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The medieval kingdom of Bhutan is truly one of the most spectacular places on earth. Its remote location, guarded by the sheer Himalayan Mountains and densely forested hills, has remained relative unexplored for centuries due to heavy restrictions on visitor numbers and, now, a USD200 per day visitors' tariff. Such isolation has preserved Bhutan's natural beauty, rich cultural traditions and Buddhist beliefs. The country's colourful prayer flags, tunic-wearing men, ancient monasteries (dzong), magnificent fortresses, and dramatic landscapes offer discerning travellers a matchless experience into a world long past. There has always been a special relationship between the Kings and leaders of Bhutan and its people. King Khesar, The 5th Druk Gyalpo of Bhutan, firmly believes that without peace, security and happiness, his nation has nothing. Such a belief is the essence of Bhutan's Gross National Happiness Commission; its core goal being the peace and happiness of Bhutan's people and the security and sovereignty of the nation. Its leaders' unique approach to the preservation of Bhutanese values include the prohibition of plastic, smoking, traffic lights and billboards resulting in a far more considerate and eloquent merge with the modern world.

Bhutan's land consists mostly of high snow-capped mountains; and steep, densely forested slopes, crisscrossed by a network of raging rivers. This great geographical diversity combined with equally diverse climate conditions contributes to Bhutan's outstanding range of biodiversity and ecosystems. Many rare and endangered flora and fauna take refuge in Bhutan. The Bengal tiger, one-horned rhinoceros, golden langur, clouded leopard, and sloth bear live in the lush tropical lowland and hardwood forests in the south. In the temperate zone, grey langur, tiger, Indian leopard, goral and serow are found in mixed conifer, broadleaf and pine forests. Fruit bearing trees and bamboo provide habitat for the Himalayan black bear, red panda, sambar, and barking deer. The alpine habitats of the great Himalayan range in the north are home to the snow leopard, blue sheep, marmot, Tibetan wolf, antelope and Himalayan musk deer. Bhutan's western valleys are rich in historic fortresses, monasteries, temples and ruins, some dating back to the 7th century. The famous Taktshang Monastery (its Western name is Tiger's Nest) is a photographer's dream, precariously perched on a rocky ledge above a 900 metre drop. Paro's ancient watchtower, Ta Dzong, rests regally among manicured gardens alongside the valley's colourfully painted wooden shop fronts and restaurants.

Central Bhutan's Bumthang valley is one of Bhutan's most spectacular. Adorned with rhododendron forests and conifers, the valley is the spiritual heartland of Bhutan. Bumthang's many sacred sights include the Trongsa Dzong (a masterpiece of Bhutanese architecture) and the 7th century Jambay Lhakhang and Tamshing Monastery (containing some of Bhutan's oldest wall paintings).

One of the best ways to experience Bhutan's ancient culture is to attend Tsechus (festivals) held throughout the year. Local people gather in their finest to watch religious and cultural dances in honour of Guru Rimpoche. The colourful costumes and elaborate masks worn by performers depict scenes from the Guru's life. Attending such an event is a unique privilege, bestowed to only a limited number of foreigners each year. It is something not to be missed!

The best time for trekking is from late September to late November with temperatures around 27C. This is, however, also the busiest time for tourism. Western Bhutan during winter (December to February) is cool (around 16C on a clear day) and sunny, though cold at night. It is also a great time for white-water rafting or bird watching in Southern Bhutan's subtropical jungle region.

Click here for our suggestions on events and places to go at various times of year