Recently, I spent several days in the Kingdom of Bhutan. I chose to visit this country because I love the mountains and have always wanted to experience the Himalayas. Bhutan is also a deeply spiritual place with a long Buddhist history. Perhaps most famously, the country was and remains a pioneer in the stewardship of happiness and well-being among its population: it developed the first Gross National Happiness (GNH) Index that it uses to drive governmental policy.

I spent five days traveling across Thimphu, the country’s capital city, and Paro, a smaller city, with fantastic (and often intense) hikes through the mountains. The Himalayas are simply majestic and the sheer physical beauty of the country is awe-inspiring. The experience was a wonderfully meditative, often physically challenging experience with lots of solitude; while all visitors are accompanied by guides, there are so few people, and the terrain is so vast that it’s easy to feel like you have the mountains entirely to yourself. During my down time I focused on meditation, yoga, reading and creative writing — with a half spa day thrown in at the end.

Below are several pictures from my travels, which don’t do the experience justice. That said I suggest you sample the real thing if you ever get the chance. I was reminded of the incredible power of communing with nature, being in a spectacularly beautiful place where you trek 1K vertical meters (3300 ft) to a 17th century monastery perched on a cliff (see Tiger’s Nest pic below) was one of the most transcendent experiences of my life.

Above all, what I also learned is that you don’t have to travel to Bhutan — happiness and well-being can come by just simply being aware of nature and the physical environment, even if for a moment. A little mindfulness, in this regard, can significantly enhance your quality of life.