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Travel to Bhutan, How, Why and When?

Posted on Mon October 7, 2019 in About Bhutan Swallowtail.

Bhutan is not a country for every traveler, or a favored travel destination. But, Bhutan is also not just another country to be struck off the bucket list once visited. While Bhutan continues to be one of the top travel destinations and once a lifetime must visit country for the right reasons, it should also be for the authentic experience that can never be replaced. Has traveling made you a better person, conscious of your health, environment, and mindful of your surroundings? Were there epiphanic moments in your travels that changed, among others, your perceptions of life, and perhaps made you more grounded and humble? Should these also be considered the benefits of traveling?

If yes, then why not Bhutan?

Because, according to the 2019 Global Peace Index by VisionofHumanity.Org the state of peace for Bhutan was rated “Very High” and ranked 15th in the peace index. What is more surprising is that Bhutan, only about graduating to become a medium developed country, is now placed alongside the richest and developed countries of the world in the Global Peace Index List.

Bhutan has pristine environment, clean air, and is the only carbon negative country in the world. The carbon dioxide produced by two emerging economies of the world China and India are absorbed continuously by the forests of Bhutan, which covers 71% of the country’s total area, supported by renewal energy like Hydro Power as the highest income generating industry. 

Located in the Eastern Himalayas, Bhutan is a kingdom of unique culture and traditions inhabited by a relatively happy population. In winter, views of the spectacular snow capped mountains with azure blue sky is a regular sight, in summer the young Himalayan Mountains are adorned with exotic flowers like for instance the more than 40 species of rhododendron, blue, white and yellow poppy, and inhabited by some of the world’s elusive wildlife such as the snow leopards and the endangered Bhutan Swallowtail Butterfly found only in Bhutan.

So now the question is who should visit Bhutan?

Those in search of Peace and Tranquility

Bhutan has a population of about 750,000 spread over an area of 38,000 sqkm, becoming one of the least populated countries. Only about 71,000 international tourists visited Bhutan in 2018 despite Bhutan being one of the top travel destinations. Due to the Tourism Policy of “High Value Low Impact” where a tourist need to pay a minimum of USD 250 per night, has made Bhutan a high end tourist destination where only a small countable number of tourists visit Bhutan. But the small number is definitely not due to the myth of VISA limit as wrongly understood by travelers across the world.

While Bhutan enjoys peace, tourists also contribute to the peace by being mindful of this fact and even a major festival and tourist attraction like the Thimphu Festival, only sees a handful of tourists every year. My tourist guests do tell me that they do not like to see tourists despite being a tourist themselves, and this absolutely makes sense because the very essence of traveling is to mingle and be a part of the local population.  And in Bhutan naturally there are more locals than tourists even during the major events or at monasteries and temples much to the happiness of our tourists guests.

Motorist do not honk while driving and pedestrians in the city cross the streets only using the zebra crossings. The occasional barking dogs at night is the only disturbance both in the town and villages. No cities in Bhutan have traffic lights and traffic is manned by policemen. Some of the upcoming towns in Bhutan claims their population to be more than 15,000 and constitutes of about 15 to 25 houses/building spread sparsely over the wide valleys surrounded by imposing mountains landmarked rivers and trees. Only a few cars run on these narrow roads.

If you are a nature adventure person, you have a choice of a wide range of hiking and trekking trails of various durations and difficulty. And you will find that most of the Bhutan trekking trails are unoccupied and you get the feeling that you own the entire mountains. Tour operators arrange all logistics of your trek and all you need to do is sing with the birds, occasionally spotting some Himalayan mammals like the deer, bear or yaks peacefully grazing and even some elusive wildlife like red panda and snow leopards playing hide and seek.

Bhutan is Safe to travel

Bhutan is a safe country. There are no threats from terrorism, internal conflict, violent crimes, pickpockets, scammers or con artists. The Bhutanese are simple, friendly, warm and good natured people prioritizing more on family and spiritual life. Mostly Buddhist by religion and nature, the Bhutanese strongly believe in compassion and ‘Karma’ as a way of life which roughly translates into ‘if you want good then be good and kind’.  The Buddhist principle of every human being having the intrinsic Buddha nature is strongly evident in the fact that there is no gender imbalance; we believe that women enjoy equal rights; there is no discrimination against people based on their race, caste and gender. So whether you are traveling alone or in a group, you are safe.

However, it is always wise to take responsible precautions in terms of physical dangers as well as personal health. The WHO does recommend all visitors to Bhutan to have their basic vaccines like Adult diptheria and tetanus, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Polio, Typhoid, Varicella etc.

