The last remaining great Himalaya Kingdom, Bhutan remains to be one such country that has a firm grasp on tradition and culture even during the modern times. It boasts magnificent mountain scenery, incredible architecture and a colourful cultural heritage. Blessed with an extraordinary range of natural habitats, from subtropical valleys to alpine peaks, Bhutan is also home to some exceptional wildlife.
Night at Phuntsholing
Phuntsholing is the border city of Southern Bhutan that adjoins Jaigaon. Bhutan Gate, the main Gateway for entry from India separates the Indian Territory Jaigaon from Bhutan. Representing the ancient Bhutanese architecture, Bhutan Gate is the most photographed attractions in Phuentsholing. The town primarily functions as a centre where the Indians and Bhutanese do business. Pheuntsholing has nice bazaars and department stores. Wandering around the Phuentsholing is absolutely not a bad idea. You can park your vehicle around the commercial hub area and roam around in the city on foot.
Arrival at Thimphu
Thimphu is situated at a height of over 7600 feet on a hillside in a fertile valley on the banks of the Thimphu Chhu River. It is a store house of traditional Bhutanese art, architecture, culture, and tradition and above all still so ethnic and pure. Head over to the Centenary Farmer's market, if you're lucky enough to be here on the weekend, for the amazing Bhutanese farmers' stalls with local vegetables and food products. Paper making craft is quiet unique in Thimphu and the Junghi Handmade Paper Factory produce the most authentic and the best quality Bhutanese paper, which is popularly known as Deh-sho down here. Thimphu has a comparatively active night life with discotheques and drayangs (bar with entertainers). If you want a taste of night life in Bhutan, Thimphu is just the place for you.
Sightseeing at Thimphu
Perched on top of a ridge above Thimphu, Changangkha Lhakhang is the oldest temple in Thimphu. The temple was built in 12th century and houses the central statue of Chenrizig, a manifestation of Avolokitesawara with eleven heads and thousand arms. It offers a stunning view of the surrounding Thimphu valley from the top. The structure is a fine example of Bhutanese faith, tradition and architecture. Drive to the top of Kuensel Phodrang hill for unobstructed, panoramic views of Thimphu Valley and the city below. This hilltop spot is home to the Buddha Dordenma, a 169-foot bronze statue, one of the largest in the world of a seated Buddha. Head over to Simply Bhutan, a living museum and photo studio where you will learn about traditional Bhutanese culture and engage with local young people. Spend some valuable time on Clock Tower Square, Thimphu's much acclaimed landmark. There are dragons which are crafted by hands, truly depicting the Bhutan as Land of Thunder Dragon. Intricate flower designs add to the beauty of the tower. National Memorial Chortel, Simtokha Dzong and National Folk Heritage Museum are other places to see here in Thimphu
Thimphu to Punakha
On your way to Punakha, stop at Dochula Pass to have a coffee break and admire the grand 108 stupas. If in good weather, feel the gentle breeze from the grand Mt. Himalaya. Idyllically placed on a rotund hill, the Chimmi Lhakhan, also known as The Fertility Temple, is a Buddhist monastery renowned throughout Bhutan as a fertility inducing magnet, pledging that all who wish to conceive will find guidance at the temple. Embrace the beautiful Punakha Dzong, an amazing Bhutanese architecture armed by the Pho Chu and Mo Chu rivers, with rich Buddhist collections. The longest suspension bridge in Bhutan, the Punakha Suspension Bridge is set very high on a fast mountain river; this bridge is perfect for those who wish to get their heart pumping with excitement. With abundance of trouts, the punakha river is considered an angler's paradise.
Punakha to Paro
Return to Paro by road today which takes about five hours. Stop along the way to enjoy the scenery and take light refreshments. The highlights include a break at Dochula pass at 10,300', Chuzom the confluence of rivers Paro Chhu and Wong Chhu and some sightseeing on shores of Paro Chhu, a valley look from Shaba, passing by the Paro Airport and passing through Paro Main Street lined with shops, restaurants and office premise. In the Afternoon visit ruins of Drukgyel Dzong and drive till the base of Tigers Nest.
Sightseeing at Paro
With patchwork fields, willow glades, murmuring trout filled streams and scattered hamlels, Paro is the most attractive of Bhutan's valleys. The air is fresh and exudes a sense of profound peace. Taktshang Goemba or Tiger's Nest Monastery was blessed and sanctified as one of Bhutan's most sacred religious sites. The first part of the trek to Tigers Nest is through forests, but once you're out of the forests, you quickly gain altitude. At some turns along the way, you even get spectacular views of Paro and glimpses of Tiger's Nest which still seems so far away! (Generally it takes say 3 hours for the ascent and 2 hours for the descent. It will be wise to pick the horseback option so that you'll save energy for the 850 steps leading up to the monastery entrance). See how it hangs on a cliff and stands above a beautiful forest of blue pine and rhododendrons before you get ready to enter inside the monastery. After lunch, if time permits, there will be a full day city tour of Paro including Rinpung Dzong, Kichulanka Monastery, Druk Choeding, Ta Dzong and Kila Gompa.
Paro to Phuntsholing
Today Proceed to Phuentsholing visit Kharbandi Gompa. Built in 1967 by the Royal Grandmother, the Kharbandi Gompa monastery contains some great paintings by renowned artists. The monastery gives the best view of Phuentsholing and offers the beauty of tropical flora & fauna. It is worth visiting Zangto Pelri, a small temple representing Guru Rinpoche's abode located in the middle of town. Both the temples contain various Buddhist statues and beautiful paintings of Buddha's life. Rest of the day is at leisure. Overnight at the hotel in Phuentsholing.
Leave Bhutan, more at peace with the world than when you first arrived with images of precariously perched monasteries, gently swirling prayer wheels and smiling faces.