Bhutan for First Timers: Seven Sweet Spots of the Himalayan Valley
So it’s your first time in Bhutan and you’re wondering how to plan the perfect journey through the youngest and highest mountains of the world. Uncovering the air of mystery and majesty from this curious Royal Kingdom, here’s a quick guide to the places that would make your holiday to Bhutan absolutely unforgettable.
The best thing about flying into Paro? Mount Everest. No, I’m not suggesting you trek it up. I’m talking about the breathtaking armchair view of the great mountain that you get on the flight to Bhutan. It’s worth every skipped heartbeat. The other sites you must visit after landing here include the 16th century Drukgyel Dzong, the Paro Dzong and the National Museum. But no trip to Paro is complete without a drive up to the Chele La Pass and a hike to the Taktsang Monastery. Legend has it that Guru Rinpoche first brought Buddhism here on the back of a tigress, giving it the name Tiger’s Nest.
Home to the Royal Family, Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan, is a mountain of touristic treasures. From the Tashichhoe Dzong, which houses the government officials, to the National and Textile Museums, the capital city has much to offer. Don’t be surprised if you bump into the Queen Mother or other royalty at one of the museums. For the spiritual travellers, apart from the many temples and monasteries, the 51-meter bronze statue of the Buddha sitting on top of Kuensel Phodrang hill facing the Himalayas is all but magic. Follow this up with a steaming cup of coffee at the cafeteria on the Dochula Pass while you’re on your way to Punakha, and you would know you’ve reached heaven.
Visit the Punakha Dzong or the Palace of Great Happiness built on the confluence of the Phu Chhu (male) and Mo Chhu (female) rivers. Get your fix of pastoral beauty in Ritsha, a modern rice growing village. But most importantly, climb up to the Chimi Lhakhang or the fertility temple dedicated to Bhutan’s famous Divine Madman (don’t get scandalized if you get the blessings from a phallus or the ‘Flaming Thunderbolt of Wisdom’). Click pictures with the many adorable baby monks in training here before you leave.
One of Bhutan’s most historic towns situated high above the fast flowing Mangde Chhu River, Trongsa has an infectious laid-back charm. The Trongsa Dzong is the most striking structure here overlooking the magnificent Black Mountains. The watchtower or Ta Dzong on the hill above the Trongsa Dzong is now a Royal Museum.
Also referred to as Gangtey Valley, after the beautiful Gangtey Monastery, this bowl-shape valley is peppered with villages, hiking trails, potato fields and temples. If you go in November, you can attend the popular Crane Festival and spot black-necked cranes from Tibet flying high over the mountains.
When we’re talking about Bhutan, legends and myths come easy. Another example is Bumthang or Jakar Valley, which gets its name from the Jakar Dzong, meaning white bird, referring to the myth that a roosting white bird first signaled the location to found this monastery. Surrounded by folklore, the valley is particularly interesting for seekers of spirituality. One of the biggest pilgrimage spots of Bhutan, Membartsho or the Burning Lake, on the Tang Chhu is an enchanting site with colourful prayer flags and clay offerings.
At the base of the Himalayan foothills, Phuntsholing is a border town, a cross-point for cultural and ethnic intermingling. The town’s attractions include Kharbandi Goemba, the wonderful Buddhist monastery, and Zangtho Pelri Lhakhang, a temple of Guru Rinpoche.
So start planning your journey into this ancient Himalayan kingdom and check out MakeMyTrip.com for Bhutan tour packages that make sure your trip is nothing short of royal.
|ABOUT THE AUTHOR|
|Shubhda Khanna: Writer, reader, dreamer, traveller. Travel through writing, read while traveling, dream of travels, writing in dreams. These are a few of my favorite things.|