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Thimpu, Paro, Taksang and other attractions in Bhutan on a budget.


August 11, 2011
 

We, an Indian couple, want to visit Bhutan on a backapacker's budget. Open to travelling in coach if it helps. Must see Thimphu, Paro, Taksang, Ha Valley and Punakha. Any suggestions?

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August 12, 2011

Vinod's answer about things to do in Punakha, Paro and Bhutan

Hey there, great to hear about your trip.

Bhutan also called The Land of the Thunder Dragon is nestled between the Himalayan highlands, with India to the South and China to the North. It is known for it's beautiful landscape and Buddhist monasteries. Bhutan is certainly a place where the mystic mountains will help you breathe a fresh air of life within you. This is a place where you can truly discover yourself and enjoy life in the simplest and most serene fashion. You have chosen some great places to visit and I shall help you explore them.

Door to Heaven (Trongsa, Bhutan) (Source: Jean-Marie Hullot) 

But before we start, here is some important information from Lonely Planet.

The daily tariff for tourists visiting in a group of three people or more is US$200 per day (US$165 per day in the low season of July to August, whether you stay in hotels or go trekking.

To encourage trekkers to make longer treks, the Department of Tourism (DOT) allows a 10% discount on days 11 to 20 and 20% from day 21 on.

The daily tariff includes all of your accommodation, food, land transport within Bhutan, services of guides and porters, supply of pack animals on treks, and cultural programs as appropriate. It also includes a US$65 tax, which is used by the government to fund infrastructure, education, health and other programs.
Individual tourists and couples are subject to a surcharge, over and above the daily rate. The surcharge may also be applied if a member of a group arrives or departs on a separate flight from the rest of the party. The surcharge is US$40 per night for one person and US$30 per night per person for a group of two people. Visitors qualifying for any kind of discount still have to pay this small-group surcharge.

(Source: Practical travel information  - Lonely Planet Travel Information) 

Things to See

Here are my recommendations:

1. Thimphu

Thimphu is a small, charming capital city nestled in the Himalayas with the beautiful sights of the  Chuu river flowing through it.. Interesting it is the only city in the world with no traffic lights. This place has retained it's culture and old world charm as modern development is closely monitored and new buildings can be built only in Bhutanese style and upto a certain height. 

Thimphu

 (147) (Source: RAJKUMAR 1220) 

Here is how Lonely Planet describes this place:

The ever-present juxtaposition of old and new is just one of its appealing qualities. Crimson-robed monks, Indian labourers, gho- and kira-clad professionals and camera-wielding tourists all ply the pot-holed pavements, skirt packs of sleeping dogs, and spin the prayer wheels of Clocktower Square, and nobody, it seems, is in a hurry. Thimphu offers the best opportunity to do your own thing. It’s relaxed, friendly and pretty informal, and is most rewarding if you can be the same.

 (Source: Thimphu Travel Information and Travel Guide - Bhutan - Lonely Planet) 

There are many places of interest In Thimpu, Some of the major ones are as under:

  • Tashichho Dzong - It is located in the Chhagchhen Lam area and is the main secretariat building with the Throne Room of His Majesty. Also known as the "Fortress of the Glorious Region". You can read more about it here.
  • National Memorial Chorten - Built in memory of the third king of Bhutan, this chorten (stupa) features mandalas, statues and altar dedicated to the third Druk Gyalpo of Bhutan. For more information, see here.

Thimphu - 1

 National Memorial Chorten (Stupa) (Source: Anja Disseldorp) 

  • Motithang Takin Preserve - The Takin Reserve is a special zoo reserve to preserve the Nation Animal-The Takin which is a cross between cow and a sheep. You can also see deer alonside the Takin. The preserve is a few miles away from town, and suggested to be reached by taxi.

For detailed information and more attractions in Thimpu, see here.

2. Paro

Paro is a gorgeous beautiful valley, surrounded by lush green rice fields. Craggy mountain hills & undisturbed serene beauty, the clean air and peaceful atmosphere make it a must visit place In Bhutan. Do take a walk down the road, checking out the colorful markets with local produce & handicrafts.

