Bhutan is a small and extremely divine country, a perfect choice to travel across, sited between the autonomous Tibetan region controlled by China and India in the Northeastern Himalayas. A country that is predominantly mountainous, Bhutan has its fair share of geographical and cultural diversity and variety to keep the travelers, especially from India, interested and intrigued by what it has to offer them.Bhutan is perhaps the most fascinating of the Himalayan kingdoms as travel entry was forbidden to visitors until 1974, and even after that numbers were still minimal. Landlocked by the mighty Himalayan peaks, Bhutan has been doubly protected from external influences, and as a result, the traditional way of life has survived largely intact. Deep rooted Bhutanese culture means that archery is still the national sport, and the gracious, gentle people continue to wear traditional dress: elegant wraparound skirts or “kira” for the women and checked, floor-length belted robes or “Gho” for the men. Mountains are blanketed with evergreen forests and dotted with Buddhist temples, valleys are sliced by glacial rivers and the piney air is delicious and clean. Bhutan’s luxury hotels and lodges are divine, but it is the Bhutanese people that make trips to Bhutan so special – they are extremely quick to laugh, and they’ve even been ranked number one in the world for Gross National Happiness!
₹ 42,500/- per person
Arrive at Paro International Airport. After arrival, proceed to the immigration counter. Complete Immigration formalities and you will be met with your chauffeur/ guide at the outside of the airport terminal. You will be transferred to Thimphu. Thimphu - is the capital and the largest city of the Kingdom of Bhutan. Thimphu is the political and economic hub of Bhutan. The city is located on the bank of River Wang Chuu. Thimphu contains most of the important political buildings in Bhutan, including the National Assembly of the newly formed parliamentary democracy and the residence of the King. Thimphu holds a fascinating four-day festival, held every year during autumn (September/ October). Arrive at Thimphu and check-in to your hotel. Later proceed for a short sightseeing of Thimphu. (Sightseeing on this day won’t be possible if the flight arrival time is beyond 2 pm) Memorial Chorten - On the western side of Thimphu's Memorial Chorten, a row of wooden platforms sits in the long grass. Each has been polished smooth by the prostrations of faithful worshippers who gather here in sun, rain or snow, to pay their respects to His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck (1928–1972), the Third King of Bhutan. The Chorten, with its elaborate golden peak representing the crescent moon and sun, is one of Thimphu's most striking religious landmarks. Constructed in 1974, the Tibetan-style chorten's whitewashed exterior boasts richly decorated chapels - one facing each of the cardinal directions. Overnight stay in Thimphu.
Breakfast at the hotel. After breakfast, proceed for full day sightseeing tour of Thimphu. Kuensel Phodrang – The statue was cast in bronze in China and transported by sea and road to this site once occupied by the palace of Druk Desi, a secular ruler of Bhutan in the eighteenth-century. At its completion, the statue will contain 125,000 gilded Buddha statues and a wealth of other statuary. Takin Reserve & Mini Zoo - Add to Wish List Hidden in a fold of the forest-draped hills high above Thimphu, a herd of takin make their home in the Mothithang Takin Preserve. Formerly a small zoo, the king decreed that the animals should be freed rather than kept in captivity. However, instead of wandering deeper into the hills, the tame takin took to the streets of Thimphu, where they became a traffic hazard as they foraged for food. Anim Dratshang (Nunnery) - On a hillside above Thimphu's Tashichho Dzong, just off Gaden Lam, stands Thangtong Dewachen Dupthop Nunnery. Home to around 60 nuns, the modest structure was built in 1976 by the 16th incarnation of ThangtongGyelpo, the famed fifteenth-century "Iron Bridge Monk" who forged chain-link bridges that still span several of Bhutan's fast-flowing rivers. The road to the nunnery offers magnificent views of Tashichho Dzong, while the small complex houses a covered chorten and an unusual pillar topped with two carved deer (symbolic of the Deer Park at Sarnath, where Buddha first taught after his enlightenment) and a wheel of law. Folk Heritage Museum - The Folk Heritage Museum, located on the outskirts of Thimphu, recreates a traditional Bhutanese family home inside a beautiful 19th century rammed earth and timber building. Here, the family's prized possessions are on display: shiny wooden bowls line the kitchen shelves, richly patterned fabrics hang alongside aged leopard fur bags in the room next door, and gold glints from thangkas hung in the family's altar room. Royal Textile Academy & Museum - Intricately patterned wild silk kiras from Lhuentse hang alongside rough nettle fiber cloth from Zhemgang in Bhutan's excellent Royal Textile Academy. The museum, housed in an impressive modern building, celebrates the country's vibrant and varied tradition of hand weaving. From the towering applique thangka that overlooks the entrance hall and the sumptuous garments on display in the Royal Gallery to mannequins dressed in simple herders' clothing from Laya, the museum offers an unparalleled chance to learn about and appreciate this unique aspect of Bhutanese culture. Handicrafts Market – An interesting market with local items and bargain price handicraft goods. Tashichho Dzong - Standing proudly on the western bank of the Wang Chhu a few kilometers north of central Thimphu, Tashichho Dzong looks every inch the seat of government. While the National Assembly no longer convenes inside the fortress's whitewashed walls, today the dzong still houses the throne room and the king's offices as well as the ministries of home affairs and finance. Overnight stay in Thimphu
