• Bhutan
    © iStockphoto.com / Narvikk
  • Bhutan
    © iStockphoto.com / Anandoart
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Bhutan

By Dmitry Petrounin Dmitry Petrounin Section editor Profile
Surrounded by Tibet and India, Bhutan cultivates its mystery by scrupulously controlling access to its territory. That alone makes this little Himalayan kingdom worth a visit! Travel to Bhutan for adventure and trekking. Although it is expensive, the change of scenery is breathtaking; from the snowy mountain tops to the lush green jungle. Further south, passing through interminable forests, you will find the Buddhist population who have always led a very traditional way of life. On this little known land marked by numerous religious festivals, you will find what is known as 'dzongs', majestic monastery fortresses of unique architecture.

Our Editorial team's advice

Try to make your trip to Bhutan coincide as far as possible with one of the festivals taking place in the dzongs in the spring and the autumn.
In Bhutan, the traditions, customs, architecture and most of the events are based on Buddhism. Therefore, before arriving, it would be a good idea to inform yourself of the cultural bases of this religion.

pros

  • +You have the rare privilege of being able to visit this country, which is a sanctuary of traditions.
  • +You will be able to combine a cultural trip with a trek in the majestic Himalayas.

cons

  • -The flat rate for a stay in the country is relatively high.
  • -Accommodation is often basic.

Traditions

In Bhutan, you must dress appropriately, particularly when you go to religious festivals, which require you to dress discreetly. Refrain, in particular, from smoking, eating and talking too loudly. In terms of tips, you should generally leave a small offering when you have visited a temple or monastery.
If, however, you are invited to share a family meal, you should be aware that it is customary for you to leave once the last course is over. It is not unheard of for your hosts to withdraw during the meal or to just be happy to watch you eat.

Food

Chilli is everywhere: in salad, or used as a condiment; it can even be the main ingredient, as in hemadatsi, for example, the national dish. Don't worry - the rice that accompanies almost all the meals will help you extinguish the fiery chilli! Another popular component of Bhutanese food is yak meat and pork, which is often cooked in a sauce. The meat will have been dried beforehand or only the fat will be served.
Tea is the national drink. As is typical in the Himalayas, salt and butter are added to it. It can also be prepared in the Indian fashion, with a lot of sugar, and milk.

Souvenirs

Craftwork is extremely rich, although expensive, and rare. However, if you would like to make some investments for your interior decoration, this is the right time to make them. The delicacy of Bhutanese production is demonstrated in its fabrics of cotton, wool and wild silk. You can bring back thangkas, for example, which are painted religious banners, or belts. The usual items (baskets, bowls...) which are made out of bamboo or cane are less expensive and can be bought in the markets, as opposed to fabrics and jewels, which you will only find in the shops of Thimphu. The shops in Thimphu are closed on Tuesdays and open the rest of the week from 7:00am to 6:00pm.