Bhutan treasures its culture and environment, seeking to shelter itself from the negative impact of tourism. To that end, the government forbids independent travel. Visitors to Bhutan must travel on a prepaid guided package tour. And indeed the delicate beauty of this Buddhist land of villages and monasteries merits preservation.
High in the Himalayas, Bhutan has remained isolated and insular. Its wilderness is largely untouched by development, and tourism here must have at its center a profound respect for the environment. Hiking through Bhutan’s mountainous terrain brings one through rural villages, valleys and gorges. Bhutan’s capital, Thimphu, is as sleepy as capital cities come, reposing tranquilly in the Wangchhu River valley. The Handicraft Emporium here offers handmade items for sale. Buddhist festivals enliven the villages with music, dancing and local people decked out in their holiday finest. Archery is Bhutan’s national sport, with annual tournaments pitting villages against each other. The traditions surrounding such tournaments involve astrological consultations, sexual abstinence, initiation ceremonies, copious quantities of alcohol, and distracting one’s opponent by whispering obscenities into their ears.