Planning a Bhutan Tour: A Journey Information for First-timers

So, I simply made a fast Bhutan Tour. The beginning was filled with escapades, which made certain that my journey was lower brief by a few days. I nonetheless managed to do three treks in three days aside from different issues. I’ll make seperate posts for a similar in a while. 

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Bhutan Tour throughout its greenest season

Bhutan Vacationer Map

Earlier than moving into the small print, let’s take a look on the map. It exhibits the fundamental areas and routes for vacationers

Bhutan Tourist Map

Bhutan Vacationer Map

Attending to Bhutan

There are virtually two methods of reaching Bhutan.

By Air

The one worldwide airport is Paro. It’s a small one nevertheless it does have lots of worldwide flights touchdown each day. It has flights from locations like Bangkok, Delhi, Kolkata, Bagdogra, Bodhgaya, Dhaka, Kathmandu, Guwahati and Singapore. There are additionally home airports in Yonphula, Bumthang, and Gelephu however they’re even smaller with restricted use.

By Highway

Most individuals enter Bhutan via India. There are a number of entry factors however that’s formally inspired is Jaigaon -Phuntsholing border in West Bengal as this half is properly developed with resorts and different facilities. There are different crossings similar to Gelephu and Samdrup Jonkhar however they’re nonetheless creating and so they might attain comparable ranges as Phuntsholing sooner or later.

By Prepare 

Bhutan doesn’t have trains. The closest main prepare stations in Bengal are Alipurduar (60 KMs from Jaigaon border) and New Jalpaiguri (150 KMs from border). Hasimara is the closest station round 15 KMs away nevertheless it’s a small one the place most main trains don’t cease.

Guidelines, Laws & Hiring Guides 

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Rice terraces in Bhutan

Now, as you have to have heard already, Bhutan all the time had strict guidelines for guests and so they have turn into stricter submit pandemic. Additionally, these guidelines appear to be fluctuating closely of late and that’s the reason it might probably get complicated. I’m attempting my finest to clarify them within the subsequent few sections. Please have some endurance and go although them.

Bhutan Journey Prices: Is Bhutan Expensive?

The brief reply to this query is YES. A Bhutan Tour is expensive attributable to numerous guidelines and rules launched. You possibly can’t actually do backpacking right here in conventional sense. So, plan it solely when you have sufficient to spare. Aside from the each day prices, let’s take a look at the opposite prices.

Sustainable Growth Charges (SDF)

This has been mentioned lots of late as a result of the brand new SDF is fairly excessive. Earlier, it was free for guests from India, Bangladesh, and Maldives and round $65 for everybody else.

Now it’s INR 1200 (~$15) per head per day for Indians and $200 for everybody else! Do word that it’s on a per day foundation, so the longer you keep, the costlier it’ll get. You’ll must pay the full quantity on the time of entry.

Do word that Indian and Bhutanese currencies are maintained on the similar degree (INR1=Nu1).

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Hikes are all the time rewarding

SDF Exemptions

The principles hold altering for from what I can collect, 

Minors can get some low cost.

In the event you spend an evening at Phuntsholing throughout your journey, that night time might be exempted.

In case you are travelling for a protracted period, there’s a new plan. I believe it’s relevant just for non Indians who must pay a hefty price.

Relying on their deliberate itinerary, guests can select any of the next choices with impact from June 01, 2023: 

4 + 4:  Pay the SDF of USD 200 per night time, per individual, for 4 nights, and obtain as much as 4 extra nights with out the each day levy.

 7 + 7: Pay the SDF of USD 200 per night time, per individual, for seven nights, and obtain as much as seven extra nights with out the each day levy. 

12 + 18:  Pay the SDF USD 200 per night time per individual, for twelve nights, and obtain as much as eighteen extra nights with out the each day levy.

SDF Inclusions 

No, the SDF doesn’t embody something. It’s a price to be paid over and above every thing else you spend. It doesn’t get you something additional.

