Bhutan - The happiest country in the world. Is it true?

What if your happiness was the most important thing in your country?

It is to the people living in a peaceful nation called Bhutan. A landlocked country in the Himalayas which rather than using GDP, it measures it’s overall health by GNH “gross national happiness”. The four pillars that form GNH are; sustainable development, environmental protection, cultural preservation, and good governance.


There are many misconceptions about tourism in Bhutan. To clear it up, you can visit this serene country for a minimum of $250 US a day.

$250 US a day includes the following:

  • Entrance into Bhutan with a tour provider
  • Daily breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • Accommodations (whether that is a luxurious hotel, sleeping in tents or at a village farm house. Depending on your preference and curiosity in experiencing culture, there are different tour options to suit each traveler)
  • A private driver
  • An English speaking tour guide
  • Pick up and drop off at the airport 

This price excludes a $40 US Bhutan Visa Fee and your flights.

You have to use a tour company to visit Bhutan. We used Bhutan Mountain Holiday and we were extremely impressed with them. We were picked up at the airport by our driver and a guide whom were extremely informative, kind and fun to be with for 5 days. 

You can watch our entire Bhutan experience here: 


9 interesting things about Bhutan: 

  1. Bhutan is the only nation in the world to have banned the sale of tobacco 
  2. Bhutan has stopped using plastic bags since 1999
  3. There is a beautiful monastery devoted to promoting fertility. “Chimi Lhakhang”. While walking to the monastery you see wood carved phalluses painted on homes and  in the windows symbolizing fertility. People from all over the world who have been unable to have children travel to Bhutan to visit this monastery where a monk will treat the couple to a fertility blessing and it in theory helps them in conceiving.
  4. There are no traffic lights in Bhutan
  5. Alongside the road while driving through the mountains, instead of traffic signs telling you to slow down, there are a series of hand painted, positive and funny mantra’s such as “Life is a journey! Complete it!” and “After whiskey, driving risky.”
  6. Bhutan takes protecting their environment very seriously. It absorbs more CO2 than it gives out and it’s apparently the only country whose largest export is renewable energy. 
  7. They call the dogs ‘solar dogs’ because they sleep all day and have an insane about of energy at night. 
  8. Travelling through Asia, I unfortunately saw many stray malnourished dogs on the streets. In Bhutan, most of the stray dogs look healthy and well fed. The people have so much compassion, most dogs live within certain neighbourhoods and rely somewhat on human charity. Due to a dog overpopulation in the past, The ‘Humane Society International’ started a spay, neuter, and vaccination program throughout Bhutan where they have targeted more than 50,000 dogs over six years. 
  9. Perched on the side of a cliff 3000ft above the Paro Valley is the Tiger's Nest (Taktsang). Not only one of the most famous Buddhist pilgrimage places in the world but one of the most challenging to get to. At the time, I thought I was extremely out of shape and embarrassed to be huffing and puffing so much but I was told that we were at an elevation of 10,000 ft (which made me feel a little better about my gasping for air) This was hands down one of the most epic hikes I've ever done. 

Bhutan was a foreign country to me as I’ve never heard of it prior to seeing it on our Global Degree itinerary last year. I didn’t understand when people told me Bhutan was the ‘happiest’ country in the world. I thought, how can a country label themselves as that? Although, when we arrived at the airport the energy was so positive and light. Everyone was smiling and it was the first airport I had been to that wasn’t hectic. That energy continued on throughout our trip and I felt extremely safe throughout the country. I have to say, the rumours are true may just be the happiest country in the world!

If you’re looking for an authentic cultural experience, a respect for peace, environment and happiness I highly recommend visiting Bhutan! 


Loads of love,  Natalia xx

Pardon the

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21 fun things to do in my favourite city, Vancouver

I was chatting with a friend that recently moved to Vancouver, BC and I found myself bragging about how impressive that city is. I started bombarding him with so much information on what to do and what to see, that it inspired me to share some of my favourite recent and past discoveries. 

I have been focused on nothing but my career as a Professional Freelance Photographer for the past two years that I put traveling on the back burner. Although I absolutely love my job, I have too many hobbies and a 'comfortable' lifestyle with minimal change makes me cringe. I often think about what excites me... exploring, discovering new things, and meeting new people excites me. I altered my schedule a bit so I can take one day a week to keep my sanity and allowed myself to be a tourist in my own city. I made a vow to do something I have never done before in or around the Vancouver area. It not only brought so much fulfillment into my life but it made me have a greater appreciation for the city. I tied this importance into my life quite a bit over the past year.

