Bhutan is simply a magical Shangri-La, a jewel in the crown of the Himalayas, a vision of an ancient past that has just stepped in to the modern world.
Known as the Land of the Thunder Dragon, the Bhutanese refer to their country as Druk Yul, due to the violent electrical storms that cross the Himalayas and themselves as the Drukpa.
Bhutan, Paro valley. © Thom Travis - Winfield, PA, USA.
Bhutan is a land-locked, pocket sized nation of just 38,394 square kilometers with a population just below 700,000. Located at the eastern end of the Himalayas it is bordered to the South, East and West by India and in the North by the Tibet Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China. Bhutan is also separated from the nearby country of Nepal to the West by the Indian state of Sikkim.
It is a Buddhist Himalayan Kingdom; a mystical paradise, where all things are precious and sacred. With a rich and diverse eco-system which is well cared for, teaming with wildlife: from the takin, snow leopard, golden langur, blue sheep, tiger, water buffalo and elephant. Bhutan has over 50 species of Rhododendron, with their rich splashes of colour; medical plants and orchids; and has been identified as one of the top 10, bio-diversity hotspots in the world. Its isolation and decision to limit tourism have helped protect its culture and natural beauty.
Much of its past history has been destroyed due to fires and earthquakes, losing invaluable historical documents.
It was back in the 8th century CE that Guru Rinpoche (2nd Buddha) introduced Tantric Buddhism to Bhutan. Making a trip to Bhutan, he crossed from the East to the West, supposedly on the back of a flying tigress, to defeat the evil spirits that were trying to destroy Buddhism. These spirits later became the guardians of the Buddhist doctrine.
Tigers Nest (Takshang) in the Paro valley is where he landed and is now Bhutan’s most sacred site.
The Bhutanese Monarchy also only opened the country to the outside World in the 1960’s, retaining the 14th century national dress and not allowing TV or the internet until 1999. Visitors today are still restricted to help protect Bhutan’s pristine environment and culture, and are asked not to throw stones into the many lakes out of respect for the various deities and demons that reside in their watery depths.
It is a country of surprises, where ancient culture meets new, and you will see the traditionally dressed Bhutanese chat into their mobile phones and the monks tapping ancient Buddhists texts into a computer.
A land where chilli is eaten in just about everything and where the 4th Dragon King Jigme Singye Wangchuk introduced the concept that ”Gross National Happiness is deemed more important than Gross National Product” and promptly gave Democracy to his people with a constitutional monarchy, abdicating in favour of his son the 5th Dragon King, in 2008.
Bhutan offers you a chance to step into a whole new World and discover what is important in life.
Butterfly © Tourism Council of Bhutan
Bhutan-Ura festival. ©Thom Travis. Winfield, PA, USA.
Takin. © Graham King. London, UK.
Mountain © Tourism Council of Bhutan
Taktshang Monastery. © Thom Travis. Winfield, PA, USA.
Wangdue Phrodang dzong. © Thom Travis. Winfield, PA, USA.
Thimpu © Tourism Council of Bhutan
Zhiwa Ling Hotel, Paro. © Inge Knudson. Concord, MA, USA
Zhiwa Ling Hotel, Paro. © Gelay Jamtsho. Butan-360.com
Ura festival. © Thom Travis. Winfield, PA, USA.