Bhutan is something of a mysterious land to most and very high on the must visit for many cognoscenti travellers. This small, landlocked Himalayan Kingdom most certainly boasts many distinctive characteristics and due to their unique approach and culture these will remain unlike many popular destinations.
Bhutanese people are amongst some of the happiest on the planet. So they have a happiness index. Many countries measures wealth and output of their people as a primary concern…not Bhutan.
Luckily Bhutan lends itself to superb accommodation options and already some of the very most exclusive hotel brands have homes in Bhutan such as COMO and Amanresorts. These are very well established and extremely well run and definitely worth saving up for!
Soon the choice will become greater, Six Senses will also offer a series of lodges to stay at in Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Gangtey and Bumthang. The first three are scheduled to open in August/September and the last two in November. These lodges are set to be, in true Six Senses style, exquisite in design, experience and location. The accommodation options will range from Suites to Villas (each location will vary).
For those who have less time but want to see more and have the budget to match, Bhutan does have some modern aspects and a helicopter can be taken to cut down on drive times, which indeed can be long. Looking for something a little different? Trek to a private camp from Paro and enjoy a fabulously remote location.
Best times to visit? October through to May! It gets much colder of course through December, January and early February so if you are after warmth
Bhutan is not accessible by direct or frequent flight paths and prices are reflective so to reach Paro (no budget airline options here!) seats are limited and the indirect access from the UK, USA, Europe and Far East keep visitor numbers low at the first stage.
Bhutan’s Tourism authorities have also been very clever in creating and retaining an exclusive edge around their country’s reputation. They actually maintain a policy of a minimum pricing level which means that Bhutan can appear off limits for many (although this is perfect for the luxury end of the travel industry of course).
In fact, though, the prices include more than just a hotel with breakfast, they include your guide, driver and all meals. In addition the government factors in an amount also which is invested in the community on matters such as healthcare, education and helping those in poverty.
So with far lower visitor numbers than many other destinations, those who make the journey are treated to spectacular scenery which is perfect for active folk. There really are very few places on this planet as majestic as the Himalayas.
Wonderful gentle walks or longer treks, cycling, rafting, archery are all available however one doesn’t need to be super fit to go either. If you are not able, the views can be enjoyed freely from the comfort of a vehicle too (although it is worth noting that some sites such as the famous Tiger’s Nest do require considerable and reasonably strenuous hiking). There are numerous dzongs and temples to visit as well.
In April, the landscape fills with the colour of rhododendrons. In the winter months the little visited Phobjikha Valley (Gangtey) is home to around 300 endangered black-necked cranes. Bhutan is actually home to other endangered species such as red panda, snow leopard and Himalayan black bears although regular visitors are very unlikely to get the opportunity to sight them due to their extreme and remote habitats but there is plenty of other wildlife around.
Tradition is key to the preservation of Bhutanese culture and many people still wear traditional dress and employ ancient Buddhist practices. Farming and construction methods are still as they were hundreds of years ago in many cases and this can be fascinating to see.