A rarely visited Himalayan kingdom full of myths and legends; Bhutan, to the outside world is remote and unfamiliar. A country full of soaring mountains and sprawling forests, Bhutan is no ordinary place. It is a country where traditional culture is embraced alongside global development. A nation teetering between the old and the new. Tourism in Bhutan is a unique experience. Tourists famously pay USD 250 a day to visit. However, when you choose to visit Bhutan, you become one of the few to experience one of the worlds most culturally authentic travel destinations. Here are our top 5 reasons why visiting Bhutan is worth the effort.
High Value, Low Volume Tourism
Many travellers dream of visiting Bhutan but are often put off by the $250 a day visitors fee. Don’t let the price tag fool you, beneath the surface lies a phenomenal deal. This fee is essentially an all-inclusive pass that includes a private guide, driver, three meals a day, accommodation at 3 and 4-star hotels, and most admission fees. This fee is designed to protect the country’s cultural heritage while attempting to offset the effects of mass tourism seen in many other emerging travel destinations. Despite a weariness to tourism, travellers are treated like family in Bhutan so don’t worry; you are still very welcome when you do visit.
The best way to experience Bhutan is most definitely on two feet. A country full of rugged mountain folds and icy summits, pristine forests, turquoise lakes, remote villages, and exotic wildlife, this is one of the world’s most well-preserved landscapes. There are many treks available to journey through this wonderland beyond where any road can reach. Delve into every magical corner of this Himalayan region to experience its untamed natural beauty. Adventure travellers will also revel in the opportunity climb to the iconic Tiger’s Nest Monastery, Bhutan’s most iconic sight. Reaching this site is no easy feat as it looms ominously over the mountainside, the altitude will make your hike a challenging but rewarding one as you look out into the Paro Valley.
With flavours influenced by those in Nepal, India and Tibet, food in Bhutan is both familiar and unique. A typical Bhutanese meal features generous servings of rice, served with spicy curries and sauces. Be warned; the Bhutanese like it lip-tingling hot! Foods are packed to the brim with chilli peppers, especially in the winter months to keep warm. Don’t forget to try their national dish, ema datshi, an extra spicy meal made with melted yaks cheese and chopped chilis. If your palate can’t handle the spice, try some momos instead. A hearty dumpling often served with yak meat, cheese and of course a tiny pinch of hot chilli.
Bhutanese people have a deep respect for nature. Fun fact: Bhutan is the only country in the world that is carbon negative! Meaning that Bhutan offsets more carbon dioxide than it creates. A feat made all the more remarkable given that this landlocked country is sandwiched between China and India, two countries with some of the highest carbon footprints. The government of Bhutan has gone to great lengths to protect its environment. Currently, 70% of the country must remain forested land. For travellers, this means more mountain air, clear skies and forest as far as the eye can see.
Gross Domestic Happiness is a measure in Bhutan that carries more importance than its Gross Domestic Product. The government goes to great lengths to ensure its people are happy and fulfilled and the Bhutanese are some of the friendliest people you’ll find anywhere in the world. Due to their strong Buddhist traditions, the Bhutanese believe in kindness and hospitality to all, and as such, travellers are always welcomed with big smiles and open arms.
The best way to visit Bhutan is with a local guide, and there are several small group guided to tours to choose from. G Adventures offers trekking, as well as National Geographic Expeditions for more active travellers, while Intrepid offers multi-country itineraries combining journeys to Bhutan in combination with guided trips to Nepal or India.