This post is what you would usually find in Lonely Planet book, but it is not easy to source the lonely planet for Bhutan, I was lucky to have a friend who had it. If you want to cover Bhutan as a tourist, you would not need more than one day at Thimphu and maybe half a day at Paro and you would have pretty much seen most of what needs to be seen.
Bhutan for the Tourists
Thimphu the capital of Bhutan
Thimphu has one long street which divides the main city into two parts. If you start in the morning at one end and keep stopping at state emporiums, textile museum, city library, national archive library, folk heritage museum, Thanka painting school, the only cinema hall, heritage art and craft shop, royal academy of performing arts, open place in the market where you can sit and see the people passing by and also see the beautiful array of prayer wheels, by end of the day you would have seen whole of Thimphu. Don’t forget to see the human skull bowls at the Emporium, manuscripts at the national library and the weavers weaving at the textile museum.
If you go a little further and do a bit of hiking, you would come across the beautiful Takin reserve. Takin is the national animal of Bhutan. An animal somewhere between a cow and a goat, with mythical tales around it. You go further up and you would see the BBS (Bhutan Broadcasting services) tower, which being on the height gives a nice view of the city. If you come back down where you started your hike and take the road down, on your right you would see the beautiful river in. And a Tsheri Dzong on its bank.
Royal Government of Bhutan
This Dzong is the seat of the Royal Government of Bhutan and this is where the King operates from. You are not allowed to go inside unless you are accompanied by an official guide. And come within the one hour of closing of the government offices. From the main road (called Norzim lam) you have to take a small detour to see the Memorial Chorten. The final one end of the road is a monastery where you if you go on top and see the young lamas playing around or eating. You would see the contrast their red robes provide against the peaceful mountains and valleys.
You can also see the archery ground where you would see men in traditional attire practicing archery, which also happens to be their national game. And yes, you can do all this in a day on foot, or maybe a couple of small cab rides. Surprisingly with such a small population also the most of the roads in Thimphu are one way.
Paro is about 2 hours drive from Thimphu. And the only place to see there is a Conch-shaped national museum. Which like I mentioned earlier is really worth spending some time. But even then it would not take more than 2-3 hours of your time. There is Paro Dzong, but if you have seen one Dzong, you have pretty much seen all of them. To an ordinary eye, they do not look very different. About 10 km’s outside the city is the old Paro Dzong which is no more than a ruin today.
A few more km’s ahead is the famous Taktsang or Tiger’s Nest which is a monastery built on a cliff is quite a sight to see even from the base. You can trek up and it would take you around 3 hours to go up and come back. But I suggest if you are not a seasoned trekker do not try it. Do have a good look at the Paro airport, which is very nicely done.
Punakha is the third popular place on the tourist circuit. It is about 3.5 hours away from Thimphu and can be a day trip. There is nothing but an old dzong there to see, where you would need at most three hours. You need a separate permit to visit this Dzong, which you have to take from Thimphu. But do see the valleys and flowers on the way. They would transport you to a different world.
There are defined treks around Bhutan, which I did not get a chance to go around. You can go for these treks only with approved trek guides. Sometime next time may be…
Recommend you to read following Bhutan Tour & more.
Bhutan Travel – An Experience.
Getting Stuck at India – Bhutan Border.