Bhutan Image gallery
Buddhist monks making smoke, Bhutan
Bhutan, the Land of the Thunder Dragon, is no ordinary place. It is a Himalayan kingdom replete with myths and legends, where the best of traditional culture thrives and the latest global developments are enthusiastically embraced.
Tourism in Bhutan is unique and the Bhutanese pride themselves on a sustainable, ecofriendly approach in line with the country's popular philosophy of Gross National Happiness. Firstly, to bust a myth: there is no limit to the number of tourists. Visitors famously have to pay a minimum tariff of US$200 per day (rising to US$250 in 2012), making it appear as one of the world's most expensive countries to visit. However, this fee is all-inclusive – accommodation, food, transport and an official guide are all provided. Not only that, but your local guide will reveal the country's amazing landscape and Buddhist heritage, and will also introduce you to the everyday charms of the Bhutanese. You don't have to travel in a large group and you can arrange your own itinerary. What you won't find in Bhutan is crowded backpacker-style independent travel. This is Nepal for the jet set.
Bhutan holds many surprises. This is a country where buying cigarettes is illegal, where the rice is red and where chillies aren't just a seasoning but the main ingredient. It's also a deeply Buddhist land, where schoolkids wear the gho and kira (traditional male and female clothing, respectively) where giant protective penises are painted beside the entrance to many houses, and where Gross National Happiness is deemed more important than Gross National Product. And while it visibly maintains its Buddhist traditions, Bhutan is not a museum nor is it a nation of otherworldly ascetics shunning the rest of the world. You will find the Bhutanese well-educated, fun loving and vibrant.
So why spend your money to come here? First off there is the amazing mountainous landscape, where snowcapped peaks rise out of primeval forests in every shade of green. Taking up prime positions in this landscape are the fantastic monasteries and incredible fortresslike dzongs. The unique Buddhist architecture embodies the traditional Buddhist culture and sets the scene for spectacular religious dance festivals. Then there are the textiles and handicrafts, outrageous archery competitions, spectacular trekking trails and stunning flora and fauna. All this sets Bhutan aside as the last remaining great Himalayan kingdom.
When you do visit Bhutan, you will become one of the few who have experienced the charm and magic of one of the world's most enigmatic countries – the 'last Shangri La' – and you'll be playing your part in this medieval kingdom's efforts to join the modern world, while steadfastly maintaining its distinct and remarkable cultural identity.
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