Travel Destinations

 

Paro

PARO

Paro is one of the most fertile valleys in Bhutan and aptly known as ‘The rice bowl of Bhutan’. The only international airport in located in this Dzongkhag making it the only entry point via air to Bhutan. According to Tourism Council’s draft annual report for 2011, more than 50% of the total tourists to Bhutan visited Paro Dzongkhag. The total number of tourists received in Paro stood at 36, 432. Red Rice from Paro is considered as a specialty.

 

Places of interest:

Taktshang ( Tiger's Nest) is one of the most sacred of monasteries in Bhutan built around a cave in which Guru Rimpoche meditated after he flew there riding on the back of a flying tigress. It sits perched on cliff at 3,000 feet (800m.) and is frequented the year round by pilgrims and tourists.

Rinpung Dzong (fortress on a heap of jewels) was built in 1646 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel on a hill that rises from the Paro River. Presently, it acts as the administrative building and houses the Paro monastic body and the office of the Dzongda (governor), Thrimpon (Judge) and other offices of Paro district.

Ta Dzong or the watchtower, built in the 17th century, is located on a hillside that lies adjacent to Rinpung Dzong. In olden days it was used to defend the Dzong during civil wars and foreign invasion. Today, it serves as the National Museum of Bhutan.

Drugyel Dzong (Victorious Fortress), as its name suggests is famously known as the point from where the Bhutanese repelled several Tibetan invasions. Today only ruins remains of the one majestic fortress, but is one of the favorite places of the tourists. One can get a magnificent view of Mount Jumolhari from here.

Kyichu Lhakhang (monastery) is the oldest temple in the country that was built in the 7th century by the Tibetan King Songsten Gampo. Of the 108 temples built by him, two are in Bhutan with one being the Kichu Lhakhang.

Dungtse Lhakhang was built in the 1433 century by Thangthong Gyalpo, the iron bridge builder. It is located near the new Paro town bridge.

Tamchoe Monastery or Lhakhang was also built by Thangthong Gyalpo and is located near Chuzomsa, which is midway point to Thimphu.

Paro town is a quaint little two lane town. Here one can get a glimpse of convergence of modern style to traditional architecture of the buildings. There are numerous handicraft shops one can visit, and if lucky one can witness the game of archery being played in the ground nearby the town.

 
Thimphu
The capital city of Bhutan sees a mixture of traditional Bhutanese way of life and western influence. It is the only capital city after Pyongyang in North Korea without traffic lights. It is booming town with new buildings mushrooming all over it. As the centre of the government, it is the most populated of places with over one sixth of the population based here. Therefore, Thimphu represents the urban way of life in Bhutan.

Places of interest:

Tashichho Dzong was re-constructed in 1968 and presently acts as the throne room of the King of Bhutan. It is also the summer residence of the monastic body and houses the office for the Je-Khenpo (Chief Abbot) and other government offices.

Centenary Farmers Market is a vegetable market that operates throughout the week. Earlier it used to be a weekend market operating from Friday till Sunday.

The Handicrafts Emporium is an ideal place for shopping for authentic Bhutanese goods like the beautiful hand-woven and crafted products of Bhutan.

The National Memorial Chorten is located near the Thimphu referral hospital and was built in dedication to the Third King of Bhutan. One can come across a huge crowd circumambulating the Chorten.

Simtokha Dzong, the oldest Dzong in the country was built in 1627. Today, it houses the School for Buddhist Studies.

The National Library in Kawajangsa was built in 1967. It contains a large collection of religious books and manuscripts in Dzongkha and Classical Tibetan along with the largest published book in the world.

The Buddha Dordenma statue is the largest Buddha statue in the world built recently atop the Kuensel Phodrang Mountain. It offers splendid view of Thimphu city from the east.

The National Post Office is located in the middle of the city and is a famous haunt for stamp collectors. The famous Bhutanese stamps can be bought from this post office.

The Clock Tower Square located in the middle of the city serves as a famous place associated with hosting of musical and other important events.

