Kuzo Zangpo La ! Hello from the land of happiness and Thunder Dragon – Bhutan. Situated in the lap of Mountains with colourful decorative Monasteries, beautiful valleys – this tiny country was on my bucket list for a long time. So, when I got a chance to take a glimpse of the Land of Thunder Dragon I could not resist myself. The landlocked country is surrounded by China in the north, Assam and West Bengal in the south, Sikkim in the west, Arunachal Pradesh in the east. Here is my Ultimate Travel Guide of Bhutan for those who want a virtual trip or to plan their trip to Bhutan.
Bhutan sounds magical, exotic and mystical place that has a vibrant culture and mesmerizing breathtaking views to be cherished. The salubrious climate, the amazing perspectives, and the great religious communities may appear a threadbare method to portray the excellence of Bhutan, yet each word utilized for this exquisite nation is in its most flawless frame. Exploring Bhutan can be a great ordeal, something you will always remember. So here I am trying to cover step to step Ultimate Travel Guide of Bhutan with all details such as Visa, Stay, Route, Itinerary, facts, Dos and don’ts, food and shopping guide too. With the help of this guide, you can easily plan your trip without any hassle and tick the bucket list of the trip to Bhutan.
Bhutan is named Druk Yul which means Land of Thunder Dragon because of the fierce thunderstorms that belt down through the valleys from the Himalayas region and create a massive sound of thunders.
Also, Bhutan is the place of happiness, continuously been ranked as the happiest country in Asia, which exactly specifies the slogan of the country “Where Happiness Matters the Most” .
By Air: The most convenient and reasonable way to reach Bhutan is by Air. I took my flight from Delhi to Bagdogra ( Jet air cost me approx INR 6500/ both ways). From there I took the cab (arranged by Trip Hawker) which drove via Jaigaon , the last border town in India towards Phuentsholing, Bhutan. Approx driving time will be taking to reach 5 to 6 hours.
Paro is the only International Airport in Bhutan that can be accessed via Bhutan Airlines and Druk airways. The smallest and prettiest airport I have ever seen ( and you can find the tickets are costly too ).
By Train: The nearest railway station is at Jaigaon called Hasimara, the small town at Indo-Bhutan Border. It is situated at a distance of 17 kms from Jaigaon. You can avail of the trains to Hasimara from Kolkata , Delhi , Ranchi and Kanpur . Another nearby station is situated in New Jalpaiguri.
By Road: The most connecting by road path is from Jaigaon to Phuentsholing. Private cabs are available here to reach Phuentsholing.
For Indian, Bangladeshi and Maldivian visa is not required. They need to obtain a permit from the Immigration Office at Phuentsholing to show a valid passport with a minimum of 6 months validity (Indian nationals may also use their Voters Identity Card (VIC).
For Other Countries: Visa is required. $40 USD is the Visa fee which will be added to TCB (Tourism Council of Bhutan) account. Also for other countries, a fixed amount of $200-$250/day has to pay TCB which will cover everything on daily basis including food, lodging and commuting part.
I had covered a few places within 5 night 6 days. My journey started on 22nd January 2019 and ended on 27th January 2019. Within this span of time, I have done Phuntsholing, Thimpu and Paro with Tiger’s Nest Monastery. Please read below-mentioned outline of my journey :
Day 1 : Arrived at Bagdogra Airport by Jet Airways and transferred to Phuentsholing via cab. The night was hopping at Phuentsholing Marketing.
Day 2 : Proceed to Thimpu ( 6 to 7 hours journey). Evening and night was definitely an amazing one to visit one of the best night clubs at Thimpu called Viva City.
Day 3 : Visited the Thimpu with utmost excitement. After that proceed to Paro.
Day 4: Supercharged and done one of my bucket trek, Tiger’s Nest. An evening spent with shopping and some spot visit.
Day 5: Covered the rest of the places of Paro and proceed to Phuentsholing.
Day 6: Bid Adieu and fly back to Home …..
Phuntsholing is the border city of Bhutan which connects to Jaigaon in India. A very small city and an amazing place to roam within a short span of time. The beautiful Bhutan Gate is the perfect place for Instagram worthy shots. You can easily notice the beautiful decorative pattern of Bhutan houses along with a lot of small Buddhist worshipping places.
The major tourist attraction here is Zangdok Palri Temple, which connected with a small park and a beautiful fountain. The Monastery is famous among the local as a place for worshipping god. In the middle of the park, a statue is located called Zangtho Pelri Lhakhang, a Buddhist shrine dedicated to Guru Rinpoche. Apart from this, Phuentsholing has a few shops where you can get good souvenir and bags at very low prices. There are a number of restaurants in Phuentsholing, where Bhutanese and Indian dishes are served.
Another place to visit is Karbandi Monastery which situated in the way of Thimphu from Phuentsholing. This temple is famous for fulfilling the wishes of fertility.
Tip : I found Phuntsholing is the most reasonable place to buy souvenirs compare to other cities. Exactly opposite the park, you can get a shop that sells the cheapest and beautiful gifts.
Thimphu was the most fascinating capital to me with all its magical colourful houses in an idyllic landscape with blue sky and all over surrounded by mountains. The living paradise for recent King and Quin with their small baby Prince, Thimphu appeared as bliss to me. The small clean capital with happy people and the fresh air, I have fallen for its magical vibes. Thimphu has many things to offer and let me take you around a virtual tour of Thimphu.
52 meter tallest one of the beautiful idol of Buddha ( Shakya Muni) is situated at the top of Thimphu from where you can glimpse the city view. The statue also called Kunzang Phodrang has assembled at Thimphu and the place is one of the serene places I have ever witnessed. The angles of the Guardian are placed with a golden aura with the temple view.
