From Yeti Spotting to dancing with Monks, Bhutan has lots of fun things for travelers to do.
The Buddhist nation of Bhutan is tucked between China and India in the Eastern Himalayas. Considered one of the most peaceful and happiest nations in the world, the people of Bhutan take Gross National Happiness much more seriously than Gross National Product. For this reason, a visit to this enchanting part of the world is sure to help you re-evaluate what’s really important in life and get a lung full of fresh, un-polluted air, while you’re at it. Here’s 10 cool things every traveler should do in Bhutan, besides just be happy of course.
Cool Things Every Traveler Should Do In Bhutan
Could this possibly be the ultimate of cool things every traveler should do in Bhutan? This mystical nation has its fair share of myths and legends. As far as the Bhutanese are concerned, the Yeti continues to live on in the collective belief and consciousness of the mountain people. According to Tshering Tashi, a Bhutanese author, there were four expeditions launched to find a Yeti – in 1987, 1991, 2001 and in 2007. Speaking about the unsuccessful expeditions in the country, Tashi recalled that in the most recent one, a footprint believed to be that of a Yeti’s pointed to be that of some kind of sheep. The people of Bhutan stand by their beliefs and tell tales of encounters with yetis. Bhutan even has a national park dedicated to the preservation of the Yetis which is called Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary. Although you won’t spot one (well, never say never), you can find other endangered species like snow leopards, red pandas and tigers.
Visit Tiger’s Nest
Perched on the cliff face 900 meters above Paro Valley sits the Taktsang Lhakhang aka Tiger’s Nest Monastery. This famous image and main tourist attraction adorns every book, brochure, and website on Bhutan. As the legend goes, Guru Rinpoche arrived here on a flying tiger and chose this site to meditate. The trek might sound harsh, but the view from the top is breathtaking and ensures that if visited, the place will remain in your memories forever.
Dance with Monks at Tsechu Festival
Paro Tsechu is the highlight of Bhutan every year. Its main attraction is the Cham dance where the monks wear terrifying masks and intricate costumes and dance to traditional music. Every dance has a message that focusses on compassion for all living beings and is a form of meditation. If you want to dance in Bhutan, forget night clubs because this is where it’s at.
A 51 meter tall statue of Lord Buddha overlooking Thimphu. This impressive structure was completed in 2015 and is a construction to help the prosperity of the country. An important pilgrimage site for locals, who have camps here and will welcome you wholeheartedly. If you pay a visit then hike up from behind the statue for the best view.
Walk The Suspension Bridge
The longest suspension bridge in Bhutan lies a short distance from Phunaka Dzong. This 160 meter long bridge runs over the Po Chu River and connects Phunaka Dzong with the town of Phunaka. The bridge is beautiful with prayer flags swaying in the breeze all around. As you walk across the bridge you will probably see people white water rafting in the river below.
Go White Water Rafting
White water rafting is always fun and if you’re visiting Bhutan you can experience this just outside the town of Phunaka. Here a white water rafting tour will take adventurous rafters through the valley. Admire the mountains, pass under the longest suspension bridge in Bhutan and cross Dzongs and Chortens.
Try Your Hand At Archery
Archery is the national sport of Bhutan and something that the country is exceptionally passionate for, so let’s just say its a big deal here. Whether you are on a hill or in a stadium or on a field, one common sight is men in their multicolored gowns taking turns to shoot arrows at a tiny target stationed at a distance of 140 meters. Surrounding them are people from neighboring villages and cheerleader in their most beautiful silk outfits, singing, dancing and cheering their teammates. Witnessing this is certainly one of the top cool things every traveler should do in Bhutan.
Visit Phunaka Dzong
What on earth is that you may be wondering? Dzong were fortresses converted into administrative complexes with a vast interior courtyard and surrounded by high outer walls. Apart from being the administrative buildings they are also home to monks. The Phunaka Dzong is built on the confluence of the Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu river and has a cute wooden bridge for visitors to cross the river to enter the Dzong. The building strikes a more than perfect pose for your camera lense. So another one of the cool things every traveler should do in Bhutan is visit this most famous Dzong. Phunaka Dzong is Bhutan’s second oldest Dzong constructed in 1637 and is the most majestic. In 2011, the king’s wedding took place here. Currently, it is open to tourists so seize the opportunity to pay a visit.
Bhutan is a great place to go trekking. Besides the hike to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery the most popular trek is the Jhomolhari Trek. The Jhomolhari trek is to Bhutan what Everest Base Camp is to Nepal: a trekking pilgrimage. Nearly half of all trekkers who visit Bhutan end up doing one of the Jhomolhari routes. On the way, you can see stunning views of the Jhomolhari peak on the Tibetan Border. If time and money are not a constraint, trek the infamous Snowman Trek. It is believed to be the toughest trek in the world and the most expensive too where you will scale peaks as high as 5300 meters.
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Be happy in Bhutan!
Around the world, Bhutan is known for being one of the happiest nations on Earth and enhancing the quality of life of Bhutanese citizens is what the government here considers a top priority. They refer to this as Gross National Happiness, a term coined by the king Jigme Singye Wangchuk in 1972. So when in Bhutan, do as the Bhutanese do and be happy. Or at least focus on the small things, like clean air in Bhutan, the awe-inspiring views and the friendly locals. So one of the cool things every traveler should do in Bhutan is to simply smile.
Other than these cool things every traveler should do in Bhutan, there is so much more to see and experience in this amazing country. Plan ahead so that you can take your time exploring and be prepared to be flexible because sometimes travelers you meet along the way will have the best suggestions for undiscovered gems.
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