This landlocked kingdom may occupy a small space on the world globe but there’s nothing small about the mountains that lie within! Sharing borders with China and India, Bhutan is known as ‘The Switzerland of Asia’ for its mountainous topography and similarity to Swiss landscapes. Bhutan has largely resisted over development, which has left much of its natural environment intact. As a result of this, Bhutan is one of the most species-rich countries in the world – with hundreds of species of mammals, birds and plants calling the Bhutanese valleys, mountains and meadows home. Endangered red pandas and snow leopards can be found in Bhutan as well as a huge variety of wild flowers and birds. Most Bhutanese people live simple lives with much less access to modern technology and infrastructure than others in neighboring countries. There are still many villages that operate without running water and electricity; however, these facilities are widely available in the larger cities. Although Bhutan’s larger cities like Paro and Thimphu do have more access to technology, the pace of life is still slow and most traditional buildings have been preserved, as has the way of life.
Thimphu – Thimphu is the capital of the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan and is located in Western Bhutan at about 8000 feet. Nowhere is Bhutan is the traditional too far from the modern and it can be seen in Thimphu as well, with most of the people clad in ghos and kiras ( traditional Bhutanese dress ), young and old alike sitting outside monasteries with prayer beads and softly chanting and crimson robed monks going about their daily routine. Thimphu offers a good opportunity for the travellers to relax and visit some of the Buddhist and culture sites and chill out at cafes, restaurants, bars and nightclubs.
Bumthang – Bumthang in central Bhutan is one of the most historic districts of Bhutan, littered with ancient temples and sacred sites, leading it to be known as Bhutan’s ‘spiritual heart’. Bumthang is also accredited as the birthplace of Buddhism in Bhutan. Many of these ancient buildings such as the 7th century Jampa Lhakhang are decorated with vibrant wall paintings and richly adorned altars that all have fascinating stories behind them. The surrounding area is also famed for its cottage industries including Bumthang butter, cheese, honey and the locally brewed Red Panda beer.
Paro – The tranquil and dramatic Paro valley is one of the most flourishing places in Bhutan. The town of Paro is characterised by ornate 3-storey farmhouses and beautiful forests of blue pine, set against a backdrop of snow-covered mountains. There’s a great deal to see and do in the valley, from visiting the monumental Dzong, to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery and the remote Haa Valley.
Punakha – Punakha was the capital of Bhutan and seat of government until 1955, before Thimphu , but it still retains the stately atmosphere of its past and offers breathtaking views of the snowy Himalayas. The climate is more tropical here due to the lower altitude. The dzong (fort-monastery), located on an island at the confluence of the Mo Chhu and Pho Chhu rivers, is particularly impressive and is the main attraction, but there are also other sites of interest in and around Punakha.
1. Trek to tigers nest Monastery in Paro.
2. Witness mask dance at a colorful Teshu ( Monastery Festival ).
3. Stay with locals at a home stay in Paro.
4. Try spicy Ema Dashi, Bhutans national dish.
5. Spot Black-necked cranes at Phobjikh valley.
6. Explore the beautiful Bhumtang Valley.
7. Walk to the fertility temple of Chimi Lhakhang through village and fields.
8. Visit picturesque Punakha Dzong located between two rivers.
9. Explore the unexplored and remote Eastern Bhutan.
10. Explore the Centenary Farmers Market in Thimpu.