Bhutan – The exclusive kingdom in Asia
If you are thinking about visiting a kingdom, you might think about medieval Europe, with big castles, that are surrounded by mighty forests. Almost nobody thinks about Asia, but the Kingdom of Bhutan is as unique as you might think.
Traveling to Bhutan is very exclusive. Until 1994 the country only allowed 3.000 tourists to visit the so-called “country of the thunder dragon”. By now the guidelines are not that strict anymore and 150.000 tourists are allowed to travel into the country per year. Behind these restrictions is a concept by the government that avoids mass tourism and tourists need to prepare to pay at least 250$ to afford the journey to Buthan.
The kingdom of Bhutan is known for its environmental measurements, which are a part of its constitution. Every economic decision that the country does is dependent on environmental protection. This is why the tourism sector is growing slowly and is very sustainable.
If you want to travel to Bhutan, you need to have a licensed guide, who shows you the country. You need to plan your journey in advance but will be rewarded with a combination of modern cities and traditional villages.
The main religion in Bhutan is Buddhism and you can find monasteries all over the country. You can visit them and some even offer guest meditation courses for tourists to get a feeling for the simple life in a monastery. The best-known monastery is Taktshang, or “Tigers Nest”. It is built on the side of a very steep mountainside in the east of the country. You can only reach it on foot after walking for several hours. The monastery was built in 1692 on top of the Taktsang Senge Samdup cave, in which allegedly Guru Padmasambhava meditated in the 8th century for 3 years, 3 months, 3 weeks, 3 days, and 3 hours.
If you are riding or hiking through the local villages, you will be surprised by the warm hospitality of the people. Even though most of the older people are not able to understand English, they will almost always invite you into their homes. If you follow along to the invitation, be prepared to see the steepest stairs in the world in their homes.
Bhutanese people are not good at small talk but have a great sense of humor. Every year there are up to 40 different festivals to honor a Buddhist master or Guru, where you can find the local people living their best life and meet for different ceremonies. The biggest festival is the Thimphu festival, named after the capital of the country. The festival celebrates the life of Guru Rimpoches.
If you are going to Bhutan, ask your guide to leave the normal tourist trails and really experience the country. The best way is to rent a horse and ride through the Himalayas, you will never forget this kind of freedom.