Bhutan is a small country nestled in the southern slopes of the eastern Himalayas that sits in between Tibet and India. Though the country is one of the worlds smallest and least developed economies, its scenic environment beckons travellers from all around the world to feast on her beauty of amazing Buddhist inspired architecture, ancient traditions, impressive monasteries and stupas!
Besides the stunning natural scenery, the enduring image of the country for most visitors is the strong sense of culture and tradition that binds the kingdom and clearly distinguishes it from its larger neighbours.
Inhabited by approximately 2.1 million people, its indigenous population are called the Drukpa. The Drukpa’s are further divided into three main ethnic groups referred to as the Sharchops, Ngalops and Lhotsampas. It’s a gender balanced kingdom where women have equal rights to men in every respect and class or rank of birth has never been a concern or issue as it is in neighbouring countries.
Bhutan is the only Vajrayana Buddhist nation in the world and the profound teachings of this tradition remain well preserved and exert a strong influence in all aspects of life. To keep its religious teachings vividly alive, one son from every family usually attends a monastic school.
Vajrayana, in the history of Buddhism, marks the transition from Mahayana Buddhism’s speculative thought to the enactment of Buddhist ideas in individual life. The historical origin of Vajrayana is unclear, except that it coincided with the spread of the mentalistic schools of Buddhism. Due to its pristine environment and harmonious society, the tiny Kingdom of Bhutan has been called ‘The Last Shangri-La’.
It colourful festivals like the Tshechus, Dromchoes and Tse Chu leave a big impression on most travellers. During these festive and joyful festivals, ‘arra’ the local alcohol is drunk abundantly and merry making spreads throughout the towns.
There are 19 dialects and languages spoken throughout the country with its official language being Dzongkha. Communicating in English will not be a problem as it is widely spoken due to the fact that English is the instructional language used in schools.
In terms of average wage, Bhutan is rated as a poor country, but the land is fertile and the population small, so the people are well fed where beggars and homeless people are unseen or rather non-existent. In addition, the current generation receives free education, and all citizens have access to free medical care. If a patient's ailment cannot be treated in the country, then the government refers the patients to reputed hospitals abroad.
The climate in Bhutan is rather unpredictable with snow covered mountains on one side to subtropical temperatures in the south.
Made up of Paro Valley, Wangdue Phodrang, Punakha Valley, Thimphu Valley and Haa Valley, travellers will notice its land filled with paddy fields and orchards. Paro houses the International Airport while Thimpu is the capital and largest city of Bhutan.
Surrounded by broad valleys and mountainous regions, its home to the famous valleys of Bumthang, Trongsa and Ura that are dotted with many monasteries. Trongsa Dzong, Bhutan’s largest fortress is located here - a huge complex with its many levels, maze of courtyards, passageways and corridors and 20 over temples.
This is the least explored region in the country that houses many ancient spiritual sites. Contrasting to the other regions where the climate is much cooler, the warmer climate of the eastern realm will find you among fields of corn, wheat and lemon grass. Eastern Bhutan is famous for hand-loomed textiles.
Bhutan’s largest fortress built overlooking the gorge of the Mangde River.
A unique way of seeing and interacting with the country and its people.
Referred to as the Tiger’s Nest, this monastery built in 1692 sits on the edge of a 1200m vertical cliff and said to be the site where Buddhism originated in the country.
Folk Heritage Museum:
Located in Thimphu, it’s a great stop for insights into the Bhutanese material culture and way of life.
Popular for its ideal location with a 360 degree panoramic view of beautiful the Himalayan mountain range. Dhocula is also home to the Druk Wangyal Chortens, a 108 stupa built by the eldest Queen Mother Her Majesty Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk.
Kayaking and Rafting:
There are 6 rivers called Wang Chhu, Sunkosh, Puna Tsang Chhu, Mangde Chhu, Kuri Chhu and Dangme Chhu that are clean and clear, ideal for a river adventure. Note that adventure sports in Bhutan have only recently gained popularity for its natural beauty and open wilderness.
Witness a Festival:
The main event in Bhutan is the Tshechu, a religious event celebrating corresponding the birthday of Guru Rinpoche where folks from many villages come together to witness the mask dances and other colourful Bhutanese dances.
Known for its chillies, Bhutanese food is popular for its rich spices and use of chilli as a main ingredient in their scrumptious cooking. Try Ema-Datsi, the country’s national dish made from ema (chilli) cooked in datsi (cheese).
Known for its difficulty, the adventurous can seek out the Snowman Trek that goes through the remote district of Lunana. Closed due to heavy snow fall during winter, it is recommended to take on the trek between mid-June to mid-October.
Visit National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries:
With more than 10 parks and sanctuaries to choose from, get immersed in more than 770 species of bird, the Bengal tiger, grey langur, hispid hare, the sloth bear, one-horned rhino, Tibetan wolf, snow leopard, blue sheep and 5400 species of plants in this fertile land.
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