Bhutan Visa 

Indians don’t want visa. Different folks must pay $40 for a visa. You possibly can apply online for the Bhutan Visa. Nationals of Bangladesh and the Maldives shall be eligible for a visa on arrival on the port of entry. Nationals of Switzerland and Thailand holding diplomatic and official passports shall be additionally eligible for a visa on arrival on the port of entry.  Nevertheless, guests eligible for visas on arrival are really useful to course of for a previous visa (on-line) to make the method faster.

Journey Insurance coverage 

Journey Insurance coverage is yet one more obligatory value in Bhutan. You could have it or they’ll make you however their official insurance coverage on the entry. Ass an Indian getting into Phuntsholing I needed to refill a kind and pay INR 500 for insurance coverage for a brief journey. Undecided if the charges are larger for others.

Extra Prices in Bhutan

From what I’ve seen, meals within reason priced in most eating places in Bhutan. Nevertheless, what might disturb your plans is the entree charges or tickets to varied sights. Most locations like monasteries , museums, and temples have entry charges starting from Nu 500 to Nu 1000. In truth, we had to surrender on a number of monuments as a result of excessive ticket value. I even heard that the tickets to Tiger’s Nest had been raised to Nu 2000 at one level however needed to be lowered to Nu 1000 as guests began avoiding it. 

So, what’s the full value of travelling to Bhutan?

It depends upon what you do and the way a lot time you spend. There’s additionally the price of resorts, hiring a automobile and a information each day and it’s higher to get a bundle (I’ve by no means purchased packages ever in my life however I needed to in Bhutan to keep away from all the trouble). 

For Indians, common 5-7 days packages can value something between Nu 30000-40000. The packages often additionally contains the SDF ($15) that the operator takes care of. In fact there are far costlier packages the place you’ll be given 5 star amenities. It’s as much as you.

As for different nationals past India, all different prices remaining the identical, the SDF can be far larger ($200 per day).

Additionally, these charges don’t embody transportation value out of your hometown to Bhutan. So, do your individual math together with these.

Additionally, from what I’ve learnt, there are lots of multi-day treks right here however they’re extraordinarily costly. You could have to shell out something from Nu 10000-20000 per day for trekking.

Entry Formalities and ID necessities

It’s good to produce your passport on the entry. Indians may also produce Voter ID however higher to hold the passport (c’mon simply get it stamped). For causes finest recognized to the authorities, Aadhar and another Indian IDs usually are not acceptable. Additionally, the passport should have no less than 6 months of validity.

Transport in Bhutan

Bhutan does have buses (small Coaster mini buses) however they’re restricted and largely utilized by locals. They could not cowl each location and vacationers typically rent autos.

Personal Automobiles and Bikes

You possibly can enter Bhutan by way of land crossing from India utilizing your individual autos however that’s an costly possibility now. It’s a must to pay Nu 4500 per day for having that automobile aside from assembly a dozen of regulatory necessities and different bills. For Bhutan, it’s higher to easily rent somebody inside! 

Resorts and Homestays in Bhutan

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View from the resort at Phobjikha

Right here’s the catch. Whereas Bhutan does have funds resorts, they’re used largely by locals. The authorities need to showcase it as a premium vacation spot for overseas vacationers and they’re required to remain at a minimal 3 Star lodging. You possibly can go larger however 3 stars is the bottom you’ll be able to go. Some areas even have Homestays, they’re often situated a bit away from most important cities, within the villages with conventional homes and facilities. If that’s what you need, you’ll be able to speak to the operator earlier than deciding your plan.

Prime Locations to Go to in Bhutan

Right here’s a fast record of areas to go to in Bhutan. I’ll regularly make extra detailed posts on the locations I’ve visited.


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Paro Valley

House to the one worldwide airport in Bhutan, Paro is usually the place to begin for a lot of vacationers. Trek to the long-lasting Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest) perched on a cliff, providing breathtaking views. Discover the Nationwide Museum of Bhutan, housed in a historic watchtower, displaying Bhutanese artifacts, and naturally the Paro Dzong. Discover the eateries of the city within the night for native meals.

