Nepal and Bhutan are both the best representatives to some of the best countries for travelers to visit in 2020. Time and again, these nations have been up for the spots when it comes to selecting the underrated destinations in the world. Bhutan has been the top country in focus as Lonely Planet crowned it as the top country for travelers. On the other hand, Nepal has made their list of top ten thrice only in the past decade.
To someone who has never been to South Asia, these countries might look very similar. Two beautiful nations tucked in the Himalayas bordered by China and India. Although there are more similarities than differences here, each country is gifted with its own unique experiences. Which of these two countries is home to eight of the world’s ten highest mountains? Which still has a monarchy? Are they both safe for travelers? Find these answers and more in this article comparing Nepal and Bhutan for Travelers.
Nepal is about four times bigger in area than Bhutan. In the case of population, it is about thirty times more. This affects population density significantly. Meaning while you are in city areas Nepal resembles the metropolis while Bhutan is a bit laid back. The life expectancy of the people in these two nations is almost similar. Nepal was officially opened for tourists in 1951 while Bhutan followed from 1974 AD. Internet availability is to 70 percent of the population in Nepal and only 35 percent in Bhutan.
As for travelers, both these countries are categorized under developing nations. A direct comparison shows that Nepal is a bit more advanced and Modernized than Bhutan. Similarly, the inflation rate is slightly higher in Nepal than in Bhutan. On the other hand, Bhutan is the only carbon-negative nation in the world and is considered one of the healthiest places for living. Bhutan and Nepal are ranked second and third respectively according to the happiness index of South Asian Countries. Agriculture is the principal economic activity of both Bhutan and Nepal. Tourism is in the growing trend aiding in the GDP of the pair.
Most People don’t know this but Nepal is only a couple hundred km far from Bhutan separated by the Indian state of Sikkim. The average elevation of Bhutan is 2220 m. It is slightly over 3000 meters in Nepal. It might be because of the major mountains and high areas making most of Northern Nepal. There are more plain regions and diverse places in Nepal than Bhutan too. Almost sixty percent of the total area of Bhutan are conservation areas. It showcases the commitment of the Bhutan government to nature and environmental conservation. Nepal also has over a dozen of the national park and wildlife reserves. For travelers, one can make a case that Bhutan has well-conserved regions and Nepal has more varieties.
Nepal and Bhutan are both known for the majestic mountains of the Himalayan range. For trekking loving individuals, mountain-lovers, and alpine photographers there are few nations better than these two. Nepal is home to eight of the ten highest peaks in the world. You can trek to the base camps or in the surrounding regions by trekking or helicopter tours. Everest, Lhotse, and Cho You with EBC trail. Annapurna region trails for Mount Dhaulagiri and Annapurna. Similarly, Mount Makalu, Manaslu, and Kanchenjunga have their own established trails. These high mountains are open for mountaineers and others for peak climbing respectively.
Bhutan also has some fantastic mountains. These are the prominent geographic feature dominating most of the nation. Trekking trails are opened but it focuses more on the lower regions of the Himalayas here. GangkharPuensum, Chomolhari Kang, Jitchu Drake, and Tongshanjiabu are major mountains. Bhutanese mostly consider these mountains as a form of gods. Climbing peaks over 6000 meters of elevation is prohibited for the same reasons here.
Despite being mountainous both Nepal and Bhutan have warm weather other than the winter period. The average summer temperature is between 20 to 35 degrees Celsius in Nepal. It is from 20 to 30 degrees Celsius in Bhutan. Winter can get a bit cold for your liking, especially in the higher elevation. Travelers can enjoy pleasant weather traveling in both these nations.
– Travel Season in both countries
Travel season in Bhutan and Nepal are almost similar. You can take a tour here in every part of the year depending on your itineraries. We do suggest you avoid harsh winter especially while visiting the higher places. October to December is the best time to visit Bhutan. September to late November is the ideal time to visit Nepal too. These months represent autumn and overlap the main festivals here. Similarly, March to May (before the summer monsoon) is great too for travelers.
Budget for Nepal and Bhutan
Budget Comparision can be deceiving for anyone seeing the prices for different tours in Nepal and Bhutan. Right off the back, you can notice that Bhutan’s cost will be significantly higher than that of Nepal. However, it has to do with the inclusion of different components of your trek rather than the costly charges. Nepal tours mostly have guided tours and transportation fees with choices to choose your own hotel. It gives you freedom either to spend or save on certain factors of your tour.
In Bhutan, the minimum you can spend is 200$ per person per day. This can rise to 250$ in peak season. Before you freak out know something about the “High Cost, Low Impact” policy. The price you pay here is for your individual private guides, drivers, transportation, well-facilitated accommodation, and taxes. It is a complete package and apart from a few personal things everything else is taken care of. So, budget travelers can lean towards Nepal but one mustn’t forget the completeness of the Bhutan Tour.
– Visa Cost and Availability
Nepal has a Visa on arrival (VOA) policy. It means travelers will be provided tourist visa upon entering this country either by land or air. You can also obtain a visa from the Nepalese Embassy in your country. With the necessary documents, you can fill a simple form and make payments according to the visa requirements. The charges are for 15 Days-30 USD, for 30 Days- 50 USD, and 90 Days- 125 USD.
