custom school group & youth adventure travel specialists

Bhoutan

  • Young monk, Bhutan&#160;-&#160;<i>Photo:&#160;Scott Pinnegar</i>

    The Himalayan region is a specialty of ours and we have extensive experience in dealing with Bhutan.

    The safety of our young travellers is our number one priority.

    Our commitment to provide a proper duty of care guides everything we do.

    We have an unblemished record in the operation of school & youth adventures.

    We will only operate tours in accordance with strict operational standards that have built our reputation as leaders in the student travel industry.

    Every tour is underpinned by an industry leading risk assessment plan that exceeds the benchmark standard in Australia, New Zealand, the UK as well as the USA and Canada.

    Three decades of tailoring successful student expeditions adds another dimension to the overall student experience.

    Our Price & Value Guarantee

    Thanks to careful management and thorough consultation with local partners our track record is exemplary.

    Our industry leading risk management procedures have become a skill that we continue to refine.

    All of our school group experts are highly trained and experienced consultants who have safety as their number one priority.

    Expert leaders, risk assessments, quality inclusions and your financial security all come standard when travelling with World Youth Adventures.

    Learn more about our safety practices on our Safety page.

    First camp site on the Chomolari trek, Bhutan&#160;-&#160;<i>Photo:&#160;Scott Pinnegar</i>

    World Youth Adventures is committed to responsible travel and true sustainability.

    The 10 Pieces iniative was launched by World Expeditions in the spring season of 2014 in Bhutan. When a section of trail has been identified as a ‘hotspot’ for rubbish collection we let our travellers know about it upon booking. Upon arrival at their destination the guide reminds them about the initiative and they have the option to participate. We provide them with a rubbish collection bag as well as a small sack to place their gloves in following the collection. On the trail when they reach the section that requires cleaning they’ll take a small amount of time to collect 10 pieces. Remembering that our individual effort collectively makes a big difference.

    Previously the mantra had been “take only photographs, leave only footprints”. But now we’ve extended it to “take only photographs and 10 pieces of litter, leave only footprints”.

    Well-defined environmental plans exist on every trip within this country.

    Learn more about our commitment, and view our free Responsible Travel Guidebook, on our Responsible Travel Page.

  • River runs through Paro valley, Bhutan&#160;-&#160;<i>Photo:&#160;Scott Pinnegar</i>

    Paro Valley: The Paro valley is truly beautiful, being a location for various farming activities, including commercial quantities of asparagus, strawberries and shitake mushrooms for export, plus various grain and vegetable crops. It is a patchwork of colours delineated by well kept traditional design farm houses that are ornately decorated. All of the slopes surrounding the valley are forested and the hint of mountains beyond is alluring. Simply driving through the willow lined streets is relaxing and uplifting – there is no clutter of people, or traffic or rubbish (plastic bags are banned).

    Thimpu: The Bhutanese capital is small in comparison to other world capital cities. It consists of the main Secretariat building, the Tashichho Dzong is the most prominent building consisting of the main Secretariat, the National Assembly Hall, the Office of the King and the Throne Room. Its remarkable construction is in traditional Bhutanese style completed without the use of nails or metal of any kind. There is a large Stupa dedicated to the late King HM. Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, regarded as the founder of modern day Bhutan. Then there is the Handicraft Emporium with famous weaving, woodcarvings and paintings and also the Post Office - Bhutan’s exquisite stamps are worldrenowned.

    Ngang Tang Valley: A great introductory trekking region. Walk through several villages with exceptional opportunities for contact with Bumthab rural life. The valley, which is wide and lush, is also known worldwide for its exquisite handicraft industry. Spectacular mountain scenery, remote and dramatic monasteries and pristine Himalayan culture are hallmarks of this unique region.

