Bhutan is a tiny and remote kingdom nestled in the Himalayas between India and China. Its Bhutanese name, Druk Yul, means “Land of the Thunder Dragon”. Mysterious, untouched and never colonized, it remained in splendid isolation for centuries, only beginning to open up to outsiders in the 1970s. It is known as a peaceful Buddhist kingdom, rich in tradition and spirituality, and renowned for measuring wealth in terms of Gross National Happiness.
Bhutan has a population of 735,000, around a quarter of whom live in the capital, Thimphu. Buddhism, the state religion, was established in the region by the great saint, Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambahva), in the eighth century and, while the Bhutanese constitution guarantees freedom of religious practice, most Bhutanese still hold strongly to Buddhist values, for example to refrain from harming any beings. Sacred monasteries and Dzongs, plentiful throughout the country, play a vital role in training monks and preserving Bhutan’s cultural heritage.
sechu, a yearly religious festival, featuring colourful mask dances and elaborate costumes, is held across the country in honour of the great Buddhist teachers, kings and leaders of state. It functions as an occasion of community reunion for the wellbeing of the people and the country.
Bhutan is regarded as one of the most exclusive travel destinations in the world. Its policy of ‘high value, low impact’ tourism serves to ensure an authentic experience for visitors to this remote and spiritually rich kingdom, while keeping its cultural identity intact. Based on Gross National Happiness values, tourism revenue contributes hugely to Bhutan’s free education and public health services.
Beyond its wealth of ancient monasteries and Dzongs, its rich cultural heritage and arts and its depth of living spirituality unique to Bhutan, it is also home to several endangered species, protected by Bhutan’s environmental protection policies.