Bhutan may be an expensive destination for some to visit , but it has a wide range of things to see and do, from the amazing ancient Dzongs that are found across the entire country to the stunning Takin and even leopards and tigers. Travel by bike or on foot, or take a driven tour to some of the most outstanding places in the world, all in the last Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan.
Known as the Last Shangri-La in the Himalayas, Bhutan is a country that has a charm that is unique in the world, isolated from the outside world for centuries. It is this isolation that has produced a unique culture in Bhutan, where the people and government care greatly about the environment, and where tourism is eco-friendly and wholly environmental.
Travelling to Bhutan is not the cheapest in the world, and tourists are expected to pay the Daily Minimum Fee for their trip, as per the government policies on international tourism. However, this unique kingdom on the southern edge of the mighty Himalayas is one of the most astounding places to visit, for a huge number of reasons.
Bhutan has some rather unique policies on tourism too, opting for the “Low Volume, High Value” kind of tourism that is rarely found elsewhere in the world. The policy of environmental protection and eco-friendly tourism has produced a unique tourism policy, where the importance of the environment is higher than the importance put on the tourist industry in the kingdom. Bhutan has actually done so much to protect its environment over the last 30 years since opening up to tourists, that they are still the only country in the world that has a “Negative carbon footprint”.
Top Reasons to Visit Bhutan
The picturesque mountainous region, vast lush rice fields, jungles and wildlife safari in pleasant weather – all these seems like a stereotype description if you read it, right? But you have to go and experience this ‘unique land’ that has unimaginable nature in its fullest, bio-diversity, and different types of climate and terrain, all in a small geographical area. Just to get an idea, read on to know some of the Top Reasons to Visit Bhutan below.
Top 15 Reasons to Visit Bhutan
1. Bhutan was voted the #1 Green Destinations in the World
The country is known for its sky high mountains and low deep valleys caped with white snow and green plantations on the lower hill slopes of many. There is a mandate set by the Royal Government of Bhutan that there should be minimum 60% greenery or forests.
The nation has crossed the mark and has a total of 71% of forest land (at the time of award). From around 100 sustainable destinations in the world Bhutan was voted number 1 in the ITB awards held in Berlin, Germany on March 7, 2018. The award accredits the regions undertaking to push for responsible tourism.h3>2. Stunning Natural Beauty
The nation has the natural gift of high biodiversity and abundant nature. This is mainly due to the difference in height of the mountainous region. There is also pleasant climate conditions due to the various types of landscape and subtropical climate in certain areas.
Only for the nature, beauty of hills, trees, and climate, you trip can be a holiday trip for a lifetime here. These climate conditions and nature makes the country one of the destinations in the world to give you peace in your body, spirit and mind. You can use this time for meditation and retrospection amidst nature.
3. Mind Blowing Adventures
There are innumerable adventure activities to do in this mountainous region with pleasant chilly climate, hills, and mountainous terrain.
There are trekking activities extremely tough trekking, mountain biking, snow mountain treks, river rafting that gets more and more adventurous at waters filled with glacier, kayaking, and spotting wildlife through wildlife safaris. So, there is immense adventure for the thrill seekers when you travel to Bhutan and all these adventure are mostly outdoor activities that you enjoy in the lap of the gifted nature of Bhutan.
4. Unique Culture of Bhutan
The unique culture in Bhutan is one of the top reasons to visit Bhutan. Although people speak official language of Dzongkha, there are 3 major languages and around 20 dialects in all. This many different dialects are owing to the massive height of mountains that separated groups who developed languages among their small groups.
Another great way that makes Bhutanese culture unique is the form of art and architecture. The wall paintings, art work, dance, music, etc. are steeped in religion. The paintings are known as Thangkas. Masked dances are done on certain days of festivals re-enacting various aspects of Buddhism. The musical instruments, cultural dance, dressings, etc. is also unique.
5. Awe-Inspiring Tiger’s Nest Monastery
This is one of the most fascinating trekking experiences up the mountains to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery. At the top of the mountain is one of the greatest Buddhist monasteries that is very important to the Buddhist culture is the Paro Taktsang in the city amidst the beautiful hilltop meadows.
It is believed to get the name ‘Tiger’s Nest’ as the Guru Rinpoche traveled on the back of a tigress from Tibet. The trek is a great adventure for all – beginner trekkers, and those who would like a challenging ascent. You can also opt to go up to the top sitting on the back of a horse. This great awe inspiring structure will stun you.
6. History and Ancient Traditions
It was only in the 8th century that an Indian saint Guru Padmasambhava, popularly know as Guru Rinpoche brought Buddhism to Bhutan. It was written and maintained in history. Over many hundreds of years, there were monarchies that lived in various valleys of the huge mountains who were rivals. The people respect culture and still carry on the ancient traditions. Tobacco is strictly not permitted in Bhutan.
In religious places the headgear, footwear must be removed outside and the clothing must be decent and respectable. They respect the high royal family and Gods. People are warm and friendly but do not appreciate PDA. They bow down to greet each other. The most significant ancient tradition is paintings of giant Phalluses into walls to ensure a healthy atmosphere and keep away negativity and evil.
7. Pleasant Climate
This carbon negative country is full of nature, mountains, and pleasant climate to explore it. Due to the variation in altitude, there is differential climatic conditions. In order to witness the lush plantations in the forests and vast rice paddy fields, it would be great to visit from September to November as there would be light showers and it is Autumn.
Flowers on the hill slopes are in full bloom. Spring time is also one of the best times to visit Bhutan as most of the festivals take place during this time. They are colorful and vibrant and you cannot miss out. The main festivals held during March to May is Punakha Tshechu.