There are no On-arrival services available for Bhutan. You must have to obtain the visa clearance before entering this country. The process is fairly simple and you can apply for a Bhutanese travel visa through an online system. After connecting with your tour operators they will carry on with the further process. The cost of the visa is 40 $. Submit your documents and pay for your tour to complete the action. You will receive your visa within 72 working hours of the application submitted.
Food and Accommodation
Food in Nepal and Bhutan is mostly inspired by Chinese, Tibetan, and Indian cuisine. Mountain herbs, organic products, and unique flavors are what you can expect here. Nepal has a slightly more diverse range of cuisine due to varied ethnicity and geography. Some of the must-try local food here Dhal Bhat, NewariKhaja, Momos, Jeri sweets, and Dhindo.
Bhutanese cuisine is all about keeping your body warm. Don’t be amazed to find the use of different spices and condiments. EmaDatshi, JashaMaroo, and PhakshaPaa are some of the must-try ones here. Both these countries have specialty treats, drinks, and foods prepared during festivals as well as other joyous occasions.
As a traveler accommodation in Bhutan is somewhat better than in Nepal. With a tour, you will be guaranteed four stars or better hotels to stay here. Nepal does have options for you too but most included tours here provide a lower standard service in comparison to the Bhutan tour. However, it is up to you to choose in Nepal.
Accessibility- Getting There
Nepal is more accessible with several flights connecting directly to the Tribhuwan international airport here. More than two dozen airlines operate international flights and travelers can fly here from anywhere in the world. Through land, you can drive from both India and China here.
Paro Airport is the only international airport in Bhutan. It connects direct flights from five different countries now (India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Thailand, and Singapore). Travelers can reach Bhutan from these different locations easily. Through land, you can enter Bhutan from the Indian state of West Bengal.
UNESCO Heritage Sites
There are 10 UNESCO World Heritage sites in Nepal. Seven of those lies inside Kathmandu Valley including three Historic Durbar (Palaces) Squares. There are two Hindu and two Buddhist temple complex in that list. The Sagarmatha and Chitwan National Park along with Lumbini the birthplace of Lord Buddha tops off the list. Similarly, there are 15 tentative world heritage sites throughout the country.
Bhutan currently doesn’t have any world heritage site as per the UNESCO list as of now. However, there are eight very promising and significant sites in the tentative list.
Bhutan or Nepal for Luxury Travel
A luxury tour in Nepal offers you the best possible accommodation, transportation, and guide. These also involve relaxed days and VIP treatment in many places you will visit. These are all and even more, including in your Bhutan Tour. That means every tour in Bhutan is a sort of Luxury tour. Therefore, you can choose to have a luxury tour in Nepal while in Bhutan you are offered nothing less.
Trekking in Nepal vs. Bhutan
Trekking is one of the most selected activities for adventure-lovers in Bhutan and Nepal. While both of the nation’s offer some amazing trails for trekkers Nepal is known for some world-class trekking destinations out there. For trekkers, the scale tips off slightly in Nepal’s favor here. Nonetheless, here are some of our top suggested trails to try in both countries.
- Everest Base Camp trek
- Annapurna Circuit
- Ghorepani Poonhill Trek
- Chisapani Nagarkot Hike
- The Jhomolhari Trek
- Druk Path Trek
- Dagala Thousand Lakes Trek
- ParoTaktsang Hike
Plus Points for Bhutan
Here are some plus points on why should travelers choose Bhutan: –
- Bhutan is the best country for eco-tourism in the world.
- As a Buddhist nation, Buddhist cultural tours are very much productive here.
- Luxury travel option is better in Bhutan than Nepal.
- Traveling to Bhutan is always a complete experience in comparison to witnessing only certain aspects in Nepal.
- Clean and healthy environment, as well as less touristy places to enjoy in Bhutan.
- For an authentic experience in the Himalayas, Bhutan is better.
- Better political stability in comparison to Nepal.
Plus points for Nepal
Here are some plus points on why should travelers choose Nepal: –
- Nepal is one of the best trekking destinations in the world, it provides more variety and quality of trails than Bhutan.
- You get a visa on Arrival which is quick and easy.
- Travelers can reach Nepal easily through different flights connecting the country capital to the world.
- You can do both Hindu and Buddhist religious tours in Nepal as they are the two most prominent religions.
- More UNESCO world heritage sites to visit.
- Jungle safari and adventure options are better in Nepal.
- More diverse culture and cuisine for travelers to experience.
Is it possible to combine them both?
Yes, and very easily too. Nepal Bhutan Tour is one of the most amazing multi-country tours in Asia. It is a complete Himalayan experience for anyone willing to try something new. Traveling from Nepal to Bhutan and vice-versa is easy with direct flights (90 minutes) available regularly. You can select to do a cultural tour, city tour, and even spiritual tour in these Nations.
These two nations in themselves are perfect bubbles for travelers of delights. Combining them will be wise and you can explore as well as experience so much more. The hospitality and friendliness servers as a common bridge between the nations and the subtle differences only add to the beauty of your time here. If anyone were to travel to one of these nations, try sneaking the other for a few days and enjoy your tour to the fullest.