Wednesday, February 27, 2013


For the "been there, done that" crowd, Bhutan seems to be on everybody's travel wish list. This tiny landlocked Asian nation is bordered by China in the North and India in the South. Bhutan is untouched and unspoiled, has only 700,000 citizens in the whole country and opened to tourism relatively recently, in 1974.

The number of tourists has been steadily increasing each year. The infrastructure is trying to keep pace to accommodate the growing number of visitors. At the time of my visit, in February 2013, the single road that connects all of the towns was being widened. Having said that, there is no traffic, in fact, there is no traffic light in the entire country. I think this is the most uncrowded place I have ever been, especially after arriving directly from a visit to Nepal.

Bhutan is known as the "Happiest Kingdom on Earth". This small country was never colonized and thus has been able to retain its homogenous culture and traditions among the people. Much of the culture is centered around the predominant Buddhist religion. Each town has a Dzong, which served as a fortress and now holds both religious temples and government offices. These beautiful structures are hundreds of years old and are identified by their white walls, red roofs, and intricately carved and painted woodwork.  The temples are filled with brightly colored paintings on the walls and ornate sculptures of the gods. If you are lucky, you may be able to observe a service with the resident monks chanting and playing instruments.

Along with the culture, hiking and outdoor activities are the big draw to Bhutan. It is incredibly mountainous, at the eastern edge of the Himalayas, and affords many options from short to full day hikes. Beautiful views of snow-capped peaks seem to be around every corner.  Many of the hikes are centered around a trek up to see a temple or monastery on the top of a hill. The most famous of these is the Taktsang Monastery, also known as the Tiger's Nest.  It's the quintessential photo that one always sees of Bhutan - a monastery built into the rock, clinging to a cliff on the side of the mountain. It is an important pilgrimage site and you see all ages on the trail, from babes in arms to the elderly.  The trek up should take about 2 hours at a moderate pace. And then you have to come back down!

Bhutan is also known for producing beautiful and intricate textiles. You can visit the very informative National Textile museum in the capital city of Thimpu. Visits to a painting school and Traditional Medicine Institute are also very interesting.

Bhutan is very unique in how it manages tourism. U.S. citizens must have a valid passport and obtain a visa. All tourists must make their travel arrangements through a government approved tour company. This is not a place where you can just show up and travel around at will. You must be accompanied at all times by an official, licensed guide and driver. No rental cars here. That being said, we partner with the best tour operators who provide a seemless travel experience: from obtaining the necessary visas, to booking the flights (there's only one airline that flies here), to reserving the top hotels in each city.

Has Bhutan piqued your interest? To book your personal adventure, contact the Travel Specialists at Bee Kalt Travel today!    

Tel: 248-288-9600 or Toll-free 1-800-284-5258
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