Approximately the size of Switzerland, the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan issues around 10,000 visas a year, and is miraculously unspoiled. Traditional clothes are compulsory for the inhabitants; new buildings are constructed in an indigenous style; and nearly all of the country’s 2.3 million people are engaged in agriculture. Everywhere, the influence of Tibetan Buddhism makes itself apparent: brightly colored prayer flags flutter in the breeze; and the golden-roofed fortified monasteries (“dzongs”) dominate the idyllic scenery. The roads are narrow and winding, but drives are consistently colorful and endlessly fascinating.
WHEN TO GO: Bhutan’s climate is greatly determined by elevation. Spring and fall are generally warm and sunny. The monsoon from June-September brings heavy rain, as well as the epic thunderstorms that have given the country its name of “Druk Yul,” or “Land of the Thunder Dragon.” Winter months can be cold.
CURRENCY: Ngultrum (BTN). Fluctuating rate valued at BTN45.31 = US$1.00 as of January 2012. Note: Our suggested hotel quotes rates in US$.
U.S. EMBASSY: There is no embassy or consulate. Please contact New Delhi, India, Tel. (91) 11-2419-8000.
DIRECT DIAL CODES: To phone hotels in Bhutan, dial 011 (international access) + 975 (Bhutan code) + local numbers in listings.
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: Valid passport and visa. Individual travel is not permitted; all visitors must be registered with an authorized tour operator in Bhutan. Visit travel.state.gov, and for travelers’ health information, cdc.gov
Five stylish lodges (including the Bumthang lodge) in carefully chosen locations a few hours’ drive apart, known collectively as “Amankora” (the Bhutanese word kora means “circular pilgrimage”).