Off the Beaten Path Tips from the road...for independent and adventurous budget travellers

Off the Beaten Path: Bhutan

BHUTAN | Monday, 26 July 2010 | Views [2145]

Bhutan remains a destination for travellers truly looking to get off the beaten path. Touring Bhutan can only be done with a prearranged guide that will accompany you on your journey. This combined with its remote location, eco-conscious citizens and peaceful nature makes it a mysterious and alluring country for those wanting to get off the tourist track.

Those who have crossed the borders of Bhutan share their advice on everything from egg and whisky cocktails to avoiding altitude sickness.

1.) Watch the weather.

Flights into Bhutan are heavily weather dependent, and conditions can be quite unpredictable. When flying in to Paro, planes may have to stop at night at transit stations. Typically they won’t unload checked luggage for passengers, so carry on basic necessities to get you through the night.

2.) Dig in and try out the local food...

There is lots to try as long as you like the firm and immovable ballast of red rice, a lottery of mild to ridiculously spicy chilies - topped off with a delicious cheese sauce. While this might not sound too appetizing, don't be afraid - the fried fern stalks and yak curries are really quite amazing - give it a go.

3.) ...and beverages of choice.

There is also a hot highly alcoholic treat you might be prepared to try, if you happen to hangout with some locals. An elderly gentleman popped some yak butter into a hot pan, broke over some eggs and scrambled them in. He then proceeded to pour a full bottle of rice whisky over the top, heated it all through and then ladled it into large mugs for us all to try. I looked down at the hot and potent brew with its eggy oily topping and just closed my eyes and decided to take a large gulp, determined not to look like a complete wimp or to upset or disrespect the gentleman's cooking. And to my surprise it was delicious… although it has to be said after a 9 hr hike over a 4000m peak and down through leech infested and water logged forest I could have eaten anything and it would have probably tasted as good.

-Chris Potter, WorldNomads.com

4.) Check before you trek.

Many travellers go to Bhutan with plans of trekking through the Himalayas during their trip. However, do not underestimate the altitude.  You don’t want to ruin your trip by falling victim to altitude sickness - make sure you take time to acclimatize before you ascend. 

For safety tips and information about altitude sickness, check out Getting high when you travel, safely.

5.) If you're looking for a road less travelled try going one way.

When visiting Bhutan most people will fly into Paro and take trips out from here to Thimpu, Punaka and then back to Paro. Alternatively, if you have the time you can try an a different approach and fly into Paro and make your way across the country and out through Sondrup Jonkar and on to the Assam plains. This will allow you to see the eastern side of Bhutan which is rarely visited by westerners. There is much to see on this side of the country including secluded valleys and nature reserves - home to the very rare black necked cranes. Also if you happen to come across a festival you'll likely be the only foreigners there and will get a far more unique experience far away from the now touristy big productions in Paro.

-Chris Potter, WorldNomads.com

Related Articles:

5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Going to Bhutan

Bhutan 101

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Tags: bhutan, climate, culture, drinking, food, hiking, himalayas, off the beaten path, trekking

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