The concept of luxury in travel has undergone a sea change in recent times. It’s no longer about over- the- top indulgences in conspicuous consumables. Rather, it has leapfrogged over the traditional perceptions for a richer, more immersive experience of a destination, the places that you visit; the community that you meet–and the cultures that you encounter on your travels. It comes as no surprise why the new ‘luxury’ traveller loves Bhutan. There is a more vital need for multi-layered, rare and treasured personal experiences which become essential to what defines an exceptional taste for the new and fascinating–and expresses the identity of the ‘new’ luxury traveller. Luxury holidays today are also all about letting the peers, nay the world, understand who they are and what they represent by the choices of experiences they make on these unique trips.
Quality, privacy and exclusivity are centric to the ‘new’ luxury ‘insider’ experiences the luxury traveller now wishes to enjoy, which are driven by location, the hosting, the guides–along with elements such as the cultural heritage, the performing arts, storytelling, and luxury products that put the spotlight on unique traditions. Even stronger still is the motivation for authentic, simple and genuine experiences that incorporate elements of environmental awareness and social responsibility. It’s why Bhutan will always be a destination of choice for its exclusive and inspirational indulgences.
Bhutan has upped its game as one of the world’s most exclusive destinations as an once-in-a-lifetime rare and special experience, as it opens its doors to tourism after two years of the Covid pandemic. Long sought after by discerning luxury travellers for its pristine natural beauty and sustainable development, it has reinforced its High Value, Low-Volume tourism policy by putting in even more stringent plans to keep it that way. The new Sustainable Development Fee (SDF), originally set in place for the welfare of the state ecology and for the local community, has increased almost thrice, from $65 to $200 per person per day for foreigner travellers for the coming tourist season. The increased tourist tax has been levied to offset the carbon footprint in tourism and enhance workers’ skills in the industry and building a more sustainable tourism sector.
Bhutan’s immaculate natural beauty, rich culture and heritage and sustainable development have transformed it into one of the world’s most attractive, multi-sensory destination for the ‘new concept’ luxury traveller. Its gorgeous wide open spaces, the uncrowded game parks and unspoiled trekking trails, the exclusive introductions to its artisans and the unique crafts, the immersive experiences of its regional culinary expressions–all are superb value additions to its spiritual landscape, its heritage landmarks and its cultural diversity.
As the luxury traveller heads out across Bhutan’s generous Himalayan landscapes, the promise of deeper and more authentic connections with the places they visit will unfold stories and vignettes that become an incredible addition to the treasure trove of one’s memory bank.
From Paro it’s really worthwhile to make the half day drive to the alpine meadows of the stunning Haa Valley for an exclusive and very treasured luxury experience. You will love to be totally blown away by the exquisite visuals of the rare Himalayan blue poppy (Bhutan’s national flower) in full bloom carpeting the valley floor from mid-June to late July. The drive takes you through a winding road through the Cheli La Pass, which offers splendid views of these Himalayan vistas. Keep your eyes peeled for sightings of the gorgeous Himalayan Monal here. New experiences await on your way back to Paro; look for species such as the Blood Pheasant, Black-faced Laughing thrushes, Brown Dippers and Spotted Laughingthrush. Bhutan as a birding destination for the luxury traveller is truly an impressive experience.
When you are done exploring Trongsa with its superb dzong, find your way to the Probjikha Valley for an exclusive, uncrowded luxury experience of Bhutan. Spend a couple of nights camping under the stars anytime between October and March when it becomes the home of the wintering Black–Necked Crane and 13 other globally threatened species. Pop into the Black Crane Center for a more leisurely introduction to these annual visitors.
Enjoy an exclusive interpersonal experience of Bhutan’s spiritual landscape in a private audience with Khenpo Phuntshok Tashi, who, with his warm personality brings with him over 17 years’ of experience of teaching both Buddhism and meditation. Khenpo is a champion of Bhutan’s policy of Gross National Happiness, finding it congruent with Buddha’s Dharma teachings. Khenpo speaks seven languages, and was an Executive member of the 42nd Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington D.C., as well as a curatorial team member for ‘The Dragon’s Gift: Sacred Arts of Bhutan Exhibition’, traveling throughout the U.S. and Europe. This privileged experience has to be one of the high points for the luxury traveller in Bhutan.
An unmissable privilege for the luxury traveller while visiting Bhutan is taking part as a special invitee to a private ceremony conducted by a senior Buddhist monk, assisted by monks and nuns (subject to advance notice).The ritual involves reading of sacred mantras by the priest, burning of incense and making offering to the deities. All this follows ancient ritualistic practices that are aimed at cleansing one’s body, mind and speech and a prayer for the world peace.
In Gangtey, the luxury traveller will love taking part exclusively in the prayers and the ritualistic lighting of the butter lamps at a lovely monastery. In Bhutan, the lighting of butter lamps is a deeply symbolic ceremony. The process signifies the banishment of the darkness of ignorance and releasing the spirit of enlightenment… of taking something without light (the butter) and transforming it into light. The Tulku, or reincarnated Master offers his blessings and a guided tour of the monastery. Later, enjoy an exceptional private breakfast or lunch experience in the monastery.
As a ‘new’ luxury traveller, you will love the exceptional experience of traditional Bhutanese high tea at the gorgeous forests of the Kuensel Phodrang Park located opposite Buddha Point. Gorge on Bhutan’s famous homemade cakes / pastries along with a cup of tea or butter tea (Suja) with roasted rice (zaw). Suja, or butter tea, is prepared with black tea mixed with butter and a touch of cream and Himalayan salt. Did you know Suja is an important part of festive occasions, such as weddings and festival such as the Bhutanese New Year (Losar), but also for religious ceremonies and rituals?
This is all but a small sampling of Bhutan’s take on luxury, as the world today understands and wants to experience. This Himalayan gem is generous with its takeaways… but leave only your footprints behind…