I'm not a believer in it ever being 'the right time' but sometimes we're not mentally ready to take that first step. I have been wanting to go traveling for the past two years. Fortunately my mental unpreparedness actually led me to the 'perfect time', everything happening for a reason, and now I’m on an adventure of a lifetime and appreciating home more than ever. 

I recently won a contest for a series called ‘Global Degree’ where I will be travelling for 7 months of every year for the next 5 years in attempts to achieve a Guinness World Record to be the first women to travel to every UN Nation (193 countries). I’m incredibly excited to take on this endeavour and I feel so grateful to call such an incredible city like Vancouver home. I'd love to give Vancouver the attention and praise it deserves for providing Vancouverites and tourists the ability to experience so much beauty, cleanliness and opportunity in and around the area I'm proud to call home. 

Here were 21 of my most memorable adventures this past year:


Brandy Wine Falls

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What's usually a quick-stop tourist attraction is one of my favourite discoveries to date. Brandywine Falls is located 15 minutes South of Whistler and takes approximately 1.5 hour for a round trip from the parking lot to get right to the bottom. Although finding the hidden trail was a challenge, we were walking over train track bridges, fields of soft moss and an incredibly different perspective of the waterfall where you don't have to stand behind a fence to view it from a distance. It seemed like a day out of a children's fairytale. Once we found the right path, walking through the beautiful forest green moss was so majestic. Because this waterfall is so powerful you can't physically get too close to it. As we walked up to the waterfall there was a gorgeous double rainbow. Now I don't know much about rainbows but I was adamant that I had to stand under it. Within 2 seconds I was drenched from the mist. I found myself standing in the middle of a rainbow circle. I'm not sure if it was the pressure of the waterfall or my excitement but I have yet to experience a situation that has physically taken my breath away as much as that moment did. 


Garibaldi Lake

All I can say is that water colour is NOT photoshopped! Before I did the Garibaldi Lake hike, I felt like I would be disappointed that the colour of the water wouldn't be as vibrant as people's photo's make it out to be. I am entirely convinced that this is the source of Blue Powerade. The entrance is located 25 mins South of Whistler and it takes approximately 5 hours for a round trip from the parking lot. The area is filled with the cutest Whisky Jack birds so it seemed like an amazing idea to hold a piece of bread in my hand as I held my arm out. It was a failed attempt as it seemed like the birds were dive bombing at me in slow motion. This hike wasn’t challenging but it was beautiful and a great spot for a cold swim and lunch. 


Eagle Bluffs

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I hiked Eagle Bluffs a few times but my most unforgettable time was in the late fall where we experienced every form of weather from sunshine, a blanket of fog, torrential downpour and snow. We were soaked and loved it! The hike starts at Cypress Mountain in West Vancouver and it takes approximately 3-4 hours round trip from the parking lot. The ravens are quite aggressive there so watch your snacks. You experience a gorgeous view of Vancouver from the top so pack a lunch and have a picnic. 


The Chief

The Chief is a favorite. Located in Squamish and it takes approximately 1.5 hour roundtrip from the parking lot. It’s a place where you can go for a quick hike or rock climb, have a nice lunch at the top and make chipmunks work for their nuts by making them do yoga poses. Be careful if you’re sitting close to the edge, those little guys sneak up on you quick so if you're a jumpy person you may be going for a cliff jump. On the way down make a stop at the waterfall pool and go for a swim to cool down.


Quarry Rock

Ahh the busiest place in town on a beautiful day! Quarry Rock makes for a great walk in the forest or a nice trail run. I would avoid it on the weekends as it’s so busy. Do yourself a favour and stop to get a donut from Honey Doughnuts & Goodies so you can enjoy it at the top looking out at the gorgeous Deep about a guilty pleasure.


Pacific Spirit Regional Park

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Create your own route in Pacific Spirit Regional Park from over 50km of forest walking, running cycling or horseback riding. I like to bring my bike here and go for a Golden Hour ride through the forest and see the light poking through the tree’s.


