The Land of the Thunder Dragon

The Land of the Thunder Dragon

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

Going to Bhutan is like going back in time. It has managed to remain hidden from the world, nestled in the Himalayas, preserving its cultural heritage and tradition. It opened its borders to tourists for the first time in 1974, when the King decided to modernise the country, a process still ongoing today. In 1999, the government lifted the ban on television and the internet, making it one of the last countries to get television. Bhutan is a Buddhist country, meaning that there are many beautiful Buddhist temples and monasteries hidden in the sprawling natural forests.

Tourism

Strictly regulated, tourism is still a new industry in Bhutan. A high value, low volume approach to tourism has been adopted in relation to tourists, which makes staying in Bhutan more expensive per night than Nepal. There’s no independent travel here, you have to have a guide with you and itineraries are sanctioned by the tourism board. However, because of this all your accommodation, meals, transport, tours and sightseeing trips are included in that price per night. You can arrive in Bhutan with little physical money as you only need to spend it on more luxury items like drinks and laundry.

A Conservation Site

Seventy two percent of the country is covered in untouched forest, and a biodiversity gold mine. The region has had international recognition for its proactive conservation initiatives. There are more than 770 species of bird and 5,400 different species of plant present in Bhutan and home to several endangered species of animal, including the Bengal Tiger, the Snow Leopard and the White-winged Wood Duck. However, a growing population and other issues are beginning to affect the landscape of the Bhutanese countryside, so the conservationists must now work harder than ever to preserve the natural environment.

Popular Sites

Birds are one of the most popular attractions that draw people to having Bhutan holidays. There are so many different types of bird in a beautiful setting that if you’re a birdwatcher then this is the place to be. Part of the approved bird-watching tour is a trek through the valleys of Bhutan as well as a visit to a Buddhist monastery. A holiday to Bhutan is perfect for anyone interested in spiritual travel, as the people are deeply religious, following the Lamaist form of Buddhism. Monasteries, temples and the unique Bhutanese ‘Dzongs’ are dotted across the landscape. Something worth seeing is Lamey Goemba, a large palace and monastery built in the 1800s as a residence for King Ugyen Wangchuck. It is now being used by the Integrated Forest Development Project and isn’t formally open to visitors, but is beautifully constructed. Paro (Rinpung) Dzong is the best example of Bhutanese architecture available to see, and one of the largest Dzongs in Bhutan. The name means ‘fortress on a heap of jewels’ so you can imagine how impressive and intimidating it might be.

Dzong of Punakha, Bhutan
The Land of the Thunder Dragon – BhutanMarina & Enrique / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Websites

The best websites will tell you about their guides so you feel more comfortable when you arrive in Bhutan and you can spend all of your holiday enjoying the people and the landscape.