Travel

Be blown away by Bhutan, Lonely Planet's best place to visit in 2020

Bhutan is an ideal destination for eco-conscious travellers who want to feel inner peace

With green travel and overtourism on the minds of many travellers, it may be no surprise that Bhutan tops the list of best countries to visit, according to the recently-released Lonely Planet's Best In Travel 2020.

With all visitors required to pay a daily fee to be in the incredible kingdom in the Himalayas, it delivers on exclusivity.

On top of its low impact tourism policy, Bhutan is already carbon neutral but also plans to be the first fully-organic nation by next year, making it the perfect time to plan a holiday there.

For travellers based in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, December is a popular month to visit the landlocked country in the eastern Himalayas.

In response to the demand, national carrier Druk Air-Royal Bhutan Airlines is adding one weekly flight from Singapore to Paro and Paro to Singapore this December and next December.

These additions bring the total number of weekly return flights to three, with an increase of 464 seats each way for the four-hour, 45-minute flight (with a 40-minute refuelling stop at Guwahati).

Contrary to what many think, the weather in Bhutan in December or even January is not as harsh as one may expect in winter.

Vivid, blue skies provide the ideal backdrop for photography enthusiasts.

And though the days are shorter, the day-time temperature - usually within the low teens - is comfortable for hiking.

It may take a drastic dip at night. By then, you are likely to be well bundled up in warm clothing, with fingers wrapped around a cup of warm butter tea in front of a traditional heated stove, and experiencing Bhutanese hospitality and gooey chilli cheese in a homestay or a hotel.

From visiting monasteries to partaking in colourful festivals that showcase Bhutan's Vajrayana Buddhism traditions, here are some itineraries that are popular in winter, according to Bhutan travel specialist Druk Asia (www.drukasia.com).

And yes, finding happiness is part of the package.

7-Day Dochula Pass Festival

Late September to late October is a popular time for travel in Bhutan largely due to tshechu celebrations in different provinces throughout Bhutan.

Visitors love to witness the colour, pomp, gaiety and religious fervour during these religious festivities, where masked and elaborately costumed monks go into a trance when they perform.

The Druk Wangyel Tshechu at Dochula Pass, a mountain pass between Thimphu and Punakha, takes place on Dec 13 this year.

This itinerary will include a day at the festival, which is different from other tshechu because it is performed by the Royal Bhutan Army.

Neykor Tour: 7-night, 6-day
Journey of Spiritual Immersion
in Bhutan (Dec 1 to 7)

Guests will learn about mindfulness and applying compassion in business management and life from His Eminence Khedrupchen Rinpoche, a Rinpoche reincarnate and the head of a monastery in Trongsa.

He has taught on a range of topics that can be applied to modern life, including how Buddhism and its values can be used to overcome challenges in our daily lives. The ultimate goal is to achieve lasting peace and happiness.

This year's Neykor will incorporate daily sessions on meditation and mindfulness with a tour of famous temples and monasteries in Punaka, Trongsa and Paro, including the iconic Tiger's Nest.

3-day Sinchula Trek

This trek can be incorporated into any itinerary that covers both Thimphu and Punakha.

It was a route widely used by the Bhutanese travelling between the two places until the 1980s when the opening of roads made it easier for people to travel.

Your trek will take you from Thimphu across varied terrain including pristine alpine forests and bamboo groves, until you reach the warmer Punakha valley. The highest elevation is 3,380m at the Sinchula Pass, from where you can see Gangkhar Puensum, Bhutan's highest peak, on a clear day.

TOURISM & TRAVEL