"With our passage through the bridge, behold a curious transformation. For just as Alice, when she walked through the looking-glass, found herself in a new and whimsical world, so we, when we crossed the Pa-chhu, found ourselves as though caught up on some magic time machine fitted fantastically with reverse, flung back across the centuries into the feudalism of a medieval age."
So wrote the Earl of Ronaldshay upon entering Bhutan in 1923. Nearly a century later and those words still hold true, as you find yourself crossing into the Land of the Thunder Dragon and leaving your own world behind. Squashed amongst the high mountain landscapes that lie between Nepal, Tibet and Northeastern India, Bhutan was cut off from the outside world for centuries, cocooning its people and traditions in a bubble of time that has changed little in the past 500 years.
Perched spectacularly atop high cliffs, its magnificent 17th century dzongs (monasteries) stand sentinel over a land filled with colourful festivals and story-telling, forested hills and demons. Home to a gentle and charming people and a rich diversity of wild plants and animals that includes more than 600 species of orchid alone, the sheer scale of its beauty and spirit will leave you breathless.
The ancient capital of Punakha is a pleasant town, and its dzong is one of the most photogenic of all Bhutan's ancient fortresses.