The National Folk Heritage Museum located in Kawajangsa houses many artifacts significant to the Bhutanese way of life and tries to showcase the ancient Bhutanese ways through these artifacts, dances and other exhibits.

The Institute of Traditional Medicine Services is located in Kawajangsa area and is the head office for the traditional medicine. It treats patients using the age old healing practices.

Dochula pass is one of the highest road pass in the country and offers a panoramic view of the Himalayan mountain range. The hill adjacent to the road is adorned with fluttering prayer flags.

Dochula Druk Wangyel Chorten consists of 108 stupas built in homage to the bravery of the Bhutanese army who successfully dispelled the Indian insurgents in 2003. The stupas were built by the Her Majesty Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck. The newly initiated Druk Wangyel Festival is held at this place.

Zilukha Nunnery in Zilukha region of Thimphu is the biggest nunnery in the country.

The National Institute for Zorig Chusum (Traditional Arts and Crafts) is one of the two institutes for the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan. The place is open to tourists and one can witness the students at work and training.

Takin Reserve is the only park in Bhutan that houses the National Animal of Bhutan, Takin (budorcas taxicolor). It is located on a hill enroute to the BBS Radio Tower.

Bhutan Broadcasting Service’s Radio tower is located on a hill that overlooks the city from the west.

Changangkha Monastery located on a hill in Changangkha was built in the 12th century by Phajo Drugom Zhigpo making it the oldest temple in Thimphu. The main or statue of the monastery is Chenrizig: a manifestation of Avolokitesawara.

Tango Monastery was built in the 13th century by Lama Gyalwa Lhanangpa and later reconstructed to its present form by Desi Tenzin Rabgye. Tango Monastery is located at a distance of 12 kilometer drive from Thimphu and requires a short hike of 45 minutes.

Cheri monastery was built in 1620 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel and was the first of the many monasteries built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel in Bhutan.The monastery is located on a hill opposite to Tango Monastery and similarly requires a short hike of 45 minutes.

 
Gasa

 

Gasa is the only Dzongkhag in Bhutan that is not connected by a road until recently. This aspect, however, adds up to the allure of the place, filling it with a mystical aura. Located in the extreme north it is a cold place with very harsh winters.

Places of interest:

Gasa Tashi Tongmon Dzong, built in the 17th century by Desi Tenzin Drukdra, presently serves as the administrative center of the Dzongkhag. Like most of the Dzongs in Bhutan, it was built as a fortress for safeguarding the nation against foreign invasion.

Gasa Hot Springs is believed to have healing powers and is perhaps the most prominent attraction of the state. It brings in a huge number of locals as well as tourist throughout the year.

 

 
Punankha

 

 

Punakha is the old capital of Bhutan, and is the present the winter capital of the central monk body. It enjoys a relatively warm weather and the fields of Punakha are one of the most fertile in Bhutan. The main attraction of place is the majestic Dzong and Panache is famous as an ideal place for river rafting. Places of interest:

Punakha Dzong is an architectural marvel and considered to be the most beautiful Dzong in the country built in 1637 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel. It is a place of great reverence as the sacred relic ‘Rangjung Kharsapani’ and the embalmed body of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel is still preserved in the Dzong. Set between two rivers, which converge as one, the beautiful natural sight on offer is simply breathtaking. Its beauty clubbed with the rich history makes it one of the lead attractions bringing in tourists in huge numbers.

Chimmi Lhakhang was built in dedication to Drukpa Kuenley, the ‘Divine Madman’. The temple is known as the temple of fertility and one gets blessed by a phallus. The temple is believed to have special powers that help women unable to bear a child conceive.

Khamsum Yuellay Namgyel Temple was built by Her Majesty the Queen Mother for the well being of the kingdom and all sentient beings. Despite being one of the newer temples, it was built incorporating traditional architectural design.

Khuruthang town is relatively a new town formed as part of the relocation of the old town. It is located at a distance of 4 km from the Dzong.

