The Land of Happiness, Bhutan is an ideal destination for those who wish to get away from the hustle and bustle of life. The kingdom of Bhutan is located in the Eastern Himalayas and is bordered by China, Tibet, Sikkim, West Bengal and Arunachal Pradesh. The total population of the country is only 7.5 lakh and Thimpu is the capital city.
How to reach:
There is no rail network in Bhutan which means you can either reach by road or air.
By Air: There is only one airport in Bhutan which is located in Paro. The Paro International airport is your only way to enter Bhutan by air. Further, there are only two airlines- Druk Air and Bhutan Airlines that operate flights from Paro. There are regular flights from Paro to Delhi, Kolkata, Gaya, Bangkok, Dhaka and Kathmandu. The flights operating from Paro to Delhi have a layover of about an hour at Kathmandu in Nepal. Alternatively, you could reach the nearest airport in India, that is the Bagdogra Airport in West Bengal and Bhutanese border town, Phuentsholing is a four hour drive from there.
By Road : Travelers can enter Bhutan by road through Phuentsholing and Samdrup Jongkhar. Phuentsholing is the most preferred route by travelers. It is located in the south west of Bhutan and is about 170 km from Bagdogra airport in India and it takes about five hours to reach. Samdrup Jongkhar is located in south western Bhutan and is 150 km from Guwahati. It takes about three hours to reach Bhutan from Guwahati.
What you need to know
Distance between Paro to Punakha - 125 km via Thimpu- 3 hours.
Distance between Punakha to Thimpu - 84 km - 2 hours
Distance between Thimpu to Paro - - 50 km - 1 hour
The concept of vehicle on disposal is not a practice in Bhutan. The vehicle will be provided to you from 9 AM to 5 PM and will be exclusive for the group. Most vehicles are non AC.
What you MUST know
Bhutan is one of the safest countries in the world for women. As a solo traveler, there is nothing you need to worried about. You can also get a female driver and a female guide for your trip. When headed to Bhutan, leave your safety concerns at home.
Where to eat:
If you are looking for good Indian food, head to the restaurants mentioned below. They are tried and tested :-)
Paro - City Hotel
Punakha -Rinchenling Cafeteria
Thimpu - Chula Restaurant
Where to stay:
5 Day Bhutan Itinerary
Day 1 : Paro - Tiger’s Nest
Whether you reach Bhutan by road or air, you should ideally start your Bhutan holiday from Paro. One of the most important destinations in Bhutan, Paro is a must visit. Begin the first day of your holiday with a trip to Paro Taktsang, also known as Tiger’s Nest. It will take a full day to hike to the top and return. No trip to Bhutan is complete without a hike to this monastery. It is one of the most famous monasteries in the world. It is a Buddhist sacred site and was built in the 17th century. It is believed that Guru Padmasambhava had meditated here and he is credited for introducing Buddhism in Bhutan. It is believed that he reached here on a tiger and the temple is devoted to him. The monastery is located at about 10,240 feet on the cliff. It is 3,000 feet above Paro valley. The entire path is colorfully festooned with prayer flags. It is not a steep hike but it is uphill the entire way. It can take about six to eight hours for the entire trip, hence, you need to start early in the morning. The exterior of the monastery looks extremely beautiful once you reach closer. It is one of the most picturesque or Insta-worthy sites in Paro, hence take as many pictures as you want. When you reach the top of the monastery, you will realize that the climb was worth it. If you are someone who cannot hike to the top, you can get a view of the monastery from the Base point. However, it is not really clear from the bottom. Once you are back from the hike, take a look at the local products that are sold by sellers who are seated at the Base point. There are some interesting things you could buy from them. Try to bargain and you might be lucky to get a good deal. They have shawls, scarfs, fridge magnets, earrings, necklaces, locks (Must Buy!) and much more.
Day 2: Paro - Sightseeing
You can go for the local sightseeing in Paro today. This does not involve a lot of physical exercise and you will be able to enjoy the best views without stressing your legs.
National Museum : Learn about the traditions and heritage of Bhutan at the National Museum. The entry fee is INR 25/- and it is a must visit in Paro. There are well preserved artifacts displayed from the country and you will be able to learn about the beliefs, tradition and transition of the country while keeping the culture intact. It remains closed on Mondays. You will also enjoy panoramic views of Paro Valley from the museum. If you have always been intrigued about the myths and legends about Bhutan, you will be able to learn a lot from this museum. One can easily spend about two hours here.
