Where is Bhutan? And, is Bhutan a country? These are both questions we hear. Not much is known about Bhutan. But life in Bhutan is unique to anywhere else.
The word “unique” is over-used in the modern world, but not in the case of Bhutan. We have visited many countries but I can’t think of one I have enjoyed more. I make no secret of the fact that I would like to see more people travel there. Travel in Bhutan truly deserves your attention.
And, for the record, Bhutan is a country and it sits in the Eastern Himalayas between India and Tibet. The people, scenery and culture of Bhutan are all unique. So, it makes for a great travel destination. Find out why travel in Bhutan is so rewarding.
A Pictorial Essay of Life in Bhutan: World Happiness
The Kingdom of Bhutan is indeed a happy place and so much so it shuns the use of Gross Domestic Product as a measure of progress or success.
Bhutan developed a happiness index figuring happiness is a more important measurement to the Bhutanese people than some dry economist’s measure. Let’s be honest here. A country with a high GDP is not necessarily a happy country!
The Kingdom of Bhutan is very protective of its culture. It’s why you see prayer flags, temples, monasteries, monks, nuns and temples everywhere. It’s also why you see no advertising anywhere.
So, no billboards blotting the landscape. There are small signs only above shopkeepers’ doors indicating the name of the business and what services or products they sell. That’s it!
Apart from a few overseas hotel chains, there are no foreign businesses in Bhutan. So, no franchises nor foreign shops anywhere. For me, therefore travel in Bhutan is so mind-cleansing. I am so dismayed at seeing the same set of shops in every city you visit in the world these days. Why bother leaving home? Too many cultures have sold their soul, but not in the Kingdom of Bhutan.
Trust me. Not seeing giant billboards nor the same boring shops you can see anywhere else makes tourism in Bhutan so worthwhile and different to anywhere else. Yes, the culture of Bhutan is unique alright.
A Pictorial Essay of Life in Bhutan: Land of the Thunder Dragon
There is a real fascination with dragons in Bhutan. Indeed, the Land of the Thunder Dragon, even has a dragon on its national flag!
Mysticism is still an important aspect of the culture of Bhutan. This Buddhist Kingdom deeply embeds mysticism in its religion. In visiting temples, monasteries and dzongs you see magnificently painted scenes telling traditional Bhutanese stories.
The dragon also features in a rather unique fruit cocktail recipe, the dragon warmer. It’s a warm cocktail and just perfect on a cold day. And, what a great name for a drink!
Tourism in Bhutan is not dry. So, no shortage of good beers, including craft beers, wines (some made in Bhutan) as well as good cocktails like the dragon warmer.
Not into alcohol? No problem, hot (black) tea served with milk and sugar is very common and good on a cool day. We always looked forward to our daily cup of tea.
Or, you could try some butter tea. The Bhutanese love this tea made from tea leaves, hot water, salt and butter.
A Pictorial Essay of Life in Bhutan: Traditions and Reforms
The Bhutanese people are deeply religious and when you travel in Bhutan you will no doubt visit some of the many temples, monasteries and dzongs. Here you will see first-hand, the magnificent alters adorned with stunning arts and crafts. Think statues, wall hangings, ritual cakes (made from sugar and butter) and food offerings.
The Kingdom of Bhutan has slowly been opening its doors to the world through tourism and trade in the last 50 years. Because, you don’t see the same overseas shops dominating the retail space in Bhutan, you will find plenty of local businesses selling hand-made, unique souvenirs.
Yes, that means the money stays in the community. There are plenty of great souvenirs available from beautifully soft yak scarves through to unique paintings and sculptures.
And you don’t have to spend a fortune. You can even buy Bhutanese stamps with your photograph on it as if standing in front of the Tiger’s Nest Monastery. And, you can even use it to post something back home. Very cool!
Most people in Bhutan still wear their traditional clothing. So, for the men that is a gho and for the women that is a kira. Such a pleasant surprise to see the Bhutanese still dressing in their traditional clothing. It’s not just clothing that remains traditional but housing as well.
The great majority of Bhutanese live in large, multi-floor houses, complete with gorgeous, wooden carved and painted window frames. Most also contain a separate alter room for praying and meditation. As well, at the top of the house is an open area between the roof and the building proper. This was once for archers to defend the house against any marauding forces! But, the tradition for building houses with this feature remains.
A Pictorial Essay of Life in Bhutan: Bhutanese Cuisine
You can eat 5-star cuisine in some of the better hotels, such as the Zhiwa Ling Hotel in Paro. However, the traditional Bhutanese cuisine is also excellent. What is red rice? It is more nutritious and tasty than white rice. And, it goes perfectly with the national dish of Bhutan, ema datshi, a great chilli cheese recipe that is quick to make.
Traditional Bhutanese cuisine is primarily organic and vegetarian but the Bhutanese also consume organic meat in small quantities. Organic, because the Bhutanese do not use chemicals in their food production.
Bhutan is also anti-GMO to the point where you cannot bring any GMO food into the country. I love a country with some principles and what a pity the rest of the world doesn’t act rather than just talk about it! Yes, life in Bhutan means the Bhutanese have a healthy diet.
A Pictorial Essay of Life in Bhutan: Legends, Zhongs and Festivals
Mysticism, legends and deities are important facets of the culture of Bhutan. And everyday life in Bhutan is full of them. It is a highlight of travel to Bhutan.
Bhutan has some spectacular dzongs, originally built as defensive forts against marauding forces. Now, the Kingdom of Bhutan uses them as administrative centers and for use by monks. The architecture and the picturesque mountain environment of the Eastern Himalayas makes for some spectacular photographs.
And the best way to experience the mysticism, legends and deities as well as the dzongs is to attend a festival. Festivals in Bhutan are so unique and will be the highlight of your vacation.
A Pictorial Essay of Life in Bhutan: Trekking in Bhutan
Is the Tiger’s Nest Monastery, the iconic photograph opportunity in Bhutan? Certainly, for those interested in trekking in Bhutan it is. And, no one would disagree it is one of the best places in Bhutan.
While Nepal is well known for trekking in the Himalayas, there are also plenty of trekking and hiking opportunities in Bhutan. Some of our most enjoyable facets of the trip were the day hikes and strolls through the magnificent countryside of Bhutan.
There is a reason that many consider Bhutan to be the country where the fabled Shangri La exists. Here is a collection of the best places in Bhutan. There are so many magnificent places just waiting for you to explore when you travel in Bhutan.
Is travel in Bhutan on your bucket list?
We traveled as guests of Yangphel Adventure Travel. As always, all opinions are our own.