One would assume that Thimphu is still settling into its role as the capital of one of the happiest countries in the world, Bhutan. Simple at heart, grappling with growing commercialisation, Thimphu is bustling with energy and is the heart of the country. Thimphu is a delight to explore if history interests you and also if you want a break from the quiet and serenity of Bhutan. Brimming with cafes, nightclubs and restaurants, the city welcomes people from all over the world with open arms. While here, do check out Changangkha Lhakhang, one of the oldest temples in Bhutan, the National Folk Heritage Museum which offers a peek into the life of the Bhutanese people, especially the rural way of life. There are tons of parks, gardens and galleries in and around Thimpu and you cover most of these in a single day depending on your interests. The exhibits here range from archaic to contemporary and are definitely worth taking a look at.
Bhutan has gradually become a popular tourist destination. And if you are visiting Bhutan, you can't possibly miss the lovely city of Paro. Considered to be one of the most beautiful valleys in Bhutan, it is definitely a must visit! A perfect mix of culture, beauty, nature and history, Paro offers you an experience unlike another. Do visit the unofficial Taktsang Monastery or Tiger's Nest, which is a delight for trekkers and explorers! Located on a hill, the trek to this monastery is something you'll always remember. Do carry water, wear proper shoes before you start your trek lest the number of halts increases your trek time. Another wonderful place to visit is the National Museum of Bhutan which is located in a former watch tower and hosts a collection of artefacts tracing the history of Bhutan. Among other places to visit, Rinpung Dzong and Drakhapo are definitely worth visiting. The Paro market is also a great place to explore and makes for a perfect location for an evening stroll. If you don't want to stay in the city, Paro is where you should head to. The lush valleys here are a delight to explore and the streams and meadows are nothing less than a postcard.
Tawang has always been in the midst of conflict and controversy. But if you look beyond the controversy, you'll discover beauty incomparable to any other. Tawang is well connected from Tezpur by air and rail and summer is the best time to visit and plan a holiday. The major tourist attraction here is the Twang Monastery, which is celebrated as the birth place of the 6th Dala Lama. Besides the monastery, the Sela Pass and Jang Waterfalls are also touristy places and should definitely be a part of your itinerary. The Penga Teng Tso Lake is frozen for 5 months in a year, but makes for a wonderful sight all through. Do book a cab to visit the lake since the roads are a little tricky and are best managed by a local. Tawang is especially colourful in February when the Monpas, the native tribe, celebrate the Losar Festival (Tibetan New Year) and it really is a great time to be here. For foreign nationals, special permission is required to visit Tawang so do have all your papers in order. Before planning a holiday to Tawang, it's wise to research and also build contacts with the locals there to discover all the wonderful secrets of this splendid district!
Nestled in the midst of the breathtaking sceneries of Bhutan, Punakha is famous for its picturesque beauty and Buddhist majestic dzongs. Among the many fascinating things to explore here is the Punakha Dzong, which is a stunning piece of architecture with an amazing view of the sparkling water. This dzong or palace is also the administrative centre of the Punakha district. Discover your spiritual self at the Chimi L'hakhang Temple, which can be reached by hiking through some charming paddy fields. The Punakha suspension bridge here gives you a perfect bird's-eye view of the surrounding mountains and the magnificent river flowing below. This bridge is an adventure in itself, and is definitely not for the faint hearted! You can enjoy some river rafting at the Druk Rafting Service, which makes for a fantastic experience. Although the rapids are small, but they are enough to get the adrenalin flowing! Punakha is an ideal destination to savour the authentic flavours of Bhutan. The Chimi Lakhang Cafeteria and Dochula Resort Restaurant are great for some authentic food. Since Punakha is quite popular with tourists, one can easily find suitable accommodation here. Endowed with natural beauty, Punakha is sure to make for a memorable trip!
Lush greenery, refreshing sights and a town dipped in Buddhist culture, Jakar in Bhutan is a delight. If you are looking for a quiet, peaceful escape, perhaps there is no better option than this cluster of villages. Housing numerous monasteries and places of religious importance, including Kurje Lhakhang, one of Bhutan's most sacred monasteries, Jambey Lhakhang, Tamshing Gompa and Zangtopelri Lhakhang, these places are a must visit. The monasteries represent different facets of Buddhist culture and a visit to these sites will remain with you for a long time. Do plan your itinerary after consulting the locals since there are some norms and rules that every Buddhist town usually follows. The main bazaar here is another interesting aspect of this bustling town. A visit here will give you a peek into the daily lives of the locals and also an opportunity to connect with the energy of Jakar. You can buy woollen garments, wooden items and souvenirs from the emporiums here. There are quite a few guesthouses here – though they offer everything you may need for a comfortable stay, they are far from super luxurious. The village believes in simple living and everything here represents the elements and essence of Buddhism.
We chose to arrive in Lhasa by travelling on the world’s highest railway, a journey of breath-taking beauty that lasts 24 hours from the Chinese city of Xining, and crosses the Tanggula Passat 5072m. Arriving late at night, we were greeted by our guide in Lhasa with khatags, the white silk ceremonial scarf that is commonly given in Tibet as a sign of welcome. This was the first of many khatags we received. Lhasa literally means 'The abode of the gods'.