WHY BHUTAN?

Bhutan is how earth should be. Pristine, peaceful inhabited by caring people. An earth where people live in harmony and peace, surrounded by bountiful nature, simply living universal lives driven by values. An earth where human is her greatest protector.

Bhutan is peaceful. There is no strife. It has one of the lowest crime rates and it is very unlikely that one would witness any kind of crime while travelling here. It makes safe destination for single, individual travelers of all ages and genders, or for group. It is also one of the safest to travel during the pandemic, with no community spread and high vaccination drive. With the leadership of the His Majesty the King driven by science and genuine concern for people, the responses to the pandemic have been fast and effective. With borders closed since the onset of the pandemic with 21-day mandatory quarantine for returning citizens, and adherence to social and non- pharmacological interventions, have resulted in less than couple of thousands of cases (mostly detected in quarantine) with a couple of deaths.

To make it safer, people are friendly. Perhaps such friendliness arises from happiness or being happy. People culturally are oriented towards being happy. The tantric Buddhist culture have evolved in such a way that the outlook of masses were managed as one also changed outer circumstances. And since the 1970’s Bhutan has gone on to shift development paradigm to aim for ‘Gross National Happiness’ as a goal of the country rather Gross National Product – aiming for balanced holistic development of human being and community, keeping in mind physical, mental and spiritual well-being.

In order to foster such holistic wellbeing, one of the conducive environments for growth of happiness is the natural environment, whose conservation is one of the main pillars of upholding Gross National Happiness. All the Bhutanese land remain pristine – thanks to pre-Buddhist nature worship beliefs of the past and present day conservation policies. Bhutan has more than 70% of its land under forest cover and more than 50% is protected (including biological corridors). Within its constitution, Bhutan is to maintain 60% of its land under forest cover for all times to come. Some say, the percentage is big when actual area is small but then amount of flora and fauna (flora of over 7000 species, 750 species of birds & fauna of 200 mammals – Nature Conservation Division, Department of Agriculture & Forestry Services , 2018 figures) shows the overall effect as same. There are a smaller number of flora and fauna found in bigger area (70 times bigger than Bhutan) as North America. You can find untouched forests in Bhutan– going back centuries.

Besides the nature, there are centuries old culture, with history going to pre-historic times. There has been stone implements and monoliths found in Bhutan dating back to pre-historic times. The evolution of the culture since then have largely been indigenous with some influences, particularly of the Buddhism from the north and south. Thus evolved culture with influences of nature worship and Buddhism have given the region the tantric form of Buddhism and culture, which continues to evolve. The Bhutanese culture with largely Buddhist influences is living heritage of Bhutan. The centuries old fortresses (known as Dzongs, pronounced ‘Zong’ – almost like zonk) and temples predating any kind of statehood in the country that is still in use are testament to such continuity. These structures and the culture set forth the belief system to flourish, and thus the values from such belief system to rise.

In last little more than a century, since the monarchy began in the country, there has been unprecedented peace and prosperity in the country. The Kings have not only genuinely created conditions for the peace and prosperity…

The greatest upholder of these values are the monarchs of the country -the Druk Gyalpo or the Dragon Kings. In last little more than a century, since the monarchy began in the country, there has been unprecedented peace and prosperity in the country. The Kings have not only genuinely created conditions for the peace and prosperity but with their vision, also navigated along the negative effects of development by reaching beyond just the materialistic development and reaching onto holistic spiritual and mental development as well. The subjects are moon eyed about their monarchs, who look after all people as their own and all faith as same.

Thus Bhutan remains magical, a pristine land, a peaceful sanctuary that will touch your mind, body and soul.

Never colonized. There are discoveries of stone implements and monoliths to prove that there has been settlement in Bhutan since pre-historic times. Since then till now, Bhutan has never been colonized or ruled by any other than our own. Since then till the arrival of Guru Rinpoche in the 8th century, there are very less records. There are allusions to number of temples being built in the 7th century – most probably the first advent of Buddhism in the country and a prince being exiled into the mountains of Bhutan. But it was only after arrival of Guru Rinpoche that the Buddhism began to spread within the county as it began to assimilate the Nature Worship beliefs into the mainstream Buddhism. Many of the deities and objects of this pre-Buddhist shamanistic beliefs along with the rituals were incorporated into the Buddhism and adapted to work with basic principles of the Buddhism, evolving into the Tantric form of Buddhism.

It was still provincial land then, with many chieftains looking after their small territories, those of which were influenced by different lama personalities and their related schools of Buddhism particularly between 12th – 15th century, some of which originated from Tibet. One such school of tantric Buddhism was the Drukpa Kagyu School.

Drukpa Kagyu School, which was brought to Bhutan in the 15th century by Phajo Drugom Zhigpo after it had been founded in Tibet in the 12th century by Tshangpa Gyarey Yeshey Dorje. It became the most dominant school of Buddhism after Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal came about in the 17th century as its leader, which led to unification of the country as the provincial rulers came to be under central rule. It was the influence as the spiritual head that first led to the Zhabdrung having power of some of the western provinces from where he unified the rest of the country. Besides the influence of being a spiritual head, he used stronghold of the fortresses called the ‘dzongs’ to extend his influence. Once a region was brought under control, whether through spiritual and peaceful means or diplomacy or martial pressure, Zhabdrung created stronghold in form of Dzong, from where his influence was extended eastwards.

By mid 17th century, Zhabdrung established the ‘choesi’ (or the ‘dual’) system of the government with Punakha as its capital. Under this dual system, there was a spiritual – the Je Khenpo and temporal head – the desi. This form of the government continued to the start of the 20th century. It was quite effective for the first century or so, but it began to fail as the regional governors became more powerful than the central government and they began to fight among themselves to install their puppet in the central government. One of the most powerful governors to emerge by late 1800s was governor of Trongsa – the Trongsa Penlop Ugyen Wangchuck. By then, he was not only recognized within the country as the most powerful entity and governor, despite a separate central government but was also deferred to by the British at the south and Tibetans to the North. In fact, he was knighted by the British Empire in 1905 as the Knight Commander of British Empire for forging relations between the British and Tibetans. So, it was a tribute to his contributions when in 1907 the people, clergy, representatives of different sections of the society chose Ugyen Wangchuck as the first King of Bhutan. Since the start of the monarchy, there has been unprecedented peace and prosperity in the Kingdom. Before monarchy, there was strife within the country besides fighting off numerous invasions from Tibet and having a war with the British (in 1865) besides number of battles after certain failed mission with them.

