Bhutan

Bhutan can boast a policy of happiness thanks to the determination of King Jigme Singye Wangchuck. The people of Bhutan have contributed to making this dream a reality by preserving their traditions and guarding the country from the outside World, while showing their hospitality to the privileged visitor.

The legendary Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan is a small country commonly referred to as “The Land of the Thunder Dragon”. This land enjoys a policy of happiness, a very unique concept developed when King Jigme Singye Wangchuck used this phrase in 1972 to demonstrate his commitment to tourism as a way of building an economy that would serve his country's culture and spiritual values.

Tashichho Dzong

A landscape of mountains peaks, temples, monasteries and a rich culture that has maintained old customs and traditions as a very important part of their everyday life is the main attraction for the very few visitors that Bhutan receives each year.

Bhutan's great respect for its environment can be best appreciated from the words of His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck: “Throughout the centuries, the Bhutanese have treasured their natural environment and have looked upon it as the source of all life. The traditional reverence for nature has delivered us into the twentieth century with our environment still richly intact. We wish to continue living in harmony with nature and to pass on this rich heritage to our future generations.”

Under Bhutanese law 60% of the kingdom must remain covered by forest for all time. The current forest coverage is 72.5%

A landscape of mountains peaks, temples, monasteries and a rich culture that has maintained old customs and traditions as a very important part of their everyday life is the main attraction.

THIMPHU lies in a steep valley at an altitude of 2,350m, surrounded by richly forested mountains dotted with ancient monasteries and lhakhangs (temples). The town is built up from the Thimphu Chhu (river) and is centered by the quaint Clock Tower and its surrounding lanes of shops, vegetable and meat markets and assorted local restaurants. As Bhutan’s capital city Thimphu is home to many attractions and activities, including the National Textile Museum, Folk Heritage Museum and the bustling Changlingmethang Market. It also houses the seat of government and the office of the king in the majestic Tashichho Dzong.

Punakha festival

PUNAKHA is one of the lowest lying valleys in the Kingdom. With its temperate climate, this valley is the market garden of the country, where produce grows year around and many Bhutanese reside during the colder winter months. One of the highlights of Punakha (Bhutan's winter capital for 300 years until Thimphu became the official capital in the 1950's) is visiting the Punakha Dzong, which straddles the confluence of the Mother (Mo) and the Father (Pho) rivers like an ancient ship stranded by the tide. Twenty-one temples are contained within the area of the dzong’s third courtyard, the largest of which is the monk’s hundred-pillared Great Assembly Hall. Beyond the pre-eminence of the dzong, the Chimi Lhakhang built later in the 15th century is a must see to take in the history of this auspicious worship house and its ritual phaluses.

Prayers flags on bridge near Lhakhang Dzong

A beautiful hike takes one to the regal Khamsum Yuelley Namgyel Chorten which dominates the upper Punakha Valley with views across the Mo Chhu and up towards the mountainous peaks of Gasa and beyond.

PARO Valley is the entry point for most journeys through the Kingdom and has a number of monasteries and monuments but none as dramatic as the 8th century Taktsang, or ‘Tiger’s Nest’. A highly revered monastery built on a sheer cliff face at a height of 2,950m, highly visible from the valley floor. The hike to Tiger’s Nest is challenging and horses, mules, and donkeys are usually on hand to ease the journey.

Other highlights are the National Museum, previously the watchtower of the valley, displaying an intriguing collection of artifacts that illustrate the rich culture and heritage of the Kingdom, Paro Dzong is a prime example of Bhutanese architecture and the 15th century Dumtse Lhakhang is also worth visiting.

The Valley of Paro is also the starting point for many of Bhutan’s treks that range from 4 to 42 days.