Quite adjacent to the Indo-Bhutan border is a southern town of Bhutan called Gelephu. Gelephu is a warm and fertile region which is acts as the gateway to the Royal Manas National Park, the oldest nature preserve in the kingdom of Bhutan. The Royal Manas National Park is the most biologically diverse preserved area in Bhutan and is worldwide renowned for its rare collections of flora and fauna. Gelephu itself doesn’t harbor many pictorial destinations but it is interlinked with the road towards the major places of Bhutan like Thimphu, Damphu, and Wangdue. Gelephu with its unique location has become the base for the traveler who wants to explore the unearthly beauty of Bhutan.
Unlike other destinations of Bhutan which are mostly in the hilly region, Gelephu due to its proximity to the Indian border has more plain geography. Located at the periphery of Royal Manas National Park, apart from being famous as the base for travelers it is also known for its hot spring or ‘tshachu’ which is said to have medicinal properties. During winter people from different parts of Bhutan and some from outside Bhutan travel toward Gelephu to relish the goodness of the hot spring.
There are many other traditional methods that are used in Gelephu to cure diseases which is quite astonishing yet works like magic. Visitors can also try out the ancient Bhutanese tradition of ‘Menchu’ or Hot Stone Baths. In this method, water is heated by submerging red-hot stones into the bath and then used to bathe and soak.
During their visit to Gelephu, tourists can also visit Kuenga Rabten Palace which is now converted into a monastery. The plain geographical feature of Gelephu has made it a perfect place to set up another air terminal which was completed in 2012 but due to the lack of proper control tower and terminals, it is yet to be certified by the Department of Civil Aviation of Bhutan.
Phibsoo Wildlife Sanctuary is another worth noting forest to visit. Stretching over an area of only 269 kilometers, the sanctuary is blessed with wild animals like spotted deer. Golden langurs, gaurs, elephants, and more. Through the biological corridors, this sanctuary is actually connected to Royal Manas National Park and Jigme Wangchuk National Park. As a result, you can go for a trek and can also go on a jungle safari.
From healing water to dense virgin forest, Gelephu the gateway of The Royal Manas National Park with its connectivity to India and another hilly region of Bhutan has become a must-visit destination for travelers who want to venture upon the rugged terrain of the Himalayan region while getting an insight within the ancient tradition and religious aspect of Bhutanese culture.
Gelephu, located in the Southern part of central Bhutan, is well connected with all the major cities of Bhutan. It is just about 30 km to the east of Sarpang town. This town is located at a lower elevation and is easily reachable from Bumthang, Shemgang, Thimphu, Daga, Trongsa, and Wangdue. The buses run through the route from Thimphu to Gelephu from 7 am or 7:30 am. It takes around 8 hours to reach Gelephu from Bhutan’s capital city Thimphu.
From the town of Wangdue, on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at around 8 am, a bus departs for Gelephu. The bus takes around 7 hours to reach. You can also opt for a private car from Damphu, Bumthang, Thimphu, and Punakha in order to reach this town quite comfortably.
There are many hotels available to stay in Gelephu. Luxurious accommodation cannot be found here. Instead, you are getting to stay in the budget category and mid-range rooms. The hotels in Gelephu will be offering attached western bathrooms, food, spacious rooms, hot water, towels, etc. In some of the hotels, there are air-conditioners too. Due to this town’s low elevation, you may need ac.
The finest seasons to visit Gelephu are spring and fall. The weather is still lovely even in the winter. You can visit Gelephu at any time, excluding the monsoon. Therefore, Gelephu is the finest place if you’re looking for a serene and natural getaway away from the hectic pace of the metropolis. The winter season November to February when the weather remains pleasant and soothing is considered the best time to visit Gelephu and relish the medicinal properties of hot spring. Except for the monsoon season from July to September, even the spring and autumn season is considered favorable to enjoy the beauty of the pristine nature Gelephu has to offer.