Do you ever find yourself in a place, whether it is somewhere in nature or spiritual space, where you just take a deep breath, feel your heart fill with gratitude and smile at the wonder that is the earth we live on? Bhutan will give you that feeling. Every. Single. Day. Probably even several times a day.
This tiny country tucked into the Himalayan mountains, squashed between China and India, is home to the last surviving Buddhist kingdom on earth. It is special for so many reasons, we’ve tried to list just a few…
1. There’s a feeling of peace, calm and happiness
The Bhutanese people are continually ranked as the happiest nation in Asia, and the 8th happiest in the world. They are so happy, in fact, that they measure the success of their country by their Gross National Happiness – the only country in the world to do so.
We hear statistics like these all the time, but what does that mean when you’re on the ground? The Bhutanese people are warm, welcoming, and incredibly calm. The things they focus on in their day-to-day life (spirituality, kinship, enjoying the moment) are forgotten values in many Western cultures.
Bhutan’s spiritual focus and lack of modern distraction make for a perfect opportunity to slow down. After a few days, your inbuilt need for constant forward motion will be stilled, and the true beauty of Bhutan will be revealed to you; peacefulness.
Perhaps you’ll start to see how enjoyable it is to live this way. You might just bring that new perspective home with you.
2. Bhutanese people are eco-warriors
The environment is considered one of the most important parts of Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness and Bhutanese people take great care to protect it. When you travel in this country, you’ll frequently see signs reminding people of this:
“Global warming- we have a solution, stop pollution”
“Our pristine environment is our most priceless gift, preserve it forever!”
“Preserve our natural rich heritage…remember nature is the source of all happiness”.
Bhutan is the only country in the world that is carbon negative. This means that they remove more CO2 from the atmosphere than they create. Over 70% of the country is forested and the law mandates it cannot drop below 60%. The forests are rich in flora and fauna and create a healthy habitat for lots of rare animals. This makes for an amazing experience for lucky visitors.
Bhutan has also banned plastic bags and tobacco. This helps to keep the country clean and feeling “untouched”. If you’re searching for a travel destination where you won’t find plastic bottles and cigarette butts discarded on the roadside, Bhutan is your haven.
3. You’ll leave feeling healthier
You won’t find McDonald’s in Bhutan, and you’ll be glad. Processed food is harder to come by, and your meals will consist of a large variety of delicious vegetable dishes, local red rice, and a meat dish (shocking, we know). There is a strong focus on cheese and chilli (yum), and influence from bordering India and China, there are some truly delicious dishes you’ve got to try. Most produce is farmed organically, and in 2013 the government pledged to be the first country to be 100% organic.
Buddhism teaches that it is wrong to kill animals and there are no slaughterhouses in Bhutan. Any meat in Bhutan is imported from India. As a result, a large percentage of the population enjoy a meat-free lifestyle, which means there is an array of delectable vegetarian options at any restaurant you might find yourself in.
Combine the nutritious meals with regular hikes and you’ll have never felt better!
4. It feels like stepping back in time
Bhutan has preserved much of its ancient traditions and culture. Having resisted globalisation up until recently, visiting this tiny country is like stepping back in time. The landscape is dotted with vibrant monasteries and temples, like the Tiger’s Nest Monastery, which has been perching precariously on a cliff face since the 8th century.
You’ll hear the myths and legends of the “Land of the Thunder Dragon”. These stories guide how people live and explain the incredible landscape. It’s said that violent storms ripped through the Himalayan mountains long ago, and were thought to be an omen of the thunder dragon. To this day the mythical creature remains a significant part of Bhutan’s identity and appears on their National Flag. From rugged, steep mountains, to sub-tropical forests and bamboo jungles, when you see the landscape for yourself you’ll understand why they believe in magic.
5. One of the highest quality travel experiences
In order to protect their cultural heritage, natural environment, local businesses and authenticity, Bhutan regulates tourism using a policy of ‘high quality, low impact’. This means the number of tourists is restricted and there is a fixed daily rate of $200-290USD that tourists must pay to enter Bhutan. This is a deterrent for many budget backpackers.
However, this isn’t as steep as it first seems. This amount is directly credited to your accommodation, guide, activities and transport. When booking with Stray, it is included in your Bhutan Explorer Journey price. In fact, once you’ve got your flights, paid your $50 visa, and booked your Stray pass, you will only need a little extra cash for tips, drinks, snacks and souvenirs. It really is an all-inclusive trip!
Bhutan is safeguarding the unique cultural experience you get as a visitor now and in the future. Their unique tourism policy helps to ensure the country remains a traveller’s diamond in the rough and weans out tourists whose focus is on cheap beer and parties.