10 Amazing Things to do in Bhutan
A country that measures its Gross National Happiness ought to be on everyone’s bucket list – right? Absolutely Right!! A step on to this High-Land (which actually translates into Bhutan), the smile on the faces, the air, the warmth – they will transform you instantly as it did me. It’s a perfect place to spend New years eve, should one want to get away from the stereotype urban hullabaloos. That’s exactly what I did and so here is the list of the top things to do in Bhutan which I am sure you can always count on!
1. Trek up to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery
Bhutan is synonymous with the Tiger’s Nest Monastery and it was one of the obvious points of interest for us too. And let me just add it, whenever you plan a trip to the country, make sure that this visit tops your list of best things to do in Bhutan. Perched at 900 metres above sea level, the Tiger’s Nest Resort – where we stayed – holds a great view of the monastery. The trek to the monastery is an absolute must. It took us about 4 hours to and fro. I have to be honest here – the trek isn’t the easiest, thus I’d recommend walking slow and take your time. Having said that the ‘challenge’ of the trek totally depends on an individual’s stamina.
View from our hotel at Tigers Nest (you can actually see the monastery perched on top of one of those hills)
Few additional tips: If you want to experience Bhutan sightseeing at its best, then Start your day early. Also, whichever travelling guide to Bhutan you refer to, you will find instructions about travelling light, even carrying additional water bottles is advised against.
Carry some treats for the cute furry friends you will meet on the way (Bhutan’s country dogs are beautiful and there are lots of them).
Carry some treats for yourselves too, since the route only has one cafe which serves pretty below average food and is quite pricey.
2. Go for a hot stone bath
You will long for it especially after the long trek. These baths are basically a form of traditional Bhutanese medicine where fresh river water is mixed with local Artemisia leaves and heated with fire-roasted river stones.
3. Sip on the butter tea
Meanwhile in Bhutan, you can sip on the butter tea and the homemade liquor called Ara made from wheat, millet, barley, rice or maize: served hot.
4. Visit the Dochula pass
The Dochula pass makes for another major one of the points of interests in a standard travelling guide to Bhutan.
It’s the highest motorable path in Bhutan and needless to say, a drive on this one has to be on your list of things to do in Bhutan too. A two hours drive from Thimpu, this place overlooks snow capped mountains and is marked by 108 memorial stupas made in the memory of soldiers. You mustn’t miss the cafe Druk Wangyel (which is another name for the stupas). The famous Datshi is to reckon with – it’s the national food of Bhutan, made with chilli peppers and cheese.
5. Punakha Valley
It is one of the major tourist attractions in Bhutan, and offers some of the most unique views. Located approximately 1200 metres above sea level, this valley is home to a suspension bridge which is the second longest in the country hence making it a great point of interest for Engineers too. Make sure to walk on it – to pump up your adrenaline. The bridge suspends over the confluence of two rivers.
Also Read:- Popular Places to Visit in Varanasi
Other points of interests in and around the valley:
- Temple of the divine madman (also called temple of fertility).
- The symbol of the phallus is considered sacred in Bhutan and Punakha. Many houses have this as graffiti on their walls
- While we missed out on the rafting because of time constraints, if you plan well, my suggestion is that you should definitely include that in your list of things to do in Bhutan too!
6. Carry enough woolens
Bhutan weather can be very unfriendly – temperatures can dip as much as to freeze a bottle of water kept in your car for a few hours; therefore dress appropriately. We even experienced snowfall the moment we stepped into Bhutan.
7. Taj Tashi
A hotel I will recommend to stay in is the Taj Tashi, located in the Bhutan capital of Thimphu. Traditional Bhutanese cuisine at Chig Ja Gye is to die for.
8. Only in Bhutan
One of the most unique things to do in Bhutan is to get your custom stamps! You can send yourself or your loved ones a postcard with your picture on the stamp. Customised postal stamps are available at the main post office opposite the Taj Tashi. This is a super cool thing to do here!
