25 Jan 2024 By May Ng

The Kingdom of Bhutan | Gelephu Mindfulness City

His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck announces Gelephu Mindfulness City Special Administrative Region based on the Gross National Happiness Philosophy to drive development in Bhutan

The Kingdom of Bhutan’s 116th National Day, His Majesty the King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck presented his vision for Bhutan to become an economic hub for South Asia. His Majesty shared plans to develop the Gelephu Mindfulness City Special Administrative Region (SAR) in the South of the Kingdom through investments in green energy, physical and digital connectivity infrastructure and education.

Mindfulness City is unique for being founded on Bhutanese values and the Gross National Happiness philosophy, prioritising not only economic development but personal wellbeing for every resident. In announcing the SAR, His Majesty highlighted Bhutan’s inherent advantages, pointing out that small countries like Bhutan are not trapped by legacy and can innovate swiftly to implement plans that other countries might hesitate to pursue.

Bhutan is already known worldwide for being a haven of pristine natural beauty, spirituality and unique cultural traditions. The SAR is the world’s ‘Modern Buddhist Lifestyle Destination’ for spirituality, wellness and rejuvenation. Gelephu Mindfulness City is also the gateway for tourists to the rest of Bhutan, nestled between two nature reserves – the Phibsoo Wildlife Sanctuary and Royal Manas National Park – as well as connected to Thimphu via Paro airport.  

On 19 December, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) shared its masterplan for Mindfulness City. The masterplan brings His Majesty’s vision to life, proposing a series of bridges as new landmarks tailored to each of the nine Gross National Happiness domains, agricultural preservation, mobility connections, public spaces and low- to mid-rise development in the south of Bhutan. 

The first milestone in the SAR’s development was the groundbreaking ceremony for the new international airport, that took place on 23 December 2023, while the railway dry port is already under construction. Gelephu has existing tourism infrastructure including hotels, but capacity will naturally expand with increased traffic and demand brought about by the SAR’s growth and enabled by major logistics hubs – the international airport and railway dry port.

His Majesty expressed confidence in the success of the SAR undertaking, stating that Bhutan is blessed with an incredible opportunity to build its own legacy via the Gelephu Mindfulness City.