Bhutan is a small nation in South asia , nestled between India and China. Thimpu is it’s capital city while Punakha and Paro are popular cities on the tourist map.
The country of Bhutan is famous for its monasteries, fortresses (or dzongs) and dramatic landscapes.It is known as one of the happiest countries in the world and it’s people are very friendly and welcoming. Their way of life is very connected to their natural environment and heritage. It is an amazing place to travel to and has a lot to offer in terms of spirituality , adventure ,nature and sights.
A week long vacation to Bhutan is great to find and see a major chunk of what this country has to offer. Taking a specialized tour like a cycling tour or a meditation / spiritual tour is also a good way to explore Bhutan in a manner of one’s preference.
A visit to Bhutan is not just a vacation but a whole different experience in itself.
HOW TO REACH BHUTAN
By Air : Bhutan has only one airport – The Paro International Airport. Only Bhutan Airlines and Druk Air operate here.
By road (via India) : From Bagdogra Airrport(West Bengal, India) one can take
a cab till Jaigaon and enter Bhutan via Phuentsholing
WHERE TO STAY IN BHUTAN
Bhutan has a lot of options in terms of stay for different budgets. It is a very family friendly place and most places accommodate different needs and requirements of the people, but as everywhere else, it is recommended to discuss any special needs that you have before booking a place just to be on the safer side.
While 4-5 star hotels are always a good idea to stay in (and are great if an uber-luxurious stay is you goal) but you should definitely try to reside at a homestay. Homestays for travelers are abundant in this country . They are very comfortable, easily available and offer an experience no regular hotel can provide. A homestay will ensure an immersive local experience and interaction with the people will only improve the quality of your holiday and leave you a lot more insightful about the places you stay at or visit.
A few homestays in Bhutan which we would recommend are:
Dhumra farm resort
Dhumra is a wonderful farm resort towering over Punakha Valley. This is the ideal place for those who want to get a glimpse of village- and farm life but are not quite ready to do without the amenities of a full fledged lodge.
You can enjoy a hot stone bath with a picturesque view of Punakha valley, get your veggies straight from the garden onto your plate, have your privacy when needed and meet with the locals when desired. You can take a short hike to visit the famous Punakha Dzong and the Punakha suspension bridge from here. Another hike that you can take is to Talo Village. You should stay if you crave a bit of adventure intertwined with some local experiences.
Nivvana Lodge Paro
This is a beautiful homestay located along the Pacchu River in Paro. They have their own restaurant as well!. There is a nice garden with apple and peach trees and lots of open space. The bedroom we got was quite large, the bedsheets were clean. The bathroom was clean, the geyser gave very hot water.
dotted by the Pachu River running alongside. You can spend hours taking a refreshing and highly energising morning walk close to the home stay.
Located in Thimpu, with organic vegetable gardens, a backyard poultry farm and a small tofu processing unit, Damchoes provides the essence of the “see beyond the tourist trail” and the experiences of a “real home away from home”. Stay at Damchoe’s to experience a modern Bhutanese family home . Its an old house but very well maintained. There is also a balcony overlooking the majestic fortress . You can get involved in the farming activities or take walks in the surrounding gardens and see how the food that you eat eat is grown . Damchoe’s homestay gives you a true farm to table experience!
This homestay in Punakha is very cosy and and welcoming. The host is extremely friendly and willing to go out of the way to help out all those who stay here. It is only a short walk from the river and there are a few small shops round Dharma Lodge for some souvenir shopping. Its very close to the Tiger’s Nest and is a great idea to stay here right before you do the trek. The view from rooms are beautiful. They even provide a bonfire in the night(on request)
If homestays are not what you prefer, then Bhutan has something even more special to offer. For a slightly higher budget there are Heritage Hotels which provide all the luxury of a hotel but combine it with the culture and traditions of an authentic Bhutanese stay. Offbeat Recommends
Soednam Zingkha Heritage Lodge is an immaculately restored traditional farm house nestled in the village of Hatey that combines heritage with modern comfort. Customary paintings, earthen walls, and ancient timber complement the comfortable bedding, heated rooms, and modern bathrooms to create an unforgettable atmosphere. Hand-painted murals adorn the walls. They even offer a prayer room for those who wish to use it.
Soednam Zingkha Heritage Lodge offers an authentic and traditional taste of Bhutan with the conveniences of a modern hotel. It is a truly beautiful hotel to stay in and has breathtaking interiors at every corner. A must try on our list!
Check out more Blissful Homestays in Bhutan.
PLACES TO VISIT IN BHUTAN
Dochu la pass
Dochula Pass is a beautiful mountain pass, which is about 20 km from Thimphu. It is made of 108 memorial stupas known as “Druk Wangyal Chortens” , in the memory of soldiers who sacrificed thier lives for Bhutan It’s not just a place of historical and religious importance, but also a popular tourist attraction that any traveler would want to witness on their journey through Bhutan.
Known as “fortress of the glorious religion”, Tashichho Dzong, or popularly known as Thimphu Dzong, is an impressive structure that houses the Bhutanese government. It stands on the right side of the Wangchu River (Thimphu).
