Bhutan On Bike

When you think of Bhutan, you think of the enchanting valleys, ridges, and serene villages that are truly breathtaking. The small and quaint country, Bhutan, tucked right in the middle of India and China is engulfed in mystery and magic. If you think it is hard to cross Bhutan borders by road, think again. The most scenic route is by road and a bike trip to Bhutan will prove to be one of the best adventures of your life.

Traveling to Bhutan is like going back in time. The Buddhist country is known for its long list of forts, monasteries, Buddhists relics, trekking points and shopping spots that are unique and worth the visit. Since it’s immensely rich in nature and culture, it’s only fair to explore it at a comfortable pace.

Known as the Last Shangri-La, the whole country is composed of the majestic Himalayas, panoramic valleys and abundance of unusual fauna and flora. As you ride through the cities and villages, feel the wind on your face as you immerse yourself in the magic of the beautiful temples and traditions.

You will be glad to know that they believe – Gross Domestic Happiness is more important than Gross Domestic Product. We hope you enjoy your time in the Land of the Thunder Dragon.

Best time to visit Bhutan

Spring would be the best time to visit Bhutan, which is in the months of March to May. During this time, the flowers in the valleys and streets are in full bloom.

If you are looking to trek through the Himalayas, October temperatures would be the best time to go there. Trekking in Bhutan is a different and magical experience, but these are long treks.

How to Reach Bhutan

There are three points to cross over from the Indian border to Bhutan. Phuentsholing, Gelephu and Samdrup Jongkhar are the land border areas open to vacationists. We will be focusing on the Jaigaon/phuentsholing border.

The Jaigaon/ Phuentsholing Border

Traveling from Jaigaon (Indian side of the border) to Phuentsholing (Bhutanese side) is the most favored by travelers. Not only is it easily accessible but also there are amenities for staying here. You can obtain an entry permit here as well. From Siliguri, you can use either one of two routes to travel to Phuentsholing. The first route, using the NH31C, has a shorter distance to cover. However the second, through the Siliguri-Guwahati National Highway, might be a better option despite being a tad longer.

The nearest airport Bagdogra (in India) located approximately 9 km away from Siliguri.

Delhi to Bhutan

Delhi – Lucknow – Siliguri – Phuentsholing

From, both Mumbai and Bangalore it takes 3 days to reach Siliguri and then about 3 – 4 hours to reach Phuentsholing (Bhutan). But depending on your choice of breaks and intervals, it may take longer or shorter.

Mumbai to Bhutan

Mumbai – Hyderabad – Vijayawada – Rajahmundry – Visakhapatnam – Bhubaneswar – Asansol – Dumka – Bhagalpur – Siliguri – Jaigaon (Border City) – Phuentsholing.

Bangalore to Bhutan

Bangalore(KA) – Vellore – Ongole – Vijayawada – Rajahmundry –  Visakhapatnam – Bhubaneswar – Asansol – Dumka – Bagdogra – Siliguri(WB) –  Jaigaon (Border City) – Phuentsholing.

Best places to visit in Bhutan

Although Bhutan as a whole is beautiful and worth exploring. Here are some of the best places to visit, for the first time travelers.

Phuentsholing

Bhutan Gate

Zangto Pelri Lhakhang

Karbandi Monastery

Amo Chhu Crocodile Breeding Centre

Thimphu

Buddha Dordenma

Chorten Memoria

National Textile Museum

Folk heritage museum

National Library of Bhutan

Tashichho dzong

Paro

Paro Taktsang

Drukgyel Dzong

Rinpung Dzong

Chele la

The National Museum of Bhutan

Punakha

Punakha Dzong

Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten

Punakha Suspension Bridge

Things to do in Bhutan

Phuentsholing

It’s the second largest town of the happy kingdom of Bhutan. They often regard Phuentsholing as the abode of kings and queens of the Himalayan Kingdom.  

At an altitude of only 300 meters, this commercial center in Bhutan is situated next to Indian town Jaigaon on the Himalayan foothills.

