“Have I just arrived in heaven” my sister whispered as we landed in Bhutan, a small, far flung Kingdom hidden away in the heart of the Himalayas. I knew exactly what she meant as the sheer beauty of the surrounding scenery struck me even though I had visited before and new what to expect.
Our journey began in Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan, which is most unlike any capital you will visit in the world. An easy, gentle pace of life, the local people go about their daily lives with warm smiles and a genuine interest in your presence in their country. Although tourism has been developing here for some years I was relieved to find that nothing had significantly changed since my first visit, even with the introduction of new luxury hotels and increasing tourist numbers.
Thimphu still has no traffic lights (the only capital city in the world not to have them!), the local people still wear their national dress and haven’t given up the very smart “Goh” and elegant “kira” for jeans, t-shirts and trainers. New hotels and businesses are being constructed but with sensitivity in accordance to the strict building regulations applicable across the country and Gross National Happiness is still very much the phrase of the moment.
Continuing east from Thimphu we took the road to Punakha, a 2 and a half hour drive and well worth the visit for the change in climate, altitude, landscape and the magnificent Dzong (monastery). Situated between the confluence of 2 mighty rivers, the Pa Chu and the Mo Chu, the monastery dominates the valley with it’s golden roof glowing in the sunlight. You could spend a whole day here watching the local people coming to pray and experiencing the numerous ceremonies held by the head monk. We were lucky enough to witness the younger monks chanting and playing their musical instruments.
We also visited the Probjikha Valley, otherwise known as Gangtey, a few hours drive from Punakha. The valley floor, a marshland where black-necked cranes come to rest for the winter, is breathtakingly beautiful. Travel here at any time of year is special but during the spring time the valley floor comes alive with colour, a patchwork of purple flowering buck wheat and yellow mustard seed. Dotted around are houses and farms, all beautifully constructed in traditional Bhutanese style.
We had no time to journey further east to Central Bhutan and the Bumthang Valley so returned back west to Paro, another picturesque valley and home to the better known Tigers Nest Monastery or “Taksang”. This was without a doubt the highlight of our trip, albeit a rather strenuous climb to reach it, it was well worth the effort.
Losing my thoughts in the view across to Tiger’s Nest I reflected on my visit. Bhutan truly is a land of breath-taking, far-reaching, mountain views, terraced farmland, dramatic river valleys and glittering streams, of people who are never in a hurry but are full of life, of unique architecture and impressive and colourful Dzongs. I can confidently say that anyone who visits this incredible land cannot fail to be affected by it’s beauty, spirituality and uniqueness. It has certainly left an everlasting impression on me.
To speak with Charlotte about her holiday to Bhutan, or for further advice about planning your tailor-made holiday to Bhutan please call our Bhutan specialists.