Bhutan, the Land of the Thunder Dragon, and India’s tiny Himalayan neighbour is emerging as a popular holiday destination for Indians. The country that has a long history of cooperation with India is considered exotic and fascinating by us. We share a long border with the country, and can virtually just drive in to explore it. All we need to do is show up at the border/fly in, make permits and travel.
There are many websites that offer information on the country and the alluring magnetism of the country is well documented; a few hours’ search proffers enough information to visit Bhutan.
Yet, we believe that Bhutan is best explored with a tour company registered there (with the Tourism Council of Bhutan) and we give you 5 distinct reasons for the same…
1. There’s a lot more to Bhutan than just ‘sights’…
A visit to Bhutan is a complete package – the sights, sounds, culture, cuisine, architecture, history, festivals, its people, their simple way of living, its beauty, its desire to preserve its heritage despite modernity and Internet – all these cannot be enjoyed by merely ‘visiting’ the country. (For this reason, any trip to this country under 7 days is also fruitless).
Google helps, but only so much.
A tour operator will be able to take you to an 800 year old monastery to be blessed by its priest or arrange a meeting with a lama who is known to time travel. A tour operator will also make sure you don’t miss out on any of the experiences that will only make your trip memorable.
A tour operator would be a Bhutanese national and a local through whom your understanding of the nation as one of the ‘Happiest’ in the world will be augmented and who would be able to offer these myriad experiences to you.
2. Bhutan’s unique culture…
Bhutan is a culturally rich country and an understanding of their culture and way of life can only be gained by mingling with locals. Their respect for the monarchy and religious heads, their spiritual practises and other deeper insights can be gained when travelling with a tour operator.
Most of all, the Bhutanese have traditions that tourists from other cultures may not understand, such as – wearing a jacket or full sleeved clothing when visiting a temple/monastery or fortress (Dzong); or as a visitor you’d wonder why the population consumes pork and other meats when its a Buddhist nation – insights on these would be best shared by a local who would be open to having a conversation with you.
Travelling with an operator will help you discover more facets of Bhutan and its people. The only other way, of course, is to read up all the books written on the country 🙂
3. Bhutan is one of the most pristine countries you will visit in your lifetime…
The country boasts of a forest cover of almost 72% and as of now the Kingdom of Bhutan has become an unparalleled carbon sink – absorbing three times more CO2 emissions than its 700,000 citizens produce. At the recently concluded COP 21 (Paris Climate Talks) Bhutan has pledged keep its forests intact to help the rest of the world combat climate change. (Info sourced from Forest Ethics.com)
Its commitment to the preservation of its natural habitat and environment is one of the primary reasons why Bhutan imposes a restriction on travellers from across the world and follows a strict ‘High Value, Low volume’ tourism policy. (Read more about it here.)
But Indians are allowed to enter the nation without any restriction. Uncontrolled tourism, even from India, over a period of time, is bound to spell doom for the ecology and delicate balance of nature in the country. The laws of the country may not impose restrictions on Indian travellers given the delicate economic relationship between the two nations, but it would benefit them immensely if Indian tourists were also hosted by a tour company/operator.
4. Adventure Activities in Bhutan…
Bhutan is not yet famous for its treks amongst Indians, but the country boasts of some of the best treks in the world. The 25 day Snowman Trek, considered to be the toughest in the world, is undertaken in Bhutan.
None of the treks the country offers can be undertaken without the help of a tour company or trek organiser.
Bhutan also has a unique biodiversity and trips exploring its flora and fauna, birds etc. are best organised by a tour operator.
5. For a seamless and memorable experience…
Although corruption and cheating are two largely alien concepts in Bhutan, mordernisation has given the Bhutanese a taste of these ills. Some taxi guys may over charge you, hotels may cancel your bookings at the nth hour without an explanation…such incidents have known to occur. These incidents are not indicative of the state of affairs in the country and should be taken as an aberration. But by travelling with a tour operator, your holiday would become a seamless one.
A tour operator may also offer you extra discounts, customised itineraries and other perks to make your trip a memorable one.
Postscript: The reason we wrote this post…
Ever since we began commercial operations in Bhutan (Dragon Villa Tours headed by John Giri is a registered tour operator in Bhutan) we have been inundated with requests from people who seek ‘information’ about Bhutan. We, the travellers-at-heart that we are, are always willing to give it away.
But then some travellers want logistical support as well, which means using our start up resources in Bhutan and it would only be fair to pay us for our services.
Most Indians have a problem with that.
Many guests who have communicated with us extensively have used our contacts, our itineraries and travelled into Bhutan on their own. We have felt short changed (only at those times when the guest sounded like they would surely use our services) but more than that, we have felt the need to apprise them of the ‘actual’ reasons why we wish every traveller visiting the country goes through a tour operator.