The Birthplace of “Gross National Happiness”
Happiness is a subjective state of mind and a feeling so elusive. The word holds a different meaning to each one of us. But there is one country, that has mastered their way of life around this beautiful feeling.
The small Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, took on the ambitious task of pledging all policies and decisions to be made in favour of the citizens quotient of happiness. The Bhutanese government prioritises the Gross National Happiness (GNH) of its people, over GDP as a measure of the country’s prosperity.
This emphasises the fact that if the people are happy, it will in turn lead to economic development. Humanity is the goal here. Bhutan’s tagline ‘Happiness is a place’ assures that happiness can be found in simple things and these simple things are all around us if we take the time to pause and look.
What makes Bhutan such a joy?
- This Land of Thunder Dragon, is where you can gaze at stunning landscapes, legendary ancient temples and fortresses, spicy yet delicious food, vibrant festivals and most of all revel in its authenticity.
- It is the last great Himalayan kingdom, shrouded in mystery and magic, where a traditional Buddhist culture carefully embraces global developments.
- Explore the natural wonders as you travel across the mountain passes - lush with rhododendrons in spring. Treks filled with stunning sights of flora & fauna; unique mammals & birds protected in several national parks.
- Bhutan holds many surprises. Whether you’re a nature lover, an adventurist or simply want to soak up the culture, it welcomes you to experience its true beauty and warmth.
- A country where rice is red and chilies aren't just a seasoning but the hero of the dish.
- It is a land where spirituality meets technology as you see monks check their smartphones after performing a divination.
- The locals here are well spoken, fun loving and aware of the world that they inhabit. It is a fascinating destination, where the ancient and modern blend in perfectly.
Here are top 10 things to see in this magical land.
A journey to Bhutan is an extraordinary experience into a land of many stories and a culture that teaches you how to be grateful for all that you have.
- 1. Taktsang Goemba - Tiger’s Nest Monastery: This incredible sight is one of the most important Buddhist monasteries in Bhutan. Miraculously perched on a vertical cliff 3000m north of Paro, it was built in 1692. According to legend, Guru Rinpoche flew on this cliff from Tibet on the back of a flaming tigress.
- 2. Tsechus – The Colourful Festival: Bhutan’s most dramatic festivals are Tshechu, that display the country’s glorious cultural side. Held annually, it is conducted in all the dzongs and major monasteries. Tshechus are social gatherings where people from near and far gather to witness mask dances, cultural displays and immerse in the Buddhist teachings.
- 3. Dzong - Bhutanese Fort: Dzongs are traditional Bhutanese fortresses, built across the country during the 17th century, that are used today as the administrative offices. Dzongs follow typical Bhutanese architecture with a wide base and tapering top. They are ornately decorated in various colours and shapes. What makes it amazing is that they are built without using a single nail.
- 4. Highest Unconquered Peaks: Bhutan has some of the highest unconquered mountains in the world – Mount Jhomolhari, Jitchu Drake, etc. The government prohibits mountaineering in the peaks which the Bhutanese believe are the abode of deities and spirits.
- 5. Spectacular Museums & Monuments: Museums are the repositories of Bhutanese history starting from the advent of Guru Padmasambhava in the 8th century. Visitors will have museums-within-museum experience while visiting the ubiquitous dzongs and lhakhangs (temples) which are distinctly unique to each other.
- 6. Traverse Through the Mountains: Bhutan’s treks will take you through physically challenging routes that include crossing high mountain passes and snow. The tiresome trek is worth it as you breathe in the pristine air and the magical natural landscape.
- 7. 13 unique arts and crafts of Bhutan: The 13 Bhutanese Arts and Crafts known as the Zorig Chusum is symbolic and rooted in Buddhist philosophy. They are; woodwork, stonework, carving, painting, sculpting, wood turning, black smithy, ornament making, bamboo work, paper making, tailoring and weaving. Pema Lingpa, a treasure discoverer, introduced these arts and crafts to Bhutan in the 15th century.
- 8. The Fiery Cuisine: Bhutan is the only country in the world where chilli is not used as a seasoning but as a vegetable! The national dish is “ema-datshi”, which is a chilli and cheese stew served with rice. Those who can handle the extreme spice try it at your own risk!
- 9. A Spiritual Haven: Buddhism in Bhutan is not a religion; it’s a way of life. The reason why Bhutan is as peaceful as it is maybe because Buddhism is deeply engrained in the society mentality. Don’t be surprised to see an old man or woman at the Memorial Chorten circumambulating with a string of beads in their hand. If you would like to get away from noise and chaos, Bhutan’s meditation retreats are a must visit!