Bhutan: Major Cities

Western Bhutan

Paro alt. 2280m. 65 km and 2 hrs drive to the southwest of Thimpu.

This beautiful valley is home to many of Bhutan’s oldest monasteries and temples. The country’s only airport is in Paro. The valley is also home of Mt. Chomolhari 7300m situated at the northern and of the valley. Does Whose glacier water from the Pachu flowing through the valley? The popular places to visit in Paro are-Drugyel Dzong, Rinpung Dzong, Ta Dzong, Taktsang Monastery and Kyich Monastery.

Thimpu alt. 2320m. 65 km and 2 hrs drive to the northeast of Paro.

Thimpu is a bustling town on the banks of the Thimpu Chhu and set gloriously in the hills of the Thimpu valley. It is home to the Bhutanese Royal Family, the Bhutan Government and to several foreign missions and development projects. Bhutan’s only golf course, a nine-hole circuit is situated next to the magnificent Tashichhoedzong. The majority attraction in Thimpu is- Memorial Chorten, Semtokha Dzong, National Library, The Institute of Traditional Medicine and Tashichhoedzong itself.

Punakha alt. 1300m. 77 km and 3.30hrs drive to the northwest of Thimpu.

Punakha served as the capital of Bhutan until 1955. It is the winter seat of the Je Khenpo and the monk body. It has a temperate climate and its rich fertile valley is fed by the Pho Chu and Mo Chu rivers. It has the most beautiful Dzong just between the two rivers. Major places in Punakha are- Druk Wangyal Chorten at Dochula pass, Punakha Dzong, Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten.

Wangdiphodrang alt. 1360m. 70kms and 3 hrs drive to the southeast of Punakha.

This town is located south of Punakha is known as the winter home of the black-necked cranes. Bhutan is home to around six hundred black-necked cranes with Phobjikha being one of the popular places that the birds migrate to in the winter months from the Tibetan plateau. These elegant and shy birds can be observed from early November to end of March. Overlooking the Phobjikha valley is the Gantey Goenpa the oldest monastery.

Central Bhutan:

Trongsa alt.2320m. 129 km and 4 hrs drive to north-east of Wangdiphodrang.

Trongsa forms the central hub of the kingdom and is historically the place from where attempts at unifying the country were launched. Some of the attractions are- Trongsa Dzong and Ta Dzong.

Bumthang alt. 2600-4000m. 68 km and 2.30hrs. drive to north-east of Trongsa.

This fascinating valley is the religious hearted of the nation and home to some of the oldest Buddhist temples and monasteries. Its gentle sloping hills offer plenty of walking opportunities to the many temples that dot this valley. The valley is also famous for its production of honey, cheese, apples, and yatra- a woolen material that has multiple uses. Major sightseeing places are – Jambay Lhakhang, Kurje Lhakhang, Tamshing Lhakhang, Jakar Dzong, member Tsho)lake of burning fire) and Ura village.

Eastern Bhutan:

Mongar alt. 1630m. 129 km and 4 hrs drive to the south-east of Bumthang.

The journey from Mongar to Bumthang is one of the most beautiful in the Himalayan crossing the 3800m. high Trumsingla pass. Mongar marks the beginning of eastern Bhutan. The second largest town in the subtropical east, Mongar, like Trashigang further east, is situated on the side of a hill in contrast to other towns of western Bhutan which are built on the valley floor.

Trashigang alt. 1155m. 90 km and 3hrs drive to the south-east of Mongar.

This is the thelrgest district in Bhutan and it lies in the far east on the banks of the river Gamri Chu. It was once the center of a busy trade with Tibet. Today it is the junction of the west highway with road connecting to Samdrupjongkhar and then to the Indian state of Assam. The nomadic people of from Merak and Sakten who are remarkable for their exceptional features and costumes use this town as their market place mostly during winter. Trashigang Dzong and Gom Kora are the main attractions in the area.

Travel TIPS:

Visiting Bhutan: Foreign national visiting Bhutan must travel through all-inclusive package tours which have a fixed tariff set by the Government of Bhutan.

