High value, low impact is the motto of the Bhutan Tourism Council. And with less than 90,000 tourists a year they are keeping to their word. Though there’s no formal restriction on travel, the country demands international tourists spend $200/250 USD a day (off-season/peak season), which is considerable in comparison to travelling in neighbouring South Asian countries.
This sensible and slow approach to tourism is an intelligent approach that preserves the country’s traditional culture and diverse environment without putting an undue burden on its developing infrastructure. In turn, the country has been attracting a fair share of responsible travellers since it opened to tourism in 1974.
With a culture that has been much less affected by the West than other developing countries and with a wealth of Buddhist religious sites, Bhutan is a prime cultural and spiritual destination. With mainly organic agriculture, over one-quarter of the land mass protected and a diverse environment that stretches from just above sea level to over 7,000 m high Himalayan peaks it appeals to eco travellers and trekkers alike who come to trek through the relatively undiscovered land and to see the richly diverse flora and fauna.
The Tourism Council of Bhutan arranged a press trip for me in June 2014 according to the following itinerary (see note below). It’s an itinerary I would recommend for both the spiritual traveller and the cultural enthusiast since it hits the most impressive spots within a short timeframe (assuming most travellers to Bhutan stay for a week or two). I did, however, find that by day five I was getting a little “dzonged” out because of the high concentration of dzongs (Buddhist monasteries) I had been shown around in a short period of time. I went during the off-season so trekking was not an option, but if you have extra time consider spacing these sights out a bit and adding in a trek.
|1||Phuentsholing (India border-Jaigaon)||Thimphu||Hotel Norbuling||Drive to Thimphu (7 hours drive) – On the way visit Kharbandi Temple|
|2||Phuntsholing||Thimphu||Hotel Norbuling||Memorial Chorten; Buddha Point; Institute of Traditional Medicine; Zilukha Nunnery; Tandin Nye; Tashi Chho Dzong (after 5 PM)|
|3||Thimphu||Thimphu||Hotel Norbuling||Hike to Tango and Cheri Monasteries|
|4||Thimphu||Punakha||Damchen Resort||Drive to Punakha (3 hours drive)—on the way visit Druk Wangyel Chorten, Chimi Lhakhang and organic farms|
|5||Punakha||Punakha||Damchen Resort||Hike to Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten and evening visit the Punakha Dzong|
|6||Punakha||Paro||Hotel Drukchen||Drive to Paro (4 hrs drive)– on the way visit Sisina Nunnary and Tamchoe Monastery|
|7||Paro||Paro||Hotel Drukchen||National Museum, Kyichu Lhakhang, Rinpung Dzong, Sangchoko Monastery and visit organic farm|
|8||Paro||Paro||Mandala Resort||Hike to Taktsang (3 hrs hike)|
|9||Paro||Delhi||Fly to Delhi from Paro|
Articles about Bhutan
Note: The Tourism Council of Bhutan covered my expenses while I was in Bhutan. I was not told I had to write positive reviews and I was not told that I cannot write anything negative. The intention of the press trip was to familiarize the writer with the country so as to convey that information properly to readers. To properly write about a destination means to have actually travelled there, which is not always the case in travel writing. This was a place I had wanted to write about, but given the financial reality of travel writing this was not a possibility without some form of financial assistance. This arrangement did not affect the objectivity of my writing in any way.