Bhutan Gate

It is the official gate at the international border between India and Bhutan. It’s one of the most pleasing and photographed places to visit in Phuentsholing. The architecture of the Bhutan Gate is a marvel to see.

The Bhutan Gate is right next to the immigration office. So you can collect your permit for entry & stay from here.

Zangto Pelri Lhakhang

The Zangto or Zangdo Pelri Lhakhang is among the best places to visit in Phuentsholing. You’ll find the replica of Guru Rinpoche, along with eight manifested life-size idols of the revered Guru. You will also find paintings depicting the life of Buddha.

Visit the place in the morning to glimpse Buddhist monks praying at the monastery. The idols and statues on the first floor are among a few artistic wonders you don’t want to miss during your visit.

Karbandi Monastery

Karbandi Monastery, or as locals call it, Karbandi Goemba, is a scenic vantage point with life-size idols of Rinpoche, Shakyamuni and Shabdrung Ngawang.

The lush garden right outside the monastery gives a panoramic view of the Bengal Plain and 8 different Tibetan Buddhist Stupas enhance the aesthetic appeal of the garden.

Amo Chhu Crocodile Breeding Centre

It’s one of the most popular places to visit in Phuentsholing. You’ll get to see the endangered gharials, mugger crocodiles, migratory birds, tortoises and fish in the water.

The officials will inform you about their conservation projects and food the reptiles consume. It’s a must visit, if you’re an animal lover.

Paro

Paro is one of the wildest and green valleys of Bhutan. It’s a charming town is popular for its religious sites, historic places, and culturally rich vibe.

The township of Paro stretches from the junction of the Paro Chhu and the Wang Chhu rivers at Chuzom right up to Mount Jomolhari that lies at the Tibetan border.

The international airport of the country is in Paro, which is a sight in itself.

Paro Taktsang

The famous Tiger’s Nest monastery or Paro Taktsang as it is, locally, known is in the high mountains. A trip to Bhutan would be incomplete without a visit here.

The gorgeous green valley along with the location itself will be a breathtaking experience. It’s a gentle yet continuous hike for about 1.5 hours to reach the top. The final climb is 300 steps to reach the top. You must wear a shirt with full sleeves and full-length pants to enter the monastery. Only a water bottle is allowed in the Monastery.

Tiger’s Nest is at a distance of 10 km from the main town of Paro, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Drukgyel Dzong

Drukgyel Dzong translates to “Fortress of Victory”, which is an important archaeological place in Paro. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and played an important role in the Tibet army.

There are a lot of guided tours available where you will learn about the vast and important history of this beautiful fort.

Rinpung Dzong

Rinchen Pung Dzong or popularly known as Rinpung Dzong means, “Fortress on a heap of jewels’ in the native language.

Outside the dzong dancers perform the popular dance forms of tsechu. Below the dzong is a traditional wooden bridge known as the Nyamai Zam.

Chele la pass

The highest motorable pass of Bhutan, Chele La pass separates Haa from Paro Valley. The pass is at an elevation of 3810 meters and the drive from Paro is breathtaking.

The National Museum of Bhutan

The museum, built in a 17th-century watchtower. has the panoramic views of Paro valley. The display here is remarkable, and it reflects the rich cultural past of Bhutan. It’s open from 9 AM to 4 PM every day except on Mondays.

Thimphu

The largest city and the capital of the country, Thimphu, is lined with monasteries, dzongs, and dzongs. Situated in the enchanting valley of the Raidak river, there are a lot of things to do here.

Buddha Dordenma, Kuensel Phodrang

On a hill in Thimphu, the largest city of Bhutan, is a massive, golden Buddha sitting atop a gilded meditation hall. The paved road to the site, also known as ‘Buddha Point’, passes a new Hindu temple and is a popular biking route.

