All you need to know about Visiting Bhutan – the Land of Happiness.
Bhutan is a small nation with the population of less than a million, wedged between two giants in the Himalayas; China to the North and India to the South. Bhutan is a mountainous country with magnificent peaks, beautiful passes, vast lush valleys and glacier-fed rivers. The quaint nation is known for its unique culture and its unique philosophical ways of living. Conservation of nature and protection of culture co-exists beautifully with modernization. Development of infrastructure has never hindered the traditional architecture as both have amalgamated perfectly. The Bhutanese people measure their development in a much humane manner called Gross National Happiness and not by wealth or GDP. For most of its life, the nation has lived in isolation completely cut off from the rest of the world. This gave birth to a unique culture distinct from the rest of the world. Its rich history is dictated by greatly revered Buddhist saints, valiant hero warriors and giant fortresses where great battles were fought. All can be seen fully preserved to this day. Bhutan is also the only country in the world that absorbs more carbon dioxide than it produces hence bagging the name of the only carbon sink in the world. All of its aspects it offers endless possibilities for people traveling there to have an eye-opening experience. The only way to experience such serenity and beauty is by traveling there!
Can’t wait to get to Bhutan? Read this travel guide and you will be all set to travel to the world’s happiest place.
TOP DESTINATIONS TO VISIT IN BHUTAN
The entire of Bhutan is like a living museum in itself with its ridges and rock faces all decorated with sacred monasteries and grand fortresses adorning the valleys. While it widely depends on your duration of the trip and the time you are visiting, if your travel duration is short then you might want to stick to the western parts of Bhutan but if you are visiting for a longer period of time you can travel all the way to central Bhutan and to Eastern Bhutan. And if you are the kind of person who spends a lot of time traveling and wishes to traverse around Bhutan for more than a month then you can go all the way to eastern and southern part as well and Bhutan is not a very big nation, anybody can easily travel entire Bhutan in under a month’s time. Check out the places you can visit and things you can do during your trip to Bhutan.
Thimphu district is the capital city of Bhutan and also the most modernized compared to other districts in Bhutan. Thimphu is located at an hour drive for the Paro International Airport. Thimphu offers a wide choice on the sights and activities for travelers. Some of the must-visit places in Thimphu are the 54meters tall sitting statue of Buddha Dordenma or you spend your day immersing yourself in history at the 17th-century fortress called the Tashichoedzong. If you are anything like me and loves shopping handmade souvenirs, a great place to spend your day is at the Authentic Craft Bazaar along the Norzin Lam. You can also spend your day trying as many delicacies as you can from the plethora of choices Thimphu has to offer. Thimphu is filled with cozy cafés and restaurants that serve good food and strong coffees. Or if you are the outdoorsy kind of traveler you can spend your trekking up north to the Phajodhing monastery. The trek demands around 4 hours to reach to the site but the view from the monastery is just mind-blowing.
Paro valley is home to the only International Airport in Bhutan. It is known as the gateway to the world, rightfully so too. The valley is surrounded by beautiful mountains and the valley is equally mesmerizing. The Paro Chu (river) flows with much zeal, eager to meet the Thimphu Chu (river) at the ChuZomsa (river confluence). The valley also boasts of the most sacred monastery; the Tiger’s nest or locally known as the Taktshang monastery. The monastery can be spotted hanging on a cliff at 900 meters above Paro valley. Taktshang is the most visited site in Bhutan. Any visitor coming to Bhutan does not leave without setting foot at the marvelous site. It takes the hikers around 4 hours to reach the monastery and they are led through the lush alpine forest. The entire trail is decorated with fluttering prayer flags singing songs of the wind; all these experiences make the hiking more memorable. On the other hand, you can visit the National Museum. Its architectural designs are something to marvel about. For the foodie lot, they can spend their day trying out different cafes along the Paro Town or for the shopaholics; they can spend their time shopping from the many handicraft shops in the town.
Punakha valley is like a place from the past that has come to live. The whole valley’s medieval setting is just amazing. Many years ago, Punakha valley was the capital of Bhutan. The valley holds special places in the hearts of every Bhutanese as it is owed to this valley for whatever Bhutan is today. The most significant historic moments and events, greatest battles in the history of Bhutan were fought right here in the Punakha valley. Even to this day, important events like the crowning of a king and the royal wedding and most recently the naming ceremony of the baby dragon prince were witnessed at Punakha valley. Travelers traveling to Punakha can visit the magnificent palace of great bliss known as the Punakha Dzong. The Punakha Dzong is the most beautiful thing you will ever come across. Owing to the rivers of Bhutan, Punakha offers a great opportunity for travelers to engage in rafting activities.
GETTING TO BHUTAN
Druk Air and Bhutan Airlines are the only airlines in Bhutan that operate inbound flights to the country’s only International airport in Paro (airport code: PBH) from countries like Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Thailand, and Singapore. Your travel agent in the country can help you with flight booking. The best thing about flying into the country is the view of the mountains.
You can also travel to Bhutan by road. Bhutan shares its border with its southern neighbor; India. There are three points of entry into the country from India. First one is through Phuntsholing town which shares its border with the Indian state of West Bengal and the second one through Gelephu which is connected to India through the Indian state of Assam. The third one takes the travelers to the far south-eastern side of Bhutan as the entry point is located in Samdrupjongkhar which is connected to the Indian city of Guwahati. You are required to show your travel documents at every point of entry.
WHEN TO VISIT BHUTAN
Bhutan experiences four seasons in a year; spring, summer, autumn, and winter. If you visit during the spring season, the country is in full bloom with beautiful blossoms and lush greenery which will make your visit worthwhile and also you will be right in time for the famous Paro Tshechu (Mask Dance Festival). If you visit during the summer season, the country will be drowned in dazzling greenery from the paddy fields and you will be able to see a number of festivals including the Kurjey Tshechu and the exciting Matsutake mushroom festival in Bumthang valley. A visit during the autumn or the fall season is actually very mesmerizing with the country painted golden. Paddy fields turn yellow begging to be harvested and trees shedding its dried leaves preparing to grow new ones. All of it is simply beautiful. If you choose to visit during autumn you will also be right in time for the most popular festival in Bhutan; the Thimphu Tshechu. And lastly if you visit during winter you just might be in time to enjoy the snow and you can witness the Punakha Drubchen which is in February.
HOW TO BOOK YOUR TRIP TO BHUTAN & TOUR COST
In order to avoid being overrun by mass tourism and to promote sustainable and responsible tourism, all visitors are subject to minimum daily tariff. The minimum daily tariff is an all-inclusive package that covers accommodation, food, transport and guiding services. During the peak traveling season, the minimum daily tariff is US$ 250 per person per night and US$ 200 per person per night during the lean traveling season. Visitors also must book their trip to Bhutan through an authorized local travel agent in Bhutan such as BookMyTour . The local agent assists visitors with visa processing, hotel and flight reservation and planning tour itinerary.
Wangmo is a travel writer at BookMyTour and she strives to help travelers through her articles. Aside from her passion for writing, she also loves traveling and reading.
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