|Paro Valley, Bhutan ©Solange Hando|
Is Bhutan really expensive?
That depends how you look at it: compare it to backpacking in Nepal or Indonesia and you may feel it is overpriced but compared to western Europe, I think Bhutan offers amazing value for money, everything thrown in for the price of a bed in London or Paris.
Punakha Dzong, Bhutan ©Solange Hando
So how much does it cost?
Per person per night, from US$250 though there are discounts for low season, longer stays ( nine nights or more) and certain categories of travellers.
Supplements are applicable for five star accommodation, single travellers and small groups (two people).
So what do you get for your money?
Comfortable accommodation in traditional hotels, full board, private internal transport -car or minibus depending on numbers-, with dedicated driver plus porters, guide, cooks and equipment if you are trekking, and entrance fees to museums and cultural highlights, such as the dzong (fortified monastery) featured above, in the former capital of Punakha.
Bhutanese Guide ©Solange Hando
Your fee covers all taxes (except visa) and the services of a qualified English-speaking guide 24/7. There are no tourists in Bhutan, they say, only guests, and you will be treated as such most graciously. Your trip will be organised efficiently and your requests taken into account whenever possible.
Snow-capped Mountains in Western Bhutan ©Solange Hando
Scenery, culture, a warm welcome, it is all there for you.
Just be aware that in order to preserve Bhutan's character and pristine environment, trips must be pre-planned through a recognised agency, such as http://www.bluepoppybhutan.com based in London and Thimphu.
Easiest access is with Druk Air, the national carrier offering spectacular views on the flight from Kathmandu. Flying east along the Himalaya, you will pass close to Mount Everest (the captain will point it out). You can see it on this image, a darkish pyramid peeping above the roof of the world, just below the tip of the wing.
Everest from Druk Air Flight to Bhutan ©Solange Hando
I'll tell you more about Bhutan in the coming weeks but next time, I'd like to ring the changes and take you on an exciting journey to Tibet, on the world's highest railway.
See you soon...