Tucked away high in the Himalayas, bordering Tibet and the Northeastern Frontier provinces of India, Bhutan is a place of peace and natural beauty. It is about the size of Switzerland but with a population of less than 800,000. The landscape consists of a succession of fantastic, snow-capped peaks and deep valleys. Abundant wildlife makes its home here, including the endangered snow leopard and the golden langur. Until the 1960’s, Bhutan was largely isolated from the rest of the world and its people carried on a tranquil, traditional, agrarian way of life. More than any country in the world, Bhutan has implemented a national policy created to preserve its cultural identity, which has remained intact for centuries. Only at the turn of the century was television permitted in this mountain kingdom, and in 2004, Bhutan became the first country in the world to ban the sale of tobacco and smoking in public. Despite these nods to modernity, however, Bhutan remains an immensely beautiful and serene land, and is a place where the Buddhist faith of its people and “Gross Domestic happiness” remains the nation’s most vital cultural force.
Travel to Bhutan and you will find some of the world’s most impressive mountain scenery, making it a perfect choice for outdoor enthusiasts. Hike along paths winding through hills and valleys, or experience more challenging treks into the Himalayas. Those interested in Buddhism will find a rich and spiritual culture to explore; visiting during one of the kingdom’s lively religious festivals is an ideal way to experience Bhutan and get to know its people. The dances performed at festivals such as the Ura Yak-choe and Jambay Lhakhang date back centuries, and luck-seeking celebrants from throughout the country gather in temple courtyards for the rare chance to witness the unveiling of ancient tapestries.
Hilltop forts and monasteries, snow-capped peaks towering above valleys where colorful prayer flags snap in the breeze, and the fine crafts made by local artisans are just some of the treasures to be discovered in this seldom-visited country.