Bhutan Tour: Thimphu through my lenses

Thimphu, Bhutan

Our Bhutan tour was planned long ago … the day we were returning from Nainital last October. I read about Bhutan as the world’s “happiest country”. I also heard a lot about its scenic beauty. Nature is kind here to bestow her treasures upon the Land of Thunder Dragons. Bhutan has mystic mountains, verdant valleys and meandering rivers brimming with crystal clear water. But what amazed me are the people here and their lifestyle. They looked happy and content with a pleasing countenance all the time – in the hotel receptions, in the shops, in the temples and on the roads. I wonder how such a small nation with a small (but growing) economy can live so happily. Discipline and peacefulness are the key, perhaps.

Our first stop was Thimphu, the capital city of the Royal Kingdom of Bhutan.

The journey starts from the border town of Jaigaon in India. As you enter Phuentsholing through the Bhutan Gate you’ll notice a drastic change in the surroundings – the roads are clean and less crowded. The architecture and edifices bear stark differences than what you see on the Jaigaon side.

bhutan gate, phuentsholing

It took 4 hours to get the permit at the immigration office in Phuentsholing. We spent the night in Jaigaon, the town at Indian border. Next morning we were to leave for Thimphu at 9:30. But the cars that were booked for us got stuck in the landslide and we finally started at 12:30 in the afternoon. Irritated and angry we got on the car. But as we drove along the road to Thimphu landscapes kept changing and Mother Nature seemed to adorn beautifully to uplift our mood.

It was a bright sunny day when we started. But with increase of height weather became cooler. We were driving through the clouds. It was like playing hide-and-seek with the mountains. Sitting on the front seat I was reminiscing about my childhood experience of travelling to Darjeeling. The journey was similar except that we had rain as our constant companion this time until we reached Thimphu.

I enjoyed the journey on a rain-drenched road in front of us and melodious Bhutanese songs playing inside the car. Visibility reduced almost to zero due to thick clouds all around. There were times when we couldn’t even see the cars coming from the opposite until it came within one or two meters distance.

cloud, fog, mist, mountain roads

We stopped by a roaring waterfall on our way. It was raining so heavily that no one except me bothered to get out of the car. Luckily I had an umbrella with me. It helped me shooting in the rain. If you plan to travel Bhutan in May-June you must carry an umbrella. It may rain anytime, especially in the afternoon.

waterfall, streams, thimphu, bhutan, hills, mountain

We reached Thimphu at around 6:30 in the evening. The hotel, Nirmal Lodge had apartment style accommodation with spacious and nicely appointed rooms. You can check out my complete review of the hotel on TripAdvisor for further details.

Our room offered nice view of the neighbourhood from the balcony. The picturesque cityscape expanded beyond the central valley to the surrounding hills.

Thimphu, Bhutan

It was getting dark when we entered the city.

Thimphu gate, Thimphu, Bhutan

Thimphu, Bhutan

But I noticed that Thimphu looked beautiful even in the night.
Thimphu at night, Bhutan

Next morning I woke up early went downstairs to have a look around. It was wonderful to see golden Buddha gleaming in the morning light. A deep look at his peaceful countenance made my day. For me it was the best way to start my first day in Thimphu. 🙂

buddha dordenma, buddha, statue, thimphu, bhutan

buddha, dordenma, buddha statue, buddha view point, thimphu, bhutan

That day we covered the local tourist attractions and monasteries in Thimphu.

National Memorial Chorten

Located at the heart of Thimphu, the National Memorial is an imposing structure with beautiful rose gardens all around. Built in 1974 by the then queen of Bhutan in memory of her son the memorial is now an auspicious religious place where hundreds of people come to pray and worship.

national memorial thimphu, chorten, thimphu sightseeing, bhutan

National Memorial

Turning these giant prayer wheels was a challenging task for me. 🙂

prayer wheels, National memorial, chorten, Thimphu, Bhutan

Buddha View Point

Buddha View Point is an wide open area high on top of the hill where the statue of Buddha Dordenma sits overlooking the city. The view point offers excellent panoramic view of Thimphu and the surrounding areas. The giant statue is itself an attraction for the tourists.

Buddha view point, Budhha statue, thimphu, bhutan

Thimphu, Landscapes, scenic view, Bhutan

golf course landscapes

Bhutan Parliament and the King’s Palace

kings's palace, bhutan, thimphu, tashiccho dzong

Bhutan parliament, tashichho dzong, thimphu

Thimphu, bhutan, hills, valley

Changankha Lakhang

It is the oldest monastery and a pilgrimage in Thimphu, built in 12th century. The vivid colors and traditional stone carvings grabbed my attention.

changankha monastery, thimphu, bhutan, thimphu sightseeing

This cute little devotee, trying to touch the prayer wheels, was actually quite curious about me. 🙂

Changankha lakhang, monastery, thimphu, bhutan

Takin Preserve

Takin is the national animal of Bhutan. It is a rare species of goat antelope indigenous to this region of the Himalayas and western China.

takin, takin preserve, thimphu zoo, bhutan

Handicraft Market in Thimphu

Although this is a costly place to buy souvenirs the market is the right place to get an idea of the richness of local textile and handicrafts. The colorful handwoven scarfs, bags, tapestries and handcrafted items may pinch your pocket but they are definitely a treat to the eyes.

handicrafts market, thimphu, bhutan

handicrafts market, thimphu, bhutan

The next day was planned for Docula Pass and Punakha, the travel story of which I will share with you pretty soon. Till then enjoy the week!

