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Bhutan Travel: Monasteries and Trekking

July 10th, 2010

bhutan-places-of-interest.jpgAway from city life and rhythm, nestled in the lap of Himalayas is Bhutan, a place for tranquility and solitude. The horizon is lined with Buddhist monasteries, temples and snow peaks, and the culture is typically and traditionally Tibetan. Bhutan is known as the Land of the Thunder Dragon, and has close to a 73 per cent forest cover, which abounds in its own distinctive flora and fauna. Bordered by India on three sides and Tibet in the north, Bhutan is famous for the philosophy of Gross National Happiness, which measures the happiness and well-being of the people and their social progress, and is more important to Bhutanese people than the Gross Domestic Product. The country is the happiest in Asia, and the eighth happiest in the world, according to a survey conducted by Business Week.

The most picturesque element in the country is, of course, the Himalayas. There are three categories that the region is divided into. The lowland river valleys of the Shiwalik Hills have pleasant temperatures and beautiful flora and fauna in the south. Then there are the Black Mountains of central Bhutan, lying between the Mo Chhu and Drangme Chhu river systems. With middling height peaks from 1500 metres to 2700 metres, this region has some of the most beautiful views of higher snow-clad peaks and deep gorges. The northernmost region merges with Tibet in its flora and fauna, and climatic conditions with snow-fed rivers and snow-clad peaks.

South Bhutan is mainly inhabited by Nepalese farmers, who brought Hinduism to the region with them. The central highlands are inhabited by the Drukpa people, who have Mongoloid origins and are involved in cattle breeding or farming. Semi-nomadic yak herdsmen live in the utmost northern regions, and produce the famous yak cheese, milk, butter, and meat of Tibetan regions. The eastern part of the country is taken up by the Sharchops of Indo-Mongoloid origins. Unlike Nepal or India, there is little mingling of different ethnicities in Bhutan.

Earlier, Bhutan was an utterly isolated country, and one had to undergo great efforts to gain entry into it as a tourist. Things have changed in the last few years dramatically. One can easily plan one’s own itinerary and go through a local or an international travel agent for traveling in Bhutan, who will also arrange for hotels there. The first democratic election took place in the country in 2008, which had been ruled by a monarchy till then. A lot of modernization is taking place albeit only in urban centers. The airport in Bhutan lies in a town called Paro, which is one and a half hours from the capital city of Thimphu. There are quite a few museums and the colorful Centenary Farmer’s Market here to visit, apart from some monasteries.

Bhutan has a lot to offer by means of entertainment, although very unlike conventional tourist places. There are monasteries and temples, and Buddhist architectural sites, to visit as in Taktshang Goemba, Bumthang, Lhuentse or in Trongsa Dzong. There also are a number of trekking opportunities in Bhutan at places such as Snowman Trek, Namling Cliffs, Thrumshing La or Jhomolhari Trek. Or you can choose to soak your day away in the hot springs at Gasa, and spot blue sheep. Or just sit on a rock-face cliff and watch the Himalayas stand majestic in front of you.

This article was supplied by Nidhi Varma.

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