Bhutan has always been on the top of everyone’s travel list. But what exactly can you do here other than trekking and going on cultural tours? Here are list of the top things to try when you are in Bhutan or to be included in your itinerary.
1. Go to Eastern Bhutan
Bhutan’s road-less-traveled is eastern Bhutan. The simplicity of eastern Bhutanese people, rugged terrains, unexplored festivals and trek routes make eastern Bhutan the most sought-after region in Bhutan. Semi-nomadic twin villages of Merak and Sakten, rich textile weaving cultures of Lhuntse, raw silk in Radhi villages and wood works of Trashiyangtse makes the east worth exploring.
2. Rafting & Mountain Biking
River rafting remains one of the most popular adventures in Bhutan. Due to the presence of turbulent alpine rivulets to staid wide sub-tropical rivers, you have options for both short or multi-day river rafting in Bhutan. Short rafting session is being carried out in more placid Phochu River in Punakha Valley, which offers splendid views of fortresses and people going about their daily lives with towns and villages located alongside the rivers.
Dirt roads, ancient mule tracks and trek routes are being used by professionals for ultra biking quest and amateurs use easy country side roads and lateral highways. Fresh air, limited traffic and the scenic beauty of the routes make mountain biking an exhilarating way to enjoy Bhutan.
3. Try Ema Datshi & Butter Tea
Chilli and cheese are essential ingredients in Bhutanese cuisine. A curry conjured up with Chilli and Cheese locally known as “ema datshi” is worth tasting. A meal of red rice, dried beef and ema datshi is the staple diet of Bhutanese and will excite your taste buds with delicious flavours.
Suja or the butter tea is one of the specialities in Bhutanese recipes. Butter tea is served in all occasions with other traditional meals. Traditional tea leaves is boiled in water, churned in a bamboo churner with fresh cow or yak butter and salt. It bears a buttery salt taste. Yes, you heard right, a salty tea!
4. Farm House visit, Traditional Dinner & Hot Stone Bath
One of the best ways to experience Bhutanese way of life is to visit a farmhouse. Farmhouses are simple structures made up of locally available mud, timber and stones with distinct Bhutanese wood designs and paintings. Time your visit with a dinner and a hot stone bath. Hot stone bath is an ancient way of healing common ailments such has body aches, wounds and stomach diseases. Certain types of stones are heated until red hot in fire built by wood, it is then put inside a tub containing cold water. You will dip into the warm to hot water, and take a nap as you feel your body muscles relax.
5. Hiking & Trekking
Hiking and Trekking are very popular in Bhutan because it allows the traveler to get off the beaten track and into the wondrous Bhutanese landscape. Just imagine wandering through a wilderness with a diversity of flora and fauna that has led to Bhutan being declared one of 10 global hot spots for environmental conservation. Treks range from short soothing walks through terraced fields and idyllic hamlets to some of the most arduous high altitude treks.
6. Weekend Market & Craft Bazaar
Opposite to Taj Tashi at the end of Norzin Lam road is a long line of temporary huts made of bamboo mats. It should be interesting to check these handicraft stores as they sell genuine Bhutanese artworks.
If it’s a weekend, you can visit the vegetable market, which is locally known as the Centenary Farmer’s Market. Locals from as far as Paro, Punakha and Wangdue come here to sell their farm produce. It offers wonderful opportunity for photography. The lower floor houses red rice and other grains as well as dry fish, fruits and vegetables. The upper floor contains Bhutanese incense, local vegetables, betel nuts, dried meats, cheese and butter. If you crossing the bridge on to the other side you will find handicrafts and imported garments.
7. Bar Hopping in Thimphu
Thimphu, the only capital city in the world without traffic lights is a must-see place. It’s a unique city with mix of both traditional and modernism. Visit bars, karaoke bars and discos to get an insight to Bhutanese inclination to different cultures. Also explore the little outskirts of the city which will take you to the life of rural settings.
8. Gho, Kira & Archery
The national costumes, Gho for men and Kira for women are fascinating attires in Bhutan. It is similar but different to ones worn by Tibetans. Gho is a knee-length robe resembling a Scottish kilt. It’s tied at the waist by a traditional belt made of cotton weave. Kira, an ankle-length dress is a woven fabric. The rectangular piece is wrapped and folded around the body and pinned at both shoulders, usually with silver brooches. It’s then tied at the waist with a long belt. Its worn with tego, sort of like a jacket.
Archery is the national sport of Bhutan. These matches are held on ad hoc basis and if you happen to catch a match, it is fun to spend few minutes observing. We can also arrange an archery demonstration on prior notice for a more hands-on experience.
9. Chit Chatting with locals
“A night guest is like a God” is an old Bhutanese saying. Strangers are treated like guests in Bhutan. You can talk to locals – especially children who are eager to share information about themselves, the school they attend and their families. Talking to seniors will provide an insight into Bhutanese way of life, culture, transitions and challenges in their unique life.
10. Try Bhutanese Alcohol
Bhutan produces one of the best beers and whiskies in the world. Druk 11000, Lager and Red Panda are some of the best that can nourish your taste buds. Special Courier, Highland and K5 are good whisky brands. Try some locally produced fermented wine and ara, to get taste of Bhutanese alcohol.
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