Bhutan is something of a mysterious land to most and very high on the must-visit list of cognoscenti travellers. This small, landlocked Himalayan Kingdom boasts of many distinctive characteristics; thanks to their unique approach and culture, it makes for an experience that’s unlike any other destination that you have been to.
Bhutan is a mountain paradise which is often referred to as ‘the happiest kingdom on Earth’! It has always been a frontier land that promises a unique adventure to travellers of all kinds. Land-locked between the goliaths of India and China, Bhutan is a diminutive treasure box of alpine scenery with pristine landscapes, intriguing architecture, and perhaps its greatest asset – the gentle and gracious people. You can hear the Bhutanese call their home “Druk Yul” or “Land of the Thunder Dragon” in their native tongue. Here’s why!
Why Is Bhutan Called “Land Of The Thunder Dragon”?
Druk is the “Thunder Dragon” in Bhutanese and Tibetan mythology. It is also the Bhutanese national symbol. You can find the Druk appearing on the flag of Bhutan, holding jewels to represent wealth.
Bhutan is roughly the size of Switzerland and has a complex history. To the uninitiated, it is a kingdom that fiercely guards its privacy. Independent travellers are not always allowed, and perhaps to limit mass tourism, a tourist tax is levied on every visitor. These restrictions, which may seem daunting to a novice, help protect the unspoiled nature of Bhutan.
There is something for everyone, be it a memorable bespoke tour, a trekking holiday or a spiritual retreat. Buddhism infuses all areas of life here. You can find 2,000+ monasteries scattered like drifts of jewels across the landscape. The country’s most enduring image is perhaps the Taktsang Lhakhang or the Tiger’s Nest temple, a sacred pilgrimage site. Perched like an eagle’s nest, an astonishing 3,000m up a cliff face, the temple is an exhilarating and rewarding trek that ranks as a must-do experience. Legend has it that this is where the Guru Rinpoche, who is said to have brought Buddhism to Bhutan, arrived from Tibet, rather jauntily, on the back of a tigress.
Want to explore Bhutan to the fullest? Here’s your go-to Bhutan tour guide
The fertile Paro valley dominates the west of Bhutan which placidly resides underneath the mighty Mount Jhomolhari, the country’s highest peak, also venerated as divinity. The sprawling jungle, home to elephants and tigers, enticingly borders the valley. Here’s your go-to tour guide for Bhutan to help you make the most of your trip: –
Take an urban sprawl at Thimpu
You must take out the time to discover the Bhutanese urban life at the tranquil capital, Thimphu. You can visit and appreciate the Changangkha temple and the National Museum as well as traditional painting classes and the fascinating Royal Textile Academy, where examples of these delicate local works can be bought by travellers. Food enthusiasts will have a great time purchasing local culinary treasuries like the bottles of wild honey from the south of the country and roasted barley, to name a couple of many.
Head out to Punakha Valley
Three hours’ drive from the capital is the Punakha Valley, home to the majestic Punakha Dzong, a 17th-century monastery restored to its former glory by the king and home to a famous wooden phallus, prayed at by female pilgrims seeking to conceive. Temperate climes caress this valley that’s enveloped by lush rice fields and voluptuous rivers. Drive through carpets of wildflowers, sky blue Primulas, and Daphne scenting the air, to Amankora, an idyllic lodge resting in an orange orchard and gazing over the alpine landscape.
Visit the glacial valley of Gangtey
East of Punakha lays Gangtey, the name commonly given to the Phojikha Valley. It is one of the kingdom’s few glacial valleys. The area, however, is best known for the rare black-necked crane which migrates from the Tibetan Plateau to escape the brutally cold winters. Make sure you visit the Gangtey Monastery when here.
Something that is so inspiring about the Bhutanese people is that they are amongst some of the happiest on the planet. Bhutanese have a happiness index, unlike many countries that measure the wealth and output of their people. Bhutan inspires positivity in you with every step you take.
Wondering about the best time to visit the Land of the Thunder Dragon? Bhutan is absolutely stunning during the months of October to May! However, you need to keep in mind that it gets much colder through December, January, and early February. So, if you are after the warmth, March, April, and May are the best times for you to visit this heavenly place. Opt for a Bhutan holiday package accordingly, to make the most of this serene kingdom.
DID YOU KNOW?
Tradition is extremely important for the preservation of Bhutanese culture – many people still wear traditional dresses and employ ancient Buddhist practices. Farming and construction methods are still as they were hundreds of years ago in ways more than one; this can be quite a fascinating sight to see.
Festivals of Bhutan
Bhutan is extremely proud of its Buddhist culture and hosts a large number of festivals throughout the year that adds even more vibrancy and buoyancy to the journeys here. A lot of expeditions can be made to the famous Paro Tshechu, Thimphu Tsechu, and the Jambay Lhakhang Drup.
The Buddhist religious festivals known as Tshechus are held around the Dzongs and typically last for several days. The Paro Tshecu, held in April, is a bright, colourful affair with hundreds of people from the city and surrounding countryside filling the courtyards and temple grounds to watch and participate in the event. Masked dances are performed by trained Buddhist monks depicting life events of a historic Buddhist teacher, Padmasambhava. The famous stag dance narrates the story of a hunter who gives up his profession to convert to Buddhism whereas the Barco dance reminds the Bhutanese that their past and present deeds shape their future destiny.
Bhutan’s moniker, the Land of the Thunder Dragon, is apt. It is serene, mystical, and eye-opening in equal measure. It is a land that is unwilling to be tamed yet one that is as fascinating as any mythical creature can be. If you are among the curious ones, then Bhutan is certainly a place that will whet your appetite for wanderlust.