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Bhutan is a country in the Himalayas between the Tibet Autonomous Region of China and India. Besides the stunning natural scenery, the enduring image of the country for most visitors is the strong sense of culture and tradition that binds the kingdom and clearly distinguishes it from its larger neighbors.
Bhutan is often divided into three regions. The first is the Himalayan region in the north that consists of many mountain peaks reaching over 24,000 ft (7,351 m). The second region is central uplands on the slopes and valleys of the Himalayas. This region is divided by several large rivers; while the third is the Duars Plain that opens out toward India from the Himalayan foothills.
Bhutan’s climate varies with these regions. The southern plains for instance feature a tropical climate while the uplands have cool winters and hot summers, and the northern mountains have extremely cold winters and cool summers. Thimpu, Bhutan’s capital, is located in the central part of the country has an average January low of 27°F (-2.6°C) and an August high of 77°F (25°C).
Dzongkha is the national language. In major town English is widely spoken. Others languages are Nepali, Bumthap, Sharchop and Hindi.
Bhutan is the only country in the world that practices the religion of tantric form of Mahayana Duddhism today.
Culture and Festivals
Bhutan has a rich tradition and culture, which is well preserved and practiced in the same way as they were done for thousands of years. Dance, music, song and drama are an integral part of religious ceremonies and festivals. They play a significant role in the lives of the people as it offers an opportunity to become immersed in the meaning of the religion and to accumulate much merit. The festivals celebrate the faith, legends, myths and history of Bhutan and are important religious and social gatherings.
The annual festival is called ‘Tshechu’. It is one of the most exciting experiences that the visitor can have in Bhutan. It is celebrated in honour of Guru Padmasambhava who visited Bhutan in 7th century.
During the Tshechu, the monks and laymen perform mask dances and the religious skits. It is also the time for the people to socialize and rejoice. Men, women and children are attired in their best silk and brocade, and intricately woven colourful ghos and kiras.
In some festivals you can witness the unveiling of a “thongdrel,” (a giant appliquéd thangka) that is hung from a wall in the Dzong’s courtyard. Punakha Dzong has the largest thongdrel in Bhutan.
Bhutan’s unit of currency is called Nglutrum (NU.). An ngultrum has the same value as the Indian rupee, which is also legal tender. Tourist can exchange traveler’s cheques or cash at the Bank of Bhutan in Thimphu or at their hotels. American dollars, pound sterling, Swiss francs, Euro, Hong Kong dollars or Japanese yen are the other currencies, which are accepted. A few shops and travel agencies in Thimphu accept credit cards. Personal cheques are not accepted anywhere.
Everybody except citizens of India and Bangladesh must apply for a visa at least 30 days in advance of their proposed date of entry into Bhutan. There is no issuing of Visa on arrival. The local travel operator processes the visa on behalf of the guests.