A Bhutan holiday typically starts in Paro, where the spectacular Tiger’s Nest monastery - one of the country’s must-see highlights - clings implausibly to the rugged mountainside, or relatively nearby Thimphu, the country's gentle capital. From there, the rolling green horizon of Bhutan’s extraordinary forests beckon for a true escape from the world. The country is the first in the world to be Carbon negative, and travel here remains as low impact as it’s possible to be. Bhutan has stepped aside from the path of mass tourism, and the relatively few travellers who visit are warmly welcomed.
Obviously there's a lot more, this is just to get you started...
It should come as no surprise that Bhutan is a highly sought-after destination for trekking holidays. Routes tend to be less-developed than other Himalayan countries, and perhaps a little wilder at times, but the reward is a sense of splendid isolation. The best-known trail is the eight-day Jhomolhari Trek - a stunning and challenging mountain pilgrimage - and for seriously experienced hikers, the 25-day Snowman Trek from Paro to Lunana, traversing the border between Bhutan and Tibet, is packed with adventure. It’s advisable to aim for a spring or autumn departure if you want to make the most of the epic scenery, as the skies are a lot clearer and the best routes are fully open.
This is the last remaining Buddhist kingdom in the world, and the country’s underlying spirituality is key to understanding its history, culture and traditions. Beyond the impressively fortified dzongs, and breathtaking temple complexes such as the Tiger’s Nest, the country is dotted with ancient monasteries which lend themselves to peaceful contemplation, meditation, and frequent celebration. Many lively religious and cultural festivals take place throughout the year and one or two can often be incorporated into a trip. Among the highlights of the annual events calendar is the Jambay Lhakhang Fire Festival, which normally takes place in late October. This five-day celebration at this Bumthang temple culminates with a spectacular ritual, as daring revellers run through a burning structure - naked!
Even when periodic traffic jams bring movement to a halt on the main roads, there’s an intriguing sense of contentment among the locals. No-one seems too stressed about it. While this may seem a little stereotypical, so many people you encounter in Bhutan come across as very satisfied with their lot in life. This may well be linked to Bhutan’s philosophy of Gross National Happiness (GNH), which prioritises the wellbeing of its citizens. GNH is an official government policy, devised by the king, and incorporates conservation of the environment, sustainable socio-economic development, and the promotion and preservation of Bhutanese culture. As you travel around this Himalayan idyll, you may be surprised how easy it is to slip into a laid-back, Bhutan state of mind.
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.