9. Clubbing in Bhutan
Thimphu being the capital, is dotted with great nightclubs with equally great music. If you are someone who loves Nightlife then Mojo Park and Thimpu Club will make for one of the most amazing points of interest for you. Mojo Park has live bands playing most nights and Bhutan has some very talented musicians who can warm up your soul on a cold night.
10. Witness planes taking off in Paro
As close as one can get to the scene. Paro airport is supposed to be one of the most dangerous in the world with mountains in close proximity. However, you will get to witness the planes really up close- so yeah, take some time out and make sure you do this because believe me, it is a really one of the most unique things to do in Bhutan
Some more Interesting facts:
- Bhutan is the only country where you can obtain a Visa (for Indian nationals) just with a valid Voters ID card instead of a passport. Note that Bhutan Visa is only available this way when you are travelling by road.
- For citizens of other countries besides India and neighbouring countries, travellers have to pay USD 250 per day. This mandate is simply to control the number of tourists visiting per year. Clearly it works and that way Bhutan can continue to be a more green and sustainable country.
- Bhutan is against killing any animals. However the love for meat is satisfied through imports.
- Thimphu doesn’t have any traffic signals.
- The restaurant Cloud Nine has amazing burgers and pizzas.
- Another good place to unwind from the day’s sightseeing is at the Champaca Cafe in Paro.The peanut butter cheesecake is so drool worthy and worth every penny.
Getting There You can either fly directly into Paro airport or you can fly to Bagdogra airport. If you choose to fly into Bagdogra, you will have to rent a car which will drive you to Phuentsholing, where you will have to complete Bhutan visa formalities, change cars and drive to Paro or Thimpu. Bhutan visa is easily available on arrival – keep an extra 30 – 45 minutes for this process. Car cost – INR 30000 inclusive of driver and fuel (Bagdogra – Paro – Thimphu- Bagdogra airport)
All in all, the country is small and happy and while you may not have as many tourist attractions in Bhutan as other countries, yet the peace and quiet that you will have here- that is going to be unparalleled! So, make sure that you visit this place at least once in your lifetime!
Also Read:- Things to do in Goa
Frequently Asked Questions about Things to do in Bhutan
Do I need to use a tour operator to book my travel?
Well, yes, the Government mandates that you book through a licensed Bhutanese tour operator for the purpose of Bhutan Sightseeing. It is just an honest step to boost the local economy and the rates are reasonable too.
How much does the visa cost?
For International tourist visas, a cost of USD 40 is applicable. This can be paid in advance to your tour operator or travel agent. For Indian passport (or VIC) holders, Bangladeshi nationals and persons from the Maldives, there is no cost incurred.
What currency is used in Bhutan?
Bhutanese currency is known as the Ngultrum. It’s easy to convert to the indian National Rupee and then have it converted on the go. The exchange rates are good and exchanges happen at every nook and corner so no worries on that front too
What’s the food like in Bhutan?
Absolutely amazing. The cuisine is spicy in general and chillies are used in almost everything they cook so if you are someone who prefers the food bland- make sure that you make the request in advance! Rice is in abundance and so is meat so if you love the two, you would love the food too!
Should we bring our own toilet paper?
Well, weird question but a lot of foreigners especially from the US and Europe have this concern. Bhutan has the squatty potties just like we have in most of the Asian countries. However, there are enough wester style toilets and most hotels will have them only! Plus, toilet paper is readily available!
I find this question to be really weird sometimes but I have been asked about it so many times that I thought I’d just answer it once and for all.
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I am a fearless, unguarded and fun loving traveller. The word ‘cannot’ doesn't often appear in my life’s dictionary. I was bitten by the travel bug a long, long time ago and it has taken me to more than 70 countries and countless destinations ever since. A born networker—I have met and made a gazillion friends across the world and the experiences so far, has more often than not, left me speechless. The more I travel, the more I realise that how much there is left to travel.
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