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Paying a Visit to the Happiest Place on Earth

Happiness has been one of the driving factors behind visits to Bhutan since its fourth king came up with “gross national happiness.” According to a new report in Forbes, happiness is still what makes the country so alluring to visitors.

“People want to see this ‘last Shangri-La,’ preferably before it changes much more. But that’s not so easy to do,” writes Ann Abel.

For decades, Bhutan has had a policy of low-volume tourism that delivers high value for its visitors.

“The visa application process is cumbersome, there’s a requirement that all visitors book their trip with a licensed Bhutanese tour operator and have local guides at all times, and there’s a minimum per diem of $200 or $250 per person, depending on the season,” says Abel.

This is actually an extremely sustainable way of promoting tourism within the country. Fees paid by tourists cover meals, guides, drivers and more pertaining to the actual visitor, but also makes sure to support education, health care and more.

But one of the reasons to get to Bhutan now is that it’s one of the few places where you can still experience a “remote, peaceful Buddhist kingdom.”

 “We go for the vibrant temples and hushed dzongs (fortresses, monasteries and city halls in one). We go to hike over beautiful mountains festooned with flapping prayer flags at the passes. We go for the blessings we can’t understand and the spiritual awakenings we hope to have in ancient temples. We go to understand why the people of Punakha paint so many phalluses on their homes,” notes Abel.

Perhaps there has never been a better time to experience the escapism that Bhutan offers.

Photograph: DochuLa Pass, Bhutan (Photo via Flickr/Göran Höglund (Kartläsarn)