It was Ugyen Wangchuck’s diplomacy that the opposing forces outside the country were converted besides overcoming his rivals within the country. After Sir Ugyen Wangchuck was chosen, in his lifetime – the ‘man of destiny’ as he is called continued the process of unification at social level as well. His son Jigme Wangchuck reduced medieval taxes besides doing away with certain class distinction – the work which was continued by the ‘father of modern Bhutan’ – the 3rd King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. It was during his rule that the Bhutan consciously began to leave the age old policy of isolation and reach out to the world along with the process of modernization. It was during his time that Bhutan joined United Nations, besides number of international organizations. His son and successor – the Great Fourth besides continuing the path of modernization, set forth new paradigm in path of development in form of the Gross National Happiness, which encompasses the democracy that he gifted to the people of Bhutan. He continues to witness these successions of initiations as his son (to whom he handed over the powers of ruling King in 2005) the present King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck. There has been numerous interventions by the present King in form of “national guard” movement called the ‘dessung’ – a citizen voluntary organization, investments of state earnings (through Druk Holding Investments and their subsidiary companies), ongoing initiation into conscription and subsequent choice of national service area. His Majesty the 5th King is known for excellent handling the pandemic and associated responses (including leading to one of the highest levels of vaccination drives).

Bhutan maintains close diplomatic relations with India, stemming from time of British India and is part of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) The relations with China continues to warm up as the border talks have continued over past decade. Bhutan has diplomatic relations with 54 countries, which doesn’t include United States with whom Bhutan maintains informal “friendly and close” relations.

Form of Government: Constitutional Democratic Monarchy
Names of the country: The name ‘Bhutan’ comes from the Sanskrit word ‘bhu-uttan’ or the “highlands” and after being used by British extensively including on the early map of the regions (evolving from ‘Bootan’), it came to be the internationally accepted names. The Bhutanese themselves have always called their county ‘Drukyul’ and continues to do so. While the ‘Drukyul’ has been popularly translated as the ‘country of the peaceful dragon’ by many travel books, it actual comes from the name of the school of Buddhism Drukpa Kagyupa, which is called the Dragon School and the name Drukyul was meant to mean ‘the country of the Dragon School” and the Bhutanese as ‘Drukpas’ the followers of the Dragon School.

Here is link to general information of Bhutan on Wikipedia: Bhutan

Here is link to general information of Bhutan on Britannica: Kingdom of Bhutan

Here is link to more specialized state services of Bhutan: Bhutan Portal

Located in eastern and northern hemisphere but close to equator. Surviving between the giants of China to the north and India to south and other two directions. 28° north and 90° East.

Mountainous terrain, landlocked, all within Himalayas. Altitude range from 150m to 7580 m above sea level. 3 geographical belts. North side – alpine zone called the greater Himalayas; middle zone – the temperate zone called the Inner Himalayas and the sub-tropical zone to the south called the southern foothills.

Because of the latitude situation and the mountainous terrain, it is like no other. The tree line is much higher than elsewhere. It is till 3900m or 11500ft that you can find trees, in North America at 35°N latitude, you wouldn’t find any trees by 2900m or 9000ft, similar to Europe. The capital Thimphu is at elevation of 7500ft (2350m) and it receives but one snowfall a year – had it been in Europe with latitude of 30° or more, there would be snowfall through out but not in Bhutan. Despite the higher elevation, because of the latitude situation being closer to equator (28°N), the conditions are much milder than in Europe or North America at same elevation.

Location – Longitude: 90°E; 27°30” N

Bhutan is situated very near to the equator just 28-degree north latitude wise and so despite the Himalayan elevation, the conditions are milder and vary. And sometimes it can be misleading.

In Europe, at 7500ft above sea level, you will find snow throughout the winter or by 9000ft in North America, you will not find trees. In Bhutan, at 7500ft (at which Thimphu and Paro valleys are situated), it is considered lucky if you find one snowfall a year even at height of winter. Here, in Bhutan you will find tree going right up to 13000ft and after then still shrubs and alpine grasses. The snowline in much higher.

The country has altitude range from just 450ft above sea level down to south (near Indian border) with tropical conditions and rain forest going right up to 24000ft with alpine conditions and mountains. It makes the country one of the most diverse in biodiversity but also in conditions. So depending, where you travel your clothing needs will vary but it is good to have layers for every conditions.

Depending on the time of your travel in Bhutan and places the program has been set, we will provide you with custom packing list but generally, various layers is always good idea. So that when you experience subtropical conditions you can shed after you have descended from 10500ft alpine conditions in an hour of driving!

The temperatures below are average for some of the common places in Bhutan:

Month Values.in.Celsius Paro (7500ft). Thimphu (7500ft). Punakha (4400ft). Trongsa (7000ft)… Bumthang (8700ft)… Mongar (4000ft)… Trashigang (3900ft)..
January MaxMin 9.4-5.8 12.3-2.6 17.04.3 13.0-0.2 10.8-5.1 15.58.2 20.410.5
February MaxMin 13.01.5 14.40.6 19.07.8 13.90.4 10.0-1.4 15.98.3 21.711.5
March MaxMin 14.50.6 16.43.9 22.810.4 16.74.4 16.23.5 20.011.6 24.814.4
April MaxMin 17.64.6 20.07.1 26.212.9 20.16.6 18.73.9 22.814.0 28.317.0
May MaxMin 23.510.6 22.513.1 29.117.7 2111.6 21.39.5 25.117.4 3022.6
June MaxMin 25.414.1 24.415.2 29.220.1 22.213.6 22.513.5 26.119.5 30.722.6
July MaxMin 26.814.9 25.915.6 30.420.5 25.315.3 24.113.6 27.119.8 31.523.1
August MaxMin 25.314.7 25.015.8 29.120 23.815 23.013.7 25.419.6 30.222.7
September MaxMin 23.411.7 23.115 27.519.1 22.614.2 21.612.1 24.719.4 30.021.9
October MaxMin 18.77.4 21.910.4 26.114.7 21.811.7 19.55.9 22.715.8 29.117.7
November MaxMin 13.91.4 17.95.0 22.69.6 19.86.4 16.1-0.5 19.911.2 26.113.6
December MaxMin 11.2-1.7 14.5-1.1 19.16.3 18.22.5 12.3-2.3 17.79.5 23.011.6

Here is link to general information on Bhutan on Wikipedia: Bhutan

National Symbols

National Flower:


National Emblem:
National Tree: Weeping Cypress
National Bird: Raven
National Animal: Takin
Median age: 23

NATIONAL FLAG

The National flag is divided diagonally into two equal halves.

The upper yellow half signifies the secular power and ….authority of the king while the lower.saffron-orange ….symbolizes the practice of religion and the power of Buddhism, manifested in the tradition of Drukpa Kagyu. The dragon signifies the name and the purity of the country while the jewels in its jeweled claws stand for the wealth and perfection of the country.

