So Close To Heaven

Posted on: 26 March 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

The most alluring and romantic destination has recently been unveiled through the morning mountain mists - Bhutan, the only remaining Buddhist state in the Himalayas.

To visitors, the entire country seems preserved from mass tourism’s dirty smudge print. This has been a conscious policy: the protection of Bhutan’s inimitable Buddhist culture and pristine environment by its western-educated king.

In 1974, there were less than 300 paying visitors. In 2000, the figure went up to 7,500 – a relatively tiny incursion on a nation where the culture is so intact that its population, of less than a million, still wears national dress.

Today, it remains a place where the air is clean, its people smiling and the religion pure – a haven of the most meaningful sort. To the south of Bhutan lies India, with Tibet to the north. The topography is dramatically varied, featuring pine-clad valleys, terraced hills and towering, snow-tipped ranges with impenetrable heights. Monasteries cling to cliff sides and rivers snake through valleys with orchards lining their banks. The entire nation is Buddhist, and retains deep respect for religious tradition.

This really is a different sort of break and one that will leave you enriched purely by the majestic setting, let alone the range of activities that a mountain side location can offer as standard. Bhutan’s trekking destinations include the remote Haa Valley, carpeted in flowers and pines. 

In addition, overnight camping treks during spring and summer where horses will carry your gear and camps are set up ahead of arrival can be arranged through tour operators or your hotel.  There are some amazing hotels springing up in Bhutan in the luxury end of the market which come under the heading of Destination Resorts.

Destination Tips:

The effects of Altitude:
At 2,300 meters above sea level, Paro lies just below the height where Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) can begin to affect people, a condition caused by going too high too fast. It is important to take care, allowing your body time to adjust to the smaller quantities of oxygen. Very few people are incapable of acclimatisation, given sufficient time. To accelerate the acclimatisation process, please follow the guidelines below.

Drink water: Drink up to five litres daily.
Do not over exert:  Take it easy on arrival.
Don’t worry: Relax, and listen to your body.

Weather:
In the Himalayas, conditions can be unpredictable. Please be aware that the sun is very intense at altitude. Sunscreen is highly recommended. Bring a sun hat, loose-fitting, lightweight clothes, a warm top, waterproof jacket, water bottle, and comfortable sports-type shoes.

Getting there:

Druk Air can fly you into Bhutan from the following cities, which you can incorporate in a stopover:

  • Kathmandu

  • Dehli

  • Bangkok

  • Calcutta

Interesting websites:

www.windhorsetours.com is a really good site which shows which treks and itineraries available in Bhutan and neighbouring Tibet and Nepal.  Cultural highlights include the Paro Festival held in April, and the Thimpu festival in October.  Other Buddhist activities throughout the year, which truly make Bhutan a once in a lifetime destination.

www.uma.como.bz is the website of the Paro Resort, consisting of mountain side luxury retreats with World famous Yoga teachers

Amankura Resort (www.amanresorts.com) is undoutbedly the last word in luxury and responsible tourism.

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