We spend lakhs, not thousands, on our yearly trips to Europe or the United States of America, ignoring what might be a cheaper, closer and more fulfilling holidaying experience. The Cox bazaar beaches of Bangladesh, the tropical paradise island of Sri Lanka, the amazing culture and mountains of Nepal are such names. But, perhaps the most untouched destination for Indian travellers would be our North Eastern mountain neighbour, Bhutan. Forget everything else; it is the only unpolluted country in the world. Give your lungs a break and inhale pure oxygen, as God meant us to.
If you have just purchased an air purifier (I will try to curb my sense of sarcasm in the future articles), you might want to consider the following four tourist attractions as your reason to visit Bhutan. The total expenses for this trip will be surprisingly low and all you need before you leave is a single trip travel insurance for yourself and your family, which is nothing more than a good healthy practice. Oh, now you might be thinking why I am spoiling your holiday mood by discussing a boring topic such as insurance. Believe me, if God forbid, you meet with any unforeseen circumstances, like a lost passport, or lost baggage during your trip, you will remember my words! Getting travel insurance will cover multiple accidental losses and threats, including physical accidents, financial frauds and monetary losses. I am sure, after Modi’s demonetisation move, you have a much better understanding of the word ‘unpredictability’. Life always surprises you with twists and turns. So, make sure you have a comprehensive travel insurance policy with you so that unfortunate situations do not spoil your holiday mood. Done? OK, let’s start without further ado.
Tiger’s Nest Monastery
This is the symbol of Bhutan, much like Taj Mahal is of ours or Eiffel Tower is of France. You have to climb 900 meters to get to the monastery, and on the way, you will cross a chapel of butter lamps and a beautiful brook cum waterfall near the Snow Lion cave. The monastery itself stands at the edge of the cliff, overseeing a vast expanse of Paro valley forest of rhododendrons and blue pines. You basically climb to the top of Paro valley. For the God-fearing type, this is a place which you must visit at least once in your life as this is the final resting place of the great Buddhist Guru Rinpoche. The atmosphere will clean and refresh your soul.
Punakha Dzong is the oldest and the second largest fort of Bhutan. Forgetting the fortification, you will be amazed at the beauty of this grand structure. Take a car from Thimpu to reach Punakha. The trip itself is unforgettable as you will drive through Himalayan mountains and valleys. Situated between two rivers, Pho Chu and Mo Chu, for the obvious strategic advantage, this dzong is connected to the mainland via a wooden bridge. Inside, it has a rich heritage of Bhutanese history, and you will get to see many relics of the old Bhutanese kings. If you visit during the springtime, you will see the colourful Jacaranda trees around the dzong and you will either feel dreamy, if you are the poetic type, or remember your favourite computer wallpaper, if you are a techie.
Zuri Dzong Hike
This is one of those Dzongs of Bhutan that enjoys pristine location with spectacular views. The peak of Zuri dzong is the highest yet easily accessible spot in the Paro valley that not only gives you a bird’s eye view of the entire valley (shutterbugs, keep your cameras ready!), but it is so peaceful that you might want to just sit, reflect on life and absorb as much peace as you can. If you start from the museum watchtower, which itself is another tourist destination, it will take you around 30 minutes to reach the top and one more hour to exit via the Uma side. Once you get there, simply sit and marvel at the grandeur of God’s creation, the Himalayas. Trust me, you will want to go back there again!
If you miss the springtime and enter Bhutan in winter, you might not want to miss this valley which is often called the Shangri-La of Bhutan. It is, by far, the most stunning valley of Bhutan, if not of the whole Himalayas. You wouldn’t find such a wide valley in Bhutan where the trees are absent and where the Himalayan peaks raise their proud heads in the distance. This is a moderate trek, and you can visit local villages like Gogona and Khotokha enroute. On your way to the village, you will cross rhododendrons, Junipers and magnolia and in April, it is a real colour fest! You will also see ferns which you wouldn’t find elsewhere and the famous Bhutanese dwarf bamboos. Pay your tribute at the historic Gangtey monastery and watch the rare black neck Himalayan cranes in the sanctuary nearby. You can expect to get some special treatments from the locals if you visit during the winter, but ensure that you can handle cold and you are carrying proper winter gear.
Frankly speaking, Bhutan is your ideal choice if you love to walk on the path less chosen. What you get to see here can’t be found anywhere else. Moreover, Bhutanese people are very welcoming, ever smiling, helpful and honest, offering the best hospitality you can find around the world. Do you need more reason to plan your trip to Bhutan?