Beat the crowds: Bhutan
A truly magical kingdom, Bhutan is a once-in-a-lifetime destination with awesome mountainous scenery and stunning, historic Buddhist monasteries. If you’re not yet convinced, just know that Bhutan is sometimes known as the Land of the Thunder Dragon – intriguing or what? What’s more, Bhutan has always been careful to ensure the country isn’t damaged due to tourism, making it one of the world’s most unspoilt destinations.
Whether you want to learn more about Buddhism, delve into the history of this unique country, or take to the great outdoors for hiking, camping, and white-water rafting, travelling to Bhutan makes for a truly unforgettable trip.
If your interest is piqued and you want to get the lowdown on itinerary planning, and the practical stuff like how to get a visa, the Citybond team has come up with a helpful guide to aid your preparations for a trip to Bhutan.
Planning your trip
Visit Bhutan between October and December, or between March and May for the best weather. At this time of year the skies are sunny, the air is clear and rainfall is low. Temperatures hover at around 15-16C. If you want to go trekking, avoid monsoon season, which takes place between June and August. UK nationals travelling to Bhutan are required to book through a tour operator, who organise the visa and charge a non-negotiable minimum daily tariff, currently set at $250 (£200) per day. This fee covers all meals, transportation, services of licensed guides and porters. Independent travel is not an option here. Like most other foreigners, Brits are only allowed to enter and exit Bhutan at select towns, including Phuentsholing, Samdrup Jongkhar and Gelephug (by road) or Paro (by air).
What to do
Archery is a Bhutanese tradition, and one that’s notably practiced in Paro - take a walk to the archery ground to watch the experts in action. If you’re an outdoorsy type, then the country’s scenery makes for a marvellous playground. Bhutan’s mountainous skyline is simply jaw-dropping, and the Jigme Dorji National Park makes a beautiful setting for camping and white-water rafting. There are also stunning examples of dzong architecture, a style of fortress found mostly in Bhutan and Tibetan areas of India, dotted around the park.
What to see
The Tiger’s Nest Monastery is top of the bucket list for every traveller in Bhutan. One of the Himalayas’ most miraculous sites, this glorious Buddhist monastery is balanced on the side of a sheer cliff, as if by magic. Punakha Dzong - the old capital and seat of government until the mid-1950s - is another must-see. Constructed in the 17th century, it was only the second dzong to be built in Bhutan, and all of the nation’s kings have been crowned here. Or take a scenic two-hour drive from Paro to the Chele La Pass. From this vantage point, you’re treated to an incredible panorama of the region’s mountains and valleys - and you may be surrounded by Himalayan yaks while you take in the sight.
Where to stay
Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital is a superb base: it’s close to a number of the country’s top destinations like Punakha, Paro and Jigme Dorji National Park, and has its own attractions too. If you’re looking for a touch of luxury, the five-star Le Méridien Thimphu is just the ticket. With a spa, swimming pool, and wellness centre, this well-appointed hotel is the perfect place to recuperate after a day of sightseeing. Can’t get enough of Bhutan’s stunning mountainous landscape? Immerse yourself in it at the four-star Hotel Druk, found in the mountains 14 miles from the centre of Thimphu. A traditional exterior gives way to chic, revamped interiors, and a spa and wellness centre are ideal for soaking those tired limbs after a trek.
What to eat
If you’re visiting Bhutan we hope you like your food spicy! Chillies are frequently found in Bhutanese cuisine. Ema Datshi is Bhutan’s most popular dish: a stew containing cheese and chillies, it might prove too spicy for unsuspecting tourists, but if you’re a fan of food that will make your eyes water, this is the one for you. Red rice is a Bhutanese staple grown in the Paro Valley, and it accompanies many Bhutanese dishes. You’ll be happy to know it’s super healthy, being gluten and wheat-free and rich in minerals. Another treat is the hearty Phaksha Paa, a curry served with gravy or a meaty stew. Get those tastebuds ready.
Wherever you’re planning on heading to in the coming months it’s good to know that Citybond Suretravel is committed to providing you with the highest level of protection to ensure you are safe and secure 24 hours a day when away.
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