Photo Credit: Goran Hoglund

Bhutan’s culture and traditions are alive and thriving due to the country’s deliberately low exposure to the modern world and the demands of Western-style tourism. Although traveler numbers are now unrestricted, the cost of visiting is kept artificially high, bringing only those visitors really fascinated by its ancient ways and ethnic delights. Set tours with fixed itineraries are offered by a regulated number of companies, making the decision of what to see and do much easier, and everything is included in the overall daily charge.

The above may sound restrictive, but given the diverse range of things to do in Bhutan and sites to see, is a convenient way to focus on particular favorites. The Buddhist temples and monasteries, many of which teeter on the rocky shelves of sheer cliffs, are an explorer’s dream, and the historic fortresses tell of long-ago battles with the Tibetans. Trekking, cycling, and hiking demand a degree of good health, and activities in the high country aren’t for the faint-hearted or those with a tendency towards altitude sickness or vertigo.

The Glimpse of Bhutan tour offered by Jachung Travel introduces visitors to premier sites of religious and historic importance, and areas of natural beauty and ecological interest, as well as giving an overview of the life and culture of the country. Highlights include Paro’s Drugyal Dzong fortress, the National Museum, temples, monasteries and Thimphu’s main sights, the National Library with its ancient Buddhist manuscripts, traditional markets, the high Himalayan passes, and much more. This tour operator also offers bus trips, trekking, camping, and cycling tours.

The Bhutan Textile and Master Weavers Workshop and Gomkoro Festival Tour is a once–a-year opportunity in March to learn Bhutan’s ancient weaving practices, taking in every process from the spinning, dyeing, loom and weaving techniques appropriate for sheep and yak wool. The heartland of the country’s textile industry is visited, taking in weaving villages and religious highlights. The 16-day experience culminates in the unique and famous Gomkoro Festival. This tour can be taken with Exotic Bootan.

The Ura Festival Cultural Tour is another of Exotic Bootan’s offerings, taking place in April and centering in the holy Ura Valley. Cultural hikes to remote temples and monasteries, and trips to local markets and remote villages are featured, and the festival is one of the tour’s two major highlights. Here, visitors will see ceremonies of purification and blessing, ritual dances, swordplay, and folk dances. The second highlight is a daytrip to Haa Valley on the Tibetan border, forbidden to visitors until 2011 and known as the lost Shangri-la.

Adventure trips in Bhutan include cross-country mountain biking, white-water rafting, and cycling tours around the most famous regions and their iconic sights. Ranging from nine to 20 days in length, the trips demand physical fitness and mental alertness and can be arranged through Bhutan Majestic Travel. The same company also provides trekking tours such as the Dagala Thousand Lakes Trek, the Samtengang Winter Trek, the Bumthang Cultural Trek and the challenging three-week Lunana Wild Snowman Trek. The company offers guides trained to deal with the early signs of altitude sickness, which requires careful monitoring and an immediate return to a lower elevation common in mountainous regions.

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