Bhutan Tour: A short drive through Wangdue

wangdue, lobesa valley, wangdue phodrang, bhutan

I think one day is not enough to explore and experience the scenic charm of Punakha and the monastery. But you know… you are always short of time on a tour like this. There is so much to see but we have only a few days to spend. 😦   So, after lunch by the river Pho Chu we were on the road again – the road to Wangdue (pronounced as Wangdi). Wangdue district, one of the largests in the country, is home to a number of scenic valleys among which Phobjikha Valley and Lobesa Valley are to name a few.

Wangdue is less than an hour by car from Punakha. However, we didn’t have time to drive down to the interior of the district as we had to return to Thimphu by that evening.

It was a sunny afternoon. We enjoyed a drive along the Mo Chu River towards Wangdue.

wangdue 2

We drove through the picturesque town of Wangdue Phodrang. The town seemed a newly built one with symmetrical houses and buildings of vivid colours that lends a different charm to the place.

wandue, wandue phodrang town, punakha, bhutan

wangdue phodrang, wangdue, phodrang town, bhutanWe passed by the Wangdue Monastery which was completely burnt from short circuit in 2011. The monastery was a replication of the Punakha Monastery. It is now being reconstructed again, so visitors are not allowed. We could see the monastery from a distance. By the way, our driver charged Rs 1000 extra for this drive as it was not in our itinerary from the beginning. 

wangdue monastery

wangdue monastery, wangdi, punakha, bhutan

The valley, bathing in the light of summer sun looked awesome from a distance. We stopped by the road to absorb the beautiful scenery with my senses. Who knows, if I would be able to see this ever again or not! So behold and capture the beauty of this world as much you can, in this one life.

wangdue, lobesa valley, wangdue phodrang, bhutanwangdue, lobesa valley, wandue phodrang, bhutan

wangdue, lobesa valley

We returned to Thimphu by 4:30 in the evening. So, I had a couple hours in hand to explore the neighboring locality and makeshift markets. I utilized it as much as possible. Will share that story with you soon. 🙂

P.S: Till then you can check out the first two parts of my Bhutan Tour photo essays for more photos and information on Bhutan travel:


Bhutan Tour: The Scenic Punakha and Dochula Pass

It was a pleasant, warm morning we started our journey to Punakha from the Bhutanese capital, Thimphu. Bright sunshine flooded the mountains and the valley, scenic beauty all around to behold we kept driving along the road running in parallel with the meandering river. The joy was unfathomable and that was one of the best days in my life. The photos of Punakha are so vivid that simply looking at them can make my day better… 🙂   So, I dedicate this post to the Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge: Today Was a Good Day.

We completed the local sightseeing in Thimphu on our first day in Bhutan. Next day was scheduled for Punakha Monastery (or Punakha Dzong) which is 3 to 4-hour drive from Thimphu. The drive was as usual beautiful through the Himalayan mountains. I tried to capture the scenic beauty on the way as much as possible.

way to punakha, punakha, bhutan

bhutan, punakha, mountains,valley

Dochula Pass

We drove to Punakha via Dochula Pass, one of the highest points in Bhutan (10,000 ft). It’s about one hour drive from Thimphu towards Punakha and a favorite stopover for tourists. The uniqueness of Dochula Pass lies in the wonderful combination of natural and man-made architectures. The place offers 360 degree view of the Himalayan mountain ranges. Bonus is this beautiful architecture – the 108 chortens in circular construction – add to the charm of the place. Unfortunately, we missed the mountain views as it was all covered in cloud in the end of May. Our driver said you can get the best view in winter. 😦  Well, never mind…the view I got is no less lovely. What do you think?

dochula pass, bhutan, chortens

108 chortens dochula bhutanNow take a look at the other side of Dochula Pass. The Druk Wangyal Lhakhang is a beautiful temple built in the memory of the king, Druk Gyalpo.

Dochula pass, bhutan, bhutan tour, sightseeing

dochula pass, bhutan, mountain views

bhutan dochula pass

Dochula pass 2

dochula pass

As the time passed more and more cars arrived at the spot and I could see spontaneous touristy activities all around.

dochula pass, bhutan, touristy activities, bhutan tour

I think there was a feel-good factor in the air which was quite infectious. I felt so happy and grateful to be alive under the sun and enjoy the view.

view at dochula pass, bhutan

By the way, if you have time you can enjoy a leisurely break at the beautiful Druk Wangyel Cafe at Dochula Pass. But the place is a little expensive. Here a one-liter mineral water bottle of Rs 20 cost us Rs 36.

druk wangyel cafe, dochula pass, bhutan

There was this curious visitor at the gate of the cafe. But no one seemed to welcome him. Poor doggie! 😦

druk wangyel cafe dochula

Important info:

Carry enough drinking water during the long drive from Thimphu to Punakha. We didn’t see a proper shop or restaurant from where we could buy drinking water on the way.


