“Nothing could be more striking than the pristine, haunting beauty of the landscape of Bhutan, or the atmosphere of peace and sacredness, which pervades the land from end to end. Bhutan is a place blessed with an almost magical power to transform the mind, whenever I am there I feel as if transported into a pure realm. 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. “
His Eminence Sogyal Rinpoche, Buddhist spiritual master, philosopher and writer; Spiritual Director, Rigpa, London
Whatever you read about Bhutan, whenever you speak to someone who has strolled through its mist veiled hills, wherever you seek out knowledge of this mysterious country, people are unable to resist talking of its “magical power”. Bhutan is always spoken of in the hushed tones of mysticism; it is “The Land of the Thunder Dragon” and it is “The Last Shangri La”, it is a hyperbolic place which seems to evade the prosaic logic of the outside world. Unlike other holiday destinations people do not rave about Bhutan’s temples, the palaces or the natural splendor, although these are by no means lacking or underwhelming. Instead it is the atmosphere, the ambience, the sense of serenity that pervades the very air which captures the imagination of travellers. Bhutan is a place that you experience rather than a place you see; checklists and guidebooks will only take you so far. With this in mind, we have tried to list our favourite parts of the country and though the list is by no means exhaustive we think these sites are the perfect gateway to experiencing Bhutan.
It goes without saying doesn’t it? When you are visiting a country this close to the world’s highest peak you would be mad not to visit! Whether you are keen to try some trekking or you want to try and catch a glimpse of a red panda or you simply want to explore among the blue pines, a trip to Mount Everest will provide you with some extraordinary memories. The if the sheer scale of the mountain wasn’t enough, its majesty is increased at each sunrise when the summit glows gold in the morning light.
Relax in a Tshachu for its medicinal properties
One of the lesser known wonders of Bhutan is its hot springs which many believe have healing properties. You will see locals visiting their local Tshachu to relieve the symptoms of anything from arthritis to a headache. This medicinal practice is, understandably, particularly popular in the cold winter months. The most popular hot springs in the country are the Gasa Tshachus which are located a ten hour trek from Punakha.
Jigme Dorji National Park
The government of Bhutan maintains a policy that 60% of the country must remain forested, and this has ensured that, in an age of corporate development and ever-expanding industry, Bhutan’s natural beauty is perfectly preserved. There are many national parks and sanctuaries scattered across Bhutan and they are the perfect place to see the Himalayan flora and fauna up close. We recommend a wildlife safari as a good introduction to the Bhutanese landscape.
THE DRUK PATH
The Druk Path trek meanders through valleys, mountains and an ancient trading route and is considered by many to be one of the best treks in Bhutan. Your surroundings are glorious and the trek itself isn’t too taxing. If you want to get away from the world and brush past rhododendrons or look out over the pristine waters of mountain lakes then The Druk Path is for you!
Visit The Taktsang Palphug Monastery (Paro)
The Tiger’s Nest Monastery looks like something from a fairy tale – it hardly seems possible that is suspended on the vertical cliff edge by anything but magic. This may be one of the most popular tourist attractions in all of Bhutan, however, the journey upwards can be anything but magical if you don’t allow yourself to acclimatize to the altitude. One must not forget that this is a Himalayan nation – a country that rises up into the clouds, literally. Once you reach the monastery oxygen levels are down to around 70% – so make sure you are light-headed at the grandeur of the architecture rather than altitude sickness!
Visit the Dochula Pass (Thimphu)
Between Punakha and Thimphu is the lovely haven of the Dochula Pass which offers beautiful views of the Himalayas. It is also the home to 108 Chortens (buddhist shrines) which give the place a quaint, oldfashioned air. This is a popular area for pilgrims as well as tourists due to the important temples in the area but it is also a great place to picnic in the warmer weather – a favourite activity of the locals. This is a great destination for any photographers wishing to capture the scale of the himalayas while in historic surroundings.
Brave The Heat of Ema Datshi
Ema Datshi is a ubiquitous dish in Bhutan, it seems to be available in every restaurant and on every street corner – the locals can’t get enough! The food is a Bhutanese stew which incorporates chilies, cheese, onions and tomatoes. This dish can be a bit of a challenge to foreigners though – these chilies are extremely hot and perhaps best left to a bhutanese palette! However, if you are a really adventurous foodie we can’t recommend this delicacy enough!
Try Some Bhutanese Tipple – Ara (or arag)
Ara is the most popular form of alcohol in Bhutan although, like Ema Datshi, it is an acquired taste! It is fermented from maize, millet, wheat or rice and tastes a little like very (very) strong Sake. It is mainly made by locals in their houses or on farms and it is illegal to produce it commercially or sell it – so it can be difficult to get your hands on this particular booze. If you do get a taste of it then spiritual revelations could be in store – the alcohol is often used in religious ceremonies where it is given as an offering. Even the alcohol is mystical in Bhutan!
If you would like to find out more about visiting Bhutan with Kerala Moments then follow this link and make an enquiry so that your Bhutanese adventure can begin! Remember to like, comment and subscribe for more exciting updates on our holiday destinations.
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