The mountainous country of Bhutan is situated in the Eastern Himalayas and is well-known around the world for having some of the most energetic and colorful festivals. Until the 1970s, it was isolated from the world. Today, the country is ranked as one of the top 10 safest countries in the world, which is amazing when you consider that it is also the only country in the world with no traffic lights. Bhutan is also one of the only carbon-negative countries in the world thanks to its extensive lush forests, which cover over 70% of the land.
While the country recognizes the benefits of economic growth and development, it has remained steadfast in its commitment to preserving its distinct culture and promoting environmentally friendly practices. The government takes measures to prevent large groups of tourists from entering the country so that it can better conserve its nation’s environment.
Bhutan has also had a long history of political policies and programs that prioritize the Gross National Happiness (GNH) index. And the people of Bhutan follow four pillars that help measure happiness; they are good governance, a healthy environment, sustainable development, and the preservation and promotion of cultural values.
Gaining Insight into Bhutan’s GNH Principles Through an Immersive Experience
To personally discover Bhutan’s unique position in the world and its roots of happiness, the Founder of bē and President of the World Happiness Foundation Luis Gallardo led a discovery expedition to the country. Gallardo partnered with MyBhutan, the boutique travel designers known for their tailored itineraries of the country.
The retreat to Bhutan focused on gaining insight into the practices of the country’s GNH Centre and how the governing bodies measure and implement their GNH principles. The 9-day trip involved visits to Thimphu, Dochula, Punakha, Phobjikha, and Paro.
The first stop was Thimphu, the capital and political and economic heart of Bhutan. The expedition spent three days in the country’s capital to learn more about its leading government policies, particularly focusing on how the country promotes and implements programs that aim to achieve a balance between economic well-being and emotional well-being.
To reach Punakha on Day 4 of the expedition, the group traveled through Dochula. Punakha is known for its 17th-century fortress, Punakha Dzong. Day 8 of the expedition was in Paro, where you can find some of the country’s oldest fortresses and the National Museum, which houses some of Bhutan’s most valuable artifacts. Paro is only known for the iconic Taktsang Lhakhang (also known as the Tiger’s Nest), the monastery that clings to the rock that towers 2,600 feet above the valley.
Thanks to MyBhutan’s close ties with the locals, the travel group was allowed access to the community and landscapes – allowing Gallardo and his fellow travelers to gain a truly unique and deeply personal experience with the nation’s locals, monasteries, fortresses, and sacred temples.
The immersive experience not only enlightened Gallardo and his travel companions on the ways GNH is practiced but also highlighted the reasons why environmental and cultural conservation are pillars of GNH.