Bhutan is a small country tucked high up in the Himalayas bordering India and Tibet, China as it’s neighbors. It’s one of the popular tourist destinations in South Asia. Bhutan is really beautiful with lush green valleys, small rural villages, great Buddhist monasteries and fortresses and the majestic Himalayas. The land is also called ‘land of the thunder dragon’ and ‘last Shangri-la’. Bhutan is ruled by a king and is the only Buddhist nation in the entire world. So, it’s worth visiting Bhutan and discover it’s unique culture and traditions and witnessing some of the spectacular Himalayan panoramas.
Here are top 10 reasons to visit Bhutan.
10 Reasons Why You Should Visit Bhutan
Being located on the lap of the mystic Himalayas, Bhutan has the most beautiful natural surrounding from miles of miles of mountain ranges to lush dense woodlands. In fact, 70% of the land inside Bhutan is covered with the forested area. Besides, the Bhutanese government also has a strong policy to protect Bhutans’ environment. The only country in the world in carbon neutral is Bhutan but is carbon negative. This means Bhutanese offset more CO2 than they actually produce. The quality of air in Bhutan is so fresh and crisp which can be felt once anyone lands at the Paro International Airport in Bhutan upon arrival. So, trekking in Bhutan is yet another different and rejuvenating hike experience not found elsewhere.
Hike to Taktsang Monastery ‘Tiger’s Nest’
Any tour to Bhutan is incomplete without a hike to taktsang monastery. Because Taktsang is the main highlight of Bhutan visit. It is located just the outskirts of Paro town and about an hour’s drive to it’s base from where you proceed the hike upwards to the monastery. The monastery is at 3,120 meters above sea level and perched in a vertical cliff defying all engineering logic. It is the pilgrimage site for Buddhists and the main tourist attraction for travelers. It is believed that Guru Rinpoche flew here from Tibet on the back of a tigress in the 8th century and mediated here. Hike to Taktsang is certainly not to be missed while on Bhutan’s visit.
Culture and society and the people
Bhutan is heavily influenced by Buddhist traditions and they have been successful in preserving it too. It can be seen by the dress they wear (The national dress for Bhutanese men, Kho and for women Kira), the language they speak (Bhutanese or Dzongkha), Bhutanese colorful festivals, or their national sport ‘archery’. The people in Bhutan are kind, helpful and welcoming. Since Buddhism is their religion so it must be the fact how peaceful the country is as a whole. The Bhutanese believe that all sentient beings are created equal and may have been their friends or relatives in past lives. As such, they act towards everyone with respect and compassion.
Bhutan festivals are called ‘tsechu’ which is a sight to see and is a huge part of the Bhutanese culture and traditions. The most popular and important tsechus are Paro tsechu, Thimphu tsechu and Punakha tsechu which are great events celebrated each year and attended by foreigners and locals alike. You can coincide your travel date as per these festival dates. Besides, there are many other interesting festivals celebrated almost round the year like Jambay Lhakhang Drup, Black Crane festival etc. Amusing things to see in these festivals are the masked dancers, traditional music, unfurling of the largest ‘Thangka’ – religious scroll.
Bhutanese Cuisines are popular due to it’s distinct flavor and spice. But not to worry as the hotels or restaurants you stop by will be glad to prepare you a milder version of the local dishes. The Bhutanese diet consists of a lot of hearty stews and meat curries. The national dish of Bhutan is ‘Ema datshi’ which is a very spicy dish made with cheese and chilies. After you try ‘Ema datshi’ you can wash it all down with a hot cup of suja; Bhutanese butter tea. Also under Bhutan’s Tobacco Act of 2010, the sale of tobacco or tobacco products is banned on sale which makes Bhutan the first country in the world to ban the sale of tobacco. Pork, beef and chicken are eaten in Bhutan and the vegetables include Spinach, pumpkins, turnips, radishes, tomatoes, river weed, onions and green beans.
Bhutan is the happiest place on earth
The country of Bhutan is often regarded as the ‘last Shangri-la’ or ‘the happiest place on earth. Even if the country is relatively poor, it is evident that it is ruled by a government that really cares about its people. Bhutan is the only country in the world that measures Gross National Happiness as output and favors it over GDP. Under this government policy, healthcare and education are free in Bhutan. The government also prioritizes building sites and attractions which can comfort the locals.
Tourist places at Bhutan
There are many tourist attractions in Bhutan which captivates any visitors to Bhutan. The only entry/exit point in/out of Bhutan by air ‘Paro’ has the huge Paro Ringpung Dzong, Taktsang Monastery, Kyichu Lhakhang- one of the oldest shrines in Bhutan. The tiny capital ‘Thimphu’ has many tourist attractions like King Memorial Chorten, Centenary market, Buddha’s point with the largest statue of Lord Buddha, Textile museum, Tashi choe Dzong etc. Further to Punakha, there is the most beautiful monastery ‘Punakha Dzong’. En-route Thimphu to Punakha is ‘Docula pass’ commanding majestic Himalayan view and getting closer to Punakha is ‘Chimi Lhakang- the fertility temple’ dedicated to Drukkap Kunley. Other important tourist sites in Bhutan are Gangtey, Gangtey Monastery, Phobjikha Valley and the cultural heartland of Bhutan ‘Bumthang’. Bumthang has some of the country’s oldest monasteries and temples. Besides, spectacular Himalayan views are part of any Bhutan tour.
There are some incredible souvenirs to take back home after your Bhutan tour. These include Hand-woven textiles, Yatras or Yethras (colorful strips of wool cloth, dyed with natural colors, which are used to create blankets, jackets, bags and carpets, especially those produced Bumthang), Buddhist paintings (usually made of cloth), stamps (as Bhutan is said to be the “philatelist paradise”) with detailed images, Dzi stones, brass statues of various Buddhas, saints, Vajra bells, Dorje bells, cymbals, Bhutanese violins, Tibetan trumpets and prayer wheels (popular choice amongst the tourists).
Deep Spirituality & Buddism
Buddism is the heart and soul of Bhutan and is deeply rooted in the country. Officially Bhutan is the only Buddhist country in the world. There are Buddhist monasteries and temples everywhere and the population of monks outnumbers the number of soldiers there. You will find almost everywhere you go deep chanting of monks, the burning of incense and groups of elderly people spinning prayer wheels. Visitor can feel themselves being serene and those who are interested in Buddhism, they can participate in the temple stay and live in Buddhist retreats.
It’s the off-the-beaten as it goes
If you are planning for a more laid-back experience where you don’t have to bump into crowds of tourists in tourist sites, temples, museums, or monasteries then Bhutan certainly is the best travel choice. Bhutan in a way is the least visited country in the world. This means all the sites you visit will be to yourself. You will never feel as though you are being ripped off or eating awful restaurant food because there simply aren’t any!