“Idyll” was a word from which I was accustomed to recoil, yet truly I felt that there could be nothing lovelier than this peaceful windless valley, so innocent it did not know the meaning of the word.
– Pico Iyer (describing Paro Valley)
About the size of Switzerland but with a population of less than 800,000, Bhutan is a place of peace and natural beauty. The landscape consists of a succession of fantastic, snow-capped peaks and deep valleys. Climbers are forbidden to climb these peaks lest they disturb the “spirits of the mountains.” Abundant wildlife makes its home here, including the endangered snow leopard and the golden langur.
Until the 1960’s, Bhutan was largely isolated from the rest of the world and its people carried on a tranquil, traditional, agrarian way of life. After China invaded Tibet, however, Bhutan strengthened its ties to India in order to avoid Tibet’s fate. More than any country in the world, Bhutan has implemented a national policy created to preserve its cultural identity, which has remained intact for centuries, where the “Gross Domestic Happiness” is more important than the “Gross Domestic Product.”