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Bhutan





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Situated in the Himalayas, the kingdom of Bhutan, is bordered by Tibet in the north and India in the south. It is a nation which closely guards its culture and traditions. Possessing a well-conserved pristine natural environment and packed with eye catching sceneries, Bhutan is unique and fascinating in many ways.
Bhutan is the last surviving Mahayana Buddhist state which has shaped the nation's history, and it still plays an important part in the lives of the people. People in villages as well as in cities still wear their traditional dress and its surprising that TV and the Internet have not changed the people's age-old traditions supporting the countries’ name as "The Last Shangrila".



Bhutan

Fact File
Official name : Kingdom of Bhutan
Government : Monarchy
Nationality : Bhutanese
Location : The Kingdom of Bhutan is a small, mountainous nation of south Asia located in the eastern Himalayas between India and China.
Continent : Asia
Currency : Ngultrum (BTN);1 BTN = 1.0003 Indian rupee = 0.01891 Euro = 0.02299 US Dollars. (subject to change)
Capital city : Thimphu
Population : 2,185,569
Languages : Dzongkha, Tibetan, Nepali.
Religion : Buddhist (75%), Hindu (25%).



Area : 47000 sq km.
Ethnic Groups : Bhote : 50%, Ethnic Nepalese : 35%, Indigeneous or migrant tribes : 15%.
Famous for : Tea, beautiful postage stamps(they make everything from three dimensional stamps to stamps that you can play like a record).
Major cities : Timphu, Phuntsholing, Punakha and Paro.
Neighbouring countries : The Kingdom Bhutan borders China to the north and India to the south, east and west.
Clothing : Comfortable clothing and sturdy, soft-soled shoes are essential for travel in Bhutan. Warm clothing is recommended ; and except for summer months, down jackets and woolen sweaters are suggested. In summer, heavy cottons and lightweight woolens will be acceptable.
Major events : The largest and most colourful festival, tsechus takes place at Bhutan's zongs and monasteries once a year, in honour of Guru Rinpoche.
Things to Buy : Colorful masks, hand-woven bamboo items, wood carvings, stamps (coveted by collectors), silver, silk, tea and bronzes. Handmade paper products, Buddhist paintings and religious thangkas.
Buddhist prayer wheels, BhutanThings to do : Trekking, Mountaineering.
Cuisine : Non veg - Yak meat (preparation of meat is 'Pa', a curry); Veg - vegetarian dish made of cheese and chilli(Ema Datshi), momos.; Beverages – ‘Suja', butter tea; 'Ara', a locally made wine, Bumthang, a rare tea.

Visa Permit
Bhutan is one of the most secluded nations in the world, and access for foreigners is restricted to certain areas, although these are expanding. Valid passports and an entry visa are essential except for Indian & Bangladeshi National.

Lifestyle
Most of the population lives in small rural villages and supports itself through agriculture, growing crops or breeding yaks; urbanisation, however, is increasing. The Buddhist religion is an important part of life.
Bhutan, the last Mahayana Buddhist Kingdom, is influenced with teachings of this school of Buddhism even today. Spirituality is pervasive even in the urban centres where the spinning of prayer wheels, the chanting of mantras and the glow of butter lamps in the houses are still important features of everyday life.

When to go
The best time to visit Bhutan is October and November and during major festivals. The climate is best in autumn, from late September to late November, when skies are clear and the high mountain peaks are visible. This is the ideal time for trekking and for travelling throughout the country. You're likely to get wet no matter what the season, but avoid the monsoon, June-August.


Climate
Climate of Bhutan varies with altitude where days are normally warm and nights are quite chilly.
Winter : December-February;
Spring : March-May;
Summer : June-August;
Autumn : September-November.
Average winter temperature: Maximum - 16.9 Degree Centigrade; Minimum - 5.4 Degree Centigrade.
BhutanAverage summer temperature: Maximum : 4.7 Degree Centigrade; Minimum - 16.8 Degree Cenigrade.
Extremes: Hottest - 37.5 Degree Centigrade; Coldest - (-10) Degree Centigrade.

Getting there
There are two ports of entry into Bhutan:
By Air : One can opt for Druk Air via Paro International Airport, the only airport in the country.
By Road : From India via the southern gateway, the city of Phuntsholing, one can enter Bhutan. From Bagdogra airport or New Jalpaiguri station , Phuntsholing is 170 kms away i.e a driving time of 4 1/2 hrs. The journey through the plains is through picturesque tea gardens and the famous Jaldapara WLS with the mountains visible in the distance. From Phuntsholing, Thimphu is 176 kms or 6 hrs drive away. If you are visiting Darjeeling, Kalimpong or Gangtok, then by starting early in the morning, you will be able to reach Phuntsholing by evening.


Getting around
Neither there is a domestic airlines nor a railway service in the city so the only way to move within the country is either on foot or by road.

Major attractions
Thimphu, the Capital city
The capital of Bhutan, and the centre of government, religion and commerce. It is a unique city, with an unusual amalgamation of modern development and ancient religion.
Thimphu is perhaps the most unusual capital city in the world. The Tashichho Dzong is the most prominent landmark, the National Library(with a vast collection of ancient Buddhist manuscripts, religious and historical literature), the Thangka Painting School, the Memorial Chorten built in memory of the third King, are some of the important monuments in the city
Thimphu is an unusual city with houses still made in the traditional style and still there are no traffic lights and this will remain long into the 21st century as one of the world's most pristine capital cities.
Bhutan
Monasteries and Temples
Isolated from the rest of the city, erected in a valley or hanging against a cliff face, the temples and monasteries of Bhutan have contributed to the country's glorious past. Over the centuries, saints and lamas have supervised their construction.
Like in Tibet, the temples in Bhutan are referred as ‘lha-khang’ (home of the gods) and the monasteries ‘gom-pa’ (solitary place). The religious buildings are always devoted to prayer and meditation. However, while a temple will accommodate only a few monks who are responsible for its maintenance and upkeep, the monasteries can house a large community with often more than 100 monks. The monasteries are basically places of study, with the teaching and training of novices forming an important part of their work.
Paro Dzong (Tiger's Nest Monestary), Rinpung Dzong, Drukgyel Dzong, are some of the major monasteries in Paro and Tashichho Dzong and Simtokha Dzong in Thimphu.



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