    Vibrant artwork in Bhutan&#160;-&#160;<i>Photo:&#160;Scott Pinnegar</i>

    Set on the eastern ridges of the mighty Himalayas, sandwiched between Tibet and India, Bhutan is an unforgettable travel destination. Dramatic scenery, winding mountain passes, snow-capped peaks, fluttering prayer flags and vibrant rhododendrons are the backdrop for a colourful culture steeped in religion and mythology. Influence from the west is surely seeping in with television stations, mobile phones and western convenience brands proliferating in urban areas, but the government is focused on strictly protecting Bhutan’s unique cultural and environmental heritage. Westernisation is evident, but policies are in place to prevent a landslide: the sale (and public smoking) of tobacco is illegal, plastic bags and advertising billboards are illegal, and Bhutan’s tourism industry is carefully regulated.

    It’s worth mentioning early on that independent travel does not exist in Bhutan as elsewhere in the world. Anyone can travel to Bhutan, there’s no cap on visitor numbers per se, and it’s possible to travel from solo traveler to large group, but only if all travel arrangements (flights, land transport, accommodation, trekking, tours, guides etc) are arranged and paid for in advance via a registered local or overseas travel agent. The government has set high daily minimum tourist spend tariffs making Bhutan an expensive destination, although the highly regulated industry means the provision of high quality and good value tourism services. Although you book and pay for your tariff in advance, there is still a high degree of flexibility to the kind of Bhutan experience you can enjoy.

    The ancient history of Bhutan is light on recorded facts but heavy on exciting mythology and folklore. Supernatural beings such as dragons, demons, angels, ghosts and shapeshifters are taught and accepted with reverence as part of the story of the birth of Bhutan. The record of early Bhutan consists of local folklore, a few reports from British explorers and what little written documentation (mainly religious scriptures) was spared from various destructive blazes and earthquakes over the centuries.

    Archaeological findings place human inhabitants—nomadic herders who moved between the higher pastures in summer, and lower valleys in winter—in Bhutan as early as 1500-2000 BC. Buddhism is thought to have been introduced to the area as early as the 2nd century, with the first Buddhist temple being built in the 7th century. The animistic Bon religion was also brought to the area around the 6th century, and is still practiced in Bhutan. Bhutanese folklore recounts how Buddhism spread through Bhutan as follows: the great teacher Guru Rinpoche (Precious Master) was summoned in 726 AD, to exorcise a powerful demon possessing the king of the Bhutanese kingdom of Bumthang. Using powerful magic, Guru Rinpoche was successful in capturing the demon and converting it, along with the king and his rival, to Buddhism, restoring peace to the country.

    Bhutan was without a national ruling power between the 9th and 17th centuries, during which time many different ruling clans and family dynasties emerged, and used these centuries to fight over land amongst each other and against neighbouring Tibet. During this time, a great number of Tibetan Buddhists arrived in Bhutan fleeing religious persecution. One such person was the Tibetan Buddhist lama Ngawang Namgyal (later given the honorific title Zhabdrung or Shabdrung), who fled Tibet in 1616 to Bhutan and is credited with spreading the teachings of Buddhism throughout the country, rallying its independent states together into one nation and encouraging the development of a distinct Bhutanese culture separate from that of Tibet. After successfully thwarting many invasions from Tibet, the Zhabdrung’s supreme power was cemented. During his reign, the Zhabdrung was responsible for the construction of many dzongs (fortresses) and monasteries, many of which still stand today, and for introducing systems of administration, laws, taxes, traditions, customs, ceremonies and even Bhutan’s national dress code. From the late 18th cen

  • Bhutan is a predominantly (and officially) Buddhist country (75%), with the remainder practicing Indian- and Nepalese-influenced Hinduism.

    In addition to Buddhism and Hinduism, there are tiny Christian and Muslim populations, however, proselytising is illegal.

    Bhutan’s population is comprised of three major ethnic groups: the Bhutia, the Nepalese (including the Llotsampas) and the Sharchop

    The Bhutia, whose ancestors came to Bhutan from Tibet in the 9th century, account for around half the population and dominate northern, central and western Bhutan (and in Bhutanese politics). Among other languages, the Bhutia speak Dzongkha, Bhutan’s official language. The religion, language, customs, culture and traditional clothing of the Bhutia are prescribed as the “official” cultural identity of Bhutan.

