Sustainable Travel in Bhutan

Nestled between China and India in the majestic Himalayas, the landlocked Kingdom of Bhutan was isolated for centuries from the outside world. Remaining uncolonized despite its position along the Silk Road, the progressive nation of less than one million has a distinct Buddhist national identity reflected in its cliff-dwelling ancient monasteries and sacred ceremonies, such as the Drametse Ngacham masked dance. Part of the Eastern Himalayan biodiversity hotspot, Bhutan’s varied geography is also home to an incredible array of diverse ecosystems and rare wildlife including the endangered Bengal tiger, Himalayan black bear, golden langur monkey, along with more than 670 species of birds. The country’s stunning landscapes ranging from snow-capped mountain peaks to tropical jungle, along with unique cultural heritage sites, including ancient Dzongs and temples, capture the imagination of those lucky travelers who make the journey here.

What are they doing right?

Following centuries of isolation from the outside world, tourism was introduced to Bhutan in 1974 and remains to this day highly regulated to make sure it maximizes benefits to local people and respects the country's cultural and natural treasures. This unique ‘high value, low impact’ approach to tourism requires all travelers to be accompanied by a local certified guide and to also pay a sustainable tourism royalty fee that is used towards the country’s free health-care and education, among other development priorities for its people. In addition to establishing national sustainable tourism guidelines, Bhutan is also the first and only carbon negative country in the world, whose expansive forests annually absorb nearly three times as much CO2 as the country emits, with offset efforts bolstered by hydropower. Bhutan has committed to its carbon negative status - constitutional law ensures that at least 60% of the country remains protected forests. Bhutan also aims to become the first completely organic nation by 2020 and to be zero waste by 2030.

The Tiger Ranking

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Bhutan developed a distinct national identity based on Buddhism, which was introduced in the 7th century. Few countries inspire deeper reflection on the meaning of life than Bhutan, which chose to favor Gross National Happiness (GNH) over gross national product (GNP) as a measure of its development success. The geographical and climate diversities combine to create Bhutan's incredible variety of biodiversity and ecosystems. The Eastern Himalayas is listed among the 234 globally outstanding ecoregions of the world by the Word Wildlife Fund in a wide-ranging analysis of global biodiversity undertaken between 1995 and 1997.

Why the Tiger Ranking?