The beauty of travel in Bhutan is steadfast in living by to its core principles of protecting its natural heritage and cultural moorings with an agenda of high-value, low-impact tourism development. Despite the brouhaha that surrounds tourism development in the Himalayan region, Bhutan has mindfully opted to open its doors to the global travelling community with caution. For the discerning traveller looking for uncrowded spaces to soak up truly unique travel experiences, Bhutan will always be a destination of choice.
Happiness as a way of life
Why would you not choose to spend time in a gorgeous place where the quotient of happiness takes precedent over the nation’s GDP? Courteous to strangers, joyful in the interactions as a given be at work or play and charming in their ways. Take a bet that the smiles of Bhutan will warm the cockles of your heart! Soak up the fun filled atmospherics of an archery contest at Thimpu, chat up the local vendor for traditional souvenir, join a local family over drinks and snacks in their home and you’ll discover it’s not all talk… this business of happiness being more important than the GDP.
Tryst with Buddhism
Unveil the many layers of the Buddhist faith that drive the spiritual mooring of Bhutan. Spend time with monks at a monastery to discover this secret world of rites and rituals. Return soothed and revitalised with the blessings of a senior monk. Take that energy and let it carry you up the vertiginous climb to the fantastic setting above Paro Valley of the pilgrimage hub of Tiger’s Nest. Taktsang monastery marks the sacred site where the founder of Vajrayana (Tantra) Buddhism, Guru Padmasambhava, flew on the back of a tigress to meditate for three months in a secret cave here. Visit the Chorten Nyingpo Monastery dedicated to Lama Drukpa Kuenley, “The Divine Madman”, is a legend as an enlightened Buddhist master and one of Bhutan’s most revered saints. The divine lama inspired the unique rite of phallus-worship. The phallus, in Bhutan, is considered a venerated esoteric symbol, said to avert the evil eye, and brings good luck. It’s also a fertility symbol.
High Mountain Grandeur
Adventure seekers, nature lovers and botanical buffs can never get enough of Bhutan’s fantastic Himalayan vistas. From high mountain grandeur to stunning valley expanses, you can really indulge your greatest fantasies of engaging with nature’s great bounty on earth. Mountain biking, trekking, rafting angling or just simple hikes along the mountain trails, past hamlets with friendly folk, will recharge your batteries anew.
Out-of-the-box Food and Drink Experiences
The Bhutanese innovative take on even the simplest dishes will leave you hungry for more for the exciting array of dishes and drinks summoned up even in simple family kitchens. The ubiquitous offering of the local suja (tea leaves boiled in water to which is added a lump of butter and a dash of salt) is a good way to start the culinary journey. Looking for something for a kick in it? Learn how to make the local brew called ara, from an expert and wow your buddies back home. You may be familiar with the national dish Ema datsi, made from only two ingredients - hot chilis (ema) and cheese (datsi). How about getting more adventurous and try the unique Shakam Shukam Datshi one of the rarest dishes Bhutan offers? This dish comprises white dried chilies (shukam), which is a rare thing to find and also taste quite different. Shukam is mixed with authentic Bhutanese cheese which is cooked with dried beef. Another interesting dish is Sikam Paa made from sun-dried pork bellies fried up with dried chillies. Yaksha Shakam comprises dried yak meat, which gives it a similar taste of beef but with a distinct aroma. One of the best Bhutanese yak recipes is dried yak meat cooked with fermented yak cheese.
Bhutan has a rich repertoire of dance, music, costumes and rituals. One of the best places to witness this unique world is at the extravaganza of the Thimpu Festival. Join the great crowds at the Tendrel Thang grounds to soak up the grand festivities marked by fantastical mask dances abrim with symbolic moves and gestures. The festival dates back to 1670 when it was launched by Gyalsey Tenzin Rabgye to celebrate the birthday of Guru Padmasmabhav. Performances you will enjoy are the Guru Tshengye (the eight manifestations of Guru Rinpoche), Shawa Shachi (Dance of the Stags), Dance of the Terrifying Deities and Dance of the Lords of the Cremation Grounds.
Even on a first trip, you are bound to discover your personal favourite reasons to return to the ‘Land of the Thunder Dragon’. Bhutan is still there, so why wait too long for your next trip!