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Respectful and responsible tourism in Bhutan

Bhutan is highlighted as one of the top countries to visit in 2020 by Lonely Planet.
Image courtesy: ©xavier gallego morell/Shutterstock.com

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2020 highlights Bhutan as one of the top countries to visit. Here are the reasons:

A dozen nations vie for the title of real-life Shangri-La, but Bhutan’s claim has more clout than most. This tiny piece of Himalayan paradise operates a strict “high-value, low impact” tourism policy, compelling travellers to pay a high daily fee just to set foot in its pine-scented, monastery crowned hills.

The pay-off for visitors is a chance to walk along mountain trails unsullied by litter, in the company of people whose Buddhist beliefs put them uniquely in tune with their environment.

 

Bhutan is already the world’s only carbon-negative country.
Bhutan is already the world’s only carbon-negative country.
Image courtesy: ©lakkana savaksuriyawong / Shutterstock.com

Bhutan punches well above its weight when it comes to sustainability. It is already the world’s only carbon-negative country, and the kingdom is set to become the first fully organic nation by 2020, so it’s only going to get more beautiful, and with the daily fee, it won’t be getting any more crowded.

•Environmental protection goes hand in hand with cultural preservation in Bhutan. By law, at least 60% of the country must remain forested for all future generations.
•It currently stands above 70%. Not only is Bhutan carbon neutral, but it actually absorbs more carbon than it emits!

For the visitor, this translates into lovely forest hikes and superb birding across a chain of national parks. Whether you are spotting takins or blue poppies, trekking beneath 7000m peaks or strolling across hillsides ablaze with spring rhododendron blooms, Bhutan offers one of the last pristine pockets in the entire Himalaya.

Low Volume, High Value Tourism

The Bhutanese pride themselves on a sustainable approach to tourism in line with the Gross National Happiness philosophy.
The Bhutanese pride themselves on a sustainable approach to tourism in line with the Gross National Happiness philosophy.
Image courtesy: ©Nitish Waila/Shutterstock.com

The Bhutanese pride themselves on a sustainable approach to tourism in line with the Gross National Happiness philosophy. Foreign visitors famously pay a minimum tariff of US$250 per day, making it seem one of the world’s more expensive destinations. However, the fee is all-inclusive – accommodation, food, transport and an official guide are all provided, so it’s not a bad deal. You don’t have to travel in a large group and you can arrange your own itinerary. What you won’t find is budget backpacker-style travel.

The motto for the traveller is to be a respectful and responsible tourist in Bhutan.

The motto for the traveller is to be a respectful and responsible tourist in Bhutan.
The motto for the traveller is to be a respectful and responsible tourist in Bhutan.
Image courtesy: ©Khanthachai C/ Shutterstock.com

Here are some tips to be a responsible and respectful traveller in Bhutan:

•Book early-on with reputed tour operators, a month ahead and discuss services such as accommodation, food, transport and guide services in advance.
•Do check about the payment of sustainable development fees.
•Do not litter on treks or in public places.
•Possession and use of drugs are illegal in Bhutan; do not smoke in public areas.
•Do not wear shoes to temples.
•The Bhutanese do not encourage haggling at souvenir or craft shops.
•Be respectful while visiting sacred sites.
•Be polite and respectful while talking to locals.