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Planning a trip to Bhutan? Make sure your first stop is the beautiful valley of Paro, the land of unsullied wilderness and long-forgotten customs. Paro is an ideal mix of ancient history and breath-taking natural beauty, with a healthy dash of modern life thrown in. Here are the top 5 things to do in Paro that you need to have on your to-do list.
1. Visit the Tiger’s Nest Monastery
Taktsang Monastery, popularly known as Tiger’s Nest, is the unofficial symbol of Bhutan and one of the most sacred pilgrimage sites in the country. Legends say that Guru Rinpoche, the Father of Bhutanese Buddhism, arrived here more than a million years ago from Tibet on the back of a tigress and meditated at this place.
Perched atop a hill, this Buddhist monastery clings to a granite cliff more than 3,000 metres above sea level. The journey takes around 2-3 hours to complete, with a steep uphill climb. If your knees are a weak point, you can also opt to take a pony ride. There is a cafeteria located midway where travellers can take a break to rest, eat and take beautiful pictures of the monastery and the surrounding valley. Visitors require a special permit to enter the monastery which needs to be procured in advance.
Monastery: (October-March) 8 am-1 pm and 2 pm-5 pm; (April-September) 8 am-1 pm and 2 pm-6 pm daily
Cafeteria: Noon-3 pm daily
2. Try an Adventure Activity
Paro is the hub for adventure activities in Bhutan, ranging from trekking, mountain biking, to rafting and kayaking. The Snowman Trek is one of the most exciting and challenging treks in the world. The trek extends over 5,400 metres, crossing four different passes and camps at high altitudes. It starts at Paro and leads you through Lingshi and Laya to the remote corners of the Lunana Valley. The best time for trekking in Paro is between September and October.
Mountain biking trails are aplenty in Paro and an excellent way to explore ruins and monasteries that are inaccessible by foot. Biking down the route from Paro to Bumthang, passing rice fields, rugged terrain and spiraling descents are popular among bikers.
If you are looking to try rafting and kayaking, the lower Paro Chhu River stretches for about seven kilometres and has many small boulder rapids. Mo Chhu on the other hand is more suitable for beginners. You can also enjoy the scenic beauty of the city and catch a glimpse of the queen’s winter residence and the king’s winter retreat as you go down the river.
3. Unwind with Some Meditation
Bhutan is the perfect place to unwind and do some soul searching. For all those looking for some spiritual guidance and peace of mind, attend a meditation session at the many monasteries around or even at your own hotel. Buddhism in Bhutan is not just a religion. It is a way of life that you encounter as you interact with the people and travel through the country.
If meditation is not for you, soak in a mineral spring bath or Tshachu for its medicinal properties. Even a walk by the river in the beautiful valley of Paro will feel like therapy.
4. Savor the Local Flavors
Bhutan’s favourite dish, Ema Datshi (not a Bhutanese greeting!) is a mix of red hot chillies and yak cheese found in every meal across Bhutan. This delicacy is also the national dish of Bhutan and is a must-try. Apart from chilies, Bhutanese cuisine largely comprises chicken, pork and beef. If you’re a pork eaters, try Phaksha Paa, a dish cooked with pork, spicy red chillies with radishes or spinach. Other dishes worth trying are Jasha Maru (Spicy minced chicken) and Goep (Tripe).
For vegetarians, there are a lot of interesting dishes with locally found vegetables. There are also some unique choices like nettles, orchids and fern fronds mostly cooked in cheese sauce and served with red rice. Another vegetarian dish to try is a Hoentoe. An interesting take on dumplings, Hoentoe are aromatic buckwheat dumplings stuffed with turnip greens, datshi (cheese), spinach and other interesting ingredients.
5. Explore the City
When in Paro, there is just so much to see in the city that you need have an itinerary with all the must-see places. The first thing on the list should be the view of Mount Everest when you fly into Paro. If you miss it on your way in, make sure to keep your eyes peeled to catch a glimpse of the world’s tallest peak on the way back.
Take a drive up to the Chele La Pas for a nice picnic and a mesmerizing view of the Himalayas and Mount Jumolhari. The other places you need to explore in Paro include the National Museum, the Paro Dzong and the Drukgyel Dzong. The National Museum is located in an ancient watch tower and holds a sizable collection of coins, stamps, weapons, Bhutanese art and artifacts. A great crowd-puller is the display of a fragment of the moon brought by Neil Armstrong here. The Paro Dzong is the finest example of Bhutanese architecture, with its colossal fortress and monastery and a beautiful view of Paro valley. The dzong is also the seat of the annual Paro Tshechu Festival.
