Tripping Through Asia’s Happiest Country

If happiness is the ultimate purpose of travelling, can there be a place better than the Happiest Country in Asia? The Kingdom of Bhutan, tucked away neatly between China and India, is known the world over for its untouched beauty and the simplicity of its people. It transitioned seamlessly from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy a few years ago, and now ranks regularly as the happiest country in Asia.

While still far away from the noise and bustle of big metropolitans, its capital Thimphu is starting to show some signs of modernisation. But don’t you worry – we have a list of things you can do outside Thimphu – where, like the capital, the air is crisp, the vegetables fresh and the weight of the world just melts off your shoulders.

PARO

What to do Taktsang Palphug Monastry, or Tiger’s Nest, is probably Bhutan’s most famous monastery. The wooded structure stands bravely on a cliff in the upper Paro Valley. Legend has it that Guru Rinpoche flew up here on the back of a tigress, and set up this monastery. The hike up is vigourous, but not excessively hard, and is worth every muscle flexed when you get there.

Paro Dzong, also known as the Rinpung Dzong, is both the monastic seat and administrative office of Paro Dzongkhag (or, Paro district). In Bhutan, the government offices also share their location with a monastery as the King symbolised both. For movie buffs, some scenes from 1993’s Little Buddha were filmed there. Also visit the National Museum and ruins of the Drukgyal Dzong, almost destroyed in a fire in the 1950s.

Where to stay Uma Hotel A 29-room luxury hotel, you can stay in a private villa close to the city’s main attractions. There is a good chance you might find yourself seated next to a member of the Royal Family, as it remains a favourite with them! (www.comohotels.com/umaparo/uma-como-paro-bhutan) Doubles from Rs16,302

Amankora Paro These contemporary Bhutanese-style suites are absolutely divine. After a long day of trekking, indulge in some Bhutanese massages, or even yoga in its glass-walled studio. (www.amanresorts.com/amankora/accommodation.aspx) Doubles from Rs42,113

Where to eat Paro offers wonderful Bhutanese food. Look for restaurants Charo and Doro for some local flavour. Order Red Panda beer with your food!

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Mahima Kaul