100 Reasons to Visit Bhutan
Bhutan, a Buddhist kingdom on the Himalayas’ eastern edge, is a land of monasteries, fortresses and dramatic topography ranging from subtropical plains to steep mountains and valleys. Tiger’s Nest monastery, a sacred site, clings to cliffs above the forested Paro Valley. Bhutan is no ordinary place. It is an amply modern country yet medieval with one foot still rooted in its past. Here are 100 reasons to visit Bhutan.
Tiger’s Nest Monastery
Taktsang is one of the most important Buddhist monasteries in Bhutan. It is situated on a vertical cliff 3000m north of Paro. The monastery was built in 1692.
A travel experience without McDonalds and Starbucks
If you want a truly authentic experience, Bhutan is the place to be.
Holding onto its own culture
Despite the introduction of the Internet in 1999, Bhutan is still very much its own cultural domain. The outside world seems distant when traveling to Bhutan. The government is actively working to ensure that Bhutan does not lose its cultural identity.
Drukair — Royal Bhutan Airlines, is the national airline of the Kingdom of Bhutan. Drukair operates a modest scheduled flight network within the South Asian region from its base at Paro Airport and currently consists of eight destinations in five countries. It's the best way to get to Bhutan.
Bhutan is full of nice people
There are very few thieves and people are very respectful. It is a green and environmentally friendly country. Plastic bags are banned and there are strict norms on business advertisement, the colour of the houses.
The Royal Family
King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and Queen Jetsun Pema may not have the worldwide recognition of Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge, but they are most definitely as loved by their subjects. Thousands of locals attended the royal couple’s nuptials in 2011, and even more lined the streets to greet the newlyweds. You’ll see huge portraits of the dashing young couple everywhere from the airport runway to little shop windows.
A drive up to the Dochu La Pass on a clear day is one of the best things to do in Bhutan.
Smoking is absolutely banned in public places of Bhutan, like hotel lobbies, restaurants, cinemas, discotheques, offices, markets, bars and few other selected places as dictated by the Tobacco Control Board.
Archery is the national sport and is an obsession among the country’s youth as well as elders. Several archery completions are held throughout the country, both traditional as well as amateur. Apart from archery, football, futsal and cricket are also steadily gaining popularity.
It's Surprisingly Affordable
Many travellers get discouraged by the daily $250-per-person tax that Bhutan requires. But this Himalayan kingdom is actually incredibly affordable. The fee includes a driver, personal tour guide, standard hotel room accommodations throughout the country, and three meals a day.
People abide by the traditions and laws
The citizens are law abiding. Thanks to a robust social security system, the crime rate is almost zero.
The Punakha Dzong, also known as Pungtang Dechen Photrang Dzong, is the administrative centre of Punakha District in Punakha, Bhutan.
Since the 17th century, Dzongs have been big deals in Bhutan. They refer to governmental administrative offices that also act as Buddhist shrines for the people. The intricate designs throughout the country are specifically Bhutanese: multi-colored wood frontages, small arched windows, and a sloping roof.
Thimphu Weekend Market
On Saturdays and Sundays many Bhutanese congregate at the bustling weekend market in the heart of Thimphu. The market offers visitors the opportunity to mingle with locals as well as to try local foods, purchase handicrafts and textiles, prayer flags or even a human thigh-bone trumpet.
One of the unique ways to share the life of local people and experience traditional life in the countryside is spending a few days on a Bhutanese farm.
There is so much greenery all around
See what fields of wild marijuana look like
Despite the Bhutanese’s stance on smoking, the country’s climate is perfect for marijuana. Ironically, cannabis grows legally all over the kingdom. But smoking it, of course, is outlawed and, instead, is used as pig food. Even so, if you’ve every been curious about what fields and fields of wild marijuana look like then Bhutan certainly satisfies that sight.
The Hills Are Alive
Sure, the neighbours Nepal and China have great trails, but how many do you know have hiked the terrains of Bhutan? Not many.
