Bhutan lies on the eastern edge of the Himalayas, and is famous for its spectacular landscapes. It is the land of fortresses(dzong), monasteries, ancient traditions, prayer wheels, honest people, happy faces, rice, cheese and a lot of chillies. 😛 Its the only country in the world that measures its progress by Gross National Happiness Index(GNH) rather than economic growth.
I was more curious than excited to visit Bhutan as their culture and traditions have always intrigued me. And you don’t have to wait much longer to experience it, as the moment you step your foot in the country, you will feel a totally different, positive and pure vibe.
(If you are an Indian planning a trip to Bhutan then check out some tips here )
Day 1 : Arrival at Paro International Airport – Thimpu (Local sightseeing)
We arrived at Bhutan via flight from Gaya.
Also Read : “2 days in the Most Ancient city in India”
We met our guide plusdriver at the airport and started our journey by making an abrupt stop at an old iron crossover bridge on the Paro Thimpu highway. Though the iron bridge is not used anymore but you can still visit the other side of the river by crossing an alternate wooden bridge. Its a great sight to see the crystal clear water of Paro river flowing under the bridge. Also a very old stupa welcomes you on the other side. The view of mountains from this place is also very beautiful.
We checked-in to our hotel in Thimpu around 1pm, and immediately left for sightseeing.
a. Folk Heritage Museum
Our first stop was the folk heritage museum. Built in 2001, this museum provides tourists an insight into the traditional Bhutanese household. It is a three story house with an impressive collection of household items, tools and equipments. There is a nominal fee for the entry ticket. You must definitely visit the museum.
b. Great Buddha Statue
This was our second Great Buddha statue of this trip. We saw the first one, a 80 ft. high Lora Buddha statue in Gaya, India.
Also Read : “2 days in the Most Ancient city in India”
The Great Buddha Dordenma Statue is located in Kuenselphodrangn, on a mountain-top in Thimpu and can be seen from anywhere in the city because of its size as well as the height at which it is situated. It is a depiction of Buddhism, which is a dominant religion in Bhutan. The statue is 51.1 m tall and made of bronze. There are many different statues of Buddha within the Giant Statue. There are 16 statues of “goddesses of offering” surrounding the main Buddha statue.
The view from the Buddha point is breathtaking. Since, it is on a mountain-top it gets very windy and cold. So make sure that you carry a wind jacket or a stole to cover yourself.
We then headed to the city to a restaurant called, Druk Kitchen located very close to our hotel for dinner.
: Hotel Norbuling located very close to the city centre and has an amazing mountain view.
Day 2 : Dochula Pass – Punakha – Paro
As per our guide’s suggestion we checked-out from our hotel early in the morning and headed towards Punakha.
a. Dochula Pass
On the way, we crossed Dochula pass, which is a mountain pass at the height of 3100m, about 23km from Thimpu. It provides a 360 degree mesmerizing view of Himalayan range and is also known for 108 Stupas/Chortens memorial built by Queen, Her Majesty Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchukto in memory of the bhutanese soldiers that died in 2003 war of Southern Bhutan. Apart from Chortens there is a monastery called the Drug Wangyal Lhakhang. It is one of the most favourite spots in Bhutan, for tourists and the locals.
b. Punakha Dzong
The altitude at Punakha is 1200 m and it was the former capital of Bhutan. It is the second largest as well as the second oldest dzong in Bhutan. The Dzong houses sacred relics but they are not accessible to everyone. It was the administrative centre uptil 1955 post which the capital was moved to Thimpu. Punakha Dzong is built on the confluence of two rivers called Pho Chhu(father) and Mo Chhu(Mother)in Wangdue valley.
Post visiting the Dzong, we were invited by our guide to have lunch with his family at his house which was located in the Punakha town. It was a very sweet gesture and we really had a great time in his village, amongst the local people.
c. Punakha Suspension Bridge
Punakha suspension bridge is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the world. It is a 160 m long and built across the Po Chu river. It links Shengana, Samdingkha, and Wangkha villages to the Punakha Dzong. Draped in the colourful flags, this bridge provides a beautiful view of the river and the valley. It is located around 1.5km from the Dzong but can be easily missed as it is not on the main road. You can either walk or take rural roads to reach to the bridge. It takes 15 minutes to cross the bridge. In the case of strong winds it does sway a bit so be ready for an adventurous walk.
d. Chimi Lhakhang temple
Chimi Lhakhang is a Buddhist monastery located in the Punakha district. It was built in 1499 by the 14th Drukpa hierarch, Ngawang Choegyel. It was later blessed by Drukpa Kunley, known as the “Divine Madman” for his unorthodox ways of teaching Buddhism. He also introduced the use of phallus(erect penis) symbols. The monastery has the original wooden phallus that Kunley brought from Tibet. This wooden phallus is decorated with a silver handle and is used to bless people who visit the monastery on pilgrimage, particularly women seeking blessings to beget children. Traditionally symbols of an erect penis in Bhutan have been used to drive away the evil eye and malicious gossip.
Post this we headed to Paro.
Stay : Hotel Khamsum, Paro.
Day 3 : Paro Taktsang or Tiger’s Nest Trek
Taktsang Monastery, also known as the Tiger’s Nest is one of the most sacred Buddhist pilgrimage site in the Himalayan region. As per the legend, Guru Rinpoche flew to this site on a tigress’ back to subdue a local demon that was harming people. Thereafter, he meditated here.
Tiger’s Nest is located at an altitude of 3120 m, a 4km trek that passes through beautiful shady pine forest leads you to the monastery. It takes around 3 hours if you walk at a comfortable pace and lesser if you are a seasoned trekker. Mid way there is canteen that provides food, tea/coffee to the tourists. You will see a lot of positivity among the people you meet along the way. I would recommend you start early in the morning, take necessary breaks and carry layers of clothing.
You will see some individual structures apart from the monastery where monks live permanently during their meditation. You can explore all these structures however make sure to remain silent and avoid any disturbances.
1. Cameras are not allowed inside the monastery but you can take pictures from outside.
2. Monastery is open from 8 am-1 pm and 2-5 PM daily October – March and until 6pm April-September.
It is recommended that you keep your rest of the day free as you are likely to feel drained post the trek. We had lunch in the canteen on our way back then headed to the hotel to rest for a while. In the evening we decided to stroll through the market in the Paro city to buy souvenirs for our family and friends back home.
Day 4 : Departure
In the morning we checked out from our Hotel and headed back home..
Bhutan is a very safe country even if you plan on traveling solo. I found Bhutanese people to be very friendly, helpful and honest.
(Our guide and driver Kinley Dorjee is a very humble man. If you wish to hire him for your trip to Bhutan, call him on +97517338663)
I hope my brief itinerary helps you inplanning a memorable trip to Bhutan..
Thank you for reading..
The Seeking Soul..