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Also known as the land of thunder dragon, Bhutan is a perfect getaway for those seeking a break from the hustle and bustle of city life. Blessed with awe-inspiring landscapes, this country is specially known for its good-natured and warm residents who are always ready to welcome explorers with a big hug.
Bhutan experiences a wide range of seasons. The months of September and October are the best time to visit Bhutan as they greet visitors with clear skies and pleasant weather. Winters in Bhutan are also a good time for a trip, as the days are sunny, though evenings and nights can be very cold. Spring in Bhutan is a pleasant time to visit as well. Summers are not so great though, as the beginning of summer brings heavy rains.
Bhutan’s only international airport is in Paro, about two hours away from Thimphu by road. There are regular flights from New Delhi and Mumbai to Paro city by Drukair - Royal Bhutan Airlines, which is the flag carrier of the Kingdom of Bhutan. Here are a couple of exciting things you could do if you plan to visit this beautiful country.
Hike Paro Taktsang Valley or Tiger's Nest Temple
Tiger’s Nest Monastery, also known as Taktsang Palphug Monastery, is the ultimate symbol of Bhutan tourism. Clinging to a cliff, the monastery is only approachable by trekking for around two hours’ through coniferous forests. According to legends, the monastery got its name from the fact that Guru Rimpoche flew here on the back of a tigress from Eastern Bhutan in the 8th century.
For those who want to avoid the difficult trek can opt for a horse ride from the base. Before you encounter the actual monastery you will pass through a small cafeteria situated on the top where you can rest and enjoy a warm cup of coffee as you marvel at the surrounding nature. The distinctive structure of the monastery combined with its remote location and the stunning green valley view makes it an unforgettable experience.
Needless to say, this monastery is Bhutan’s most iconic sight and one of the most popular tourist attractions in Paro. Built in 1692, it is located at a distance of 10 kms from the main town of Paro, which is also a UNESCO world heritage site.
Try Burmese Cuisine
Burmese cuisine is relatively non-spicy and is composed of veg as well as non-vegeterian delicacies made in a very simple manner. The simplicity of the citizens of Bhutan reflects in the food they prepare. It consists of interesting and very uniquely prepared items which will satiate your appetite and at the same time leave you asking for more.
The most famous Bhutanese food is the Ema Datshi, which is a mix of green or dry red chilies sliced lengthwise and prepared in cheese. Momo lovers should try Hoentay, a variation of momos filled with local spinach, turnip leaves and cheese. You can gulp down your meal with a glass of Ara, an alcoholic drink made of rice, maize, or millet.
Another must-try famous Burmese drink is Suja. It is a Bhutanese butter tea made of fresh yak milk. This drink is usually offered as a welcome drink at various tourist places in Bhutan. Burmese cuisine is mainly an amalgam of cuisines from various regions of Myanmar. It has also been influenced by various cuisines of neighbouring countries, in particular, China, India and Thailand.
Marvel at the Golden Buddha Statue in Thimpu
Thimphu is the capital of the country which proudly boasts of having the world's largest Buddha statue. The Buddha is made out of bronze and coated with gold and measures up to 51.5 meters in height. There is an impeccable aura and a sense of peace and happiness which automatically comes to you the minute you are there.
What many don’t know, however, is that inside Thimphu’s 169 foot Buddha Dordenma statue, there are 125,000 miniature Buddhas encapsulated inside of its, ranging from 8 to 12 inches tall. Like the large Buddha, these thousands of miniature Buddhas are also gilded and made of bronze.
Another major fact related to this iconic man-made structure is that the statue ended up costing almost $100 million when it was constructed in 2015 to honor the 60th birthday of Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the fourth king of Bhutan.
Explore Phobjika Valley
Phobjika valley is an enormous bowl-shaped glacial valley flanking Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park in Bhutan. It is home to beautiful black-necked cranes. One can get to see these rare species of cranes during the winter season. The valley is also home to Muntjacs (barking deer), Sambars, Wild Boars, Marmots, Himalayan Black Bears, Serows, Red Foxes, and Leopards.
The place seems quiet and calm, but it comes alive during festivals like the Crane Festival, and Tsechu Festival. Apart from wildlife, there are many other attractions that can be visited in Phobjikha like Damchen Lhakhang, Gangte Goemba, Kumbu Lhakhang, White Chorten, Wangmo Hand-Woven Carpet Factory, and Nyelung Dechenling.
During the month of Decemeber, the temperature in Phobjika falls between 0 to 1 degree celsius. Small cafés and bar in the valley allow tourists to relish their favourite drink while enjoying the snug and cosy atmosphere. Don’t forget to wrap yourself in layers of winterwear when you plan to visit.
Shop in Paro
While the option to shop till you drop is available almost in every city of Bhutan, Paro definitely offers you exclusive and trendy Bhutanese stuff at a very cost-effective and standard rates. Paro is the developed city of Bhutan in true sense. From the vibrant Paro Dzong, Ugyen Pelri Palace, and Kyichu Lhakhang to the cliff-hanging Paro Taktsang, Paro features some of the best architecture in Bhutan.
Be if traditional Bhutanese menswear or other Bhutanese antiques, Paro has variety of shops to fulfil your shopping desire. Well incase you are not much of a shopaholic you can always go on a day trip to Chele La Pass and see surreal views of surrounding mountains and valleys.
Paro also possesses a reputation of being an adventurer’s hub as several trekking trails are available here. Also, don’t forget to check out Paro Dzongdrakha, Kyichu Lhakhang, and Zuri Dzong when you visit.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Shruti Nimbkar
Shruti Nimbkar (author) from Mumbai on November 01, 2020:
Liz Westwood from UK on November 01, 2020:
This is a well-illustrated and interesting article.