Adventure and culture awaits in beautiful Bhutan
Remote, beautiful, and packed with mesmerising landscapes, Bhutan is the ultimate gap year for anyone looking to experience something completely different and get out off the beaten path. Here are some ideas to help you plan your trip.
Just like the rest of this beautiful Himalayan nation, Thimpu is a place like no other, and definitely a far cry from all other Asian cities. Thimpu sits at the bottom of a gorgeous valley and is encircled by a river of beautiful turquoise waters. The city's setting is enough to impress most travellers, but there's more. Here you can experience the best of Bhutan tourism, visiting its colourful markets, learning about traditional Bhutanese medicine, or going people watching along the river. There are also a few swanky nightclubs in the city, mostly around areas like The Zone and the UNDP building.
Buddhism is an essential aspect of everyday life in The Land of the Thunder Dragon, and visiting the country's monasteries can be a wonderful and moving experience that will open your eyes to the most unique aspects of Bhutanese culture. Must-see monasteries include the iconic Taktshang, which is perched on the edge of a mountain more than 10,000 feet above sea level; the Buddha Dordedma, which is home to one of the world's tallest and most impressive Buddha statues, and Tongsa, the country's largest monastery.
This Himalayan country is one of the finest trekking destinations on Earth, and for several reasons too. First of all, there's the landscapes: sign up for a trek here and you will be surrounded by absolutely breathtaking scenery. This is where some of the world's most pristine mountain landscapes are located. Secondly, you get to enjoy the natural beauty of the Himalayas, away from crowds and tourist traps. And last but not least, there's the wildlife: this is one of the most biodiverse countries on Earth, where you will have the chance of spotting the elusive clouded leopard as well as other rare species, like the red panda, the snow leopard, and the Tibetan wolf.
Trekking excursions must be organised through an authorised agency. You can do this in the capital or head to Paro, which is considered the gateway to most hiking trails. Bear in mind that these are multi-day treks, ranging from 4 to 15 days. All in all, an unforgettable experience! Some recommendations include the Tsaluna trek, the Druk Path, and the Chele hike.
Immerse yourself in Bhutanese culture by attending one of the many festivals that take place across the country. Ritual mask dances, colourful parades, music performances, and stunning Buddhist art fill the streets of pretty much every city, town, and village. Everyone is welcome, but as usual you should be respectful of local customs. Recommended festivals include Takin, Sakteng, Chorten Kora, the Tshechu celebration in Thimphu and Paro, and the Jomolhari mountain festival.
A collection of Buddhist festival masks