'This Is the Last Authentic Place on Earth'

Bharat Sikka for TIME

Paro Taktsang, known as the Tiger's Nest, is an ancient Buddhist temple perched 3,100 meters above Bhutan's Paro Valley

I have a promise to break. Like any self-respecting writer visiting Bhutan, I solemnly swore on a stack of travelogues to avoid clichéd references to Shangri-la, the mountain paradise of James Hilton's novel Lost Horizon. So sue me: Bhutan, a nation of 700,000 souls in the lap of the Himalayas, is the closest thing to Shangri-la I've ever seen.

In a week of traveling through Bhutan, my wife and I have trekked up 3,100 m to an ancient Buddhist temple complex perched on the side of a mountain; we've shot arrows from...

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