Wreck Beach 

Whether you’re going to skim board, run the stairs for some exercise or practise freeing the nipple, Wreck Beach is amazing. Bring some cash for the guy selling Margaritas at the bottom. 


Grouse Grind

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The name does not lie! Once you finish The Grind, Instead of stopping at the Gondola, keep going to the very top. Make a pit stop to visit with Grinder and Coola the resident orphaned grizzly bears. Keep going up to the highest point and check out the view. Have lunch on the patio over looking the city and it’s a perfect afternoon.


Seawall Bike Ride

Take your bike and cruise all around Stanley Park, around Science World and all the way to Spanish Banks. A great way to get some fresh air, exercise and see the city. There are plenty of fun bars along the way to get some lunch and/or drinks on a patio.



Carolin Mine, Hope

This one's a bit of a trek. It takes a couple of hours to drive to and you need a 4x4 to get to it. Carolin Mine is a no trespass zone, so if anyone asks, I didn't send you. This was one of the most terrifying situations I've put myself in. I love heights but there's something about the pitch black and being underground that screams horror movie to me. 8 friends and myself entered the abandoned mine that had 'danger' 'no trespassing’, and 'do not enter' spray painted on every entrance. We brought music, flashlights, and a go pro. If you're looking for a little scare don't bring music. The silence is terrifying. You can hear the rats running past your feet and the bats flapping their wings.


The abandoned conveyor belt was more up my alley. Two of us climbed and walked across the rusted up, squeeky beauty just as the sun was setting. 



Buddhist Temple, Steveston

I had a meeting in Richmond so I made a morning of it. My first stop was the International Buddhist Temple in Richmond. Let's just say that it was the perfect place to inspire my mind and spirit before I took off on a 7 month journey to Asia. The colours are so vibrant, the architecture is exquisite and the energy is so peaceful and welcoming.



Historic Steveston, Richmond

Although I'm a city girl, I need my small town escapes. Step away from the city and go for a nice afternoon of amazing fish and chips in the port town that has a super small town feel in Steveston. Bring your dog or borrow a friends, grab a coffee and go for a walk by the water. 



Go Karting (Indoor & Outdoor), Richmond

If you're a big kid at heart like myself, you might as well move to Richmond. You can play lazer tag, go indoor or outdoor Go Karting and finish it off at extreme Air park all in one day.


Extreme Air Park 

Sometimes I question whether I’m an adult or a child, then I experience a place like Extreme Air Park and remind myself I’m definitely the later. 5000 sq ft of trampolines, need I say more? Dodgeball, basketball and backflips! I did my first flip and dunked my first basketball. This place not only makes you feel like you're a lot better at things than you actually are but makes you realize how much more energy you had as a kid. I suggest going late at night on a week day when it's not as busy.


Lazer Tag

Another place to take you back to your childhood. Planet Lazer is the perfect place to challenge the kids and make yourself feel like you’re better at something than you actually are. 


Indoor Rock Climbing

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Grab a friend or go alone and challenge yourself to the different skill levels while getting a great workout at Cliffhangers.





Granville Island

Perfect place to go for a run, get some breakfast and people watch! Grab some lunch on Granville Island, check out a stand up comedy show or watch the street performers. On a nice day you can rent a paddle board and take it around the inlet, Jericho beach, Kitsilano and English Bay area.



Paintball, North Van

Get ready to get beat by a bunch of kids. I brought 10 friends to North Shore Paintball and it was such a blast playing outside on a hot summer day.





River Rafting, Whistler 

Put on your wet suit, jump off the raft for a quick swim in the clear blue, cold water and go River Rafting.




Bungee Jumping, Whistler

If you're an adrenaline junky, this is your place! The Whistler Bungee staff is hilarious which is a great way to tone down the nerves before a jump.




Nairn Falls 

This beautiful short walk to the waterfalls is worth the quick detour. Nairn Falls is only 20 minutes North of Whistler. We stumbled upon thousands of rock statues and built a few of our own.


Make sure you check out Groupon or Social Shopper for deals on activities. It's a great and inexpensive way to try new things. 


I’m already looking forward to being back in the city and taking on some new adventures.


x's and o's, 

Natalia Anja

Photo by: Brit Gill

Photo by: Brit Gill







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All photos taken by iPhone.