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Tiger’s Nest shouldn’t be removed from Paro


The capital metropolis of Bhutan, Thimphu blends modernity with custom, providing a singular expertise. Witness the majestic Tashichho Dzong, a fortress-monastery and the seat of Bhutan’s authorities. Stroll via the colourful weekend market, the place locals collect to promote recent produce and handicrafts. There are museums, gompas to go to, together with the close by Mishmi Takin protect. 

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Dochu La close to Thimphu


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Punakha Dzong

Identified for its gorgeous Punakha Dzong, an architectural masterpiece and the second oldest dzong in Bhutan. Take a brief hike to the fertility temple, Chimi Lhakhang, devoted to the “Divine Madman” – Lama Drukpa Kunley.

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Close to Chimi Lakgang

Benefit from the scenic great thing about the Punakha valley, surrounded by lush rice paddies and the Mo Chhu River

Bumthang Valley

An space of historic and religious significance, also known as the “cultural heartland” of Bhutan. Go to the sacred Jambay Lhakhang and Kurjey Lhakhang temples, among the many oldest within the nation. Discover the spectacular Jakar Dzong and expertise the distinctive Bumthang Noodle Soup (buckwheat noodles

Haa Valley

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Haa Valley

A less-visited gem, Haa Valley provides tranquil landscapes and a glimpse of Bhutan’s conventional life-style. You will get there from Paro by crossing the 3900 meter excessive Chele La. Hike to the picturesque Juneydrak Hermitage, a cliffside monastery with awe-inspiring views. Witness the annual Haa Summer season Competition, celebrating native tradition, delicacies, and conventional sports activities

Gangtey (Phobjikha)

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Gangtey Monastery

Well-known for the migratory Black-Necked Cranes that arrive within the autumn from Tibet, it’s a huge inexperienced valley with many small hamlets scattered throughout. Discover Gangtey Monastery, a shocking monastery that overlooks the Phobjikha Valley. Embark on nature walks within the serene valley, surrounded by lush meadows and delightful landscapes.


House to the spectacular Trongsa Dzong, strategically situated on a ridge with breathtaking vistas. Discover the Ta Dzong, a watchtower transformed right into a museum showcasing Bhutan’s historic artifacts. You possibly can trek to the hidden gem of Kuenga Rabten, an historic palace with intriguing legends.

Japanese Bhutan

Japanese Bhutan is a charming area brimming with pure magnificence and cultural riches, and at its coronary heart lies the enchanting city of Trashigang. Nestled amidst verdant valleys and lofty hills, Trashigang exudes an old-world appeal, characterised by conventional Bhutanese structure and vibrant native markets. As considered one of Bhutan’s largest districts, Trashigang provides a glimpse into the dominion’s genuine lifestyle, the place age-old customs and non secular practices are deeply cherished. Guests are mesmerized by the awe-inspiring panorama, which incorporates dense forests, cascading waterfalls, and the mighty Drangme Chhu River meandering via the valleys. The jap area, with Trashigang as its cultural and administrative hub, provides a singular alternative to expertise Bhutan’s rural authenticity and immerse oneself within the heat hospitality of its folks.

Trekking and Journey Actions in Bhutan

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Trekking is a significant exercise in Bhutan

Aside from often sightseeing, one can go for extra bodily demanding actions like trekking and rafting in Bhutan. As talked about earlier than, multi-day treks are fairly costly. You’ll have to speak to your operator beforehand and determine. 

Unguided trekking shouldn’t be allowed and easily not potential in Bhutan. It’s a must to undergo a neighborhood operator.

We did three easy brief day hikes, on three consecutive days together with a nice stroll via the Phobjikha Valley to Gangtey Monastery, a downward hike from Chele La (3900 meters) to Kila Nunnery, and eventually the hike to the long-lasting Tiger’s Nest Monastery.

