Bhutan is no ordinary place. It is an amply modern country yet medieval with one foot still rooted in its past. Bhutan is aware of the downsides of rapid modernization and has decided to move cautiously without losing its soul. Sustainable socio-economic development, preservation and promotion of culture and tradition, and preservation and protection of natural environment are at the forefront of government policy. Every decision is carefully weighed for the benefit of its people. The government’s ‘high value-low volume’ tourism policy is therefore a good example of its efforts to keep foreign influences at bay while nurturing Bhutanese values at home. This gives Bhutan a different look and feel altogether, a visual and spiritual feast for all visitors.
Top 10 Reasons to visit Bhutan
1. Taktsang Goemba (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. According to legend, Guru Rinpoche flew on this cliff from Tibet on the back of a flaming tigress.
2. Tsechus (Festivals)
Tshechu is the annual religious festival in Bhutan. It is conducted in all the dzongs and major monasteries. Tshechus are social gatherings where people from near and far gather to witness mask dances and cultural items.
3. Dzong (Bhutanese Fort)
Dzongs were ancient forts that are used today as the administrative centers. Dzongs follow typical Bhutanese architecture with a wide base and tapering top. They are also ornately decorated in various colors and shapes. Dzongs were built without using a single nail.
4. Gross National Happiness
Gross National Happiness is Bhutan’s development philosophy based on Buddhist values that measures the quality of life based on the spiritual and mental well-being of its people. It does not reject the conventional method of measuring development – GDP but GNH is pursued as an alternative development philosophy.
5. Highest unclimbed mountains
Bhutan has some of the highest unclimbed mountains in the world – Mount Jhomolhari, Jitchu Drake, etc. The government prohibits mountaineering in the peaks which the Bhutanese believe are the abode of deities and spirits.
6. Museums & Monuments
Museums are the repositories of Bhutanese history starting from the advent of Guru Padmasambhava in the 8th century. Visitors will have museums-within-museum experience while visiting the ubiquitous dzongs and lhakhangs which are distinctly unique to each other.
7. Mountain Trekking
Bhutan’s treks will take you through physically challenging routes that include crossing high mountain passes and snow. You may also be bothered by leeches but it is worth all the trouble because of the pristine natural beauty you will witness. You will also come in close contact with hardy highlanders and farmers but thankfully there will be ponies to carry your packs!
8. 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. Pema Lingpa, a treasure discoverer, introduced these arts and crafts to Bhutan in the 15th century.
9. “Hot” cuisine
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. Adventurous tourists may like to sample it at their own risk!
10. 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. Don’t be surprised to see an old man or woman at the Memorial Chorten circumambulating with a string of beads in hand. If you would like to get away from noise and chaos, try Bhutan’s meditation retreats.