Land of the Thunder Dragon
A remote and tiny kingdom that strictly controls entry of its foreign visitors, Bhutan is one of the last ‘untouched’ cultures in the world. Hidden behind the Himalayas, the Bhutanese people wear national dress and build their houses in traditional style, and every small town is dominated by an enormous fortressed monastery or ‘dzong’. The Taktsang Monastery, perched on a cliff high above Paro, is truly breathtaking, as are dramatic views of Himalayan peaks in all directions. Trekking here is superb, with empty trails used mostly by local monks and herders. Most surprising is the sheer amount of woodland — thick rhododendron forests, lichen-clad and carpeted with flowers in spring form a memorable part of any trek.
Spring and autumn herald the arrival of the Tsechu (Buddhist festival) season in Bhutan with those in Thimphu and Paro being among the most important. Held at each dzong, the Tsechu celebrations are dominated by a carnival atmosphere. Families dressed in their finery picnic among stalls and monks attired in colourful robes and hideous masks act out plays, while masked dancers whirl to the accompaniment of horns, drums and cymbals.
Our travel experiences extend across the breadth of the country, so we can impart our first-hand knowledge of the less-visited eastern regions. We specialise in mapping out exciting itineraries to combine Bhutan with India, especially Sikkim, to provide superb contrasts in one memorable trip.
Fiona’s travel tips
FESTIVALS: Festival dates vary according to the lunar calendar, so all itineraries will be individually crafted.
MOST MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE: Having to abandon my vehicle due to a landslide and walk 10 very wet, dark kilometres through rainforest with only fireflies to guide the way.
TOP TIP: The interior of Bhutan’s monasteries are officially closed to foreigners. Combine Bhutan with Sikkim, where the monasteries are open to all, for an all-round appreciation.
DZONG DATA:Punakha Dzong was built in 1637 and was the scene of the coronation of the first King of Bhutan in 1907. Built in 1692 on a cliff in the upper Paro Valley, Taktsang Dzong is also known as the Tiger’s Nest Monastery.
JOURNEY TIME: 9 hours direct + 3 hours indirect
“The bespoke trip that Far Frontiers Travel organised for us was truly amazing. We travelled the length of Bhutan – ‘The Land of the Thunder Dragon’ - a real eye opener of a trip seeing a Himalayan country that was just on the verge of coming into the 21st Century from an almost Medieval lifestyle, after years of isolation from the rest of the world. We enjoyed a well-planned and organised trip and will never forget a fantastic holiday and experience.”Mr and Mrs Andrew Gale, Bhutan
“Eye-opening, exciting, enlightening, challenging, wonderful! A real adventure for the two of us, with some unexpected extras thrown in, like meeting the King and Queen of Bhutan! Everything worked like clockwork. All the right people were there at the right time to meet us, move us on, or take us somewhere - a great relief in strange countries.”Mr and Mrs Richard Watson, Bhutan and India
“My visit ended with a three day trek through the Gangtey Valley and time to reflect on my return to this wonderful country and its friendly open people, all made possible through Fiona and Far Frontiers Travel. Bhutan is truly magical and to anyone planning to go I would say, do it.”
Ian Stubbs, Nepal and BhutanPeter Fleming, Bayonets to Lhasa
“Fiona could not have been more helpful. Her knowledge and advice about Bhutan was invaluable in the planning of my trip and her perseverance with the Tibet situation was much appreciated.”
Sybil Johnson, Bhutan