    Sharchop is a group term for the ethnically diverse descendants of indigenous, pre-Tibetan Bhutanese people, who occupy the eastern sections of the country.

    The Bhutia and the Sharchop are closely linked due to their common practice of Tibetan Buddhism, however the Sharchop are still fairly influenced by the traditions and beliefs of the pre-Buddhist Bon religion.

    The Nepalese peoples of Bhutan are an ethnically diverse group dominating the south and southwest of the country, with cultural alignment with Nepal and India, including religion (Hindu), language (Nepali), food, culture and customs.

    Men and women enjoy basically equal legal status, although inheritance and landownership laws are favourable to women. Tasks such as child-rearing, cooking, running of the home, farming and animal husbandry are generally shared evenly between men and women, with only very few tasks being considered traditional ‘male’ or ‘female’ roles. Women are considered head of the household in many families, especially in the Bumthang region.

    All aspects of Bhutanese cultural identity: customs, traditions, language, etiquette, clothing and appearance, are dictated and enforced by the Bhutanese government’s comprehensive driglam namza policy of cultural preservation, a system which has ostracized the country’s ethnic minority populations.

    By global standards, Bhutan is a sparsely populated country. Approximately one third of Bhutan’s population lives in urban centres, with the bulk of Bhutanese living in small rural villages.

    The difficulties posed by Bhutan’s rugged topography, dense forests and inhospitable conditions in many areas of the country have concentrated most of the population to the southwest near the Indian border, and the fertile central and western valleys of the Lesser Himalaya.

    If you want to take photographs of people you should always seek permission first. Photography is forbidden inside temples.

    The usual Asian rules of courtesy apply in Bhutan: dressing modestly, refraining from public displays of affection and showing respect for the monarchy and government.

    Always ask permission before entering a temple. It is also necessary to remove your hat and shoes before entering a temple (the same rule should apply when entering someone’s home).

    Never touch anyone one the crown of the head (including small children) as this is considered the most important part of one’s body

    Never use your finger to point at anyone (or at a picture or sculpture of a deity). Instead, use an outstretched hand with the palm facing up. Also, never point at someone (or at a picture or sculpture of a deity) using your feet.

    While the chewing of doma is a common Bhutanese vice, the sale of tobacco, and smoking in public, are illegal in Bhutan.

    It is extremely offensive to throw rubbish into any cooking fire.

    If you are invited into a Bhutanese home it is appropriate to bring a small gift such as small box of sweets, nuts or similar from your home country.

    Begging is a harsh reality of life but it is something that most local people believe should not be encouraged, especially by Westerners who do not understand the occasions when it is appropriate. Giving money to street beggars should always be avoided. Handing out pens, balloons and sweets to children in the villages only decreases their respect for us and is discouraged. Tourists, albeit with the best of intentions, have created this situation.

    Last but not least, remember that in Bhutan punctuality has little meaning and patience and a sense of humour are great assets. Leave your watch at home and take things as they come! Once you have become accustomed to the slower pace of life (especially the mountains), you are likely to reassess your frantic Western schedule.

    Bhutan is a deeply religious country, and its calendar is bursting with festivals and celebrations. The heart of the Bhutanese cultural calendar is its many annual tsechu, the colourful religious festivals in which Bhutanese history and mythology is performed via masked dances. With multiple days of dances, markets and celebrations, each regional tsechu is a major social event for locals, and a major attraction for visitors.

    The springtime Paro tsechu takes place in March/April and it undoubtedly the most popular tsechu of the year, and as such is swarming with larger tourist groups.

    The second-most popular is the autumn Thimpu tsechu, which takes place in September/October. Also taking place in the beautiful autumn weather (and therefore very popular with visitor groups) is the Wangdue Phodrang tsechu and the Jampey Lhakhang drup.

    The pretty village of Ura in Bumthang is home to the popular Ura yakchoe festival each May.

