Bhutan is one country, I have been wanting to discover, travel since the past two years. A lot has been spoken about Bhutan in the recent times. It is the epitome of simplicity. It is the only country that measures its GDP in happiness! It is the worlds most Eco friendly country. It is one country, every country should strive to be.
First impression of Bhutan on landing in Paro beautiful rice paddy fields with the backdrop of luscious green mountains. We flew by Druk airways, which is probably the only airlines that flies to Bhutan and Paro being the only International Airport. The Paro airport is a very cute, quaint, traditional looking airport (reminded me of the airport at Leh). On landing, we went through fuss free immigration and we were transferred to Thimpu from Paro by our packaged tours and travelers, little did we know that by the end of this trip we would make great friends with the other members of our tour.
The drive to Thimpu is filled with breathtaking views of the vibrant paddy fields with the cloud topped Himalayas framing every stretch of the enchanting route, my favorite being the Paro valley which sits on the border of Bhutan and China. The route is about two to three hours with great roads and no traffic.
Must See Tourist Attractions
- Buddha of Indestructibility– also known as the Buddha point, which is seen almost from every range of vision of the city of Thimpu.
- The fortress of Thimpu – Thimpu Dzongkha-The dzong here is the seat of the Bhutanese government.
- If you are a creative person, interested in arts , I would recommend a visit to the school of arts of Thimpu-National Institute for Zorig Chusum,where you get to interact with the student and a one on one discussion with the students , faculty about the arts and crafts of Bhutan. You can also see students carving , sculpting , painting. It’s a sight to watch such skilled people at work.
Highly Recommended Restaurants-
Zombala 2– must try the Emma datshi( their local dish ) chillies in cheese to die
for;Momos, Chowmein ,Peach Wine.
2. Ambient Cafe– local organic food (varies from day-to-day).
Our accommodation was a quaint little hotel with panoramic views from two sides, of the mountains on one side and the Buddha point on the other. Few of our friends who were put up at another hotel had the opportunity to meet the mother of the king and the son of the King and seek their blessings at their hotel, which is a royal property.
PUNAKHA- enroute Dochula Pass
The drive from Thimpu to Punakha via Dochula pass is another scenic road trip. I love these road trips to different destinations , it just transfers you to another world. At the Dochula pass is the 108 stupas or also called as the memorial chortens.If you are lucky enough and the weather is in your favour , you might spot the Himalayan range and the highest peak of Bhutan ,otherwise you can enjoy the clouds hovering above you. The weather was amazing and the best at this place . We enjoyed a cup of coffee at the restaurant and the view!
MUST SEE TOURIST ATTRACTIONS:
- Punakha Dzong- Located at the confluence of two rivers Mo Chhu and Pho Chhu. It is also known as the palace of happiness.It is a paradise for photographers and architects (like me).The Dzong stands majestically in the midst of the picturesque mountains and the rivers.Absolutely loved this place, very peaceful and calm .
- The next thing to do in Punakha is probably the most exciting and adventurous activity we did throughout the trip- RIVER RAFTING. One can experience the awe of nature by river rafting.Also ,I would recommend this for elderly people as well ,as the rapids are very calm and at points you feel like you are boating rather than rafting, so you can soak the view around you and enjoy your ride as well.
The drive to Paro is the same from Punakha to Thimpu and Thimpu to Paro. On our way back we did stop at at the Dochula pass again, hoping for a clear weather, but much to our dismay, it was still cloudy and covered with fog so there was no chance to spot the Himalayan range. We also did stop over at Thimpu for lunch and we decided to have lunch again at our favorite restaurant zombala 2 🙂! A big thumps up for the service and food of this restaurant. We also did visit the zoo just to see the national animal of Bhutan Takin which is a cross between a sheep and a goat.It is probably the strangest looking animal I have ever seen and a rare mammal.Takin the only animal in the zoo.
Must See Tourist Attractions-
- Hike Upto Tiger’s Nest– hanging on a cliff 10,240 ft over the Paro Valley,the most holiest and scared site of Bhutan.Experience of a lifetime.
“I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees.”Henry David Thoreau
Thats exactly how I felt after that amazing trek!
- Hot stone bath-After hiking up to Tiger’s nest, believe me, you need this. Now our perception about this was completely different from what it turned out to be. Nevertheless it was amazing and all your body pains and cramps will vanish. There are several places in Paro that offer the hot stone bath, we opted for the one in our resort as we had no energy left after Tigers nest to travel elsewhere. Hot stone bath is a wooden bath/tub which is filled with water from the river stream and is heated with pebbles from the river stream , heated over an open fire and then placed in the bath.You can put as many stones as per your requirement of the temperature of the water.The stones heat the water and you can lay in the bath for as long as you can bear the heat.There is an indoor and an outdoor version of this , we did the indoor one .It flushes out all the sweat and is great!
- Shop at the local market-shop for traditional handicrafts.I recommend buying lemongrass soaps and sprays for cleaning , they have a very soothing fragrance.We bought quite a few bottles of peach wine which was my favorite 🙂
We did not have a lot of time at hand to try the restaurants at Paro, most of our meals were at our hotel. Our hotel in Paro, Hotel Olathang was built-in 1974, it is an old heritage property with traditional Bhutanese architecture.It is a beautiful hotel, has a certain grandeur,very spread out with picturesque views, great food and very friendly staff.
Our overall experience in Bhutan was an unforgettable one and I would love to visit and explore Bhutan yet again.