8. Shopping in Bhutan
A trip to Bhutan is incomplete without shopping for great ancient handicrafts or a mini statue of Buddha. Bhutanese people take great respect in their heritage and culture. So, picking up one of the clay makes or Lhazo which are traditional mineral paintings are some best things to buy in Bhutan.
There are specific places where to purchase other things such as textiles with a big difference in machine made and hand made Kira which is a traditional long dress for females. There are other things such as wood products, carpets and rugs called Yethras, made from woodish material and natural colors. You can also buy decorative showpiece items such as flower vase, bamboo items, and it is very famous for spices.
9. Bhutanese Cuisine
There are quite a few non-vegetarian foods available and most of them are yummy savoury meals. Most food items are also diary products such as Datshi (with cheese from cow’s milk), Ema (chilly) Datshi, Kewa Datshi (with potatoes) and Shawa Datshi (mushroom). The very common hot drink to warm up is butter tea with salt made from Yak butter.
The non-vegetarian common food is Meat with chilly and spice, Tshoem, mushroom and beef spicy curry, Sha Kam which is dried beef, and Jasha Maru – minced chicken spiced. Other vegetarian dishes are Eue Chum which is Bhutanese Red Rice, and Hoentoe Buckwheat Dumplings, Ara is liquid of fermented rice. Bhutanese cuisine is unique and a must try.
10. Festivals and Celebrations
The festivals of Bhutan are very big, and celebrated with great fervor. The monks perform and there are very famous masked dances that are enacted historic scenes. They also perform these customs to wash the sins and get blessings. The main event of such celebrations in Bhutan is the Tshechu festival which is celebrated on the 10th day in the month of the lunar calendar.
It is done to celebrate and remember the Guru Rinpoche and the scenes that took place at that time. Even local villagers perform these with the monks in the remote areas. While there are many colorful festivals the two other main celebrations are Paro during Spring and Thimpu festival at Autumn.
11. Visit The Palace of Great Happiness
Pungtang Dechen Photrang Dzong – officially called and popular as the Punakha Dzong translates as the Palace of Great Happiness. The region also is one of the most holy and sacred place for the Bhutanese people. It is also the confluence where the Mother River Mo Chu and the Father River Pho Hut meet.
As the region has some earthquakes and other events, especially flooding, the place was re-done. The Himalayan glaciers are the source of the river. This was earlier the official seat of the Government and showcases brilliant architecture of Bhutan. The Phunaka Dzong is one of the greatest and biggest monasteries and also offers best backdrop for peaceful meditation. The valley is great spot for mountain biking and trekkers.
12. Spiritual Haven to Discover Inner Peace
The nation has several Meditation Tours that offer Inner Peace to receive such inner peace through spending time together with friends and family. There are spiritual places where you can go for such meditation tours. Escape the stress of the everyday life to this beautiful land of nature, happiness and inner peace to find your perfect state of mind – through meditation.
You can get a peaceful mind, body, and soul to be strengthened and receive inspiration through it. If you’re looking for spiritual well being and place to meditate then Bhutan is one of the best places in the world for it.
13. Happiness Is a Priority “Gross National Happiness”
The lush forests, snowy mountains, rich bio-diversity, people dressed in Kera and Gho, and the ancient Jurrassic type of thunder dragons, you can only find all this in not so large country like Bhutan. Not to mention the only nation globally that measures the ‘Gross National Happiness’ of the country.
The royal governance in the country goes by this philosophy of GNH or Gross National Happiness. People are happy and this collective well being and happiness of the population is measured by an index.
14. Highest Unclimbed Mountains
The country is renowned for so many things including housing the highest unclimbed mountains in Bhutan. The tallest such a mountain is considered holy and sacred and stands at a massive height of 24,840 feet high. The Mount Gangkhar Puensum is the highest mountain peak in the world that has not been scaled until now. On the other hand, the lowest valley point in Bhutan is the Drangme Chhu valley point.
15. Trekker’s Paradise
Due to the location of the nation there is mountainous terrain and there are several trekking points for all types of trekkers – beginners to all those looking for an adrenaline rush. If you would like to take the most tough trekking challenge then you can find it here in the Trekker’s paradise. Some treks range from even a couple of days to more than one week.
The most popular treks are Masagang Trek, Jhomolhari Base Camp, and Snowman trek which is 25 days! One of best options for beginner trekkers is the Druk Path Trek which also gives splendid view of the highest unclimbed peak Mt. Gangkhar Puensum.
16. Famous Tourist Attractions in Bhutan
There are several places to visit in Bhutan and things to do in Bhutan. The Tiger’s Nest Monastery and Punakha Valley is one of the best things to do in Bhutan. If it is not possible to trek up, there are several tourist attractions and places to visit, so do not let it get you down.
Due to the rich bio-diversity visitors can get to spot rare bird species, and also some snow wildlife. The popular destinations in Bhutan include Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary, Jigme Dorji National Park, Broad leaf Jungles in Shiwalik Hills, Haa Valley, River Mo Chhu system in Black Moutains, etc. are only some of the main places.
17. Arts & Crafts of Bhutan
The Bhutanese people take great price in the culture, heritage, customs and traditions of the country. The traditional art and crafts is a significant way of the life of the Bhutanese people. This helps them to preserve the authenticity culture and purity of the hand made arts and crafts. For several centuries and generations such great traditional arts have been preserved by skilled people who create these works.
Over the years they evolved and keeps the sacred customs, beliefs and spirituality of the mystical land of Bhutan. The ‘Zorig Chusum’ or 13 Traditional Arts and Crafts are said to be one of the most significant way that represents Bhutanese culture. It is believed that each piece of art and craft signifies a spiritual experience for people of Bhutan.