NATIONAL SPORT

The national sport is the Archery (Dha). The bow and arrow play a significant role in.many Bhutanese myths and legends; images of the gods holding a bow and arrows are considered especially favorable.

Archery was declared the national sport in 1971 when Bhutan became a member of.the United Nations. Bhutan also maintains an Olympic archery team. Archery tournaments and competitions are held throughout the country. Archery is played during religious and secular public holidays in Bhutan, local festivals (tsechu), between.public ministries and departments,and between the dzongkhag and the regional teams.

NATIONAL EMBLEM

The National Emblem of Bhutan is a circle that projects a double diamond thunderbolt placed above the lotus.

There is a jewel on all sides with two dragons on the vertical ….sides. The thunderbolts represent the harmony between ….secular and religious power while the lotus symbolizes purity. The jewel signifies the sovereign power while the two dragons ….(male and female) represent the name of the country DrukYul or the Land of the Dragon.

NATIONAL BIRD

The national bird is the raven. It adorns the royal crown. The raven represents the deity Gonpo Jarodongchen (raven headed Mahakala), one of the chief guardian deities of Bhutan.

NATIONAL ANIMAL

The national animal is the Takin (Burdorcas.taxicolor) that is associated with religious history and mythology. It is a very ….rare mammal with a thick neck and short muscular legs. It lives in groups and is found above 4000 meters on.the ….north- western and far north eastern parts of the country. ….They feed on bamboo. The adult Takin can weigh over 200 kgs.

NATIONAL FLOWER

The national flower is the Blue Poppy (Meconopsis Grandis).

It is a delicate blue or purple tinged blossom with a white ….filament. It grows to a height of 1 meter, and is found above ….the tree line (3500-4500 meters) on rocky mountain terrain. ….It was discovered in 1933 by a British Botanist, George Sherriff ….in a remote part of Sakteng in eastern Bhutan.

NATIONAL TREE

The national tree is the cypress (Cupressus torolusa).
Cypresses are found in abundance and one may notice large ….cypresses near temples and monasteries. This tree is found in ….the temperate climate zone, between 1800 and 3500 m. Its capacity to survive on rugged harsh terrain is compared to ….bravery and simplicity.

 

Here is link to general information on Bhutan on Wikipedia: Bhutan

Countdown of Top Hikes in Bhutan:

10. Dramitse – Bagingla- Sherizam (Various options)

This is in the far east of Bhutan. From the eastern heartland of Trashigang, you can either drive up the farm road from the highway (at place of Rolong) that switches back to Dramitse or hike from Chazam. The elevation here is one of the lowest of the Bhutan’s temperate region and so the climb while beautiful can be quite hot. If you do the climb, then it can be anywhere from 2-3 hours to Dramitse – a 15th century temple. Dramitse translates to “the peak without foes” and it is here that a pious maiden in the 15th century was able to lose all her suitors, who she called “foes” in her pursuit of teachings.

The mask dance called the “dramitse Nga cham” – originated here. This drum mask dance has been included as one of “Intangible Cultural Heritage of the World” by UNESCO.

After visiting this historical site, one can continue towards Bagingla. If you have walked from Rolong, you will have to stop at Bagingla since the night will fall here. But if you are starting from Dramitse, then, you can head to Sherizam for the night.

Soaking in all these legends and surroundings of Dramitse, one can walk for couple of hours from Drametse to Bagingla (7100ft). Along with a school and about 30 households, Bagingla has ruins of castle that has been traced to legends spanning back to the 8th century when the Chieftain here built castle to match that of Sindhu Raja in Bumthang.

The walk from the Dramitse to Bagingla, is gradual downhill at first and then small climb to Bagingla. All along, there is great view of the Drangmi Chu river valley below and the villages on the mountains on the other side.

One can even camp at Bagingla or drive back to your hotel in Trashigang if you have been hiking from Rolong; but if you started from Dramitse, then one can hike to Sherizam. The trails are harder to keep track of hereon as it is being dis-used with all the farmers/ villagers using vehicles/ farm roads to commute, but great birding site.

Besides common birds, you may be able to sight Great Barbets with their colorful plumage of greens and orange in oak grooves. Descending through warm board leaved forests, you come to streambed from where you slowly begin to rise through pines and tall grasses towards Yangbari. It is from below Yangbari that trail gets fainter as it is only occasional herders that use it now. Through tall lemon grasses, you would be able to see and even sit on some of the ancient rock structures that have been used as resting spots.

From Yangbari, it is but mostly downhill to Sheri Chu, along the banks of which you come to great meadow used by herders. From here you can choose to cross the river over a footbridge – the Sherizam (3400ft) that is now crumbling away or go over by cliff-side to solid bailey bridge connecting roads to major pilgrimage sites, prominently the Aja Ney.

From here, your vehicle will take you to Monggar (6050ft), nearly couple of hours away, driving over the pass of Korila (7800ft) to arrive at Wangchuk Hotel that has great view of the town.

09. Razawa – Samtengang

Then it is half an hour drive to turnoff towards village of Razawa (6650ft) and then another 45 minutes to descend to lush village by the river Dang Chu, where farmers would be farming depending on season Rice, potatoes or even wheat. It is at the bridge that the hike for the day begins.

After traversing by the paddy fields of the farm and house in idyllic setting, one will see a stupa (chorten) at the end of the village. It is the Razawa chorten – which is well known all over Bhutan as a wish granting stupa. The famous Dzongpon Pema Tshewang Tashi in the Bhutanese history is known to have stopped here and many that had to pass through here during the ancient times and more recently then the Health Minister, who was received by the villagers at this stupa.

It is from the stupa that climb begins, the climb that has been dubbed as ‘phado gyen’ or the ‘father’s climb’. It was task that was best done by the strong – the fathers. The climb is mainly through oak forests and other vegetation over very wide paths. An occasional meadow may interrupt otherwise very covered pathway, which you know will be rich in wildlife. There could be vestiges of wild boar that may easily apparent., but some of the rare birds documented here will have to be waited.

But the trail and the distance wants to keep you going, first to ridgeline climbing up and then gently down to the village of Samtengang (7300ft), where by a lake would your vehicle wait for you. During the drive, you can learn the stories that surrounds Samtengang , notably that of the Divine Mad Monk and his miraculous creation of an animal, now the national animal – the Takin. You would pass by some of the earliest yet quite remote modern schools of Bhutan. Then the Health Minister on the Move for Health Walk camped here but you would drive to Chuzomsa

08. Tharpaling to Kikila

This is in central Bhutan and according to some, the heart of tantric form of Buddhism. Driving to Tharpaling, whether coming from Bumthang after flying domestic and back towards east or driving from west to Bumthang, one will be able to get on the longest stretch of straight road in Bhutan, a whole couple of kilometers. It is from this straight stretch on the east west highway, that one take turn off towards the Tharpalinng for about 45 minutes to begin the hike. Tharpaling is known to be retreat center that had been first sanctified by the great Longchenpa in the 13th century and so have many temples and monasteries.

