Read Part 2 – Bhutan Road Trip II (Planning)
Read Part 3 – Rema Resort Paro: the One With Picturesque Views
Read Part 4 – Cultural Delight: Bhutanese Festivals in Photos
Read Part 5 – Why Tiger’s Nest Bhutan Blew Our Mind?
Read Part 6 – Bhutan Blunders: Things that Went Terribly Wrong With the Trip!
We would never have thought that our road trip to Bhutan would be so full of surprises. In fact, when we were just planning the logistics, we weren’t too excited.
With the limited number of flights headed to the tiny little country to the government-controlled tourist industry, everything seemed like an unforeseen disappointment. As it turned out, upon reaching Thimphu, none of this mattered. We had a wonderful time during our travel to Bhutan and took back some precious memories.
What we were especially excited about was attending the religious festivals. From what we knew, several huge religious festivals are celebrated with much gusto at different points in time during the year. I had hoped my trip would coincide with one of these and am glad that my wish was granted! As is obvious, my Bhutanese adventure was everything we wanted and more!
It was a pleasure to sample a wide gamut of experiences in Bhutan as we were there for almost a week, which we think is ideal to explore Thimphu and Paro.
It would be best to stay in Thimphu, the capital city, for 2-3 days and spending the remaining days in Paro and Punakha. Explore the virgin forests, little villages, and the gorgeous monasteries in the entire world.
Day 1 – Fly into Bagdogra and drive to Jaigaon (India-Bhutan border)
Day 2 – Drive to Thimphu
Day 3 – Sightseeing in Thimphu
Day 4 – Explore the remaining attractions of the city. Visit Dochula Pass.
Day 5 – Drive down to Paro and uncover all the attractions. Eat at the cutesy cafes and explore the monasteries.
Day 6 – Hike the Paro Taktsang or Tiger’s nest. In the evening head back to Jaigaon.
Day 7 – Drive back to Bagdogra and fly back
The ones traveling from anywhere other than India, the same itinerary applies, just the day 1 and day 7 would mean flying directly to Paro and returning from Paro in DrukAir.
We’d love for you to know about the things we loved the most about the country – the ones you shouldn’t miss doing during your travel to Bhutan.
Planning a road trip to Bhutan is a superb alternative for those who wish to save the otherwise high airfare charges that can dent the pocket.
Well, here’s how to travel to Bhutan for those who wish to fly directly. You can opt to fly in Druk Air which can take the cost of the trip to an unprecedented high. But those who enjoy long drives and scenic beauty (just like us) should definitely take the drive from Bagdogra to Jaigaon or Phuensholing (in the south is the gateway to Bhutan).
If taking the road trip route like us, write this day off as the long drive is going to leave you extremely tired. It is advisable to get sound sleep before starting your road trip in Bhutan the next day.
Stay: We reached Jaigaon at odd hours (10:30 pm), so we took accommodation in a budget hotel over there – Kasturi In (1500INR per night). The rooms were decent and even the food was not bad.
After taking the permit from the Regional Transport Office in Phuensholing, start straightaway for Thimphu.
Pick up a car at the Phuensholing (we had already booked ours through a friend who had visited Bhutan some time back) and get ready for a spectacular drive of your life. Cascading waterfalls, gorgeous bridges, highways laden with greenery, soaring cliffs and striking blue skies blend together for picture-perfect frames.
This day, you drive to Bhutan’s capital (Thimphu). Your first experience on the Bhutan highway is definitely going to be an interesting one. The twisting and twirling roads will take you into the mountains whilst giving you spectacular views of Phuensholing and plains bordering the region. You’ll notice the scenery and plantation changing with each turn.
Bhutan’s capital, also the most modern city, is an intriguing destination in the world. Retaining the small-world feel, the city is slowly becoming commercialized, with numerous internet cafes, restaurants, and nightclubs.
Stay: Drolema Residence – a neat and well-managed hotel located in the city center. Per night cost for staying in this hotel is 2000INR.
Uncover all attractions of Thimphu during the day and enjoy the market scene in the evening. A picturesque drive through impressive paddy fields and pastures will make your drive memorable.
The Memorial Stupa, also called Thimphu Chorten is about 15 minutes drive from the city center. This whitewashed Tibetian-style chorten features stunning mandalas, statues, and a small shrine. Entry to this chorten is free. Parking is chargeable.
From there, head to the Buddha Point from where the panoramic view of Thimphu city can be seen. The Golden Buddha Doredenma is perched on the top of the mountain that is 2000m above sea level. Click as many pictures as you may want to and enjoy the peace of the country from this stunning point.
