Bhutan, the only seat of Vajrayana Buddhism in the world is a serene and immensely scenic region nestled in the lap of nature. A paradise for nature lovers as well as history and culture enthusiasts and followers of Buddhism, the country is dotted with monasteries, Dzongs, and temples, beautiful lush valleys, contemporary cities with modern amenities and the infrastructure for adventure activities as well as leisure/relaxation.
This quaint heavenly getaway from the otherwise hostile, busy and strife filled developed regions of the world still remains elusive as tourism in this country is restricted. The number of travelers allowed to visit the country is limited as the government is focused on the preserving the natural environment and rich culture of the land, rather than generate review by promoting tourism.
Travel to Bhutan – Things to Note
A visit to Bhutan is by no means a breeze. Here are few important things to know before you make your travel plans. Visitors from India, Bangladesh and Maldives enjoy select privileges when travelling to Bhutan.
Travelers from other parts of the world will have to:
- have a Bhutan Visa when they land here
- sign up with a tour operator authorized by Bhutan Tourism Council (BTC)
- pay a minimum daily tariff for the entire duration of stay
- carry passports (6 months validity), identity proofs and confirmed air tickets
These restrictions do not however apply to citizens of India, Maldives and Bangladesh. The best possible option for Indian travelers is to sign up for Bhutan tour packages offered by reputed tour operators, not necessarily approved by the BTC. However it is not mandatory.
Independent travel is possible, but you will have to take care of all arrangements right from meals and accommodation to itinerary and transport.
The tourism infrastructure in Bhutan is generally upscale and does not really encourage backpackers or visitors looking to explore this paradise on a shoe-string budget. Bhutan promotes high-value and low impact tourism, directing a portion of the revenues earned to support state-funded initiatives like free-health and education for its people.
Why Bhutan Attracts Solo Travelers?
Despite minimum facilities for solo travel /backpacking, Bhutan is a haven for those who seek a solitary retreat for the richness of the land needs to be felt in earnest. It is still possible to backpack through Bhutan with a travel permit provided you have confirmed hotel bookings and a solid itinerary charted out. You can always share accommodation or transport with fellow tourists to keep costs affordable.Irrespective of whether you choose to travel alone or don’t have a choice but to travel alone, visiting Bhutan can be rewarding personal experience.
Several travel companies offer Bhutan tour packages, which in fact prove a boon for female travelers who wish to visit Bhutan. Female solo travel is not encouraged, despite the destination being quite safe. Exploring the place with a female tour guide is a better option.
Short term travel permits of 7/14 days allows visitors access to three tourist destinations -Thimphu, Punakha and Paro each unique in its own way. Capital Thimphu is lively and has all contemporary facilities, Punakha is famous more natural settings, its Dzong (The Palace of Bliss) with archives and a sacred relic as well,while Paro is a laid back town dotted with Dzongs, scenic rivers and ample scope for treks, hikes and river rafting. The border town of Phuentsholing is open to all travelers and offers a sneak peak of what tourists can expect on their Bhutan tour!
Here are some local features that draw solo travelers to this destination:
Serene Temples and Intriguing Dzongs
Several houses of prayers – temples, monasteries and fortresses (Dzongs) with their mystical yet highly spiritual settings prove ideal places for meditation, self-inquiry or even interaction with your favorite god. These vast spaces of cultural and architectural interest/significance are usually undisturbed with at times literally no one else in the place except for you! Places such as the Tiger’s Nest, Karbandi Monastery, Taktsang Monastery, ZangthoPelri Lhakhang, Simtokha Dzong,Tashichho Dzong and others such as Dzong in Punakha valley simply take your breath away.
Clean Scenic Landscape
The environment is invitingly clean and refreshing, with nothing really touristy about the place at all. Even if it is for a limited time, you are a part of this carbon negative region where carbon dioxide is being used up instead of being released into the atmosphere. Extremely stunning terrain, minus the crowds that usually throng holiday destinations and minimum distractions, Bhutan is a cozy comfortable den for the tired soul!
The usual amusement, entertainment, activities galore typical of holiday destinations is non-existentwith the exception of relatively contemporary cities such Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan. Instead cultural events and festivities add a dash of color and liveliness to this otherwise calm setting. People clad in traditional clothing or monks performing traditional dances to folk music during the Tsechus (masked dance events) are a visual treat. These dance festivals are also known to protect people from evil-spirits.
Magic of Mythology
If you believe in mythology, flying tigers and dragons or immensely powerful and seemingly mad mortals who can obliterate enemies using a phallus, the influence of Tantric rituals to achieve intended results, then the land of the Dragon King will appeal to you. Make sure not to get carried away as you will be traveling alone.
There are host of different activities that you can indulge in to boost your spirit and probably rediscover yourself when travelling alone in Bhutan. Solo travelers get to spend a lot of time by themselves as they get to experience the local Buddhist ways of life, ancient healing, mediation and relaxation techniques, help out with traditional methods of farming/ construction, go on long scenic treks/hikes, enjoy outdoor camping, ride a bicycle or bike through the terrain, or even go river rafting to spike their adrenaline levels.
Though travelling solo, it is important to note that single travelers and backpackers are never alone. Homestays with locals or teaming up with other travelers – you are less likely to be homesick. With a tour guide constantly in tow, you are always in good company in a relatively safe country!