EDIT: Now you can check out the second part of my Bhutan tour photo essay – The Scenic Dochula Pass and Punakha.

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65 thoughts on “Bhutan Tour: Thimphu through my lenses

  1. Breathtaking ………..is the ONLY word I have for this Moon !!! Just tell me ..I mean , well kindly inform me how heavy its going to be on my purse dear because its certainly calling Kokila, Kokila …. Wonderful wonderful post and I can see why its the ‘happiest country ‘ 🙂
    PS . I want to visit it before it become too developed !

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for so many kind compliments, Kokila. It’s really wonderful to receive such a comment from you, friend. I like your idea of visiting Bhutan before it becomes too developed. That is a wise thought I must say… 🙂
      P.S: The cost depends on what kind of accommodation and mode of transport you choose. Since we travelled from Kolkata for us it was around 16,000 INR per person by train from Kolkata. It was a total 8-day package tour. As I already mentioned in the post about the hotels which are of moderate budget. You can see in TripAdvisor there are star rated hotels costlier than these. If you enter the country by air, you can cut short your time or alternatively, explore wider region. And the cost increases accordingly.

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  2. You surely had an amazing time Moon, to start off the pictures are superb! It’s awesome to see that India and Bhutan are connected by road and a gate separates them. I loved the name Thimpu…there is a different cuteness to it 🙂 You have captured it so well! I too kept looking at the Golden Buddha for a minute before scrolling further. Its awesome to read your travel post babe.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes…I really had amazing time there in Bhutan. It’s an ideal place for scenic tour lovers. 🙂 You find the name “Thimphu” cute… I used to feel the same way about the city ‘Phuntsholing’ …it’s the gateway to Bhutan. 🙂 Thanks and hugs

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  3. First, I would like to thank you for your memorable journey and well captured scenic view of Bhutan. As a Bhutanese I feel proud that you made a trip to the Bhutan and shared your great experience with others.

    Thank you !

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Ramesh, thank you for dropping by my blog. I am very happy you liked my post. Bhutan is a beautiful place and I wish to go there again since I missed the Tiger Nest monastery in Paro. 🙂 By the way, stay tuned. There is more to come. 🙂

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      1. Ohh… that’s my question too… you need money and planning to see as much as you can. But covering all those beautiful places in this world, in one life, is next to impossible, I think. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. hmmm… so Bhutha is all green green(:… I liked the car trip you had to Bhuthan that reminded you of trip you had at Darjeeling and ofcourse the green stuff and mountains everywhere… also the colourful unique monasteries there… I want to express more here but maybe some other day(: nice…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Looks like a garden in heaven! Lovely shots Moon. The entire Bhutan is really very beautiful . Moon , I have a question here , somebody was saying that we can not go there independently , I mean we have to book a tour for Bhutan , is it right ?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much. 🙂 Well, what I heard is that it is much easier to get the permit if you travel in group than travel solo. And booking a tour company makes things easier and faster. Some tour companies provide customized tour as well. But that would be expensive.

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  6. Wonderful shots and what a nice narrative of your journey. Enjoyed it thoroughly. Did you visit that famous nest monastery also?

    Also, let me know if one has to pay 200 or something per day to Bhutan Govt. I read it somewhere. This makes Bhutan kind of costly for backpackers

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You know it’s so painful for me to say that “no, I haven’t visit Tiger Nest Monastery”. It was not included in the tour company’s itinerary. 😦 But I wish to visit Bhutan again solely for a trek to Tiger Nest.
      I think that tax is for foreign nationals, I mean European/ American citizens, not for Indians. And yes, Bhutan is expensive for solo traveling. It is also difficult to get the permit for solo travelers.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No… not for the taxes or permit fees. What I mean is If you apply as a US or other national you have to pay a certain rate, i .e. $200 or $250 per day, as per the Bhutan govt. mandate. But that does not apply for Indian tourists (Indian citizens) and Indians don’t even need to apply for visa. They only need a permit for entry which is issued at the immigration office in Phuentsholing. As far as I know there is no charge for permit application for Indians. They will ask for your photo and Voter ID card/passport.

        But hotels and car rentals in Bhutan are costly. So if you travel alone you’ll have to bear all the cost, and in that way it will be expensive for a solo traveler. But I think, homestay options are there too, if you can go for such accommodation. But I am not aware of the rates of the same.
        Although Indian currency is well accepted in Bhutan 1000 rupee notes are not accepted. You better carry lower denominations. I INR = 1 Bhutanese currency

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah…4 hours …standing all along outside the office…to get the permit. 🙂 But as you start your journey through the hills you’ll forget the ordeal. 🙂

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