Complete Guide to Visit Bhutan
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Bhutanese call their homeland “Druk Yul” which translates to the Land of the dragons due to the mighty storms in the Himalayas and can be heard in Bhutan. The Kingdom Of Bhutan is a landlocked country located in Eastern Himalayas in Southeast Asia. Bhutan is a hidden jewel, with some mind-blowing facts. When I read about them, I was intrigued to know more and pay the visit a place. I bet you wouldn’t know these amazing facts about Bhutan-
- Bhutan is the only Carbon Negative Country in the World.
- Bhutan was isolated from the World until the 1970s
- There are no Traffic Lights in Bhutan
- The King Abdicated the Throne for Democracy
- Happiness Prevails Over GDP
- Bhutan Says NO To Plastic
- Only few Pilots are qualified to fly to Paro Airport
- No Smoking in Public Places is permitted in Bhutan.
- Birthdays are celebrated on New Year. No one will ever forget anyone’s birthday in Bhutan!
- Bhutan has the Highest Unclimbed Peak in the World.
- Bhutan Was the Last Country to Introduce TV in 1999.
- Education and Healthcare is Free for All Citizens
- The National Sport is Archery in Bhutan.
- Bhutanese Still Believe in the Existence of Yeti
- Women are the higher authority in Bhutan. Men move to women’s houses after marriage.
- Marriage Laws are Unique in Bhutan. Polygamy is allowed in Bhutan.
- It is Mandatory to Wear the National Dress, it is their way of preserving tradition.
These facts are sure to intrigue anyone to visit Bhutan. So I decided to check out the place for myself.
Explore this amazing Bhutan Bike Trip.
Bagdogra (Siliguri), West Bengal is the nearest airport where you can fly to if you intend to take a road entry to Bhutan. Siliguri to Border town of Jaigaon / Phuentsholing is about 150 Kms or so and takes about 4-5 hours of leisurely drive. If you choose to fly to Bhutan, then you can do so from Delhi / Calcutta to Paro International airport. Paro is 55 Kms from capital Thimphu and an hour’s drive. Paro is also an important tourist destination in Bhutan.
You don’t need a permit to travel inside Phuentsholing from the Indian side. The Passage is free and no hindrance or checking or stoppage. You can even stay at Phuentsholing if you feel like instead of Jaigaon. Bhutan time is 30 minutes ahead of Indian time. So it is prudent to reset your watch 30 minutes ahead as you enter phuentsholing so as to keep yourself in Bhutan time.
Bhutanese currency is Ngultrum which is equivalent in value to Indian Rupee. That is 100 Ngultrum is equal to Indian Rs. 100.
Hindi is spoken widely in Bhutan and Indian currency is accepted everywhere. So currency and transaction there are no issues.
Llakhang: Temple or place of worship.
Dzong: Fort like structures which are seat of power (Govt offices) or monasteries where children are taught the Buddhist way of life. Festivals are held here at regular intervals.
Chorten: These are Stupas or small rectangular colorful religious structures that you find everywhere including highways, hilltops, valleys and even remote areas. Chorten or Stupas are the oldest Buddhist religious monuments. There are 8 different kinds of Chortens in Buddhism each referring to major events in the life of Buddha. It is rare to see all the 8 Chortens together. One is in Wangduephodrong near the bridge. 8 Different types of Stupas or Chortens are The Lotus Blossom Chorten, The Chorten of enlightenment, Chorten of many doors, Chorten of descent from God Realm, Chorten of miracles, Chorten of reconciliation, Chorten of Victory, and Chorten of Nirvana.
Read: Bhutan Bike Tour – What to Know Before you Go
Places to Visit in Bhutan
- Buddha Point (largest Buddha statue in the world known as Kuensel Phodrang or Buddha Dordenma is about 8 kms from Thimphu City on a hill. The large 160+ feet (52 Mtrs) tall Buddha statue is visible from Thimphu city.
- Taikin Reserve – The Bhutan National animal is Ta-Kin, a goat antelope. It is a protected animal.
- Changanga Llakhang close to the Takin Preserve. Llakhang means Temple in Bhutanese.
- Thimpu Dzong – It is a magnificent 350 year old structure also known as Tashichho Dzong. It’s near the seat of power (King’s palace) and is open only from.5:30 to 6:30 pm in the evening. Dzongs are seat of festivals in Bhutan and these festivals are area wise and seasonal. Check out if any festival is happening during your time of visit and plan accordingly. These festivals are absolutely magnificent to watch.
- Norzim Lam: The main road of Thimphu with many hotels, important government buildings, and some interesting shops for shopping and exploring the Bhutanese culture.
- The Clock Tower: At the beginning of the Norzim Lam (Lam means road) on your right side is an Old Classic Clock Tower with an open amphitheater-like space for strolling and relaxing. The clock tower is an important landmark of Thimphu city. There is a beautiful Llakhang (temple) near the clock tower and colorful prayer wheels too.
- National Memorial Chorten (Stupa): it is extremely popular and is located about 1 km from Thimphu Bus stand.
- Coronation Park: it is a huge park about 6 acres on Chhogyal Lam (road) on the bank of river Thimphu Chu (Chu means river). There is a huge Buddha statue in the centre of the park it is a Govt park and entry is free.
- Changlimithang statium: It is the only stadium in Thimphu and located near bus stand and the coronation park.
- Weekly market / Centenary Market: It is located on Chhogyel Lam and half a km from the coronation park.
- Dechencholing Palace: It is in the far north of Thimphu city and about 4 kms from Tashichcho Dzong and was the King’s former palace. Entry is not allowed and it is strictly guarded property. The present King stays at another palace known as Samteling Palace or Royal Cottage close to the Tashichcho Dzong. The present palace is not visible to visitors and is camouflaged by a thick bush of trees and is heavily guarded and off-limits to tourists.
- Dechen Phodrang Llakhang: it is a beautiful monastery situated at the end of Gaden Lam (road). This is at a height on a mountain but approachable by road. It is about 4 kms from city centre.
- Zilukha Nunnery (Thangtong Dewachen Dupthop Nunnery): There is a beautiful Llakhang here and it is a school for girls who are studying to be nuns. It is usually busy with prayers and religious activities and studies.
Bhutanese Cuisine is different from India. Their staple food is Red rice which is different from our rice and a must try.
Their daily home food is National Dish – Ema Datshi (Tomato, Cheese, Chillies), Keva Datshi (Potato, cheese, Chilies), Sumo Datshi (Mushroom, Cheese, chillies), Jasha Maru (Chicken spicy), Fish Maru and Fish Paa to name a few. Momos are also common here. Local Drink Ara (arag) is also something to try. Also don’t fail to try the local drink SUJA, made of Yak milk and tastes salty.
Read: Happiness and Joy in the Bhutan Himalayas
Best Time to Visit Bhutan
I rode to Bhutan in July, which was a rainy season. Rains are not heavy and it’s more of drizzle for a few minutes.
However, the best time to visit Bhutan is from September to December. Bhoomthang is said to be the most beautiful place in Bhutan and between September to December, it is virtually a replica of Switzerland with lush meadows and flowers blooming all over. March to May is a bit sunny. Hotels are relatively cheaper in the monsoon season though.
Also please remember, Men need to wear full sleeve shirt to enter a Dzong and women have to dress conservatively. The authorities can deny you entry into dzong if you are wearing a short-sleeve shirt.
Bhutan is a country like no other. It will surprise you in ways more than you will anticipate. It must be surely explored once in a lifetime.