Food in Bhutan is organic and safe for consumption with no added preservatives or chemicals. There are no fast food chains like the KFC, McDonalds or Starbucks and all food eaten at home or served in the restaurants are fresh and organic. Bhutan claims to be the first country in the world to produce 100 percent organic food and relevant local authorities make sure restaurants and eateries adhere to cleanliness and hygiene in the food preparation and kitchens. So the norm while in Bhutan is to stick to freshly cooked food and take a break from the junk foods.

According to the Bhutan Tourism Monitor Report, around 12% of the total visitors in 2018 went for trekking and adventure activities. Bhutan has the perfect mountains and nature for healing, meditation and to absorb in the therapeutic effects of it on the mind, body and soul. Trekking in Bhutan entails scanning of the Himalayan Mountains at an average altitude of 4000 masl with multiple nights camping. Have some basic knowledge on Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) and how to prevent it. You tour guide and tour operators will help you.

Gateway for executive conferences, corporate retreats

Bhutan provides an ideal ambience for offices to carry out official retreats, team-building efforts, and rejuvenate for better performance and increased outputs. You can have your office meetings by the riverside, in the middle of the forest, or in a tent undisturbed by distractions and disturbances. It provides perfect environment for corporates and offices to rethink and evaluate their positions, and chart future directions and visions.

Bhutan is a Photographers’ Paradise. Bhutan in the realm of Happiness

Bhutan is located in the Eastern Himalayas with high rise Himalayan mountain ranges, numerous snow capped mountains, fairy tale like scenery and breath taking landscapes. The thick broad leafed forest in the south and spectacular snow capped mountains in the central and north remains a safe haven for some of the exotic birds, reptiles and mammals that roam unhindered through the 9 biological corridors that connects 5 national parks, 4 wildlife sanctuaries and one national reserve.

To the visitors, Bhutan is known for its unique culture and age-old tradition as a way of life which is very different from our neighboring countries. Men wear traditional gho with knee length socks, women wear kira covering till the ankles and these are the formal dress code of Bhutan. The massive fortresses, monasteries, glacial valleys with dotted prayer flags and unique traditionally designed houses also make perfect shots even for an amateur photographer.

Bhutan is the last Himalayan Kingdom with Tantric Mahayana Buddhism live and in action. Buddhism is a way of life manifested in the numerous rituals and ceremonies being conducted in the homes and monasteries all year round and monks and nuns in red robes mediating or practicing Buddhism with ceremonial musical instrument in a hermitage, under a cave or in a monastery is a rare scene only to be found in Bhutan.

All these make Bhutan a photographer’s paradise and you don’t need to be a professional photographer nor need any sophisticated cameras to take amazing photos.

Time to Relax, Heal, and Rejuvenate

Traveling should be a special time for you to heal, relax, and rejuvenate so you are able to provide your 100 percent once back at work or business. This is a special time out for you from your corporate life, away from the worries, pressure, and demands of your work and business. This is a time to contemplate, unearth your inner self, and discover aided by the serene and peace offered by Bhutan. The experience of learning and practice of Buddhism from learned Buddhist Masters on high Rocky Mountains, sacred monasteries or under the caves may get you connected with your inner self. Bhutan has always been described as a ‘Living Museum’ where Buddhism is a way of life and the tantric form of Buddhism entails various rituals and ceremonies all aimed for peace and happiness not only for the Bhutanese but for all sentient beings.

Along with an easy and leisure cultural tour itinerary, Bhutan has abundant nature, hospitable people, clean air and pristine environment. Things are relatively slow and laid back in Bhutan naturally creating a relaxed holiday atmosphere and easy to forget your work stress.

Bhutan has become a hotspot for ‘nature therapy’ attracting travellers to reconnect and get in-sync with nature and reap the therapeutic benefits to mind, body, and spirit.  

For a resourceful and meaningful holiday, as per Bhutan’s Tourism Policy, a traveler must tie up with a local tour operator who arranges all logistics including your Bhutan Visa, hotel or flight reservations and takes care of all the ‘planning a holiday’ hassles. Trust your local tour operator to provide you with the best hotels, guides, restaurants and you do nothing but relax and focus on the experience Bhutan has for you.

Depending on your interests and needs there are many holiday packages in Bhutan with different themes to choose from. Even some of the high-end luxury international hotels, taking the advantage of such privilege, cater holiday packages with specific purposes like relief from city stress, mediation and wellness.

The infusion of the western luxuries with traditional wellness and healing achieves its maximum benefit complemented by the pristine and peaceful environment.

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