Bhutan 101

Q.

Hello Shalome!

My husband and I are based in Mumbai, India. We intend to travel to Bhutan in March for 4-5 nights. We were thinking of going to Paro and Thimphu. Can you give suggestions on what to do, where to stay?

We’d love to go kayaking for a day there and/or go on a trek for a day.. so please feel free to include adventure travel suggestions.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Thanks!

Hilonee Furia

Hi Hilonee

MUST SEE & DO

    Paro:

  • Paro Dzong
  • National Museum
  • Archery Ground
  • Weekend market (if you are there over the weekend)
    Thimpu:

  • Motithang Takin Reserve
  • National Textile Museum
  • National Museum for Zorig Chusum
  • Trashi Cho Dzong

I think it is wise that you have decided to focus on Paro and Thimpu given that you only have a few days this time around. But I’m pretty sure you’ll want to go back to Bhutan!

As an Indian passport holder visiting Bhutan you enjoy more freedom than others. You do not need to pay / spend the $200-250 minimum package fee and you do not have to book through a travel agent.

There are some interesting sights and things to do in Paro and Thimpu but I think the true beauty of Bhutan really lies in its quiet, serene landscapes. So since you have limited time, I would suggest you prioritise the kayaking and trekking that you have in mind over other activities.

The most obvious and popular hike/trek in Bhutan is the climb to Taktshang Goemba or Tigers Nest Monastery just outside Paro. I couldn’t do this myself when I was in Bhutan but this is what friends have to say:

Start early. The uphill bit of the trek takes between 2.5-3 hours. There are lots of viewpoints along the way and a small restaurant midway where you can stop for lunch. Downhill takes about 1.5 hours. My friends did this trek without a guide.

You can find more details on Lonely Planet.

A friend of mine also really enjoyed the gentler and shorter but picturesque hike to Tango Monastery in Thimpu. You can read more about it here and here.

Trashi Chho Dzong, Thimpu

I’m so glad you’re thinking of going kayaking because it’s an activity not many tourists try out here. The response I received from the agent I have used for personal and work trips in the past is that there is no kayaking or rafting possible in Paro or Thimpu. (This is different from the information posted on the website of the Tourism Council of Bhutan, but perhaps this information is outdated.)

This agent offers kayaking / rating in Punakha (around 85km from Thimpu) and for 01 – 05 pax is around INRs 16,250.00. Of course, you may find other agencies that can organise the same for you for a lower price.

In case you’re interested, the agency that I contacted and have used in the past is All Bhutan Connection Pvt. Ltd.

Here are some hotels I visited and liked in Paro and Thimpu:

Paro:

Gangtey Palace (historically a residence of district governers, the hotel has a lot of character and a sweet little courtyard)

Olathang Hotel (a simpler hotel in comparison to the other two, but I liked it’s location in a quiet, wooded area above Paro town)

Kichu Resort, Paro (a sprawling resort that receives many groups, but peaceful and pretty for all that)

The weird and wonderful Takin

Thimpu:

Riverview Hotel (simple but has all the standard facilities you’d need)

Taj Tashi (very luxurious, but, personally, not my first choice)

Terma Linca Resort & Spa (a friend of mine stayed here and liked it. It is owned by the Queen of the 4th King of Bhutan. Located 4km away from Thimpu.)

If you’re interested in gaining a deeper insight into the history and culture of this beguiling land I would highly recommend you read Bhutan: Himalayan Mountain Kingdom by ethno-historian Francoise Pommaret. Frankly I really got into this book after I returned from Bhutan but it, nevertheless, made me fall in love with the country even more.

Happy travels!

Shalome

All photos: The Trip Tweaker