The architects of Bhutan’s temples picked some of the world’s most auspicious locations (and jaw-dropping views) to construct their fortresses and monasteries.
Often called as mini Takstang, Dzongdrakha is a cliff-side temple complex on the western side of the Paro Valley. Four shrines make up the complex, dedicated to Drolma (Tara), Tsheringma (Goddess of Longevity), Guru Rinpoche and the Buddha of the Future, Maitreya.
Appreciating the little everyday things
Start a friendly conversation and feel the rhythms of everyday Bhutanese life. Chat with vegetable sellers, buy a local newspaper, enjoy a leisurely cup of tea. Terraces and balconies are festooned with chillies or meat being dried for the winter.
Peace of Mind
Most Bhutanese believe in having peace of mind, inner satisfaction and simple, easy way of life. Life is not complicated in this country.
It Has Breathtaking Views
Bhutan offers some of the most breathtaking views in the world. Whether you’re walking through the vibrant fields of rice paddies, sipping coffee on your hotel deck, or climbing up one of the mountain trails, everywhere you look is picture perfect.
A night out, Bhutan style!
Thimphu, nation’s capital, has it going on! Expect lots of Bollywood tunes, but popular hip-hop tracks, electronic dance beats and you’ve got the perfect night out with locals!
Taj Tashi Thimphu
Nothing spells luxury and warm hospitality like the recently relaunched five-star Taj Tashi Thimphu in Bhutan. A luxurious, exotic haven, it blends Bhutan's traditional fort-monastery architecture with the ultimate in modern design. And, looking like a golden palace, it sits on an expanse of flowering lawns studded with amazing structures and sculpture.
This unusual building was built in 1433 by the iron bridge builder Thangtong Gyalpo.
Cycling is gaining popularity amongst locals and the country’s topography is greatly suited to mountain biking, especially in Central and East Bhutan. Moderate biking trails lead through small towns and villages, but you can find challenging climbs as well. The tour of the Dragon Race (268 km) is considered one of the toughest one-day bike tours in the world, criss‐crossing many beautiful villages, passes, and Valleys.
Approximate four hours drive from Wangduephodrang is Chendbji Chorten, patterned on Swayambhunath temple in Kathmandu. It was built in 18th century by Lama Shida, from Tibet, to cover the remains of an evil spirit that was subdued at this spot.
The King’s palace and office is so serene!
You’ll be special!
No one’s been there! Literally, it is one of those countries, next to Antarctica, that travelers rarely check out. You’ll be so special and ultra cool among your group of travel buddies.
Meet the lamas
Besides in Tibet, where else could this happen? Seeing lamas on every street corner in Bhutan is quite normal. Be respectful while you interact with them, but realize that they are sweet, friendly and extremely helpful to travelers.
Bonding with Nature
Surrounded by high mountains and difficult terrain, has led to deeper relationship of Bhutanese people with the nature. Yaks and horses forms a key mode of transport still in the 21st century in the country.
There is no mistaking what is decorating people’s homes or what is painted on the sides of buildings. Phallic worship is often linked to the 15th-century Buddhist teacher Drukpa Kunley, who believed that there were evil demonesses that could only be subdued with his “thunderbolt.” To this day, phalluses are a symbol of good luck and are believed to aid in fertility, offer protection from evil spirits, and drive away malicious gossip.
Founded in 1967 by Royal Grand Mother, Ashi Phuntsho Choedron and situated at the altitude of 400m, this beautiful monastery contains paintings on the life of Buddha, statues of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and Guru Rinpoche.
A spiritual haven
Buddhism in Bhutan is not a religion; it’s a way of life. The reason why Bhutan is as peaceful as it is maybe because Buddhism is deeply engrained in the society mentality.
Bhutan is the only country in the world where chilli is not used as a seasoning but a vegetable! The national dish is “ema-datshi”, which is a chilli and cheese stew served with rice.
Thirteen unique arts and crafts of Bhutan
The 13 Bhutanese Arts and Crafts known as the Zorig Chusum is symbolic and rooted in Buddhist philosophy. They are; woodwork, stonework, carving, painting, sculpting, wood turning, black smithy, ornament making, bamboo work, paper making, tailoring and weaving.