Breakfast at the hotel. After breakfast, proceed for Punakha. En-route visit Dochu La - A mountain pass leading further into the Punakha Valley. It offers a stunning 360 degree panoramic view of Eastern Himalayan mountain ranges. The view is especially scenic on clear, winter days with snowcapped mountains forming a majestic backdrop to the tranquility of the 108 chortens gracing the mountain pass. Chimi LhaKhang- Built in 1499, Chimi Lhakhang is dedicated to the "Divine Madman," Drukpa Kunley, a sage revered in Bhutan for his unorthodox teachings and his use of a "flaming thunderbolt" to fight evil. While Chimi Lhakhang marks the spot where Drukpa Kunley defeated and buried a much-feared demoness, today the hilltop lhakhang is visited by expectant mothers and families with newborns to pray for their children's health. Kindly note that a walking of good 45 minutes has to be undertaken. Suspension Bridge - Behind Punakha Dzong stretches the Punakha Suspension Bridge, the longest of its kind in Bhutan. The bridge connects the dzong with the villages on the other bank of the Po Chhu river -- Shengana, Samdingkha, and Wangkha -- where traces of the Divine Madman Drukpa Kuenley can still be found, in the form of local stories, monasteries and markings on rocks. Punakha Dzong - Visitors approach the dzong over a long cantilever bridge that spans the Mo Chhu and up a steep flight of wooden steps. The first dochey or courtyard houses Punakha dzongkhag's government offices, with darkened passages leading south around the six-story utse to the monastic quarters that line the second courtyard. The utse contains Bhutan's holiest relic, an image of Chenrezig (the bodhisattva of compassion) that the Zhabdrung brought to Bhutan from Tibet — although this is not on public display. Check-in to the hotel. Overnight stay in Punakha
Breakfast at the hotel. After breakfast, you will be transferred to Paro. Arrive Paro by the afternoon and proceed for a brief sightseeing of Paro. Paro – The valley extends from the confluence of the Paro Chhu and the Wang Chhu rivers at Chuzom upto Mt. Jomolhari at the Tibetan border to the North. This picturesque region is one of the widest valleys in the kingdom and is covered in fertile rice fields and has a beautiful, crystalline river meandering down the valley. Kyichu Lakhang – When it was divined that she was preventing the spread of Buddhism, the great seventh-century Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo pinned her in place with 108 magically constructed temples -- allowing Buddhism to flourish above her restrained body. One of Bhutan's two ancient demoness-pinning temples, Paro's Kyichu Lhakhang is believed to hold the demoness's left foot in place. With its tiered roof and luminous white walls, the lhakhang's age is not immediately apparent. It is only inside the monastery's ancient heart, the Jowo Lhakhang, that the sanctuary's long history is palpable. Golden murals shine faintly from smoke-darkened walls, and the floor has been polished smooth by the feet of countless faithful practitioners. The holiest part of the chapel surrounds the revered seventh-century statue of Jowo Sakyamuni, visible through a gilded door. Rinpung Dzong - is a large dzong - Buddhist monastery and fortress - of the Drukpa Lineage of the Kagyu school in Paro District, Bhutan. It houses the district Monastic Body and government administrative offices of Paro Dzongkhag. It is listed as a tentative site in Bhutan's Tentative List for UNESCO inclusion. Ta Dzong – National Musuem of Bhutan
Breakfast at the hotel. After breakfast, proceed to visit one of the famous sites in Paro. Tiger Nest - From a distance, Bhutan's most iconic building seems to float, weightless, halfway up a sheer cliff-face, 900 meters (3,000 feet) above the floor of the Paro Valley. As you wind your way breathlessly up the long, steep path towards Taktsang Lhakhang, the monastery periodically reveals itself, rising out of the forest, closer and more solid with each re-appearance. Overnight stay in Paro.
Breakfast at the hotel. (for early flights, packed breakfast will be served during transfer) After breakfast, transfer to the airport to board your flight back to home. ** Tour Ends**
What currency is accepted in Bhutan?
Bring dollars. Or rupees. Your visa fee covers most things, but if you want spending money, you’ll need cash. There are some ATMs in the larger towns, but they’re about 70 percent reliable and you can only withdraw small amounts. You can spend US dollars, or change them into the local currency, Ngultrum (Nu for short). Or, skip the lines by changing money with your guide. Indian Rupees are accepted almost everywhere too: India is Bhutan’s closest trade and foreign policy partner, and the Nu is pegged to the Rupee.