But the monument holds a hidden secret: Unknown to many people viewing the statue, they aren’t actually looking at one Buddha but they’re looking at 125,000 of them. The Buddha looks best in the morning light, or at night when it is illuminated.

Chorten Memoria

A place of worship for many locals, this large Tibetan-style chorten is one of the most visible religious structures in Thimphu. It has mandalas and statues crafted on it.

National Textile Museum

Weaving is one of the oldest Bhutanese crafts and at this Museum you can learn more about Bhutan’s living national art of Thagzo (weaving). The National Textile Museum is part of the Royal Textile Academy, which attempts to preserve this heritage as well as empower the Bhutanese women by training them in this craftsmanship.

The museum shop offers some intriguing books and fine textiles. Photography is not allowed. It is a hidden gem of Bhutan.

Folk heritage museum

This museum, built of rammed-earth and timber, replicates a traditional farmhouse and is decorated as it would be about a century ago. Folk heritage museum provides an intriguing glimpse into the rural Bhutanese life.

National Library of Bhutan

The National Library of Bhutan established back in 1967, preserves the ancient Dzongkha and Tibetan texts. It has one of the worlds largest collection of literature on Tibetan Buddhism.

It houses as many as 6100 books and manuscripts in Tibetan and Bhutanese. It also holds over 9000 printing blocks used to create religious texts.

Tango Goemba or Tango Buddhist Institute

The Tango Buddhist Institute is situated around 14 km away from the city center. It’s a place of serenity set in the picturesque valley of Thimphu.

Founded in the 13th century by the revered Lama Gyalwa Lhanampa, the three-story monastery is home to a number of extraordinary statues.  You have to hike about half a day through the scenic mountains and alpine woods, to reach the temple.

Tashichhoedzong

This grand dzong seems to fit seamlessly into the valley, granting the city both a regal splendor and monastic influence. Primarily created by the founder of the Lho-Drukpa sect of Buddhism, this dzong has been the seat of power since 1968.

Catching a tour of this place would be one of the most amazing things to do in Thimphu, Bhutan.

Dochula Pass

A beautiful mountain pass that is about 20 km from Thimphu towards Punakha. It’s a concentration of 108 memorial stupas known as “Druk Wangyal Chortens.”

It’s not just a place of historical and religious importance, but also a popular tourist attraction. It’s also a great road for bikers and a popular tourist attraction that any traveler would want to witness on their journey through Bhutan.

Punakha

Set in the Punakha valley and at the confluence of the Pho and Mo Chhu rivers, this city was once the capital of the Wangchuk kings that still rule the country. The old world charm of the city will leave you enchanted and exhilarated.

Punakha Dzong

Built in 1637, Punakha Dzong holds a high value among the royal family of Bhutan. Situated right at the confluence of the Mo and Pho Chhu, is the most picturesque of all of the dzongs in Bhutan.

The Dzong, surrounded by the splendid natural beauty with lush green hills and clear blue sky as a backdrop, is  picture-perfect . Clicking a shot of the Dzong itself is one of the coveted things to do in Punakha.

Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten

It is a beautiful monastery, situated on a hill above the Punakha Valley, that was built to bring peace and prosperity to the Kingdom along with the world. It was built in a period of 9 years by Bhutanese craftsmen.

Enjoy the panoramic view of the valley from the top of the Chorten. The short, 1-hour, hike to reach the Chorten will take you to the adventurous suspension bridge and the lush green rice fields.

Punakha Suspension Bridge

The second longest suspension bridges of Bhutan is about 160-180 meters long and crossing it is one of the best and thrilling experiences of a Bhutan trip. Built high above the river Po Chu, this wooden bridge connects the Punakha City and the smaller villages scattered in the valley.

Bhutan Prayer Flags

Prayer flags are a common sight in the whole of Bhutan. Different types of prayer flags portray different meanings. Prayer flags are found to bring good luck, happiness, long life and to offer good karma to all sentient beings. The traditional prayer flag of Bhutan is vertical, attached to a long wooden pole and placed in groups close together. The sound of the flags fluttering in the wind is surprisingly calming.

