10 reasons to visit Bhutan
Heaven on earth
When you visit Bhutan, it would not be wrong to imagine that you have been catapulted to the previous century. In order to preserve its rich heritage and culture, a limited number of travellers are allowed to visit the country at any given point in time. Hence, The Land of Thunder Dragon remains a relatively unexplored and untouched destination. With one foot rooted in its medieval times, and other foot rooted in the modern era, the country is well aware of the negative aspects of rapid modernization. The 'high value, low volume' tourism policy implied by the government ensures that the tourists enjoy exclusivity, - a spiritual and visual feast - and, at the same time, tourism brings high yield to the country.
Known for its legendary ancient Dzongs, spicy yet scrumptious food, euphoric landscapes, and vibrant festivals, there are plenty of reasons why one should visit the gorgeous country. Following are ten reasons why you should consider Bhutan to be your next travel destination:
1. Gross National Product < Gross National Happiness
Bhutan has challenged the materialistic, narrow, and conventional parameters that are adopted by other countries to measure the progress made by the country. Instead, the fourth King of the country had introduced Gross National Happiness (GNH) to measure the true value of progress made by the country, which continues to exist. GNH is based on four parameters - Good Governance, Sustainable Socio-economic Development, Preservation and Promotion of Culture, and Environmental Conservation.
2. Taktshang Goemba
More commonly known as Tiger's Nest Monastery, Taktshang Goemba is situated on a cliff side, at a close proximity to Paro. Built in 1962, the monastery displays a rich form of Bhutanese Architecture. Quite possibly the most essential Monastery in the country, it is also the most popular Point of Interest amongst the visitors. The uphill trek will introduce you to nature in its raw and (relatively) unspoilt form.
3. Strong Culture
Nestled in the laps of the Himalayas, Bhutan is an isolated realm which is strongly stitched within its cultural structure. It is vital for the people to protect the country's distinctive culture and its sovereignty from any outside influences. Most importantly, the people and the government of the country are on the same page as they move towards overall development ... the cultural way. So far, so exceptionally good.
4. Highest Unclimbed Peak
Bhutan is also the home to the highest unclimbed mountain on the planet - Gangkhar Puensum. Not because professional mountaineers have tried and failed, but because climbing mountains over 6,000 meters in height are banned in the country. Bhutanese strongly believe that those mountains are where deities and spirits live. For the uninitiated, allowing mountaineers to climb Gangkhar Puensum would bring a lot of money to the economy. But no, Bhutan is a badass country. This gives an idea of how strong the Bhutanese culture is.
Dzongs were ancient fortresses which are used as administrative centres today. Following typical Bhutanese form of Architecture, Dzongs in Bhutan have a wide base and a tapered top, which are often elaborately ornamented. One interesting thing about Dzongs is that they were built without even using a single nail. As per me, the most pristine Dzong in the country is Punakha Dzong in Punakha, closely followed by Tashichho Dzong in Thimphu.
6. Tshechus (Festivals)
Tshechus are the religious festivals in Bhutan, held annually at the Dzongs or the Monasteries in each district of the country (not necessarily simultaneously, though). People from across the region social gather during the festival. The highlight of the festivals are the Cham dances in which the dancers wearing costumes and masks portray a story in the form of a dance performance. The most widely anticipated Tshechus in terms of spectators and performers are Thimphu Tshechu and Paro Tshechus.
7. A Spiritual Abode
Buddhism is a way of life in Bhutan, and not just a religion. The genuine teachings of Buddhism is deeply and strongly engrained in the mentality of the society. In Bhutan, it should not be surprising if you see a person (a non-Monk) at the Memorial Chorten meditating with a string of beads in one hand. Unlike in places like McLeod Ganj in Himachal Pradesh, the home to His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama (which is often flocked by tourists seeking his blessings), one can find a peaceful and non-chaotic retreat in Bhutan.
8. Ema Datshi
For Bhutanese people, Ema Datshi is tantamount to what Sushi is for the Japanese, and Pizza is for the Italians. Bhutan is possibly the only country in the whole wide world in which chilli is used as a vegetable, and not a form of seasoning to alter the taste of the food. Recognized as the country's national dish, Ema Datshi is made of chilli pepper (Ema) and cheese (Datshi), and is often served with rice. I am feeling hungry already.
9. A Trekker's Paradise
Bhutan is nothing less than a paradise for professional as well as hobbyist trekkers. The breathtakingly beautiful landscapes you will get to witness throughout your trek would be too good to be described in words. Whilst trekking in the countryside and through the mountain passes, you will probably come across some of the villagers and hardy highlanders. An interaction with them would give you an idea of how strongly the modern people of Bhutan are rooted within the country's rich culture.
10. No Visa
To visit Bhutan, Indians do not have to get Visas. All you would need is a Permit, which can be easily availed either online, or from the Bhutanese consulate office in India, at Paro airport, or at the Bhutanese consulate office in Phuentsholing, Bhutan, after submitting the required forms and documents. The Permit would allow you to visit Thimphu and Paro. To visit places like Punakha, Bumthang, etc., you would require an Inner Permit which can be availed from Thimphu.
Best time to visit:
The best time to visit Bhutan is between mid-September and December, i.e., from the beginning of Autumn to early winter. A number of Bhutanese festivals are celebrated during this period, and the weather is absolutely magnificent. However, Bhutan plays host to a lot of tourists during this season, and the prices are at its peak. If you want to avoid the crowd, the best time to visit Bhutan is during the Spring season, which cover the months of March, April, and May.
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