Bhutan's Punakha Dzong, a fortress built in the 17th century, sits in the pristine Punakha Valley. The environment is central to Bhutan's "gross national happiness" index. Conservationists believe the country, roughly the size of Switzerland,
has the highest proportion of protected land in Asia.
The road through central Bhutan rises through frost-dusted
evergreens reaching a pass where travelers pause to take in the Himalayas majestically stretching across the north. Steep forests descend into valleys coursing with crystalline rivers and pine-scented air. The wind howls down the canyons furiously flapping
prayer flags, and setting temple chimes to sing.