The valley of Paro is an enchanting place, rich in culture, picturesque beauty and many legends. At its northern end, stands the majestic Mount Jomolhari (7,314m) with its glacial water cascading down through the gorges to form the Pa Chhu (Paro River). One of the most fertile places in the Kingdom, Paro is famous for producing red rice, cultivated on its terraced fields.
Taktshang Lhakhang (Tiger’s Nest)
This monastery is believed to be the place where Guru Rinpoche descended on the back of a tigress. Hence, the place is also called ‘Tiger’s Nest’. Every Bhutanese visits this monastery at least once in his lifetime.
This ancient Dzong was built in 1646 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the earliest spiritual and temporal ruler of Bhutan. The monastic body of Paro, the office of the district administrative head and Drangpon (judge) of Paro district are located within its premises. The Paro festival is held here, every spring.
This place was built as a watch tower to guard Rinpung Dzong during the 17th century inter-valley wars. It was converted into a National Museum in 1967, which now houses a collection of artifacts, religious thangkha paintings and Bhutan’s unique postage stamps.
Established in 1646 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal as a reminder of his victory over the Tibetan intruders, this Dzong was featured in the National Geographic magazine in 1914. The beautiful village settled at its foot, offers spectacular views of Mount Jomolhari.
The construction of this sacred shrine dates back to the 7th century. Its compound has two temples; one built by Tibetan King, Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century and the other by H.M. Ashi Kesang, the Queen Mother of Bhutan in 1968 in the same pattern as the ancient one.
This tranquil place, situated on a mountain side below the Chelela pass, is the residence of Buddhist nuns who have devoted their lives for spiritual fulfillment. They lead an unperturbed life of prayer, meditation and religious studies.
Every house in this group of age-old farmhouses was built without using a single nail. These are colorful and beautifully decorated houses, having the same architectural pattern.
This temple was built in 1525 by Ngawang Chhogyel, an ancestor of the Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal.
Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan is the hub of all administrative, religious and commerce activities. It has a unique blend of modern development with age-old traditions. The place is lively and its architecture reflects the national spirit of the Kingdom.
Places of Interest in Thimphu
Initially built in 1641 and then rebuilt in 1965 by King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, this place is also called as ‘fortress of the glorious religion’. It houses the secretariat building where the throne room of His Majesty is located and also the office of the Je Khenpo, the Chief Abbot of Bhutan.
This stupa was built as a memorial of third King of Bhutan, His Late Majesty King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck in 1974. The artifacts inside the monument offer an insight into the Buddhist philosophy.
Located five miles away from the city, on a lofty ridge, it is the oldest Dzong in the country, built in 1627. Presently, it is the School for Buddhist studies.
This library houses thousands of manuscripts and ancient documents. It also has a collection of modern educational books and printing blocks for prayer flags.
The antique techniques of making thangkha paintings are taught here. Here, one can witness students creating beautiful designs on cloth.
Traditional Medicine Institute
At this institute, various herbal medicines are prepared and people who wish to become practitioners are taught this art.
The Textile and Folk Heritage Museum
Set up in 2001, this place holds fascinating items that are a testimony to the preserved traditions and heritage of Bhutan.
The town has many Handicrafts Emporiums where an array of hand-woven products is exhibited.
The market is set up on the banks of the river every Saturday and Sunday. It is a buzzing site with many locals and valley dwellers coming here to shop.
Situated on a ridge above Thimphu, this fortress-like temple and monastic school was built in the 12th century. There is a statue of Chenrezig in a manifestation with 11 heads, located centrally inside the temple.
Till 1955, this city served as the capital of Bhutan and currently it is the seat of Je Khenpo (the chief abbot) during the winters. It is a fertile valley, having temperate climate and two rivers Pho Chhu (male) and Mo Chhu (female) flowing through its land. Different crops and fruits are produced here in abundance.
Places of Interest in Punakha
In 1637, this Dzong was tactically built at the junction of Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu rivers by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. For years it served as the religious and administrative centre of the region. Severely damaged due to four disastrous fires and an earthquake, this place has been returned to its original glory by the present King. It is closed for visitors, except during the Punakha festival and in summers when the monk body moves to Thimphu.
The old Wangduephodrang Dzong, built in 1638 is located on a hilltop at the converging point of Punakha Chhu and Tang- replace with-Dhangchhu- Rivers was destroyed by a major fire on 24 June 2012, but the work has been already started to rebuilt it to its original grandeur.
This town can be referred to as an enlarged version of a village has been shifted to the north in the form of a new township. Situated south of Punakha, it is the last town en route the central highway before central Bhutan. The upper reaches of this valley offer a rich pastureland to cattle. This place is also known for its superior quality bamboo products, slate and stone carvings.
