If you’re longing to visit a country with terrific architecture, awe-inspiring culture, and of course, breath-taking views of the Himalayas, then you just need to pack your bags and book the next flight to Bhutan! Better known for introducing the world to the concept of Gross National Happiness, a visit to Bhutan is bound to make you happy!
Bhutan, an exciting combination of modernity and tradition, is a mystical land where towering forts rule the hilltops, people wear their national dress, hang prayer flags and tigers are respected. With a high regulation on the cutting of trees Bhutan has two-thirds of its land under forest cover.
WHAT TO ENJOY
Bhutan has a great number of mega structures that serve as either administrative headquarters or places of worship. Taktshang Goemba, Punakh Dzong, Paro Dzong, Trashi Chhoe Dzong, Jakar Dzong, Gangte Goemba, and Trongsa Dzong are a few tourist favourites. Having different legends, these natural sights are full of colours and regal splendour. And the best thing is that you don’t need to travel in large groups to enjoy this country’s mesmerizing beauty.
Plan your trip beforehand to be a part of the country’s many major dance festivals. Though almost every district has its own duration and dates for these festivals, they all include ornate costumes, masks and dancing monks and laymen.
The capital of Bhutan is the only capital in the world without any traffic lights. Being a country rich in cultural heritage, Bhutan has The National Folk Heritage Museum in Thimphu which gives a glimpse into its rural life. The 13 traditional arts of Bhutan are depicted in the Zorig Chusum School of traditional arts which is a must-visit. Thimpu is famous for its traditional textiles, wool, bamboo, metal and wooden products.
Deep in the Paro Valley (2200 m), on the bank of Paro Chhu lies Bhutan’s only International airport. Being one of the most beautiful airports in the world, it is surrounded by the hills with an elevation of upto 5500 m along with the traditional Bhutanese architecture of its terminal building. Drukgyel Dzong, one of the famous landmarks in this region is a fortress that lies in ruins today. It was built to honour its victory over Tibetan forces in 16th century. The National museum houses rare historic photographs and artefacts.
Tsechu (means “tenth day”), are Bhutan’s biggest festivals that are held in each dzongkhag (district) in respective dzongs, on the tenth day of the lunar month, in different months. It is the ideal way to experience Bhutan’s ancient living culture.
Between the snowy Himalayan ranges, in the lap of nature at an elevation of 3100 m lies the Dochula Pass. The green of the Cypress trees mixed with the different colours of the flag fills the viewer with awe. The flags are predominantly in five colours which represent the five elements – blue (sky), white (clouds), red (fire), green (water) and yellow (earth). It is believed that the inscribed mantras in the prayer flags are transmitted across the land by the wind.
Gangkhar Pensum is the tallest unclimbed mountain in the world. Lack of maps and the ban of hiking has made these mountains one of the last uncharted places on earth. The “three mountain siblings” standing at the height of 7570 meters is considered the ultimate climbing adventure for any hiker.
If there was ever a nation that could see the purpose behind organic, sustainable farming, it would be a nation that is composed mostly of farmers. Such a place does exist, and it soon may be the first nation to go 100 percent organic. Bhutan plans to become the first country in the world to turn its agriculture completely organic, banning the sales of pesticides and herbicides and relying on its own animals and farm waste for fertilizers. Bhutan’s land currently supplies mostly corn, rice, fruits and some vegetables, and it is perfectly positioned to begin 100 percent organic farming.
ON THE FLIP SIDE
Despite its sensitivity to environment and nature, Bhutan falls short of preserving the cow, which is unanimously accepted as the source of nourishment of creation by cultures across the globe. On the way from the airport, one can find hawkers selling cow intestines, the food markets are flooded, not with milk but the pungent smell of freshly slaughtered beef…it is said of kingdoms that are prosperous that rivers of milk flow there, for the ones that are deteriorating, it is said, rivers of blood flow there. Perhaps the reason why Bhutan is still struggling with initial stages of development, being one of world’s smallest economies.
BE PREPARED FOR SURPRISES
Bhutan is one rare country that has the perfect natural elements to surprise you. Think white is the only colour for rice? You’ll get red rice here. In this wondrous world, chili peppers are much more than a seasoning – they can be the main ingredient. Sounds spicy, doesn’t it?
So pack your bags and visit this wonder where you can witness everything from snow-covered hilltops to spectacular mountain passes, botanical riches, and rare birds and mammals.