Natural Hot springs are plenty in Punakha and of these, Khomo Tshachu and the Chhubu Tshachu are the most popular. These hot springs are believed to have healing powers and therefore are frequented by locals and tourists.

 

 
Trongsa

 

Trongsa is significant place from where the unification of Bhutan was initiated. It was one of the power strongholds from where the first King of Bhutan rose to power. At present, the crown prince has to hold the post of Trongsa Penlop (governor) before he can sit on the iron throne. One can get a glimpse of the black mountain range, the second mountain range after the Himalayas in Bhutan.

Places of interest:

Trongsa Dzong is one of the larger and more significant of the Dzongs in Bhutan. It was built in 1644 by Minjur Tenpa on the site of a temple erected a century earlier by Ngagi Wangchuk. The Dzong has gone several renovations and presently houses more than 20 temples inside it.

Ta Dzong or the watch tower stands impressively above the Dzong and provides a visitor with more insight into the historical significance of Trongsa in Bhutan's history.

Chendebji Chorten is located on the banks of Nikkar Chhu and was built in the 18th century by Lam Sidha, a Tibetan lama. The stupa was built in order to subdue a demon that was known to trouble the inhabitants of the region. It is one of the few stupas in Bhutan that is built in the Nepalese architectural style.

Pelela Pass is remembered as the ancient boundary that separated the west from central Bhutan. The pass is the second highest road point in the country. Like most of the high passes it too is adorned with several fluttering prayer flags.

View point to the Dzong: There is a cafeteria built on one of the curves on the road leading to Trongsa. The place provides picture perfect view of the Dzong. The view point is the starting point of an optional 45 minutes hike to the Dzong.

Phobjikha Valley is a glacial valley mainly known for its scenic beauty and as the winter roosting place of the endangered and majestic black necked cranes. It remains as one of the most frequented of places by the tourists. The people of the valley gained much acclaim for opting to live without electricity in a bid to avoid human wildlife conflict. This noble choice didn’t go unrewarded. The Austrian government in a goodwill gesture took on to a rural electrification program by using ground electrification technology.

Gangtey Goenpa is a sacred monastery located in Phobjikha. The temple has on exhibit what is said to be the skin of the mystical Yeti.

 
Bumthang

 

Bumthang is one of the more beautiful of region with its scenic beauty resembling to that of Switzerland. It is a famous haunt for tourists and the effect is evident in the numerous hotel and resorts located in this region. It is relative a cold place with a number of sacred monasteries spread across the region.

Bumthang is famous for its woolen handicrafts, cheese, apples, apricots, Red Panda beer, and honey production. A domestic airstrip was recently constructed in Bumthang.

Places of interest:

Jakar Dzong (Fortress of the white bird) derives its name as result of an auspicious omen of a white bird landing on the place where a temple was being constructed. Later, a Dzong was built by Minjur Tempa in 1646 where the temple built by Ngagi Wangchuk stood. The Dzong was rebuilt by the first King of Bhutan Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck in 1905, after the Dzong had suffered some damages from an earthquake in 1897.

Jambey Lhakhang with Kichu Lhakhang in Paro is the oldest monastery in the country. Like Kichu monastery in Paro, it is one of 108 temples built by the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo on a single day. The famous ‘Mewang’ or the Fire Ceremony and the ‘Tercham’ or the Naked Dance is held here during the Jambey Lhakhang Drup.

Kurjey Lhakhang was built in the 17th century by Chogyal Minjur Tempa on the meditation site of Guru Rimpoche. Near the temple is a rock which bears the sacred body imprint of Guru Rimpoche. The tall cypress tree that grows besides the monastery is believed to have grown from the walking staff of Guru Rimpoche.

Wangdichhoeling Palace was built by Trongsa Penlop Jigme Namgyel in 1857 on a site that was once a battle field. The palace was used as the summer residence of the second King Jigme Wangchuck.

Ura is one of the most beautiful villages in Bumthang and is located along the highway to Mongar. There are several historic monasteries located in this region.