Places of Interest in Wangduephodrang
Gangtey Valley is a place distinct from other valleys in the kingdom, owing to its vast treeless expanse. Most other valleys in Bhutan are narrow and densely forested. Getting there is all the more exciting as one has to undertake a hard climb through dense forests. Nika Chhu (Chhu Naap-black water) and Gay Chhu (Chhu Karp-white water) are two meandering rivers that pass through the Gangtey Valley and add to its exoticness.
The Gangtey Goempa Monastery is the largest Nyingmapa monastery in Bhutan and the only Nyingmapa monastery located to the west of the Black Mountains. Perched on a hill, the place is surrounded by a large village. This is where the families of the 140 Gomchens, who look after the Monastery, reside.
It was Pema Trinley, the grandson of Pema Lingpa (the renowned Nyingmapa saint of Bhutan) who found Gangtey. He had the monastery established here in 1613 and became the first Gangtey Tulku. His successor, Tenzin Legpa Dondrup, expanded the size of Gangtey and had the monastery rebuilt in the form of a Dzong.
Situated a few kilometers beyond the Gangtey Monastery is a village named Phobjikha. It is the winter retreat of migratory black necked cranes that arrive here from northern arid plains to pass the season in milder climatic conditions. The village is situated at an altitude of 2900 m in the district of Wangduephodrang, bordering with the periphery of Black Mountain National Park.
Considered the central hub of the country, it is also known for its spectacular landscape. His Majesty King Ugyen Wangchuck and his successor, King Jigme Wangchuck have ruled from the ancient seat of Trongsa. As per the Bhutanese tradition, it is customary for the crown prince to hold position as Trongsa Penlop before taking over the throne. There are several important tourist places of interest in Trongsa including Chendiji which is inspired from the Swayambhunath temple in Kathmandu. Another popular tourist attraction is the Trongsa Dzong that served as a defensive stronghold in the ancient times, offering a view from all sides. Ta Dzong is a must-visit museum that offers a glimpse of ancient Bhutan and an insight into the modern one.
The history of this place is soaked in deep seated spiritualism that permeates the entire valley. There are several rich legends about Bumthang that adds to mystique of the place. It was also also home to the revered teacher Pema Lingpa to whom the present ruling dynasty is believed to be linked. Places of interest include Jambay Lhakhang, Kurje Lhakhang, Tamshing Lhakhang, and Jakar Dzong. Other tourist attractions in Bumthang include Tangbi Goemba, Ngang Lhakhang, Ngang Lhakhang, Mebartsho and Ura Valley.
The trek from Bumthang to Mongar is considered to be one of the best ones that rates high on the must-do lists of nature lovers. Spectacular valleys, breathtaking sceneries and lovely flowers scattered across the landscape make for a picture-perfect image. This destination heralds the beginning of Eastern Bhutan. Places of interest include Mongar Dzong, and Lhuntse. Mongar Dzong is among the newest of Dzongs to be built in Bhutan, yet the architectural style followed is in keeping with the ancient standards. Lhuntse is among the most isolated districts in the country; the special textiles of the region are considered the best in the country.
Once serving as a busy trade route with Tibet, today, Trashigang is the largest district in the country. Places worth a visit include Trashigang Dzong that offers a majestic view of the countryside. The temple of Gom Kora is another tourist attraction where the revered Guru Rinpoche is believed to have meditated.
Famous for its wooden containers and bowls, Trashiyangtse is also renowned for its scenic beauty. A lovely place for those interested in a memorable nature walk, there is a interesting art school that is also worth a visit. Important places of interest include Chorten Kora, which is built based on the Boudhanath stupa in Nepal. Nature enthusiasts should not miss out on this destination as it is the winter resting place of black-necked cranes.
Places of Interest in Chhukha
The border town of Phuentsholing is a flourishing commercial centre of the country, situated at the base of Himalayan foothills. The population here is a mix of different ethnic groups; Indians, Nepalese and Bhutanese. This charming town is an important link to the Indian states of West Bengal, Sikkim and Assam.
This small temple is situated in the heart of the city, representing the heaven of Guru Rinpoche. Statues of eight manifestations of the Guru and paintings depicting Buddha’s life adorn the ground floor. On the next floor are eight Bodhisattavas and effigies of Avalokiteshvara and Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. The main statue of Amitabha is on the top floor.
Situated at an elevation of 400m, this monastery offers splendid views of Phuentsholing town. It was established in 1967 by Royal Grand Mother, Ashi Phuntsho Choedron. Inside the monastery are beautiful paintings reflecting upon the life of Buddha and statues of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and Guru Rinpoche.