Local legends color a mountain kingdom
Journey to a mysterious land of snow-capped mountains and discover compelling local legends on a Bhutan vacation.
The snowy Himalayas form a breathtaking backdrop to the kingdom known as Land of the Thunder Dragon. Bhutan is a place where the majesty of the landscape seems to bring local legends vividly to life - none more so than the enduring mystery of the yeti.
As the only country to have an index of happiness as a measure of its own prosperity, Bhutan has a unique and deeply religious culture centerd on its national religion, Buddhism. On a Bhutan vacation, friendly locals will add to the charm of exploring historic cities, witnessing ancient traditions and discovering mysterious monasteries clinging to the side of misty cliffs.
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A mighty fortress, the Paro Dzong, is an eye-catching landmark in this quiet and historic town. It's seen plenty of military action in days gone by, and it's a great place to learn about local history. But Paro's greatest treasure lies further up the slopes of the picturesque Paro Valley: the Taktsang Goemba, or Tiger's Nest Monastery, which clings unexpectedly to the cliff face. Paro is also famous for hosting Bhutan's biggest religious festival, the lively Paro Tsechu, which takes place in March.
Punakha is known for its pleasant climate and fertile landscape, which makes a journey here all the more enjoyable. It was the capital city for 300 years, and it's noted for being the place where, in 1907, Bhutan's first king was crowned. Today, Punakha's fascinating monastery is its chief appeal, sitting at the point where the Pho Chu and Mo Chu rivers meet. Vivid lilac flowers make it particularly photogenic in the spring.
Despite the fact that it has no traffic lights, Bhutan's small capital is easily explored on foot. The king officially lives in this high-altitude city, situated 2,300m up in the Thimphu Valley. The city's colorful weekend market is an unmissable treat, held on the banks of the river Wang Chhu and selling all kinds of weird and wonderful things, from exquisitely perfumed incense (bring the vivid scent of Bhutan home with you) to yak leg. Among Thimphu's cultural highlights is Trashi Chhoe Dzong, a fortress and Buddhist monastery that sits imposingly on the western river bank.
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Attend a traditional festival
Bhutan’s religious festivals are alive with colour and atmosphere as locals gather to dance, pray, celebrate and socialise.
Climb to Tiger’s Nest near Paro
Ascend the path to Taktsang Goemba, known as the ‘Tiger’s Nest’ monastery. This cliff-side monastery perched high above the Paro Valley is Bhutan’s most famous and the trek is richly rewarded with spectacular views and a historic temple complex.
Discover the dzongs
First built in the 12th century, dzongs have played an important part in the history of Bhutan, originally used as monasteries, they later became defensive positions as well as being used for religious and cultural activities. Dzongs have also stored national treasures, books and records, as well as weapons. These days they house local government offices and host important ceremonies.
Sweeping views of Himalayas
As you travel through mountain passes like the Dochu La, incredible mountain vistas unfold revealing the mountain valleys and forested peaks.
Explore one of Asia's most unusual capitals, Thimpu, still dominated by traditional architecture and ringed by pine-covered hills.
See an archery competition
Archery is Bhutan’s national sport and the skills on display at an archery competition are as amazing as the fine costumes.
Be entranced by the ever-changing mountain valleys and forested peaks as you travel one of Asia's most natural environments.
Colourful weekend market in Thimpu
Wander the stalls of the colourful weekend farmers’ market in Thimpu, with local produce and incense on one side, and handicrafts across the small footbridge.
Be immersed in one of Asia's most devout and isolated ancient cultures.
Walk through welcoming villages
Setting off on foot down cobbled lanes, pass white-washed houses where locals go about their daily activities much as they have for decades.
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