Bhutanese Concept of Tourism

The Royal Government of Bhutan, since inception of tourism in the year 1974, has adopted a very cautious approach to growth and development of the tourism. The 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”

Tourism council of Bhutan states in its directive:
”While tourism may be important as a revenue earner, Bhutan sees no gain in succumbing to over commercialism. It recognizes that a small country emerging from isolation must do so in its own time and at its own pace. The Tourism council of Bhutan is clear that its policy of high value, low volume is the right policy because Bhutan is just too small for mass tourism. 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’

The mandate of the modern Bhutanese state is Gross National Happiness. The term was coined by Bhutan’s former King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, who has opened up Bhutan to the age of modernization. The four pillars of Gross National Happiness are the promotion of sustainable development, preservation and promotion of cultural values, conservation of the natural environment, and establishment of good governance.

Country Overview

The Buddhist Kingdom of Bhutan lies along the lofty ridges of the eastern Himalayas, location of Bhutanbordering the Tibetan Autonomous region of China in the North and North-West and the Indian states of Sikkim in the West and South-West, Assam in the south, Arunachal Pradesh in the East and South-East and West Bengal in South and South-West. The country within these borders forms a giant staircase, from a narrow strip of land in the south to some of the highest unclimbed Himalayan peaks on earth.

With an area of 46,500 square kilometers, Bhutan is comparable to Switzerland both in its size and topography, being largely mountainous.

It was the mighty Himalayas which protected Bhutan from the rest of the world and left the Kingdom blissfully untouched. The Drukpa Kagyupa sect of Mahayana Buddhism provided the essence of a rich culture and fascinating history. The Bhutanese people protected this sacred heritage and unique identity for centuries by choosing to remain shrouded deeply in a jealously guarded isolation.

With a relatively small population of 700,000 people, Bhutan enjoys a sustainable lifestyle which they inherited from their forefathers. About 85% population of country still live in small villages sparsely scattered over rugged mountain land. Buddhism, prevalent in the country since the 7th century and continues to play important role in their peaceful lives.

For centuries, Bhutanese have treasured the natural environment and have looked upon it as the source of all life. This traditional reverence for nature has delivered Bhutan into the 21st century with an environment still richly intact. More than 72% of the land area is still under forest cover. The country has been identified as one of the ten bio-diversity hot spots in he world and as one of the 221 global endemic bird areas. Its Eco-system harbors some of the most exotic species of the eastern Himalayas with an estimated 770 species of birds and 50 species of rhododendrons, besides an astonishing variety of medicinal plants and orchids. Many parts of the country which have been declared as wildlife reserves are the natural habitat of rare species of both flora and fauna.

During the second half of the 20th century, Bhutan has seen its isolation steadily eroded by the inexorable forces of progress and development. Until then it was a country shrouded in mystery, untainted by any foreign influence. Although its seclusion prevented the Kingdom from fully benefiting from many developments of the modern world but it also shielded the country from many of the detrimental side affects of unplanned or haphazard development. As a result, while most of the Himalayan region has seen its natural resource base severely compromised through deforestation, soil degradation, erosion and pollution, while Bhutan’s natural patrimony of extensive and varied forests, limited yet fertile and productive farmland, and pristine water and air remains largely intact.

A Round Trip to Bhutan – 15 days

Day 01: Arrive Paro by Druk Air
Druk Airways flight to Bhutan is one of the most spectacular in entire Himalayas. Whether flying along the Himalayan range from Kathmandu or over the foothills from Kolkatta, each flight is a mesmerizing aeronautical feat and offers an exciting descent into the Kingdom.
carvings at monastery BhutanOn arrival at Paro airport, immigration and custom formalities and then received by our representative and transfer to the hotel.
Evening take a stroll around town’s main street. Overnight at the hotel in Paro.

Day 02: Paro
After breakfast, visit to Ta Dzong (National Museum) and then walk down the trail to visit Rinpung Dzong which has a long and fascinating history.
Afternoon visit to Drukgyel Dzong, the ruined fortress from where Bhutanese repelled several invasion by Tibetan armies. Then visit a traditional farm house which offers good insight into lifestyle of local people.
In the evening, visit Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the oldest and most sacred shrines of the Kingdom.

Overnight at the hotel in Paro.

Day 03: Paro – Thimphu (60 km, 2 hours)
After breakfast proceed to Thimphu, the modern capital town of Bhutan. Enroute stop at Chuzom (confluence) where Paro river joins Thimphu river. Nearby Thimphu, visit to Simtokha Dzong, the oldest fortress of the Kingdom built in 1627. It now houses the School for Buddhist studies.
Afternoon, in Thimphu, visit to King’s Memorial Chhorten and Trashichhodzong, the beautiful medieval fortress/monastery.
Then, visit Handicrafts Emporium & Textile and Folk Heritage Museum.
Overnight at the hotel in Thimphu.

Day 04: Thimphu – Punakha (75 km, 2.1/2 hours)
Morning, Thimphu sightseeing, visiting National Library, Painting School and Traditional Medicine Institute.

After lunch, drive to Punakha, the old capital town of Bhutan. Stop enroute at Dochula pass (3,050m) that heralds the most enchanting views of Bhutan.

