Known as Druk Yul, ‘Land of the Thunder Dragon’ to the Bhutanese, Bhutan opened for tourism in 1974 and is perhaps the world’s most exclusive tourist destination. This fascinating Dragon Kingdom is credited with successfully retaining its distinct cultural entity in its original form enabling travellers to experience the full glory of this ancient land as embodied in its monastic, strategic fortresses known as Dzongs, ancient temples, monasteries and stupas which dot the countryside with prayer flags. The Bhutanese Government applies levies and taxes on all visitors to the country. This makes travelling to Bhutan more expensive than travel to its neighbouring countries. As a result mass tourism has not affected the country.
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A destination all of its own, Paro is home to the National Museum and watchtower to one of the oldest and most celebrated dzongs in all Bhutan. The town of Paro is small with most of the inhabitants living in the beautiful valley that surrounds the town. The valley floor is at its widest in the area nearest to the airport, the town and Paro Dzong.
Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan, is home to Bhutan’s royal family. It sits in its own valley fanning out from the river. The skyline hardly changes as new buildings are all constructed under zoning regulations. Thimphu’s development is strictly monitored and buildings cannot exceed a certain height, nor can they be designed in anything but the traditional Bhutanese style, maintaining its historical feel.
Punakha served as the capital of Bhutan until 1955 and still it is the winter seat of the Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot). Blessed with a temperate climate and fed by the Pho Chu (male) and Mo Chu (female) rivers, Punakha is the most fertile valley in the country.
Bumthang is the religious heartland of the nation and the general name given to combination of four valleys – Chumey, Choekhor, Tang and Ura with altitude varying from 2,600m to 4,000m. It is home to many of prominent Buddhist temples and monasteries.
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