals of Bhutan. It falls on the tenth day of any given Tibetan lunar month. You will get to see the harmonized dance of the monks as the main showcase of the festival.

Homestay

Hotels are good but homestay is the best in Bhutan. Homestay and Farmstay make the stay in Bhutan more momentous if you want to experience the Bhutanese way of living. You will be served delicious meals which comprise of yak’s meat, Momos(Dumplings), PhaksaPaa(Pork delicacy) and Ara (Local liquor) by the house maiden.  You will also get to milk the cows and work on the farm if you stay at the farm house. Bhutanese people are jolly people who get amused by the foreigners if you lend a helping hand on their day to day activities.

The bucket list of experiencing Bhutan is a long one but these four are a must if you are planning to visit this paradise on earth. Make sure you have them camera’s ready!

Need To Know

6 Things you need to know when on travel to Bhutan

The small, Himalayan country of Bhutan is one of the most stunning yet least explored countries in the world. however, only a fraction of tourists makes it to Bhutan every year due to its location, cost, and travel logistics. The Only Vajrayana nation in the world, Bhutan prides itself in strong cultural heritage, a peaceful society, and matchless natural beauty of the Himalayans. This all may sound ideal, but Bhutan is not your typical holiday country. Here we have listed six things you need to know before travelling to “The Last Shangri-La”.

Processing Visa and documents

If you’re planning to visit Bhutan, you must first apply for a visa and book your trip through one of the hundred government-approved tour operations. Tourists often make the mistake of booking trips through unofficial operators and land in hot waters after landing in the country. You’ll have to pay the daily tariff ranging from $200-$250 to your tour company who will then finance services like food, accommodation, transportation, and a guide.

Ideal time to visit

Bhutan is suitable for travel year-round, with peak tourist season being spring and fall. You’ll see beautiful fields and gardens bloom if you arrive in spring (March-June) and you’ll get bright, clear days if you plan a visit during fall (September to November). Bhutan’s biggest festival Teschus also takes place around this time. Summer (June-August) is also a lovely time to visit as the tariffs are lower and valleys are lusher.

Getting there and away

Most tourists will arrive at Paro, Bhutan by one of its two airlines: Bhutan Airlines and Druk Air. There are flights operating from Kathmandu, Delhi, Bangkok, Kolkata, Bagdogra, Bodh Gaya, Dhaka, Guwahati, Mumbai and Singapore. if you’re travelling from India or Nepal, make sure to request for a window seat so that you do not miss the incredible views of the Himalayans including giant peaks like Mt. Everest and Kanchenjunga.

Bring your own cash

While major cities like Thimpu and Paro are dotted with ATM machines, it is always wise to carry a reliable amount of cash with you. Although most of your travel will be financed by the tour operator after you prepay for it, you will need cash for other extra recreational activities and buying souvenirs. The local currency is Ngultrum (Nu), but you can also spend in US dollars and Indian rupees.

Bring suitable clothing

While national and traditional dresses are subjects of fascination and rarity to most nations, Bhutanese people normally dress in national dresses – Gho, a knee-length robe for men; and Kira, an ankle-length robe for women. So, make sure that you always dress modestly and refrain from baring skin, especially if you are visiting monasteries or religious centres. Also, no-brainer, but make sure you do some homework on the weather and temperature before you pack your bags.

Social know-hows 

While Bhutanese are some of the kindest people you will meet during your travels, it’s always nice to be acquainted with the culture and lifestyle you’ll be experiencing. Make sure that you don’t smoke cigarettes in restricted areas, the country takes this rule quite strictly. Also, steer clear of making any negative comments on the Bhutanese royal family, or expressing any opinion at all regarding controversial subjects like its ethnic cleansing events.

Home Stay

Home stay in Bhutan: What to experience

If you are tired of switching hotels and want to experience the life off the grid then Bhutan’s Home stay’s are the perfect destination. Addressed as the happiest nation in the world, Bhutan’s happiness starts from their homes. You too can stay in these homes and get to experience the serenity of Bhutan’s village life.  Bhutan’s Home stay tourism caters the exposure on day to day life of the happiest and humble people of the world.

