Mountains, Monasteries and Magic
Timeless traditions, unique architecture and stunning Himalayan scenery combine to make Bhutan the most fascinating of all the Himalayan kingdoms. Treks, walking holidays and cultural tours offer a unique insight into the Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon, the most mysterious of all the Himalayan Kingdoms with its spectacular location nestled in the Himalayas between Tibet and India. As well as awe-inspiring mountain vistas, Bhutan will afford you the opportunity to experience first-hand the legendary hospitality and open hearted happiness of the local people. For an authentic taste of culture, explore the dominating monastery-fortresses (dzong) present in many towns and villages. The Himalayan valleys are also home to some unique and fascinating flora and fauna which will give you the opportunity to observe.
Bhutan holds many surprises. This is a country where the rice is red and where chillies aren't just a seasoning but the main dish. Yet while it visibly protects its Buddhist traditions, Bhutan is not a museum. You will find the Bhutanese well educated, fun loving and well informed about the world around them. It's this blending of the ancient and modern that makes Bhutan endlessly fascinating.
The unique architecture sets the stage for spectacular tsechus (dance festivals) attended by an almost medieval-looking audience. Then there are the textiles and handicrafts, outrageous archery competitions, high-altitude trekking trails, and stunning flora and fauna. If it's not 'Shangri La', it's as close as it gets.
Dzongkha is the official language. Other languages spoken include Sharcop Kha, Nepali and English. Even though English is taught as the primary language in schools, more emphasis is put on learning Dzongkha. A lot of people also understand Hindi. People commonly wear traditional Bhutanese dress. The customary greeting is joining palms and bowing down. Money is taken and given with both hands.
The most widely celebrated festival is Tshechu or the tenth day and is a major tourist attraction. This festival is celebrated on the tenth day of a month of lunar calendar corresponding to the birthday of Buddhist Guru Rinpoche. All visitors must attend a Tshechu fair and witness the mask dances to receive the blessings and wash away the sins. These mask dances are portrayals of historic incidents that took place in Bhutan during Guru Rinpoche's time.
The most distinctive characteristic of Bhutanese cuisine is its spiciness. Chillis are an essential part of nearly every dish and are considered so important that most Bhutanese people would not enjoy a meal that was not spicy. Ema Datshi is the National Dish of Bhutan which is a spicy mix of chilies and the delicious local cheese known as Datshi.