The mighty Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan presents awe-inspiring nature, a strong sense of spirituality and endless smiling faces of friendly Bhutanese people. These ingredients blend together to justify the well-known tag of the “Land of Happiness”.
Travellers from around the globe come to this tiny nation seeking a little piece of happiness.
The mountainous land has many interesting things to see, experience and enjoy. An odyssey of the cities of Paro and former and present capitals of Punaka and Thimpu provides a good taste of what Bhutan has to offer.
These settlements are dotted with royal quarters, temples, monasteries and religious monuments. They reflect a quaint lifestyle where the people practice ancient customs and traditions at its centre stage.
Awesome nature in Bhutan
Visitors get the first shot of nature’s splendour when flying into Bhutan. On a clear day, it’s possible to see the snow-capped peaks of Mount Everest, Mount Kanchenjunga and other peaks of the high Himalayan range. These mountains hide the paradise-like land from the rest of the world.
Tucked between China and India, the terrain is embroidered with lofty mountain ranges, pine-clad forests, mighty glaciers, gushing rivers and flowering valleys. Bhutan shares a border with the Indian states of Sikkim, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
These gifts of nature imbue a serenity throughout the land. This, along with the pristine landscape, provides a canvas that inspires a sense of calm. That’s why it’s hard to see an angry and grumpy Bhutanese person.
Nature inspires a wide range of outdoor activities, from trekking and mountain biking to river rafting and fly fishing.
These are becoming increasingly popular among travellers keen on “doing things” rather than just “seeing”.
Spirituality in Bhutan
The first thing that comes to sight in Thimpu is a giant sitting statue of Buddha. Located on the top of a hill, this 51m tall figure is one of the largest in the world.
Bhutan’s strong sense of spirituality emanates from this deep association with Buddhism, which has shaped the nation’s history and culture. Over time, this philosophy has become part of daily life of Bhutanese people.
Guru Rinpoche from India, who is revered as the “Second Buddha”, introduced the faith in this land in the 8th century. He established several sacred sites, which are revered today as significant locations of pilgrimage by Buddhists worldwide. The most well-known of these sites is the cliff-hanging Tiger Nest Monastery near Paro.
A dynamic era in religion and nation building emerged in 1616 with the arrival of great Buddhist leader Zhabdrung. Zhabdrungi laid the foundations of a unified Bhutan identity and established a setup of national governance led by religious chiefs called Je Khenpos. This continued until early 20th century when political power shifted to a monarchy.
Zhabdrungi laid the foundations of a unified Bhutan identity and established a setup of national governance led by religious chiefs called Je Khenpos. This continued until early 20th century when political power shifted to a monarchy.
During this period several temples, monasteries, stupas and grandiose administrative buildings called dzongs were built in every district.
Laden with prayer wheels and colourful flags, their architectural scale and artistic characters make them Bhutan’s top tourist attractions.
Happy people of Bhutan
Bhutan has a population of about 700,000 people living like a large family. Closeness with nature and religion makes them honest and friendly. Their goal in life is to remain happy and their huge smiles are symbols of their happiness.
Their goal in life is to remain happy and their huge smiles are symbols of their happiness.
They wear traditional attire, respect their king, love archery (their national sport) and enjoy singing, dancing and drinking Druk 11000, which is a strong beer.
Where to stay in Bhutan
They say that you enjoy the charms of a destination more if your accommodation is good. And when it comes to accommodation, Bhutan doesn’t disappoint. There are plenty of clean and comfortable options throughout Bhutan.
Located conveniently in the city’s heart, Taj Tashi architecturally displays a blend of traditional dzong architecture and contemporary design. It has 66 elegantly decorated rooms and engulfs guests with impeccable hospitality on par with the high standards of Taj Hotels, Resorts & Palaces- one of the world’s finest hotel group. The 45-room Zhiwa Ling combines the sensibilities of a fine Bhutanese guesthouse with the best of
The 45-room Zhiwa Ling combines the sensibilities of a fine Bhutanese guesthouse with the best of 21st-century technology.
A wonder unto itself, the property sits in the historic Paro valley and offers guests a rare glimpse of a thousand-year-old culture from the comforts of a stone built, architecturally typical Bhutanese edifice packed with modern comforts.
Sandip Hor received some assistance from Tourism Council of Bhutan, Taj Tashi and Zhiwa Ling hotels
Bhutan Travel Requirements: All tourists (excluding Indian, Bangladeshi and Maldivian passport holders) to Bhutan require a visa and must book their holiday through a Bhutanese tour operator or one of their international partners.
Staying there: A system of minimum day package payment is mandatory. The US$250 per day per person (USD 200 in low season) package includes 3-star accommodation, meals, experienced guide local transportation and USD65 as government royalty that goes towards healthcare and poverty alleviation. An upgrade to the 4/5 star hotels incurs extra cost. For more info check www.tourism.gov.bt
Getting around: Bhutan Norter Adventures is one of most experienced tour operators in Bhutan. Sonam Phuntsho, their CEO and his able team are efficient, very responsive and offer many tailor-made itineraries covering the nation’s iconic destinations.