Visa: With the exception of Indian travelers, all other nation visitors to Bhutan need a visa and it is processed in Thimphu through a local tour operator. No foreign Missions/Embassies abroad grant tourist visas. All passport details should be forwarded to the agent at least 2 weeks before the date of travel for visa processing. Actual visa is stamped only on arrival in Bhutan with the support of Visa clearance which will be sent to the visitor in advance. Visa clearance number will be forwarded to the overseas Druk Air station if flying or local authorities if through the land.

Visa fee: US$ 20 per person payable in advance in addition to the package costs. For visits exceeding 2 weeks, an additional fee of US$ 15 is charged.

Entry: Bhutan can be entered either by air or land. The national airline Druk Air flies from Kathmandu, Delhi, Kolkotta, Dhaka, and Bangkok. Entry by land is from India through the state of West Bengal that shares a border with Bhutan’s border town Phuntsholing in the southwest.

Customs: Bhutan authority strictly monitors the export of any religious antiquities. Personal videos, cameras, computers and another electronic device should be registered with the customs authority at arrival and departure.

Insurance policy: It is advised to have travel insurance against unforeseen accidents and mishap from your own country as it is not available in Bhutan.

Transportation: There are various ways of getting around in Bhutan. The most tour operator has its own fleet of luxury Japanese Toyota car, van, hence, and buses. All major places of interest are connected by paved roads.

Accommodation: A wide variety of accommodation is available ranging from farmhouse stays and budget hotels to the high-end resorts. However, there is no rating on the star category but all government approved A-B-C grade. Normally comfortable 2/3 star category resorts and hotels are used on the tour.

Currency: The Bhutanese currency is called Ngultrum and is at par with the Indian Rupee and both are used in Bhutan. 1 Ngultrum = 100 Chetrums and US$ 1 = 40 Ngultrum approx.

Foreign currency (Cash/Cheque) can be changed at the airport and from the banks. Some credit cards like the Visa, the American Express and the JCB are acceptable by the bigger hotels and business establishments mostly confined to the bigger towns like Thimpu, Paro, and Phuntsholing.

Banking hours:

Monday – Friday 9 to 3 and Saturday 9 to 11

Telecommunication: Bhutan is well connected and virtually every town has IDD services. Internet cafes are available almost everywhere. Cell phones can be used in most places around the country.

Time different: Bhutan has one zone for the entire country. It is six hrs ahead of GMT time. Bhutan is 30 minutes ahead of India, one hour behind Thailand and 15 minutes ahead of Nepal.

Climate: Bhutan has three climates zones-the southern belt that is tropical in nature, the cool and temperature zone of the central part and the alpine region is the north. The average temperature depending the season and places are between -6 to 32 DC.

Shopping: Bhutan is popular for its hand-woven textiles and cane and bamboo products. There are a lot of shops that sell above souvenir items.

Dining out: Bhutanese dishes are also available in all the restaurants. The favorites being Ema Dasti- a cheese and chilly dish. All Bhutanese dishes use an abundance of chilly so do order according to your palette strength. Almost all restaurant serves Indian and Chinese cuisine too. Besides the locally produced beer and whiskey, the local brew, are that is distilled from rice, barley or wheat is also popular with the visitor.

Tariff: The government of Bhutan has fixed the tariff of USD 200………… p/person daily for culture or trekking trips. Supplement charges-individuals or groups of less than 3 participants are subject to surcharges Single person USD 40 and a group of 2-3 participants USD 30 daily.

Tariff includes: Royalty fee, accommodation, all meals, sightseeing tours by private coaches, service of experienced and English speaking guide, all transportation within Bhutan, entrance fee to the monuments, permits, during trekking-all camping/kitchen gears, ponies or yaks for transportation of gears, trekking guide, and cook, etc.

Tariff does not include Bhutan visa fee, TDF, airfares, the expense of personal nature travel insurance, drinks, cigarettes, laundry, telephone call, and tipping, etc.

Tour Payment: All tour payments must be settled one month in advance of the commencement of the tour to clear the Bhutan visa. Bank detail will be provided once the tour is confirmed.

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