While political leaders around the world are busy worrying about the GDP of their respective countries, the monarch of Bhutan is trying to make his land a happier place. Bhutan is the only country in the world where the GHP i.e Gross Happiness Product is actually measured by the ministry. If you are seeking some happiness, peace and quiet in your life, Bhutan is a must visit destination. A week in this ‘happy land’ will calm your mind and soothe your soul.
Here are five must visit cities/towns of Bhutan that need to be on your itinerary…
The capital of the Land of Thunder Dragon, Thimphu has all the buzz of a mountain city of the Himalayas. The city is home to the newly constructed Buddha Dordenma statue, which is 52 meters high and is one of the largest Buddha statues in the world. The city also houses the National Textile Museum and the National Folk Heritage Museum, which are ideal to introduce you to the culture of the country. There are a host of Buddhist temples in and around the city that will give you a flavour of the religious beliefs. While you are at Thimphu, do make time to visit the Dochu La pass to admire 108 stupas surrounded by the mountains… the site will take your breath away!
If you are entering Bhutan by air, you will land in Paro. The city has the country’s only international airport, which is supposed to be amongst the most difficult air strips for landing. If you are taking the direct flight from Delhi to Paro, keep your fingers crossed and pray for good weather…you might be lucky enough to sight Mt. Everest! Paro is home to renonwed the holy Tiger’s Nest monastery. Getting to the monastery isn’t an easy task though…it’s a 2.5-hour steep mountain hike. However, every step is worth the efforts as the views along the way are stunning. The monastery itself if an architectural marvel, sitting comfortably on a vertical granite cliff.
The most famous Bhutanese Dzong (fortress) is in Punakha. Situtated in the valley, by the side of a sparkling river, the Punakha Dzong has a stunning exerior of white and red that stands out in the lush green surroundings. The gradens are lined with jacaranda and orange trees that make the place brighter during spring. The interiors of the dzong, with fine paintings and wooden arcitecture will continue to amaze you. Besides the Dzong, the Punakha valley has beautiful with stepped rice terraces that look picture perfect. The city is also home to the the Fertility Temple, which is believed to bless many couples with a little one, if they so desire.
Thimphu, Punakha and Paro are visited by most toursits. If you want to get a little off the tourist circuit, head to Bumthang. The region is rich with flora and fauna and looks splendid during the spring months from March to May, when the trees are laden with bloom. Bumthang is the starting point for many treks and is the ideal place for threkking enthusiats to head to. The area offers medium and high altitude treks that can be enjoyed by beginners as well as experienced trekkers.
Located in central Bhutan, the Phobjikha valley is one of the most beautiful glacial valleys in the country. The locals all it ‘their very own Switzerland’ and are proud of the natural beauty of the valley, which has lush green rolling slopes, alpine forests and views of the stunning snow covered Himalayan peaks. This is the place for nature and landscape lovers, who enoy interacting with locals. Tourism facilities are still nascent and you will have to live like a local. Who knows, you might be able to find the ‘happiness’ that we all seek in our every day lives!
Best time to visit: The spring months from March to May and the autumn months from September to November are ideal to visit Bhutan. Winter months from December to February are great to see the snow covered peaks and blue skies and to tour the country without flocks of tourists around you. Avoid the monsoon months of July and August.
What to pack: The country is located in the Himalays and is bound to be cold, especially during the winter months. Carry an extra jacket and warm inner wear. The mountian sun can get too bright at times … its always good to have a hat and sun glasses. Comfortable footwear, preferably walking/terrking shoes are a must have to walk over the mountian terrain.
Budget: Bhutan caters to every budget…ranging from backpackers to luxury travellers. Indian tourists do not have to commit to a budget. However, foreign nationals need to commit USD 250 per day through a local travel agent to plan their trip to Bhutan.
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Author: Sonia Sahni
Ticking The Bucket List is a couple travel blog that will let you see new places vicariously! Culture, Nature, food, history, adventure – come join us! You live only once!