“Happiness is a place. That place is Bhutan.”
-Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay
Inconspicuous on the world map of travellers until recently, Bhutan has grown to being one of the most sought after destinations for tourists across the globe. What about this small, beautiful country nestled in the calm of the Himalayas makes it a coveted destination? The leading factor remains their policy of Gross National Happiness (GNH). With the state of Bhutan declaring it as more important than GDP, this policy seeks to promote a balance of material happiness with spiritual growth amongst the citizens.
As they constantly strive towards holistic development of the country and its people, the aura of happiness and contentment reverberates countrywide. And this vibe is what makes Bhutan not just a destination, but an experience. It is not just an imagined place brimming with happy monks, this Southeast Asian country offers a rich cultural heritage, replete with manmade and natural wonders. #DSSCRecommends the top reasons for you to visit Bhutan and soak in the physical and spiritual beauty.
Bhutanese architecture is unique and an exquisite example of their craftsmanship. It is known for its harmonious adaptations to the natural environment. These unique constructions demonstrate the sensitivity the people of the country exhibit towards all forms of life around them. Here are two sites which are a must-visit when in Bhutan:
Takstang Monastery, Paro
This monastery with shimmering golden pinnacles, popularly known as the Tiger’s Nest, is located at a height of 2,950 meters above sea level. It is a place of pilgrimage, but also an extremely powerful monastery for those just in search of a peaceful, serene spot with a spiritually enriching energy. For all you trekking enthusiasts, it is a 2-hour trek to the monastery from the road at Ramthangkha, 12 kilometres from Paro town.
Tashichho Dzong Monastery
The seat of the government since the 1950s, today it houses the throne room and offices of the King, the Secretariat, and the Ministries of Home Affairs and Finance. What’s special is the monastery inside the Dzong (the administrative centre). It is one of the most beautiful works of architecture with intricate wood carvings and colourful curtains on the inside. It’s almost as if the calmness is preserved inside this building! There are 30 temples, chapels, and shrines within the Tashichho Dzong, which is also known as the ‘fortress of the glorious religion’. To top this off, there is a beautiful rose garden in the Dzong which is worth a visit.
The Green Thumb
In a time of climate change, this landlocked small country lives by the promise of remaining carbon neutral. By law, 60 percent of Bhutan is to be under forest cover at all times, and currently it is at 71 percent.
Their national animal Takin and other endangered animals such as Asiatic Black Bear, Argali, clouded leopard, and more inhabit many of the 12 national wildlife reserves, maintained especially to ensure their survival. You could visit the national parks to experience the wildlife in its natural habitat. Besides, these reserves are beautifully maintained to retain the true form of nature. Visit the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary and the Jigme Dorji National Park in Thimpu for a pristine experience in the lap of nature and immerse yourself in the ecology of Bhutan.
The country also offers tranquil nature trails and valleys for you to tread through. Try the Phobjikha Valley, for not only will you enjoy the grandeur and charm of the trail but also will be able to spot the rare black-necked crane.
Be sure to treat yourself with clean mountain air and the serenity of the lush green forests on your trip!
Explore local secrets
If you’re looking for quaint places away from the tourist attractions, the possibilities in Bhutan are endless. Purnima Heble, who visited the state recently, shares that it is a good idea to strike up a friendship with the locals. The hospitable and helpful Bhutanese help you discover some of the best kept hidden gems in the country.
Apart from going on hikes to lesser known valleys and passes with the guidance of locals, Heble also recommends hot springs like Chubu Tshachu on the banks of River Pho Chu. Beyond that, you can also explore the sacred Chubu Tshachu in Ponakha along with other hot springs, known to have medicinal properties to cure various ailments. You’ll find the Bhutanese taking rejuvenating wellness trips to the springs to ease their health issues.
We also recommend Champaca Café in Paro. It is a small, charming cafe for you to sip on a hot cup of coffee, best paired with your favourite book or a board game with your loved ones.
In an age of growing animosities and feigned relationships, this small country can be a breath of fresh air. If you’re looking for a break from the never ending chaos of the city or just a chance to find some spiritual peace, pay the Little Switzerland a visit!
#DSSCTopTip: Check up on group travel costs and visa requirements for your country, as daily tariffs on visas apply to citizens of many nationalities.
Featured Image Courtesy: terraworldtravel.com