The Kingdom of Bhutan has become an overnight tourist hit for adventure enthusiasts all over the world after Lonely Planet named Bhutan the number one place to travel to in 2020. We decided to dig in and break down what makes Bhutan such a special place to make your next adventure destination.
Bhutan sits between India and China and has never been colonized in its history. Bhutan has developed a distinct national identity based on Buddhism. Buddhist morals dictate their laws, dress, and architecture. If you’re looking for a little slice of peace on Earth, it’s probably here. Notably, Bhutan is also the least corrupt country in the region and ranks first for economic freedom and peace.
Explore the Himalayan Mountains
The Kingdom is world-renowned for their conservation efforts. The Himalayan Mountains are biodiversity hotspots thriving with bengal tigers, sloth bears, and Himalayan black bears. Bhutan already sounds intriguing, but here are more reasons to make Bhutan your next adventure destination:
Happiest Place On Earth
Bhutan is commonly known as the “happiest place on earth” and for good reason. The Bhutanese government introduced a goal in 2008 to rank Gross National Happiness (GNH) above Gross Domestic Product (GDP). They are the only country in the world to place happiness above profit. They consider environmental conservation, preservation of culture, psychological wellbeing, education, and other statistics to calculate GNH.
Bhutan has strict laws that ban smoking and tobacco products, fishing, and hunting, but these limitations have paid off The government has surveyed citizens three times since 2008 and each time their happiness has gone up. Bhutan takes happiness seriously, so you’re basically promised a good time as a tourist.
Young teenage monks at the Thujidrag Gompa in Thimphu, near the Phajoding Monastery
Bhutan is also the first carbon-negative country in the world. This means they produce less carbon than their lifestyle offsets. Bhutan committed to all-organic farming by 2020 to reduce their impact on nature. Not to mention Buddhism is famously restrained when it comes to material possessions and simple desires. Overall, a more traditional lifestyle combined with large pieces of carbon-sucking greenery is what sets the Bhutan lifestyle ahead of Westerners’.
Bhutan is a lush, green country covered in thick pine forests and Himalayan mountains. Forest covers about 75 percent of the “Switzerland of Asia.” Seven percent of Bhutan sits beneath glaciers with a good chunk of the rest covered in mountains. The highest peak soars to almost 25,000 feet (7,570 meters) above sea level. That’s higher than any peak in Europe, Africa, the Americas or Australasia. The capacity for adventure in Bhutan is huge!
Since the country only opened to tourists in 1974, the Bhutanese control how tourism works in their country. There’s a $250 a day tourist tax that in part covers the cost of a local guide who accompanies visitors to ensure they stick to designated areas and don’t mistreat the environment. This minimum fee covers your expenses while traveling and works well keeping tourists levels low.
Bhutan has successfully protected its culture
If you purchase a package with a tour company you can avoid receiving a guide assigned by the government. Tour packages often include the tourist tax fee, so check the fine print. Plane tickets can also be pricey because only a few planes arrive a day. But don’t worry because the fees are all worth it.
Tons Of Adventure
The number one reason to make Bhutan your next adventure destination is why these extra fees and costs are worth it. The Bhutanese people have been successful at preserving their culture and an adventure here is an adventure unlike any other.
Many visitors come to Bhutan specifically to experience the spirituality and peace of the area. Visitors are welcome to pray and meditate in many of the local Monasteries. Wellness retreats and lodges are found all across the country so you can count on a relaxing vacation.
You will experience authentic Bhutan culture. Most Bhutanese still wear traditional clothing during the day. In fact, it is still legally required to wear traditional garments (the male gho and female kira) to work. Despite the arrival of Internet and TV in 1999 most still speak the local languages of Dzongkha and Sharchop in public. There’s also a complete ban on non-traditional architecture, so no building will feel out-of-place. Everywhere you go you’re immersed in this unique culture.
Things to Do in Bhutan
One famous draw in Bhutan is the Tiger’s Nest Monastery. The Buddhist Monastery sits 10,240 feet high in the mountains nestled between sharp peaks on a cliff. This 325 year old Monastery is incredibly significant because legend has it, Guru Rinpoche, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism, meditated for years inside the heart of the temple. To get here you’ll need to hike for 90 minutes through the forest. You’ll arrive relaxed and happy from endorphins. And don’t worry, the view will be worth it.
Tiger’s Nest, Bhutan
Thanks to the low flow of tourists in the area, most of the hotels and resorts in the country are higher quality. There are plenty of 5-star lodges to choose from but Bhutan Spirit Sanctuary stands above the rest. The Sanctuary recommends you stay a minimum of five nights to fully immerse in the culture. Activities include hiking to a nearby monastery to join student monks in morning meditation, yoga lessons, and spa treatments. Spa therapy is extremely popular at Bhutanese lodges. It’s impossible to not relax on this vacation.
Whether you’re a fan of spicy food or not, you will encounter mouth tingling spice levels in Bhutan. The Bhutanese are famous for their love of spice. One of the most shocking culture shocks is how spicy traditional food in Bhutan is. While you’re in town you must try emma datshi, a dish of boiled chillies and native cheese. This dish is especially spicy and a source of local pride. You’ll be able to challenge your taste buds and come back a more resilient person.
Adventures Available Now
We put in the research and found these two great Bhutan adventures from G-Adventures available to book now:
“The Druk Path” – 11 Nights – BOOK NOW
Where else but the happiest country in the world could you trek among the Himalayas, smiling the whole time at the sheer beauty of the temples and landscapes around you? This active tour will get you out and about to visit some of the most gorgeous temples and monasteries in this part of the world. Trek sacred mountain passes of the celebrated Druk Path, ascend to the profound Taktshang Monastary (Tiger’s Nest), and explore the unique beauty of the city of Paro. Bhutan is the only place in the world just waiting for you to walk all over its happiness. (Warning, it’s contagious here.)
“The Druck Path” route
Is this tour for me?
Travel Style: Active
Hiking, trekking, biking, rafting, and kayaking adventures all over the world, made for outdoor types.
Service Level: Standard
Comfortable tourist-class accommodations with character; mix of public and private transport.
Physical Rating: 4 – Demanding
Some high-altitude hikes or more strenuous activities, but accessible to most healthy travellers.
Peak the Himalayas from almost any Monastery
“Wonders of Bhutan” – 10 Nights – G-Adventures with National Geographic – BOOK NOW
Find out what lights up the faces of the residents of Bhutan, the only country in the world that measures its well-being in GNH — Gross National Happiness. On a 10-day adventure across this bastion of Buddhist culture, explore remote mountain villages and shrines and climb magnificent heights to the cliff-side Taktsang Monastery, 900 metres (2,953 feet) above the valley floor. Amid the soaring peaks and cultural delights of this ancient place, discover your own capacity for happiness.
“Wonders of Bhutan” route
Is this tour for me?
Travel Style: National Geographic
Greater exploration, insider access, and the freedom to roam – all without sacrificing comfort.
Service Level: Upgraded
Quality accommodations and more inclusions than on other G Adventures tours, like meals, private transport, and activities.
Physical Rating: 3 – Average
Some tours may include light hiking, biking, rafting, or kayaking in addition to walking.
Sustainable Travel in Action
Bhutan is a prime example of sustainable travel in action. They have strict standards for their own health and wellbeing and strict standards for visitors. Their highest priority is preserving the natural wonders in their country including their seemingly countless Monasteries, thick forests, and happy people.
The country is largely untouched and an oasis for stressed-out outsiders craving somewhere quiet and green to relax. Bhutan is the perfect example of what a country could be: in touch with their history, culture, and happy. Now, let’s start planning that Bhutan adventure!
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