I enjoyed the flat veranda in front of the statue from where I have seen the floating clouds and the shining Sun placed just above the Idol created an aura of positivity.
Entry : Free
This Memorial Chorten attracted me because this is the one monument I found in between the city. Built-in 1974 in the memory of Bhutan’s third King, who is known as the Father of Modern Bhutan, this place is one of the symbol of Mind ( According to Buddhism three symbols are Body, Soul and mind). I also found many Bhutanese were meditating in the beautiful garden outside the memorial.
Entry : Nu 300
Up way from Thimphu city, we were rushing to see the national animal of Bhutan, called Takin at Takin reserve forest. Takin resembles a combination of a goat and a cow. The legend is that the priest Drupa Kunley made this creature, and this rare species is only found in Bhutan. The face is like Goat and the body is like cow, Takin is as sweet as other animals to me.
Entry : Nu 100
The best way to know more about Bhutan is the National Post office. From where you can gain knowledge about past Bhutan and also there is a lot more information to be received. One can make his or her own stamp here which is absolutely incredible.
To portray complete Bhutan under one roof, Simply Bhutan is an excellent living museum cum restaurant that takes the explorers through the different shades of Bhutan. From the local individuals to the bonafide food, and from the deep-rooted customs to the live cultural performance, witness the best of Bhutan at its best. Get to know about the lives of the country people, their traditional clothes, food, mud huts, and so many things. If you like you can always buy some souvenirs from the shops here and have a snack at the little restaurants.
The welcoming drink Arah, the rice wine was just a perfect one for me. The service wooden bowl, the mud house song, the masks, the cultural dance and the Butter tea Suja… all are just to be the perfect experience for one who wants to live a life of localities in Butan.
Entry : Nu 300
Though Thimphu is the capital of Bhutan, still it has not much happening nightlife except a few. We have been to Viva city , and it was good for me. The crowd was good and the small dance floor kept us dancing with its musical vibes.
One of the widest valleys in Bhutan, Paro is a picturesque small town that can make you fall in love with its first glimpse. Spanning from the confluence of Paro and Wang rivers at Chuzom up to Mt. Jomolhari at the Tibetan border to the North, this surreal place is a dreamy place for everyone. The main Paro town is a small well-planned area with decorative wooden houses, playground, shops and restaurants all in a perfect position in the valley.
So here are some tips to visit and spend your moments with this lovely place :
The uber-cool experience and enjoyment are to hit the off-beaten track of Tiger’s nest or Takstang monastery with the view of Pine and Rhododendron. It hangs on a cliff and stands above an amazing hill. This Buddhist monastery is situated approx 3120 meters above from plain. The trek was moderate to me but I was thoroughly enjoyed my journey and got some awesome views from here. ( I will write an A to Z guide on Tiger’s Nest trek).
Entry : Nu 500 (If you would like to enter the Monastery)
Rinpung Dzong is a must-visit dzong (fort) in Paro which can’t be missed at any cost. Viewed from every corner of Paro city with towering walls, this dzong built in the 16th century. Known as the Fortress on a Heap of Jewels, Rinpung Dzong is a classic example of Bhutanese architecture and deep-rooted traditions. At night the view of the lightning dzong is simply superb and same time the view at day time be cherished forever.
The entire area is filled with various monasteries and shrines. Name of the few is, Kungarwa, Monk’s assembly hall, Sandalwood stupa, protector’s shrine and so on. The king’s palace is clearly visible from the dzong.
Entry : Nu 300
After visiting the dzong go to the National Library which is a combination of Museum also. Within this round, stone building is thangkas (Buddhist artworks), notable curios, and festival masks. The huge collection of paintings, fine arts, paintings, handicrafts, animal mummies are the main attraction of this museum. Preserving culture and its values is one of the Nine Domains of Gross National Happiness, the philosophy for the national development of Bhutan.
From the library the glimpse of complete Paro valley is stunning.
While coming back to Phuentsholing, we stopped at the most Instagrammable place called Paro Airport View Point. One of the beautiful yet dangerous airports is in Paro. Getting mesmerized every second with the view of the gushing sound of the Paro river surrounded by vibrant lush valley and high mountains around the Paro valley makes it an enchanting viewpoint.
It was wonderful to visit one of the oldest temples in Paro. The short visit to this monastery just so remarkable can be embraced forever in my memory.
Entry : Nu 300
Well, Bhutan is a place for shopaholic who is ready to buy Buddhist souvenir as well as jewellery, Bhutanese dresses and different types of dry fruits. From my personal experience, I found Thimphu and Paro a little bit expensive than Phuentsholing.
I purchased a whole lot of things from Phuentsholing and Tiger’s Nest trekking point. The start of trekking point has very good under sky shops, where locals sell most of the souvenir, pieces of jewellery and gift items.
Bhutan is a place of plenty of cheese and chillies. If you at Bhutan don’t forget to taste their very special signature dishes like Ema Datshi (Veg dish with cheese and chillies), Kema Datshi (Veg – cheese and potato), Suja (Iconic Bhutanese butter tea ) , Arah ( the rice wine), Red rice few must-try dishes.
Here are some facts and Do’s and Don’ts for every travel freak who wants to visit Bhutan. These facts help them to jot down the details and to remember a few rules before step into the new Country.
(Official Language: Dzongkha and Currency: Ngultrum = INR)
Check more about Bhutan here:
Bhutan is a perfect getaway for you if you want to gateway from hustle of the city life and want to reconnect with your inner self. So, pack your bag and and get ready to taste some Suja with Ema Datshi.