    Each February/March sees the popular 5-day Punakha domchoe (or dromchoe) in the Punakha region of western Bhutan, which is unusual in its elaborate reenactment of a 17th century battle scene. You can, however, still expect the usual fanfare of singing and masked and costumed dances.

    Kurjey and Nimalung also host tsechu in the far less busy rainy season of July/August.

    Bhutanese New Year, called Losar, generally falls in February/March, and is the most important holiday in Bhutan, Tibet and Nepal. Celebrations begin on the first day of the first lunar month of the new year, and last for a fortnight, with festivities concentrated in the first three days.

    Dashain, which falls on 6 October, is the main Hindu holiday celebrated by Bhutan’s Nepalese population.

    The many national public holidays include Traditional Day of Offering (Jan/Feb), Birthday of the king (21-23 Feb), Anniversary of the death of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (Apr/May), Parinirvana of Bhuddha (15 Jun), Birthday of Guru Rinpoche (10 Jul), Blessed Rainy Day (Sep), Winter Solstice (Dec) and Bhutan National Day (17 Dec).

    Total population is 725,296; Bhutan being the 166th most populous country in the world, growing at a rate of 1.15%.

    The median age is 25.7 years; with 27.8% aged 0-14 and 5.9% aged 65+.

    Sex ratio is 1.1 males to 1 female.

    The urban population is 35.6% (2011), with average annual rate of urbanization at 3.65%.

    Bhutia (50%); ethnic Nepalese (35% - including Lhotsampas); various indigenous and migrant tribes (15%).

  • Beautiful spa at the Kyichu Resort in Paro&#160;-&#160;<i>Photo:&#160;Scott Pinnegar</i>

    Bhutan has an extremely diverse climate profile for a country of its size, owing to both its highly varied altitude and the influence of the north Indian monsoons.

    The country can be divided into three broad physiographic zones: the cold alpine peaks and tundra of the Great Himalayas to the north; the temperate mountain valleys of Lesser Himalayas region in central Bhutan; and the subtropical foothills and floodplains of the Duars Plain in the south.

    The capital of Thimphu, in central-west Bhutan, is the only place in Bhutan to experience temperature conditions. Winter temperatures in Thimphu usually range between 2°C (35°F) and 12°C (53°F) in January. In July, summer temperatures range from 13°C (55°F) to 19°C (66°F). The north of the country experiences extreme cold and generally dry conditions, and the south, extreme heat and significant rainfall.

    Bhutan, like eastern Nepal, comes under the influence of the Indian monsoon from late May to mid-September and Bhutan receives more rain during the monsoon than other Himalayan regions (up to 5.5 metres a year).

    The ideal time to visit Bhutan is either pre-monsoon from mid-March when the winter snow has begun to melt off the high passes, until the end of May; or post-monsoon, from October to mid-November.

    Temperatures can vary considerably depending on your elevation but as a guideline, temperatures in Thimphu in April/May and October range from around 5°C (41°F) to around 25°C (77°F).

    China (Tibet Autonomous Region) to the north; India to the east, south and west.

    38,394 sq km (14,824 square miles) / (137th largest country in the world), divided into 20 administrative districts.

    Views across to Taktsang Monastery or 'Eagle's Nest' in Bhutan&#160;-&#160;<i>Photo:&#160;Liz Light</i>

    Environmental issues include soil erosion, limited arable land and limited access to potable water.

    Natural hazards include violent storms, flooding and landslides during the rainy season.

    Bhutan is a signatory to various international environmental and conservation agreements.

    Bhutan has 8 cultural sites and natural environments currently on the tentative list for inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage list, including dzongs/monasteries, ancient ruins, and the Bumdeling, Sakteng, Royal Manas and Jigme Dorji National Parks.

    About two-thirds of Bhutan is forested and as such, timber and paper pulp production have emerged as important components of the economy. Bhutan’s forests are teeming with diverse plant life, flowers, wild animals, birds and insects.

