Bhutan is probably the most mysterious and lesser known destinations. The tiny kingdom has placed limits on the number of visitors from the outside, and the government has taken steps to ensure that the country maintains its traditional culture. Visitors are treated to tours of ancient monasteries and remote villages, while trekking through the eastern end of the Himalaya, getting a glimpse at a way of life that has remained largely unchanged for centuries.
Bhutan used to be one of the most isolated nations in the world, but developments including direct international flights, internet, mobile phone networks, and cable television have increasingly opened the doors. Yet, Bhutan has balanced modernization with its ancient culture and traditions under the guiding philosophy of Gross National Happiness (GNH).
On a clear day, the flight to Paro is breathtaking, with views of major Himalayan peaks such as Everest, Kanchenjunga and Makalu, and on the final approach Bhutan’s own snowy peaks, the sacred Chomolhari, Jichu Drake and Tserimgang.
Festivals - Tshechu
Bhutanese people celebrate different festivals like the Bhutanese New Year and other seasonal festivals like the summer solstice etc. But the most common festival is known as Tshechu. It is in fact a religious festival, and is celebrated all over Bhutan, usually after the end of the harvest season. The Thimphu Tshechu in the capital of Bhutan is held in mid September.
The main highlight of the Tshechu is the performance of the masked dances by the monks. There are many kinds of maksed masked dances, all involving different moves, masks and costumes. All of them have special religious significances.
According to legend, all these dances appeared in the past Buddhist master's vision during their meditation. The steps and moves are strictly followed as it was performed in the past. Alteration of the steps is seen as sacrilegious and would not be attempted by any masked dance teacher.
Drukgyel Dzong, the fort of the victorious Drukpas. Although gutted by a fire, this fort is renowned as the stand from which several Tibetan invasions were repulsed. To the north can be seen in all its majesty, the dome of sacred Mt. Chomolhari or the abode of the "mountain of goddess”.
It’s Bhutan’s most attractive site. Constructed in 1637-8 during the reign of the Shabdrung, the dzong was Bhutan’s second, after Simtokha in Thimpu. At 183m long, the dzong has housed as many as 600 monks. Today, the Central Monk Body winters here before moving to Trashi Chhoe dzong in Thimpu for summer. The dzong also hosted the National Assembly until the capital was moved to Thimpu in 1961. The dzong has survived 6 fires, 2 glacial lake bursts, and 1 earthquake.
Paro Taktsang (spa phro stag tshang) / (spa gro stag tshang) is one of the most famous monasteries in Bhutan. It was built around the Taktsang Senge Samdup (stag tshang seng ge bsam grub) cave where Guru Padmasambhava is said to have meditated in the 8th century. Today it is the most well known of thirteen taktsang or "tiger lair" caves where he meditated at different places in Tibet and Bhutan. Completed in 1692, the temple hangs on a cliff at 3 120, some 700 meters above the bottom of Paro valley, some 10 km from the district town of Paro.
This is the most difficult trek in Bhutan! The official snowman trek starts in Paro, and leads via Lingshi and Laya to the remote Lunana in northern Bhutan. From there you can either reuturn to the lateral road at Nikka Chhu, or continue to Bumthang. This trek is not for the weak! Although individual day-treks are not difficult, you are in the field for about 3 weeks, far from anywhere. Once you have passed Laya, there is no going back. If you get stuck in, say, Thanza, it is a long way out!