Road Trip to The Last Great Himalayan Kingdom- Bhutan
There’s a place on earth that even the most seasoned travellers consider a privilege to visit. This is Druk Yul, Bhutan, the Land of thunder Dragon. Tucked away from the modern world, perched high on the mighty Himalayan range, the kingdom of Bhutan has defied globalization and chosen to remain a hidden paradise. Bhutan has been declared as a global hotspot for its pristine environment and rich biodiversity.
It is marked by raw natural beauty where the dense foliage changes dramatically as the sub tropical jungles at sea level merge into a fertile temperate zone and rises up to the great northern glaciers. This pristine environment is home to exotic wildlife and is a last refuge for endangered species like the Black Necked Crane, the Blue Sheep & the Golden Langur.
At Bhutan you can connect yourself with a hidden Himalayan Culture. Be inspired by the Bhutanese People, Buddhism and the poetry of the landscape. Where Happiness is the main goal in life. Even the mandate of the modern Bhutanese state is Gross national Happiness.
Bhutan is also known as an Abode of Gods. Bhutan is the last bastion of Vajrayana Buddhism. The sacred monasteries that sit precariously on sheer cliffs, the fluttering prayer flags that line the high ridges, the red robed monks who chant through the day and night give this Kingdom an aura that comes from another time.
How to Reach:
The nearest airport and railway station is in Bagdogra. From Bagdogra(New jalpaiguri railway station or Siliguri railway station) you can take train to Hasimara. It will take around 3hrs (165kms) to reach Hasimara. From Hasimara there are frequent bus services to Phuentsholing town) which is about 18kms from there.
Indian Border Crossing:
The border is separated by a long wall with a single Bhutanese gate. Locals can sometimes even cross without being asked for papers. Tourists from India, Bangladesh and Maldives do not need visa to enter Bhutan but have to show proof of identity such as passport or voter ID card and apply for a permit at Phuentsholing to enter Bhutan. Other foreigners need a visa presented by a hired registered tour guide. The entry gate into the town is manned by the Indian Army and Bhutanese Army guards. The terrain inclines soon after the gate.
From Phuentsholing tourists can obtain entry permits for visiting Thimphu and Paro in Bhutan which is valid for 7 days.
Note: NO PERMITS WILL BE ISSUED ON WEEKENDS AND EVENING HOURS AND GOVT DECLARED PUBLIC HOLIDAYS.
Tourists desirous of going beyond Thimphu and Paro need to acquire a ‘special area permit’ from the Royal Govt. of Bhutan Immigration Office at Thimphu on any working days (Monday to Friday).
Bagdogra- Phunetsholing- Paro- Thimphu- Punakha-Phobjika Valley- Bumthang Valley – Trashigang- Samdrup Jongkhar- Guwahati
Things to do and Must visit Places in Bhutan:
- Trek to Tiger’s Nest Monastery:
The ‘Tiger’s Nest Monastery’ is one of the Himalaya’s most incredible sites, miraculously perched on the side of a sheer cliff 900m above the floor of Paro valley. It’s the goal of every visitor to Bhutan and while getting there involves a bit of uphill legwork, it’s well worth the effort.According to the legend related to this Taktsang, it is believed that Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche) flew to this location from Tibet on the back of a tigress from Khenpajong. This place was consecrated to tame the Tiger demon.
An alternative legend holds that a former wife of an emperor, known as Yeshe Tsogyal, willingly became a disciple of Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambahva) in Tibet. She transformed herself into a tigress and carried the Guru on her back from Tibet to the present location of the Taktsang in Bhutan. In one of the caves here, the Guru then performed meditation and emerged in eight incarnated forms (manifestations) and the place became holy. Subsequently, the place came to be known as the “Tiger’s Nest”.
- Ripung Dzong
- National Museum
- Paro chhu
- Buddha Staue Buddha Statue,Timphu
The huge 51m-tall steel statue of Buddha Dordenma commands the entry to the Thimphu valley. The massive three-storey base houses a large chapel, while the body itself is filled with 125,000 smaller statues of Buddha. The Buddha looks best in morning light, or at night when it is illuminated.
- Takin- the national animal of Bhutan.
The local mythology related to declaring takin as the national animal of Bhutan is dated to the 15th century. A Tibetan saint by the name Drukpa Kunley, popularly called by the epithet “The Divine Madman” is credited with creating the tamin with unique features. Drukpa Kunley, who was not only a religious preacher but also a proficient tantric, was requested by the people of Bhutan during one of his religious lectures to conjure a miracle before them. The saint agreed to do so provided he was fed for lunch, a whole cow and a whole goat. Once served, he devoured the food of both animals and left out the bones. He then took out the head of the goat and fixed it to the skeleton of the cow and uttered abracadabra and the magic worked. With a snap, he created a live animal, which had the head of the goat and the body of the cow.The animal sprang up and moved on to the meadows to graze. The animal was then given the name dong gyem tsey (takin). Since then this animal has been a common sight in the hills of Bhutan. Because of this magical creation with high religious connotation, the animal has been adopted as the national animal of Bhutan.
It is located on the way to Punakha and Wangduephodrang districts from Thimphu. This pass is popular tourists spot due to its ideal location from where one can enjoy 360 degree of beautiful panoramic view of Himalayan mountain range, especially on clear winter days. The beauty/attraction of this place is further enhanced by Druk Wangyal Chortens-108 stupa built by the eldest Queen Mother Her Majesty Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk to commemorate the expulsion of Assamese guerrillas.
Punakha Dzong is arguably the most beautiful dzong in the country, especially in spring when the lilac-coloured jacaranda trees bring a lush sensuality to the dzong’s characteristically towering whitewashed walls. This dzong was the second to be built in Bhutan and it served as the capital and seat of government until the mid-1950s. All of Bhutan’s kings have been crowned here. The dzong is still the winter residence of the dratshang (official monk body).
5) Black Necked Cranes in Phobjika Valley
The Phobjikha Valley is a vast U-shaped glacial valley, also known as Gangteng Valley named after the impressive Gangteng Monastery of the Nyingma sect in central Bhutan, where the graceful black-necked cranes in Bhutan (Grus nigricollis) from the Tibetan Plateau visit the valley during the winter season to roost. On arrival in the Phobjikha Valley in the last week of October, the black-necked cranes circle the Gangteng Monastery three times and also repeat the process while returning to Tibet.
The broad valley with its best-known marshland in Bhutan, is popular for its scenic splendour and cultural uniqueness. The valley is rich in faunal biodiversity and has, apart from the globally threatened black-necked cranes Grus nigricollis, 13 other globally threatened species.
Chele la (pass) at an elevation 13000 ft is considered to be one of the highest motorable passes in Bhutan. About an hour’s drive from Paro as it passes through lush valleys, pine and rhododendron forest. The pass provides stunning views of the sacred mountain Jomolhari and Jichu Drake.
This is one of the most spectacular valleys in Bhutan and also the heartland of Buddhism. The Guru and his lineage of Tertons (treasure finders), have led to the sprouting of many temples in the valley.
- Red Panda wine Brewery
- Swiss Cheese Factory
Swiss cheese. Pic Courtesy: https://jeninbhutan.wordpress.com