Situated on the meeting point of Bhutan’s two important rivers Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu, Punakha Dzong is a place of scenic and spiritual charm. The air, the water, the green plantation looked so clean and pure that you’ll instantly feel in harmony with the place. The monastery is built over a huge area including well-manicured gardens and ponds.

pho chhu and mo chhu rivers

punakha monastery by pho chhu

punakha dzong

You enter the monastery through this beautiful gateway and cross a traditionally designed wooden bridge that takes you on the other side of Pho Chhu (“Chhu” means “river” in vernacular).

punakha monastery gate, punakha, bhutan

punakha, pho chhu,punakha monastery, bhutan

punakha monastery garden, bhutan

The traditional Tibetan style architecture of the monastery is a treat to the eye. And it perfectly blended with the beautiful surrounding.

punakha monastery (2)

punakha, monastery, bhutan

punakha, monastery, bhutan, Tibetan architecture

Entering the monastery can be a bit difficult with these steep ladder like stair case. Remember, that you must not wear baring clothes, else you may be denied access into the main temple in the images below.

entering punakha dzong

inside punakha dzong

inside punakha monasteryWell, the Punakha Monastery is not only a place for monks and pilgrims. There are other habitats too and they are rapidly growing in numbers. 🙂

beehive, punakha, monastery, bhutan

It was wonderful to roam around in the monastery premises, full of beautiful orchards and the ponds which they use for pisciculture.

punakha dzong lake

phochhu river bhutan

punakha landscape

punakha monastery garden 2

punakha, monastery, garden, bhutan

bougainvillea, punakha, monastery, bhutan,

However, Punakha is not just the monastery. It’s much more than that. The clear blue sky, the wide open riverbeds, and the trees and flowers all around make this place divinely beautiful. Take a look at the following images and you’ll agree with me.

pho chhu, river, punakha, bhutan

riverside punakha

punakha, mo chhu river, bhutan

After spending some hours in the monastery we went to a riverside restaurant where we were served lunch. After lunch we were on the road again – the road to Wangdue. I’ll share that story soon.

I hope you like this tour of Punakha and Dochula Pass with me. 🙂

You can also take a look at the first part of my Bhutan Tour Photo Essay – Thimphu through my lenses for more photos and information on Bhutan travel.

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.


The River and the Mountains – together they teach the lesson of life

river, mountains, Paro, Bhutan

“The river is constantly turning and bending and you never know where it’s going to go and where you’ll wind up. Following the bend in the river and staying on your own path means that you are on the right track. Don’t let anyone deter you from that.” 

~ Eartha Kitt

The relation between the river and the mountain is pretty symbolic. The river with all its gushing waters symbolizes motion – the dynamism of life. And the mountains with their huge, unwavering existence are the symbol of obstacles that we face in life. The river makes its way through the mountains – sometimes it is able to break through the solid rocks and sometimes it bends its path – but never stops until it meets the sea. Together the river and the mountain teach us the biggest lesson of life – keep going until you reach your goal; until the purpose of life is served. There will be problem, there will be obstruction, there will be barrier – but you should learn to make your way through it and move on.

river, mountains, Paro, Bhutan River Paro, Bhutan

Published in response to the Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge: Symbol.

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“Happiness often sneaks in through a door…” – Part II

door, doorway, monastery, Punakha, Bhutan

When one door closes another one opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.

~ Alexander Graham Bell

Since these doors represent a strikingly different culture, the culture of the Royal Kingdom of Bhutan, which bears significant influence of Tibetan and Buddhist traditions I thought I must share them separately in a different post. My first post on Door is on traditional Rajasthani doors in the old fort palaces. You can check that out here. door, doorway, monastery, Punakha, Bhutan door, doorway, gate, door, doorway, monastery, Punakha, Bhutan door, doorway, monastery, Changankha lakhang, Thimphu, Bhutan door, doorway, monastery, Punakha, Bhutan Published in response to the Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge: Door.


“My ultimate search has been for a muse”

road to Paro, hills, mountains, entering Paro, Bhutan

My ultimate search has been for a muse.

Dominic Monaghan

And I have found her in the mighty mountains, in the verdant vales and in the green slopes of the hills. I would love to come back a thousand times to the road that leads to mountain.

I can remember it was a cloudy day and it drizzled quite a few times during was our journey from Thimphu to Paro. I don’t understand the connection between rain and my travelling to hill stations… 🙂  But I must agree that the hill stations in the Himalayas have a different beauty when it rains.

road to Paro, hills, mountains, entering Paro, Bhutan

Published in response to the Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge: Muse.


“The Seasons of Nature Repeat Annually – Spring Goes Off and Comes Back”

bougainvillea, punakha, monastery, bhutan,

Everything has seasons, and we have to be able to recognize when something’s time has passed and be able to move into the next season. Everything that is alive requires pruning as well, which is a great metaphor for endings. 

~ Henry Cloud

There is no ‘off-season’ for flowers like Bougainvillea as long as they are on the tree, because they bloom throughout the year. But it is definitely off-season for those that are lying scattered on the ground.

bougainvillea, punakha, monastery, bhutan,

bougainvillea, punakha, monastery, bhutan

Published in response to the Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge: Off-Season.

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