Drukgyel Dzong : Also known as the Fortress of Victory, there is history behind this archaeological site in Bhutan. It is situated on a ridge in upper Paro and is currently in ruins. Built in the 17th century, the dzong was built as a sign of victory over the Tibetan forces by Zhabdrung Namgyal.
Looking for fun adventures in Bhutan? Read more about it here.
Rinpung Dzong : Also known as Paro Dzong, this monastery is an excellent site for Bhutanese architecture. Rinpung Dzong means ‘Fortress on a Heap of Jewels’ and this monastery has beautiful paintings as well as wooden carvings that are a must see. You will be able to get the most picturesque snaps from the Nyamai Sam bridge which lies right below the dzong.
Kyichu Lhakhang : This is one of the best places to visit in Paro. The 7th century monastery is the place you should not miss out on. You will notice prayer wheels and prayer flags here. It is one place to visit if you are looking for peace and serenity.
Day 3 : Punakha sight seeing
On the third day, leave Paro for Punakha. It is a small town known for its picturesque beauty and a stunning landscape. The drive from Paro to Punakha is breathtaking. Punakha valley is located at a height of 4,265 feet and is one of the most scenic destinations in Bhutan. You can simply soak in the peace and serenity that this place has to offer.
Punakha Dzong : This is undoubtedly the most beautiful dzong in the country. The dzong is six stories high and it has a gold dome. Built in the 20th century, the dzong is ideally located at the junction of Mo Chuu and Po Chuu rivers. It gives stunning views of the Punakha valley and of the mountain peaks. The dzong looks like a delight from a distance and is mesmerizing once you enter. You can access the dzong through the Bazam Bridge which will give you an opportunity to get picture perfect snaps of the rivers. If you are going to visit only one monastery in Bhutan, ensure it is this one. You will notice a number of monks offering prayers at this monastery and the entire vibe is peaceful and calm.
Chimi Lhakhang : Also known as the Temple of Fertility, Chimi Lhakhang is situated on a small hill at the centre of the valley. It is believed that couples who do not have children are blessed with newborns after praying at the temple. You will have to walk for about half an hour across the field to reach the temple.
Day 4: Punakha sight seeing
River rafting : Add a bit of thrill to your Bhutan holiday with white water rafting. Enjoy river rafting in the Mo Chhu river in Punakha. You can enjoy the activity in a group of six with two professionals joining you. Raft on the Mo Chhu river for 10 km with 10 rapids and drift past the beautiful Punakha Dzong. Alternatively, you can choose to raft on Po Chhu river with 15 rapids spanning 16 km.
Suspension bridge : One of the longest suspension bridge in Bhutan will give you an adrenaline rush. It stands 180 m and is located high above the river Po Chhu. The entire bridge is draped with prayer flags and it connects Punakha with Punakha Dzong. You can ask your driver to drop you at the start of the bridge and to pick you up from Punkha Dzong. This bridge offers a good photo opportunity.
Day 5: Thimpu Sightseeing
On the last and final day, you head to Thimpu, the capital city of Bhutan. On the way, stop by Dorchu La Pass. It is one of the best places to visit in Bhutan.
Dorchu La Pass : It is a mountain pass covered in snow on the road from Punakha to Thimpu and it has 108 memorial stupas which are known as Druk Wangyal Chortens. There is also a monastery called Druk Wangyal Lhakhang. You can easily spend an hour here. It is a very picturesque destination and was covered in fog when I visited. The sight was simply mesmerizing. It is a MUST visit when in Bhutan. There is a cafe located here where snacks and beverages are served. Sit by the window and watch the world pass by from this cafe. If you are a nature lover, you would never want to leave from here.
Buddha Point : Buddha Point is a sight in itself. As you enter Thimpu, you will notice a massive Buddha Statue. It is a short drive from the city center to the largest Buddha statue in the country. Offer prayers and walk around to take a glimpse of the beautiful valley. If you are visiting during Winters, you will be able to sight snow covered peaks all around you. This place is massive and is worth a visit.
Trashichho dzong : Popularly known as the Fortress of the glorious religion, the dzong was built in the 17th century and was later rebuilt in 1965. It houses administrative offices and the throne room of His Majesty, the King of Bhutan. The National Assembly Hall is also housed in the building.
Zilukha Nunnery : While you visit many monasteries in Bhutan, there is a nunnery you must visit. The nunnery is for female monks or nuns and it is the only nunnery in the capital. It overlooks the picturesque golf course and will give you an opportunity to interact with the nuns here.
My Bhutan trip was everything I had imagined it to be. I returned feeling grateful, at peace and content. I absolutely loved the stunning views of the Himalayan Range from the sky!
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