New Developments in Bhutan?

Scenic view from Clingmans dome, Great Smoky Mountain Nation Park , Tennessee USA

Bhutan is well recognized for its cliff-side temples, colorful festivals, mountains rising to 20,000 feet, and walled monasteries like those in Tibet, but they aren’t simply relying on the classics to draw tourists. The long-awaited Trans-Bhutan Trail has been opened to both domestic and international hikers, having served as the nation’s principal roadway and centuries-old pathway until the 1960s. We had the opportunity to sample a portion of this 250-mile path with our Bridge to Bhutan guides, and we were delighted by the trail’s botanical signage, historical markers, dordle and QR codes in addition to the lush flora and animals. We reached Dochula Pass’ 108 hand-painted chortens (Buddhist shrines) exhausted and eager for additional hiking time.

The Centenary Farmers Market in downtown Thimphu now has a brand-new outdoor equivalent along the river with artisanal food booths, a music stage, a kids’ park, and hip restaurants. The National Museum of Bhutan in Paro has finally reopened following nine years of renovation work to bring its encyclopedic collection to life. We had a great time wandering the seven-story watchtower’s stone corridors and quirky stairwells, which each led to multimedia exhibitions addressing topics like the nation’s traditional clothing and current monarchy.

In order to set themselves apart, tour operators upgrading their offers with more specialized and distinctive experiences. Fin Norbu, a co-founder of Bridge to Bhutan, said: “We will surely need to be creative and craft fresh and fascinating itineraries and activities. “In the areas of Haa, Paro, and Thimphu, we already investigating a few new hikes.” We were able to take part in a Buddhist house blessing ritual at Norbu’s family’s ancestral home in Dorica as an added bonus to our vacation. We sat cross-legged in a hand-painted temple with a circle of monks, played horns, chanted poems, shared fruit gifts.

Tourism Council of Bhutan

Although you still can’t go at will, the Tourism Council of Bhutan is updating its procedures to provide visitors more flexibility, options, and pleasures. Stops at immigration checks, the need for a 24/7 guide, and the obligation to stick to pre-approved itineraries¬† all being eliminated. You may arrive at the airport, call a (electric) cab, and be transported to Paro or Thimphu for a stay, whether at the recently finished Six Senses or a local’s house, now that three-star package tours aren’t the default option.

However, a guide is still necessary to see the major sights in the towns, go hiking, or go beyond Thimphu and Paro. Travelers may hire a guide on-the-spot, via the concierge services of a luxury hotel, or by meeting an independent guide (though, of course, booking through a tour operator in advance also still works).

We advise choosing a variety of lodging options when choosing your accommodations (either independently or in cooperation with your guide). Try a farm stay to get a feel for local life before treating yourself to one of Gangtey Lodge’s new wellness experiences or a few nights at the eagerly awaited andBeyond Punakha River Lodge, which is set to open next year.

When Bhutan’s well-preserved legacy is peeled back with local assistance, the many layers become even more stunning. No aspect of your trip to Bhutan has been diluted for Western tourists. Although Bhutan’s new strategy for promoting tourism is divisive, it also draws a distinct line in the sand. They don’t simply want any visitors; they want individuals who value and support the preservation of their environment and culture.

Why Leave Now

Bhutan used the 916 days that passed without tourists to hone every aspect of its tourism industry, including hotel restorations, transportation upgrades, and staff training. We received the impression that we had entered a monument of Bhutanese art and architecture as we reached the Paro International Airport. It was transformed into the nation’s biggest art gallery and exhibition venue by His Majesty King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, who hired 60 painters to work nonstop on it. They even decorated the luggage carousel that revolves around a reproduction of a 17th-century dzong (monastery).

The recently constructed Damchu-Chukha bypass shortened the arduous route by an hour as we traveled from Thimphu, the country’s capital, to the western region of Haa. When we stayed at the Pamtsho Hotel, the proprietors were celebrating the great inauguration of their stylish caf√©, which had been made possible with assistance from the pandemic relief effort and money. Throughout the country, there were more than 3,000 registered tour guides as of 2019; however, the government’s new Tour Guide Readiness Assessment is reducing that number to a top-tier fleet of 481, which is now in operation. The Tourism Council of Bhutan is aware that its Sustainable Development Fee is a high demand on tourists, therefore it makes a point of providing a top-notch experience in exchange.

Ways to Enter Bhutan

You will need a passport (that won’t expire in the next six months), travel insurance (we heartily recommend Allianz AllTrips), dates of arrival and departure, and payment information in order to finish the visa procedure. Although it is not necessary to provide proof of COVID-19 immunization, you may be chosen at the airport for an RT-PCR test at random. Visit the FAQ website of the Tourism Council of Bhutan to remain current on the most recent rules.

The Sustainable Development Fee, which costs $200 per day for adults, $100 per day for children aged 6 to 12, and nothing at all for those under the age of 5, may be paid with a credit card in addition to the $40 visa application fee. The regular 90-day visa may be applied for online, or you can delegate the paperwork to your guide (it’s often included in their service). Visit the Department of Immigration website and Bhutan’s recently built tourist website to begin the visa application procedure.

Drukair and Bhutan Airlines are the two foreign airlines that operate to Paro International Airport. Singapore, Kathmandu, Dhaka, Bangkok, five Indian cities (New Delhi, Kolkata, Guwahati, Gaya, and Bagdogra), and Kathmandu, Nepal are among the departure points. Although you’ll need to get an India visa ($25) for this relocation, flights from India are often less expensive. (We took a flight from New Delhi and utilized our Indian visa as justification to prolong our stay for an additional two weeks in the amazing subcontinent.) A complete directory of authorized tour companies, guides, hotels, itineraries, and more may be found on the official website Bhutan.Travel. Although there are so many options that it might be daunting, it also brings to light amazing family-owned companies that customers would not otherwise discover.