GREEN GUIDE: IN BHUTAN, SUSTAINABILITY BECKONS
National Geographic Traveller India|March - April 2021
The Himalayan kingdom boasts a rich eco-tourism industry, of adventure, culture and spirituality
Muskaan Gupta
Warbling rivers, rustling prayer flags and bird calls set the rhythm of everyday life in Bhutan—a region blanketed by lush greenery. But the land of Thunder Dragons has much more to offer than just serene locales.

When the Bhutanese government opened their gates for modern tourism in the 1970s, they implemented a ‘high value, low impact’ tourism strategy since the ’80s, earning themselves the title of the world’s only carbon-negative country. The exclusivity that comes with imposing a Minimum Daily Package Fee of up to $250/₹18,000 for foreign travellers has not only helped curb overtourism, but has also protected the nation’s rich, untainted culture. A Daily Sustainable Fee of $65/₹4,700 is collected by registered tour operators, which is then pumped into the country’s environmental and welfare funds, education system and health care facilities. If eco-friendliness resonates with your travel style, our low carbon footprint-guide is your best bet to exploring the South Asian country.

LIGHTS, CAMERA, ADVENTURE

Bhutan’s mountainous topography and strategic position of being nestled between two Himalayan giants—India to the south and China to the north—make it a haven for adventure enthusiasts. Climbers, kayakers, rafters, trekkers and cyclists make their way to the nation’s rugged terrains to test their adrenaline limits. Those embarking on this path can enhance the experience by seeking a slice of Bhutanese culture in natural backdrops, while signing up for arduous trekking expeditions. Experience the Himalayan autumn in nine days through the easy Druk Path Trek—famous for rhododendron forests and high-altitude lakes. Or take on the 27-day Snowman Trek, known to be the world’s most difficult, covering the remote areas across the 300 kilometre-stretch. Through the summers, mountaineers can scale peaks of Lunana region in Gasa district. The peak of Gangkhar Puensum—the world's highest unclimbed mountain—at 24,835-feet, is a sight to behold.

Come September, the road from Bhumtang to Thimphu turns into a racing track for some of the world’s most skilled cyclists. Tour of the Dragon—a 255-kilometre annual bike racing event—beckons fans and sportsmen for what is believed to be the world’s toughest single-day mountain bike race. But there are ample other tracks better suited for beginners. Paro and Phobjikha Valley, in western Bhutan, offer rustic routes with breathtaking views to cycle through, and bustling markets to tour on foot. Explore the country’s western belt as there is no dearth of fresh air activities: cross suspension bridges at Punakha, participate in rock climbing activities at Thimphu, or kayak in the waters of Puna Tsang Chhu. Consider drawing out an itinerary with travel agencies like Bhutan Blue Pearl Travel that aim to optimise cultural experiences through adventure activities and ecotours. (bhutanbluepearl.com; the local organisers offer packages for trekking, cycling, adventure, eco, cultural and festive tours)

WHERE THE BIRDS SOAR

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