After reading about my recent Bhutan trip, lot of people were asking me for my itinerary. I thought of sharing it here so that it is useful for other people who are also planning for a trip to Bhutan.
Day 1 (15-Sep-2012)
Bangalore -> Kolkata -> Bagdora -> Jaigaon
Took an early morning flight from Bangalore to Kolkata. In Kolkata, we had a layover for 5 hours. So we went to some near by places like Maha Lakshimi temple, Bellur Matt etc. From Kolkata we took a flight to Bagdora. After reaching Bagdora airport, we took a pre-paid taxi to Jaigaon, the Indian border town from the airport. Usually it should take you around 4-5 hours (around 180 Km) to reach but for us it took close to 8 hours because of huge traffic jam caused by a landslide. One important thing to note is that there is a 16 Km stretch near Jaigaon, where the road is extremely bad. It will take at least an hour to cross this stretch, of course with some severe back pain. We stayed overnight in a hotel in Jaigaon opposite to the India Bhutan border.
Day 2 (16-Sep-2012)
Jaigaon -> Phuentsholing -> Thimphu
We took the permit from the immigration office and crossed the India Bhutan border gate (which is just an arch) and reached Phuentsholing. The border town at the Indian side is called Jaigaon, while the border town at the Bhutan side is called Phuentsholing. From Phuentsholing we took a taxi to Thimphu, which is the capital of Bhutan. The ride will take you around 5 hours (around 180 Km). This stretch of the road is extremely scenic and there are around 5-6 major water falls on the way. We did the mistake of traveling there after dark, but found out what we missed on our way back. If you are planning to take this route, make sure you do it at day time and keep a camera handy. We reached Thimphu pretty late and stayed at a hotel in Norzin Lam.
It is also possible to go by public transport. The cost for the bus to Thimphu is around 200 Nu (Bhutan currency, which is almost equal to Indian currency) and you have bus every 30 minutes till 4:30 PM Bhutan time (GMT + 6 hours, which is 30 minutes ahead of Indian time)
Day 3 (17-Sep-2012)
Sight seeing in and around Thimphu.
Visited a couple of places like Telecom Tower, Dechen Lakhang, Archery stadium, Tashicho Dzong and Buddha Point which is present on top of hill. Out of all the places, I liked Buddha point a lot. The Buddha statue was massive and also the view from top of the hill was amazing.
Day 4 (18-Sep-2012)
Thimphu -> Paro
The permit that you get at Phuentsholing is valid only for 7 days and you can visit only Thimphu and Paro using it. In order to visit other places or stay longer you need to extend your permit at Thimphu. So we went to the immigration office in Norzin Lam to extend our permit and also to get permission to visit other places in Bhutan. It took us a couple of hours, since the officers were busy because of some meeting.
After getting the permit, we took a taxi to Paro. Paro is around 60 Km from Thimphu and it will take you around 2 hours to reach there. After reaching Paro, we stayed in a hotel in the main street of the town.
Paro is a very beautiful valley and you can catch a glimpse of it in the below photo.
Day 5 (19-Sep-2012)
Sight seeing in and around Paro
The highlight of the day was the hike to Tiger’s Nest (Paro Taktsang). It is a Buddhist sacred site and temple complex located in a cliffside of the upper Paro valley. It took us about 3 hours to climb up and around 2 hours to climb down. It was really an amazing place and I might a separate blog post about this place.
Below are some photos of Tiger’s Nest.
Day 6 (20-Sep-2012)
Sight seeing in and around Paro
Visited a couple of places in the Paro valley like Drukgyel Dzong, Paro Rinpung Dzong, Kyichu Lhakhang and National Museum. Out of all these places, I liked Drukgyel Dzong, which is an old ruined fortress and Paro Rinpung Dzong, which is the main administrative office and monastery in Paro.
Most of these places are near to Paro and you can hire a taxi to reach these places from Paro.
Day 7 (21-Sep-2012)
Paro -> Cheli La -> Haa Valley
We hired a taxi for the next 8 days at 3000 Nu per day and left Paro to Haa Valley. On the way to Haa valley, we passed Cheli La, which is one of the highest mountain pass in Bhutan. It was very cold at Cheli La, and you could see the below photo, to find out how chill it was. After Cheli La, we reached Haa valley, a very small and cold town. We stayed overnight in Haa valley.
