Sandwiched between India and China, Bhutan wasn’t unified until the 17th century and four hundred years passed before the country’s doors were officially opened to tourists in 1974. Even today numbers are closely monitored.
The result of this historical anomaly is that there are millions of little justifications as to why one would want to visit the eccentric, landlocked nation: from the population’s smiley disposition to an absence of chain stores; from its laws (which ban smoking but not alcohol), to its assortment of unusual animals. With so many calling cards, we’ve selected ten of the greatest reasons to visit Bhutan.
Taktsang is one of the most important Buddhist monasteries in Bhutan. It is situated on a vertical cliff 3000m north of Paro. The monastery was built in 1692. According to legend, Guru Rinpoche flew on this cliff from Tibet on the back of a flaming tigress.
Tshechu is the annual religious festival in Bhutan. It is conducted in all the dzongs and major monasteries. Tshechus are social gatherings where people from near and far gather to witness mask dances and cultural items.
Dzongs were ancient forts that are used today as the administrative centers. Dzongs follow typical Bhutanese architecture with a wide base and tapering top. They are also ornately decorated in various colors and shapes. Dzongs were built without using a single nail.
Gross National Happiness is Bhutan’s development philosophy based on Buddhist values that measures the quality of life based on the spiritual and mental well-being of its people. It does not reject the conventional method of measuring development – GDP but GNH is pursued as an alternative development philosophy.
Bhutan has some of the highest unclimbed mountains in the world – Mount Jhomolhari, Jitchu Drake, etc. The government prohibits mountaineering in the peaks which the Bhutanese believe are the abode of deities and spirits. 6. Museums & Monuments Museums are the repositories of Bhutanese history starting from the advent of Guru Padmasambhava in the 8th century. Visitors will have museums-within-museum experience while visiting the ubiquitous dzongs and lhakhangs which are distinctly unique to each other.
Bhutan’s treks will take you through physically challenging routes that include crossing high mountain passes and snow. You may also be bothered by leeches but it is worth all the trouble because of the pristine natural beauty you will witness. You will also come in close contact with hardy highlanders and farmers but thankfully there will be ponies to carry your packs!
The 13 Bhutanese Arts and Crafts known as the Zorig Chusum is symbolic and rooted in Buddhist philosophy. They are; woodwork, stonework, carving, painting, sculpting, wood turning, black smithy, ornament making, bamboo work, paper making, tailoring and weaving. Pema Lingpa, a treasure discoverer, introduced these arts and crafts to Bhutan in the 15th century.
Bhutan is the only country in the world where chilli is not used as a seasoning but a vegetable! The national dish is “ema-datshi”, which is a chilli and cheese stew served with rice. Adventurous tourists may like to sample it at their own risk!
Buddhism in Bhutan is not a religion; it’s a way of life. The reason why Bhutan is as peaceful as it is maybe because Buddhism is deeply engrained in the society mentality. Don’t be surprised to see an old man or woman at the Memorial Chorten circumambulating with a string of beads in hand. If you would like to get away from noise and chaos, try Bhutan’s meditation retreats.
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