Bhutan, or the Land of the Thunder Dragon, is a gorgeous country to explore thanks to the Bhutanese working hard on the preservation of their natural and cultural traditions, while also pressing forth with sustainable socio-economic development. This means that a visit feels like stepping back in time, even as you’re offered every modern convenience that a luxury travellers expect. It is for this reason that Bhutan is one of the hottest destinations for 2019.
Many visitors are drawn to Bhutan simply because of the legendary scenery — mountains and rivers crisscross each other, creating a beautiful and diverse landscape. Spread throughout this beautiful country, visitors will also discover Bhutanese monasteries; many which are a sight to behold.
The Tiger’s Nest Monastery (Taktsang Goemba) is one standout, located on a vertical cliff along the mountainside. Legend has it that Guru Rinpoche flew here on the back of a flaming tigress in 1692, during its construction.
The landscape isn’t just peppered with beautiful
Buddhist temples, but also dzongs - traditional forts. The Tshechu Festival takes place in these forts and monasteries. You will find the annual religious festival filled with mask dances, dance, dramas, and other cultural happenings.
For the culturally inclined, it’s worth noting their national sport of archery and the13 arts and crafts, known as the Zorig Chusum, that the Bhutanese have mastered. These include woodwork, stonework, carving, painting, sculpting, wood turning, black smithing, ornament making, bamboo work, paper making, tailoring and weaving. You will enjoy bringing these exceptional souvenirs home.
The National Institute of Zorig Chusum in Thimphu is an interesting cultural visit. The Bhutanese artists do not sign artwork — art is supposed to speak for itself, much like the value, or belief the artwork represents.
The Bhutanese take great pride in their approach to clean air and organic farming thanks to a slightly different way of measuring prosperity — the Gross National Happiness Index which doesn’t conflict with the Gross Domestic Product Index. Bhutan focuses on physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing, just as much as economic wellbeing.
Such is the respect and belief Bhutan places on its relationship with nature. While hiking through the beautiful landscape is encouraged, it’s forbidden to climb to the very top of some of the high mountains, such as Mount Jhomolhari and Jitchu Drake. It is believed that spirits call the mountaintops their heavenly abode and should remain undisturbed.
That said, mountaineering in Bhutan is a wonderful experience where visitors will be greeted by pristine landscapes, swift rivers and beautiful lakes. In spring the blossoming rhododendrons are a sight for sore eyes too.
Bhutan has five, not four, seasons: summer, monsoon, autumn, winter and spring. March to May and September to November are the preferred months to visit as the weather is relatively temperate. The rhododendron bloom from March to April. December to February is the perfect time to enjoy the Himalayan cold.
This page, from left, Two buddhist monks at Punakha Dzong, Bhutan; Monk ritual in Trashigang dzong Opposite, from top, iron chain bridge of Tamchog Lhakhang Monastery, Paro River; Punakha Dzong in Bhutan