Kuzu Zongpo La!

Welcome to The Land of the Thunder Dragon.

The Kingdom of Bhutan is a magical country nestled in the eastern Himalayas and where the King rules by a 72 page document entitled Gross National Happiness. Any experience in this Buddhist country is a unique cultural adventure.

Bhutan is flanked by India to the south, west and east, Tibet to the north, and has a famous neighbor, Nepal. But Bhutan’s rugged landscape and rare cultural and spiritual grandeur have caused it to be touted as an oasis of innocence in a frenzied and competitive world—a kingdom where compassion and wisdom are the benchmarks against which all things are measured. Unlike Nepal, Bhutan’s rigid tourist restrictions close these treasures to many foreigners, which only make it more tantalizing as a destination for adventure and spiritual seekers. What also sets Bhutan apart are its quantity of protected lands and that it stands alone as the only carbon negative country on the planet. [Watch the Prime Ministers TED talk on this issue]

The country of Bhutan is one of the few places on earth that has never been colonized—boasting of a heritage going back to prehistoric times. With belief systems steeped in magic and mysticism, they have protected their natural environment as a haven that World Wildlife Fund calls, the ‘hot spot of biodiversity’. As a deeply Buddhist country, the Western world has labeled Bhutan as The Last Shangri-La.

In addition to being one of the most recent nations to accept TV and Internet (1999) and install a democratic government, Bhutan is home to the highest unclimbed mountain on the planet, Gangkhar Puensum (24,840 ft.). It is a testament to Bhutan’s leadership that it rejected revenues from foreign climbers and instead prioritized the spiritual wishes of villagers that the mountain remain untouched.

Bhutan has fewer cars than cattle, and no traffic lights or McDonalds. There are more monks than military personnel and social progress is measured not  predominantly in terms of economic development or GDP, but largely in terms of happiness, as defined in their document entitled Gross National Happiness.

For a small nation with under 1 million inhabitants, it dares to be different. While there were revolutions around the world rivaling corrupt leaders, Bhutan’s absolute monarch the 4th King, not only abdicated the throne to his son against the wishes of the people, but initiated a transition into democracy to give more power over to an elected government and its citizens. But despite this switch up in power, the country remains deeply in love with its Royal Family and this heartfelt loyalty is palpable.

The peacefulness of Bhutan’s predominant Buddhist tradition flourishes in harmony with those of other faiths in country. This tranquility permeates the air and every being; human, cow, yak, dog, chicken and horse, exude this sense of ease in the Land of the Thunder Dragon.

Experience the essence of Bhutan. Come for a unique international sporting exchange and adventure, and stay for the cultural experience of a life time. Book your trip for the Bhutan Sports Festival today.

Bhutan Sports Festival Location: Phobjikha Valley Conservation Reserve

On the western slopes of the 5000 meter (16,000 ft) Black Mountains, which separate western and central Bhutan, the bowl shaped Phobjikha Valley borders the Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park and is the winter migration site of the endangered Black-Necked Cranes. As the only alpine crane in the world, this regal bird represents longevity, peace and prosperity to the Bhutanese people.

Being one of the most important wildlife preserves in the country, this broad glacial valley defines all that is important in Bhutanese culture, including their commitment to protecting their natural environment. The Bhutan Sports Festival, the first of its kind in the country, will take place in this pristine conservation reserve, with proceeds from the event supporting Phobjikha’s conservation efforts, as well as the villagers in this unique region.

Upon arrival from their breeding grounds in the Tibetan Plateau in late October, it is said that the four-foot-tall cranes circle the Gangtey Gonpa, or monastery, three times and then repeat this auspicious act prior to returning to Tibet in March. With as few as 5000 birds left in the southern Asia area, the Black-Necked Crane has been declared a Vulnerable species and with Phobjikha as one of the last strongholds for the threatened species, the Bhutanese take the job of protecting them very seriously. They established the Phobjikha Conservation Area under the Royal Society for the Protection of Nature (RSPN). This area became protected in 2003 when it was mandated by RSPN to preserve not only the Black-Necked Cranes, but 13 additional vulnerable species. In order to not disrupt the flight paths of the Cranes in this sanctuary, all power is either solar, or run through grids underground. Bhutan’s actions stem from their strong Buddhist beliefs, highlighted in the countries Gross National Happiness Index, in which environmental protection is a tenet. The site for the first Bhutan Sports Festival was chosen as a means to support the conservation efforts in this area.

All events will be staged in the village of Gangtey at the north end of the Valley with the start/finish area of each race near the Gangtey Gonpa, or monastery. All event courses are run through remote to rural Bhutan with small intermittent farming villages dotted with traditional Bhutanese homes. The entire Valley is enclosed by several mountain ranges and since it is bisected by the Nake Chuu and Phag Chuu rivers, the Valley floor is ripe with a special variety of dwarf bamboo which is the prime diet of the graceful Black-Necked Crane. In line with the conservation process in this area, Bhutan Sports Festival will avoid the Cranes migration time in Phobjikha, and will not disrupt the valley floor habitat where the Cranes feed and when they are in the region.

As Buddhists, Bhutanese believe that they are blessed when the cranes are in their valley. This special bird has not only established celebrity status with the Crane Festival each year marking the arrival of the Cranes to the Valley, but locals sing folk songs highlighting aspects of crane life, such as; that they mate for life and live to be 30-40 years old. Bhutan Sports Festival is an opportunity to do your sport in a pristine environment while engaging with this unique and ancient culture.

Come to Bhutan for a rare opportunity to experience a pristine conservation sanctuary doing the sport you love, while helping the Bhutanese preserve this important area and its traditional culture.