“This peaceful nation … is emerging as a big draw, attracting those in search of a spiritual journey, a hiking adventure — or just a chance to experience a place before the rest of the world gets there.” ~ The New York Times.
Only slightly larger than Switzerland, Bhutan has often been compared to its European cousin, made more relevant by the recent development of comfortable lodges and inns across the country. Unlike Switzerland, however, Bhutan’s mountaintops and slopes are graced not by ski lifts but vibrant and living monasteries where monks contemplate spiritual texts, engage in debate, meditate, study and preserve a way of life that has been endangered in the rest of the Himalayas. In the middle valleys, massive and colorfuldzongs or fortresses come alive with festivals, religious events and the daily workings of government and monastic life. Fluttering prayer flags send out goodwill and blessings to the rest of the world while the friendly Bhutanese people welcome visitors with openness and curiosity. From spring thorugh early summer rhododendron blooms add splashes of color while exquisite blue poppies cover high-alpine meadows. Blue Sheep, the endemic moose-like Takin, the extremely rare Golden Langurs and the rarely glimpsed Snow Leopard hint at Bhutan’s pristine and zealously guarded environment.
Wedged between the Tibetan plateau and North Eastern India, Bhutan is led by the well-loved Wangchuck dynasty with popular support from a democratically elected National Assembly and Cabinet of Ministers. The current monarch, His Majesty King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck, is the fifth ruler of Bhutan . His illustrious father His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck was crowned in 1974 and instituted many of the changes and reforms protecting Bhutan ‘s environment, moving along a democratic process for leaders elected by the people. During his reign he ushered Bhutan into a new era of government based on people’s participation, decentralization of power and the genuine happiness of the Bhutanese population, an approach he described as Gross National Happiness over Gross National Product.
Current estimates put the population of Bhutan at slightly over 700,000 people comprising of three broad ethnic groups – the Sharchops in the east, the Ngalops in the central and west and the Lhotshampas in the south. The country is divided into 20 districts. Bhutan is considered by many as the last bastion of Mahayana Buddhism. According to legend, the famous Buddhist saint Guru Padmasambhava brought Buddhism to Bhutan and the rest of the Himalayas in the middle of the 8th century A.D. Riding on a mythic flying tigress the Guru arrived in Bhutan at Taktshang, today the site of one of the most spectacular monasteries in the world. The great Himalayan spiritual tradition begun by the historical Buddha Sakhyamuni and the Guru continues to thrive with the Je Khenpo ( Bhutan ‘s head abbot) in charge of religious and monastic affairs in the kingdom.
Bhutan offers the traveler not simply the grandeur and the beauty of the Himalayas but an opportunity to experience a vibrant culture and way of life whose continued survival enriches the breadth of human diversity and traditions on our planet.
For more information visit our travel partner website Skykingdom Adventure