Off the beaten track
Bhutan only has a fraction of visitors compared to most countries, with only a limited number of flights in and out of one airport. Visiting Bhutan you are able to experience a way of life that in the rural areas has largely remained unchanged for centuries. You may wish to visit a local farm or even stay in a simple traditional Bhutanese home. Bhutan has long maintained a policy of strict isolationism, both culturally and economically
Buddhism is ingrained into Bhutan’s landscape and daily life, with prayer flags, prayer wheels and white chortens. A basic understanding of Buddhism really does add to the experience of travelling through Bhutan, and helps one to really appreciate the complex visual tapestries that are found throughout the country.Mahayana Buddhism is the state religion of Bhutan, and Buddhists comprise two-thirds to three-quarters of its population.
Tsechu Festival Dance
A Chance to Walk
One of the best ways to explore Bhutan is by foot. There are numerous day walks that can be arranged and for those who want to trek we specialise in offering short two or three night treks.
Commonly known as the Tiger's Nest, Taktsang Monastery sits on a cliff-side some 914 meters above the surrounding countryside. An important religious site, tourist visits to this attraction are carefully managed by the Bhutan Tourism Council. Foreigners need to be accompanied by a licensed guide.
Semji Village – Trongsa
This ancient village is approx. 7km from Trongsa and ideal for bird watching. Weather permitting, hiking through the dense forest provide ample opportunity to see various species of birds. At Semji, one can visit the village and subsequently continue hiking downhill till the high way, where your transportation can shuttle you back to Trongsa town. The whole hiking trip takes approximately 4-5 hours.
Travel to the small capital of Bhutan and the only capital in the world without traffic lights to explore the colourful weekend markets and quirky shops. Thimphu houses the traditional Bhutanese art, culture and tradition. The architecture of the city is embellished with wooden houses and concrete buildings constructed in traditional Bhutanese style.
The Ta Dzong, a cylindrical stone structure rising five storeys, was built in 1652 by Chogyal Minjur Tempa, a task entrusted to him by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. After more than 350 years, it has been resurrected into a classy museum, that represents a tasteful blend of tradition and modernity. There are 224 items on display including a sacred image of Sung Joenma Dorji Chang (self spoken Vajradharna), a bronze statue of Pema Lingpa, made by himself, and a number of centuries-old treasures like dance and ritual costumes and objects, ancient prayer books, paintings and scrolls, and textiles.
One of the most honoured temples in Bhutan, the Temple of Fertility or the Chimi Lhakhang is dedicated to the ‘Divine Madman’, Lama Drukpa Kunley. Frequented by tourists and childless couples seeking special blessings to beget a child. The temple is decorated with colourful phalluses which are believed to drive malicious gossip and evil eye away.
Watch a Movie with the Monks at the local Cinema in Thimpu
Once you leave Thimpu, the capital, you will see very few cars. And most of them carrying some of the tourists that could afford to pay that amount of money. Bhutan has only one paved road crossing the country from West to East. By road you can only enter the country across Puentesholing.
Soak up some nature
Did you know that 60 percent of Bhutan is actually protected against development? More than half of the country is actually a natural park! A peaceful environment is known to make people happy, so it’s not really a surprise that it’s such a happy, cheerful place, right? As a tourist, the amount of serenity and nature will have the same effect on you as well!
The word "authentic" is more overused than the word "sorry" in tourism, but Bhutan is a place that can remind us of the true meaning of cultural authenticity.
Pu on their Traditional Dress
On the streets, traditional dress remains the preferred attire and local languages Dzongka and Sharchop can be heard.
For those living in big cities, riding cramped subways and living in shoe box apartments, enjoying wide open space is a luxury. Bhutan is 57 times bigger than Singapore but has less than 1 million people compared to Singapore’s 5.4 million people.