One can visit some of the temples and then start on hike by first climbing to the ridge of the hill. It is 45 minutes of steep climb to the top, where there is large rock known to be seat on which the great Longchenpa meditated in the 13th century. The rock is known as Kuenkhen throne, the throne of the All knowing (kuenkhen- one of the titles with the longchenpa).

There is great view of the Chumey valley below and on a clear day, if you spend about 15 minutes off the trail, one can see the highest peak of Bhutan and the highest unclimbed peak of the world – the Gangkar Puensum (7540m).

From the stone throne, it is all downhill to the pass into Bumthang – the Kikila. There are couple of stretches that are steep climb downhilll otherwise it is all gradual through pine forest and moss covered pathways.

07. Gangtey Nature Trail

The wide glacial valley will have mist rise of the marshy grounds. So, late in the morning, you begin your day with first driving to Gangtey Monastery (‘Gang’ means ‘Hill’ and ‘tey’ means the ‘top’), the monastery that sits atop of the hill that will considered moraine left by the receding glacier.

Then right from the monastery, you begin your easy couple of hours “Gangtey Nature Trail Hike” down to the valley floor over gentle trail leading you into the heart of the Black Necked Crane’s roosting area – the marshy floor of the Phobjikha valley. The marshy land fed by the “Nakey” (or the fiddlehead) river or stream, is considered the critically important ecological wetland in the world. It is where you will see the Black Necked Cranes feed all day, some flying about.

06. Kyichu to Satsham Chorten

This is perfect hike/ walk to get to used to altitude once you land in Bhutan. Hours after landing in Paro at elevation of 2300m/ 7500ft, you can do this walk along length of farm road from 07th century Kyichu temples to Satsham Chorten. There is hardly any change of elevation with gradual incline through villages.

It starts from Kyichu temples and ends at Satsham Chorten, nearing which one can also see famous Tiger’s Nest on distant hill and the Paro Dzong down below. It maybe only place from where you can see both the monuments.

It would take couple of hours at the most leisure pace, on average little more than hour – and anytime through the hike, one can have one’s car pick up to shorten the hike according to time and energy. It is great acclimatization hike with glimpses of all aspects of Bhutan in one, the dzong, ancient temples including Tiger’s Nest, prayer flags, traditional farmhouse, people and children one meet through out.

05. Laptshakha to Punakha Dzong

This is along the ancient trail that one time was called the “royal path” but commoners, royalties or monks used it. It is the end of the path that brought one from dzong of Thimphu to Punakha Dzong. So the hike ends at the majestic Punakha Dzong situated at confluence of Pho Chu and Mo Chu Rivers – so as fortress, protected on 3 sides by the two rivers.

But the path along to the dzong is as enchanting with pine forests and terraced field, punctuated by gushing sounds. All through the year, you can hear and see birds according to the season. Most hikers see impressive birds of prey, including couple of seven species found in Bhutan.

During the summers, there are couple of short stretches, one has to negotiate mud. Other than that it remains one of the most enchanting and idyllic in the Kingdom. For those concerned with altitude sickness, the hike is at one of lowest elevation in Bhutan – just 1250m/ 4400ft, which due to latitude situation brings you tropical conditions in Bhutan. Beautiful hike, with culture, where you can breath!

Stops under chirping trees looking out to terraced fields on the other surrounding hills and river and town below remains to be one of the most mesmerizing views in the Kingdom.

04. Wangditse from Sangaygang:

This temple perhaps has the best view of the capital; specifically we are saying capital and not Thimphu since one is right above capitol building against the backdrop of the downtown of the Bhutan’s largest city – Thimphu. To get to temple, is easy an hour walk (that is if you take very slow) one way to the temple from the roadside (which is the vantage Sangaygang that overlooks the city and is where the broadcasting towers of the national radio and tc station is located.

There is hardly any change in elevation during the walk and most of it is covered in pine and evergreen trees; it is also one of the popular biking trails as well.

Once you get to this temple that has been recently renovated, you can retrace your steps back to the starting point or if you have strong ankle and knees, then to make steep downhill climb to Dechenphodrang – one of the oldest monasteries of Bhutan dating back to the 17th century. You end your hike literally in midst of monks and prayers!

03. Lungchutse from Dochula, optional end at Trashigang:

This is challenging hike. Besides the steep gradient, the elevation (with start of 10, 250ft/ 3050m and climbing to 11, 300ft/ 3700m at the highest point of temple), makes it one of the toughest hike, especially if you are not Bhutanese and have not been living in the Himalayas.

But it is beautiful one. Even if you are not hiking in late April and early May, when the giant Rhododendrons are in bloom, it is one of the most beautiful hikes in Bhutan. The giant spruce, birch and Hemlock trees with stretches of equally giant rhododendron trees lines up the path as you tread over path that has roots and rocks worn down by pilgrims and monks going to the retreat high up as your destination.

The temple has central figure of Guru Rimpoche with Guardian Deities including that of Tshering-Ma. The temple is known to fulfill wishes and sought but Bhutanese. From the temple, you can have 360° view of the surrounding mountains, including high peaks with perennial snow with average height of 6500m/ 22000ft is breath-taking – depending on the weather. You may also see the mountain’s highest peak – the Gangkar Puensum.

From the temple, either you retrace back the way to starting point of the Dochula pass or after short hike back, take a turn towards Trashigang Goemba. The descent is gentler and you end up in a village with many houses with hermits in them and at the end – the Trashigang Goemba – a monastery. Depending on the day and time of the day, you may see the monks in prayers or doing their chores or playing volleyball at a small opening the spur of the hill affords. And occasionally, you will find them with their heads in their hands as they watch and exclaim after the ball rolling down the hill.

02. Lawala Ridgeline Hike

Besides the 16th century Gangtey Monastery, the Gangtey valley is also known for having a Buddhist college where you can get a master degree in Buddhist philosophy after 9 year course. And it is from this institute that you can begin or end this ridgeline hike with the other end at Lawala pass (at 11,000ft approx.).

Beginning at this institute for higher learning, one begins to go higher along the gentle sloping ridge of the hill where this monastery is situated. Passing by dormitories of the monks and assembly halls (one of them newly being built), one start off at 9800ft and climb immediately through sparse pinewood and then treeless meadow, passing by few hermitages along the way. One may see some hermits besides occasional herders, who use the trail and is faint in some places but it is steady climb. During winter to late spring, one will be able to see some yaks along the trail.