On arrival, check into the hotel. Evening visit Punakha Dzong, the fortress of 17th century and followed by visit to Khamsm Yulley Namgyal Chhorten.

Overnight at the hotel in Punakha.

Day 05: Punakha – Wangduephodrang – Gangtey (70 km, 3 hours)
After breakfast drive to Gangtey via Wangduephodrang. Visit magnificent Wangdue Dzong and town’s local market.black necked crane

Further ahead pass through dense forests and oak, rhododendron tress, reaching at Gangtey (Phobjikha).

Evening take a walk around Gangtey village and visit Gangtey Gompa, the only Nyingmapa monastery in this region.

Overnight at Camp / Guest House.

Day 06: Gangtey – Trongsa (120 km, 4.1/2 hours)
Morning explore Phobjikha valley which is famous for Black Necked Cranes. These cranes migrate here from Central Asiatic plateau to escape the harsh winters.

After lunch drive to Trongsa crossing 3,300m high Pele la pass. Evening visit to Trongsa market.
Overnight at the lodge in Trongsa.

Day 07: Trongsa – Bumthang (68 km, 3 hours)
Morning visit to Trongsa Dzong, the master piece of Bhutanese architecture and see Ta Dzong, the watch tower, built to defend this Dzong and surrounding region.

After lunch, proceed to Bumthang, the religious heartland of the nation. Evening at leisure. Dinner and overnight at the lodge in Bumthang.

Day 08: Bumthang
Bumthang is the general name given to combination of four valleys – Chumey, Choekhor, Tang and Ura with altitude varying from 2,600m to 4,000m. It is home to many of prominent Buddhist temples and monasteries.

Visit to Tamshing Lhakhang, the treasure house of interesting religious Buddhist paintings. Then visit, Jakar Dzong, the administrative centre of the valley.

Afternoon visit Kurje Lhakhang, one of the most sacred places. Later visit Jambay Lhakhang, the ancient monastery dating from the introduction of Buddhism in the country.

Evening visit to local market. Overnight at the lodge in Bumthang.

Day 09: Bumthang – Mongar (198 km, 7 hours)
The journey continues eastwards winding through more rugged terrain. The drive with monks at monasteryspectacular views will take about 7 hours. Pass through Ura village in Bumthang before climbing sharply to the highest motorable pass in the Kingdom, the Thrumshingla pass (4,000 m). Gradually drop down to Sengor, watching cascading water falls on the way.

The descent stops at 700m, on a bridge over the Kurichu. Ascent again through pine forest, maize fields and eastern hamlets to Mongar town. Visit Mongar Dzong, built albeit quite recently, the dzong still maintains the architectural traditions of old dzongs. Overnight at the lodge in Mongar.

Day 10: Mongar – Trashigang (96 km, 3 hours)
This trip of about 96 km takes 3 hours passing through Kori la pass (2,450m), the place marked by a pretty chhorten and a stone wall. The first part of the journey is through leafy forest filled with ferns. Later road descends rapidly through corn fields and banana groves arriving the famous ziazags of Yadi, which is a recent settlement. After that follows the Gamri river until the bifurcation to Dametsi, this temple perched on top of steep hill was founded by Choeden Zangmp and is the most important monastery of eastern Bhutan. This is the place from where famous Naga Chham, mask dance with drums originated. About 30 km onwards lies Trashigang at 1000m. Trashigang is the centre of the biggest and most populated district in the country. Visit Trashigang Dzong, standing at the extreme end of the spur, overhanging the Gamri river. It serves as the administrative seat for the district and part of the Dzong is occupied by the Drukpa monastic community. Overnight at the lodge in Trashigang.

Day 11: Trahigang (Excursion to Trashiyangtse)
gom kora temple24 km from Trashigang, visit the temple of Gom Kora, set on a small alluvial plateau, overlooking the river. Gom Kora is a famous place where Guru Rinpoche subdued a demon. Further ahead reach to Doksum village where you can see women busy in weaving traditional Bhutanese fabric and a chain bridge dating of the 15th century.

Visit to Trashiyangtse Dzong, situated at the altitude of 1,850m. In former times Trashiyangtse was important centre because it lies on one of the carven routes leading from western and centre Bhutan. The Dzong is new and near by are the Art School and the famous Chhorten Kora.

Evening return to Trashigang. Overnight at the lodge in Trashigang.

Day 12: Trashigang – Bumthang (289 km, 10 hours)
After breakfast drive back to Bumthang with lunch enroute. Overnight at the lodge in Bumthang.

Day 13: Bumthang – Punakha (205 km, 6 hours)
Morning after visiting Bumthang market, drive to Punakha . Lunch would be served enroute at one of the famous restaurant in Trongsa town.

Enroute at Wangduephodrang take a short break for tea / coffee and then proceed to Punakha hotel for overnight stay.

Arrive Thimphu and check into the hotel. Dinner and overnight at the hotel in Thimphu.

Day 14: Punakha – Paro (125 km, 4.1/2 hours)
Morning free time in Punakha. After lunch drive to Paro for overnight stay.

Day 15: Depart Paro
After breakfast in the hotel, drive to the airport for flight to onward destination.