Bhutan- Breathe an air that is unchartered, exotic and unexplored
A hearty welcome to the ‘Happiest Country in the World’, Bhutan. Undertake a trip to Bhutan for your forthcoming vacation lapped in serenity. Your desire to escape from the dirt and grime can be fulfilled in this mesmerising land. The little discoveries that you make in this country will make you fall in love with this place. Though you are traveling to a foreign land, yet you do not have to carry a passport or apply for a visa. The Kingdom of Bhutan snuggles between the Eastern Himalayas. This landlocked country has elevated and transformed the meaning of Happiness. Happiness is no more a feeling. It is a place. And this place is called Bhutan; a land of thousand everlasting smiles. The natives call this place ‘Druk-Yul’ which means ‘the land of Thunder Dragon’. A couple of Fun Fundas about Bhutan: The colour of rice in Bhutan is red and chilies form the main dish here.
Bhutan has carved its own stellar identity through its traditions, plurality of cultures, histories, and customs. Bhutan has a rich culture that is deeply rooted in Buddhism. This peace-loving country also embraces the finest things of other cultures and countries. The friendly people of Bhutan live in harmony with one another and other environmental elements. Most of the population lives in villages or in little towns making this place even more engrossing. Bhutan’s national sport is Archery. The mind-bending landscapes and the warm hospitality of the people will make you happy and comfortable. The country is extremely neat and clean and life here begins silently to the soft pulsating vibrations of the traditional actions amidst untainted and delightful countryside. Bhutan is adorned with rich forests, fascinating forts, lush green valleys, ancient monasteries, steep verdant mountains, Buddhist relics among others. Apart from the bounties of nature, there are other man-made wonders also.
Bhutan can be reached both by land and airways. If you plan to visit Bhutan by land, you need to reach Hasimara first. From the Hasimara railway station, you need to go to Jaigon which is approximately 14 km. Jaigon is the Indo-Bhutan border which falls on the Indian side. This is where immigration needs to be completed. Head to the Bhutan Immigration Office in Jaigon and get the immigration process done which might take you only 30 minutes. Then proceed towards your destination from Phuetsholing.
Paro is a place whose spotless natural beauty is wondrous. Its untarnished wilds and age-old traditions make it a land that is liked by millions. It has an equal amount of splendid scenery and boisterous history with a good sprinkle of modernism in it. This town has many buildings from the bygone era. Paro is the centre of adventure sports in Bhutan. Whether it’s kayaking, trekking, rafting, mountain biking or hiking, you will get a chance to do it all in Paro. The traditional buildings, fertile rice paddy fields, lush mountains, green valleys, and other natural wonders accentuate the beauty of this stunning place.
The first thing that will catch your attention is the distinctive structure of the museum which is conch-shell shaped. This cultural museum was constructed in the year 1649 and was restored again in the year 1968. There is a watchtower in this museum that rests on the top of Paro Dzong. The museum contains very rare and valuable items of the Bhutanese culture such as paintings, arts, artifacts, and bronze sculptures. There are even specimens that are more than 1500 years old. This history-rich building has six-stories and every floor has a tale of its own. National Museum in Paro is a pride of Bhutan and not only history buffs but everybody will enjoy a tour of this place.
Paro Airport is the only international airport in Bhutan. It also happens to be the biggest international airport in Bhutan. Paro Airport is also known to be a very challenging one and is one of the most dangerous airports in the world. The airport is placed between staggeringly tall mountains which are 18000 feet in height. Even the altitude is 1.5 miles over sea-level. Only eight certified pilots in the whole world are permitted to land at this airport. The airport also has one of the shortest runways in the world. During landing, most of the flights face turbulence because of the strong winds.
It is quite an adventure and experience to fly to this airport and land on it. Bhutan Airlines and Druk Air are the only two passenger airplanes that fly from Kolkata and Delhi five times a week to Paro. Paro Airport is very neat. It is styled with traditional wooden shutters and artwork. There is a nice small duty-free shop at the airport.
The River Paro Chhu is in the Western part of Bhutan and it is a tributary of Wong Chhu. This scenic river is the lifeline of Paro. This river flows through Paro Taktsang and Paro Dzong and gives both of it a glorious look. Paro Chhu ultimately meets the Brahmaputra River in the Southern part of Bhutan before making the journey through Paro, Haa, and Thimpu. The Himalayan glaciers in Tibet feed this river. The confluence of Wong Chhu and Paro Chhu is called the Chhuzom. This river is a treat for the adventure sports lovers as they can enjoy rafting and kayaking in here. Paro Chhu extends for about 7 km.
