The mountain kingdom of Bhutan remains enigmatic, unspoilt and deeply spiritual, with striking mountains and monasteries. Buddhism, the state religion, influences every aspect of Bhutanese life and is evident everywhere, with traditional dzongs (fortresses) dotting the landscape.
The country is strong in its desire to preserve Buddhist traditions. School children, for example, still wear the gho and kira (traditional Buddhist male and female clothing).
Unique in the world, the kingdom’s benchmark for success is measured in Gross National Happiness, as opposed to Gross Domestic Product. The idea of King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, it champions a holistic approach to people’s development. The Bhutanese are subsequently a well-educated, vibrant and fun-loving people, happy to engage with visitors to their remarkable country.
A trip to this mountainous kingdom offers a tantalising glimpse into a lost world, set against the backdrop of the majestic Himalaya.
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Flying time from London 11-12 hours
Official language(s) Dzongkha
Time difference +6 GMT
Visa requirements Required for UK passport holders
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Perched on the side of a cliff, approximately 900m above the floor of Paro valley, Taktshang, or Tiger’s Nest, is the most famous of Bhutan's monasteries. The climb to the view point takes around 5 hours and the path en route affords stunning views of the monastery.
Participate in festivals
Bhutan’s monastic tsechus are colourful events accompanied by Buddhist chants and masked dances. Visit the mountain kingdom's exotic and exciting Paro, Thimphu and Bumthang festivals.
Experience the capital
The Bhutanese capital city, Thimphu, maintains a strong national character and a medieval feel in its architectural style. Its narrow streets are lined with small shops packed with produce and there is a busy weekend market. Explore Thimphu and stop in at the Tashichho Dzong, the seat of the government and the central monastic body. Visit the School of Arts and Crafts, where children learn painting and woodcarving, the Institute of Traditional Medicine, a papermaking factory, the textile museum, and the museum of folk heritage.
See the spiritual heartland
With several ancient temples and monasteries dotting the undulating landscape, Bumthang is regarded as the spiritual heartland of Bhutan, and is believed to be where Buddhism first took hold in the country. Monasteries to visit include Jambey Lhakhang, one of 108 monasteries built in the seventh century to subdue evil spirits in the Himalayan region, and Kurjey Lhakhang, considered one of the most sacred monuments in Bhutan. Bumthang is an ideal base from which to explore some of the seldom-visited valleys on easy day walks.
Visit the Phobjikha valley
The picturesque Phobjikha valley, situated in the mountains east of Wangdue Phodrang, is wide and flat in contrast to the dense forests that cover most of Bhutan. Phobjikha village is dominated by the beautiful 17th-century Gangtey gonpa. The monastery’s renovated complex is an outstanding example of the craftsmanship of Bhutan’s finest artisans. A trip to the scenic glacial valley provides a chance to explore some of its ancient temples and villages on foot.
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"The first inspirational moment was the sunrise on one side and Kachenjunga mountain on the other at the Tiger's Hill in Darjeeling. The second was at Paro in Bhutan, when we climbed to see the Tiger's Nest Monastery, though we only made up to the first view point."
Mrs Meena Sumarria
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