BHUTAN

World Travel Magazine - - Fea­ture Des­ti­na­tions 2019 -

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

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