Paro Dzong is a stunning masterpiece that welcomes its visitors interested in its frozen-in-time charms. This Dzong is officially known as Rinchen Pung Dzong. In short, Rinchen Pung Dzong is called Rinpung Dzong which translates to a ‘fortress on a heap of jewels’. The Dzong houses both the government administrative offices and the monastic body. This huge magnificent architectural splendour dominates the skyline of the town and is visible all over the valley. Rinchen Pung Dzong or Rinpung Dzong was constructed by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in the year 1644. There are nearly 200 monks living here.
This Cliffside monastery is also called Paro Taktsang and its most famous name is Tiger’s Nest. Situated at an altitude of 3120 meters over sea-level, Tiger’s Nest is a notable tourist destination of Bhutan. Legend has it that Guru Padmasambhava better known as Guru Rinpoche flew to this place on the back of a tigress from Tibet. Guru Padmasambhava is believed to have been mediated in a cave during the 8th century and he is given credence to have brought Buddhism to Bhutan. Tsechu is a popular festival that is held in Paro Valley in the months of March or April in loving memory of Guru Padmasambhava
A visit to the breathtaking monastery will sculpt many remarkable memories and experiences in your life. The impressive views of the soaring mountains and lush green valleys which ensconce the Taktsang Palphug Monastery give it a lordly appearance. Rhododendrons and the Blue pines add to its glory. Due to its solitary location, the monastery can either be reached by hiking or by a horse. A round trip hike will take approximately 6 hours including site-seeing of the monastery. You can also have lunch from the monastery café. A new day arrives with the monks spinning the prayer wheel kept in the yard precisely at 4 am. If you are visiting anytime from October to March then the timings are from 8 AM to 1 PM and if you visiting between the months of April to September, the timings are from 2 PM-5 PM.
Chele La Pass is situated between the scenic valleys of Paro and Ha. Chele La Pass is located at an elevation of 3810 meters above sea level. This is the highest pass in the country and is a major tourist destination in Bhutan. Chele La Pass tops the list as the highest motorable pass of Bhutan. You will be greeted with verdant and pristine mountains and larch forests on your way to this majestic Chele La Pass. Chele La Pass is very famous for hiking and mountain biking. The pass presents a great point of viewpoint for looking at Mount Jumolhari and Jichu Drake on a clear sunny day. Rhododendrons adorn this place during from April to June and are besotted with a very soothing climate. The summertime is for camping and picnicking and the cold winters are for viewing the vibrant landscape wreathed in snow. The scenery is amazing at both times.
Nestled in the mountains of Bhutan is an incredible valley known as the Haa Valley. Haa Valley is perched at an altitude of 2670 meters. This virgin place is a new tourist spot on the tourist map of Bhutan. The Haa Valley itself lies in between the Samtse, Paro, and Chhukha districts of Bhutan. The surreal vistas of this place will leave you speechless and explore its beauty by bike and walking trails. The Haa Valley is very near to Zhoglam or Doklam. This is the ancestral home of the Dorji family and the Queen Grandmother. The picturesque Haa Town is sparsely populated and is renowned for its customs and tranquility. Haa Valley is dotted with lush mountains and extensive grasslands. This paradise of a valley has a vast diversity of flora and fauna. This is an ideal place for nature aficionados.
Punakha was once the capital of Bhutan. Punakha is approximately 72 km from Thimpu. This scenic place has an altitude of 4265 feet above sea-level. The winters are warm and the summers are hot in Punakha. The winter season lasts from December to February while the summer season lasts from June to August. The gurgling sounds of Po Chhu and Mo Chhu, the picturesque vistas, the lofty mountains, the Buddhist architecture, all seem to awaken the lively and happy spirit in you. This quaint little town lies in the lap of Himalayan ranges. Punakha is a major producer of rice in Bhutan. Hence it is known as the ‘rice bowl’ of Bhutan.