As one climbs higher, the vista of great gentle glacial valley of Gangtey and Phobjikha unfolds behind one. The hill on which the 16th century temple would seem embossed on the great expanse of Phobjikha Valley, with Nakey Chhu (“Fiddlehead” stream) meandering through it.

Ahead, as one climbs higher along the ridge, the snow capped mountains across the horizon looms into the view, especially from the small table (at 11, 550ft), which is marked with prayer flags and cairns. From here along with valley, one would be able to see surrounding snowcaps and caves of nearby hills where hermitages are embedded. Depending on the season, the ground and surrounding hills can be covered in flowers – primroses on the ground and azaleas and rhododendrons on the hillside.

From this table, after a short climb, one go sideways into the rhododendron bushes and then steep downhill through forest of larch, birches to the pass of Lawala (11, 000ft), where one’s vehicle will be waiting.

In all, if one is in hurry, can be done in couple of hours but if one takes it at leisure, it can take one 3-4 hours.

This hike can be done either way, starting from near the pass, which then would require one to have steep climb through the forest, albeit short one then longer climb down along the ridgeline towards the Gangtey Buddhist College and the valley. This would on average take 3 hours.

01. Longtey Longmey:

How you start this hike matters. Don’t start from Gangtey valley; always start from Longtey village on the eastern of Pelela pass and the Black Mountain Range to have gentle beautiful hike through rhododendron forest (albeit bit long) climb up to the pass, from where you descend into the Gangtey/ Phobjikha valley. If done from the other way, you will end up with steep climb up and then no energy or rush down the beautiful forest.

So, you do gradual climb from the Longtey village after a picnic near the water mill or this great little restaurant located at Rukubji, overlooking great expanse of yak valley.

Depending on the time of the year, you will meet some yak and yak herders. Close to winter, the elevation of 10500ft at which Longtey is situated, the yak would have been brought down for the winter. The yaks are gentle animal but bit skittish. They can be frightened into becoming defensive and they are strong. So, it is always good to give them a wide berth as you walk into the rhododendron from this sloping meadow covered in dwarf bamboos.

Bhutan boast of 47 species of rhododendron and you may be able to see most of them as you climb gently for more than 2 hours through the forest of rhododendron. You will come to the pass at 11950ft. From then it is all downhill into the Phobjikha valley or Gangtey. Past the pass, after a short descent, you will come to point from where the steep descent begins. It is from here that you can look down at the beautiful glacial valley of Phobjikha and realize why the temple built on moraine is called ‘Gangtey” (“Gang” for hill; “tey” for tip). From then on, it is steep descent which best be negotiated with the switchback paths to come into the village surrounded by potato fields and larch trees. Your car will pick you from there for short drive to your lodge nearby.

 

Bonus: HIKE TO TAKTSANG ‘Tiger’s Nest’:

This hike is best started early to have head-start going to the Bhutan’s most popular and iconic site and to have the cool hours of the morning help you achieve your best time in doing the 2000ft of climb. Your starting elevation is 8320ft and highest elevation you gain near the temple is 10, 280ft.

It is at this elevation on a ledge of the sheer cliffside (2000ft above valley floor) that Guru Rimpoche in the 8th century meditated after according to the legends Guru rode on a back of flying tigress to reach the spot. Then thousands over the centuries have sought Guru’s essence in the same place including those that built the present
day in 1692 CE. You join the same search this day.

Roughly into an hour of walk through the pinewood, holly bushes and other vegetation, you reach the tea house which is at half of the vertical height but a third of distance. It is one of the best viewpoints of the Tiger’s Nest. You can rest here with cup of tea and continue on or spend your day here.

From the teahouse, it is but another hour or less to second viewpoint which is highest point of the hike and then from there you descend into ravine and climb back up in next half an hour into the temple. After immersing in Guru’s energy in the temples built around the caves that Guru meditated in, you retrace your way back.

Easy Bonus: Lawala Valley Hike

Depending on whether you would like to have gentle walk into the valley of Phobjikha or a little more stimulating climb from Phobjikha valley, one can either start or end at Lawala Pass at 11, 000ft.

Starting from upper reaches of Phobjikha valley, from the village of Gela (at 9400ft), one can start off from a farmroad and go through the village. It is gentle climb going over mountain stream, crossing which one would be by the Gela Lhakhang/ temple. If one would like, then one can visit this temple which was built in the 13th century Buddhist master Longchenpa had a sanctuary.

From the temple, passing through farmlands, one would steadily climb over the farm road, which slowly disappears into ancient trail that people in the valley used to go over the pass of Lawala. As soon as one leaves village, one would enter into Rhododendron forests, which if in spring and summer, would be blooming. One would come across meadows, which has been used as pasture lands and camping grounds by semi nomadic yak herders. One would have to trasverse over some streams and dwarf bamboos that cover the valley towards the Lawala valley.

Near the pass, the vegetation gives way to the stunted bamboos. From the sloping meadow, one would be able to see classic natural example of mountain pass, as two gentle slopes comes together over which the road and the path passes over. This pass of Lawala is also marked by a stupa and numerous prayer flags.

Climbing up, in haste, one can finish do the hike in couple of hours and more leisure pace, one would take 3 hours or so. If one does it from the pass of Lawala climbing down, then it can be done within couple of hours. The footing can be tricky in some places where centuries old path has embedded into the ground like a waterway.

Hard Bonus: Chandana Hike from Thinleygang and end at Laptshakha

This is part of the trail that 500 monks would walk start of every summer from Punakha to Thimphu and from Thimphu to Punakha at start of every winter. Imagine lines of red robed monks interspersed with horses carrying provisions from other the other side of the hill as you look at this path from the roadside at Thinleygang.

Thinleygang is the village (now a truckers’ stop) that the monks halted on their hike from Punakha to Thimphu. It is from here that you can leave your vehicle and roadside to walk into wilderness, farmhouses and temples that surrounds this trail. You start from the Thinleygang temple, which every year hosts the Chief Abbot during their traditional move from the Summer residence in Thimphu to their winter residence in Punakha. Even though, the journey is now only couple of hours between the two towns, the Chief Abbot and symbolic number of monks stop for the night keeping to the tradition when the night is used to fall here.

From the temple, you walk down to the river of Toebi Rongchu, where you can visit the house where Bhutan’s favorite saint Drukpa Kuenlay (The Divine Mad-monk) lived for almost 8 years in the 15th century. There is temple dedicated to the Divine Madmonk, but more importantly inside the house you can see the steps carves out of single tree trunk which is from the 15th century. It is said that Divine Madmonk followed the arrow that he shot miraculously all the way from Tibet into Bhutan. The arrow landed on the steps of this house, starting his destiny with the lady of the house – the village beauty.

