Nestled in Eastern Himalayan range, the small landlocked Kingdom of Bhutan is the first and final carbon negative country on the planet! This is the place you can inhale the purest air on the earth. A photo idealizes setting of valleys, mountains, woods and snow peaks is a common element in the Land of Thunder Dragon. Buddhism is a lifestyle for the general public which underscores on Gross National Happiness (GNH) rather than measuring GDP. Thimpu the capital, Paro, Punakha and Punshotling make up the prime urban areas where streets are recent phenomenon. The fundamental roads of Bhutan are loaded with generally dressed locals, dark crimson robed monks and visitors. Rich green unblemished farmland is spotted with towns and dzongs where individuals approach their life as though it was seventeenth century. The tranquility is kept up by kingdom's strict vacationer laws. The tourism is controlled in Bhutan where westerners need to pay traveler duty of $250 every day. We Indians are honored to enter the kingdom without visa and there no extra assessments. So exploit the liberal arrangement and get on the plane to Paro. On a crisp morning you may be compensated with the strong Mount Everest! Set out on an epic adventure and get transported in time. Here is to Eternal Bhutan!
Get lost in the beauty of charming
Paro is the gateway to the Kingdom of Bhutan, the only international airport of the country is located here. The descent in Paro is a sheer visual delight as the aircraft negotiates its way to land on a narrow runway surrounded by towering hills. The adrenalin rush is in sharp contrast to the peaceful valley dotted with vibrant traditional architecture. The picturesque valley is home to around 155 temples and monasteries dating from 14th century. The best way to explore Paro is on foot. The National museum located inside Paro Dzong (an ancient watch tower) is worth visiting for its exquisite collection of Bhutanese artefacts and artworks which reveal the rich cultural traditions of Bhutan. Stroll around the fortress ruins of Drukgyel Dzong and admire the history of this beautiful country. End your day with a stroll around the main street of Paro adorned with traditional wooden houses and shops. This is the beginning of your relaxing holidays!
Take a selfie in front of the Tiger's Nest
Taktsang Lhakhang, popularly known as The Tiger's Nest is one of Bhutan's most sacred religious sites. Hanging on a cliff edge at a height of 1000 meters above Paro Valley, Taktsang Monastery is the most iconic landmark in Bhutan. The monastery was first built in 1692 at a site where Guru Rimpoche is believed to have prayed in 8th century. The current structure was rebuilt in 1998 after it was destroyed in a fire. The trek to monastery takes 2-3 hours one way, depending on your fitness levels. Climb through beautiful, shady pine forests is rewarded with vistas filled with Himalayan peaks and green expanse of Paro Valley. The fluttering of prayer flags, rattling of prayer wheels and the chanting of monks lend magic to the hike. The uphill walk will certainly taste your stamina. And when you reach the top, it is time for the much deserved selfie! No trip to Bhutan is complete without hiking to The Tiger Nest! Though photography inside the monastery is prohibited, the magnificent location, sharp cliff drops and ornate interior decorations will leave lasting impressions!
Stroll around Norzin Lam
Thimpu, the capital of Bhutan is the largest city in the country. It is the political, economic, cultural and religious centre of Bhutan. Tashichho Dzong is the main landmark in the capital. It hosts the National assembly and the king's residence in its courtyard. Beside this, National Memorial Chorten and Folk Heritage Museum are worth visiting. Visit to The National Library will reward you with glimpses of rare Buddhist texts. Head to witness serene sunset at Kuensel Phodrang hill. Massive statue of Buddha Dordenma towers over Thimpu from the top of the hill. Norzin Lam is city's main thoroughfare, the only main road in the world without any traffic lights, as traffic is a new phenomenon in Thimpu. The centre is buzzing with trendy youth in contrast with traditionally clothed citizens and crimson robed monks. Walk around the centre and relax over cappuccino at a road side Cafe. You will not fail to notice how the new commercial exuberance blends seamlessly with the age old traditional culture.