Since the wind runs through them and then spreads across the land, they are considered to bless everything the wind touches.

Colors and meaning of Bhutanese Prayer Flags

Each colour constitute the five wisdoms of Buddhism and the five basic elements – sky, fire, earth, water and air. Buddhists believe that keeping these five elements in good harmony is good for the body and mind.

    • The white prayer flag is for good fortune by purifying negative karma
    • The blue prayer flag is for health and longevity.
    • The yellow prayer flag is for victory over obstacles.
    • The red prayer flag is for fulfilling your wishes.
  • The green prayer flag is for compassion.

Things to do in Bhutan – Seasonal Travel Plan

Bhutan is a land of festivities and many are celebrated throughout the year in different towns. If you wish to plan your trip to witness some of the most popular ones, here are the dates:  

Rhododendron Festival: 19- 21 April 2019 in Thimphu
Haa Summer Festival: 13-14 July 2019 in Haa Valley
Thimphu Tshechu:  8-10 October 2019 in Thimphu
Jambay Lhakhang Drup: 13-16 November 2019  in Bumthang

Must try food in Bhutan

Ema datshi, chilies, and cheese

Kewa datshi, potatoes, and cheese

Shamu datshi, cheese with mushrooms.

Khur-le, Bhutanese pancake made from buckwheat, wheat, or barley flour

Suja, Butter Tea

Shakam paa, dried beef cooked with dried chilies

Phaksha paa, red, and pork

Jasha maru, Bhutanese chicken stew

Ezay, any kind of Bhutanese chili sauce

Arra/Ara/Arang and Chang/ Chaang, local and traditional alcoholic beverages

Bhutan trip cost

If you want to travel budget friendly, then any of the months between August to February would be the recommended period.

The minimum cost for the trip will be up to $200. This amount may seem expensive but it’s not. This cost covers the Daily expenses, i.e., accommodation, food, entrance fees to various places, a private guide (if you’d like one) and fuel prices. The fuel price is slightly lower in Bhutan as compared to India.

How to minimize cost during the trip?

Spend a lot of time in planning your Bhutan budget trip. The more time you devote to planning, the more clarity you will have regarding your expenses.
Avoid traveling solo. Travel in groups of 4 or more, to cut down on the surcharge on stay.
Book your accommodation in advance that are near major towns. Do your research before booking.

Bhutan Visa cost

The Tourism Council of Bhutan website states, “There is no limit on the number of tourists admitted into the country each year.” Tourists from India, Bangladesh, and the Maldives don’t require a Visa to visit Bhutan. Immigration offices offer a 7-day entry and stay permit upon presentation of a passport (validity of minimum 6 months) or a government-issued ID card. Indian citizens can obtain the permit by using their voter’s ID. Although, it’s necessary to carry two passport-sized photos of yourself.

This permit only allows travel within the cities of Phuentsholing, Thimphu, and Paro, and you can get an extension at the Immigration Office in Thimphu for successive periods of three weeks each.

For all the other countries, you need to obtain a Visa prior to traveling to Bhutan. The Visa is processed by the Tourism Council of Bhutan once you transfer the complete payment of your trip, including a visa fee of USD $40.

General Tips

Carry enough Cash, there aren’t many ATMs in Bhutan.
Pack woolen/warm garments and a medical kit.
Buy a sim card of ‘Tashi’ company with a balance of 200 minutes and a sufficient data plan for USD $2.92 (200 INR). It’s important to stay connected.
Photography might be prohibited in certain areas in Bhutan, like Dzongs, monasteries, temples, or any religious institutions. Enquire before you click.
Please ensure you obtain a permit for your vehicle after you enter Bhutan. Permits can be obtained at a fee in Phuentsholing, at the Regional Transport office. Keep all the vehicle documents, passport and your driver’s license on you at all times.
It is illegal to smoke cigarettes in Bhutan. Plastic is banned as well.

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