Leaving the house and paddy fields of the village, the gradual climb of couple of hours begin through pine forests. You may occasionally chance across the Gharals – kind of mountain goats. If you follow where the stream gushes down, you will look into the valley with rich paddy fields, idyllic villages and the small but fast white river flowing below with mountains across.

Then at the spur of the hill – the place called Laptshakha, you will be met by your vehicle. Next day, if you like you can continue on the trail, you will come to Punakha Dzong.

Mentions: Any of these hikes can be inserted in the above list and can hold own their own at any position: a) Big Buddha around – walk b) Chelela Ridgeline Hike; c) Pemacholing, Tang to Bumthang

Top 10 Attractions of Bhutan/ Top Things to do in Bhutan / Bhutan Must See Attractions

Taktsang – Tiger’s Nest
The legend of flying tigress carrying Guru Rimpoche from the pass of Tremo la to the narrow on the cliff ledge in Paro in the 8th century

The Bhutan’s most iconic site is perched 2000ft above valley floor of Paro, on sheer cliff side. It is believed that the great Buddhist master Guru Rimpoche (some believe him to be the second Buddha) meditated in the caves situated on sheer cliffside, 2000ft above the valley floor. Till 1998, at the final stretch of the 3 hour (not including the 2 hours to retrace back) hike to the temple, one had to cling to narrow ledges onto few scruffs and bushes to get to the temple. No wonder, no non nationals were allowed in. Now even the last stretch is wide with handholds all the way.

It is believed that Guru Rimpoche rode a flying tigress to reach the spot and meditate some say for 3 months and some say that he meditated for 8 months. Since then many luminaries, sages, saints and pilgrims have sought Guru’s essence here.

Big Buddha: Considered the largest statue of seated Buddha in the world, the Buddha Dordenma overlooks Thimphu – the capital city of Bhutan. It is double the height of Christ Reedemer in Brazil at 60m or 198ft. It includes 3 floors of large assembly halls in the throne and has 125000 smaller statues of Buddha inside the main Buddha. Facing east, this is best visited in the morning.

The road to the Buddha has many stops for the view of the sprawling capital city by the banks of Thim Chu River. The road attract people walking, joggers and lovers through out the day and night.

Big Guru Rimpoche
This the largest structure of eastern Bhutan and some consider the Guru Zilloen to be the largest statue of Guru in the world. Some say there are bigger one in Sikkim or Nepal. Whether it is the biggest or not, it is impressive as it overlooks rugged and deep Lhuentse valley. The hill with terraced rice paddies is one of the most beautiful landscapes of Bhutan.

After visiting Guru Rimpoche, while in Lhuentse, one can visit the weaving village of Khoma and Dzong built on dramatically on Cliffside

Punakha Dzong
Built by Zhabdrung – the statehood of Bhutan’s founder, right at confluence rivers of Mo Chu and Pho Chu, this majestic fortress is protected by the rivers on 3 sides. It was at height of Zhabdrung’s power in the 17th century that Punakha Dzong (1640) and has been the winter capital of Bhutan till the 1960s.

The Dzong is abound with stories and some illustrated on the murals of some of the assembly halls. The mural in one of the great assembly halls tell story of the historical Buddha. The hall epitomizes the best of all the thirteen traditional arts and crafts.

The temples in central tower (like the keep of medieval European castles) has number of temples dedicated to various deities. If you come in late winter, early Spring, you may see the central tower covered in “thongdrel” which is a giant appliqué work that covers the whole face of this six story building and shown only on the last day of the annual 3 day festival here.

Druk Wangyal Monuments (Dochula Lhakhang and Stupas)
The monuments are testament to love of a Queen for His Majesty the Great Fourth. Built to commemorate the victory of then the King and the Bhutanese military over the militants that threatened the security of Bhutan as they camped within Bhutan. They were Indian militants and were launching terrorists attacks on India from the Bhutanese soil.

The monuments include 108 stupas and a temple, all built atop of the mountain pass of Dochula at 3150m/10,000ft. On a clear day, one can see 200 km range of some of the highest peaks in the Himalayas, including the World’s highest unclimbed mountain – the Gangkar Puensum (7540m) which is the Bhutan’s highest peak.

Trashichodzong – the present capitol building of Bhutan, holds the offices of His Majesty the King of Bhutan and the Home Minister, along with the summer residence of the Chief Abbot of Bhutan and 500 monks that forms the Central Monk of Bhutan.

The Dzong is where the first legislative assembly took place. Still surrounded by the paddy fields, this 19th century building was extensively renovated in the 1965, when Thimphu was made the permanent capital of Bhutan

Paro Rimpung Dzong
Most probably the most photographed fortress/ Dzong of Bhutan, Paro Rimpung Dzong (translating to fortress on heap of jewels) is the most prominent structures as soon as one lands in Bhutan. It has all the classic layout and features of a fortress.

Situated by river for protection and supplies, the fortress has outer wall and inner wall surrounding the central tower known as ‘utse’ in Bhutan but elsewhere as the ‘keep’ These features are distinctly visible, if one views the Dzong from its watch tower behind. For centuries, it has commanded the trade route leading into Tibet – considered off-shoot of the silk route.

Kyichu Temple: To see double footprint in wood worn down into shape by bare feet that were prostrating to the one of the few statues of the historical Buddha in princely ornament is experiencing miracle. And it is not even in the Jambay Lhakhang

Trongsa Dzong; besides the historical significance of the Dzong of being where the monarchy in Bhutan rose to power, it is included in this list because of its strategic location. While all the dzongs have used the natural landscape to its fullest for defense, none is as dramatic as Trongsa Dzong. (to certain degree compared by Lhuentse and Wangdiphodrang Dzong to certain degree.

Kurjey Lhakhang: This temple complex surrounds the mark of miracle left by Guru Rimpoche in the 8th century. It is recounted that when Guru Rimpoche came to Bhutan for the first time in the 8th century, he had been invited to revive the ailing king Sindhu Raja. After curing the King and mediating between him and Noache (the lord who was feeding with Sindhu Raja), he meditated in this cave, where he left print of his body in the rocks. Since then pilgrims from all over have sought Guru’s essence here. The present main temple was built in mid 17th century, and two others were added in 20th and 21st (1958). Besides hearing about the legends and miracles of Guru Rimpoche, you can see the cave and spend some quite time meditating. Kurjey is in Bumthang, which has many more temples associated with Guru Rimpoches and his followers over the centuries.

