Bhutan – There are so many names that come to mind to describe this unique little country. ‘The Himalayan Kingdom’, ‘Himalayan Paradise’, ‘Abode of the Himalayas’, and ‘Happiness Kingdom’, are a few that ring a bell. But what makes this country so very unique?
In this day and age of tremendous technological advancement, a looming capitalist shadow and extremely rapid commercialisation, how has Bhutan managed to retain its soul and identity? Well, it has.
And that is one of the reasons why you should make your way to Bhutan! In this blog, we’re going to explore ten reasons why you should visit Bhutan, and what kind of experiences you can expect to come away with, after your visit to Bhutan.
1. Find yourself in the lap of Nature.
The Kingdom of Bhutan is one of the greenest, cleanest countries in the world, and the people of Bhutan make every effort to keep the country this way. Located in the eastern Himalayas, this land-locked country lies in the lap of lush greenery.
Everywhere you travel in Bhutan; you’ll be surrounded by gorgeous mountains; valleys that call out to you, rivers that meander through the country and a rich flora and fauna that is so beautifully preserved in the many national parks across the kingdom.
About 80% of the country has a green cover.
From the moment you land, you’ll breathe in air so fresh, and take in sights so green; all your senses will be instantly heightened, and you’ll feel alive in the most real sense.
The entire kingdom is made up of sub-ranges of the Himalayas; the northern region is made up of the eastern part of the Himalayan mountain range, the central region is home to the Black Mountains while the Shiwalik Hills lie to the south of the country, thus earning the country the pseudonym of the Himalayan Kingdom.
2. Experience one of the most dramatic flight landings in the world!
Bhutan is located in the lap of the Himalayas, and mountain peaks that reach up to 18,000 feet and more, surround the Paro International Airport- the country’s only international airport.
What’s more, there are only a handful of pilots in the world who are trained to land in this airport; the last count was at 17! 17 pilots in the whole wide world, trained to land in Paro International Airport. Are you nervous yet?
Well, don’t be! There hasn’t been a single landing or take off accident at Paro International Airport if that makes you feel any better.
Hence the reason why only very qualified pilots are allowed to operate flights to and from Paro. Dramatic why? Well, you’ll be landing in the midst of dense mountainous terrain, contending with weather that changes quickly, and a runway that is just 6,500 feet long.
You’ll feel the jitters for sure, but once you land and step out of the plane, and take in that first breath of fresh air, it will all be worth it!
3. Smile, you’re in the happiest country in the Asian continent!
Most economies around the world measure its economic strength, progress and development on the basis of its Gross Domestic Product or GDP.
Bhutan measures its progress and development on the basis of its Gross National Happiness or GNH – an index used to measure the collective happiness and wellbeing of the people of Bhutan.
This is why Bhutan is considered the ‘happiest country in Asia’, and one of the happiest countries in the world. And apart from statistics and indexes, when you visit Bhutan and mingle with the locals and observe their lifestyle, you’ll be able to tell in a heartbeat why they’re so happy.
4. Soak in Buddhist traditions.
The main religion of the country is Buddhism, with Mahayana Buddhism (one of the two main branches of Buddhism) being the state religion here. For those of you who are curious about Buddhist traditions, Bhutan is one of the best countries to explore Buddhism, as religion is closely intertwined to all spheres of life in the Himalayan Kingdom.
Wherever you travel in Bhutan, you’re never too far from a Buddhist monastery or a group of monks. One of the most enduring sights you’ll encounter in Bhutan is that of monks robed in their maroon attire, praying in a monastery, people devoutly turning prayer wheels and colourful prayer flags wavering in the wind.
5. Explore Bhutanese culture.
Religion plays an integral role in all spheres of life, and the culture of Bhutan is intrinsically woven into its religion. From the way people dress to the food they eat, the sports they play, the festivals they celebrate – you’ll get an incredible insight into the culture of Bhutan on your travels.
Try your hand at archery and digor, the most popular sports in the country. Don’t miss dressing up in the local attire – that’s an absolute must when in Bhutan!