Paro

Cloud-hidden, whereabouts unknown (Paro, Bhutan) (Source: Jean-Marie Hullot) 

Wikitravel writes:

Paro is a historic town with many sacred sites and historical buildings scattered through the area. In addition, the Paro Valley is wide and verdant and is recognized a one of the most beautiful in all Bhutan. Along with Jakar and Punakha, Paro forms the 'golden triangle' of popular tourist destinations in Bhutan.

 (Source: Paro travel guide - Wikitravel) 

Here are the major attractions:

  • Rinpung Dzong- One of the finest example of a Bhutanese monastery, this Dzong hosts the Paro Tsechu i.e festival of masks. Did you know that Bertolucci's 1995 film Little Buddha was filmed here? The scenic beauty surrounding the monastery is worth capturing. Read a review here.

Paro - 1

Bhutan Paro Dzong Rinping 16 (Source: Rafael Gomez) 

  • National Museum - Originally a watch tower and later renovated as a fantastic museum, It exhibits rich stamp collections, slate carvings, Thangka paintings, prehistoric items, jewellery, traditional weapons and other articles reflecting Bhutanese culture. The museum is open from 9am-4.30pm Tue-Sat, For more information, you can call on Tel: 271257.

Paro - 2

View Paro Dzong with National Museum (Source: Mandy) 

Getting there: Distance from Thimpu: 65kms, Driving time:2 Hours

3. Taksang Monastery (Tiger's Nest)

The Taksang Monastery is in Paro and is one of the holiest places in Bhutan. The monastery is mounted on a high granite cliff and was established for meditation.The monastery is perched on a rocky ledge with a sheer drop of nearly 800m, and overlooks the Paro valley and the river. It is said that in the second half of the 8th century, Guru Padma Sambhava known as the second Buddha in Bhutan, meditated at the spot where the monastery is situated having alighted there on the back of a flying tigress. It's an ideal place for a short trek.

Taksang Monastery (Tiger's Nest)

taktsang (Source: avinash singh) 

Here is a review:

One must visit one of its century's old Tak Chang monestry, which local call tiger nest. This seems to be a heaven for the trekkers and the picturesque 'gompas' positioned erratically over the place. It is 10km from paro, then a long 2 hrs treak.This tour will cover your full day, but it's worth to see.

 (Source: Reviews of Taktsang Monastery (Tiger's Nest) - TripAdvisor) 

Getting there: The monastery is only 20 minutes drive north of Paro or 3 hours hike from the base of the hill.

Admission: Free

Note: No cameras or cell phones are allowed inside, and they check each guest, local or foreigner. You have to leave your stuff in a guarded room then enter the monastery,

4. Haa Valley

This is a relatively new destination in Bhutan. Apart from the virginal beauty of the Haa valley, you will also find some temples and fortresses around here.The route over Chelela Pass will take you to Haa Valley.The drive is very scenic and I am sure you will enjoy it.

Haa Valley

 (Source: Abhimanyu) 

Here is a review:

We arrived in Haa, right as dusk was nearing its end and a rainy night was about to take over the evening sky. Haa valley, with it's river, Amu Chuu, and mountains all around it, seemed like a place from ancient Chinese fairy tales.

 (Source: Noam in Bhutan: Haa Valley Journey!) 

Things to see:

  • Lhakhang Karpo and Nagpo are the famous White and Black temples of Haa.
  • Shekhar Drak an unique temple whose walls are melded with the rock of the cliff on the foot of which it is located!
  • Tagchu Goemba is a 100 year old temple!
  • Dobji Dzong a five storeyed fortress on a hilltop is a beautiful site!

You can also opt to trek :

On arrival in the picturesque Ha Valley, stroll through quaint town and begin the first part of the trek starting from Katso village (alt. 8840 ft). This is a fairly easy trek of about one hour walk through Katso village and fields. Opposite Katso village, one can see the famous Katso Lhakhang (temple) of Guru Rimpoche built against the rocky ledge. Camp above Katso Village in an open meadow through which runs a beautiful stream. Camp altitude 9472 ft.

