Gazing out the plane window as we begin to descend – jaw dropping. Unparalleled beauty and pristine scenery are just the start of this picture-perfect country. Dramatic snow-capped mountains piercing through the blanketing clouds are truly breathtaking. Almost as if on cue, the soft fold of clouds part ways. The cabin crew switch on gentle floating pan flute music as we weaved and glide through the lush rolling valleys littered with dzongs, stupas, wooden houses and staggered rice paddies.
On the ground, winding, hair raising narrow roads cling desperately to cliff edges as they zig zag through the tranquil countryside. The mighty Himalayas beam down proudly. Elders chew on red beetle nut, the creak of spinning prayer wheels and the frenzied flap of colourful prayer flags flit in the breeze whilst chillies dry hanging from window sills; this creates the atmosphere for what is sure to be an unforgettable journey.
Bhutan, the Land of the Thunder Dragon, nestled deep between India, Tibet and Nepal, is completely landlocked by the world’s tallest peaks. It is no ordinary place. A mysterious kingdom where buying cigarettes is illegal, where the rice is red and where chillies aren’t just a seasoning but the entire dish.
It’s also a deeply Buddhist land, with a culture so rich that men wear a tunic to work, where giant protective penises are painted on the walls of most houses and where Gross National Happiness is deemed more important than Gross National Product. It is a country of surprises. This is not just a nation of saintly, other-worldly hermits. Bhutan is straddling the ancient and modern world and these days you’ll find monks transcribing ancient Buddhist texts into computers as traditionally-dressed noblemen chat on their mobile phones.
Hidden from the world until recently, Bhutan allows you the chance to be immersed in an entrancing culture, so rich, so untouched, so raw. It needs to be seen to be believed.
Terraced by lush rice paddies, pine forests and dotted with sparkling lakes teeming with trout. Buildings handmade from those pine trees are hand-painted so intricately, colourful satin wind socks flap while locals practice their national sport, archery, in parks overlooked by ancient Dzongs and donkeys graze on the sidewalks.
Wander through rice paddies mingling with local villagers. Play darts with monk children and learn of their monastic life. Explore Tibetan like monasteries, mostly now used as administration houses, but quite often with chickens, cats and other monks still living within the grounds.
Stupas dot the roadsides. Elderly locals spend their days spinning prayer wheels and chanting, praying for a positive reincarnation. Grooves and crevices etched into their tanned leather faces from years of labour intensive farm work.
Bhutan being a tiny landlocked country in the Himalayas, is becoming more popular for its treks. The most popular being the famed Taktsang Monastry hike, also known as the Tiger’s Nest. After the intensive hike, once you finish those last 800 stairs, be blessed by the monk who lives in the tigers nest with this ginger cat. You will learn of the nation’s fascinating fabled mythology taking your experience in this surreal country to another level.
Uncover hidden nunneries run by bald nuns and come face to face with the Takin – the animal believed to be half cow half goat.
With a nation that is so untouched, and the doors to this unique country only open to a small number of tourists each year, now is definitely the time to visit whilst tourist numbers are still low and culture, tradition and mythical beliefs are still so deeply etched within the people. What is stopping you from visiting one of the most untouched kingdoms in the world? This really could be the last Shangri La.
This category of tours involves light trekking, walking, cycling, rafting or kayaking for a few hours each day with a small amount of inclines and declines. You will require a reasonable level of fitness and good health to participate. It is important to note that due to the nature of some of our trips, they may take place in remote areas (with basic facilities) and can involve long travelling days on various modes of transport.
Suggested preparation : At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake aerobic exercise (this may include jogging, cycling or fast walking) for 30 minutes, three times a week. It is also advised to walk on variable terrain and in variable weather conditions. For a cycling adventure, road cycling twice a week is recommended and for adventures which involve paddling and kayaking, it is important to gain confidence and rhythm rather than speed prior to departure.
This category of tours involve trekking, kayaking and cycling for period of 6 to 8 hours a day at a fairly consistent pace. Ideal for people looking to slightly increase the heart rate. For our moderately rated tours, you must have a good level of fitness and also be in good health. It is also important to be prepared for variable weather conditions. Altitude may also come into play. This category of tours may involve visiting remote areas where facilities can be quite basic. Accommodation may also involve camping, homestays or basic accommodation where facilities may not be considered of western standards. To enjoy this style of travel, it is suggested for travellers to have a reasonable level of fitness and health, a positive attitude, as well as a fairly active lifestyle. An open mind is also required.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake 45mins – 1 hour of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week. Some potential exercises that could be beneficial include hill walking with a backpack on over variable terrain and weather conditions, as well as running and cycling dependent on the activity you plan on undertaking.
This category of tours involves trekking, kayaking, cycling or other adventure activities in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day. It is important to note that with the remoteness of some regions comes a variety of other challenges such as variable weather conditions, accommodation as well as facilities. You must have an excellent level of fitness and good health to be able to partake in this category of tour. You must have confidence in your own ability and be in good physical condition. Includes extended periods of endurance.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 to 4 months of strenuous exercise, four times a week. When preparing for treks it would be beneficial to participate in hill walks with a weighted day pack (approximately 5-8 kg) once a week for aerobic fitness and strengthening of leg muscles. It is also important to do this on variable terrain to prepare for challenging adventures. When preparing for cycling adventures, regular bike riding (at least 4 to 5 times a week for 1-4 hours is essential). It is also important to cycle on uneven surfaces or even participate in other aerobic exercises such as running or swimming to build up strength and stamina. Altitude may also be a factor in these tours.
This category of tour often involves extreme trekking, cycling or other extreme adventure activities. It is important to expect remote and poorly defined tracks and to be prepared for variable weather conditions for 10 to 12 hours per day (may sometimes be more depending on weather and altitude). These adventures are suitable for travellers who have prior experience in strenuous travel and activities, are extremely fit and have excellent health. It is also important to note that some of the terrain on these adventures will involve trekking in snow, at high attitude levels and may require technical equipment.
Suggested preparation: It is important to note that physical fitness should be an ongoing activity, commencing around 5-6 months prior to departure, or even before if you have no prior fitness. Exercise should focus on building maximum endurance and stamina. Four to five hard sessions of 40-60 mins per week should be completed and can include exercises such as going to the gym, running, swimming or cycling to focus on building aerobic stamina. It could also be beneficial to prepare by hiking on rough terrain, in extreme weather conditions or partake in altitude training.