Bhutan is a unique travel destination that is yet to find its way into mainstream travel for many. If you’re not already familiar with this incredible country, his guide will help convince you of why a Bhutan tour should be the next thing put on your credit card!
Tucked away in the high Himalayas, nestled between India and China awaits the tiny Kingdom of Bhutan. With less than 30,000 annual visitors, it is one of the least visited countries in the world.
An element of mystery surrounds the region and there are few resources out there to help an avid traveller organise a trip, however, Bhutan travel is a unique experience, and the country is deserved of a spot right at the top of your travel bucket list.
Is Bhutan worth visiting? Without doubt – and we’ve got 10 reasons to prove exactly that.
1. Incredible Nature
Owing to its location in the Himalayas, Bhutan extends over miles and miles of mountain ranges, rolling hills and lush dense forests. In fact, over 70% of the country exists under forest cover; this is in part because a government policy exists to protect Bhutan’s nature.
Bhutan is the only country in the world that is not only carbon neutral, but is carbon negative – meaning that the Bhutanese offset more CO2 than they actually produce! The air there feels much fresher and crisper and there are a seemingly infinite number of hiking routes to trek, so you can enjoy being in the great outdoors during your Bhutan tour.
2. Paro Taktsang – The Tiger’s Nest
Hiking the Tiger’s Nest is a highlight of any Bhutan itinerary.
Perched some 4,200m high on the edge of a cliff, this is the classic depiction of Bhutan that you see in all of the postcards and travel literature. The quick ascension to high altitudes make the trek challenging but wholly rewarding when you reach the top.
The monastery is a pilgrimage site for the Bhutanese, many of whom hike here several times a year. It is also, unsurprisingly, the most important monastery in Bhutan, having been built in the 16th century after Guru Rinpoche flew there on the back of a flying tigress in a bid to chase away evil spirits.
3. Magic and the Mystery
Bhutan is a land where magic is intertwined with history, and where mythological creatures are believed to have existed. The stories you will hear here are unlike anything else you will have encountered on your travels.
For instance, how about the Tiger’s Nest Monastery where a famous Tibetan monk is said to have flown on the back of a flying tigress? Or the village of Lobesa where the Divine Madman is said to have fought off enemies with a lightning bolt from his magical genitalia?
Whether you believe the tales or not, your Bhutan travel adventures will certainly introduce you to a unique new culture and some magical storytelling.
4. The People
Bhutanese people are kind, welcoming and intrigued about foreigners.
Buddhism is a strong part of the culture here which likely has some impact on how incredibly peaceful the country and its people are as a whole. The Bhutanese believe that all sentient beings are created equal and may have been our friends or relatives in past lives. As such, they act towards everyone with respect and compassion.
5. Masked Festivals
Masked dances or “tsechu” are a huge part of Bhutanese culture and if you can, you should try to get your Bhutan tour to coincide with one of these events.
It isn’t difficult, they occur almost every month! Check the Bhutan festival schedule before your visit.
Though the dances and the traditional music are incredible to watch (on surface level) the meaning behind these festivals runs much deeper.
These masked dances have been performed in Bhutan since the 16th century and the routines have specific purposes – such as subduing evil spirits or preparing for battle.
6. Deep Spirituality
Buddhism is deeply rooted in Bhutanese culture. In fact, this is the only “officially” Buddhist country in the world.
There are more monks than soldiers and temples are scattered everywhere. It is not uncommon to visit these sites and hear the deep chanting of monks, the burning of incense and groups of elderly people spinning prayer wheels.
If you are interested in learning more about Buddhism, you will also have the opportunity to participate in a temple stay and live within a Buddhist retreat.
7. It’s the Happiest Place on Earth
Bhutan is often referred to as being the last Shangri-La, or as the happiest place on earth.
While the country is relatively poor, and still not without its problems, it is evident that it is ruled by a government that really cares about its people.
Bhutan is the only country in the world that measures Gross National Happiness as an output, and which favours it over GDP. Under this government policy, the Bhutanese enjoy free healthcare and free education. The government also prioritises building sites and attractions around its cities that will entertain the local people.
8. It’s As Off the Beaten Track as it Gets
If you prefer travelling to destinations where you are not contending with touts trying to sell you junk every time you venture out of your hotel, or dealing with hordes of tourists at every temple or museum then Bhutan is the perfect destination for you.
The fact that Bhutan is one of the world’s least visited countries means that you will often find you have entire temples, fortresses and museums to yourself. You will never feel as though you are being ripped off or eating bad quality food at a tourist restaurant because there simply aren’t any!
9. Food, Incredible Food
Talking about food, Bhutanese cuisine is a real highlight thanks to its incredible flavour and spice.
Don’t worry though – chances are that the restaurants and hotels you stop at as part of your Bhutan tour will organise for you to have a milder version of the local dishes (so be sure to make a specific request if you want to try them the Bhutanese way).
The Bhutanese diet consists of a lot of hearty stews and meat curries. Don’t miss trying a plate of ema datshi – the national dish of Bhutan which consists of melted yak cheese served with chopped chillies.
When you’re done, wash it all down with a hot cup of suja; Bhutanese butter tea.
10. And Finally, It’s More Affordable than You Think
Bhutan is an expensive place to travel to, there’s no doubt about that.
The country focuses on “low impact, high-value tourism” and imposes a minimum daily fee of $200 per person, per day to explore the country. In the peak months, this increases to $250 per person per day and solo travellers have to pay an additional daily supplement of $40 per day. Ouch!
Before you start frantically crossing Bhutan off your travel bucket list though, it is important to gain perspective on those costs.
Bhutan travel isn’t completely inaccessible.
While Bhutan definitely isn’t a budget backpacker destination, the aforementioned costs do include everything – accommodation (in 3-4 star hotels), 3 meals per day, a private tour guide and driver, admission fees and bottled water.
When you arrive in Bhutan, you will not have any extra costs to shell out for (unless you want to pick up souvenirs) so with all that considered, you are still getting a fairly good deal.
… and I just happen to think that for a once in a lifetime opportunity, it is absolutely worth it.
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