Just Back: Sari Explores the Land of the Thunder Dragon


As many of you know, The Kingdom of Bhutan is a small Buddhist country in South Asia, situated in the Eastern Himalayas between India and China. Home to the highest unclimbed mountain in the world, Bhutan has a mystical, spiritual, and magnificent culture. In fact, we like to call it a “Living Cultural Museum”.  I was lucky enough to join the BSSM (Bhutan Sales, Marketing, PR Meeting) along with 18 sales, marketing, and PR representation agencies from all over the globe who represent the Department of Tourism – Bhutan.

It’s hard to believe I returned from my first visit several weeks ago. I am still digesting this incredible experience. We are honored to represent the Department of Tourism – Bhutan and it was a trip of a lifetime touring the country, learning all about Bhutan, and having us give them input and advise on growing awareness and business for this cultural gem of a destination!

The Bhutanese people are beautiful, kind, open and proud of their nation. They want you to go home loving Bhutan, and each of us left wanting more!

Many travelers believe they will only visit Bhutan once. And while it was a trip of a lifetime for me, I cannot wait to go back to discover more, and travel slowly and intentionally.

Getting There

Travelers have several choices of flying into Paro, the only international airport in the Kingdom of Bhutan. New Delhi and Bangkok airports are the most often used. You may also access Paro directly from Singapore, Nepal, as well as other parts of India.

There is only one airport to fly into in Bhutan, located in Paro (stay tuned for a larger airport in the south that will take several years to build). Flights to Paro are only permitted to land in the mornings (some extremely early), as the afternoons are windy, and the mountains can be difficult to navigate. Pilots must have a special license to land in Paro for this reason. From the airport, we headed to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan and the central business hub.

Insider Tip: When traveling to Paro from Delhi on either Druk or Bhutan Airways, book a seat on the left side of the plane to see the Himalayas and Mount Everest!

Bhutan’s Magic

Each day, we hiked through the striking mountains, with colorful prayer flags draped across hiking trails leading us to Dzongs or temples that offer blessings to those who make the pilgrimage. Whether you are a Buddhist, spiritual, or atheist, the architecture, the monks, the chanting, the stunning artwork, carvings of the Buddha and other deities are worth the hike. The journey of walking and climbing to arrive at these cherished places encouraged mindfulness and contemplation along the way. The breathtaking Dzongs and temples are both works of art as well as religious sites and provide a cultural roadmap of the country.

The Bhutanese society is focused on holding on to traditions that allow for visitors to experience an authentic culture of which few remain. Not only do they preserve their culture, but their stunning natural environment. Around 70% of the country is protected natural reserves to ensure they maintain their carbon-negative status. This in itself is remarkable!

There are so many aspects of Bhutan that are exceptional. This I knew before traveling there, but now, truly immersing myself in the country, I am certain that other countries could learn a great deal from this tiny kingdom.

Cultural Sites and Accommodations

We visited the “Golden Triangle” which includes the cities of Paro, Thimphu, and Punakah. The drive between each is 1 – 2 hours. We made stops along the way to visit restaurants, hotels, and religious sites.  The roads are windy, and the buses are “retro” in turquoise and white. The hilly countryside was a bit dry at this time of year as there had not been much snow. As we were in the Himalayas, the peaks were upwards of 10,000ft. 

Insider Tip: I recommend bringing Dramamine for the drives and taking Altitude medicine to prevent illness at this high altitude.

We were fortunate enough to have had one of the top guides in the country lead our group. He was both entertaining and knowledgeable.  The Department of Tourism packed our schedule to ensure we saw and experienced as much as possible across the board; religious sites, hikes, hotels, resorts in the Five-star category,  Four-, and Three-star, as well as a homestay. We did site inspections of at least one of each of the known brands located in Bhutan: Amanresorts, Six Senses, Como, &Beyond as well as some lesser known but very good local and Indian brands such as Pemako, Bhutan Spirit Sanctuary-a Wellness Resort, The Postcard Hotel, and more. We also visited some of the smaller, privately-owned spots, each of which have their distinct charm. 


Bhutan has drawn travelers who have ticked off all of the more common destinations and is a bucket-list destination for a great many upmarket clients. This is partially due to the number of super luxury hotels in the country, and the pristine untouched natural beauty. Yet there are many other options and homestays that allow travelers on a more modest budget to be able to consider this truly unique destination.

Carissa Nimah, the Chief Marketing Officer for the Department of Bhutan Tourism, had told us all about homestays as an option, but it wasn’t until we stayed with this family that we could entirely understand what this was all about. Now we all appreciate being encouraged into this very memorable experience!

Front of homestay with the owner’s daughters

Meeting the King of Bhutan and Gelephu – The Mindfulness City

One of the greatest highlights of the trip was meeting with the King of Bhutan, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, on the very first day of our trip. He is very clearly committed to improving the life of the Bhutanese people and thinking about the future. He told us all about his plan to build the new “Mindfulness City”, Gelephu. In a short time, we could see that he is very passionate about this project, and it will likely be his legacy. As Bhutan is a very small country, many of the brightest young people go off to university abroad, and many do not return. It is the king’s great vision to develop this extraordinary city in the south where he plans to attract multinational companies and create a financial and tech center to ensure the youth have opportunity as they return to their beloved home. This is where they are planning to build a larger international airport and an infrastructure to be able to grow Gelephu and attract both tourists and businesses alike. The king is very dedicated to his people and ensuring they are happy and thrive!

A photo op with the King of Bhutan after our meeting

Yoga by the Dorenma Buddha

Another incredible memory was from our first morning where we woke up at 5:00am to take a wonderful sunrise 7:00am yoga class on top of a hill in front of the Buddha Dordenma near Thimphu. The General Manager of the Six Senses mentioned that he had never seen others authorized to do yoga by this enormous glistening statue and holy site. We were very privileged and enjoyed it immensely!

Yoga on top of a hill at Buddha Dordenma

Tiger’s Nest

Tiger’s Nest (Taktshang), the iconic monastery on the top of a mountain, was a top highlight for everyone. It is generally a two hour long hike up the mountain passing by blue pines, water prayer wheels, and flags reaching close to 10,000ft (I took altitude medicine to ensure I didn’t get sick). While I am in fairly good physical shape, it took over 2 hours to reach the top, as the altitude makes it much more challenging. The reward was that it led us to the stunning and dramatic temple which seems impossibly positioned on the face of the mountain. The idea of placing these temples and monasteries in auspicious positions is to ensure a mindful pilgrimage, and it certainly was a memory of a lifetime.

To learn more about the Department of Tourism – Bhutan, click here.