The Ultimate Travel Guide of Bhutan – Land of Thunder Dragon

Kuzo Zangpo La ! Hello from the land of happiness and Thunder Dragon – Bhutan. Situated in the lap of Mountains with colorful decorative Monasteries, beautiful valleys – this tiny country was in my bucket list from long time. So, when I got a chance to take 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 view

Bhutan complete view

Bhutan sounds magical, exotic and mystical place which has 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.

 

Why Bhutan is Called Thunder of Dragon / Land Of Happiness?

Bhutan is named Druk Yul which means Land of Thunder Dragon as because the fierce thunderstorms that belt down through the valleys from the Himalayas region and create a massive sound of thunders.

Bhutan view

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” .

 

En-route to Bhutan

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 way). 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 which 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 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.

 

Visa Process

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 day basis including food, lodging and commuting part.

 

Itinerary Followed by me

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 to Bagdogra Airport by Jet Airways and transferred to Phuentsholing via cab. 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 club at Thimpu called Viva City.

Day 3 : Visited the Thimpu with utmost excitement . After that proceed to Paro.

Day 4: Super charged and done one of my bucket trek , Tiger’s Nest. Evening spent with shopping and some spot visit.

Day 5: Covered rest of the places of Paro and proceed to Phuentsholing.

Day 6: Bid Adieu and fly back to Home …..

 

Places to visit at Phuntsholing

Phuntsholing is the border city of Bhutan which connects to Jaigaon in India. A very small city and amazing place to roam within 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 worshiping 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 worshiping 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 shop 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. 

Phuentsholing places

Zangdok Palri

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 of the park you can get a shop sells the cheapest and beautiful gifts.

 

Magical Thimphu with its glamorous glow

Thimphu was the most fascinating capital to me with all its magical colorful 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 a 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.

 

Witness one of the tallest Buddha , Dronduma stupa

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 place I have ever witnessed. The angles of Guardian are placed with 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

 

Glimpse to the National Memorial Chorten

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 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 of Bhutanese  were meditating in the beautiful garden outside the memorial.

Entry : Nu 300

 

Give it a try to Motihang Takin reserve forest

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

 

Spend some moment at National Post Office

national post office

The best way to know more about Bhutan , is National Post office. From where you can gain the knowledge about past Bhutan and also there are lot more information to be received. One can make his or her own stamp here which is absolutely incredible.

Entry : Nil

 

Unique experience for life time – Visit Simply Bhutan

simply bhutan

To portray the 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 bona fide 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.

Arah the wine

Arah the rice wine

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 perfect experience for one who wants to live a life of localhite in Butan.

Entry : Nu 300

 

Night life in Thimphu

Though Thimphu is the capital of Bhutan, still it has not much happening night life except a few. We been to Viva city , and it was good to me. The crowd was good and the small dance floor kept us dancing with its musical vibes.

Met there some Friends for lifetime 

 

Divine Paro – Exploring the magnificent Town

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 the 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 :

 

Not to forget to hit the Tiger’s Nest

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Taktshang Goemba or Tiger's Nest Monastery is one of the sacred and sanctified religious place of Bhutan. It hangs on a cliff and stands above a beautiful forest of Pine and Rhododendron . You have to trek approx 10km (Both way) approx 3,120 meter to reach the Buddhist Monastery. . Guru Padmasambhava, popularly known as Guru Rinpoche visited and sanctified Bhutan when evil harmed local people. . . The trek was tough and moderate to me. The uphill climb is immediate, trees enveloping like a shade. All together the trek was tough but breathtaking view enroute the path. The prayer flags, the glimpse of nest you can find everywhere and i was blessed to cherish the first snowfall halfway of the trek. . . . . . #tigernest #paro #takstang #monastery #bhutan_ig #bhutandiaries #travellingthroughtheworld #bhutantraveller #mypixeldiary #trektotigersnest #trekkingday #dslrofficial #beautifuldestinations #earth_pix #whpnaturallight #ig_bhutan #photographers_of_india #natgeoyourshot #cntgiveitashot #lonelyplanetindia #outlooktraveller #bbctravel #natgeotraveller @india.clicks @wanderers.of.india @instagram @inspired_traveller @yourshot_india @officialwph @deshidiaries

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The uber cool experience and enjoyment is 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)

 

Take a break at Rinpung Dzong

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 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 are, 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

 

Go straight at National Library

National Library

After visiting the dzong go to the National Library which is a combination of Museum also. Within this round, stone building are 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 national development of Bhutan.

From the library the glimpse of complete Paro valley is stunning.