Homestay and Farmstay

Homestay or Farmstay are the two-prominent custom to know the native’s way in Bhutan. In homestay, you get to live in the hosts house and be a part of their family. Your guide will also be staying so that the language barriers do not trouble you.

As for the Farmstay, you will be staying with the hosts family and even milk their cows. Learning to milk and tilling the fields might be a great pass time for you. This is the Bhutanese way of life.

Precision with archery

During the day, you can ask your guide to take you to an archery place nearby. Bhutanese are toxophilite and you may be surprised how good these people are with their traditional bows. You too can test your combination of drag and tensile in the archery. Perhaps you might even hit the bull’s eye!

 Tales from the maiden

Romance has been always credited for their high level of happiness in Bhutanese culture. In the evening, you can queue your questions with the house maiden on how she settled for her husband. Here in Bhutan, the studs gestures their damsel with skittish gestures in the day and have romantic conversations. It is the night which counts, as the guy will have to break in the lady of his dream’s house and tiptoe without waking the family. If the guy finds success in the finding his target and if she reciprocates, then they do what the birds and bees do. But, some missions always fail and if he gets caught then god knows what will happen.

Hiking from your Homestay

A Himalayan nation, Bhutan has the one of the most scenic beauty bestowed by the nature which counterparts its foreign nation with the likes of Nepal. One of the most elected destinations to hike in Bhutan is the hike to Tiger’s nest. This Shangri la of Bhutan is adhered with the narrow cliffs upon which it rests and is truly a wonder which exemplifies why it is called the Tiger’s nest. Make sure you reason with your guide on getting a homestay near the Tiger’s Nest.

Cuisine

Your host will be preparing all the meals for you so you need not worry on them. Bhutanese culture has little delicacies in meat and fish as fishing is not allowed in Bhutan. So, Veggies with Rice will be served for your meals during your stay. However, chicken and yak meat will be available. Also, if you are a tippler then you can try Ara; a popular local distilled drink.

Home stays and Farm stay is the actual way to experience Bhutan. With plentiful home stays, you can choose any and live the Bhutanese way in the dragon kingdom. Make sure you get your warm clothes packed. Cheerio!

Pros & Cons

The Pros & Cons Of Visiting Bhutan

Bhutan, tucked between India, Nepal and Tibet, is one of Asia’s best-kept secrets. The Land of Thunder Dragon is also one of the finest models of sustainable development in the world. The Bhutanese government knows the repercussions of rapid development too well. That’s why the country has one foot rooted in its illustrious past.  They do not mind forfeiting economic revenues and tourism in order to retain their culture and natural beauty in their purest form. While the country has been successful with their preservation goals, they do not come free. Here we have weighed down some pros and cons of travelling in Bhutan.

Pros:

Buddhism

In Bhutan, almost two-thirds of its people follow Mahayana Buddhism, which is deeply ingrained in its every aspect. Here, Buddhism is not only a religion to follow but a way of life. The ancient and mythical practices of Buddhism resonate with every little thing, from legendary monasteries of Tango and Tamzhing to the kindness and hospitality of Bhutanese people. If you want to experience Buddhist lifestyle and practices firsthand, there is no other country in the world which does it better than Bhutan.

The Himalayans

Tucked in the laps of the Himalayans, Bhutan is as scenic as they come. It boasts of colossal peaks like Gangkhar Puensum, Kula Kangri and Tongshanjiabu, which however are restricted from climbing as they are believed to be the abode of gods and spirits. Thankfully, the country also boasts of over 20 major treks and walks that will take you to the foothills of these mountains.

Architecture

Anyone fortunate enough to visit Bhutan is bound to marvel at Bhutanese architecture. Heavily inspired by Buddhist art and culture, every building and house is ornately built and aesthetically pleasing. The country is dotted with medieval landmarks dating back from the 17th century that have striking woodwork, stonework, and paintings.