Sports lovers will find it worth their time to watch practice sessions of archery at the stadium, as did we. Harsh even tried his hands at the game, must add, the first attempt went pretty well. There’s a small playground in front of the archery stadium, where we spent some time looking at the way Bhutanese people enjoy their lives and spend their days. How we wish we could live the way they do! Ah! I was spellbound.
Thimphu city itself is the focal point of all activity: the streets are lined with cafes and lovely restaurants. We spent our night lazing and walking on the streets of the city, relishing a languorous dinner in the town (often heading to Hunger Strike Eatery for quick meals), while listening to great music, and devouring many cups of nicely made coffee.
Best part, we also managed to get a taste of Bhutanese nightlife, which is slowly developing. We were advised not to expect much as in India, the night parties are crazy and they wouldn’t match our taste. But obviously, we had to see it for ourselves.
After much thought and help from our hotel’s staff, we decided to give Club Ace a try. And definitely, it wasn’t as huge in scale but not bad either. (Expect to pay a small cover charge for entry; we paid 500 couple entry charge)
Stay: Again at Drolema Residence
I was most excited about this day because I had heard a lot about festivals of Bhutan and the grandeur in which they are celebrated in the country. Luckily we were around in the country during the main festivals time.
Early morning we decided to go to the Dochula Pass (a half hour drive from Thimphu City) and thankfully we had arranged for our permit the day we arrived in Thimphu (the immigration office remains closed on weekends and during festivities).
It was a quick drive from the city, and definitely worth it! This mountain pass on the way to Punakha assures a stunning 360-degree view of Himalayan mountain range. The pass that is adorned with 108 shortens was commissioned by the eldest Queen Mother, Her Majesty Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk. It is best to leave early morning as then you’ll have the rest of the day for sightseeing during Bhutan travel.
We spent most of our time there, enjoying the colorful celebrations, amidst a big fanfare. Usually, there is no entry fee, but for the festival, we paid 500 INR for couple entry (perhaps the entry fee was just for foreigners). Here, we got the chance to see some of the most amazing dances of the Himalayan region. The colors, vigor, and drama have surely become a part of our vivid memory.
Come back and enjoy the local market scene. If you still have time you can visit other Chagri Dorjeden – a Buddhist monastery built in the 16th century by 1st Zhabdrung Rinpoche.
Stay: Again at Drolema Residence
So it’s time to leave Thimphu and explore the next city, Paro. Take to the road again and start exploring the striking valley. Fortunately, there are many free things to be enjoyed in Paro. It’s about 90 minutes drive from Thimphu city, and the drive is simply serene and scenic.
Stop by the Paro Airport and take a few pictures as the bird’s eye view of this place is absolutely wonderful. Sadly we couldn’t stay there for long to see an airplane take off or land.
Spend rest of the day walking around the Paro market and I am sure you will love that. We had our lunch at the Champaca cafe and went straight to the hotel.
Luckily, there was a festival going on during our visit in the Paro Dzong, which was as beautiful as the one we saw in Thimphu. In fact, we got a chance to go inside a monk’s room inside the dzong, where we were treated to refreshing tea and biscuits. Ah! those memories…
From there, you can go to explore The National Museum of Bhutan and Kyichu Lhakhang. Kyichu Lhakhang is the oldest temple of Bhutan and you can find elderly pilgrims spinning the prayer wheels constantly. It’s sure a sight to behold during Bhutan travel!
If you are not tired, you can visit a few handicraft stores in the market and splurge on some nice souvenirs to take back home.
Stay: We slept at the Rema Resort and had fun clicking some nice pictures from there. You can read more about our stay at the resort during travel to Bhutan, here.
This was a long day not because we had a lot to do, but due to some unforeseen circumstances, that put us in a fix.
Paro Taktsang trek has to be the most difficult trek of my life as though we enjoyed trekking uphill a lot but getting down was hell crazy. It began to rain when we were getting down and trekking down the steep valley was a major challenge for us – so much that I slipped twice.
In fact, a lot of visitors had to face the same plight and this gave us a good lesson that we should always carry good hiking and rain gear no matter how good the weather condition is. You just cannot be sure about anything!
Even though we took longer time hiking downhill still it took us about 5 hours to complete the entire Tiger’s Nest trek.
So we got back from the trek and were taken to a nice cafe namely ‘My Kind of Place’ where we changed our clothes and had good coffee (was much needed).
After stretching our legs for a while, we made our way back to Phuensholing. The drive was way more scenic with all the cotton candy clouds now adorning the mountain passes. We were totally spellbound by the jaw-dropping 360° views of Bhutan. Again spend the night in Phuensholing.
I am running out of superlatives to describe my trip to Bhutan! The country delivered more than what I had expected of it.
Truly the idea to venture on a road trip to Bhutan from India was so correct. And we are glad that we decided on doing this.
