Paying a visit to the happiest country in the world was an exotic experience for Himanshu Bajaj. An avid traveler, Himanshu leaves no stone unturned to explore the various corners of the world. We bring forth his experience, with a few tips on Bhutan travel, that would urge you to place this country on your bucket list as well!
How often do you travel?
I travel as much as I can, whenever time permits me to do so. Travelling gives me the thrill no other hobby does! All I need is a backpack and I am off!
What made you choose Bhutan as your travel spot and when did you visit it?
Well, I had heard a lot about Bhutan. It is the only carbon negative country in the world! What better could it be, than to breathe fresh air and relax in the vicinity of Himalayas? Also, I was keen to enjoy the sight of snow. Thus, I decided to pay a visit to this amazing country with my group of friends. Visit Bhutan and find out why it is known as the happiest country in the world!
We visited Bhutan last December.
How did you reach Bhutan and what travel options would you suggest to our readers?
We flew to Bagdogra from Delhi. You would get a number of economical flights for the same. We then hired a taxi and reached Gangtok, which is around 4 hours away. We spent a few days in Sikkim, covering LaChung and GuruDongMar Lake.These areas fall in North Sikkim and are worth a visit for their mesmerizing beauty! Glimpses of snow on the beautiful mountain peaks were amazing.
After exploring Sikkim for two days, we took a taxi from Gangtok and reached Jaigaon. It is a small town in West Bengal, lying on India’s border to Bhutan.
Did you get a visa on arrival?
Well, no. There’s a small town in Bhutan, Phuntsholing. You do not need a visa to visit Phuntsholing. You could literally walk up to this village from Jaigaon. We did so and obtained a permit to enter Bhutan. This took two to three hours yet it was a memorable experience. Once we were through, we traveled to Thimpu from Phuntsholing, via taxi again.
What were the main tourist attractions you covered in Thimpu?
Thimpu, as we all know is the capital of Bhutan. We got a glimpse of the King’s official residence in the north of the city. We went to Memorial Chorten. This memorial is dedicated to the third king of Bhutan.Kuensel Phodrang, also known as Buddha Point is a very famous tourist attraction in Thimpu as it seats the largest statue of Buddha in the country.
The view of Thimpu
Is there any other tourist place you shouldn’t miss in Bhutan?
The best was yet to come. After staying for a day at Thimpu, we moved to Paro, which is another place you must visit in Bhutan. The Tiger’s Nest monastery is something you must visit. Yet all good things come at a price. We trekked for around 10 kilometers, from the base camp to reach this monastery. This trek was moderately difficult but when we reached the monastery, it seemed worth all the hurdles. The monastery is dedicated to Padmasambhava, a Buddhist master, and it is one of the most worshipped shrines in Bhutan.
Tiger’s nest monastery
Did you stay over there?Were there any eateries on this difficult journey?
No, stay is not allowed in this monastery.The monastery closes at 4 p.m. So we trekked back. There were a few refreshment stalls and eateries on the way, so we managed.If you find it difficult to trek, you could go up there on a horseback as well.
We had a farm stay in Paro and it was a great experience. These lodges are very peaceful, near to the city and economical. Go for a stay in a farm resort when you visit Bhutan. It would be homely and within your budget, for sure! There are many good hotels as well, in case you are looking for them. Thimpu has some affordable hotel stay options.
Enroute Tiger’s Nest monastery
You covered a major part of your journey via taxis. Was it economical?
Yes, very much. We had already booked a taxi service beforehand to provide local taxis, from the moment we landed at Bagdogra. There are numerous taxi services you could choose from and at a convenient package deal, you could make your trip comfortable and memorable.
How was the weather in Bhutan?
As we visited Bhutan in the month of December, it was pleasant with a tinge of coolness. The temperature might be around 15 degrees Celsius.
How were the people?
The Bhutanese were really nice people. They were helpful in the times of need, especially during our trek at Paro.My friend’s shoes got worn out and she had to walk barefoot for some time. The residents of the nearby village were kind enough to give her a pair of footwear.
The culture is amazing, and you would find men and women in their traditional unique garments. While men wear the Gho, which is like a long kimono tied to the waist via a belt, women wear the Kira, an ankle length dress accompanied by a light outer jacket.
It is also a non-smoking country, another facet of its culture.
Anything special to eat?
The Bhutanese eat a lot of cheese and their special dish is Ema Datshi, which is a blend of green chilies and cheese. The locally brewed products are pretty famous as well. While the beer is excellent, wine and whiskey (specially K5 ) won’t disappoint you as well! Try Red Panda, which is a specialty.
What about the currency used?
It’s the Bhutanese Ngultrum. Well, it is equivalent to one Indian rupee, so Indian currency is going to work as well. We got some Ngultrum in return from shops and kept them.
How would you summarize your Bhutan travel in one word?
Thank you, Himanshu for your precious time.
My pleasure. This place is a must!
From the chat, it was evident that Himanshu’s journey to Bhutan was no less than an adventurous tale. Do visit Bhutan in a lifetime and follow his tips to make your stay worth it!
(Picture credits: Himanshu Bajaj)
Approximate cost to explore Bhutan from India:
Flight (Delhi-> Baghdogra ) :
One-way price starts from Rs 3000-4000 per person
(Baghdogra -> Gangtok) : Around Rs 3000 for 3-4 people
(Alternative: take a taxi from Bagdogra to Phuntsholing if you wish to skip Sikkim. It would cost around Rs 3500-4000)
(Phuntsholing -> Thimpu) : Around Rs 3000 for 3-4 people
(Thimpu->Paro) : Around Rs 500 for 3-4 people
Hotel/Farm stays per night at Thimpu and Paro:
Prices start from Rs 1500-2000 per room for a night
Best time to travel:
October to December
So if plan to travel to Bhutan with your friends for a duration of 3-4 days, you would be able to wind up your trip within your budget.
Go ahead and plan now! If you have already been to Bhutan, share your experiences in the comments section below and help others to chalk out a trip as great as yours!