With an area of 46,500 km2 - almost exactly like the size of Switzerland - Bhutan extends across 3o of longitude and almost 1.5o of latitude. It's lowest point, 150 m above sea-level, lies on the Indian border. To the north, the country is framed by the main Himalayan mountain range with several peaks above 7,000m.
More than half the country is still covered in forests. One tenth of the area is covered by glacierse and, together with rocky ranges, heathlands of alpine dwarf bushes and pastures, makes up a quarter of Bhutan's total area. No more than 8% is under cultivation to feed some 700,000 persons.
Bhutan is divided into 3 central region; Western, Central and Eastern Bhutan. Western and Central Bhutan is seperated by Phelela Pass while Central and Eastern Bhutan is seperate by.
3 Main Entry Points
There are 3 main entry points into Bhutan. The first being the international airport which is located in Paro, about 1 hour drive away the Capital of Thimphu. The second and third, Phuentsholing and Samdrup Jongkhar respectively, are located to the south of Bhutan, bordering with India. This is the main point of entries for Indian traders and tourists from the south. It takes 6 hours to drive from these border towns to the nearest towns in Bhutan so these entry points are not popular for most travelers. Second time visitors to Bhutan may conder entering via Samdrup Jongkhar if they are mainly intereted with vistiing Eastern Bhutan such as the newly opened Merak Sakteng Trek.
Points of Entry
There are various entry points to Bhutan by plane, car, bus and train. Take note that all visitors to Bhutan require a visa to enter the country. Visa clearance must be obtained before coming to Bhutan and travel must be booked through an authorized travel agency. For Indian, Bangladeshis and Maldivian nationals can receive a visa on entry and it is not necessary but recommended for them to book travel through a tour operator.
The national airline Drukair flies from Singapore, Thailand, India, Nepal and Bangladesh to Bhutan’s Paro International Airport, located in the west of the country. Paro is situated at a height of 2,225 m (7300 ft) above sea level and is surrounded by mountains as high as 4,876 m (16,000 ft). There are a regular domestic service to Bumthang (central region) and flights available to Trashigang (eastern region) and Gelephu (southern region).
There are three land border crossings located along southern border to India only. Phuntsholing in the west, Gelephu in the central region and Samdrup Jongkhar in the east. No border crossings are open along the Chinese northern border. Road permits are also required; however, these are processed by your local tour operator, along with your visa.
From Kolkata: The Royal Bhutanese Government runs a service to Phuentsholing. These buses depart from Kolkata's Esplanade bus station at 7PM on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and from the Phuentsholing Bhutan Post office at 3PM on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The journey takes around 18 hours.
From Siliguri: There is frequent service between Siliguri and Phuentsholing/Jaigaon. It is roughly a four hour journey. Buses operated by Royal Bhutan Government depart from across the main highway from the bus station, near Heritage Hotel, at 7:30AM and 1:30PM daily.
From Phuentsholing: There are private buses and shared taxis from Phuentsholing to Thimphu but a comfortable option is to book a Bhutan Post bus, which leaves each morning at 7AM from the post office.
There are no railways in Bhutan. The nearest options are in India, namely:
Hasimara on the main Kolkata/Siliguri line to Assam is the nearest railway station to Phuentsholing, 17 km away. Indian Rail-operated train #13149 and #4084 stop here. However, note that some sections of the road from New Jalpaiguri/Siliguri to Phuentsholing are in a very bad shape.
New Jalpaiguri Station (NJP) in Siliguri is a popular choice for travellers heading to Bhutan by land. There are direct shared taxis from NJP to Jaigaon or there is the option of buses from Siliguri bus station.
Covering Bhutan by Road
It will take about 14-days to cover the main towns in Bhutan excluding the smaller and distant towns which are not linked by the national highway. Below we outline the towns/districts which can be visited depending on the duration of stay in Bhutan. These towns are linked by a single national highway that run from Western to Eastern Bhutan.
Thimphu, Paro, Punakha
As above, Punakha, Gangtey or Haa valley
As above, Trongsa and Bumthang
As above, Mongar, Trashigang, Trashiyangste
Travelers who are entering or exiting Bhutan by road would require additional day in Bhutan to make the 6 hours drive to the nearest town from border towns.