If you love festivities, colour, movement, rituals and fanfare, time your visit to Bhutan during the popular festivals of Jambay Lhakhang Drup, Paro Tsechu, Thimphu Tsechu or the Haa Valley festival when you’ll get to see Bhutanese culture in all its glory.
6. Food, glorious Bhutanese food!
Cheese. And chillies. Read that again. Those two are perhaps the most important ingredients in Bhutanese food! Food in Bhutan is an experience, like everything else you encounter in the Himalayan Kingdom.
And the food here is unlike anywhere else in the world.
Which makes it all the more exciting and unique. They love rice, corn and buckwheat which form the staple of food, and meats like yak, beef, pork, lamb and chicken that are cooked into stews and soups with a cheese base, and lots of heat in the form of chillies.
Two magical words when in Bhutan with regards to food: Ema Datshi – chillies and cheese. Don’t forget this! A cheesy soup base combined with potatoes (Kewa Datshi), mushrooms (Shamu Datshi) and dried beef (Shakam Datshi) is sure winners for the experimental eater.
7. Let adventure take over.
Bhutan is the land of adventure. With its mountainous terrain and many rivers and valleys, it offers the perfect surroundings for an adventurous experience.
From rock-climbing ‘The Nose’ (a climbing rock face) just outside of Thimphu to kayaking in the Wang Chhu or Sunkosh rivers; a trekking experience across the various mountainous reaches of the Himalayas, including a trek to the Jomolhari peak or the Druk Path Trek; river rafting down the Po Chhu and Mo Chhu rivers with Class I and II rapids; paragliding in the scenic Ura Valley and mountain biking in the Paro and Phobjikha Valleys – there is never a dull moment for adventure seekers in Bhutan.
8. Art and craft reigns supreme.
Bhutan is known for its intricate art and craft forms, and the 13 art and crafts of the country, known more popularly as Zorig Chusum, are beautifully preserved.
All rooted in Buddhism, the different art forms include painting, sculpting, papermaking, casting, carpentry, masonry, carving, woodturning, black smithery, gold and silver smithery, bamboo work, tailoring, embroidery and applique, and finally weaving.
From monasteries to public buildings, government offices to homes, you’ll get to see the unique art and craft forms of Bhutan.
9. Highlights of Bhutan.
There is just so much to experience in Bhutan, but I have a few favourites that I’d do over and over again. Right at the top of my list is the Taktsang Monastery, also known as the Tiger Nest – a truly spiritual experience, coupled with the most breathtaking views of the Himalayas. Trek up to the monastery on one of the most beautiful experiences of your life.
Drive to Dochula Pass and then walk through the over 100 memorial stupas, nestled 10,000 feet above sea level.
Watch Buddhist monks praying at the Changangkha Lhakhang, a Buddhist temple on the outskirts of Thimphu.
Check out stunning views of the Paro Dzong (also known as the Rinchen Pung Dzong), a Buddhist monastery and fortress in Paro. The Punakha Dzong is another stunner, and by far, the most beautiful of all the Dzongs in Bhutan. Stroll through a weekend market in Thimphu.
Marvel at the magnitude of the Buddha Dordenma, one of the largest seated statues of Buddha, made of bronze, and towering at the height of 54 meters. Drive up to Chele La Pass and enjoy the prayer flags fluttering in the wind.
10. Breathe. Live. Believe. Bhutan.
Bhutan is unlike any other tourist place in the world. Here, you get to see the country for what it truly is. With a unique amalgamation of spirituality, Nature and genuine kindness of the people around you, you will find yourself slowing down to take it all in.
When you’re in Bhutan, forget about where you come from, or where you need to go after. Stop; take a deep breath, live the life of a local, and you’ll see that life is truly beautiful
A visit to Bhutan does make you believe in the simple pleasures of life, and how we are all just visitors in a way, in our journey of life.
Bhutan teaches you how to enjoy this journey in a simple, spiritual way that will help you find incredible meaning and satisfaction.
And no matter where in Bhutan you find yourself, take time to visit a monastery or a temple and turn the prayer wheels to distribute loving and compassionate blessings to all around you and experience a deep sense of spirituality and kindness.
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