Discover Bhutan through the eyes of experts with local travel experts Suchie and Jan

Suchie is from India and Jan is from the Netherlands. Prior to settling down in Ladakh, they lived in Bhutan and got to know the country as locals. The people, their outlook on life and the unique Bhutanese culture made the couple fall in love with the place. “The people in Bhutan really know how to keep their traditions and culture alive in a beautiful way.”

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Jan has been a frequent visitor to the Himalayas since the 1980s. Suchie used to work as a freelancing copy editor/writer but started working in the travel industry after meeting Jan. It was love at first sight, both with Jan and with the Himalayas. Jan was a travel journalist and photographer in the area. Since 2011 the couple has been organizing trips in Bhutan, northeast India and Ladakh. “In 2000, I first travelled to Bhutan,” Jan says. “Television was forbidden at that time and traditional clothing was mandatory. We travelled 26 days through the country and we loved it. “In 2009, when Jan and Suchie lived in India, Suchie was offered a job in Bhutan. “For Indians it’s relatively easy to work and live in Bhutan, but for all other foreigners it’s virtually impossible,” says Jan. “Husbands can always join, so we moved together to the Bhutanese capital, Thimphu. I did pro-bono work as an advisor in sustainable tourism and together with a Bhutanese friend who had a travel company I designed bespoke itineraries through Bhutan.”

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Discover Bhutan: Unspoiled areas

Jan and Suchie still regularly return to Bhutan. “We especially love and miss the people in Bhutan, they’re really one of a kind,” says Jan. “They are doing their utmost to maintain their traditions and culture, but the country is not a ‘living museum’. The Bhutanese find out what measures work well in other countries and introduce these, but always in such a way that it fits into their culture. Gross National Happiness is the cornerstone around which all decisions are made. Education and healthcare are well organized and nature conservation is important as well. 66% of the country consists of forest and nowhere else in Asia are so many protected areas as in Bhutan. This also means you can make beautiful treks through unspoilt mountain scenery.”

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Organizing unique holidays in Bhutan

As per government regulations, anyone wanting to visit Bhutan must arrange the entire trip in advance. Everything is included: hotels, transportation, guide and driver, excursions and meals. Jan and Suchie enjoy customizing each individual itinerary. “The government has chosen to make travel costs high and keep a tight reign on all tourist activity,” says Jan. “In this way, tourism in Bhutan is limited, and impact on culture and nature can be better monitored. As a result, you get a lot in return for the high price tag. All facilities are of good quality and you know your money is invested in things like education and healthcare, which benefits the local population.”

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Places of interest in Bhutan

Jan and Suchie have a number of favourite places in Bhutan, including the capital of Thimphu. This city is a beautiful mix of traditions and modern life. “I also find the Phobjikha Valley very beautiful,” says Jan. “Not only for the black necked cranes living here, but also because of the valley itself with its sloping hills and small villages. Here you can choose to spend the night in pleasant homestays or even do a homestay trek. The dzong(monastery fort) of Punakha should not be missed either. Finally, I would recommend anyone to try to attend a festival with traditional music and dance and enthusiastic and traditionally dressed spectators. And if I can give just one golden tip, then it would be to ask your guide as many questions as possible. Take advantage of all their knowledge and get to know Bhutan even better – through the eyes of a local.”

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