Bhutan – The Kingdom of Happiness
The Kingdom of Bhutan is an ideal destination for “ecotourism” as this landlocked country is an “eco country” itself. Many people refer to Bhutan as “The Last Shangri-La” due to its well-preserved unspoiled natural environment and rich culture.
Bhutan is a small country in the South Asia located between India and China on the slopes of the Himalayan mountain range. The country has less than 800,000 populations, and most of them are Buddhist. Bhutan’s economy relies on agriculture, forestry, and tourism. The government of Bhutan plans to become the first country in the world to turn its agriculture to 100 percent organic farming by prohibiting the uses of pesticides and herbicides and using only local animals and farm waste for fertilizers. As a Buddhist country, Bhutan believes in living in harmony with nature and the pursuit of happiness. As a result, the main development indicator of the country is not the gross domestic product (GDP), but it is gross national happiness (GDH) which can indicate the welfare of people in the country better. It is the only country in the world that officially uses GDH.
Bhutan has opened its country for tourism in less than half century ago. The long years of isolation allowed the country to preserve its unique culture and rich environment. Here, you can a spectacular Himalayan landscape with glaciated mountain peaks and unexploited forest. There are many high-altitude trekking trails if you like to explore lakes, glaciers, and local flora and fauna. However, the country is more famous for its culture tours with a lot of symbolic architecture based on Buddhist culture like monasteries and dzongs, or Buddhist castle fortresses. All of the local houses and architecture are constructed using traditional method, without the usage of nails and iron bars, in accordance with the government’s regulations. As the land of happiness, there are various festivals help throughout the year in various venues across the country. The most important festival is Tshechu with the religious mask
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dances as the highlight of events. You also should not miss watching the national sport of Bhutan “archery” competitions which are held across the country almost every weekend.
To preserve its traditional culture and environment, the tourism policy of Bhutan is to “High Value, Low Impact” tourism. To achieve this goal, the government imposes a compulsory minimum travel package fee of USD $250 per person per night, or USD $200 for low season, which every tourists are required to pay. However, the fee covers a minimum of 3 star accommodations, all meals, a licensed local tour guide, land transport, and a sustainable tourism Royalty of $65, which will used for the infrastructure construction and welfare of the local like free education and healthcare. The minimum number of people in a group is only 3 persons and you can arrange your own itineraries as you like, so you don’t have to travel in large group. You have to book your trips through registered tour operators, and pay for your trips and visa fee by transferring money directly to the Bhutan National Bank. A list of local Bhutanese Tour Operators is available here: http://www.tourism.gov.bt/directory/tour-operator
You can more information about Bhutan tourism here: http://www.tourism.gov.bt/