There are few cars, and no savage deforestation: the purity of the air and the quality of the environment is striking for the visitor. Due to the implementation of strict regulations, the kingdom has managed to preserve its wonderful scenery almost completely. Forest still covers almost three quarters of the country, and wide open spaces, shaped by man in the valleys, alternate with high isolated ground, where prayer flags floating in the wind are the only witnesses to civilisation. The snowy mountain tops of the Himalayas are never very far away, and the geographical terracing of the country, which rises the further one moves away from the Indian border, lends it an enchanting scenery.
Light years away from the intense tourist activity that has engulfed Himalayan towns such as Kathmandu and Nepal, Bhutan actively works at preserving traditional methods of construction; there is even a royal decree obliging villagers to respect the style of the Bhutanese houses, whose upper part is made of wood and often decorated with coloured motifs. As for the religious architecture, which is inspired by Tibet, it is truly enchanting. There are buildings symbolising the five elements, with one building erected in memory of a lama and another to protect the traveller from bad spirits. Every building should always be passed on the left. The lhakangs (temples) are distinguished from residences by a wide red band which decorates the upper part of the walls. However, the most impressive buildings dominating the valleys are unquestionably the sixteen dzongs (fortress monasteries) scattered over the whole of the territory, which house both the region's monastic community and the government offices.
Life for the Bhutanese is intrinsically connected to Buddhism. The craftwork, music and dances are entirely religious works of art and they therefore have less of an aesthetic function as in the West. The non-initiated, however, will doubtless only see the beauty and delicacy of the entertainment or the grace and richness of the dancers' costumes. The numerous festivals of the lunar calendar are an opportunity to observe the liveliness of this religious heritage.