Opened to tourists in 1974, Bhutan’s tourism policy is one of high value and low impact. Visitors are charged a daily rate for travel which includes approved accommodation, meals, transport and an accompanying guide. Groups of one or two people pay an additional surcharge. These policies ensure that Bhutan can avoid the negative impact of mass tourism.
Tourist approved accommodation is comfortable but with few of the luxury trappings you will find elsewhere, although more recently Bhutan has attracted some high-end hotel development.
Bhutan’s festivals are deeply religious, vibrant and colourful dance festivals performed by masked and elaborately robed dancers in honour of Guru Rinpoche. Most dzongs (fortresses) host an annual festival – the largest of these is the tsechu – and hotel rooms and flights into Bhutan fill up quickly at the time of the most popular festivals.
Some of the best sights in Bhutan are found in Western Bhutan – these include the Taktsang Monastery, or famous “Tiger’s Nest”, the Punaka Dzong – thought to be the most beautiful in the country, and the capital city, Thimphu. There are fine Himalayan panoramas, treks and walks in the mountains.
Throughout the kingdom the Bhutanese wear traditional dress, the gho for men – longish robes worn at knee length and tied around the waist by a cloth belt (kera). The women’s ankle-length dress is known as kira which is made of brightly coloured fine woven fabric with traditional patterns. Hand-woven and embroidered textiles are recognised as Bhutan’s foremost handicraft.