Bhutan isn’t, yet, the most traveled destination. However, recent trends indicate that this Himilayan paradise has growing popularity. Soon it will become the new adventure zone for worldwide travelers. There are many things that make Bhutan a wonderful place to visit, not excluding its unique, deeply ingrained culture and breathtaking sceneries. We encourage Wild Frontiers travelers to spend Christmas in Bhutan.
Christmas Holiday in Bhutan
Residents of Bhutan celebrate Christmas with great enthusiasm.
Trekkers often find this season the best to explore this area of the globe. For one, most major cities and metro areas are adorned with lights and decor celebrating the religious holiday. Further, Christmas cheer is spread through neighbors and inhabitants of all religions, making the environment inviting and, certainly, merry.
Here is a simple list of what to expect during this wonderful holiday season:
- Events celebrating unity and love are hosted throughout the country
- Winter is a low season for travelers, which means more to do with less crowds
- Offered discounts for lodging due to slow season
It’s important to note that the Bhutanese government is reserved with foreign visitors entering their country. In order to preserve their most sacred spaces, traveling to and from is very limited. Working with a tour company like Wild Frontiers can ensure accommodations and bookings.
We meet in Delhi: nine travellers arrive from different countries and of various ages and professions, all with the common desire to experience Bhutan. For me a long-held interest in Buddhist culture and love of remote mountainous terrain has led to a yearning to come here – but will it live up to expectations?
Travelling & Experiencing Bhutan
From the flight on the national carrier Druk Air, with inspiring views of the Himalayas including Everest, and an exhilarating steep approach onto the airstrip at Paro Airport, nestling between the surrounding peaks, I am mesmerised.
We drive through hamlets of traditional Bhutanese three storey houses, beautifully constructed from wood and painted with traditional emblems including outsize phalluses.
Tradition of Bhutan
Our first full day in the capital, Thimbu, starts with a visit to the huge seated Buddha that overlooks the valley. Our local guide Sonam explains some basic tenets and iconography of Buddhism. The vast area in front of this Buddha has recently hosted forty thousand worshippers in the three months taken for the 108 holy books to be recited by religious leaders.
Next, we joined local people in circumambulating the Memorial Chorten which commemorates the Third King of Bhutan. Senior citizens often come here to pray, getting exercise and socialising at the same time. They dress traditionally in locally woven material – a knee-length tunic, or Gho, for men, and a floor-length dress, Kira, for women. With the help of Sonam, we chat with some of them, big smiles all round!
Culture in Bhutan
A coffee stop by the main post office gives a chance to buy beautiful Bhutanese stamps. You can also get stamps made sporting your own photo which is taken against a backdrop of the famous Tiger's Nest Monastery.
We visit the Takin Reserve to spot the curious national animal that appears half-goat, half cow. After sampling Bhutanese cuisine for lunch, we start to learn about traditional Bhutanese home life, including butter tea, Ara (a rice-based alcohol), cooking and farming methods. We see some typical dancing before trying archery ourselves.
At a weaving factory we see exquisite examples of Bhutanese weaving for Gho and Kira. These can cost hundreds of pounds (although machine-made ones can be as little as twenty dollars). More affordable souvenirs were on offer at the paper factory where we saw the whole process for making Bhutanese paper from Daphne bark.
For those still with energy, we finish the day with a walk around the main shopping streets of Thimpu, buying yak wool scarves, prayer flags and incense for the journey ahead.