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The Kingdom of Bhutan can be found in Southern Asia, bordered by Tibet and India.
It has an attractive location in the Eastern Himalayas, making it an adventurer’s paradise. Having never been colonized in its history, you will find that the people of Bhutan have a fiercely independent spirit.
It is said that Bhutan is the country that values Gross National Happiness over Gross National Product!
Although there are subtropical plains to be found in Bhutan, what attracts the traveler are the numerous peaks of the Himalayas which exceed 7000m.
What makes a holiday in this nation so unique is that the Tourism Council of Bhutan operates through a daily tariff. All visitors, except those from bordering nations, must pay this daily tariff during their stay. In return, all meals are provided. You receive a licensed tour guide for the entirety of your stay. Internal transportation, camping equipment, and a minimum of a 3-star accommodation is also included with the fee.
You can also choose to upgrade in certain areas for an additional fee above the base tariff. Visiting Bhutan means a portion of this tariff goes to alleviate poverty, provide education, and offer healthcare to its people. At the same time, you get to see some of the most unique landscapes on the planet.
If trekking the mountains isn’t for you, try wandering through one of the 4 national parks Bhutan offers. There is also a half-dozen wildlife sanctuaries and nature reserves available to tour. You’ll find a diverse array of plant and animal life as you wander.
All holidays must be paid in full, in advance, for a visa to be issued. Traveling to Bhutan can require some careful planning, but there may not be a more rewarding destination either.
Buddhism was probably introduced in Bhutan around the 2nd century although, traditionally, its introduction is credited to the first visit of Guru Rinpoche in the 8th century. Before that the people followed a shamanistic tradition called Bon that still exists today, merged with their Buddhist traditions.
Guru Rinpoche is the most important figure in Bhutan’s history, regarded as the second Buddha. His miraculous powers included the ability to subdue demons and evil spirits, and he preserved his teachings and wisdom by concealing them in the form of terma (hidden treasures) to be found later by enlightened treasure discoverers known as tertons.
One of the best known of these tertons was Pema Lingpa; the texts and artifacts he found, the religious dances he composed, and the art he produced, are vital parts of Bhutan’s living heritage.
The religious festivals
The largest and most colorful festivals (tsechus) take place at Bhutan’s dzongs and monasteries once a year, in honor of Guru Rinpoche.
Tsechus consist of up to five days of spectacular pageantry, masked dances and religious allegorical plays. These festivals play a large part in the Buddhist teachings and are also social gatherings. The Bhutanese revel and rejoice together, dressed in their finest clothes and jewelry, in an infectiously convivial atmosphere where humor and devotion go hand in hand.
These festivals provide an ideal opportunity to appreciate the essence of the Bhutanese character. The temple of Jampa Lhakhang hosts one of the kingdom’s most spectacular festivals, the Jampa Lhakhang Drup!