Bhutan, best known as the last Shangrila, opened its doors to foreign tourism less than four decades ago. Bhutan’s strategy of ‘low volume- high quality’ tourism has made it a highly regarded destination amongst discerning travellers, keeping the country from being overrun by mass tourism. Combine this with a land of stunning mountain views, terraced farmlands, unique architecture, dramatic river valleys, authentic Bhutanese lifestyle and ancient traditions; and you will not fall short of reasons for including Bhutan in must-visit travel plans. The below reasons have convinced us.
Bhutan’s rich cultural identity is well preserved through years of isolation and government imposed policies to control foreign influence in every aspect of daily life. On the streets, traditional dress remains preferred attire, local languages Dzongkha and Sharchop can be heard and there is no sign of Starbucks and MacDonald’s. Native Dzongkha-style architectural features still grace every building as modern architectural forms are banned.
Dzongs & Unexpected Attractions
Dzongs (fortresses) are impressive Bhutanese architectural masterpieces built in the past to serve a number of purposes. They housed political and administrative centres, Buddhist communities and the Royal family. They stand as reminders of Bhutanese victories over Tibetan invasions and British-Indian attacks and are museums holding historical artefacts of priceless value. Tiger’s Nest (Taksang) and Punakha Dzong are must visits. As you journey through Bhutan; you would find unexpected attractions such as holy shrines holding faith of local communities. The town of Punakha is home to most unusual shrines in Buddhism such as Chimi Lhakhang dedicated to a tantric Buddhist saint.
Boutique and Extraordinary stays
What makes your Bhutanese holiday special is comfortable stays, incredible views, great food and local hospitality. Bhutan offers special places to stay from simple beautiful comfortable lodges run by local families, boutique stays with unique Bhutanese character such as the Gangtey Goenpa and Taj Tashi to extraordinary luxury retreats by Como Hotels and Aman resorts.
Day walks to full on trekking
Bhutan offers a surprising mix of landscapes and trekking terrain at every turn. There is a range of day walks to full-on treks possible offering some of the most exceptional scenery. Trek teams and equipment have improved hugely over the years. Given the policy of high quality tourism, a number of luxury travel brands have adopted unique ways to experience the country. COMO Resorts offers flights with the Royal Bhutan Helicopter Service, allowing travellers to reach incredibly remote areas that would otherwise take more than a week hiking — each way.
Two hugely impressive annual festivals; the Paro Festival (March/April) and Thimphu festival (Autumn) have without exception engaged the senses of both the locals and international visitors. Many define it as a once in a lifetime experience. Local people gather to watch dance ceremonies performed by monks in spectacular colourful costumes. Exciting displays of traditional culture including textiles, form part of the celebrations. If a festival is on, be sure to be part of a festival during your journey through Bhutan. When we design your holiday, we would normally include such an impressive experience if the timing of your holiday allows for it.
Gross National Happiness
Ever heard of Gross National Happiness, you will in Bhutan. Where in today’s rather frantic world, most nations measure Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as an indicator for its welfare and economic stability. Bhutan insists on measuring its Gross National Happiness; a development philosophy measuring quality of life by prioritising spiritual and mental wellbeing of its people and protecting its culture, nature and traditions. A happy nation with an exceptional commitment to its Buddhist values, authentic lifestyle and ancient traditions.