Bhutan: Bhutan, a Buddhist kingdom on the Himalayas’ eastern edge, is known for its monasteries, fortresses (or dzongs) and dramatic landscapes that range from subtropical plains to steep mountains and valleys. In the High Himalayas, peaks such as 7,326m Jomolhari are popular trekking destinations. Paro Taktsang monastery (also known as Tiger’s Nest) clings to cliffs above the forested Paro Valley.
Bhutan - Land of The Thunder Dragon
Landlocked between India and China, Bhutan which is also known as the “the happiest kingdom on Earth”, is a tiny treasure chest of alpine landscapes with unspoilt landscapes, fascinating architecture and of course its wonderful people. With one week in Bhutan, you can explore this country to the fullest, making memories that will last forever.
In these 7 days in Bhutan, we visited the 3 major cities: Thimpu, Punakha and Paro. The capital city of Thimpu is known for its landmark Buddhist temples, Punakha is known for its picture perfect scenic views and Paro is known for its striking beauty that is sure to take your breath away.
We took an early morning flight from Mumbai to Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi. From Delhi, we proceeded towards Paro. On our way to Paro, we experienced one of the most spectacular mountain flights. Flying from the heat of the plains of India, we witnessed a series of the world’s highest mountain peaks. We descended into the high mountains. As the aircraft lowered, we did not find any airstrip or city. Instead, we enjoyed the view of the approaching Paro valley, the alpine forests, little monasteries, temples and farmhouses. Before the plane touched the runway, we got a glimpse of the fertile Paro valley, the Paro chu (river) and the magnificient Paro Dzong. On arrival at the airport, we were greeted warmly by the local representatives and we proceeded towards the capital city, Thimpu.
After we had our breakfast, we proceeded for the city tour of Thimpu. Thimpu is unique in its own way. You will find no traffic lights in Thimpu. The people of Bhutan have adopted their own version of the British - Indian colonial times traffic policemen who are capable enough of handling the traffic with their elaborate hand gestures. We visited the National Memorial Chorten: a stupa dedicated to the third king of Bhutan, the Buddha Statue, and the Takin Zoo. We drove downhill to catch a glimpse of the Tashichho Dzong. We visited the National Library and the Folk Heritage Museum. In the afternoon, we took a short walk to the Handicrafts Bazaar to view the traditional arts of Bhutan. We had the evening for ourselves so we walked to the main city from the Clock Tower Square for shopping.
We proceeded to the low lands of the Punakha valley touching the Dochula pass (10,000 ft). We had a stop in the Hongtsho village, at the immigration check point to stamp in our permit. This was our first mountain pass in the western part of Bhutan. We found the 108 Druk Wangyal chortens on the top of the pass where the ridges were draped in colorful prayer flags. Dochula Pass is at a wonderful location as it offers a stunning 360 degree panaromic view of the Himalayan range. We were lucky enough to have the weather clear on our arrival. The view from the Dochula pass was scenic with snowcapped mountains forming a majestic backdrop to the tranquility of the 108 chortens gracing the mountain pass. We were able to see the highest peaks towards the north, Gangar Punsum being one of them. It is the highest unclimbed mountain peak (24,000 ft) in the world. We reached Punakha in the afternoon. After our lunch, we visited the majestic Punakha Dzong which is placed strategically at the junction of the Pho Chu and Mo Chu rivers.
We drove to the beautiful Gangtey valley via Wangdiphodrang Dzong which is located on a ridge (4,430 ft) that overlooks the highway that forks to the east and south of the country. It is an old town with narrow streets having single storied shops. It is also the gateway to central and eastern Bhutan. The Gangtey Valley is one of the most beautiful open valleys in Bhutan and is the winter home to the endangered black necked cranes (Grus Nigricllis) which migrate to this valley around mid-November from Tibet. These cranes have for centuries captured the human imagination with their intelligence, poise, sociality, beauty and freedom which have given rise to several myths, legends, folktales and songs. The birds fly back across the Himalayas to their summer home towards Tibet and China. The Gangtey village is small and dominated by the yellow roofed Gangtey monastery. We returned to our hotels in the evening.
Our next destination was Paro. After breakfast, we drove to Paro via the Babesa express highway. Upon reaching the Chuzom check post, we stopped for a while at the bridge. The bridge and its ambience is enough to refresh anybody’s mind. We stretched our legs and took a stroll over the bridge before proceeding further. We checked into the hotel around evening and relaxed ourselves for the following day, as it was the main highlight of the tour.
The highlight of the tour: Tiger’s Nest. Tiger’s Nest, or the Paro Taktsang is a major tourist attraction in Bhutan. Paro Taktsang, is a prominent Himalayan Buddhist sacred site and the temple complex is located in the cliffside of the upper Paro valley in Bhutan. A temple complex was first built in 1692, around the Taktsang Senge Samdup cave where Guru Padmasambhava is said to have meditated for four months in the 8th century. Hiking is the only way to reach the temple. The hike to Tiger’s Nest is a moderate one and takes about 3 - 5 hours. Anybody with an average level of fitness can do it. The trek to Tiger’s Nest is definitely worth it. The trail to the monastery is a wide, dirt trail. It is uphill the entire way but not very steep. This hike definitely has the best views to offer!
The feeling of accomplishment you get when you reach here is just inexplicable.
After the trek, we returned to tha camp and proceeded to the hotel.
The last day of the tour. Nobody likes the last day of their tour but sadly, just like bad things, good things don’t last forever. We had our breakfast and proceeded to the Paro Airport.
On our flight back to Delhi, we were graced with the view of the world’s tallest mountain peak: Mt. Everest.
The holiday concluded on a good note. We had fun and a lot of memories to cherish.
BHUTAN is a must visit for every travel enthusiast!