Finding one’s self in Bhutan does not have to include “roughing it”. Nature, relaxation and rejuvenation can be amplified while staying at one of the country’s luxury resorts which includes a Taj Hotel and 2 Le Meridiens and a Six Senses opening in 2015.
2015 is the year to Visit Bhutan
To commemorate Bhutan’s fourth King’s 60th birthday, 2015 has been declared as the year to visit Bhutan, with new areas opened to tourists starting in 2015.
It’s a food lover’s paradise
Bhutanese cuisine employs a lot of red rice (like brown rice in texture, but with a nutty taste, the only variety of rice that grows at high altitudes), buckwheat, and increasingly maize. Buckwheat is eaten mainly in Bumthang, maize in the Eastern districts, and rice elsewhere. The diet in the hills also includes chicken, yak meat, dried beef, pork, pork fat, and lamb. Soups and stews of meat, rice, ferns, lentils, and dried vegetables, spiced with chili peppers and cheese, are a favorite meal during the cold seasons.
From woven fabric and wooden masks to Buddha figurines and prayer flags, you have options galore. We also loved the thangkas, bright silk appliqué wall hangings depicting Buddhist deities or scenes from the scriptures and folktales. The flags are around 100 rupees each, and thangkas cost between 1500 and 2000 rupees.
Bhutan seems to be a different planet altogether
A country that lives on its terms, not flustered over how rest of the world works, and believe me, it works really well for them. It is incredible how Buddhism is a way of life, and not just a religion. Try meditating in one of the shrines, talk to a monk, play with kids or simply visit the monasteries. Bhutanese spirituality is magnetic, you will be drawn to it in seconds.
Hot springs can be found in many places around Bhutan and have been used for centuries to cure the Bhutanese of various ailments. In the winter, it is a tradition for the Bhutanese to visit the hot springs and is something visitors to Bhutan can enjoy as well.
Hassle Free Travel
Though the terrain you tackle may be uncharted, you won’t have to navigate it without a compass. Your Sacajawea guide will lead you, as Bhutan requires that visitors travel with a tour operator.
The Chimi Lhakhang
The Chimi Lhakhang is dedicated to Drukpa Kunley, a tantric Buddhist saint known for his unconventional approach to religion.
Chozo village, underneath the remarkable Table Mountain, is definitely one of my favourite Himalayan Bhutanese lifestyle is more addictive than caffeine.
Another key feature of Bhutan’s landscape is terrace farming. Hardworking Bhutanese people have tilled the hilly valleys using traditional methods of ploughing and farming techniques.
Tshechus - Annual religious Bhutanese festivals
Bhutanese festivals held in monasteries and Dzongs all over the country, are called „Tshechu“. These festivals are usually religious events celebrated on the tenth day of the lunar calendar, corresponding with the birth of Guru Rinpoche. People from surrounding villages will gather at the monastery or Dzong and celebrate with dances which tell the stories of the past. Believers should attend a Tshechu and witness the mask dances at least once in their lives to receive blessings and wash away sins.
The picturesque three-storey tower and several surrounding buildings were built in the 18th century by the eighth Desi, Druk Rabgye and Shabdrung Jigme Chhogyel added the golden roof in the 19th century.
Situated north of Thimphu, one way it takes about 30 minutes drive and one hour walk through shaded rhododendron forests to reach the monastery.
A wide assortment of colorful, hand woven textiles and other craft products is available for purchase at the government-run Handicrafts Emporium and many smaller crafts shops around the town.
Founded by great grand-father of the first Shabdrung, the Dzong was initially built as a monastery in 1549. It was upgraded after the Shabdrung had firmly established his power in 1646. The Dzong is now used as administrative centre for Bumthang valley, and houses the regional monk body.
This stupa was built in 1974 in the memory of Bhutan's third King, His Late Majesty, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, who is popularly regarded as Father of modern Bhutan. Thimphu townThe paintings and statues inside the monument provide a deep insight into Buddhist philosophy.
It is a fortress like temple and monastic school perched on a ridge above Thimphu, south of Motithang. The temple was established in 12th century on a site chosen by Lama Phajo Drugom Shigpo, who came from Tibet. The central statue here is Chenrezig in a manifestation with 11 heads. From temple courtyard, there is fascinating view of Thimphu valley.
