Nestled in the heart of the Himalayas, between the gigantic peaks of Tibet and the plains of the Ganges, Bhutan is home to priceless treasures and unspoiled nature. It reigns a perfume of happiness, thanks to its landscapes of extraordinary beauty, its architectural marvels, a perfectly intact traditional culture, but especially to its population of exceptional hospitality. This city has kept its charm and Buddhist culture to the delight of travellers. Discover a country where the smile of its inhabitants’ measures wealth.
Discover the Monastic Life
Bhutan fiercely defends its Buddhist values. A visit to the monasteries can provide you with unique and peaceful experiences. Lhodrak Kharchu Monastery is located on a hill overlooking the city of Bumthang (3 hours from Thimphu, the capital). After a half-hour trek, you will reach the quiet premises of the monastery. On arrival, the atmosphere is calm. The monks, about a hundred, are preparing for their regular morning ceremony based on songs and music. A divine experience that makes you forget your worries of everyday life and plunges you into an extreme serenity.
Attend the Traditional Festival
Bhutan is an amazing country that focuses on its traditional values. The discovery of this preserved jewel is also done through festivals. Living in a deeply religious society, festivals in Bhutan are usually masked dances organized in all major monasteries in the country. For several days, dances and rituals follow one another with the sound of trumpets, drums, cymbals to resurrect the gods and demons of Buddhist mythology. The best known and most popular are in autumn, like those of Wangdue and Thimphu. They are large-scale and bring together the entire population around songs, dances and rituals to acquire merits.
If you are looking for a more religious event, the Bumthang festivals and those in eastern Bhutan are more authentic because they attract fewer tourists. A dazzling show of colors and sound that can be found at the temple of Jambay Lhakhang in Bumthang and punctuated by the ceremony of fire. The local people of the valley dress in their best costumes at this annual festival, which adds to the authenticity of the event.
Take a Tour at the Local MarketThe local market can be a good opportunity to soak up Bhutanese culture and get in touch with its people. It is also a place to hunt and bring back wonderful memories of your trip. We go to the craft market of Thimphu where a wide range of hand-made products (such as woven bags, ashtrays, bracelets …) stands on stands next to each other.
The local market of Punakha, 72 km from the capital, is a true palette of colours. The villagers spread their fresh produce on the ground, on a tablecloth or wicker baskets. There are fresh fruits picked the same day, red and green peppers, different varieties of rice, but also toys for children and textiles.
Visit the Animal Park
The fauna and flora of this country nestled in the heart of the Himalayas is a must see. To be closer to nature, you must at all costs visit one of the many national parks and its sanctuaries. Jigme Dorji National Park, north of Thimphu, is one of the largest protected areas in Bhutan with important landmarks, including sacred sites such as Jomolhari, Zhemgang, and Jitchu Drake. The opportunity also to see the national animal and venerated Bhutan, the Takin, a mix between the cow (the body) and the goat (the head) and which feeds exclusively on grass.
Go up to Taktshang Monastery
A trip to Bhutan without stopping at Taktshang Monastery remains incomplete. Taktshang, translated as “Tiger’s Nest,” is Bhutan’s best-known and most perched monastery. 10 km from Paro, it is more than 3,000 m above sea level and seems suspended on the cliff, ready to fall into the abyss it faces. Seven temples make up this nest, most of them built on three floors. An architectural marvel. To access it, it takes about two hours of trekking and take your time because, despite a path in good condition, some places are pretty dizzying. But the stakes are worth the candle because the view from the monastery is spectacular.
Taste the Local Cuisine
While visiting Bhutan, it is imperative to taste the local cuisine. The most typical dish is “Ema Datshi,” a kind of gratin made from yak milk cheese or cow and peppers (Ema means pepper, Datshi means cheese). It can be prepared with potatoes, eggs, meat or vegetables. Where to eat? At the Chig-ja-gye restaurant of the Taj Tashi Hotel in Thimphu.