TOP 10 BHUTANESE DISHES

MENGEY
This dish is not easy to find. It is often only the elders in the western Bhutan that makes this well and not many make it, at least not on daily basis. If you chance on an annual ceremony of a household, the chances are that it will be on the menu. It is a dish that is closest to a pizza that traditional Bhutanese dish can get. With mashed cooked rice for base, crusted at the bottom with butter over thick wide pan, it has topping of crushed Amarantha seeds along with radish, mustard and other Bhutanese spices.

Often people miss crusting the bottom – have them do it – it is added taste and charm to this grand dish.

EMA DATSHI (with rice)

Unofficially, this dish is called the national dish of Bhutan. The ‘ema’ (which is the chilly, often Jalapeños) is cooked as vegetable (not as spice) in cheese (‘datshi’) with some spices – mainly onion and tomato. The cheese can be cottage, homemade or cheddar (grated). Depending on the type of chilly and where it has been grown, this can be quite hot. And don’t take the Bhutanese pronouncement of heat to be final – the Bhutanese threshold is high.

This dish must be accompanied by cooked rice, not only because it will help you with the heat but also because of added taste.

SIKAM PAA

This is pork dish — like a bacon that has been dried in cold for months. The dried pork slices cut in the length of a hand span. It is first pressure cooked with radish and dried chillies. If you are not used to eating spicy, go easy at first. The longer it had been aged in cold – the better.

MOMO (dumplings with pork or cheese fillings)
The ‘momo’ is dumplings. The best tasting dumplings are with minced pork fillings and onions but there are vegetarian ones with cheese or vegetable fillings. It can sometimes have chicken and beef also. The Momo is a fast food of Bhutan and you can find this dish at almost every restaurant and get it delivered as well.

In most of the restaurants, the momo will be served with ‘soup’ which is like stew and with chilly paste.

HOENTEY
This is like a dumpling but not exactly the regular dumplings. The sweet buckwheat dumpling with dried turnip/radish green for filling along with butter or fat is a ‘hoentey’. This dish is quite specific to valleys of Haa and parts of Paro, and it is during the new lunar year that this mainly made. If you are eating authentic ‘hoentey’ it is certain that your host is from the high valley of Haa. The Haa Valley is also known for the delicacy of aged/fermented raw meat.

EZAY – WITH TREE TOMATO AND ROASTED JALAPENO
The term ‘ezay’ often denotes condiment but with chilly overriding other spices. It is equivalent of pesto or paste. The best of ‘ezay’ or the chilly paste is when whole dried jalapeño is roasted and then made into flakes. This flake is then further ground with roasted tree tomato and salt. Later, other spices, including onions and Sichuan pepper are added. It goes well with anything, particularly with rice.

JUMA – the traditional way
The ‘Juma’ is Bhutanese sausage but the filling is not only dough but with Sichuan pepper and chilly powder. It is cut in finger lengths and cooked in spices and vegetables.

GOEN HOGAY/ CHANGPA
This is cucumber slices with Bhutanese spices, often treated as snacks / condiments to go with drinks.
KHULEY
‘Khuley’ is simply flat buckwheat bread but often combined with variety of condiments including ezay mentioned above and with butter. The taste will vary depending on type of buckwheat, whether it is the sweet or coarse buckwheat.

RED RICE
While this is not really a dish, it has been added here because the main staple for Bhutan is rice and all other dish is simply considered a way to have people eat more rice. The red rice of Bhutan is quite unique to Bhutan and different from brown rice elsewhere. Originally found only in the valley of Punakha, it is considered to have more nutrients than other kind of rice and comes in variety of shades of red – not necessary red, often corresponding to the land situation. It is often whitish pink.

Bonus: not dish but a tea – the butter tea.
While this is not a dish but a tea, it is essential that you do not leave Bhutan without tasting this main traditional beverage of Bhutan. It is a taste that you have to acquire! The butter tea is called “suja” the term “suja’ means “churned tea” and not “butter tea” as often it is wrongly translated. It where boiled brick tea or wild tea is churned with butter and salt (sometimes baking soda and milk added). The tea becomes frothy. When you are tasting it, it is good to think it as a broth in order to have your taste bud prepare for the salty tea!

Covid Cases: Total: 37, 049 (as of 7 Apr 2022)  Deaths: 12 Hospitalization: 05/7909 active cases
Dominant Variant:Omicron BA.2
Vaccination Rate: 90% of total population
Protocol in effect: Masking mandatory, social distancing; limited public gatherings; hand washing, 7 days home quarantine after testing positive; certain entertainment centers closed; international border closed with restricted entries
Travel: 5 days of quarantine for full vaccinated and 10 days for partial or unvaccinated for entering Bhutan for any purposes, including tourism, whether by air or land
Ports of Entry:
  • India (Kolkata, Delhi, Bagdhora, Bodhgaya) open for international travel for those holding e-visa or long term paper visa by air & sea (not land with certificate of full vaccination and negative PCR test taken with 72 hours of arrival, along with self declaration form (there are state specific domestic travel requirements). (In effect from 14th Feb 2022)
  • Nepal (Kathmandu): Either with negative test or full vaccination certificate, all international travel by air allowed on-arrival visa without quarantine. Covid protocols enforced. Subject to test result and health condition, quarantine maybe imposed on individuals.(In effect from 10th March 2022)
  • Thailand (Bangkok): Test & go system: Fully vaccinated (14 days before travel) travelers from any country are allowed to enter Thailand without quarantine but would be required to go through pre-booked test with stay in designated hotel for the first 24 hours. If testing positive during the first 24 hours, subject to further 10 days quarantine in designated hotel. Partial or unvaccinated would have to undergo 05 days of mandatory quarantine in designated hotels or go through ‘sandbox’ programs (which is bubble travel at least for 5 days), provided the travelers are above 12 years of age. Insurance worth USD20,000 required for any kind of travel. (In effect from 1st April 2022)
  • Bangladesh (Dhaka): No quarantine required if fully vaccinated (14 days prior to arrival) or testing negative within 72 hours of arrival. 14 days quarantine applicable for partial or unvaccinated. Children below 12 exempt from vaccination requirements. Possible subjection to additional health screenings at the airport and corresponding to result, quarantine. (In effect from 8th March 2022)
  • Singapore (Singapore): Quarantine free entry to Singapore for fully vaccinated travelers with negative pre-departure test (RT-PCR or antigen). The children below 12 years of age exempted from testing and vaccination requirements. Partially or unvaccinated travelers (above 12 years) are not allowed with few exceptions given prior to travel, subject to negative pre-departure tests and 7 day quarantine upon arrival at pre-booked accommodation. Mask mandates, social distancing and mass gathering protocols applicable. (In effect from 1st April 2022)

Note: Please note that one’s country origin would have their own country specific requirements after having travelled to these places. There are exceptions to test and vaccination requirements to those below 5 years of age.

