A new destination has been added to our travel plans, and it’s certainly not one we expected.
We have something exciting to share with you today!
(And no, for the hundredth time, it’s not that I’m pregnant.)
The other week, we left Ladakh earlier than planned, hitchhiking almost 500 kilometers down one of the highest roads in the world in search of internets in the mountains of India. We said we’d tell you why in good time, and we’re people of our word.
So, why’d we do it? Well, we traveled all that way to organize our newest adventure: going to Bhutan with the newly launched tour company Gray Langur Tours in October!
Bhutan is a country we never expected to visit any time soon, and we couldn’t be more stoked to share our experience with you.
Want to join us as we explore Bhutan? Use the code LWP20 for a 20% discount with Gray Langur Tours!
My dreams of visiting the tiny Asian kingdom began more than a decade ago. When I was a wee 14-year-old, my best friend visited Bhutan with her mother. She returned with all kinds of tales to fill my tender teenage ears: crazy descriptions of monasteries in mountains, friendly Buddhists banging drums, and masked dancers in fearsome costumes. I remember sitting on the edge of my computer chair as I eagerly clicked through her vacation photos, eyes wide as I was exposed to cultures I never knew existed.
That evening, I found Bhutan on my plastic kids’ globe (the first step in all great travel plans), and vowed to travel there one day.
Here’s the thing about visiting Bhutan
Fast-forward to several weeks ago, and Bhutan was but a dream as distant as it was when I was 14. Why?
In an effort to stem the flow of mass tourism (rightly so) and encourage sustainable travel, Bhutan requires all non-SAARC visitors to be accompanied by a guide for the entirety of their trip. Baseline tour prices are consistent across the board, and at this time of year the minimum cost is $250 per day per person.
If you’re anything like us, the word “tour” results in wrinkled noses and dubious looks. Add the cost of a Bhutan tour to the equation, and the result is a very effective recipe for warding away independent budget travelers.
Though I could accept needing to join a tour to finally get a glimpse of Bhutan, the price tag was too high for us to include Bhutan on our current adventure.
… until Gray Langur invited us, that is.
Off the beaten track in Bhutan
Gray Langur’s founder understands not everyone is the group tour type, that some people want to do more than bus from postcard to postcard. The company is developing more customized tours throughout the country, catering to travelers interested in delving deeper into Bhutan.
Gray Langur is going to help us leave the beaten tourist track in already offbeat Bhutan. Over the course of three weeks, we’ll visit villages rarely seen by foreigners, weave through the beautiful and rugged terrain of the Bhutanese Himalayas, and, most excitingly, trek to the Kingdom’s second annual Royal Highlander Festival in the hidden highlands of Laya.
Laya is the highest settlement in Bhutan, sittin’ pretty at 3,800 meters (12,500 feet). Beyond its high elevation, Laya is also one of the most remote villages on earth. The Royal Highlander Festival is an opportunity for the local Layap people and other highlanders to showcase their cultural traditions and way of life through interactive dance, arts, and competitions such as horse racing and yak shows.
(It all sounds exciting, but I’m admittedly most excited to see yaks in festival garb. Everything beyond that is an added bonus.)
The elephant yak in the room
Going to Bhutan? What kind of budget travelers are you?
I know you’re thinking it, so let’s talk about it! We’re all about transparency here.
As budget travelers, I know it might seem strange for us be heading to Bhutan.
Maybe you think we’re selling out for free travel. (Correction: only Sebastiaan is for sale, and those profits go to my ice cream addiction.)
After traveling through 10 countries for less than $25 per day, maybe you find it unnatural or off-brand for us to head to a country where the day rate is 10 times as much. And on a tour, no less!
Your concerns are valid, but in our opinion, we’re staying true to ourselves and to our blog. Our first and foremost mission is to provide information, stories, and insights into offbeat places. We want to give you a peek into remote corners of the world, not write tomes on ways to pinch pennies. If Bhutan doesn’t count as off the beaten track, what does?
Digging deep into Bhutan
For some context, know that Bhutan only opened its doors to tourists in 1974. In 2016, the country only welcomed about 200,000 visitors, more than half of which were from neighboring India. If you need a point of reference, nearby Thailand had 32.6 million foreign visitors in the same year.
Information about Bhutan is just as limited as its tourist numbers. Google traveling to Bhutan, and all that comes up are a smattering of travel advisories, and hundreds of tour agency itineraries covering the same couple of places: the capital city of Thimphu, iconic Tiger’s Nest, and sacred valley Paro. Beautiful as these places must be, there’s far more to the country than this handful of sights.
Our mission? To explore some of the more offbeat places, and learn more about the people who make Bhutan tick. We’re working with Gray Langur to showcase destinations in Bhutan beyond the standard routes, and encourage future visitors to dig a bit deeper into the country.
It’s a little last minute—sorry about that—but there are still several spots left in Gray Langur’s inaugural Kingdom of the Clouds tour. The tour runs from October 19th to November 1st, and the deadline for booking is September 19th. Soon, we know!
To sweeten the deal, you can use the code LWP20 and get 20% off the tour cost. Not bad, eh?
If you’re one for spontaneous decisions or last minute trips, this is the perfect opportunity for you. Normally, traveling to Bhutan in October requires planning many months in advance. October is one of the best times of year to visit Bhutan, and the limited number of tours and flights into the country book up quickly.
If trekking through the Himalayas, meeting friendly Bhutanese people, or petting yaks in sweet outfits sounds like your cup of cha, do consider joining us. Or, you know, just come along to get a little lost with Lost With Purpose.
Yay transparency! Our upcoming trip to Bhutan is sponsored by Gray Langur, but all thoughts, words, and excited happy dances are our own. Photos in this post were provided by Richard L. Camp, Gray Langur Tours. The featured photo is provided by Jesse Montes