Rickshaw Travel’s new tours introduce the world’s happiest country of Bhutan to independent travellers

Nestled in the heart of the Himalayas with peaks over 7,500m Bhutan is a country visited by few but growing numbers* of British travellers. Rickshaw Travel is hoping to build on the increasing interest from British holidaymakers with a range of new options for those looking to travel independently.

Whist group tours are the norm in Bhutan, Rickshaw Travel’s new range of trips explores the culture and landscapes of the country. Adventure-hungry travellers will be able to explore Bhutan under their own steam, with freedom of an independent trip coupled with the knowledge that they have the support of local guides and their insider angle.

One of the most fascinating highlights of Bhutan is the gravity-defying Taktsang monastery, featured in the Winding Trails to Tiger’s Nest module. The monastery itself is a challenging hike, starting from 900m below the monastery on the valley floor up to 3,100m. It is well worth the effort both for the views over the dense forest and the insight into the life of a local Tibetan monks. Dressed in their trademark crimson robes. Bhutan’s national animal, the takin, an unusual cross of both a goat and an antelope, may also be spotted on the hike through the bamboo forests. Around two thirds of the country’s landscape is under forest cover and Bhutan is ranked as one of the most biologically diverse countries on the planet, which makes the views from the monastery’s loft position all the more breath-taking.

Another highlight in the eyes of the experts at Rickshaw Travel is the Punaka Dzong featured in the Warm Welcomes and the Mighty Dzong module. More easily accessed than the Taktsang monastery, this national icon – who’s name means ‘the place of great happiness’ – was the seat of the Government of Bhutan until 1955. Another highlight of this module is a homestay at a farm. Although basic, the rare opportunity to interact with a traditional Bhutanese family enriches the trip**.

The Haa Valley, two and half hours from Paro airport, is accessed via a 4,000m pass and the reward for travellers is the vast pristine wilderness. On the Haa! A Hidden Shangri-la module, travellers can spend a full two days exploring, in contrast to traditional group daytrip tours. A traditional Bhutanese guest house is the accommodation on this module. After settling in travellers can explore the river banks full of rhododendrons if travelling in the spring.

Bhutan is often cited as the world’s happiest nation with the ‘gross national happiness’ more important to the people than the gross domestic product. One of the best ways to discover what makes the Bhutanese happy is to spend a night in Thimpu on the Easy Going Thimpu module. With the help of a local guide it will quickly become apparent why traffic lights were considered too impersonal for Bhutan’s people.

Choosing when to travel, and which modules to enjoy, is dependent on the traveller’s priority. For trekkers September to November are the best times to enjoy clear skies and good visibility whilst, for nature lovers March to May is best to see the rhododendrons in full bloom.

Drukair is the only airline flying into Bhutan and does so from a number of Asian destinations – Delhi, Kolkata, Kathmandu, Bangkok and Singapore. It is the ideal opportunity to break the journey by combining the trip with a stopover module to explore one of the cities. Rickshaw Travel also has modules that can be added in neighbouring India and Nepal to extend trips to the Himalayan region.

Haydn Wrath, MD of Rickshaw Travel said: “Until now, British holidaymakers considering a trip to Bhutan’s remote highlights have been restricted to joining a group tour. By creating our series of modular options, from homestays to independent treks, we hope to help more travellers experience the real Bhutan and discover for themselves how welcoming the people are.

“We are also extending our dedication to sustainable travel through with these new trips to Bhutan. Local guides and drivers are employed to look after our guests as well as accommodation provided by locals such as the farm homestay and the Bhutanese guesthouses in the Haa Valley.”        

For a full range of Bhutan modules and itineraries on offer visit www.rickshawtravel.co.uk or call the team of experts on 01273 322 399.

*Of 37,000 tourists 2,800 were British in 2011 compared with 1,500 in 2010.

** 70% of Bhutan’s population is involved in farming.

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