 (Source: Haa Valley Ancient Route Trek) 

Getting There: The Haa valley is 61 kms away from Paro and about two and a half hours drive through the Chele la pass.


Before Thimphu was made the permanent capital of Bhutan, Punakha was the Winter Capital because of its more temperate climate. The Je Khenpo (leader of Bhutan's religious order) still come to pass the Winter months here. The drive to the destination is breathtaking and it is recommended to take the Dochula Pass.

Punakha

Behind Punakha Dzong (Source: Soham Banerjee) 

A review:

Punakha has been inextricably linked to some of the most momentous events in the Bhutanese history and deserves its reputation as one of the most beautiful and significant regions at the heart of Bhutanese culture. This district, levelling from 1300m at the valley floor rises to almost 3000m around Dochhula pass, served as the capital of Bhutan from 1637 till 1907 and the 1st National Assembly was held here

 (Source: Punakha – Tourism Council of Bhutan (Official Website)) 

Here are the main attractions:

  • Punakha Dzong: This is the main attraction in Punakha.It was built by the first Shabdrung in 1637 is famous for being one of the most beautiful dzongs in Bhutan.

Punakha - 1

Punakha Dzong Where festival is held (Source: Mandy) 

 

  • Chhimi Lhakhang: It is situated on a hill in the centre of the valley and about 20 minutes pleasant walk across the rice fields from the road will lead to to this place.

 

  • Limbhukha: From the Punakha Dzong, walk across the suspension bridge and climb towards Dompola Hills. A two and half hoursTrek will get you here. The view of the Dzong, Phochu, Mochu Rivers and the surrounding village is superb amidst the forest.

Getting there:  It is at a distance of 143kms from Paro and the driving time is around 5 hours.

From Thimphu it is 72 km away, and can be reached by road in about 2 1/2 hours.(you can cover this place first from Thimpu and then move to Paro)

6. Phobjikha & Gangtey Valley

The Gangtey and Phobjikha are glacial valleys with a stream flowing through their open grasslands presenting one of the most beautiful landscapes in Bhutan. It is home to endangered black necked crane.The famous Black mountain national park, home to diverse specie of flora and fauna is also nearby.

Phobjikha & Gangtey Valley

 Phobjikha Valley (Source: 1309 Phobjikha Valley) 

Phobjikha Valley is perhaps most famous for its Black necked Cranes! It is around 6 hours drive from Thimpu. The drive among Dochula Chortens and Rhodos is mind-blowing. However winters can be very cold so make sure you have lots of woolen clothes. The entire region is sometimes called Gangtey

  • Here is what you should do after reaching here:
Your first stop should be the Royal Society for Protection of Nature's (RSPN) Black-Necked Crane Information Centre, which has informative displays about the cranes and the valley environment. You can use the centre's powerful spotting scopes and check what you see against its pamphlet "Field Guide to Crane Behaviour". If the weather's iffy you can browse the library and handicraft shop, and watch videos at 10am and 3pm (Nu 200). This is also the centre of the valley's fledgling ecotourism initiative and they can arrange mountain-bike hire (Nu 700 per day), a local guide (Nu 300), an overnight stay in a local farmhouse (Nu 500) or lectures on the local ecosystem.

(Source:  Phobjikha Valley, Bhutan - Lonely Planet) 

  • The Jigme Singye National Park is another area attraction! Lots of wild animals around here -  Snow Leopards, Wild  Bears, Red Foxes, Barking Deers etc.
  • Gangtey Monastery should be in your checklist as well.

Read this article from Tripadvisor!

So those were my suggestions. I hope they are well-suited to what you were looking for. I can also chalk out an itinerary for your trip if you provide us the dates and duration of the trip.

Do get back to us for any other information you might need - such as accommodation, transport and so on!

Hope you have a wonderful trip!

Cheers,

Vinod.



Answered by I am adventurous and love to travel. Mountains, nature and beaches really excite me. Music, photography are my other hobbies Vinod Lal

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