Bhutan takes its Buddhism seriously. The religion pervades all levels of life, resulting in peaceful temples, red-robed monks scurrying along the streets, a mind-blowing number of deities and legends, and a widespread belief in practicing kindness and loving to all sentient beings – what could be better than that? Bhutan, for years closed off from the rest of the world, seems like a little slice of Himalayan heaven. Here, traffic lights do not exist, strict conservation laws mean trees still cover almost 75% of the country, and productivity is measured in Gross National Happiness.
This is a country where buying cigarettes is illegal, where the rice is red and where chilies are not just a seasoning but the entire dish. It is also a deeply Buddhist land, where men wear a tunic to work, where giant protective penises are painted on the walls of most houses. Tourism in Bhutan is also unique. Visitors famously have to pay a minimum of US$200 per day, making it one of the world’s most expensive countries to visit, but this fee is all-inclusive, you do not have to travel in a group and you can arrange your own itinerary. A short and relatively gentle tour, providing an overall impression of the land, the people and the history of the last independent Buddhist Kingdom, One of the most remarkable aspects of the country is in its overall degree of separation from the outer world. During this brief stay you will witness many of Bhutan’s defining characteristics and fascinating contrasts. It is both immensely refreshing and stimulating to find oneself in a situation so different from the familiar.
The trip covers the highlights of western Bhutan: Paro, Thimphu and Punakha. Paro is one of the holiest and most fertile places in the country. The lower valley of Punakha possesses an immense historical significance. As you hike through the surrounding countryside, visiting temples and passing through traditional village settlements, it is clear that both maintain the overall ambiance and tranquility of earlier times. Thimphu is Bhutan’s capital city and the hub of modern influence. Here you can observe how the country is seeking to merge new practices within its rich traditions.