Beautiful Images of Bhutan, the World's Happiest Country
High in the Himalayas is the kingdom of Bhutan, where success boils down to the gross national happiness index (GHP) instead of the gross national product, and where travelers have only been allowed to visit since 1974. Prince William and Kate Middleton visited last month to solidify their relationship with "the Will and Kate of the Himalayas," King Jigme and Queen Jetsun—but since the country prides itself on "low volume, high-value" tourism, few still have the chance to see everyday Bhutan. It looks a little something like this.
Mother and son walk through a bridge adorned with countless prayer flags. Around 75 percent of Bhutan's population follow the Vajrayana line of Bhuddism
Surrounded by colorful Buddhist murals, a hermit spins a prayer wheel at a temple in Punakha, on the country's western side. These ornately carved wheels contain thousands of mantras on paper. Spinning the wheel, locals say, is like chanting these mantras a thousand times.
While shop windows in the downtown of capital Thimphu often display modern merchandise, the preferred style of architecture remains traditional. Bhutan has stayed largely free from Western influence until 1999, when television and Internet were finally welcomed into the country.
Monks perform a masked cham dance at a festival in Bumthang, in the country's central region. Bhutanese towns celebrate annual Tsechus, or festivals, which feature performances that revolve around religious and historical themes.
The ruins of the Drukgyel Dzong, formerly a fortress and a monastery, sit amidst the slopes of Paro Town in western Bhutan. This structure was destroyed by fire in the 1950s and is now a tourist attraction.
A Buddhist monk puts his robes in order before entering a monastery in central Bhutan. The country's deeply-rooted Buddhist faith is a driving factor in its adoption of GNP—or gross national happiness—in lieu of GDP as a measure of progress.
A Buddhist devotee spins a row of prayer wheels at a temple in Thimphu. Traditional culture remains strong in Bhutan, where native dress is still part of daily life.
Schoolkids in the town of Punakha wait for their bus in front of the local dzong. There are around 18 functioning dzongs, or fortress-monasteries, in Bhutan, all of which serve as the religious and administrative centers of their districts.
Terraced rice paddies and rolling hills are a common sight throughout the Bhutanese countryside. Age-old farming practices are still the norm here, and Bhutan aspires to have a 100 percent organic agricultural industry by 2020.
Soldiers march after the daily flag lowering ceremony at Bhutan's seat of government, the Tashichho Dzong, in the capital. The country used to be an absolute monarchy until 2008, when its government converted into a constitutional monarchy.
Locals admire the evening view of the Tashichho Dzong in Thimphu. Built in 1216, this sprawling complex of shrines, temples, and administrative buildings is the country's seat of power.
Buddhist prayer flags hang from a lookout point facing the Taktsang Palphug, a centuries-old monastery considered to be the national symbol of Bhutan. Set on a cliffside high above the Paro Valley, this ancient temple complex is a pilgrimage destination for the Bhutanese.
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