Wanting nothing more than a relaxing getaway, she hopped away on a 6 nights 7 days Bhutan trip with her best friends. Little did she know that those multicoloured realms and smiling faces of Bhutan will change her idea of ‘happiness’ forever! Read on to know her awesome experiences!
Trip Duration: 6 Nights / 7 Days
Trip Cost: INR 87,000/-
Agent Name: AD Tours and Travels
Inclusions: Transfers, Accommodation, Breakfast, Sightseeing, Sim Cards, Immigration Formalities
Exclusions: Flights, Entry Tickets, Lunch & Dinner
They say Travel is about the gorgeous feeling of teetering on the unknown. “Buy the ticket, take the ride, and getting lost will help you find yourself.” Word! I am not really a solo traveler kind of a person and usually seek company of vagabonds like me, who are keen to embark on new adventures. The more the merrier!
For my all girls trip to Bhutan I roped in my gang of six girls and we started planning three months prior to the trip. We spent around 2 weeks in doing a detailed research and browsed various budget customised Bhutan tour packages, since we all our travel hobby on a shoestring budget. We finalised on TravelTriangle since it claimed to give exactly that! The dates were worked out after cross checking minimal leaves requirement, low flight cost and Bhutan immigration office’s working days.
Post locking our calendar, we registered our requirements on TravelTriangle and received many quotations within a week. After talking with few of their travel agents, we finalized on AD Tours and Travels, who did not give us any chance to regret our decision. And thus, all excited to get our passport inked for the very first time, we started our incredible journey to Bhutan!
Day 1: Arrival – Drive to Phuentsholing – Check in – Immigration formalities
We took an early morning flight from Pune to Bagdogra via Kolkata, which took around 6 hours. Bagdogra welcomed us with fire blenching sun. So our driver Mr. Binod immediately ushered us into his AC cab and we headed towards Phuentsholing. We took a halt for lunch and evening tea on our way. It took us around 5 hours to get to Phuentsholing. Once we had reached, we straightaway went to immigration office since it was about to close. Thanks to our travel agent, all formalities were done with ease in not more than 10 minutes and we could finally commence our holiday in Bhutan! Post this, we went to the hotel, had our dinner, and jumped into our beds, fatigued from traveling all day.
Day 2: Drive to Thimphu – Memorial Chorten – Buddha Dordenma – Street Market
Next morning, we started early from Phuentsholing towards Thimphu (capital of Bhutan). Just like the previous day, we reached Thimphu by afternoon, had our lunch and started exploring the capital city. The first place we visited out of our Bhutan tour itinerary was Memorial Chorten, a stupa built in honor of the late third king. The place was crowded with both old and young ones praying and meditating in the sound of prayer bells and enjoying the warm weather.
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Next, we went to Buddha Dordenma famed for its colossal Shakyamuni statue of Buddha, visible from almost every corner of Thimphu. The place was no less than a wonder! The kinetic wind at Buddha Point made it difficult to even to click pictures, so we had no choice but to leave the place and start our drive back towards the shopping center of Thimphu. On our way we enjoyed the eagle’s eye view of King’s Palace and Tashichho Dzong. The Street Market had a variety of beautiful, yet expensive looking souvenirs. We bought few knick knacks and left.
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Day 3: Drive to Punakha – views of Himalayas – Druk Wangyal Chorten – Druk Wangyal Café – Punakha Dzong – Suspension Bridge
We all woke up early that morning. Our window gave us charismatic views of the city. The sound of furiously gushing water in the Thimphu river tingled our senses. I could not resist a morning walk that promised so much beauty, so me and my friend put on our shoes and skipped away. After a walk, we took some rest sitting in a garden by the river bank and enjoyed the peaceful views, before returning to our room to commence the third day of our trip to Bhutan. Once ready, we left for Punakha. What we saw on our way to Punakha was simply breathtaking! Stunning views of snowcapped Himalayas and Druk Wangyal Chorten, one of the greatest tourist attractions of Bhutan greeted us from behind wispy clouds. Located at Dochula Pass, Druk Wangyal Chorten has 108 memorial chortens built to commemorate soldiers killed in the war between the Royal Bhutan Army and Assamese insurgents in 2003. This place is also home to the Lhakhang Temple and one café with the same name. When we reached this place, it was all covered with fog and one could hardly see beyond 6 feet.
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The freezing weather made us all run for cup of coffee at Druk Wangyal Café which was filled with aroma of freshly baked cakes and brewed coffee. After warming up with this quick coffee break, we headed for Punakha Dzong which is the second oldest and largest Dzong in Bhutan. Our guide narrated many legendary stories associated with Dzong during our short tour of this brilliantly built place. Post this, we went to the Suspension Bridge nearby, standing at which, we could feel the peaceful vibrations in the noise of Pho Chhu river flowing underneath, shuffling of prayer flags all around, and gusts of wind rocking this gigantic bridge with their strength. Done for day 3, we went to our hotel Pema Karpo, the best one on our entire 7 day Bhutan tour.