Cons:

Road Infrastructure

The landlocked country doesn’t have the best of infrastructures. Travelling and getting around can be quite a challenge. There is only one choice, The National Highway, an unpaved, dusty and twisty road largely travelled by antique trucks from India. To top that, there are frequent rock slides and finding a bush during nature’s call is a matter of luck.

Lacking medical remedies

The Bhutanese people get their medication for free from the government hospitals. Due to this, you will hardly find a pharmacy in sight. Also, you might want to put concentrated efforts to stay out of the hospitals, of course. So, make sure that you pack on medications and repellents for your health conditions and common diseases.

Limited food options

The food options are very limited in Bhutan. Do not expect world-class international cuisine as there are only handful of hotels and eateries providing these services. Also, it is a wise choice to be a vegetarian during your stay, as the meat is brought in from Nepal or India in unrefrigerated trucks. Moreover, almost all Bhutanese dishes are made with an abundance of green chilies, which can be quite spicy and hot to suit your taste buds.

DO’S & DON’T’S

THINGS TO REMEMBER – DO’S & DON’T’S

Some of the first Dzongkha (Bhutanese) word you should probably learn are KuzoZangpo La (Hello), Layshom Ye (Are you well ?) and Kadinchey (Thank You). Learning basic words and phrases in Dzongkha will take you far – especially when bargaining for discounts at the markets. Social etiquettes in Bhutan pretty much align with its South Asian neighbours like taking off your shoes before entering a temple or house, refraining from wearing short clothing, and public display of affection. Also, Bhutan has absolutely barred production and sales of Tobacco products, meaning you are allowed to bring only certain quantity of cigarettes with you and strictly smoke only in designated areas.

 

Photography (Please check with your guide):

  1. Request permission before taking photographs of people, events or objects
  2. Inside the premises of temples, dzongs or monastery, taking photographs is not permitted.
  3. Taking photographs is only permitted in the court yard area.

Religious Artifact / Antique:

  1. Please do not touch any religious artifact or antique.
  2. Purchase of religious items especially antiques is prohibited.
  3. Please do not climb on or do anything that would show lack of respect to Buddhist artifacts or antiques, large or small, ruined or not, they are regarded as sacred.

Dress Code:

  1. Please take of hats while entering dzongs, temples or monastery.
  2. Shorts / half pants are not permitted while entering a dzong, temple or monastery.

Communication:

  1. Before entering a dzong, temple, monastery, please switch off all mobile phones or keep in the silent/vibrating mode.
  2. Please speak softly within the religious premises.

The Bhutanese Way:

  • Always walk in clockwise direction while visiting religious places.
  •  Please remember not to point with a single finger but use an upturned flat extended hand especially to indicate a sacred object or place.
  • Please throw rubbish only in designated areas.
  •  Please refrain from touching any ritual objects or mural paintings.
  • Please do not walk over any clothes, books, hearth or materials left open in religious sites.
  • Please refrain from smoking or drinking while visiting religious places.

 If you are not sure please ask the local people or the guide.

 Please do not be too close to the lake or river if you visit to avoid any accidents.

Smoking / Tobacco Products:

Any tobacco products and cigarettes are forbidden in the kingdom. For personal consumption passengers are permitted to bring 200 imported cigarettes (10 packets) on payment of 200 percent duty and 100 percent duty on Indian make tobacco products. Alcoholic beverage up to 1 liter for personal consumption is allowed.

Permit for Bhutan:

Indian nationals do not require any visa for Bhutan. A permit will be issued at the entry point on production of a passport or Voter ID and 04 passport size photographs.

Restricted Area Permit for Punakha / Wangdue:

Restricted Area Permit is required to visit Punakha / Wangdue from Home Ministry of Bhutan. No charge will be applicable for this permit. Please bring 02 passport size photographs and Voter ID card or Passport of each person including child. This special permit is given only after guest has entered Bhutan. Permits are not issued on Saturday, Sunday & Govt. holidays.

[ TASHI DELEK]

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