Looking for a Millennials digital detox experience that will make all your Instagram friends envious after you return? Think Bhutan. Known for its happiness index, Bhutan has a lot to offer for adventurous travellers seeking a modern and luxurious return to nature. And with the new high-end luxury hotels scheduled to open in 2018, you’ll be sure to travel across Bhutan in style and comfort.
Bhutan is famous for two things: its happiness index and the Tiger’s Nest temple (more on that later). The country chose indeed to focus on measuring the quality of life of its inhabitants instead of a trade growth index. King Jigme Singye Wangchuck named it the Gross National Happiness Index in 1972. Every consecutive famous leader of Bhutan has since adopted the measure as a way to grow without sacrificing traditions and values.
For visitors to Bhutan, this focus on happiness is an opportunity to explore a country that is approaching modernity in a different way. A trip to Bhutan is sure to leave you wondering how you can improve your own happiness index.
Because of restrictions on the number of visitors to Bhutan, we advise that you plan and book your trip with an agent to ensure a smooth experience. High-end luxury travel company Scott Dunn will help you design a bespoke journey with a unique selection of premium luxury lodges and hotels. Packages include a private local driver and a guide to make sure that your experience is smooth and seamless so you can focus on enjoying what the country has to offer.
Experiences: top 3 things to do in Bhutan
Wondering what to do in Bhutan? Wonder no more because we’ve done the research for you. Here is our list of the top 3 best things to do in Bhutan to experience a digital detox while still offering picture-perfect moments to post on your social media when you come back.
1. Bhutan Tiger’s Nest, Paro Taktsang
Made famous by the Batman Begins movie, the Tiger’s Nest temple is undoubtedly the most famous sightseeing in Bhutan. Thankfully, Bhutan’s restriction on the number of tourists who can visit the site every day ensures that the experience remains very enjoyable.
Also known as Paro Taktsang or the Taktsang Palphug Monastery, the site is a sacred monastery. Your bag and phone will have to be left at the entrance when registering for the visit. You’ll have plenty of photo oportunities on your way to and from the Tiger’s Nest, however.
The Tiger’s Nest is perched 900 hundred metres above the Paro Valley. A steep and rocky track is the only way that will take you up to the monastery. And it’s solely done on foot so you’ll need to work for that view but it is absolutely worth it, and probably also helps keep the flow of visitors under control.
2. Chimmi Lhakhang Temple
The Chimmi Lhakhang Temple is a picturesque monastery dedicated to Lama Kunley, also known as the Divine Madman, a Buddhist saint popular with Bhutanese couples wanting to start a family.
The legend says that Lama Kunley subdued a demon with his “magic thunderbolt of wisdom”. What’s sure is that the Divine Madman would use unorthodox ways of teaching Buddhism in Bhutan. He advocated, for example, the use of phallus symbols to drive away the evil eye and malicious gossip.
As a result of Lama Kunley’s influence, the Chimmi Lhakhang Temple is now decorated with phallus symbols and paintings. A wooden phallus decorated with a silver handle is also used to bless the monastery’s visitors, particularly women seeking blessings to have children.
The temple sits atop a picturesque hill surrounded by rice fields and makes for a perfect afternoon short walk across the rice paddies.
3. Punakha Dzong
Not far from the Chimmi Lhakhang Temple, the impressive Punakha Dzong is arguably the most beautiful fortress of Bhutan. Dzongs in Bhutan serve not only as religious places, but often also as the military, administrative, and social center of their district.
The Punakha Dzong was the second to be built in Bhutan and served as both the capital and seat of government of the country until the mid-1950s. Every King of Bhutan has been crowned at the Punakha Dzong, and the fortress is still used as the official winter residence of the country’s monks.
But the historical importance of Punakha Dzong is not the only reason why visitors come to see it. The complex was built at the confluence of the Mo (Mother) and Pho (Father) rivers and consists of 21 temples. The largest of its templates is known as the hundred-pillared Great Assembly Hall.
When to visit Bhutan
You can visit Bhutan all year long. The weather in the western, central, and eastern part of Bhutan resembles the cold European weather. Winter spans from November to March. The summer months, between June and August, will usually see some monsoon with heavy rains and temperatures between 8° and 21°C.
October and November are some of the best months to visit Bhutan. The monsoon has mostly passed by then, the sky is clear blue, and festivals are popping up all across the country. The spring months between March and May are great for sightseeing the beautiful spring flowers, but the weather can be stormy ahead of the monsoon season that starts in July.
Sleep: Where to stay in Bhutan
Here is our list of top 3 luxury hotels to stay in Bhutan while exploring the many wonders of the country.
1. The Amankora Bumthang hotel
Located in a stunning valley known as the spiritual hub of Bhutan, the Amankora Bumthang is the perfect hotel to relax and disconnect. The region is relatively less visited than other parts of the country but still benefits from new daily flights from Paro, making it more easily accessible.
The Amankora Bumthang hotel is organised around 16 exclusive guest suites within 4 separate buildings. Each suite features wood-panelled interiors, king size bed, terrazzo-clad bath, twin vanities, and most importantly, daybed overlooking the courtyard and nearby Wangdicholing Palace.
The Amankora Bumthang hotel also includes a spa that offers a wide range of treatments and massages. Guests to the Amankora Spa can also access the complimentary steam baths. The hotel’s restaurant serves both Western and Bhutanese cuisines.
More information and reservations the Amankora Bumthang hotel.
2. The Amankora Thimphu hotel
You’ll probably be staying a couple of days in Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital when exploring the country. Our preferred place to stay in Thimphu is the Amankora hotel. Perfectly located in a quiet location on a ridge overlooking the capital, the Amankora Thimphu hotel remains within walking distance to the town. Things to do in Thimphu include shopping and sightseeing as well as trekking into the region’s wilderness.
The hotel comprises of 16 suites, each offering their guests an uncompromising view of the landscaped courtyard or the nearby stream and pine forest. Every room of the Amankora Thimphu hotel features wood panel and chocolate brown walls with king-size bed and terrazzo-clad bath.
More information about the Amankora Thimphu hotel.
3. The Amankora Punakha hotel
Probably the best place to experience a total digital disconnect, the Amankora Punakha hotel is built around a traditional Bhutanese farmhouse and offers fantastic views of its surroundings. Located just a short drive north of the grand Punakha Dzong and Puntsho Pelri Palace, the Amankora Punakha hotel can be accessed via a suspended bridge over the Mo Chhu river.
The hotel provides eight suites with king-size bed, terrazzo-clad bath, and daybed. The first floor of the Amankora Punakha hotel features a living room and a library with an internet connection. There is also a traditional altar room for meditation, a restaurant on the courtyard, a tea pavilion, and a spa with a steam room and a yoga room.
More information about the Amankora Punkaha hotel.
4. Bonus: Six Senses Bhutan to open in 2018
Due to open in late 2018, Six Senses Bhutan is one of Asia’s most anticipated hotel openings of the year. Six Senses Bhutan will be located in Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Gangtey and Bumthang, providing guests with a ‘Six Senses Journey’ between each lodge to explore Bhutan in style and comfort.
Each Six Senses hotel will provide incredible views, especially the Punakha lodge that will overlook the Mo Chhu river. Six Senses is blending local Bhutanese architecture with modern luxury design to reflect the kingdom’s reputation as the happiest place on earth.