Bhutan, the land of the “Thunder Dragon”, is a pristine and idyllic bastion of solitude nestled high in the Himalayas. Its rich history of Buddhist art and architecture pervades all aspects of life in a nation which has fiercely maintained its ancient culture and traditions in the face of incursions by its giant neighbors India and China. Buddhist festivals in the numerous “Dzongs” (fortress temples) are still an integral part of Bhutanese life and are a must see for any visitor. With varying climatic zones from 600 feet to 24,000 feet in altitude (including the tallest unclimbed mountain on earth), Bhutan offers a great deal of variety packed into a small nation just larger than Maryland and has a mere 740,000 inhabitants. This is the nation that invented the term “gross national happiness” and its people are indeed enjoying a fine standard of living as Bhutan modernizes slowly and carefully. The king had given up most of the power in 2006 in favor of a parliamentary democracy. Tourism numbers are strictly limited and Cultural and environmental protections are prime governmental concerns.
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