Bhutan is best enjoyed when you let yourself imbibe into a new culture of harmony, a culture of genuineness and a culture of humility.
A small land-locked country, mostly kept secret due to the high-value tourism policy of its Government, has a lot to offer – be it the high Himalayas covered with forests, the beautiful terrains covered with rice fields or the people measured under the Gross Happiness Index. Being an Indian and residing in a city of Mumbai, all that I instantly fell in love with was the nature and the calmness around.
I would share most of the details for my 6N/7D at Bhutan [Phuentsholing 1N, Thimpu 2N, Paro 2N, Phuentsholing 1N]. Even Haa Valley and Punakha are visitor’s favorite over here. It would take 2 more days to complete these.
Best Time to Visit Bhutan:
April – May and September – October; You can even enjoy the Paro and the Thimpu Tschechu in these timelines respectively.
You can also prefer the later half of March and first half of November, although that will be colder and snowy in Bhutan.
How did We Reach Bhutan:
- Starting from Mumbai to Bagdogra Airport (Siliguri, West Bengal) in Flight – This took whole 6-7 hours with airport halts
- From Bagdogra, a drive of 5 hours approx. to Phuentsholing – This town of Bhutan is the entry point of Bhutan for roadways travel
- Entry permit at the Immigration office of Phuentsholing – Visa for Indians is free and On Arrival
- Through this Tourist Permit, one can go to Thimphu, Paro, and Punakha. In order to visit Bumthang and other tourist places in Bhutan, a separate permit is required
- By flight, you can also reach Paro International Airport directly from Delhi or Kolkata. These flights are a bit costly- approximately 11,000 INR/ trip per pax.
Phuentsholing: The Gateway to Bhutan
This city offers a great welcome on your transit. You will not get any weather shock, much from Siliguri. But you will really enjoy the different Bhutanese cuisines and the areas around the Lakhang (Bhutanese Temple) in front of the Immigration office.
Few spells of rains and some time at a café is worth to start the evening and the trip for Bhutan.
You can visit Zangdokpalri Temple and the park adjacent to it in the evening.
2 days at Thimpu – What to do
From Phuentsholing, it takes around 3.5-4 hours to reach Thimpu. It’s the capital of Bhutan and the most concentrated town of Bhutan (not for an Indian living in Mumbai though!).
We recommend the following to do/visit while in Thimpu:
- Buddha Dordenma – One of the biggest sitting statue of the Buddha. The monastery below the statue is very beautiful and relaxing. One can have a great view of the town on the way to this place.
- Memorial Chorten – Non-Bhutanese people are not allowed inside the memorial. Visiting hours are 9am-5pm for tourists.
- Watch Clock Tower square – Best enjoyed with an evening stroll
- A visit around the Changlimithang Stadium – We were lucky enough to enter inside while there a football match was going on. Believe me, it is a very different experience of being able to see a match on a field surrounded by high mountains.
- Visit the Museums – We would recommend Simply Bhutan for live experience and Folk Heritage Museum for detailing.
Simply Bhutan will provide the live experiences of the culture and practices as people perform for each visitors. You can also check your Archery skills here and taste their locally brewed traditional wine Ara, most commonly made from rice or maize at private homes or farms.
Folk Heritage Museum is more touristy and provides a normal museum experience in a bigger area.
- Visit the National Library – Traditional structure with good collections of historical books, many manuscripts and religious scripts along with some modern books. No entry fee required.
- Visit the Lakhangs (Temples) –Changangkha Lhakhang – a good place, we visited in the morning and found really peaceful
- Find a Takin at the Taking Reserve – the national animal of Bhutan.
- Visit the Royal Tashichho Dzong – Open only after 5:30 p.m., the administrative office of Bhutan (from where the King and the Government operates) allows visitors’ entry.
Apart from the magnificent architectures, I should specially mention about the bed of roses that you can see outside the entry of Tashichho Dzong
A guided tour is conducted (compulsory) and a few parts of the palace and only a Temple is open for visitors.
2 days at Paro – What to do
From Thimpu, it takes 2.5 hours to reach Paro.
Highly recommended that you visit Chelela Pass en route. It is the highest motorable pass in Bhutan and has some awesome view. Getting to the higher regions around the pass is an easy trail.
While in Paro, we recommend the following places to visit:
- Tiger’s Nest/ Takshang Monastery – the obvious place that no tourists leave out. I will discuss the detailed experience of the full hike in a blog soon.
- National Museum – the museum is well equipped and informed. But the view of the town from the backyard is the best and I think it will remain in our heart forever.
- Paro Dzong – Extremely beautiful from inside. but only a few parts are available for non-Bhutanese visitors.
All Bhutan Dzongs are beautifully lit at night and look spectacular. Visit the Dzongs during the day time, but do not miss to watch them at night.
- Nyamai Zam – the wooden bridge flaunting Bhutanese wooden craftsmanship that connects the Dzong to the city square
- Tachogang Lhakhang Bridge – an old iron bridge built on suspension. The view of the Paro river is breath-taking from here.
- Most of the places have a visiting fee of Rs. 300 per head (as per May 2019).
- Would suggest you book through a Bhutan Government approved Travel Agent for hassle-free transfers and enjoying the travel.
- Round-trip Flight from Mumbai to Bagdogra Airport cost around Rs. 20,000 per head.
- The whole trip with food (mostly local) cost around Rs. 25,000 per head.
- This includes 3 – star Hotels at Phuentsholing, Thimpu, and Paro and transfers in SUV cars.
Where did we Stay?
- Hotel Bhutan Residency – Phuentsholing
- Bhutan Boutique Residency – Thimpu
- Khamsum Inn – Paro
Hope all the information above is useful. Let me know your comments below, or if you have visited these places and have some experiences to share, do let us know too.