Not much is known about the history of Bhutan before the 8th century, however, archaeologists have been able to ascertain that Bhutan was inhabited as early as 2000 BC due to stone tools, weapons and structures that have been discovered. The first notable event of the 8th century in Bhutan was the arrival of the Indian saint Guru Padmasambhava in 746 AD. He was able to convert King Sendha, the ruler of the Bumthang Valley to Buddhism and gradually, the rest of the country followed. This alignment with Buddhism is still prevalent in Bhutanese social, political and cultural practices today.
Bhutan is a small, landlocked country located in southern Asia between Tibet and India. The topography of the country can be divided into different regions from north to south based on altitude: the Great Himalaya, the Inner Himalayans and the Southern Foothills.
The Great Himalayas are a mountain range that stretches from Mt. Chomolhari (7,314m) in the west to Kulha Gangri (7,554m) near the centre of the northern border between Tibet and Bhutan. Due to the elevation of the highest summits, 20% of the area is covered perpetually by snow. The Inner Himalayans are the largest geographical region in Bhutan. They are characterised by broad valleys and forested hillsides and the majority of major towns in Bhutan including Paro, Thimphu and Punakha are located here. The Southern Foothills (also known as the Himalayan Foothills) are located in the southern part of the country. The average rainfall here is quite high reaching up to 200 inches. As a result of this rain, the Southern Foothills are known for lush vegetation and tropical forests. These forests are full of diverse wildlife and days here can get very hot. Rivers are also very important to Bhutan’s geography because they are a source of hydroelectric power. Due to the monsoon season that the country experiences, rivers and valleys here are wider than in Nepal and India.
Bhutan – Country Quick-facts
Area: 38,394 sq km
Country Phone Code: 975
Credit Cards: American Express, Visa and MasterCard are accepted in a few shops. Travellers Cheques are generally accepted.
Currency: Ngultrum (NU)
Departure Tax: Departure tax is included within the cost of an international airfare leaving Bhutan
Drives on the: Left
Location: Southern Asia, between China and India.
Official Language: Dzongkha
Religion: Lamaistic Buddhist 75%, Indian- and Nepalese-influenced Hinduism 25%
Getting a Visa for Bhutan
Despite popular mythology, you don’t need special ‘pull’ to get a visa, neither is there a limit on the number of tourists allowed to visit. However, to minimize the perceived threat to Bhutan’s unique culture, the government has established a stringent set of rules, which means you must travel on a pre-arranged itinerary. all costs included. Apart from that, the process is relatively straightforward. All visa applications must be channelled through the Department of Tourism (DOT) from a selected tour operator. With notification of approval, visas are issued when you arrive in the country. It is actually an extremely efficient system.
Seasons in Bhutan can be split into five distinct times of year. Spring runs from early March to mid April. These months tend to be dry and not as affected by rain. Summer is from mid April to late June and experiences occasional showers. The traditional summer season is followed by the summer monsoon season from late June to late September with monsoon days having high humidity and are often misty. Autumn is from late September or early October to late November and the days are characterised by bright sunny days with some snow at higher elevations. Winter is from late November to March with frosty days and snow falls in places above 3,000m elevation.
Currency of Bhutan
Ngultrum is the locally and officially accepted currency of Bhutan. It is used for all economic trades at a professional level and a local level, as well. The currency code is BTN and the symbol is Nu. 100 cents make up 1 BTN. Cents in Bhutan are called Chhertum. BTN 1, BTN 5, BTN 10, BTN 20, BTN 50, BTN 100, BTN 500 and BTN 1000 are the currency notes acceptable in the country. The notes have something related to Bhutanese culture imprinted on them. The backside of the note has a dzong picture. For example, a BTN 500 note has a picture of Ugyen Wangchuk with a Raven Crown on the front side. The backside has a picture of majestic Punakha Dzong. This pattern is followed for all value notes, each of them having a different picture.
Best Time to Visit Bhutan
The best time to visit Bhutan is during the spring months of March to May when the valleys come alive with flowers in bloom. The Himalayan peaks are at their most visible with the clear skies of October and this is the best time for trekking though temperatures will be on the cold side. June to August is considered the low season due to the rains, which makes trekking less of an option. However, travelling in low and shoulder seasons will warrant lower hotel rates.