Into the Enchanted Land

Issue 5 - 2016
· Images Getty Images

Bhutan is a nation like no other, a mountain-top world of intense natural beauty and innate spirituality. To introduce our photo essay, writer Linda Leaming reveals her own love story with the Himalayan country

Issue 5 - 2016
· Images Getty Images

Bhutan is a nation like no other, a mountain-top world of intense natural beauty and innate spirituality. To introduce our photo essay, writer Linda Leaming reveals her own love story with the Himalayan country

There’s the way of the world, then there’s the Bhutanese way. If you’re travelling here for the first time, it will hit you as soon as you step off the plane. You’ll smell the clean mountain air, feel the sunshine, and make your way to the air terminal that looks an awful lot like a Buddhist temple.
I came here for the first time in 1994. I returned three more times in succeeding years, staying longer and longer, and in 1997 I convinced the government to let me come and teach English. I never left. As a teacher I was a bit of a disaster, but I’d found the centre of the universe.
The Bhutanese people and their innate spirituality, their humility and their raucous sense of humour are what I love most about this remarkable country. First of all, they’re not angry with anyone. If they don’t get it done in this life, then maybe the next. The majority are Buddhist, and most of all they’re kind. I should know because I married one. His name is Phurba Namgay, a fellow teacher and a painter of traditional Buddhist art. There were no detailed maps or paths for us to follow. But there were the Bhutanese, who made me feel more comfortable than I’d felt in my whole life.
The remarkable winding roads, the distinctive architecture that looks as if a Japanese pagoda has collided with a Swiss chalet, and the bright colours that belie the difficulties of living isolated in the mountains are some of the many things I love. Then there’s the sheer beauty of the natural landscape: mountains, clouds and ancient temples dot a landscape that has scarcely changed for centuries. The Himalayas in the north, west and east, and dense jungles in the south make a natural barrier that keep the Bhutanese in and the rest of the world out.

Buddhist monks at the Rinpung Dzong monastery in Paro

Dancers perform in traditional dress

High up, in impossible places, amid ancient paddy fields, where people and animals still work the land and sow the seven grains using traditional methods, the people have managed to keep their air pristine and their lives harmonious and happy. The Bhutanese people are natural stewards of the earth: the constitution states that 60 per cent of the country must remain forest in perpetuity.

Much of the country forms natural corridors, declared national parks, where hundreds of species of animals, many of which are endangered, are free to migrate. It’s truly an enlightened place.
Even the most experienced traveller will be amazed by Bhutan. The people know what they have and are intent on keeping it. But they are more than willing to share some of their beautiful country with you. If you come here, you will be absolutely passionate about this place. And you will be forever changed.


Linda Leaming has published several books about Bhutan, including Married to Bhutan and A Field Guide to Happiness. She writes a blog at lindaleaming.com

Scott Dunn Suggests

Bhutan is one of the world’s last truly unspoiled destinations. Experience it in style, staying in off-the-beaten-track luxury

The Scott Dunn’s Ultimate Bhutan itinerary allows you to really explore this magnificent mountain nation without compromising on comfort. A tailored private tour with your own personal driver and expert guide throughout, the trip includes visits to all the country’s major highlights – the capital city of Thimphu, the breathtakingly beautiful valley of Gangtey, the fascinating district of Punakha and the charming town of Paro, home of the famous Tiger’s Nest monastery – while staying in the region’s most luxurious and exclusive hotels.
Scott Dunn offers luxury trips to Bhutan from £6,200pp based on 12 nights on a full board basis including flights, private guide and driver, all experiences and entry fees. For more information call 020 3603 3566

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