When you are planning a trip to Asia, Bhutan probably is not the first destination that springs to mind. It’s a bit off the beaten track. Chances are good you think first of India or Thailand or China and their well-known tourist attractions. So why consider a vacation to Bhutan instead, the smallest Himalayan state in all of Asia? I won’t just give you one good reason—I’ll give you six. For just one of these, I’m sure Bhutan will be on your bucket list. For all six? I’m sure you will be planning your trip itinerary in no time.
Bounded by the Himalayas, this landlocked country is a land of imposing, dramatic summits, and fertile green valleys. As you might guess, the climate varies tremendously depending on your elevation. Southern Bhutan is tropical, while the highlands have a climate which is almost polar in nature. In the north, there is snow throughout the year.
There are actually five seasons in Bhutan: spring, summer, monsoon, autumn, and winter. Monsoon season is heaviest in the west, while hot summers and cool winters prevail through the rest of the country. The valleys however are in a comparatively mild climate zone, and make for a wonderful destination during any season. No matter what time of year you visit Bhutan, you’ll be blown away by its natural beauty.
With such extraordinary landscapes, it is no wonder that Bhutan has become a spiritual heartland. Buddhism first came to the country clear back in the 7th century AD, and since then it has blossomed into a core part of the nation’s identity. The most iconic symbol of spirituality in the country is certainly the Tiger Monastery, known more formally as Paro Taktsang. The monastery sits perched high along a sheer cliff-side, looking down on the spectacular Paro valley. Constructed in the late 17th century, it is a legendary site where it is believed that the Guru Padmasambhava meditated for three years. As a mythical figure, he is the one credited with bringing Buddhism to the country.
While you are making the pilgrimage up the cliffs to visit the monastery, you will be surrounded by nature and the deep sense of peace that pervades this mystical land. Immersing yourself in the Buddhist traditions of Bhutan, you can internalize some of that tranquility and take it with you when you return home. Like the memories of your experiences, it can become a part of your life forever after.
The cheerful people of Bhutan never say “no” to a chance to celebrate, which is why there are traditional festivals lined up year-round. No matter when you visit, you should be able to add one to your itinerary. Head to the capital during Thimphu Tshechu to join the Bhutanese people dressed in dazzling colourful finery, or discover the culture of nomadic herders in the Haa Valley at the Haa Summer Festival. Watch 17th century battle re-enactments at Punakha Drubchen, or take part in Jambay Lhakhang Drup, which honours Guru Rimpoche.
The pure atmosphere and climate of Bhutan means that many parts of Bhutan are covered in dense evergreen foliage. So even if you arrive in the middle of winter, you will be surrounded by beautiful, colourful trees.
Even though Bhutan is a deeply spiritual country, let it never be said it isn’t a worldly one as well. There are many boutique and luxury hotels throughout Bhutan, offering serene retreats amid the rich foliage of the kingdom’s evergreen forests. Imagine opening your drapes in the morning to look out over breathtaking views of lush valleys and Himalayan peaks. There are many unique and exciting tours and activities you can book while staying in luxury accommodations. When you return, you can indulge in delicious traditional Bhutanese cuisine at your hotel’s restaurant.
In 1999, the king of Bhutan introduced the idea of “gross national happiness.” Sure, it was great marketing, but that doesn’t mean that was all it was. While visiting Bhutan, you will be amazed by the smiling, welcoming faces you see everywhere. And no wonder—when you get away from the rush of modern life and take a more spiritual approach, you can truly appreciate all life has to offer.
Even when you get back to the rush of your own everyday life, your experiences in Bhutan will linger, reminding you to slow down every once in a while, surround yourself in the glory of nature, meditate, and celebrate. So take a trip to Bhutan, and bring back the experience that will greatly enrich your own happiness.