Modestly populated at around 7 lakh people, Bhutan is among the most sparsely populated but with genuinely content people among those in the world. They employ Gross National Happiness as an index of measurement of development of the country, unlike Gross Domestic Product like most countries. The parameters include four pillars of Good Governance, Sustainable Socio-economic Development, Preservation and Promotion of Culture, and Environmental Conservation. They fiercely guard their relationship with nature, with environmental conservation being the most important primary pillar, resulting in untouched greenery and calming aesthetic. The place is replete with trekking paths and beautiful views.
Bhutan has a large number of dzongs and monasteries catering to the largely Buddhist population. Dzongs served as centres for administrative purposes or as houses for the clergy or as museums, and are sometimes made as memoirs of historic events.
The Punakha Dzong in the Punakha district is situated at the confluence of Mo Chu and Pa Chu Rivers, and is one of the most picturesque.
Bumthang, considered among the most sacred places for Buddhists, houses JambayLakhang, ChakarLakhang and KurjeLakhang among others. The Dochula pass is set against 108 DrukWangyalChortens in honour of those who lost their lives in the battle with the ULFA.
View from the Dochula pass.
Monasteries are another must-visit. They exude a sense of peace and calm, and are open to all. The Tiger’s Nest in Paro Valley is what adorns most pictures representative of Bhutan. Set atop a hill, it takes a couple hours’ trek to get there – and is totally worth it.
Tiger’s Nest, Paro Valley.
While you’re at Paro, do enquire about the best place to be at to view landings at the Paro airport. The landing strip is situated between two steep mountains and requires some expert manoeuvring by the pilot for the plane to land safely without grazing its sides.
Head over to Mongar to visit the Burning Lake, or MebarTsho. Legend has it that Guru Rinpoche came in Pema Lingpa’s dreams and told him about sacred scriptures and informed him about a statue of Buddha hidden under the lake. Lingpa then jumped down with a lamp against the wished of his panic-stricken mother to retrieve this treasure, and stayed in for almost an hour. He successfully returned with the treasure in hand, and the lamp still burning. Though the lake looks quite calm, the almost-invisible but constant strong whirlpool has successfully sucked in multiple people.
The Burning lake – MebarTsho
The capital city of Thimphu:
Thimphu is guarded over by a giant statue of Buddha. Towering over the city as 169 feet, the Buddha Dordenma statue was built to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the fourth king, Jigme SingyeWangchuk.
Buddha Dordenma statue, Thimphu.
Thimphu also hosts the Changlimithang Archery Ground, where tournaments in the national sport of archery regularly take place.
The museums in Thimphu provide an intimate glimpse into the way of life, history and culture of Bhutan. Visit the National Library, the ZorigChusum School of Traditional Arts, the National Folk Heritage Museum and the National Memorial Chorten to get an insight into Buddhist philosophy and rural life, and learn about the 13 traditional arts of Bhutan. Head over to the crafts bazaar near the Taj Tashi hotel for a night of shopping for textiles, wool, bamboo, and wooden products, with intricate hand-woven designs.
More than anything, take the time to walk around the place and interact with the Bhutanese people. They are extremely helpful, and will go out of their way to ensure you have a brilliant stay.