Bhutan, also known as the land of thunder dragon, is an unbelievably beautiful country sharing it borders with India, China, and Tibet. Any traveller, with a special interest in the Himalayas, must have been to Bhutan or would be planning to do so soon. The country is an experience in itself with no garbage, no pollution, minimal violence, and zero dissatisfied population. Sprawled at an area of about 38, 400 square kilometers with 727,145 population, the country stands a a great example of how a small country can be governed efficiently and beautifully. The country came to be known as Druk Yul or The Land of the Drukpas, referring to the Drukpa section of Buddhist dominants back then, in early 17th century. Buddhism was introduced in this country by the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo, in the 7th century. Guru Rimpoche, a Buddhist Master and considered as the second Buddha, strengthened the religion further in Bhutan.
The monarchy was established officially in the 17th century when Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel arrived from Tibet and took over the land. He defeated three Tibetan invaders and spread a comprehensive system of governance. However, his death led to an unrest and a civil war followed. Trongsa Penlop Ugyen Wangchuk gained control of the same, and was crowned as the king in 1907. The dynasty rules the country till date with it’s fifth heir. The present king, Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuk is people’s favourite and hence, huge banners of the king and the queen Jetsun Pema across the country inside almost every household and office premises.
Know that you need permits to enter Bhutan if you are not Bhutanese
If you are an Indian, Bangladeshi or from Maldives then you need to follow following steps to get the permit, if you are from any other country then you need to apply for visa and will have to pay an official daily fee of $250 which includes accommodation, guide and food for the day.
- Reach early morning to Phuentsholing and get a form from the immigration office.
- You need your valid PASSPORT or VOTER ID or BIRTH CERTIFICATE FOR KIDS BELOW 18.
- Attach a copy of the ID proof, hotel booking confirmations, and a passport size photo in the form and submit it to the officers outside the office.
- They will call out your name after the initial verification. Then, you go inside, and give your details including finger prints.
- You receive your permits after that and can also take a sim along with it from any store.
- For vehicle permits, you will need your REGISTRATION PAPERS, PUC, INSURANCE PAPERS, DRIVING LICENSE OF DRIVER/RIDER AND INDIVIDUAL PERMITS and a copy of those will be submitted to RTO.
- There is a minimum amount to be paid as well (INR 100 per day per vehicle), for road tax.
- YOU ARE GOOD TO GO!
By Road– Road trip to Bhutan is one of the best experiences ever. One can reach Siliguri, as it is well-connected from all states of the country. From Siliguri, the distance to Phuentsholing, the border town, is about 159 kilometers. National Highway 17, via Malbazar, Nagrakata, and Binnaguri, will take you to the Birpara-Falakata route. Heading straight from there, takes one to Phuentsholing. There are buses available till Birpara, as well as Phuentholing, from SIliguri. Beides, several four-wheelers and motorbikes can be rented to Phuentsholing. There on, Thimphu highway takes you straight to the capital city!
By Train– There are trains till New Jalpaguri Junction, from where local train and several other trains are available to take you to the nearest railway station to Bhutan, Hasimara. From Hasimara, one needs to take an e-rickshaw or a taxi to reach Phuentsholing. The train from Siliguri to Hasimara is an enchanting journey with beautiful views!
By Air– There is Paro international airport, to which flights are available from India. Besides, one can also fly to Bagdogra airport near Siliguri and head to Phuentsholing in a cab.
Bhutan, being the center of tourists from across the globe, has no dearth of places to stay! One can find plenty of homestays and hotels everywhere in Bhutan. However, in remote locations, it gets a little difficult. However, it is important to get the rooms booked beforehand as the confirmation letter is required during the permit application. Hotel.bt is a popular website for booking hotels. In terms of food, Bhutan can be very different. It i difficult to get vegetarian food, but most homestay provide delicious vegetarian food. One can try emadatsi (chilly-cheese) and kewadati (potato-chilly-cheese). Besides, Yak meat is a must try for people who like non-vegetarian food. Drinks are cheap and easily available in Bhutan and thus, people with keen interest in alcohol might have a great time there.
