Bhutan was once an isolated nation to the other world. It only started welcoming foreigners in 1974. A tiny country nestled deep within the high Himalayas, the “land of the Thunder Dragon” is one of the least visited countries in the world. The country, sandwiched between India and China controls the influx of tourists crowding by requiring visitors to pay a minimum daily rate of $ 250 during high peak season. Bhutan is a land where magic and myths are a part of history. It is a place where there are more monks than soldiers, and where happiness output is measured and considered more important than GDP. Here are the reasons why Bhutan must be in your BUCKET-LIST.
Bhutan is the last standing Buddhist kingdom on earth. The country’s state religion is Buddhism. More than two-third of the Bhutanese citizens follow Vajrayana Buddhism (also the state religion). The state religion has long been supported financially by the government through annual subsidies to Buddhist monastery, monks and nuns. The moment you visit a place, you will encounter with religious sites, temples or sacred places. People from all over the world come to visit the Bhutanese monasteries. Every monastery that you visit has its own origins and beliefs.
Bhutan has a strict environment policy which states, “The government shall ensure that,in order to conserve country’s natural resources and to prevent degradation of the ecosystem, a minimum of sixty percent Bhutan’s total land shall be maintained under forest cover for all time“. Bhutan preserves more than 70 percent of forest cover of its land. The pristine environment is home to exotic wild life and is the last refuge for endangered species . While you travel through Bhutan you will find steep and high mountains crisscrossing by networks of swift rivers. The extra-ordinary geographical diversity and the diverse climate conditions play an important role in contributing to Bhutan’s outstanding range of biodiversity and ecosystems, which are worth seeing.
Many great saints and scholars visited Bhutan and blessed numerous places. The structures of the building in Bhutan is unique from the rest of the world. One can witness unique location of monasteries and stupas.
One of the most attracted location for the foreigners is Kuensel Phodrang. You can see a largest statues of Buddha made of bronze and gilded in gold towering to the capital city. The other attracted location is the National Memorial Chorten which is located at the centre of T-town. One can witness many elderly people circumambulating around the chorten and reciting prayers.
By far the most popular attraction, Paro Taktsang was built on a cliff side of upper Paro Valley. Constructed on the very spot that Guru Rinpoche meditiated for three years. This is an important cultural and religious site. There are many other spectacular places located in Punakha, Bumthang and other parts of the country.
The Tshechu is a religious event. It is celebrated annually in various temples, monasteries, and dzongs on tenth day of a month of the lunar calendar. It is celebrated corresponding to the birthday of Guru Rimpoche. However the exact month of the Tshechu varies from place to place and temple to temple. Tshechus are considered as a grand events where entire communities and families come together to witness religious mask dances and receive blessings.
Apart from mask dances, one can witness people wearing intricately colorful silk cloths.(Those silk costumes cost range from BTN 20,000 to 1,00,000). It is believed that everyone must attend a Tshechu and witness the mask dances at least once because to wash away their sins and get blessing. Every mask dance performed during a Tshechu has a special meaning or a story behind it. Many are based on stories and incidents from as long ago as the 8th century, during the life of Guru Padmasambhava. Some of the most popular Tshechus in the country are the Bumthang, Punakha, Paro and Thimphu Tshechus.
The most distinctive characteristic of Bhutanese cuisine is its spiciness. Chillis are considered as an essential part of nearly every dish Bhutanese prepare. Bhutanese would not enjoy a meal that isn’t spicy. So, chillies plays vital role in Bhutanese dishes.
Rice are considered as the main body of most Bhutanese meals which is accompanied by one or two side dishes. You can also experience authentic Bhutanese food originally made from buckwheat and barley.
Ema-Datsi is the main dish of Bhutanese people. It is a very spicy dish made with cheese and chilies and take great pride in it and you must try it too. The chillies, which can be either fresh green chillies or dry red and white chillies are sliced lengthwise and cooked with datsi (local cheese) and plenty of butter.
An essential part of Bhutan’s cultural heritage are the thirteen traditional arts and crafts that have been practiced from time immemorial. Terton Pema Lingpa, a treasure discoverer introduced 13 arts and crafts to Bhutan in the 15th century.
One can see hand-woven textiles, Yethras, orginally from Bumthang, Buddhist paintings, bright and lively colors and with a high numismatic value, and many uniquely Bhutanese made abundantly.
Bhutan steeped onto the international stage as the first country to become carbon negative, which means Bhutanese absorbs more carbon dioxide than it gives out. It is one of the few remaining bio-diversity hotspot in the world as the country is covered with 72 percent of pristine forest. The entire country produces 2.2 million tonnes of CO2 every year but the forest sequesters more than three times the amount. So Bhutan is a net carbon sink for more than 4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year.
Trekking in Bhutan provides an opportunity to experience its well-conserved and pristine natural environment. It also offers an opportunity to witness stunning views of unclimbed snow-capped mountains although climbing the mountain in Bhutan is banned. Trail meanders through green meadows, mountains and valleys adorned with tall rhododendron trees bursting with pink and red flowers. You will also pass through the villages of nomadic yak herders and be captivated by their nomadic lifestyle.
If you are looking for a glimpse of the Himalayas or long treks, Bhutan have it all for you. Bhutan offers the most unique ways of trekking in the Himalayas and is the safest destination for the solo trekkers and hikers.
Bhutan is only the country where it measures prosperity by Gross National Happiness over Gross Domestic Product. GNH was coined by the great Fourth King, Jigme Singye Wangchuk in 1972. The phrase was coined as a signal of commitment to building an economy that would serve Bhutan’s culture based on Buddhist spiritual values instead of the western material development that was represented by gross domestic product. There are four pillars that keeps the GNH philosophy strong.
Today, in a world beset by collapsing financial systems, industry and trade,gross inequity and wide-scale environmental destruction, Bhutan approach is attracting a lot of interest.
Dochula pass is located on the way to Punakha/Wangdue from Thimphu. The pass is a popular location among tourists as it offers a stunning 360 degree panoramic view of the Himalayan mountain range. The view is especially scenic on clear, winter days with snow-capped mountains forming a majestic backdrop to the tranquility of the 108 chortens gracing the mountain pass. Many Bhutanese families enjoy visiting the pass during holidays and weekends to picnic and simply enjoy the scenery. It is common to see families and groups of friends seated amongst the chortens, enjoying a packed lunch and hot tea. For tourists this is an ideal location to capture beautiful pictures of the Himalayan mountain range during clear, warm days.