We don’t mean to be pessimists, but the world seems like quite a dark place right now. Even travel, one of our favorite pastimes, has lost a bit of its luster with unrest coming from all corners of the globe. While we can’t let bad news stop us from living, we also can’t help but wish for a time machine instead of an airplane, one that will take us back to the days when we felt a bit safer and more comfortable with the state of affairs. Since that technology doesn’t yet exist, we’re instead eyeing a trip to the country known for prioritizing its Gross National Happiness over its Gross National Product. Here, everything you need to know about our most coveted destination of 2017: Bhutan.
For so many reasons! For starters, tourism wasn't allowed until 1974, and even now, visitors must be accompanied by a local guide. This helps cut down on the footprint of tourism, both in terms of eroding culture and damaging the small country's environment. Also fascinating: The country's ban on TV and internet was only recently (relatively speaking) lifted, back in 1999. Apparently, you can find the man responsible for this modernization—the fourth Dragon King—bicycling like a commoner if ever you visit the quiet nation. His son, the current king, transitioned Bhutan to a constitutional monarchy in 2008.
Back in 1979, the Bhutanese king coined this term when he said, "We do not believe in Gross National Product. Gross National Happiness is more important." Can you even imagine an American politician feeling this way?! Sigh. In any case, the concept became a part of the constitution in 2008: "The State shall strive to promote those conditions that will enable the pursuit of Gross National Happiness." The four pillars of this philosophy are: economic self-reliance, environmental conservation, cultural preservation and promotion, and good governance. GNH "values collective happiness as the goal of governance" and "emphasizes harmony with nature." Dasho Karma Ura, the president of the Center for Bhutan Studies and GNH Research, recently elaborated on the concept, saying, "We have to find new ways of organizing our drives and energies toward peace and harmony. We have to sincerely find a way out of it, out of this mutual insecurity. Because you have more guns, I have to have a little more guns. The long-term collapse is facing us." If you're not Googling "how to move to Bhutan" at this point, we don't even know what to say to you.
Bhutan's relative lack of modernity is one of its greatest attractions (for us). That said, if you're in it for the Instagram, we won't hate on that and can tell you the small country offers one of the best photo ops in the world: Tiger's Nest is a picturesque cliffside temple complex built in 1962. It requires a super-long trek (Will and Kate spent three hours hiking it!). Read more about tourist-ing in Bhutan here.
The Six Senses Bhutan will be opening in 2018, so if you can wait to take your visit, we suggest you do, as it's going to provide a travel experience in Bhutan unlike any other. That said, we are dying to get there before everyone else, so we're trying to book before the year's end. Here is a list of agencies that help—note all travel to Bhutan requires a daily, all-inclusive fee. Also, flights are limited and visas are required, so advance planning is a must!
According to a study released in 2015, 91.2% of Bhutanese reported they were happy. And while these findings aren't necessarily reflected in the World Happiness Report, we are intrigued enough to want to find out firsthand just how the citizens of Bhutan benefit from a government that values their happiness above all else. For this reason, Bhutan is our number-one destination of 2017. See you there?