- Countryside Kingdom in the clouds
- Country life Happy, healthy and holistic
The world's last surviving Buddhist monarchy may be modernising (slowly), but if you're looking for a palpable sense of history in a jaw-plummeting mountain landscape, Bhutan is hard to beat.
Cradled by the snow-hatted Himalayas between India and Tibet, the remote and, until recently, almost inaccessible Kingdom of Bhutan has fiercely guarded its secrets, maintaining limited flights and hefty tourist fees in order to preserve its ancient Buddhist cultural traditions. The advantage to those lucky enough to set foot on its mountain soil is the lack of queues, crowds or any of the other tourist trappings that have tainted its neighbours - when it comes to getting away from the tribulations of the modern world, there's no better destination. Unspoilt forests clamber up the plunging valleys, monasteries, temples and fortresses perch precariously over mountain passes, and, throughout the year, colourful masked dance festivals fill the streets of the capital, Thimphu.
Do go/Don’t go
Schedule your visit to coincide with one of the many festivals held at various temples across Bhutan from March to December (most are held in October).
- Planes Bhutan's only airline, Druk Air (www.drukair.com.bt), has just two planes touching down in the pretty little airport in Paro (45 minutes' drive from the capital, Thimphu), from nearby destinations such as Bangkok, Delhi, Calcutta, Dacca, and Kathmandu.
- Automobiles Bhutan's road network is patchy but improving. The daily tourist tariff includes the use of a car, driver and tour guide to ferry you around the mountains. The capital city, Thimphu, is the only Asian capital without traffic lights - when installed, the population complained they were too impersonal, and the traditional system of police directing the traffic (with almost dance-like manoeuvres) was swiftly re-established.
- Taxis Given that Bhutan's government assigns every visitor a car, it's unlikely you'll need a cab. Nevertheless, taxis of all kinds – vans, minivans, jeeps and sedans pootle along Bhutan's roads and passes, serving the local population.