Bhutan the last great Himalayan kingdom, shrouded in mystery and magic, where a traditional Buddhist culture carefully embraces global developments.
For the Kingdom of Bhutan is truly unique: it is the only independent MahaYANA Buddhist country in the world. It has a great Buddhist heritage, stretching back uninterrupted over 1,300 years, and a legacy of more than 2, 000 temples, monasteries, dzongs and sacred sites. The Bhutanese pride themselves on a sustainable approach to tourism in line with the philosophy of Gross National Happiness. Bhutan holds many surprises. This is a country where the rice is red and where chilies aren't just a seasoning but the main dish. It's also a deeply Buddhist land, where monks check their smartphones after performing a divination, and where giant protective penises are painted beside the entrance to many houses. Yet while it visibly protects its Buddhist traditions, Bhutan is not a museum. You will find the Bhutanese well educated, fun loving and well informed about the world around them. It's this blending of the ancient and modern that makes Bhutan endlessly fascinating.
Environmental protection goes hand in hand with cultural preservation in Bhutan. By law, at least 60% of the country must remain forested for all future generations; it currently stands at 70%. Not only is Bhutan carbon neutral, but it actually absorbs more carbon than it emits! For the visitor, this translates into lovely forest hikes and superb birding across a chain of national parks. Whether you are spotting takins or blue poppies, trekking beneath 7000m peaks or strolling across hillsides ablaze with spring rhododendron blooms, Bhutan offers one of the last pristine pockets in the entire Himalaya.
The Last Shangri-La?
So why spend your money to come here? Firstly, there is the amazing Himalayan landscape, where snow-capped peaks rise above shadowy gorges cloaked in primeval forests. Taking up prime positions in this picture-book landscape are the majestic fortress-like dzongs and monasteries. This unique architecture sets the stage for spectacular tsechus (dance festivals) attended by an almost medieval-looking audience. Then there are the textiles and handicrafts, outrageous archery competitions, high-altitude trekking trails, and stunning flora and fauna. If it's not 'Shangri La', it's as close as it gets.
Weather and Best Season To Travel
High Season (Mar–May, Sep–Nov)
- The weather is ideal in spring and autumn. Book flights well in advance; accommodation options can fill up.
- Himalayan views are best in October, while rhododendron blooms peak in March and April.
Shoulder Season (Dec–Feb)
- Bhutan has seasonal tariffs so there'll be fewer tourists and good savings to be made by travelling outside the high season.
- The weather is still pleasant, though it can be cold in December and January.
Low Season (Jun–Aug)
- Monsoon rains and leeches put an end to most treks, although high-altitude flowers are at their peak.