The eldest Queen Mother, Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk constructed 108 stupas or “Druk Wangyal Chortens” in the loving memory and to honour the 108 Bhutanese soldiers who laid their lives for their motherland. The distance of this pictorial pass is approximately 20 km from the capital city; Thimpu. The beauty cannot be hard to notice with the Mighty Himalayas blanketed in snow surrounds this pass. The charming location is sprinkled with lush green hills. The Dochula Pass has a dizzying elevation of 3100 meters above sea level. During the winters, the Dochula Pass has a completely different avatar which you have to see to believe it. This pass is undoubtedly the most arresting pass of Bhutan, even though it’s not the highest one.
Unlike other valleys, Phobjika Valley is a bowl-shaped valley enwreathed by the attractive Black Mountains. This valley is a delight to nature lovers. River Nakey Chhu runs through this valley. The valley is positioned on the edges of Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park. A large number of feral beauties such as red foxes, black-necked cranes, wild boars, serows, etc. are found here. One will be at a loss of words to describe the beauty of this glacial-valley. Phobjika Valley is also called the Gante after the Gangtey Monastery. Gangtey hikes and treks are extensively famous for the tourists. A very famous crane festival takes place in the month of November. The tourist season begins in October and lasts until December.
Punakha Dzong in Western Bhutan is among the most picturesque dzongs in Bhutan. The dzong is set against the backdrop of jade green hillocks. Spring is the harbinger of colours and it dresses up the Dzong and the entire atmosphere in multiple beautiful hues. The lilac jacaranda trees are in full bloom at this time and it looks splendid across the pristine white-washed walls of the edifice. Punakha Dzong is the second largest dzong in Bhutan and also the second oldest. It also serves an official purpose. The dratshang or the official body of the monks utilizes this dzong as their home during the winter season. An amazing fact about this structure is that it is constructed without a single nail! This note-worthy structure accommodates and protects a major portion of Bhutan’s national treasures. This scenic dzong snuggles betwixt Mo Chhu and Pho Rivers and therefore you are required to cross the ‘Bazam’ to get to it. The dzong has a steep wooden staircase that can be pulled up and a burly wooden door that is closed at night.
Thimpu is the capital of Bhutan. It is also the largest city of Bhutan. Thimphu lies in the western central portion of Bhutan. Wander around the streets to get a feel of the Bhutanese lifestyle. Raidak River flows through Thimpu. Hand-painted flower designs can be seen on the outside of the houses. Many of Thimpu’s contemporary designs, including the supreme court, National Ceremonial Plaza, among others is done by American-Indian Pune based architect Christopher Benninger. Thimpu has an elevation of 7,874ft over sea-level. When in Thimpu, you must try the butter tea made with yak butter in other words known as Salty Suja.
This statue is perfectly positioned on a summit in the capital city, Thimpu. The Buddha Dordenma Statue is a lofty golden statue. There are approximately 1,25,000 tiny Buddhas hidden is this striking statue. The Buddha Statue was built by a Chinese Company. The Buddha Dordenma statue stands staggeringly tall at 169 meters. This magnificent structure is constructed of bronze and covered with a layer of gold. is situated in Kuenselphodrang Nature Park. This extravagant man-made wonder sits atop a meditation hall.
This fairly new museum was constructed in the year 2000. A 19th-century conventional house is where this museum is located. This museum will provide a vivid insight into the Bhutanese way of life. The museum also houses remnants from the rural dwellings. A lot of household items, like equipment and tools, are exhibited in the museum. The museum does a fabulous job of organizing academic programs for children. The essence of a rustic household is excellently captured and replicated by creating wheat, paddy and millet fields, conventional water mills, traditionally styled kitchens and so on. The water mills are built with millstones which are beyond 150 years old.
Tashichho Dzong lies on the northern fringes of the capital city of Bhutan, Thimpu. This dzong of bliss is a fortress and a monastery and stands upon the west bank of the Wang Chu River. From the year 1952, it serves as the headquarters of the government and at present, it has offices of the king, the throne room and few others. Emerald green mountains surround the buildings. On the west side of the dzong, there is a small tower. A statue of Shakyamuni Buddha along with other Gods and Goddesses are placed there. This dzong has manicured gardens and well-maintained lawns.
This zoo in Thimpu is situated in the Motithang district. The National Animal of Bhutan is Takin and this zoo is home to this unique creature. The body of this animal is of a cow and the head id of a goat. Takin is also known by two other names; gnu goat and cattle chamois. The Nature Conservation Division of Bhutan is working hard to save this endangered species.