Best Time: Head to Bhutan during September-November for pleasant temperatures and clear skies. Summers are a wet time and winters can get really cold. The other good time to head to Paro is during March to May when the famous festival, Paro Tsechu takes place.
Budget: A week-long trip to Bhutan will cost around INR 29,000 (inclusive of stay in 3-star hotels, meals, transfers, sightseeing in Paro, Thimpu, and Phuentsholing)
Traveller Type: Bhutan has something for everybody. You can opt to travel solo or with family and friends
So have you packed your bags yet? What are you waiting for?
Perched high in the Himalayas, Bhutan is a small dreamy paradise. A country where rice is red and chilies are considered to be a vegetable, where development is measured not by Gross National Product, but by Gross National Happiness, Bhutan is the world’s last remaining Buddhist Kingdom. A visit here will bring you face to face with ancient monasteries, fortresses (called Dzongs), ancient temples with prayer flags fluttering high and the warmth of its people.
Don’t leave Bhutan before you:
- Paro: The verdant Paro Valley is regarded as one of the most beautiful in all of Bhutan. Take in the history-laden grandiose and breath taking scenery, sprinkled with traditional houses, monasteries, and ripening rice fields. If you are a nature lover looking for some peace and quiet, this is the place to be.
- Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest): Nestled on the edge of a precariously high cliff, the iconic Taktsang Goemba (monastery) is the unofficial symbol of Bhutan and one of the most sacred pilgrimage sites. A pony ride is available till the ‘cafeteria’, a wooden teahouse-restaurant located on the ridge, offering great views of the monastery. Whether you are spiritual or the adventurous kind, this is an exhilarating journey offering breathtaking views along the way. To enter the monastery, visitors require a special permit, which needs to be procured in advance.
- Trashi Chhoe Dzong: A must-see on every visitor’s list, the impressive structure with large golden Bhutanese-style spires on top is the seat of the national government, the national library, throne room of His Majesty the King of Bhutan and the nation’s largest monastery. It is also the venue of the famous Buddhist religious celebration, Thimpu Tshechu.
- Trekking on the Snowman Trek: The Snowman Trek is one of the most challenging and adventurous treks in the world. It starts at Paro and leads you through Lingshi and Laya to the remote corner of the Lunana Valley. Walk over 5,400 metres crossing four different passes and camp at high altitudes. The best time to enjoy treks here is between September and October.
- Mountain Biking in Paro and Punakha: Mountain biking trails are aplenty and an excellent choice if you want to explore further ruins and monasteries that are inaccessible by foot. Biking down the route from Paro to Bumthang, passing rice fields, rugged terrains and spiraling descents are popular among bikers. Punakha also has a number of trails for bikers; popular ones include one that starts from Pho Chhu and the other leading up to Tschochagsa.
- Rafting and Kayaking: The lower Paro Chhu River stretches for about seven kilometres and has many small boulder rapids. Mo Chhu on the other hand is more suitable for beginners and as the river flows through the valley, you get to see sights such as one of the queen’s winter residences, the king’s winter retreat and beautiful farmland.
When to Go:
September to November: The month of September marks the beginning of autumn in Bhutan and is considered great for visiting. Visitors are greeted with clear skies and pleasant weather. The maximum temperature rarely crosses 20 degrees Celsius and the minimum is around 4 degrees Celsius. This is also a great time to enjoy adventure activities such as trekking. Rain showers are common during this time of the year, so it is advised to carry an umbrella along.
December to February: Winters in Bhutan are beautiful and less crowded. It is also easier to secure a great deal on hotels during this time of the year. Days are sunny, though evenings and nights can be very cold. These months are ideal for white-water rafting and bird watching. The maximum temperature during this time is 9 degrees Celsius and the minimum temperature drops down to -10 degrees Celsius.
March to May: This time of the year is perfect to enjoy nature. Bird watchers will also be able to spot the abundant bird life in the region. Enjoy an unobstructed view of the peaks and also the famous Paro Tsechu, a popular festival. Don’t forget to carry woollens along, as it can be pretty cold.
