All of us are immensely proud of our country and take great pride in showing our guests around. We are passionate about travel and are committed to making your stay in Bhutan as special as possible. We see our role as being both guide and host, combining our local knowledge and insight with the highest standards of service, before, during and after your trip. We take it our responsibility to ensure that our guests can witness the country’s many mysteries and charms without being distracted by unnecessary hitches or avoidable discomforts. We take great pride in being able to attend to small details.
We are at work from the moment you contact us. We are always on hand to listen to your individual needs and make suggestions. After having studied the information you send us, we will work on an itinerary that will suite your age, physical condition and you interest. We provide you with all the information you will need to travel to Bhutan, practical information on Bhutan, health risks, etc. We take care of your visa, reserving your flight into and out of Bhutan, hotel reservations, dietary preferences and many other small details.
Once in the country, you will be in the capable hands of our multi-talented guides, who report to us on daily basis. Right from the moment you step out of the airport, they will be there to assist you. Apart from being a guide, they will also be your friend. Our guides will order meals in advance, reconfirm hotel bookings and make sure that you don’t forget your bag in a restaurant.
We are at ease only after we hear that you are safely home. Once you have settled down, we like you to reflect back upon your trip to Bhutan and let us know how we can improve our services better. We keep you posted on the latest developments on Bhutan and always look forward for your next visit.
With us handling your travel arrangements in Bhutan, you are assured of the finest service unrivaled in the country. With over 50 years of collective experience in this industry, we have managed to build a network of invaluable friends and connections; we are a local every where we go.
We are very professional in our approach. We will be completely honest with you about the logistics; we won’t make you do a trek in 5 days, when it actually takes only 2 days. As working professionals, there is no one who understands the value of time better than us. Our daily tariff is not less than our Government’s minimum mandate floor price. Therefore we believe in giving you the most out of what you pay.
Bhutan is one of the most beautiful places on earth, with some of the world’s grandest mountains and the most breath-taking landscapes. Over the years, we have experimented and perfected unique itineraries to enhance your experience. Itineraries that offer insights into Bhutan and what Bhutan means to the outside world; a chance to see our world in a whole new way.
Soon, a Not-So-Secret Kingdom
With Bhutan on the cusp of a tourism boom, now is the time to head to the Himalayas
In Bhutan, it’s not hard to feel like you’ve traveled back to another time. Tourism is still carefully controlled and Bhutan only gets a few thousand visitors a year. At least for now. WSJ’s Patrick Barta reports.
In Bhutan, it’s not difficult to stray out of sight of the 21st century. The country didn’t begin to open up to outsiders until the 1970s. To preserve its distinctive Buddhist culture, the government requires men to wear traditional multi-colored garments when working. Tourism is highly regulated, and Bhutan only gets a few thousand visitors a year.At least for now.
The country’s leaders have launched an ambitious economic development program that includes plans to jack up the number of foreign visitors from fewer than 50,000 to 100,000 annually by 2012, and higher in years beyond. That may not sound like a lot—Thailand welcomes about 15 million visitors a year—but in peak seasons (March to May and September to November) camera-toting tourists already outnumber locals on some streets in the major towns of Thimphu and Paro.
The government says it can manage more visitors without spoiling the country, and indeed, some of the changes could help make travel more enjoyable. But visit now if you don’t want to risk missing out on untouched Bhutan.
Foreigners mainly frequent a handful of holy sites scattered across the country’s inner valleys and peaks, including Taktshang Goemba, “Tiger’s Nest,” a 17th-century monastery that clings to a cliff face some 3,000 feet above the Paro valley in far western Bhutan. Some go on five-day expeditions to natural salt licks frequented by yak herders and takins, Bhutan’s shy national animals. Birders head to the Phobjikha valley, one of the few places in the world to see black-necked cranes, whose mating rituals involve elaborate dances and calls.
The country’s otherworldly beauty was apparent as soon as I left the airport, skirting a clear green river and rice terraces dotted with buildings covered in colorful paintings. Aman-kora was about 30 minutes away, up a winding mountain road, at the end of a trail carpeted with red pine needles. Prices there start at $1,400 per night, but at first glance, it looked like a humble encampment of rammed-earth houses with metal roofs.
Part of the cost is explained by Bhutan’s remote location and underdevel oped economy—many supplies must be shipped in, at considerable expense. (Fresh meats and cheeses are flown from Bangkok.) But the property was also plusher than it first appeared.
My room was a modern-chic version of a Japanese mountain retreat, with a wood-burning stove and mountain views. In the evening, staff put a hot water bottle in the bed and left out treats like homemade carrot muffins. When I wanted to eat lunch—yak burger with Gouda cheese—in the library, they set a special table.
The hotel can arrange a range of activities, including bike rides, treks to monasteries followed by frankincense massages, and even a longevity ritual performed by Buddhist monks. I chose to go to Tiger’s Nest, one of the holiest places in Bhutan.The two-hour hike up a steep, switch-backing trail wasn’t easy, but the air was cool and fresh, and a pair of stray dogs kept me and my guide company as we passed waterfalls and strings of fluttering prayer flags. The temple is a remarkable feat of engineering, spread across a series of cliffs and connected to caves that lead deeper into the mountain.
