This morning, ITTN’s News & Features Editor Neil Steedman flew from Dublin with Turkish Airlines for Istanbul and Kathmandu en route to Bhutan, which Lonely Planet describes thus: “Bhutan is no ordinary place. It is the last great Himalayan kingdom, shrouded in mystery and magic, where a traditional Buddhist culture carefully embraces global developments.” You can follow Neil’s adventures on ITTN’s Facebook page.
Neil explains: “Bhutan has for long been second (after Tibet) on my must-visit list, not only because of its deeply rooted Buddhist culture but also because of its well-known adoption of Gross National Happiness as a primary ‘economic’ indicator (rather than Gross National Product), as well as its lesser known achievement of becoming a carbon neutral country. Its northern mountainous region is also of primary importance for the preservation, indeed perhaps the very survival, of the Asian tiger.
“The 10-day Wonders of Bhutan escorted tour that I will be taking with G Adventures is one of the adventure tour operator’s 104 National Geographic Journeys, which are a collection of unique tours designed to take the visitor deeper into the cultures and habitats of the places they explore. They offer more inclusions, greater hands-on exploration, interactions with local experts, and the freedom to roam, all within the structure and security of travelling in a small group.
“The Bhutanese Government used to limit the number of international visitors permitted in order to help maintain the goals mentioned above. However, Bhutan now places no restriction on visitor numbers – but does require them to pay a minimum of US$250 per day, which de facto keeps visitor numbers low, although the fee is all-inclusive, covering accommodation, food, transport, and a guide.
“Our co-partner for this adventure is Turkish Airlines, which flies to 302 airports in more countries (currently 120) than any other airline – of which 22 are in Asia. Most importantly, these include Kathmandu in Nepal and Dhaka in Bangladesh, two cities close to Bhutan and with connecting flights by Drukair to/from Paro.
(My Irish Travel Trade News colleague Sarah Slattery kindly informed me the other day that Paro is considered by some to be the most dangerous airport in the world at which to land, the aircraft having to clear a mountain range before ‘swooping down’ to reach the runway. Thanks for that, Sarah!)