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Bhutan is a hot destination right now. This tiny Himalayan kingdom, set against a backdrop of snow-capped peaks, was named the top country to visit in 2020 by Lonely Planet.
Rough Guides also ranked it as one of the best places to travel to in 2020. And for good reason.
Not only is this the world’s only carbon-negative country, it’s also immensely beautiful: verdant valleys tinkle with the sound of ringing yak bells, red-robed monks wander between Buddhist monasteries and traditional villages are scattered through pristine pine forests.
This is a place where you can walk with pilgrims past sacred rocks and shrines, earn some good karma by hanging prayer flags at mountain passes and sample local delicacies like dried yak cheese and fresh betel nut.
Bhutan’s sustainability credentials are also impressive.
Over 60% of its forests are protected for future generations, and it’s set to become the first fully organic nation by 2020. The tourism policy is strictly ‘high-value, low-impact’, in line with the philosophy of Gross National Happiness.
Foreign visitors must pay a minimum of $250 per day.
This may sound steep, but it includes all food, accommodation, transport and a local guide. It also provides access to one of the most uncrowded – and unspoilt – corners of South Asia.
Where to stay
The budget stay | Book here
For a quaint lodge with great views and a low price tag, book a room at Wangchuk Lodge in Gangtey. Accommodation is simple but clean, and facilities include free wifi, parking and a hot stone bath. Rooms from £23 per night.
The boutique stay | Book here
Located at the western edge of the lush Punakha Valley, COMO Uma Punakha is luxurious and intimate, with just eight bijou rooms overlooking hills and the Mo Chu river.
The decor is sleek, and there’s also a small but excellent restaurant and spa. Rooms from £375 per night.
The blow the budget stay | Book here
With five luxuriously simple wooden lodges in the foothills of the Himalayas, the Six Senses Gangtey has magnificent views, cosy log fires and traditional Bhutanese style.
Food is impressive, staff are attentive and activities include breakfasting with monks in a nearby monastery to visiting a local yak farmer. Rooms from £765 per night.
How to get there
There are no direct flights from the UK to Bhutan, so you’ll need to travel via another Asian destination.
The national carriers Drukair and Bhutan Airlines service Bhutan, with direct routes into Paro from Bangkok, Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai, Bangkok and Singapore.
The starting price is usually around £500pp. There are small domestic airports at Gelephu (southern Bhutan), Bumthang (central Bhutan) and Yongphula (in the east).
There are no train lines or public transport by boat in Bhutan. Most travellers have all road transportation provided by their tour agency.
You can find local taxi services in Thimphu, Paro, Phuentsholing and Jakar.