Bhutan is a small but beautiful country in Asia. It is called the last Shangri-La, and according to Lonely Planet, it is considered the last great Himalayan kingdom. If you have the chance to travel there, you will see why. However, before you do so, there are a few things you should know.
As the title suggests, Bhutan is a trendy vacation destination for 2020. There are several lists online that suggest that, and the reason why has to do with the environment. People all around the world decided to visit countries that strive for environmental perfection. If you think about it, that is excellent news. We should help all small nations that want to be carbon neutral. But why is Bhutan so unique? Because the country is not carbon neutral. It is more than that. Apparently, it absorbs more carbon than it releases.
According to Bhutanese laws, the government has to ensure that more than 60% of the country’s surface is covered by forests. The law is supposed to protect future generations by providing the same clean air as now. Of course, Bhutan is now 70% covered by forests, and we do not see that amount decreasing anytime soon. As a tourist, you will have the opportunity to test the air and see what it is like to take a hike in such a pure environment.
Tourism in Bhutan is limited
Another reason why Bhutan manages to maintain its serene environment is that tourism is not as free as in any other country. In fact, there are rules in place that do not allow too many tourists to enter the country. Officially, there is no maximum number of tourists that can visit Bhutan in a year, but the Bhutanese government came up with a ‘High Value, Low Impact’ policy that is supposed to attract only discerning tourists. Basically, they introduced significant fees for the preservation of the country. During the high season, it costs $250 per day to stay in Bhutan, while during the low season, it costs $200. As a result, Bhutan has 250 thousand tourists per year at most. It is their way of making sure that there is never a crowd anywhere in the country.
To put it simply, the Bhutanese government took a few measures that made a vacation in Bhutan quite expensive. But the initiative is brilliant if you think about it. All the money is invested in this unique society for the bettering of their environment and communities. Yes, they have fewer tourists each year, but the ones that reach Bhutan pay a lot of money, and it is the same as having a lot of tourists that pay less. However, you get to experience Bhutan as a local. There is never a crowded tourist attraction, and that is the beauty of it.
You will need a tour operator
A trip to Bhutan does not mean you can hop on the plane, land, and then go wherever you want on your own. It is government policy that you must use an authorized Bhutanese tour operator or an international partner to book your trip to Bhutan.
You will most likely need a visa
Only the citizens of India, Bangladesh, and the Maldives can get a visa on arrival once they reach Bhutan. If you are not among them, you have to apply for a visa in advance. The tour operator you are using for your trip can make the arrangements regarding the visa as well. Just make sure that you have a valid passport. The tour operator will ask for other documents as well.
Bhutan is indeed committed to the environment, and I guess that that is what makes people want to go there. There is an entire debate on whether Bhutan offers a feasible environmental model for all the countries to follow. While that may be possible for some, we have to be honest about it and admit that not all countries can offer what Bhutan does. Even so, it stands as the perfect example of what a government should do for the environment. High Value, Low Impact.