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!
₹ 13,800/- per person
Meet & Greet on arrival at Paro Airport and then transfer to Thimphu (7,710 ft.) the capital city of Bhutan. On the way, stop to view the Tamchog Lhakhang. You may also choose to walk through the Chuzom Bridge (subject to time permit). On arrival in Thimphu, check in at the hotel. In the evening walk around the Thimphu town. You may choose to relax in the hotel as well. Overnight in Thimphu.
After breakfast drive to Punakha. On the way stop at Dochula Pass at 3150 m to view the higher Himalayas. The pass is approximately 25 kms away from Thimphu and is the highest point between the Thimphu and Punakha/Wangdue Valley. Another attraction is the 108 chorten/stupas (Druk Wangyel Chortens) built close to each other surrounded by numerous colorful prayer flags. Further, one the way to Punakha enjoy the winding roads and the nature at its best. While in Punakha, take a short and easy hike to visit the Chhimi Lhakhang which is also known as the “The Temple of Fertility” and was built by Lama Drukpa Kuenley, “The Devine Mad Man”. Then, visit the Punakha Dzong. Built in 1637 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal the Dzong served as the seat of until the time of the Second King of Bhutan. The Dzong was named Druk Pungthang Dechen Phodrang (Palace of Great Happiness). It is still the winter residence of Je-Khenpo. If time permits, visit the Suspension Bridge, which is one of the longest in Bhutan. In the evening, drive back to Thimphu. Overnight in Thimphu.
After breakfast visit the Kuenselphodrang (Buddha Statue). Located at a short drive from Thimphu City Centre, Kuenselphodrang offers a good overview of the Thimphu valley. The largest statue of Buddha in the country sits here which houses over one hundred thousand smaller Buddha statues. Then visit the National Memorial Chorten built in the memory of the Third King of Bhutan. Finally visit the Folk Heritage Museum. Afternoon visit Sangaygang View Point, Changangkha Monastery and the Takin Preserve Centre. Takin is the national animal of Bhutan. In the evening visit Tashichho Dzong (Fortress of the Glorious Religion). Overnight in Thimphu.
After breakfast drive to Paro. While in Paro, visit the Ta Dzong which now houses the National Museum of Bhutan with an excellent collection of arts, relics, religious thangka, etc. Then visit the Paro Rinpung Dzong which literally means the "fortress of the heap of jewels". The Dzong now serves as the administrative and judicial seat of Paro Dzongkhag. Then explore the Paro Town. Afternoon, visit the Kyichhu Lhakhang, one of the oldest temples in Bhutan and then drive further to visit the ruins of the Drukgyel Dzong built by Tenzin Drukdra in 1649 at the behest of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to commemorate the victory over Tibetan invasion. On the wayback take a photostop to catch the view of the Taktshang Monastery (Tiger Nest). Further ahead stop at the Paro Airport View Point to enjoy the view and the soothing breeze for a while. Drive back to Thimphu. Overnight in Thimphu.
After breakfast check out from hotel and transfer to Paro Airport for your onward journey.
Indian nationals do not require any visa for Bhutan. A permit will be issued at the entry point on production of a passport or Voter ID and 04 passport size photographs.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.