Craft Bazaar - Thimpu
Organised on Tuesday and Wednesday in Centenary Farmer’s market, under patronage of Department of cottage & small industry and in collaboration with the department of culture, tourism council and the department of agriculture marketing and cooperatives, this market offers genuine Bhutanese arts & crafts thus contributing in promotion, protection and preservation of traditional arts.
Simply Bhutan Museum
A distinctive feature of Simply Bhutan is that it fully operated by young people and job seekers, who receive here on the job training in basic business & management skills, customer care and other spheres of life. The fund generated through Simply Bhutan is utilized to run many of the youth development programmes for vulnerable and disadvantaged youth under Youth Development Fund.
Perched on a promontory, overlooking picturesque Trashichhoedzong and Golf course, it is the only nunnery in capital known as Zilukha Anim Dratsang, once belonged to the Drubthob (Realized one) Thang Thong Gyalpo often referred to as The King of the open field (In the early 15th century with his multiple talents he popularly became the Leonardo da Vinci of the Great Himalayas). You may interact here with some of the nuns who have devoted their life to spirituality and Buddhism.
Jungshi Handmade Paper Factory
The traditional handmade papers are widely used for religious scripts, packing materials, hand-carry bags, lampshades, envelopes, calendars . The paper looks a lot like Japanese washi, and in fact a lot of Bhutanese paper is exported to Japan also.
Traditional Medicine Institute
In Bhutan, equal emphasis is given to both allopathic and traditional medicines. The rich herbal medicines made up from medicinal plants abundant in the Kingdom are prepared and dispensed here. The Institute is also a training school for traditional medicine practitioners. The complex is closed to visitors due to considerations of hygiene, but one can still walk around and view it from outside.
Set on the western slopes of the black mountains, bordering the Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park, Phobjikha Valley is a stunningly beautiful wildlife preserve popular for its scenic splendour and cultural uniqueness.
Red Panda Brewery
For those who thought Bhutan is all about culture and tradition, well, there’s more to it! Hit the countries first established brewery known as the Red Panda Brewery established in 2006 by Fritz Maurer. Beer is brewed from wheat and is pretty strong especially at high altitude.
Zuri Dzong Hike
A trek to Zuri Dzong is a popular hiking trip amongst many tourists. The peak of the Zuri Dzong trek is a perfect spot for a bird’s-eye view of the entire Paro Valley, with glorious Himalayas in the backdrop. It is believed that Buddha had meditated in one of the Zuri Dzong caves in the 8th century.
Ugyen Choling Palace
Restored in 19th century, it is now housing the Family Museum, a place that will transport visitors to another world and time. The visitors will view permanent exhibits recreated to capture the ambience of the lifestyle of the Trongsa Penelop (Governor) Tshokey Dorji and his household. It also serves as retreat for those engaged in religious history. Bhutan's history truly unfolds here.
Breathe Clean Air
The people of Bhutan live in one of the least polluted countries in the world. This makes it easy for you as a tourist to feel happy and healthy, because every breath you take will be crisper, greener and cleaner!
Clear your mind
Trekking is a great way to clear your mind and get in touch with nature – and the endorphins and adrenalin rush you get help make you a happier person.
Looking for a calm, peaceful vacation? Look no further than Bhutan! People in the country sleep more, work less and are generally much less stressed. The slow pace of the city is great for travellers too, since you will be surrounded by a culture that specialises in taking things easy!
A Warm Place to Stay In
Getting bad service at a hotel in Bhutan isn’t really that common. With friendly resorts instead of stiff, high-class chains and a personalised experience that seriously trumps any readymade hotel destination, this is a great place to visit. The hotels and resorts are run by locals, making them much more of a fun and cultural experience.
Shangri La on earth as they say, the Gangtey valley trails lead you to the historical Gangtey monastery passing through dense forests of magnolia, rhododendrons and juniper to ferns & dwarf bamboo and villages of Gogona & Khotokha.