Drive down to Dochula Pass for stunning Himalayan vistas
Dochula pass is a mountain pass in Bhutan which connects Punakha to Thimpu. Located at 3100 meters elevation, Dochula Pass offers stunning 360 degree panoramic view of Himalayan mountain range from the top. The pass is adorned with 108 stupas, commissioned by the Queen mother Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, in memory of the Bhutanese soldiers who lost lives fighting against the Indian insurgency. The temple of Druk Wangyal Lhakhang is located along the pass and makes a spiritual destination for locals. Visiting the pass will take you into the lap of nature where gleaming peaks of majestic Himalayas create stunning backdrop. You cannot miss the fluttering of colourful flags throughout the journey. It emphasises the Buddhist belief that the mantras inscribed on the flags are carried out far and wide by the winds, spreading goodness around. Surrender to the serenity and soak in the breathtaking beauty of the mountains at Dochula Pass; this is the purest in can get in Bhutan. Do not forget to carry warm layers; it usually gets quite chilly on the top
Visit the seat of political and spiritual power Tashichho Dzong
Located on the banks of the Wang Chuu, Tashichho Dzong is the most important landmark in Thimpu. This Buddhist monastic complex is a seat of Bhutanese government. The original Thimpu Dzong was constructed in 1216, followed by a lower Dzong. It has been destructed several times by fire; it derives its current white facade from 1962 when the capital moved from Punakha to Thimpu. Traditionally built structure of Tashichho Dzong is surrounded by white walls, adorned with towers in red and gold triple-tiered roofs. The monastic complex houses more than 1500 monks. Take a tour around the complex and you will come across impressive large courtyard with manicured lawns. The Utse is the central structure of Tashichho Dzong. This 5 storey tower looms large over the central courtyard. The passageway is flanked by images of historical lamas. The history, traditions and splendid architecture will unfold as you walk around Tashichho Dzong. Experience the serenity in the picture perfect setting of Tashichho Dzong; the only noise you will hear will be of the whispering of tourists and the stirring of prayer wheels!
Visit the most beautiful monastery in Punakha
Punakha served as the capital of Bhutan for almost 300 hundred years from 1637. Two hours' drive from the capital leads to Punakha valley where the warm climate of the valley is favourable for rice growing. The Ritsha Village is famous for white and red rice harvest. The fortress of Punakha Dzong is located on an island at the confluence of Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu rivers. Considered as the most beautiful dzong in Bhutan, Punakha Dzong was built in 1600 and now serves as a winter residence for the monastic body from Thimpu. The white walls of dzong are lined by lilac jacaranda trees and can be accessed by a wooden bridge. The majestic red roofed Punakha Dzong stands tall surrounded by the charming setting of rivers, snow capped mountains and green valley. Smaller treks from Punakha take you around to region untouched by civilization. Take a day trip from Thimpu to visit this beautiful valley and you will be transported back in time. It appears that things have stood still since 17th century!
Trek in the spectacular valleys and mountains
Bhutan boasts Himalayan mountain range at its best. The country's policy of limiting tourists' activities has left the region largely untouched. Pristine mountain lakes, snow clad peaks, towering glaciers and vast green valley’s make it an ideal destination for trekking. The best time to go for hikes is between March-May and September-November. Whether it is just a day or two of small hikes or a week long adventurous trekking in the wilderness, Bhutan has it all. The Jomolhari trek, Yaksa trek, the Snowman trek or Druk Path trek are some of the circuits attracting the hardcore trekkers. It is easy to find shorter hikes around popular towns of Paro and Punakha. Two hours of hike from Paro will take you to the world famous Tiger's Nest Monastery, whereas an isolated temple of Geon Tsechu can be accessed by two hours trek from Punakha. No matter in which direction you head, you will be rewarded with spectacular vistas and breathtaking panorama of Himalaya. It is incredible to come across unexplored monasteries and villages, where you will find Bhutanese in traditional dresses going about their life, so far removed from the modern world!
Take a road trip in the countryside
Indian citizens have the privilege to drive into Bhutan by road without any visa. The border crossing at Phuntsholing provides an accessible entry point. The only thing needed is a Bhutanese permit to wander around the kingdom, which can be easily obtained at the border crossing. The usual route from India would be Siliguri – Phuentsholing – Thimpu and onwards. You will pass through Buddhist monastery Kalachakra located on Siliguri – Jaigaon road, which is famous for regular visits by Hollywood actor Richard Gere. Once you are on the roads of Bhutan, the world changes. The drive passes through scenic forests, villages and mountains. The spectacular backdrop of Himalayan peaks and winding roads are guaranteed to provide the thrill for a road trip. A week long road trip gives opportunity explore Thimpu, Paro, Punakha and visit smaller villages and dzongs in the region. If you love driving, then Bhutan has the roads and the vistas. Get behind the wheel of your SUV and it will be trip to remember!
Explore serene Jigme Dorji National Park
One of the largest national reserves in Bhutan, Jigme Dorji National Park is rich in wildlife and offers the widest biological diversity. The mountain region is covered with numerous flowers including the national flower blue poppy and rhododendrons. The park occupies significant parts of Bhutan and within its boundaries you can find the landmark Himalayan peaks of Jomolhari, Tshering Gang and Jichu Drakey. Crystal clear mountain lakes against the imposing glaciers create breathtaking panorama. The glacial reservoirs form the source of the rivers Mo Chhu, Wang Chhu and Pa Chhu. The 16th century monastery of Lingzhi Yugyal Dzong and 17th century Gasa Dzong are nestled inside the park. The well marked trails offer great trekking opportunities in the spectacular mountain ranges. Day trip inside the Jigme Dorji National Park can be planned from Thimpu. Spend a day in the lap of nature and breathe the purest air on earth. The picture perfect beauty will lure you into taking hundreds of pictures. Enough to make friends jealous back home!