 

Halt at the Paro Airport view point

While coming back to Phuentsholing , we stopped at the most Instagrammable place called Paro Airport View Point. One of the beautiful yet dangerous airport is in Paro. Getting mesmerized every second with the view of gushing sound of Paro river surrounded by vibrant lush valley  and high mountains around the Paro valley makes it an enchanting view point.

 

Bypass view Kichu Lhakhang

It was wonderful visit to the one of the oldest temple in Paro.The short visit of this monastery just so remarkable can be embraced forever in my memory.

Entry : Nu 300

 

Shop til you Drop

Well Bhutan is a place for shopaholic who are ready to buy Buddhist souvenir as well jewelry, Bhutanese dresses and different types of dry fruits. From my personal experience I found Thimphu and paro little bit expensive that to Phuentsholing.

shops at Trek Point-Tigers’ Nest

I   purchased a whole lot 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, jewelries and gift items.

 

Food to Taste (Be like Bhutanese)

Bhutan is a place of plenty of cheese and chilies. If you at Bhutan don’t forget to taste their very special signature dishes like Ema Datshi (Veg dish with cheese and chilies), Kema Datshi (Veg – cheese and potato), Suja (Iconic bhutanese butter tea ) , Arah ( the rice wine), Red rice few must try dishes.

 

Facts with Do’s and Don’ts

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 few rules before step in the new Country.

  • Bhutan do not promote solo travelling. Traveler has to book the trip with any group or agency.
  • The King is worshiped as a God. Photos of the royals are in every house, at every restaurant, in every hotel, on roadside billboards and so forth.
  • In 1974, the UN recognized Bhutan as a country.
  • In 1999, Bhutan introduced internet services and lift the ban of television. In current days, there is only one state owned televised channel.
  • There are no chain of McDonalds, KFC, Pizzahut, Starbucks, 7-11, Baskin Robbins, Subway, etc. to remain nourish their local food habit.
  • Education and Medical service are completely free in Bhutan.
  • The phallus, or penis, is viewed as a valuable fortune that gives life and avoids fiendish. It is a social, otherworldly and religious image. Hence, wooden red phalluses are ordinarily hung at the passage of conventional houses.

  • Bhutan is the world’s only negative carbon place, meaning it absorbs more CO2 than it gives out.
  • Men wear Gho, which is long gown belted at the waist. Women wear ankle-length dress called Kira.
  • It would be ideal if you carry enough money as there are very few ATMs are available in Bhutan. Carry small currency like 100, 200, 500.
  • Bhutan is Honk free country and they don’t allow unnecessary honking.
  • Always use zebra crossings while on road. As Bhutan has no traffic lights and they are very discipline in this manner.
  • Bhutan is a beggar free country , I did not find a single beggar there.
  • People are not photo friendly. Before taking picture ask permission.
  • Bhutan has GNH(Gross National Happiness) to measure the country’s progress making it the only nation in the world to do like this.
  • I have seen that its a women friendly country as at most of the shops , hotels and restaurants are running by women.
  • Shorts, hats are not allowed in most of the monasteries.
  • Bhutan has no railway or Metro services.

 

(Official Language: Dzongkha and Currency: Ngultrum = INR)

 

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.

 

Comments

  1. Debjani Lahiri

    So I skimmed through first in to your article and wanted to relive my Bhutan moments through it . Your post and updates did take me couple of years back when I did my first backpacking trip back in 2016 . I know the rules have changed now and they don’t allow such unplanned trips but nevertheless I do support each and every move by Bhutanese govt to keep this happy serving nation as a unique place to be visited .. oh how I loved the vibe and the people and their undiluted smile on their faces brimming with energy .. great post Pamela ! I still couldn’t jot down mine as yet .

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      Pamela

      Thanks so much to you for this amazing feedback and I am just too happy to know that you relate your long back trip’s memory with my article. Yes, that is true that Bhutan has some policy towards tourism but the vibe of authentic Bhutan make it special actually. Hopefully someday again I would love to see the happy country with some undiscovered part. 🙂

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  2. Neha Kulshrestha

    Wow!! this is a complete guide to plan a perfect trip to Bhutan. It’s high on my list as I know that its the happiest country and only carbon negative country. I would love to visit a country which emphasizes more on happiness than materialistic pleasures. Would keep it handy when i plan my trip.
    Loved the architecture especially the National Library.

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  3. Amrita & Agni

    Bhutan is a wonderful place. Though quite a few things have changed since we visited Bhutan 5 years back. But I think they have changed for the better. The place still looks as beautiful and picturesque as before. And yes, Tiger’s Nest Monastery trek is so close to my heart. Your post reminded me of our memories in Bhutan!

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