What you should not do in Bhutan?
Bhutan is the only country in the world that completely bans the sale and production of tobacco—and naturally, smoking is banned in public places. Tourists and the Bhutanese elite can bring in 200 cigarettes, but ask your guide to find a place to light up. Hotels will accommodate smokers, some local bars and restaurants have indoor smoking rooms, and many nightclubs informally allow it after dark. Importing cigarettes overland from India (for personal use) is allowed, but they’re slapped with up to 200 percent duty. Smuggling tobacco can net someone three years in prison, but the black market is flourishing. Because it’s not feasible for most Bhutanese to go on expensive cigarette runs, local smokers buy them from ‘dealers’ at market stalls. Don’t count on doing the same: dealers will only sell to people they already know. Bring your own.
What is Dolma and why you should try?
Try the legal stimulant. Dolma, an addictive mixture of areca nut, lime paste and betel leaf, is deeply woven into the cultural landscape. About one third of the country’s population chews the nutty snuff daily, including women, the elderly, monks, and young people. You’ll find friends sharing a bag after meeting; as an offering at religious ceremonies; placed alongside plates of candies at events and passed around before and after meals. If you don’t notice it by sight—red stains cover most streets and its users’ teeth are covered in a red sticky residue—its pungent aroma will soon assault your senses. (Don’t be fooled by its natural-looking appearance. Sold in small plastic bags or cone-shaped papers, this seemingly benign combination of leaf, lime, and nut contains many unnatural chemicals that are extremely bad for your health). Trying it won’t kill you, but it will most likely give you the spins. For me, altitude is enough.
What is Bhutanese cuisine?
The Bhutanese believe a meal is unworthy without chili peppers. If you agree, you’ll be in heaven. The country’s national dish, ema datse, is a simple, fiery curry of chillies and farmer’s cheese, always paired with a generous helping of nutty red rice. Often topped off with ezay, a salsa made from (what else?) dried chillies, this dish can feel like an assault on your senses. But if you can’t get enough, go to the subjee (vegetable) market and ask for dole, a small red circular chili ranked one of the hottest in the world. To eat dole like a local, dip the chili into salt, take a bite and then shove a handful of rice into your mouth. In Thimphu, Ama Restaurant (and karaoke joint) is a good place to ease into ema datse and its other incarnations. In Paro, try Dagmar.
Bhutanese food is essentially ema datse three times daily, with slight variations: sometimes a piece of dried meat is thrown in, or the occasional root vegetable. There is a small but growing number of other options: In Thimphu, Cloud 9 is a burger and shake joint that serves quarter-pounders, creamy milk shakes and gluten-free vegetarian options. San Maru is a Korean BBQ overlooking Thimphu’s handicraft market, dishing out the best/only kimchi around. In Paro, eat momos at Sonam Trophel.
What you must try in Bhutan?
Cool off with dhachu. If you need a break from the burn, a glass of dhachu, the milky by-product of strained cow or yak cheese, will bring some relief. Also, hotels and restaurants catering to foreigners often cook a modified version of Bhutanese dishes to accommodate the chilip (foreigner) palate.
Why you should take local SIM?
Get a local SIM. Your cell phone may or may not get service in Bhutan, which has been cautiously embracing tech and telecoms being the last country in the world to legalize TV—in 1999. The Internet arrived soon after that, and now a majority of the population has a cell phone—usually with data—so Facebook, WhatsApp, and the Chinese WeChat are just as big here as in other places. Wi-fi is available at most hotels, and at higher-end coffee shops in Paro and Thimphu. If you need to stay connected, ask your guide to buy you a Bhutanese SIM card.
Know where your meat comes from. With the state religion a strict interpretation of Mahayana Buddhism, the Bhutanese—officially—won’t kill and butcher animals, but they do like to eat meat. They get around this quandary by outsourcing butchering to India. A lot of the meat you eat was probably driven into Bhutan from the India-Bhutan border. You’ll see locals preserving meat such as shakum (beef) and sikum (pork) in sun-dried strips on laundry lines. This is especially useful during auspicious months, when the government implements a meat ban, closing all shops for religious reasons. (It’s tough to stay up to date on when exactly those days will be: it depends on the predictions of religious astrologers and the advice of lamas—high priests.)
Why you should try Hot Stone Bath?
Chill out in a hot stone bath. The dotsho is your answer to staying warm and healthy in Bhutan’s harsh Himalayan climate. Bhutanese of all ages use this traditional bath for joint pain and to boost circulation. It’s prepared by heating river stones over an open fire for hours. Once hot, the stones are submerged in the bathtub, releasing deep heat and minerals into the water. Often it is topped off with locally grown artemesia (mugworts). It’s awesomely hot, and perfect after a long, winding drive or a scramble up a mountain. In Paro, hit up the Rinpung Valley View. The family who runs it will serve home-cooked snacks and ara (fermented rice wine) when you need a break from the bath’s intense heat.