There is something to be said about the natural beauty that Bhutanese land is home to. Nestling in the Himalayas, virtually every nook and corner boasts of valley views and picturesque mountainsides.
It had already been decided that this is going to be an adventure-filled trip and thus, plans for trekking, biking and hiking were already in place. The surprise was that the virgin forests of Bhutan were supposedly full of exotic wildlife which we could get a glimpse of at numerous sanctuaries and wildlife parks.
We knew that it is a predominantly Buddhist society but the serenity and sense of peace that envelops the general way of life here was something we weren’t expecting.
Attending a Buddhist festival further opened our eyes to the wealth of traditions this Himalayan kingdom is home to. The local population preserves their native legacy of kind hospitality till this day and interacting with the English-speaking people there was an absolute pleasure.
Have you driven in the last great Himalayan kingdom? Let us know if you would change anything about our itinerary? Places you would not like to go or add? Comment below! Hopefully, you have comprehensive guide on how to travel to Bhutan now.
Here’s a Bhutan video for you to inspire the wanderlust:
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means we will earn a small commission, at no cost to you, if you click on our recommendation and make a purchase.
I’m sitting on a bench on the front porch of...
Sarah has had the pleasure of visiting, but Bhutan still remains high on my bucket list!
From what I’ve seen here and heard from her, that desire remains strong.
After all, what’s not to love about a country that removes its only set of traffic lights and replaces them with a traffic warden, because the lights were too “unfriendly”!
What a gorgeous, colorful land to explore! You’ve definitely inspired me to visit with this post. Thanks for the tips!
Glad you liked our trip. Hope you can make it there soon 🙂
Already bookmarked! Bhutan is high on our bucket list and your itinerary is going to help us a lot. Really like the way you have put in all the details day by day.
Bhutan looks even more vibrant and beautiful than we imagined. We would especially love to visit Paro Takstang Monastery. Do they allow visitors?
The virgin beauty of Bhutan is so very shy – but it is mesmerizing to be able to explore it. Yes, Paro Monastery allows visitors. I’d be sharing Part 2 and Part 3 of planning the trip and visit to Paro Monastery soon.
Wow I just wrote a blog post where I had Bhutan on my bucket list. Haven’t read many blog posts about it and I will definitely bookmark yours for reference when I plan my trip there. The pictures look amazing!
Lovely itinerary! Us Indians are so lucky we have free access to Bhutan. I so want to go to Bhutan and hopefully 2017 opens up some doors for me.
Great pictures! I think 7 days is perfect for this visit too. Loved all the places you guys had visited, all so colourful and looks peaceful. The food looks great too! Can’t wait to make another trip to Bhutan myself, thanks for sharing and bringing back memories!
Bhutan comes alive in all its vivid colours and charm in your post. It is such a lovely place, no wonder it has a GHP rather than a GDP. Would love to visit Bhutan someday. Thought about it when we were in Sikkim.
Wow Bhutan is so pretty! Loos like you did loads. I’d love to go there one day. Ree Love30
This is excellent. I love that you provided so many tips and details. You included everything that people would want to know before making travel plans!
That was the thought – to help fellow travelers plan a trip to Bhutan wisely. 🙂
Wow this looks like such an incredible trip. I would love to visit.
Wow, nice photos!!! Bhutan is gorgeous! Haven’t come across bloggers who have written about Bhutan. I hope to make it out there some day. Thanks for sharing!
Good post! I read your blog often and you always post excellent content. I posted this article on Facebook and my followers like it. Thanks for writing this!
What an excellent trip itinerary! I hadn’t really thought much to Bhutan before reading your post, but the scenery and architecture looks so beautiful – even the border gate is so enchanting! And the hike looks incredible, what a rewarding experience. Gorgeous photos too, I love the ones of the prayer flags.
It looks so colourful and fabulous! And that monastery on the cliff edge looks amazing – but so inspiring! And I love a place that knows what good coffee is all about. Bhutan looks like it has a bit of something for everyone! Would love to hike like you did!
Thanks for this itinerary. And particularly the road trip part. I have been brainstorming on the best way to reach Bhutan. And what you suggested here – bagdogra – looks like a very good option for us. I am going to plan my trip on the same lines
We so want to visit Bhutan after reading this post. The place looks simply stunning. So many beautiful mountains and valleys. It is obvious that it would be in the best trips list. 😉 😉
I believe you guys had an awesome trip to Bhutan! It’s a perfect timing going there that you get to experience the festival just in time. Also, the Taro Pakstang monastery, whoah, I have seen an image similar to it somewhere here online and glad you take a pic of it! I am pretty sure that it is quite scary to climb up there but sure it is worth it at the same time as well!
