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The striking and harsh Himalayan landscape is home to some of the warmest people on Earth, whose Buddhist traditions remain very much central to daily life. As the world's last remaining Buddhist Kingdom, officials are cautious to limit tourism and its influence on the Bhutanese way of life in order to preserve the uniqueness of their cultural and natural heritage. Isolated from the world until as recently as 1974, it is a place unlike any other. Television was first introduced to Bhutan in 1999, and there is still not a single traffic light to be found in the entire country. The Bhutanese are also intensely environmentally aware, and it is decreed by law that no less than 65% of the country's land surface must be covered by protected forest areas (unsurprisingly, it is the only country on earth that is a 'carbon sink', meaning that it absorbs more greenhouse gases than it emits). But perhaps the clearest indication of Bhutan's singularity is the fact that instead of measuring the progress of the country in terms of Gross Domestic Product, the Bhutanese use Gross National Happiness, which takes into account more than mere economic factors to measure the success of the nation and the well-being of its people.
Bhutan's cultural and natural uniqueness is on full display in every corner of the country. Find picturesque mountainsides dotted with tiny shrines and temples, or marvel at the world below you from the top of unfathomably tall Himalayan peaks. Adventure-seekers will have no shortage of activities, including some of the planet's most challenging hikes and most rewarding views.
Bhutanese cuisine tends to be quite spicy, and almost always includes rice in one form or another. Ema Datshi, the national dish, is a mix of spicy chillies accompanied by a local cheese (datshi), and should not be missed. Momos, or Tibetan-style dumplings, as also highly recommended.
For the best coffee in Bhutan, visitors will want to check out the burgeoning cafe scene in central Thimphu. Young entrepreneurs are establishing stylish and modern new businesses, introducing western-style cafe concepts and high-quality coffee to the city. Below are some of our top recommendations.
Thimphu may seem like a relatively small city, but it packs a punch in terms of nightlife. From casual bars to rowdy nightclubs, there is a whole spectrum of venues and vibes to be found, often featuring live music, DJ sets and plenty of good times.
Shopping in Bhutan largely revolves around traditional arts and crafts, textiles and clothes, religious symbols and mementos, and perhaps most prominently, locally produced delicacies. Check out Thimphu's numerous produce and handicraft markets, or venture further a field to find unique items and shops in places like Paro and Jakar.
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