Benzersiz ve mistik Himalaya krallığı Butan, nefes kesici manzaralarA ve büyüleyici bir kültüre ev sahipliği yapıyor. Dünyanın gözlerinden uzaklarda saklı bu ülke, son ShangrI-La bile olabilir.

The Kingdom of Bhutan stands proud in the Eastern Himalayas, sandwiched between the world’s two most populous countries, India and China. Its population of 750,000 is spread over 15,000 square miles, roughly the size of Switzerland. The mountainous landscape, however, covered in carpets of forest and peppered with valleys, is breathtakingly beautiful. As the ideal introduction to the country, the pilot skillfully glides the airplane as it descends to land in the Paro Valley. A narrow runway flanked by tall slopes on both sides, you feel like you can almost reach out and touch the mountains as the plane prepares for landing.   


Also known as “The Last Shangri-la,” (utopia) this remote kingdom shrouded in mystery and magic, only opened up to foreign tourists in the 1970s. There is a sense of purity to this remote kingdom, a spiritual aura that hangs in the air. You can breathe it in the moment you disembark from the flight; you can see it in the peaceful smiles of those around you and in the friendly yet competent manner in which business is conducted here. 


This isn’t a land where the world is shut out or advancement denied. Bhutan expertly balances on the fine beam between preserving its culture and embracing global developments. Many Bhutanese children study abroad under the National Service Plan which ensures they get world-class education. Most of them choose to return to their home country and work for the government. And reflected in that is what sets Bhutan apart from many other nations. There is a deep sense of belonging, a pride that Bhutanese people feel for their land and their culture. King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck is truly loved by everyone, not just revered as a symbolic figure. In fact, it was his father, the former king, Jigme Singye Wangchuck who gave up absolute powers and converted Bhutan from a monarchy to a democracy. The current Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay is considered a reformer and recently was in the spotlight during the Paris Climate Summit where he reinforced the country’s pledge to keep 60% of Bhutan’s forest cover in perpetuity. The country’s green lungs currently absorb thrice as much CO2 emissions as its population creates, making it the world’s most carbon negative country. With 9% of its land under glaciers, this Himalayan Kingdom is also one of the first to feel the true impact of climate change and takes this responsibility very seriously. 


Bhutan encourages high-end, low volume and low-impact tourism. To ensure that their sacred country is able to maintain its fragile balance and serenity while not shutting out the world, the government levies a hefty tourism tax that ranges from $200-$290 per person per day. This is not only a government charge however. It covers food, accommodation as well as transport within the country with a personal guide. A surcharge is levied for 4- or 5-star accommodation. One is required to make travel arrangements via a government-approved travel agent and ad hoc travel is not allowed. Although it may seem high, this tax has been instrumental in limiting tourists to about 56,000-60,000 per year. The government also has created policies that encourage the tourism sector like giving 10-year tax free holidays to hotels, leasing out government land at minimal prices for those willing to build toilets (and thus cafés and restaurants with them). They only ask that the toilets are of international tourist standards. All these incentives have resulted in higher service standards and a focus on improving the experience offered to each tourist.


There is so much to see in the country that time always feels limited. The capital city of Thimphu gracefully sits an hour away from Paro, which is home to the country’s sole international airport. The drive meanders around mountains, runs along streams and slowly eases you into a sense of blissful contentment. Colorful Buddhist flags and ancient monasteries dot the landscape, with swinging rope bridges to take you across the river. Thimphu itself is a charming little town, with traditional architecture and low-rise buildings. The city now boasts of a number of fantastic 5-star hotels including Taj Tashi, the swanky new Le Meridien, Amankora and the landmark Druk Hotel in the middle of town that features sprawling rooms and clawfoot bathtubs. The city center has plenty to keep you occupied including restaurants serving world cuisines. The Seasons Pizzeria is an intimate café serving delicious pizzas, salads and pastas. San Maru, owned by a Korean lady and Bhutanese gentleman serves authentic Korean food. “For local flavors, try Babesa Village House set in a traditional 16th-century village house,” suggests Choitsho Eudel Dorji, proprietor, Gaki Travels, Thimphu. “The Folk Heritage Museum Restaurant is another great option,” he adds. For a spot of sightseeing, visit Takin Zoo named after the national animal that looks somewhat like a cow with a goat’s head. A 10-minute drive out of the city takes you to the largest sitting statue of Lord Buddha, towering over the valley below. And do drop by the National Museum, which is built like a traditional house and showcases local life and culture.   


Though the valley-town of Punakha is a three-hour drive from Thimphu, this former-capital is a must-do on any itinerary. It is home to the region’s most stunning monastery (dzong). This imposing dzong is built at the confluence of two rivers, one believed to be male and the other female. It is a beautiful sight to witness the juncture where the rivers meet and yet their waters remain distinct. Another popular holy site is the Chimi Lhakhang Temple, which expectant parents reach after a 20-minutes trek through paddy fields. The most scenic hotel in Punakha is Dhensa Resort while the Amankora offers a more exclusive stay. 


Last but not the least, do keep a day or two free for Paro before you fly out. The city has another lovely dzong, this one built more like a fortress than a monastery. But the jewel on the crown is Tiger’s Nest and it is an experience you must not miss. A monastery precariously perched off the top of a cliff, it is one of the holiest sites in the country. It is said that when the time is right, the stars will align in such a way that you will find yourself making the journey up to pay your respects. The two-and-a-half-hour trek seems to last forever as you navigate your way up the steep slope. But when you turn a corner and see the gravity-defying structure for the first time, you are left speechless and each step seems worth the journey.


Bhutan is a land that seems to be suspended in time. A magical, mysterious kingdom where mythological dragons may as well be living in the lush green forests and where people believe in doing good to earn karma. It is unlike any destination in the world, unique in its splendor, proud in its heritage. Perhaps the last corner of the world that thankfully still lies hidden from the world’s piercing gaze. A vacation like no other, deserving of this one-of-a-kind land. 


Make sure to spend some time in Kathmandu before and after you transfer to Bhutan to experience the mystical atmosphere of Nepal. The capital city of Kathmandu is home to many touristic places from Boudhanath, chosen as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, to the 10th-century Pashupatinath, the Monkey Temple to historical Durbar Square.

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