As our planet has come to a full stop by the end of 2020, I sit back to reimagine the travel post Covid-19 Pandemic. When we think of genuine commitment to sustainability, Bhutan comes first for being the only nation where togetherness rules over individuality, outstanding life philosophy governs individuals, and strong single Buddhist religion discarding religious diversity, makes it deemed fit for the happiest country to explore first. This prompts me to highlight the 10 best things you should not miss while being in Bhutan.
01- Hike to Tiger’s Nest Monastery: Imagine chanting of monks around the fluttering colorful prayer flags on a clinging ancient Buddhist monastery, perched on the cliff face at 10, 000 feet high overlooking the Paro Valley! Hiking Paro Taktsang or Tiger’s Nest monastery is the most incredible site in Bhutan to be hit first.
02- Dance with Monks at Punakha Tsechu Festival: Attend the world-famous Punakha Tsechu Festival at Punakha Dzong and you will simply fall in love with magical Bhutan. Cham dance with the monks dressed in elaborate costumes and fearsome masks is the highlight of the event.
03- Get sink in with Phallus symbols: Bhutan is also a land of unusual worship and you may have a hunch of it while being in the little town of Punakha. The tiny village of Sopsokha in Punakha may shock you with phallus (means an erect penis) adorned almost in every building.
04- Score a bullseye: Every village in Bhutan has a field for archery and that makes archery Bhutan’s national sport. In fact, every Bhutanese is passionate about this sport and you may glance men in their colored- throngs, shooting arrows at a far-distanced sliver of a target placed surprisingly at 140m away. Female spectators on the side-lines cheering, singing, and dancing are truly worth the archery alongside.
05- Best food Utopia: Bhutan has no shortage of cheese and chilies which is quite apparent from the famous dish Ema Datshi prepared from Cheese and chilies itself. Get your taste buds soaked in the flavors of amazing cuisine, Bhutan has to offer which is unlike any other food you will ever eat.
06- Any hike into the Himalayan Kingdom: Mild hike or strenuous trekking in Bhutan is physically demanding but highly rewarding. During your hike, meeting traditionally dressed Bhutanese tending their animals is a sight to rejoice. For sure, you will see a different Bhutan during your walk.
07- Stay a night at Haa Valley: Beat the crowd of Paro and drive over Bhutan’s highest motorable road to reach a magical Haa Valley adorned with cliffside hermitages, charming villages, and ancient temples. Staying here in boutique homestays and farmhouses is the best way to experience the wonders of Valley.
08- Get photographed with Punakha Dzong in the backdrop: The most dramatic and beautiful example of Bhutanese architecture is the Punakha Dzong superbly situated on the converging of two rivers. Try visiting in spring when the famous jacaranda tree splashes down the lilac flowers down the whitewashed walls of the Dzong. Getting yourself pictured here is the souvenir of a lifetime.
09- Visit Thimphu Centenary Farmer’s Market: Make sure your stay falls in Thimphu during the weekend so that you don’t miss the biggest and the brightest weekend market. The incense area is filled with aromatic raw ingredients, handicraft and textile stalls flooded with antiques and the food section overloaded with dried fish and chilies are the key offerings.
10- A visit to the Kyichu Lhakhang temple: Being one of the oldest and the most venerated temple in Bhutan, Kyichu Lhakhang temple. Legend has it that the King Songtsen of Tibet who built this temple has pinned down the left foot of a giant ogress who was thwarting the proliferation of Buddhism in Tibet.