June to August: The beginning of summer in Bhutan brings with it heavy rains. The mountains are cloaked in clouds and look absolutely surreal! The maximum temperature is about 21 degrees Celsius and the minimum temperature drops to 7 degrees Celsius. Since this is the wettest time of the year in Bhutan, make sure you carry an umbrella along.
By Air: Bhutan’s only international airport is in Paro, which is 6 kilometres away from the city. It is about an hour and a half away from Thimpu.
Road/Self Drive: Bhutan is well connected by roads. Thimpu has a city bus station from where inter-district buses depart and arrive. From Paro airport, Thimphu-bound taxis are available and can cost up to Nu 800. Self-driving from Phuentsholing is a scenic and enjoyable journey that takes about five hours (172 kilometres).
Taxi: To travel around, you can hire a taxi, which may be a little expensive. These tourist taxis charge about NU 15 per kilometre, with a minimum charge of about Nu 1,400 per day (which includes driver’s food, accommodation and fees). Keep in mind that taxis don’t run on meter and you may have to negotiate the fares beforehand.
On foot: Walking is a great way to explore the cities of Bhutan. Also, some villages are not connected by road, so travel by foot or on a pony is recommended.
What to Pack:
- Heavy warm clothes when travelling in winter and autumn and a light jacket for the rest of the year
- Walking shoes and trekking gear will come handy as the terrain is mountainous
- Beginning of summer brings heavy rain and it is a good idea to carry a sturdy umbrella
Bhutan is a pastoral delight with cascading rice fields, beautiful valleys, humbling mountain ranges and something to offer for every traveller. So come and experience the charm of one of the most inexplicable countries, the ‘last Shangri La’, and be mystified as you explore travel world’s best kept secret, Bhutan.
Bhutan is a small nation of South Asia. It is frequently called as “Land of the Thunder Dragon”, “the Last Shangri-La” & “the Last Place on the Roof of the globe.” The nation is nestled in the circuit of the Himalaya and is recognized to have high tourism potential. Bhutan offers most excellent opportunities for adventure tourism and cultural tourism. There are lots of places of interest in the country.
Religion is a significant thing for many Bhutanese so tourists are expected to value that at all times. Buddhist tours are always conducted in the kingdom and people are invited to visit the famous Tiger’s Monastery, which is perched on a mountain cliff.
EXCEPT FOR A BEACH VACATION, THE NATION OFFERS LITERALLY EVERY KIND OF ORGANIZED TRAVEL INCLUDING:
• Hiking and trekking packages
• soothing and slow-paced tourism packages
• Honeymoon packages
• Photography packages
• religious and spiritual packages
• Outdoor journey packages such as packages which comprise river rafting and kayaking
Here are Some Pros and Cons of Visiting Bhutan
1. The People: Bhutanese are really nice people. They are cool & calm might be due to their spiritual beliefs. Their legitimacy will touch you. Even kids are kind & good-natured. You will find the guides and drivers extremely educated, polite, talented & fun to be with.
2. Freedom: You have the rare freedom of being able to visit this nation, which is a haven of traditions. You will be capable to combine a cultural journey with a trek in the royal Himalayas.
3. Buddhism: Bhutanese are real supporters of Buddhism. It is reflected in their life all over the place. You will get to hear a sum of stories regarding how the things came into the world.
4. The Himalayas: You can get an exclusive view of Himalayan Mountain. There are some other areas from where you can look the Himalayas Mountain, but they are not as attractive as this view. There are flowers in loads, magnolia trees & majestic downhill & uphill walks. Adventurous personas will get many hiking and trekking options here.
1. Infrastructure: This small nation has not good transportation. You will face problems in moving around. There is 1 national highway which extremely twisty, curvy, dusty & mostly traveled by old-age trucks. Traveling is certain to give you sickness. Mind it; toilet will be a difficulty; there are barely some bushes around the road to aid you with.
2. Accommodation: The flat rate for a stay in the nation is relatively high. Housing is frequently essential.
3. Medical Services: Keep some common medicines with you for ordinary diseases & your health. You can’t purchase medicines at a medical store. You might get home-based remedies, but their efficiency can’t be guaranteed.
4. Food: You will extremely limited options for food. Generally, vegetarian recipes are served with rice, veggies. Bhutan’s national dish is ema dates which are ready with red or green chili & cheese sometimes it is hot Bhutanese don’t kill animals; it is a Buddhists nation that sermonize non-violence.