In The Saddle....
thoughts from the folks at pedalers

Bhutan - A Hidden Himalayan Jewel

 
It is rare in this day and age that we find a pocket of civilization that has been untouched by the rampant modernization of our day to day life. Between the bleeping cell phones, flickering televisions, and humming computers we have almost forgotten what it means to truly be one with the earth.

Bhutan, also known as Druk Yul or the “Land of the Thunder Dragon” is a secluded kingdom that miraculously remains untouched by the modern world and offers shelter from the glow of neon lights and the stale taste of fast food. Welcome to a paradise where ancient culture is perfectly preserved within an Eden rich with plant, animal and bird life and the kind and friendly people live in tune with nature. Welcome to Bhutan.

A Step Back in Time

Bhutan did not allow tourists into the country until 1974, and these early travellers could only enter Bhutan by foot via a trek over high mountain passes or across the plains of Assam and West Bengal because Druk Air only began outside flights in 1983. Now entering Bhutan is a bit easier, yet still when you step into this country you can feel the sense of peace and quiet that is a result of a deep respect for tradition.

It is clear that Bhutan does things differently when you realize that the county measures Gross National Happiness instead of Gross National Product. The ban on television and internet was only lifted in 1999, and fans of fresh air can breathe easy knowing that all tobacco is banned throughout the country. Bhutan has chosen to take its time developing as a country, so that it can learn from the mistakes of others. It is one of the best places in the world to see traditional Buddhist culture come to life.

Abundant Flora and Fauna

For such a small kingdom, Bhutan holds plenty of nature’s treasures to discover. The scenery ranges from subtropical plains to Himalayan heights and within these pristine ecosystems there resides a huge range of wildlife. In fact, the Eastern Himalayan region of Bhutan has been recognized as a “Global Diversity Hotspot” by the World Wildlife Federation.

There have been at least seven hundred separate bird species recorded in Bhutan, as it is at the hub of 221 global endemic bird areas. Some of the rarest endangered species that can be found here are the White-Bellied Heron, Pallas Fish Eagle, and the Blyth’s King Fisher. The forests and mountains are also home to many amazing mammals, such as Bengal Tigers, Red Pandas, Barking Deer, Golden Langur, and Elephants.

Bhutanese Culture

Cradled within the Himalayan Mountains, the geographical isolation of Bhutan has played a big part in preserving its unique culture. Buddhism is the main religion and religious beliefs permeate all aspects of life. Each village has its own dzong, a high walled fortress where all religion and administration is based.

All citizens in Bhutan wear the traditional dress in public, including the knee-length robe with belt (known as a gho) for men and colorful ankle-length dresses for women.

Every year, religious festivals are held, known as Tsechu. These are large social gatherings where the people of the remote villages gather together to celebrate with bright costumes, fantastic masks, and traditional dances. Most Tsechu feature the unfurling of the throngdrel, which is a tapestry depicting a seated Guru Rinpoche (a sage Vajrayana Buddhism guru) surrounded by holy beings. It is said that a mere glance upon this sacred tapestry will cleanse the viewer of sin.

Explore Bhutan on Our Experiential Tours

Our Discover Bhutan tour provides a taste of Shangri-la, as for 8 days we hike, bike and white water raft in the western reaches of Bhutan. Hike to remote fortified temples, taste chili & cheese made a half a dozen different ways. You will have the rare opportunity to visit the inside of the fabled Tigers Nest Monastery, as most tours only view the outside from a nearby overlook. Our Bhutan cycling tour will immerse you in the fascinating culture of this beautiful wonderland.

On our 16 day cycling Bike Across Bhutan tour you will get to enjoy this strange and wonderful country up close, with a group of other friendly and passionate travelers. We will ride through the dense forests, sparkling rivers, and tiny villages, stumbling upon some of the most memorable views of a lifetime.