Wow.. its such a wonderful blog. Really helpful.Cheers
We are planning for a trip to bhutan sometime around april. So will you be able to help me with some contact details there ( for transport – cab and stay )
I dropped a mail to you. Could you pls help me with the details.
Please excuse me for my such a delayed response. I don’t know how but I completely missed out on your posts. Just in case you still need my help, please write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I promise I’d be faster in responding this time around.
Wow! Amazing trip! The itinerary is jam packed with goodies. If I only did half of what you did, I’d have the time of my life! Thank you for sharing your experiences and giving us your tips for making the trip a spectacular one.
I have to admit that I know very little about Bhutan. I do love a good road trip, so if I ever find myself in that part of the world, I know where to look now! I think being able to see the Golden Buddha Doredenma in real life would be a very humbling experience. I’ve seen pictures of the Paro Takstang Monastery and would love the chance to see it!
Well-researched, beautifully illustrated. Sure you’re not working for the Bhutan Tourist Office?
Paro looks like a cute airport, definitely a step away from the bland international style buildings seen just about everywhere else.
And yes, I’m always up for a roadtrip. Especially through interesting scenery. Great excuse to stock up on junk food and pause at roadside cafes.
I’ve always wanted to visit Bhutan ever since I saw a documentary on their Gross Domestic Happiness philosophy. Not only your guide really thorough and well researched, the video at the end is a great addition!
You’ve motivated me to make my Bhutan trip happen, thank you for sharing!
Great coffee and beautiful hikes?? Sounds like I definitely need to add Bhutan to my list!
It is something meant for the bucketlists! 🙂
Ahh, I love road trips! I am always up for a good road trip! You get to see and experience so much more. Bhutan looks gorgeous, you got me at coffee haha Beautiful scenery, great narrating!
That was indeed an epic road trip in more senses than one. Traveling on the roads of Bhutan must indeed have been an amazing experience and your pictures and words sing paeans of the beauty of the land. A couple of years ago we were in Sikkim and the driver showed us a road, which he said lead to Bhutan. We heaved a sigh and thought next time! Hope to get there soon.
What a great trip! I don’t think we are as adventurous as you are, but it’s nice to live vicariously.
Yes Rosemary, it indeed was an epic trip for us. We’d recommend a visit to Bhutan to anyone in a heartbeat.
Thank you for sharing this details is really helpfull
Glad we could help. 🙂
Wow! Bhutan is beautiful! I could spend an entire week sitting looking at the views. Although you look awful close to the edge of a huge drop with your dirty shoes.
Read and heard much about the happy country Bhutan. You have shared this post with some very interesting pictures to help my imagination. I must say you have considered every query that may come in the minds of readers who consider a Bhutan trip. A very interesting and informative blog!
Hey Saurabh, happy that you found our post helpful. If you make it to Bhutan, do share your pictures. Would love to see them. 🙂
I love sight seeing when traveling! it looks like y’all had an amazing time!
Wow. Thanks for sharing this part of the world. Those are amazing shots and what a beautiful place. Bhutan will be on our list
I’m so in awe of every single one of your photos. Bhutan looks BEAUTIFUL. I’m very drawn to these more “off the beaten path” type places, so would love to visit Bhutan someday.
Thanks Erica. Bhutan sure is another world in itself, and hope you can find yourself there soon.:)
Oh my gosh these pictures are BEAUTIFUL! Bhutan looks like a beautiful place! I would love to check it out sometime.
This is my first time hearing about Bhutan, it is so nice! There are definitely many places to explore, would love to visit.
This sounds epic. We have always wanted to visit Bhutan, and your travel diary has painted a beautiful picture.
Wow…. I’ve heard incredible things about Bhutan. How did it FEEL to be there? I hear it is a place of immense healing – that the sick no longer feel sick when they are there.
That would be so much fun to do! I love taking road trips in places I have never been before.
What a beautiful place to visit! Thank you for sharing 🙂
Bhutan is incredibly beautiful. Glad you liked it.
I’ve never thought of visiting Bhutan, but it looks incredible, with so much to see, truly beautiful.
So this is really a one-week trip, huh? I have always dreamed of going to Bhutan and experiencing or inhaling zero carbon. Hope to be able to bring our entire family here someday. Maybe our kids will get more ideas on how to make the world a better place for their generation.
wow, you always take me to such amazing places! I think Asia is such a fascinating continent.
What a magical place! Your pics are amazing! The landscapes and the architecture are the incredible. Thanks for sharing!
I have always dreamed of going to Bhutan. Hope to be able to bring me here. Please get more ideas on how to make the world a better place for their generation. I Like very Much Your Post. Thanks for Sharing.