Day 8 (22-Sep-2012)
Haa Valley -> Thimphu -> Douch La -> Punakha
We visited the Indian Army camp (photo below) in Haa valley and then left to Punakha. To reach Punakha we had to go through Thimphu. Between Thimphu and Punakha we passed through Douch La. Reached Punakha a little late and found it difficult to get room, since the hotels are spread apart. This is was the only place, where we had little struggle to get the room.
Day 9 (23-Sep-2012)
Sight seeing around Punakha and Wangdue
Punakha was little hot when compared with other places. We went to Chimi Lhakhang (temple of the famous fertility king Drukpa Kinley), Punakha Dzong and to an Iron Bridge which was build over the Punakha river. We also witnessed Tsechu, the local festival in Wangdue. If you are interested in cultural dances etc, you will really like these festivals.
I liked the Iron bridge very much. It was a completely different experience to walk in the long, swinging hanging bridge. Checkout some of the photos which we took in the iron bridge.
Day 10 (24-Sep-2012)
Punakha -> Wangdue -> Pele La -> Trongsa -> Bumthang -> Jakar
We left Punakha a little early and reached Jakar down in Bumthang at around 4 PM. On the way we crossed Wangdue, Pele La and Trongsa. The entire drive was very beautiful and took about 9 hours. Bumthang was slightly hot during the day and cold during the night. Locals call Bumthang as second Switzerland and it lived up to its reputation.
Day 11 (25-Sep-2012)
Sight seeing around Bumthang and Jakar town.
We went to Jakar Dzong, Wangdichholing Dzong, Kurji Lakhang and then attended the Tsechu at the Tamshing Lakhang. Almost all places were very beautiful and picture perfect.
Day 12 (26-Sep-2012)
Sight seeing around Bumthang and Jakar town.
Went to Burning Lake, which is arond 13 Km from Jakar. It was very beautiful and we tried to get into the water, which was very cold even though the sun was very hot. After coming out of Burning Lake, we parked our car near a small bridge and got into the river. The water was very clean and cold and it was a very nice experience. We spent about 2 hours there in the river itself.
Aswin and Subbu did mountain biking for the entire day, while I did it only in the evening. There are lot of trails for doing mountain biking and you should definitely try it out if you are in Bumthang.
Day 13 (27-Sep-2012)
Bumthang -> Trongsa -> Pele La -> Punakha -> Douch La -> Thimphu
It was a long drive and it took us about 12 hours (257 Km) from Bumthang to Thimphu. The entire drive was very beautiful and on the way we entered Trongsa Dzong from the eastern gate. We reached Thimphu in the evening and went for shopping since almost every shop had a sale because of the local Tsechu festival.
Day 14 (28-Sep-2012)
Thimphu -> Phuentsholing -> Jaigoan -> Siliguri
The drive from Thimphu to Phuentsholing is very beautiful and you pass numerous majestic waterfalls on the way. There is a small stretch of road near Phuentsholing where it is always misty and you could witness lot of past landslide areas. We were both sad and glad, sad because it was our last day in Bhutan and glad that we did this trip. We crossed the border around 2 PM and you could immediately notice the cultural difference. We were greeted with heavy vehicle horn sounds as soon as stepping inside Jaigaon.
We had lunch in Jaigaon and took another taxi to Siliguri were we stayed overnight.
Day 15 (29-Sep-2012)
Siliguri -> Bagdora -> Kolkata -> Bangalore -> HOME
Our flight from Bagdora was at 2:40 PM, so in the morning we went around Siliguri, even though it was very hot. We went to “Hon Kong Market” which is a famous place to get cheap electronics stuff. After that we took a taxi to the Bagdora airport, took flight to Kolkata and then took our connecting flight to Bangalore. Reached home at around 10:30 PM and slept in my bed after around 15 days
If you have only a week to visit Bhutan then I would recommend you to visit Thimphu and Paro. If you have around 10 days then make sure you visit Thimphu, Paro, Haa valley and Punakha or if you have 15 days like us then you could also include Bumthang to the list.
I have also written about the things that you should keep in mind while traveling to Bhutan.