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Refreshing day hikes across the valleys

If you would like huge treks, probably the most iconic one is the Snowman Trek that lasts nearly a month! Aside from that, there are numerous multi day treks potential. 

Wildlife Experiences in Bhutan

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Gray langur noticed close to Phobjikha

Bhutan boasts of a number of spectacular nationwide parks which are on the coronary heart of its wildlife tourism. Among the many most distinguished ones is Jigme Dorji Nationwide Park, the nation’s largest protected space, overlaying huge stretches of lush forests and alpine meadows. This park is dwelling to a wide selection of wildlife, together with the elusive snow leopard and takin, Bhutan’s nationwide animal. One other gem is Royal Manas Nationwide Park, which spans throughout the southern foothills and lowlands, providing a haven for Bengal tigers, Indian elephants, and the uncommon golden langur. Bhutan additionally takes nice delight in preserving the distinctive biodiversity of its jap area via the Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary, the place the critically endangered black-necked cranes migrate to throughout the winter. This sanctuary not solely protects these swish birds but additionally offers a sanctuary for numerous hen species. Furthermore, the Phibsoo Wildlife Sanctuary within the southwest is known for its vibrant birdlife, and it serves as an important hall for the motion of wildlife between India and Bhutan.

What to Eat and Drink in Bhutan?

Bhutan has lots of attention-grabbing native meals to attempt. Attributable to proximity, Indian meals can be simply obtainable. Typical stuff of the Tibetan sphere together with momos, thukpas and numerous sort sof noodles are simply obtainable. Listed here are a number of native issues you’ll be able to search for. 

Ema Datshi: No exploration of Bhutanese delicacies is full with out savoring Ema Datshi, the beloved nationwide dish. This fiery concoction contains inexperienced chilies cooked with cheese, making a spicy and savory mix. The addition of native cheese referred to as “datshi” provides the dish a creamy texture, balancing the warmth of the chilies. Ema Datshi is usually served with pink rice, providing a pleasant mixture that exemplifies Bhutanese consolation meals. There might be numerous variants of Datshi like Kewa Datshi (with potato), mushroom datshi, spinach datshi and so forth.

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Buckwheat pancakes with Kewadatshi

Buckwheat Merchandise: Regionally cultivated buckwheat flour is used to create totally different sorts of recognized merchandise. For instance, we tried Hoentey (buckwheat dumpling/momo) aand Khulee (buckwheat pancake that appears like Set Dosa from southern India) with Datshi.

Phaksha Paa is a savory dish that mixes succulent pork with pink chilies and radishes, creating a pleasant mix of flavors. The meat is marinated with native spices and simmered till tender, leading to a mouthwatering dish that pairs properly with pink rice. Phaksha Paa is a testomony to Bhutan’s mastery of mixing easy substances to create extraordinary tastes.

Jasha Maru is a hearty rooster stew infused with Bhutanese spices, garlic, ginger, and onions. This flavorful dish is a consolation meals staple, typically loved with pink rice. The aroma of the stew simmering on the range is bound to whet your urge for food and go away you wanting extra.

Suja, or butter tea, is a standard beverage cherished by the Bhutanese folks. Made with yak butter, salt, and tea leaves, Suja offers nourishment and heat, making it a preferred selection within the chilly mountainous areas. The tea is churned to create a frothy consistency, and its distinctive salty style would possibly take some getting used to, nevertheless it’s an integral a part of Bhutan’s hospitality.

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Good native beer to accompany the meals

So far as alcoholic drinks are involved, you’ll be served Ara at most conventional locations. Aside from that Bhutan has many homegrown beer and wine manufacturers. In truth, most normal wateries additionally serve beer.

Prime Festivals in Bhutan

Paro Tsechu: Held in Paro, this is likely one of the most well-known festivals in Bhutan. It often takes place in March or April and options masked dances, spiritual rituals, and vibrant celebrations in honor of Guru Rinpoche, the saint who launched Buddhism to Bhutan.

