Reasons Why Bhutan Should Be Your Next Travel Destination
The Land of Thunder Dragon or The Last Shangri-La in the world, Bhutan is known for its stunning landscapes, legendary ancient temples and fortresses, hot yet delicious food, colourful festivals and most of all its realness. If you wish to slow down your fast paced city life and relish a moment or two in the lap of Himalayas, Bhutan is the place for you! The charms of this isolated Himalayan Kingdom are knitted strong within its cultural realms. The government takes all measures to preserve its culture, history and rich tradition.
Bhutan’s strategy of “low volume, high quality” tourism has made it a highly regarded destination among discerning travelers. It’s the government’s way of keeping the country from being overrun by mass tourism, while at the same time ensuring its preferred visitors get the most value out of their trips.
Buddhism is deep-rotted into Bhutan’s landscape and daily life, with prayers flags, prayer wheels and white Chortens. A basic understanding of Buddhism really does add to the experience of travelling through Bhutan. Mahayana Buddhism in the state religion of Bhutan.
According to Buddhism we are all born with three toxics such as hatred, greed and ignorance and we should work to liberate ourselves of these to reach illumination and potentially reach heaven. In other words, nothing is permanent, and thus we should enjoy our positive memories and know that our suffering shall pass onto next live.
2. Tiger’s Nest Monastery
Taktshang Goemba or the ‘Tiger’s Nest’ Monastery is one the most important Buddhist monasteries in Bhutan. It is situated on a vertical cliff, 3000m north of Paro. The Monastery was built in 1692. It is believed Guru Rinpoche flew to this cliff on a flaming tigress and meditated here. This Monastery is the 10th holiest place in the world.
3. Chimi Lhakhang.
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, a tantric Buddhist saint known for his unconventional approach to religion.
Sex was Drukpa Kunley’s way of blessing devotees. It’s claimed he made love to more than 5,000 women in his lifetime and it’s believed the sex act helped devotees on the path to enlightenment.
It’s a fertility pilgrimage site for those wishing to bear children. The temple is decorated with colourful phalluses which are believed to drive malicious gossip and evil eye away. Households around the shrine hang wooden phalluses to bless the home and promote harmony among family members.
4. Festivals (Tshechus)
Tshechu are annual religious Bhutanese festivals held in each district or dzongkhag of Bhutan on the tenth day of a month of the Buddhist Calendar. Tshechus are religious festivals of the Drukpa Lineage of the Kagyu school of Buddhism. The Thimphu Tshechu, Paro Tshechu, and the Punakha Tshechu are among the biggest of the Tshechus in terms of participation and audience. It is believed that the ones who witness the mask dances receive blessings and wash away the sins as the world’s largest religious Thangka scroll; Paro Thongdrel unfolds at the festive ceremony.
5. The 13 Unique Arts & Crafts of Bhutan
The 13 Bhutanese Arts and Crafts known as the Zorig Chusum is the symbolic and rooted in Buddhist philosophy. Pema Lingpa, a treasure discoverer introduced 13 arts and crafts namely, woodwork, stonework, paper making, carving, painting, sculpting, wood turning, black smithy, ornament making, bamboo work, weaving tailoring, to Bhutan in the 15th century.
6. Phobjikha Valley
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. The park is a hot bed for wildlife activity and a paradise for birdwatchers. One could spot the globally threatened black necked cranes migrate to the valley in winters.
The birds strut and glide gracefully, and are truly mesmerizing to watch. Interestingly they’re known as “birds of heaven” and are said to be attracted to holy places. Uniquely these birds fly clockwise three times around the local Gangtey Monastery (a Buddhist practice that helps rid the body of negative energy), both when they arrive in the fall and before they migrate to Tibet in the early-to-late spring. This indicates how holly the place is.
Travel to world’s smallest capital city – Thimphu in Bhutan and the only capital in the world without traffic lights. Thimphu houses the traditional Bhutanese art, culture and tradition. The architecture of the city is embroidered with wooden houses and concrete buildings constructed in traditional Bhutanese style.
8. Hot Chilli
The Bhutanese aren’t kidding when they say that chillies are their favorite vegetables. 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”, an insanely hot delicacy of boiled chillies and native cheese stew served with rice.
If you worry this dish will be too hot, fear not: local chefs usually tone it down for foreign dinners.
9. Bhutanese Dress
One of the most distinctive features of the Bhutanese is their traditional dress, which is the most distinct dress code from rest of the world. One of the most characteristic features of the Bhutanese is their traditional dress, unique garments that have evolved over thousands of years. Men wear the Gho, a knee-length robe somewhat resembling a kimono that is tied at the waist by a traditional belt known as Kera. Women wear the Kira, a long, ankle-length dress accompanied by a light outer jacket known as a Toego with an inner layer known as a Wonju.
Despite the introduction of the internet in 1999, Bhutan is still very much its own cultural domain. The outside world seems distant when you travel to Bhutan. The government is actively working to ensure that Bhutan does not lose its cultural identity.
10. Dochula Pass
The Dochula Pass is located at an elevation of 3,150 metres (10,330 ft) on the East West Road from Thimphu to Punakha, overlooking the Himalayas, is a concentration of 108 Chortens (stupas) built in memory of Bhutanese soldiers killed in the 2003 war against insurgents from India. The Queen Mother, Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk, commissioned the monument after King Jigme Singye Wangchuk was victorious in the struggle to dislodge the rebels who were using Bhutan as a base to raid India and further east in the Himalayas amidst the Eastern Himalayan snow-covered mountains. The pass is a popular location among tourists as it offers a stunning 360 degree panoramic view of Himalayan mountain range.
11. Tobacco Free Bhutan
By 2004, the national assembly of Bhutan (which was then a monarchy), banned the sale of tobacco throughout the country as well as smoking in public places, private offices and even recreation centres like bars and pubs. It was lauded for being the first country in the world to go entirely smoke-free.
However, tourists are allowed to import and consume after paying 200% tax but according to the quantity fixed by the Tobacco Control Board of Bhutan.
12. GNH Vs GDP
“Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross Domestic Product” – HM 4th King of Bhutan. GNH in Bhutan was propounded by His Majesty the 4th king of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuk. Unlike, rest of the world, Gross National Happiness (GNH) is the developmental philosophy of Bhutan and it is preferred over Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Bhutan’s economic prosperity is measured in terms of GNH Index instead of wealth. Happiness is considered more important than Wealth in Bhutan. There are FOUR pillars of GNH such as Good Governance, Sustainable Socio-economic Development, Preservation and Promotion of Culture, and Conservation of Environmental. These four pillars are considered as the source of happiness as these elements maintains the balance between spiritual and material well-being of the man and society.