Tucked in the heart of Himalaya Mountains and changed very little over centuries, Bhutan maintains incredibly beautiful landscapes, magnificent, centuries old fortress monasteries, and an ancient cultural so pure and deeply imbedded by Buddhism. With tourism a relatively new endeavor (since 1974) Bhutan has cautiously opened to visitors, albeit on very strict terms. Called ‘Land of the Thunder Dragon’ by the Bhutanese, the country is considered on of the lasting existing paradises on earth.
Prior to the 16th century an array of noble families and clans ruled throughout the various valleys of Bhutan with many quarrels between each other and Tibet. In1616 many change occurred after the arrival of a Tibetan Buddhist monk names Ngawang Namgyal from the Drukpa Kagyu Buddhist school; after becoming a renowned teacher he was established as Shabdrung Rinpoche and became the main religious ruler in Bhutan, unifying the valleys (called Land of the Dragon) despite constant attack by Tibetan forces and other llamas. Upon his death in 1705, the country fell into turmoil and endured political and internal conflict for two centuries. The Wangchuck dynasty ruled after 1907 and over forty years Kings Ugyen Wangchuck and Jigme Wanchuck, his heir, brought Bhutan under full rule of the monarchy. Bhutan was recognized as an autonomous nation by India iafter declaring independence in 1947. Modern Bhutan’s most important figure is Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, the third ruling king. Initiating major development plans involving rigid control over development with a major focus on cultural and environmental preservation.
Monasteries & Fortresses
Monasteries & Fortresses
Throughout Bhutan there are many famous monasteries and fortresses thatwhen built, also served as tactile fortresses. Some of the most beautiful Buddhist fortress monasteries, or Dzongs, are found in Bhutan with more than forty in total. In the Paro Valley is sky-high Taktsang Monastery built precariously into a mountainside with construction that began in the late 17th century. Punakha Dzong is a prior fortress located in the old capital of Punakha and finalized in 1638. It is the second oldest fortress monastery in Bhutan and sits at the confluence of the “mother” and “father” rivers, called Mo Chhu and Pho Chhu respectively. Other notable structures include 13th century Tango Monastery north of Thimpu, Tongas (the Door to Heaven) Monastery in the central district, and 17th century Cheri Monastery, also near Thimpu.
Trekking and day hiking in Bhutan are major attractions and a key reason many visit. Walking throughout the landscape’ is an ideal way to absorb the country’s astounding natural beauty and witness daily life in rural villages and monasteries. Around the capital of Thimpu there are more than two dozen day hikes ranging from leisurely to extremely difficult. Some highly popular hikes include the Drolay Goemba Loop and Tango Monastery, the hike to Cheri Monastery, and The loop from Dochula on to Hongtsho via both Lungchutse and Trashigang. Spring and Fall are the best times to spend hiking in Bhutan and bring an easier time for acclimation to the high altitudes of many routes. Adventure guides are plentiful and offer both days-long overnight treks and short day tours.
Festivals in Bhutan (Dromchoes and Tsechus) are lively, raucous, and vivid events with immense spirit and deep religious meaning. The majority are associated with Buddhist religion and the ideas and deeds of Buddha. Greatly characterized by religious festivals, Bhutanese culture thrives on the celebration of ideals ingrained in their hearts. Tsechu are most revered of all, commemorating deeds of saint and Guru Padmasambhava. Religious embroideries, cultural dancing, prayers and more are part of the Tsechus, which happen at different times of the year around the 10th day of each month. Some of the most famous are in Paro, Thimpu, and Bumthangin Fall and Spring.
Gross National Happiness
Bhutan’s most recent king, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, is responsible for what is now known as Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness. His model is based upon economic self sustainability within Bhutan. Gross National Happiness also measures social progress and quality of life in both psychological and holistic ways - rather than simply economic advancement.