Thimphu Tsechu: Celebrated within the capital metropolis, Thimphu Tsechu happens in September or October. The competition showcases a sequence of sacred masks dances, conventional people performances, and a colourful procession, drawing locals and vacationers alike.

Punakha Drubchen and Tsechu: Punakha, the previous capital of Bhutan, hosts each the Drubchen (a prelude to the Tsechu) and the Tsechu in February or March. The festivities embody the dramatic reenactment of a medieval battle, adopted by the customary masks dances throughout the Tsechu.

Jambay Lhakhang Drup: Situated in Bumthang, this competition is widely known in October. It’s well-known for the “Mewang” (fireplace blessing) ceremony, the place folks stroll over burning embers to cleanse themselves of sins and achieve blessings.

Wangduephodrang Tsechu: Happening in September or October in Wangduephodrang, this competition options conventional masks dances and cultural performances within the picturesque setting of the Wangduephodrang Dzong.

Haa Summer season Competition: This distinctive competition is widely known in Haa Valley throughout July, showcasing the area’s nomadic tradition, conventional sports activities, and Bhutanese delicacies.

Black-Necked Crane Competition: Held in Phobjikha Valley in November, this competition celebrates the arrival of the endangered black-necked cranes to their winter habitat. It contains cultural performances and actions to lift consciousness about conservation.

Matsutake Competition: Happening in Ura Valley throughout August or September, this competition celebrates the prized Matsutake mushroom, with cultural shows, native video games, and mushroom selecting.

Nimalung Tsechu and Kurjey Tsechu: Celebrated in Bumthang and devoted to Guru Rinpoche, these festivals supply a singular alternative to witness conventional dances and rituals in sacred settings.

Trongsa Tsechu: Held within the historic Trongsa Dzong in December, this competition showcases charming masks dances and cultural shows, attracting each locals and vacationers

Spirituality and Wellness in Bhutan

As a Buddhist nation, Bhutan naturally has many religious facilities. You possibly can talk about with the locals if you wish to spend extra time in a few of the monasteries and meditate or discover Buddhist theology or philosophy in a deeper method. 

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Strive rejuvenating Sizzling Stone Bathtub after a hike in Bhutan

In case you are on the lookout for extra consolation and wellness for your self, take into account taking the well-known scorching stone tub of Bhutan. It’s a standard technique of boiling water with pink scorching stones whereas including medicinal herbs to the water. Speak to the locals about this.

Finest Season for Visiting Bhutan

Identical to any Himalayan vacation spot, Spring-Summer season (March, April, Could, June) and autumn (September, October) are one of the best seasons for having fun with Bhutan. Climate is evident throughout these instances and the colors are nice. The winter naturally brings chilly and snowfall, which has its appeal however some distant areas might get blocked attributable to snowfall. Equally, the monsoon of July and August makes it tough attributable to rains and landslides.

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Monsoon blooms throughout July

Nevertheless, I did go to in July, it’s time for lush greenery and wildflowers within the valleys. Solely on our final day it rained and we confronted a number of roadblocks attributable to landslides whereas returning to Jaigaon border. Nonetheless, the Border Roads Group of India is lively right here too and the blocks had been cleared after some wait.

Telephone and Knowledge Connectivity in Bhutan

Community is sweet in greater cities. I discovered it to be a bit weaker in Phobjikha valley. Resorts will all the time present WiFi. In case you are kind India you may also purchase a roaming bundle from Airtel when you have that SIM (though these packages are costly). You may also look to purchase a neighborhood SIM.

On the lookout for an operator?

It’s not that onerous to discover a native tour operator. Make it possible for it’s a registered operator. You may also search assist from any operator in your nation if they’ve contacts in Bhutan. I additionally went with the assistance of my previous mates in Summiters Adventures in Bangalore who helped with native contacts.