The site was busy with Bhutanese families, Indian soldiers on holiday and a few Westerners, but the scale of the landscape and the reverence visitors paid made it feel like a special discovery. The outside world seemed far away; once I thought I saw a car gliding across a ribbon of road in the distance, but it could have also been my imagination.
Archery is Bhutan’s dominant sport and a national obsession. On any given afternoon, businessmen in checkered robes and knee socks can be found on roadsides and community archery grounds, taunting rivals or dancing on one leg when a teammate scores a bull’s-eye. The targets are so far away—roughly one-and-a-half American football fields—that it seems more a miracle than a feat of skill when the men strike the target.
Curious to experience the sport, I asked the hotel to arrange a private lesson. My teacher insisted we train indoors to reduce the risk of injury—probably to other people. These days, serious archers use high-tech compound bows with pulley systems, and I could hardly lift one off the ground, much less aim it with confidence. Even pulling back the string was dangerous—if it snapped back without control, the arrow could veer anywhere, my instructor warned.
He handed me a bamboo version that felt like a toy, but that, too, proved difficult to use. As I pulled back on the string, I found it hard to position the bow and steady it with my weakling left arm. When I let go, the arrow rocketed at an odd angle and slammed into a carpeted wall several feet above the target. My teacher grimaced.
“You get used to it,” he said. Letting me fire it, though, was out of the question. I had to settle for the next-best thing: Watching as he easily pulled the bow back, locked his elbow in place and let the arrow fly. He hit the target.
How to be a tourist in this carefully controlled country
The national airline, Drukair, flies from India and Thailand to Paro, in far western Bhutan. Visas must be
Where to Stay
Foreign visitors typically have to book travel through authorized agents and pay a $200 daily fee that includes lodging (mainly 2- to 4-star properties), food and local transportation. Keys To Bhutan (keystobhutan.com) is run by a local photographer and specializes in smaller groups. Others can be found via the Association of Bhutanese Tour Operators (abto.org.bt) or the Tourism Council of Bhutan (tourism.gov.bt). You can pay extra to stay and eat at the few luxury hotels, including Amankora, whose prices the levy doesn’t cover. From $1,400 per night,amanresorts.com
What to Pack
Bring conservative clothing, including long pants, and hiking shoes. Camera gear is difficult to purchase locally. There are no international ATMs and credit cards are generally not accepted, so carry cash.
Keys to Bhutan believe in sustainable tourism mixed with a sense of responsibility to our society and environment. We do our best to create a conscious awareness among travelers to realize the importance of responsible travel. We always lead by example. Our camping treks do not use firewood and we focus on minimizing negative environmental impacts and, where possible, make positive contributions to the conservation of biodiversity, wilderness, natural and human heritage.
Our belief in the environment also extends to our belief in social programs to help give back to Bhutanese society. Towards this end, Keys to Bhutan has been active in helping needy people for education, clothes, toys and personal care for the betterment of these children’s lives.
This means while you are traveling with us you are contributing something to the aid of these children in this evolving world. We focus on the conservation of Bhutan’s ecology and the preservation of the rich and varied tapestry that makes up Bhutan’s indigenous population. By the involvement of tourists in this new and dynamic form of travel we hope to not only inform but to educate people to help us preserve Bhutan and its biodiversity.
Knowing the emerging economic growth of our immediate neighbor, India. We were one of the first companies to venture into Indian market in 2004.
Having worked in Indian market for a decade, now we are the DMC for the India’s largest online holiday planner, Make My Trip. This has given us the best experience of dealing with any size of groups including back to back Charters and breaking the record of handling 1500 Indian tourist a year in Bhutan.
Having worked with them for past three years, now we can be considered an expert of handling any group size and wide range of demanding customers keeping us on our toes round the clock.
To travel to Bhutan, one has to go through a local tour operator like us even if you book through your agents in your country. For two reasons: One, foreign companies cannot operate in Bhutan directly so they cannot have offices in Bhutan. Second, for your visa, unlike other countries only local tour operators can apply your visa. Without knowing us, while confirming the tour, you will be asked to make at least 50% initial deposit through bank transfer. But this is not only with us, for this is the only procedure to confirm your tour to Bhutan.
Keys to Bhutan is a well-established high-end company and a known brand in Bhutan tourism Industry. We have one of the largest fleet of our own transport and a set of well-qualified guides. Our guides are our USP, for you spend most of your time with them so they will either make or break your trip. Your safety is our concern so our transport it not older than 5 years old and driven by drivers who have been doing for their whole life.
Keys to Bhutan is licensed and fully registered with the Tourism Council of Bhutan, Royal Government of Bhutan, and the founder is one of the Board of Directors of the Association of Bhutanese Tour Operators. Our head office is based in Thimphu, with an outlet in Paro (airport town).