What is the happiest country in the world? Bhutan has not always been a country that opened its doors to tourists; even after doing so in the 1970s, there are many parts of Bhutan that remain pristine and untouched by tourist activity. Fortunately, during my interim, Bhutan Wilderness, I was able to gather knowledge about this small country inhabited by only 800,000 people.
It is more important to the Bhutanese to measure Gross National Happiness than Gross National product. The Fourth King of Bhutan established Gross National Happiness in the 1970s as a way to measure the Bhutanese well-being in aspects beyond traditional economics. There are four pillars: sustainable development, environmental protection, cultural preservation, and good governance. As Bhutan is a developing country, measuring Gross National Happiness has been both successful and popular, prompting the United Nations to create its own happiness assessment to apply to other countries around the world.
The Bhutanese diet is mainly based on crops that are grown in the country, including rice, potatoes, ginger and chili. Animal products such as cheese, butter, and milk are also common. Specifically, chili is found as a condiment at every meal; during our trip to Bhutan, chili was served as a side for every dish. Several varieties of chili are utilized in the Bhutanese diet: the more common form is a dried, bright red chili that is stir fried with beef and spinach, while another popular type is a sliced green chili that is cooked with cheese. For Din Tai Fung fans, Bhutan also possesses another dish, momo, which is a variety of dumpling, traditionally made with buckwheat flour and then stuffed with spinach and cheese.
Another important part of Bhutan’s identity is its strong connection with Buddhism, particularly Vajrayana Buddhism. Not just a religion, Buddhism is considered a way of life in this country. No matter where you wander in Bhutan, you will be exposed to a constant parade of colorful prayer flags, historic temples, and red-robed monks. Religious structures such as monasteries, stupas, dzongs, and prayer wheels are ever-present all over Bhutan’s mountainous land.
For those interested in visiting a largely untouched nation filled with cultural and religious history, look no further than Bhutan for your next interim adventure. This exotic land is the perfect destination to experience the world’s happiest place, incredible momo dumplings, and some of the planet’s most painstakingly intricate temples and stupas.