    The hot and humid Duars Plain receives abundant rainfall and is densely forested. The northern section of the Duars, at the foothills of the Lesser Himalayas, is covered with semitropical forest and undergrowth. The southern section of the Duars is covered by bamboo jungle and sections of savanna grassland. The tall, dense grasses of the lower elevations are used in commercial paper pulp production, and the semitropical forests of the south are home to a huge array of wildlife.

    The slopes of the central Lesser Himalayas are dominated by pine and oak forests. The Great Himalayas produce magnificent mixed forests of pine, oak, fir, cypress, ash, spruce, juniper, poplar and willow, and magnolia and rhododendron blooms. Alpine shrubs and grasses grow on the higher slopes of the Great Himalayas.

    Most small Bhutanese farms are extensively terraced to increase cropping land on the country’s hilly slopes. Common domestic crops include corn (maize), potatoes, rice, spices, apples and citrus. Most common domestic livestock are cattle, pigs and horses.

    Bhutan is home to a wide variety of exotic wildlife, including elephants, tigers, rhinoceroses, deer, wild oxen and many other species.

    Of particular interest to visitors to Bhutan are the country’s spectacular rhododendron flowers, which bloom from April to July. Alongside the colourful rhododendrons bloom many varieties of orchid, poppy and other flowers.

    Bhutan is a country of relatively small size but great geographic diversity and beauty. Located on the southern slopes of the eastern Himalayas, Bhutan is landlocked between Tibet to the north and India to the east, west and south.

    The country can be divided into three broad regions: the Great Himalayas, the Lesser Himalayas and the Duars Plain. The country is almost entirely mountainous, with some particularly rugged topography. Peaks range in elevation from less than 100 metres (328 feet) to over 7,500 metres (24,600 feet). The balance of the country is made up of fertile, forested valleys and some savanna grassland.

    Northern Bhutan is home to the Great Himalayas, with the region’s perpetually snowcapped peaks reaching elevations above 7,300 metres (24,000 feet). The great northern glaciers have carved high valleys in the region that sit as high as 5,500 metres (18,000 feet).

    Bhutan’s highest peak, Gangkhar Puensum, remains the world’s highest unclimbed peak, sitting at 7,570 metres (24,840 feet). Many other high peaks in Bhutan remain unclimbed (some unnamed even) due to the isolation and lack of access to the rugged Bhutanese Himalaya.

    Bhutan’s valleys have been carved out by rivers fed by monsoon rains and glacial melt. The valleys of the central / Lesser Himalayan region are the most populated and cultivated.

    The Duars Plain is a narrow belt running along the southern border of Bhutan, hot and humid and dense with semitropical forest. The foothills of the Duars rise abruptly to ranges that provide the strategic mountain passes (which give the Duars “Doors” Plain its name) leading to the fertile Lesser Himalayan valleys.

    Bhutan’s Great Himalaya region contains many rivers that flow southward to join India’s Brahmaputra River, including the Tosa, Wong, Sankosh and Manas rivers.

    Ancient Ruin of Drukgyel Dzong

    Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary

    Dzongs: the centre of temporal and religious authorities (Punakha Dzong, Wangdue Phodrang Dzong, Paro Dzong, Trongsa Dzong and Dagana Dzong)

    Jigme Dorji National Park

    Royal Manas National Park

    Sacred Sites associated with Phajo Drugom Zhigpo and his descendants

    Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary

    Tamzhing Monastery

  • World Youth Adventures can tailor make a school expedition to Bhutan to your school’s budget and curriculum requirements.

    Talk to us about your next school expedition, or if you need some ideas check out the trips below.


  • Capital City:  Thimphu
    Time zone:  Bhutan is six hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT)
    Language:  Dzongkha (official)
    Currency:  Ngultrum (Divided into chetrums)
    Highest Mountain:  Gangkhar Puensum
    Highest Mountain Elevation:  7,570 metres (24,840 feet)
    Bisected diagonally from bottom left corner to top right corner, dividing flag into two large triangles (top/left is yellow, signifying ruling dynasty; bottom/right is orange, signifying Buddhism). In centre is large white dragon, called the Druk (thunder dragon), with white signifying purity and the jewels in the dragon’s claws signifying wealth.