Phobjika valley– Vast stretches of green land, wild flowers, Himalayas, fields, and cows mindlessly grazing, is how this amazing destination can be described. In the Wangdue Phodrang district of Bhutan, this valley is a must go for anyone who loves cleanliness, rural life, and of course, Himalaya. It is an incredibly enchanting place where you could sit for hours and days and not be bored. Make sure you stay in one of the farmstays there, as the local food and wine is a treat, as well as an experience to remember. Enroute valley, is Gangtey monatery, which can be visited too.
Paro Taktsang Monastery/Tiger’s Nest– Who doesn’t know about it? No matter how cliche, this is indeed a worth it experience. This is a beginner level trek in Paro district of Bhutan. It takes about 6-7 hours maximum to complete the whole trek. The stunning view from atop the cliff, where the monastery hangs, leaves everyone open-mouthed! It is a great physical test, as well a a treat to your eyes.
Chime Lkhakhang Monatery– Monastery of monk Drukpa Kuenly, is also known as a fertility temple. It is in the Punakha district, amid huge stretches of agricultural land, and stands out for peculiar reasons. The monk, Drukpa Kuenly, believed an erect phallus is a symbol of protection and hence the walls around can seen with a phallu motif. It is a holy place in Bhutan as people believe a visit to this temple help those conceive who have trouble having a baby.
Haa valley– Towards the eastern region of Bhutan, is the amazing Haa valley that stands aloof and away from most tourist-crowded areas in Bhutan. It is quiet, serene, and also a lesser explored valley in the country. You can also witness Bhutanese army training programmes there at times. A huge Dzongkha is a major attraction in this valley. From here, you get a glimpse into the basic Bhutanese life and their agricultural practices.
Chelela view point– At a height of about 3,988 meters, between Haa and Paro valley, Chelela is the highest pass in Bhutan and also the highest motorable road there. The jaw-dropping view makes up for the bumpy road to this view point. In fact, Bhutan’s highest peak Jomolhari, can also be seen from this place. This place is usually crowded which is self-explanatory! There are lot of wild flowers too, that are sure to catch your attention when you are not looking at the mountains. (Interesting fact: The toilet there is eco-friendly and there’s no water, but sand and dry husk to cover up when you are done 😛 )
DoChula Pass– One of the highest passes in Bhutan, it stands at a height of 3,100 meters. This beautiful mountain pass, about 20 kilometers from Thimphu, is a concentration of 108 memorial stupas known as ‘Druk Wangyal Chortens’, which was built for the Bhutanese soldiers who died in 2003 military operation. People believe these still carry the spirits of those Bhutanese soldiers. Taking three rounds of the memorial is said to fulfil one’s all wishes. From Dochu La Pass, one can also have a look at all the major mountain peaks including Masaganang, Kangphugang, Tsendagang, Jejegangphugang, and Terigang. You can also visit the beautiful Druk Wangyal Lkakhang temple there, built in honor of His majesty Jihme Singye Wangchuk- the fourth king.
Lahang– Easiest to get to, this view point in Phuentosholing, the India-Bhutan border town, is a lesser known heavenly place. What makes it special, is that one can get a view of north Bengal area entirely from thi point. The whole forest cover, town, Brahmaputra tributary, and the stunning evening light. It comes before the permit office, so one can visit this place without permits!
Lunana valley– One of the remotest in Gasa ditrict, it is an experience to have for sure! It gives us a taste of the culture of Himalayan people residing in the glacier region. The people in this region make a living from yaks and sheeps and consist mainly of nomads. These nomads are quite interesting as the knowledge they have about nature is incredible. They benefit a lot from their special knowledge in medicinal plants. Also, the Gasa hotpring is a must visit. It is situated close to Mo Chhu river and is one of the most popular in Bhutan. Getting there requires a 40 minutes trek. Besides, another six hour trek through a picturesque view through the Himalayan region can get you there too. There are bathing facilities there, so one can enjoy the incredible hot spring quite literally!
Bhutan has a lot more to explore, go trekking, and see. It is not a regular little Himalayan country, but a significant example of uniformity, cultural understanding, and traditional lifestyle. A road trip across the country teaches one a lot more and gives a sneak peek into what cleanliness and greenery can do to a place! Now that you have mastered the information on the land of thunder Dragon, visit it soon! Book with us for one of the best experiences.