Monklettes, also known as little-kid monks in their orange robes are a cute sight to watch.
The Takin - National Animal
The Takin, the national animal of Bhutan is said to have been created by Lama Drukpa Kunley (also known as Divine Madman) by cutting off a goat's head and attaching it to a cow’s body.
No Malls, No shopping, No crowds ... Just you and your partner, explore the ancient monasteries, mountain trails, camp by the river side. A honeymoon destination like no other, Bhutan would surprise you every minute of being there.
The higher altitude makes Bhutan a great destination to visit in the summer season. Snow in the winter season attracts a large number of tourists from far and wide. Travel to Bhutan and discover a mesmerizing experience of pleasant weather of the Himalayas.
Wildlife and Bird Watching
Bhutan is home to a wide range of animals. The country can be divided into three zones: the alpine zone (4,000 metres and above), with scarce vegetation; the temperate zone (2,000 to 4,000 metres), with conifer and broadleaf forests; and the subtropical zone (2,000 metres and below). Animals like the snow leopard and Bengal tiger can be found in the alpine zone, while the other areas of Bhutan are home to species like the red panda, the Himalayan black bear, the one horned rhinoceros, elephants, and golden languors, which are unique to the country. A total of 670 different species of birds can be found – among them the endangered imperial heron. Bhutan is also an important wintering ground for the rare black-necked crane.
Built in 1659, the Dzong serves as the administrative seat for the district as well as the home of the monk body. The Dzong commands a remarkable view over the surrounding countryside.
Lhodrak Kharchu Monastery
On the hill to the east of Jakar this large Nyingma monastery was founded in the 1970s by Namkhai Nyingpo Rinpoche and has more than 380 monks in residence.
It is site of one of Bhutan's newest Dzong built in 1930s. Yet the Dzong is built in the same method and traditions of all the other Dzongs; no drawings and nails have been used. A visit gives visitors an impression of how traditional Bhutanese architecture has continued to thrive through the centuries.
The Gangteng Monastery,generally known as Gangtey Gonpa or Gangtey Monastery, is an important monastery of Nyingmapa school of Buddhism, the main seat of the Pema Lingpa tradition. located in the Wangdue Phodrang District in central Bhutan
Located at about 20 minutes walk from Mongar town, this privately owned monastery was founded by Lama Sangdag, the sixth son of Terton Pema Lingpa. It is of great cultural significance and a repository of a wide range of spiritual treasures and other sacred objects known to have been revealed by Terton Pema Lingpa.
The Folk Heritage Museum (Phelchey Toenkhyim)
It is dedicated to connect people to the Bhutanese rural past through exhibits, demonstrations, educational programmes and documentation of rural life. The principal exhibit in the museum is a restored three storey traditional rammed mud and timber house, which dates back to the mid 19th century.
The history of Bhutan lies imprinted in archaic texts, which are preserved at the National Library. Besides thousands of manuscripts and ancient texts, the library also has modern academic books and printing blocks for prayer flags.
Chele la (pass), at an elevation 3,988 meters is considered to be one of the highest motorable passes in Bhutan.
It is the serene home of Buddhist nuns who have dedicated their life for spiritual fulfillment and leading undisturbed life of religious studies, prayer and meditation.
Haa Valley is a steep north-south valley with a narrow floor
Located behind Paro Dzong, this small temple is home to a magnificent statue of Sakyamuni Buddha that was carried all the way from Lhasa and also houses the protector deity of Paro.
Buddha Point (Kuensel Phodrang)
Located at a short drive from Thimphu city centre, visitors can get a good overview of the Thimphu valley from the Buddha point (Kuensel Phodrang). You can pay your obeisance and offer prayers to the Buddha, the largest statue in the country and then walk around and take a glimpse of the valley.
National Textile Museum
The textile museum has opened its exhibition on six major themes - warp pattern weaves, weft pattern weaves, role of textiles in religion, achievements in textile arts, textiles from indigenous fibers and the royal collection.
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