Economy & Jobs:More than 50,000 jobs related to tourism were directly affected by pandemic. Besides tourism, construction sector also hit by pandemic given high reliance on labour import and materials from india given border entry restrictions.
Covid Response Highlights: 
  • With His Majesty leading and government actively and efficiently carrying out the commands, all driven by science, there has been very effective responses to different stages of the pandemic.
  • It is testament to such responses that there were only 4 deaths and 400 cases till the beginning of the year 2022.
  • State run Reverse Isolation Facilities for vulnerable population during the current change in approach of living with the virus. Vaccination of all eligible ages.
  • Separate covid hospitals in various strategic regions with state run isolation facilities.
  • Flu clinics established to screen out possible infections before entering hospitals in all districts.
  • Dictation of different zones according to risks.
  • More than 50, 000 people affected by pandemic (mostly from tourism but also from other sectors) given access to welfare schemes (such as mostly wages), alternative engagements, re-skilling, up-skilling programs, etc.
  • Many businesses affected, mainly of tourism, given loan repayment deferments and other fiscal protection including additional loans with flexible schemes besides total waiver on some part of repayments.

Covid timeline for Bhutan:
11 Jan 2020: The planning for national strategy on covid response began and in 2 weeks, first draft of the national covid response plans were published.
02 Feb 2020: Publication of Covid response protocols, start of global covid surveillance – no cases detected in the country; health screenings procedures established at the entry with self declaration forms; training of frontliners; national preparedness and response avenues established
05 March 2020: First case of covid-19 detected in American tourist while in Bhutan
06 March 2020: Tourism suspended along with imposition of entry restrictions,
16 March 2020: first quarantine protocols placed with restrictions on entry except for returning Bhutanese subject to 21 days of quarantine.
14 April 2020: Establishment of national welfare scheme – relief monthly wages to be given directly to affected and laid off individuals, with provision for family supplements
19 May 2020: 21 cases (5 active then), 0 deaths
13 July 2020: 84 cases (mostly returning citizens detected while in quarantine), no deaths
07 Aug 2020: 108 total cases with 0 death
10th Aug 2020: 1st National Lockdown – lasting more than a month for most of the districts in the country – longer for some of the high risk zones
23rd Aug 2020: now new cases detected and gradual easing of lockdown continues
15 Sep 2020: by this date, 5 covid testing labs established (246 total cases, 0 deaths)
17 Dec 2020: The Prime Minister, Health Minister and the Health Ministry recognized by His Majesty the King with national awards for effective covid responses
19 Dec 2020: 443 total cases (21 active then) with 0 death
20 Dec 2020: 2nd national lockdown starts
01 Jan 2021: 689 total cases; 0 deaths (total tested 287162) – 2nd lockdown continues into the lockdown
07 Jan 2021: 1st covid death of a person with pre-existing condition
23 Jan 2021: Easing of the 2nd national lockdown begins
29 Jan 2021: 2nd lockdowns ends in all districts (858 total cases with 1 death)
22 March 2021: First vaccines (400, 000) arrive in the country as gift from India
27th March 2021: 1st Dose Covid Vaccination Campaign begins
08 April 2021: 94% of eligible population vaccinated with 1st dose – nearly 65% of all population; 900 total cases (24 active then) with 1 death
16 April 2021: Lockdown in southern districts – bordering India
18 Jun 2021: 87% percent of cases in the country confirmed to be delta variant
30 Jun 2021: 2100 total cases with 1 death
15 July 2021: 2nd death from covid (2380 total cases with 2 deaths)
17 July 2021: 2nd dose of covid vaccination for adults begins
24 Jul 2021: 2482 total cases with 2 deaths
27 Jul 2021: 90% of eligible population (18 and above) given 2nd dose of covid vaccines (moderna)
29 Jul 2021: 1st dose of modern vaccination for children between 12 – 18 years above started, from high risk zone and then by 02 Aug 2021, those children in low risk areas given.
11 Aug 2021: 3rd death from covid (2551 total cases)
13 Aug 2021: Lockdown declared in southern districts
26 Aug 2021: 2591 total cases with 3 deaths
03 Sep 2021: Lockdown in souther districts ends
13 Sep 2021: 2nd dose vaccination campaign for children aged 12 – 18 begins
14 Oct 2021: high risk groups of population including elders, infants, pregnant women, health workers and patients with underlying conditions given flu vaccine
04 Dec 2021: Genome sequencing capacity established in Royal Centre for Disease Control, Thimphu Capital City and noted that while Omicron variant have been detected elsewhere, there is no evidence of its presence in the country
24 Dec 2021: Booster shots – 3rd covid vaccination for adults begin
01 Jan 2022: 2660 total cases (7 active then) with 3 deaths
07 Jan 2022: Lockdown in southern district begins the wave of lockdown across the country
13 Jan 2022: The Royal Center for Disease Control registers Omicron variant in the country (through quarantine facilities)
18 Jan 2022: 3170 cases with 3 deaths
28 Jan 2022: 4th death from covid in total of 4430 cases (with 1646 active then)
03 Feb 2022: 5532 cases with 4 deaths
10 Feb 2022: 5th death in total of 6779 cases (2212 active then)
20 Feb 2022: 6th death in the total of 10, 078 cases (with 3617 active then)
01 Mar 2022: 3rd shot – booster for 18 years and above continued
05 Mar 2022: 7th death from covid registered in the total of 14451 cases
07 Mar 2022: The 1st dose for children aged 5 – 11 years start (Pfizer BioNTech) – total cases 15 119 then with 7 deaths
13 Mar 2022: Booster dose – 3rd covid vaccine for children between 12 – 18 years start (total cases of 17060 with 4083 active then with 3 severe infection)
17 Mar 2022: 8th and 9th death from covid total of 20, 116 cases
18 Mar 2022: Announcement of change in national response of covid, with travel relaxations  and by instituting reverse isolation policy, whereby vulnerable population would be isolated and protected while general population will have more free movement
27 Mar 2022: a 90 year old with underlying conditions – unvaccinated becomes 10th death
31 Mar 2022: a cancer patient becomes 11 death case due to covid – she had underlying conditions
01 Apr 2022: a stroke patients succumbs to covid becoming the 12th death case
04 April 2022: 2nd dose for children aged between 5 – 11 years begin
04 Apr 2022: New covid response strategy begins, international travel quarantine requirement reduced to 5 days for fully vaccinated and 10 days for partial or unvaccinated. (Total cases 31, 927 with 12 deaths)
07 Apr 2022: Total cases 37, 049 including 5 severe infections; 7904 with no symptoms; 12 deaths till date

The traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan is called the ‘Zorig Chusum’ – the thirteen traditional arts and crafts, which are