Bhutan. This little-known Himalayan kingdom, nestled between the giants of India and China, is the world’s last remaining Shangri-La. This is an extraordinary country, unlike any on Earth, where traffic lights do not exist, buying cigarettes is illegal, the wrestling channel and MTV are banned, as well as Western-style billboards and plastic bags, and Gross National Happiness has been deemed more important than Gross National Product. While neighboring countries have catapulted themselves into the modern world and embraced tourism with such ferocity that their cultures have been both compromised and neglected, Bhutan has recognized that the only way to move forward and ensure both its survival and sovereignty is to protect the unique culture and environment that makes the country so special.
Up until 1960, Bhutan had been visited by only a handful of early British explorers and during the decade that followed the few foreigners permitted into the country were guests of the royal family. It was not until the coronation of the fourth king in 1974 that a hotel was built and the first group of paying tourists arrived, organized and led by Lars Eric Lindbald (founder of Linbald Travel) who encouraged the government to limit tourism and to charge high fees. This set the standard by which tourism would evolve in Bhutan and small groups began to enter the country, permitted only to visit the dzongs and goempas in Paro and Thimpu. Continue reading Featured Web/Blog: Introduction to Bhutan – Unbelievable Photographs!