A holiday in Bhutan is a privilege, with only a limited number of lucky visitors making the journey each year. Famously protective of its glorious natural habitat, ancient traditions and happy culture, the nation keeps tourism to a high quality minimum, allowing those who do visit to enjoy its superb Himalayan landscape in unpolluted peace.
Nevertheless, the Bhutanese welcome strangers with open arms (and armfuls of Buddhist blessings), and you can look forward to plenty of cheerful encounters as you amble through the awe-inspiring mountain scenery...
As a famously carbon-negative nation, Bhutan works hard to protect its forested mountain landscape from development and pollution. Tourist numbers are carefully controlled, and even the capital, Thimphu, has an otherworldly aspect to it, despite the occasional nod to ‘progress’. The result is a gloriously refreshing environment, a relaxing mix of green rural valleys and broad Himalayan vistas. It’s the perfect place to retreat, rejuvenate, and truly get back to nature.
Bhutan’s plunging valleys and mountainous peaks are dotted with ancient monasteries and temples. Paro's Tiger’s Nest temple is easily the most famous of these, and rewards those who climb its many steps with stunning panoramas over the valley. Another highlight is to mix with the locals at a tsechu. These exuberant festivals take place throughout the year, with masked dancers performing elaborate dances within the dzongs (the imposing fortresses that house both religion and government throughout Bhutan). In the towns, tsechus draw huge crowds, while those in more remote areas have a relaxed and intimate atmosphere. Archery competitions are popular, with bowmen representing their towns and villages in Bhutan’s national sport. And there are also festivals to celebrate natural events, such as the arrival of Black-Necked Cranes in Phobjikha Valley each winter.
At the end of a day spent wandering the valley-sides and breathing in lungfuls of fresh mountain air, there’s nothing quite like retreating to a cosy fireside and a warm bed! Luckily, Bhutan’s pursuit of low-impact, high-value tourism has led to the creation of a handful of enchanting mountain retreats, which are both unobtrusive and deeply luxurious. We particularly love the Bhutan Spirit Sanctuary and Gangtey Lodge, which nestle amongst the woodland on verdant mountainsides, and offer responsible, holistically focused luxury with easy treks in the surrounding landscape.
The SDF - the Sustainable Development Fee - is a daily levy paid by all visitors on a tourist visa to support Bhutan’s development. You can find out more about it here.
The world’s highest unclimbed peak — the sacred mountain of Gangkhar Puensum — can be found in Bhutan, and the country’s scenic terrain is excellent for trekking. Whether you go on a short day hike or a longer trek, walking really is the best way to take in the awe-inspiring scenery of the Eastern Himalayas. Whatever your ability level, there are many satisfying treks available across Bhutan. Multi-day journeys can be as simple or grand as you prefer, whether you want to simply walk, or be accompanied by specialist guides, camp staff and horsemen to carry your equipment.
Find peaceful moments in monasteries and temples, and experience Paro’s distinctive, small-town feel. Wander through Bumthang’s green fields and Phobjikha valleys where the Black Necked Cranes land.