Day 4: Drive to Paro – Rinpung Dzong – Kyichu Lhakhang – shopping in Paro
We welcomed another great morning in Bhutan, but bid adieu to the delightful city of Punakha, as it was now time to head to Paro! With the only international airport of the country located at Paro, the city offers a blend of commercialisation and historical essence. On our first day here, we covered Rinpung Dzong, National Museum and Kyichu Lhakhang Temple. At the temple, we had the greatest honour of meeting few members of Bhutan royal family including Her Majesty the Royal Grandmother. Later, we spent the evening exploring cafés and souvenir shops on the colourful streets of Paro. We skipped the expensive lot and ushered ourselves into a cosy shop called Bhutan Made – General Store. Here, we bought knick knacks like a small bronze statue of Buddha and a mug in well under INR 300/-. Post some hearty shopping in Bhutan, we returned to our hotel.
Day 5: Tiger Nest trek and Taktsang Monastery tour for INR 500/- in Paro
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It was finally time to visit Taktsang Monastery, the highlight of our all girls trip to Bhutan. Being from Pune, trekking is nothing new to us. But we ended up underestimating Tiger Nest trek and went without proper water and food supply. We all trekked at our own pace and took a halt at one small café mid-way to Taktsang Monastery.
The route was not difficult to climb but it definitely put our stamina to test. And once you reach up there, you’ll realize it was worth all the efforts! At the top, we bought our tickets of INR 500/- each and were clubbed in groups of 8 to 10 tourists, each being escorted into the monastery with one guide. He recited historical tales associated with this ancient temple and showed us the way out after just 10 minutes of the tour. We were annoyed with the length of a tour of Bhutan’s most famous tourist attraction against the hefty amount they charged for it. Just as we started our descent, the rain started its own! All wet and hungry, we reached the base village, got into our wagon, and ran in the hunt of food.
Day 6: First experience with snow at Chele La Pass – drive to Phuentsholing – departure formalities at immigration office
Chele La Pass, considered the highest point on Dantak road, was now the only item left in our Bhutan holiday itinerary. The place was around a 35 km drive away from the city. After covering first 20/22 kms, we started coming across snow on the sidewalk of tar road. To our surprise, as we started ascending, the piles of snow started to become thicker.
For people like us who had never ever seen ice anywhere outside the refrigerator, that experience and utter excitement can’t be put down in words. We were almost jumping inside our cab. Reaching a height of 13,084 ft above sea level, we treated ourselves to stunning views of the Himalayas. We immersed ourselves in the moment with some snow ball fights, drawing fairies on ice, and few awesome clicks, completely forgetting that this was the last day of our Bhutan trip. When it finally dawned on us, the feeling of closing one of the most memorable chapters of our travel diary left us feeling gloomy and sad.
We headed back to Phuentsholing and completed departure formalities at the immigration office, before proceeding for dinner with our 5 day caretaker cum guide cum driver Mr. Dorji, who, with his Super Wagon had made our journey so comfortable. For closure, we clicked few pictures at Bhutan Gate and went back to our hotel.
Day 7: Drive to Bagdogra – return flight from Delhi to Pune
We had an early morning departure for Bagdogra with Mr. Binod again and from there we flew back to Pune via Delhi with a treasure chest of fun and flabbergasting memories. We bid goodbye to Bhutan with a longing in our hearts to be able to return some day. We thank Travel triangle and AD Tours and Travel for taking care of everything and making this for us a very safe all girls trip to Bhutan. We enjoyed our vacation without any hassles.
We all fell in love with Bhutan’s natural beauty, weather, culture, hospitality and kindness of people. Truly, it is a place of happiness!
Our WOW moments: playing in snow at Chele La Pass | Druk Wangyal Chorten | morning walk in Punakha | views of snowcapped Himalayas | Tiger Nest trek | shopping in Paro | chilling at Druk Wangyal Cafe | meeting members of Bhutan royal family at Kyichu Lhakhang Temple | Hotel Pema Karpo | the hospitality of our guide cum driver Mr. Dorji
Our so-so moments: The overpriced short tour of Taktsang Monastery
Tips for future travelers:
- Immigration office at Phuentsholing is closed on weekends. So plan your travel dates accordingly
- Don’t forget to carry your passport and/or voter ID card for immigration formalities
- Indian currency would work everywhere, so no need to worry about currency exchange
- If you are willing to have tour of Taktsang monastery on reaching top of Tiger’s nest, make absolutely sure you are okay with paying 500 bucks for a mere 10 minute tour of Taktsang Monastery
- Carry enough food and water during the Tiger Nest trek, and trek light
- Collect tickets for Taktsang Monastery from the base, as there are no ticket counters at the top
- Most locals speak Hindi and English fluently, so language won’t be a barrier. However, learning a few Dzongkha sentences will give you some edge over other tourist while bargaining on streets of Bhutan
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