For the love of mountains and hiking, planning a trip to the land of thunder dragons was a no-brainer. No second thoughts and no budget constraints—this was the smooth decision, as I had saved up for this vacation. One of the top travel destinations, Bhutan offers unique places to see and things to do. A nature’s paradise, you can embark on the country’s many beautiful scenic hikes, travel along adventure-filled cycling routes, and indulge in scrumptious cuisine.
Bhutan is the one destination I had dreamt of visiting when I first realised that I was a ‘mountain person’. My determination to trek to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery in Paro (a famously challenging trek), and to explore the capital city Thimphu were what drove me to visit. There are many intriguing things about Bhutan, but the hike to Tiger’s Nest was something I wanted to experience without a doubt. Not because it offered the best views from the top, but because it was quite challenging too.
I visited the cities of Paro and Thimphu, in June, with my friends, and can say that it is literally the happiest country I have seen and been to. Not only is the welfare of people of paramount importance here, but the infrastructure and the way locals communicate is very important too. This gave me a sense of how everyone truly respected each other. The people, top attractions, nature, and the food, simply gave me an adrenaline push to explore every bit of the place at once.
Happiness Is… This Trip
Bhutan is the only country to have a Gross National Happiness (GNH) index. It began the process of measuring its GNH when it opened up to globalisation. The GNH index in Bhutan is measured by calculating the average people’s development, well-being, and happiness, through categories like living standards, health, education, time use, psychological wellbeing, culture, community vitality, and environmental diversity. When I met the locals, it felt so comfortable and warm, as if we had known each other for a long time. It was around midnight when my friends and I were returning from a popular pub Park 76 Cafe in Paro. We were unable to get a taxi. It was also raining and the city had gone to sleep. The last family leaving the pub with us had their own car and offered us a lift back to our lodge. A family of two men (father and son) had told us that Bhutan was doing an awesome job in finding the right balance between a person’s well-being and building the economy, mainly through tourism and infrastructure. I noticed hints of modernity throughout, although the country still maintains its traditions. And proudly so.
Another example of how warmly we were received was at our AirBnB (Solo Adventure Home Stay) in Thimphu, which was run by a Bhutanese family. They were very sweet, and had kept our room so neat and tidy. They were happy to show us around Thimphu city, and their son took great care seeing that we were a group of girls travelling alone.
In this travelogue, I will take you through Thimphu, one experience at a time, so you can plan your journey soon.
Best Places I Visited In Thimphu
1. Buddha Dordenma
This is where I saw one of the largest Buddhas in the world, the Buddha Dordenma statue. It overlooks the city, and the statue is almost 170 feet tall, sitting on top of a huge meditation hall. It was built to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the fourth king of Bhutan. If you love history, your local guide can shed some light on more facts. The Buddha Dordenma can be spotted from a distance, but if you are exploring the capital, it is worth driving up the mountain to visit it up close. The views from there are spectacular too.
2. Tashichho Dzong (Thimphu Dzong)
This Buddhist monastery is popularly known as Thimphu Dzong, and houses the Bhutanese government. It is situated on the right side of the Wangchu river (Thimphu). A very impressive structure, you will need prior permission to enter and explore the place from inside. The entry fee is of 300 Ngultrum (300 INR) per person, and is applicable to Indians, Maldivian and Bangladeshi travellers who have entered the country through the entry permit process. It is advisable to get the special permission a day before you plan to visit Dzong. This has been the seat of Bhutan’s government since 1952, and houses the throne room and offices of the king and ministries. Surrounded by serene gardens, you can visit after 5 PM on weekdays, and all day on weekends.
3. Famous Bhutanese Traffic Police
Easy to spot and do snap a photo. This is the only capital city in the world without a traffic light. Cars simply fight it out or give one another the right of way. But at this crossing, there is an official, dressed in uniform including spotless white gloves, who directs the traffic. Sadly, he wasn’t standing at the time I went. But if you do spot him, do not miss getting a photo.
4. Enjoy Music And Karaoke At Mojo Park
When the sun goes down and you start getting tired, the best thing to do is to go karaoke at Mojo Park. Thimphu has a comparatively active nightlife as well, with discotheques and drayangs (bars with entertainers). I visited Mojo Park when a band from Nepal was performing, and it was very engaging. This cafe-pub is the best, because here you can sing your favourite songs till 11 PM. Not to mention, the food here is extremely delicious too. You can try out their light meals such as noodles, momos or loaded fries with sandwiches. You can also try the locally-produced beer Druk Lager and whiskey K5 which are around 250 BTN.
5. Thangtong Dewachen Dupthop Nunnery
I found this place very colourful—from the prayer flags to the clothes of locals dressed in their national costumes. I loved the atmosphere, as it made me feel peaceful and happy. On a hillside above Thimphu Dzong, stands this monastery, the Thangtong Dewachen Dupthop Nunnery. This nunnery is home to over 50 nuns who pray and perform daily rituals, besides undertaking activities for kids and those that benefit the community. This is a famous cultural site, and the nuns are very welcoming to everyone visiting their home.
My Takeaway From This Peaceful City
I left Bhutan happy and blissful, having made new friends, and coming back with beautiful souvenirs such as fridge magnets, a Tibetan sling bag, and a couple of prayer flags. Before planning this visit, I thought I didn’t think I’d be able to strike off Bhutan from my bucket list any time soon. But I made this trip possible last year, and I was glad I did. I fell in love with its preserved culture, nature, and people. So much so that I want to sincerely plan another visit soon.
For a good holiday all you need is a plan and the right destination. If I visit Bhutan again, I will surely visit other attractions in Thimphu such as The Folk Heritage Museum, Changangkha Lhakhang, and the Centenary Farmers’ Market. Many of these sights are very popular, and have an interesting combination of tradition and modernity. If you visit before me, do share your travelogue.