The Buddha Dordenma is located atop a hill in Kuenselphodrang Nature Park and overlooks the Southern entrance to Thimphu Valley. The statue is said to emanate an aura of peace and happiness to the entire world.
This massive statue of Shakyamuni measures in at a height of 51.5 m, making it one of the largest statues of Buddha in the world. The statue is made of bronze and is gilded in gold. The throne that the Buddha Dordenma sits upon is a large meditation hall.
The Memorial Stupa, Thimphu, also known as the Thimphu Chorten, is a prominent landmark in the city of Thimphu. It was built in 1974, in the memory of the 3rd king Jigme Dorji Wangchuk. It is popularly known as “the most visible religious landmark in Bhutan”.This stupa is unlike others as it does not enshrine human remains. Only the Druk Gyalpo’s photo in a ceremonial dress adorns a hall in the ground floor. When he was alive, Jigme Dorji wanted to build “a chorten to represent the mind of the Buddha”.
Mothihan Takin Preserve
Motithang Takin Preserve, located in the Motithang district of Thimphu, Bhutan is a wildlife reserve area for Takin, the national animal of Bhutan. Originally a mini-zoo, it was converted into a preserve when it was discovered that the animals refrained from inhabiting the surrounding forest even when set free.
Chele la pass
The 35km drive to Cheli la makes an interesting road excursion and is an excellent starting point for day walks. Chele la separates Haa and Paro valley and at 3810m, it is one of the highest motor able pass in Bhutan. The drive till here from either Paro or Haa is through dense spruce and larch forests according to the seasons. On a clear day, you can see spectacular views of Mt. Jumolhari, Jichu Drake and adjoining peaks to the North West, as well as the view of Haa and Paro valley.
Kyichu Lhakhang, Buits in 7th century AD , is the oldest known temple in Bhutan.According to legend, Kyichu Lhakhang is one of 108 temples built in a single night by the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo .Its sanctuary holds one of the most sacred statues in the country, the Buddha at the age of eight. It is popular for travelers to take blessings from this monastery for a happy and successful married life.
Kyichu Lhakhang is a place of art and culture that is very important to historians, art connoisseurs and visitors all around the globe.
Adjoining the districts of Paro, Chhukha and Samtse, Haa valley is one of the most picturesque places in the Kingdom.The Haa valley was opened for the first time to foreign tourists in 2002. It is culturally rich valley and is unparalleled in Bhutan in terms of the diversity of the folk culture, legends and shamanistic rituals. The valley is also a paradise for nature lovers and travelling there is a very rewarding experience.
The ‘Tiger’s Nest Monastery’ is one of the Bhutan’s most incredible and popular sites, It is a small monastery miraculously perched on the side of a sheer cliff 900 m above the floor of the beautiful Paro valley. It’s the goal of every visitor to Bhutan and while getting there involves a bit of uphill legwork, it’s well worth the effort.
Sangchen Dorji Nunnery
The Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang is a temple plus nunnery perched on a ridge overlooking Toebesa and Punakha valley. The complex also houses a permanent higher learning and meditation centre for nuns where, apart from religious trainings, it provides life skill training such as tailoring, embroidery, statue making and thangka painting
The skillfully carved black marble blocks surrounding the stupa,depicting the great lamas of Drukpa Kagyu lineage is the unique feature of this monastic complex.
Punakha Dzong in western Bhutan it’s often considered the most beautiful Dzong in the country, it is also the most important Dzong in Bhutanese history.It looks especially beautiful in spring when the lilac-coloured jacaranda trees bloom against the stark white washed walls of the Dzong. This dzong was the second to be built in Bhutan and it served as the capital and seat of government until the mid-1950s. All of Bhutan’s kings have been crowned here. The dzong is still the winter residence of the dratshang.
Punakha Suspension Bridge
A really worthwhile experience to walk across this suspension bridge. There are many prayer flags fixed along the sides. It is fun to walk over and the views of the river and Punakha Dzong are wonderful. There is a small hut where you can get a tea or coffee before venturing back over the bridge. Located near the iconic Pungthang Dechen Phodrang Dzong , Punakha Suspension Bridge is one of the longest and oldest suspension bridges of the scenically blessed kingdom, Bhutan built above Po Chhu River. The view of the emerald blue river cascading down the mountainous valley dotted with lush forest seen while crossing the Punakha Suspension Bridge has made it a favored tourist destination of the former capital of Bhutan, Punakha.
BEST TIME TO VISIT BHUTAN
March and April are a wonderful time to see Bhutan in bloom. Temperatures are pleasant and the valleys are bursting with flowers, greenery and birds. For nature enthusiasts , spring is an ideal time to go to Bhutan
AVOID the months of June, July and August – are monsoon season in Bhutan; a time of very heavy rain and the mountains become obscured by thick clouds. We would not recommend going to Bhutan during this time as the rains can hinder travel plans and make going out cumbersome and messy.
September, October and November are the most popular time to see Bhutan in glorious autumnal colours. But this is also the peak tourist season , so it is recommended to book flights early on.
December is a cold month in Bhutan, but the skies are blissfully crisp and clear and the valleys are sunny with far-reaching views across the Himalayas –it is a little chilly but this month is the best to go to Bhutan.
Travel with Offbeat Tracks to experience Bhutan to its fullest.