Asia

Bhutan

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The mysterious Kingdom of Bhutan is one of the most pristine mountain cultures on earth. Nestled high in the Himalayas, between India and China, Bhutan offers some of the finest trekking in the region.

For centuries the monarchy has restricted access to Bhutan, and this has enabled the cultural traditions and spiritual life of the kingdom to flourish. In Bhutan, Gross National Happiness (now a UN-sanctioned concept) is more important than Gross National Product.

In addition to the jaw dropping scenery from the ‘Rooftop of the World’ is the remarkable Bhutanese architecture, with everything conforming to traditional architectural styles (and not a single ugly building in sight).

Since cautiously opening its doors to the outside world back in the 1970s, Bhutan has remained something of a hushed secret to the fortunate few who have got to know this enchanted kingdom. For those seeking spiritual reinvigoration and an escape from our Western way of life, Bhutan comes highly reccommended.

Places To Visit

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Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan, lies in a fertile wooded valley at an altitude of more than 8,000ft. The focal point of this uniquely pretty capital is the Trashi Chhoe Dzong (Fortress of the Glorious Religion), which houses the king’s offices, his Throne Room, and around 2,000 live-in monks.

A visit to the Kaa Valley which is accessible via a 3,810m road pass, the highest in Bhutan, provides fabulous views of Mt. Jhomolheri (7,314m). Travel down in to Kaa and on to the Wangchulo Dzong where you can visit the bazaar, the Lhakhang Karpo and Lkakhang Nagpo (White & Black Temples).

In central Bhutan lies the Bumthang Valley, the country’s spiritual heart thanks to a proliferation of sacred sites. Imposing monasteries dot the hillsides, along with apple orchards and paddy terraces.

In Western Bhutan lies the Paro Valley and the most famous of the country’s many monasteries, Taktshang (Tigers Nest). With its distinctive tiered roofs, Taktshang Monastery is perched on the edge of a 2,950-metre cliff face and houses the National Museum of Bhutan.

The highlight in Eastern Bhutan is the Trongsa Dzong, a magnificent fortress built in 1648 and the most perfect example of traditional Bhutanese architecture, with a series of courtyards spilling down a mountain ridge.

One of the most popular things to do in Bhutan is attend a tsechu, or festival, held at any of the major dzongs (fort-monasteries) in honour of Guru Rinpoche, who brought Buddism to Bhutan. The tsechus are taken very seriously by the Bhutanese who have unquestioning faith in their religion, but it is also a time of much rejoicing and merriment for all and a colouorful and enthralling event that you will enjoy. If you wish to visit a festival during your time in Bhutan, please book early and take plenty of film (the vibrant dances are a riot of colour).

Local Weather & Useful Info

Weather

Capital
Thimphu

Currency
Ngultrum

Languages
Dzongkha, Tibetan, Nepali

Best combined with
India

Flying Time
13-14 hrs

Fly To
Kolkata or Delhi with onwards flights to Paro

Time Zone
GMT+6

Travel Details
Visa required

Health Risks
Malaria, hepatitis, typhoid

Hotels

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Amankora

Taj Tashi

Uma Paro