Tamzhing monastery used to be the seat of Terton Pema Lingpa and is located across the river from Kurjey Lhakhang. The monastery houses the main statue and murals personally sculpted and painted by Terton Pema Lingpa. The highlight of the monastery ,however, is a chain mail personally sculptured by Pema Lingpa. The chain mail is believed to impart blessing and devotees carry it and circumambulate the inner sanctum.

The Mebar Tsho or the “Burning Lake” is located at a distance of about an hour’s drive from the Chamkhar town. The name burning lake was mainly derived from an episode whereby Terton (treasure revealer) Pema Lingpa is said to have dived into it with a burning lamp. Pema Lingpa emerged from the lake with religious treasures and surprisingly with the butter lamp still burning.

Tang Valley is the birth place of Terton Pema Lingpa. The valley despite being unfertile is very scenic. The inhabitants of the valley largely depend on the yaks and sheep for their livelihood.

Kenchosum Lhakhang

 

 
East
viii. Mongar

Mongar or Zhongar as it was referred to in the ancient days is the entry point to eastern Bhutan. A referral hospital catering to the patients from the whole eastern region is located here. It is located on a hilly area and enjoys a temperate climate. Kheng in Mongar region is the place from where the best bamboo products come. Mongar is also famous for Tengma (beaten roasted maize).

 

Places of interest:

Mongar Dzong was built in 1953 making it one of the newer Dzongs in the country. It was built as per the traditional architectural pattern handed down through time and without is the usage of any nails or drawings.

Mongar town is a two lane small town. The calm town of Mongar gets lot busier during weekends when people from nearby villages come to trading purposes.

Ruins of the Zhongar Dzong, the old Dzong of Mongar can be seen as you cross the Lingmithang area located on the route to Mongar.

Drametse Monastery or Lhakhang was founded by Ani Choten Zangmo in the 16th century on a ridge where she meditated. Drametse literally translates as ‘the peak without enemies’. The biggest attraction of the monastery is the Drametse Ngachamm (masked dance) performed during the annual Drametse Tshechu.

Thrumshingla National Park is located near the Thrumshingla Pass, the highest road point in the country. The scenic ThrumshingLa National Park covers an estimated area of 905 sq kms and witnesses a varying range of vegetation; from temperate chirpine and blue pine forests to hemlock and colorful rhododendrons. The park also harbors some of the most endangered species of birds and animals in Bhutan.

 

ix. Tashigang

Tashigang literally translates as the Auspicious Mountain and the place used to the power stronghold of the Tashigangpa (governor of Tashigang), the great grandfather of Her Royal Highness Ashi Jetsun Pema. The entire eastern region was governed from this Dzongkhag from the late 17th century until the beginning of the 20th century.

Tashigang is best known for its high quality handloom products.

Places of interest:

Trashigang Dzong (the Fortress of the Auspicious Mountain) was built in 1659 by the third Druk Desi Minjur Tempa on a hilltop overlooking the Drangmechhu River. The entire Dzong was enlarged with an addition of a Goenkhang by the fourth Druk Desi Tenzin Rabgye in the 1680s.

Merak and Sakteng are two of the remotest eastern regions. The places were closed to tourism until recently. The people of these places semi-nomadic with their livelihood depending mainly on their Yaks. The yak produce like butter, cheese and yak-hair woven fabrics are bartered or sold to people of other communities. The sparse vegetation constitutes of vast swaths of alpine meadow, dwarf bamboos, and rhododendrons. The winters are extremely harsh and the snow covered trails make travelling to these places difficult. Therefore, spring is the most ideal season for visiting these places. The cold place is blessed with a scenic landscape that makes it an ideal trekking destination.

Yonphula Airport was recently opened as part of the construction of two domestic airstrips. The old army airstrip built in the early 1970s was enlarged and converted to the present domestic airstrip.

Khaling is located about an hour and a half drive from Trashigang. One of the oldest schools in the country is located here. The place is best known for its traditional handlooms.

Khaling Blind School is the only school for the blind or visually impaired in the country. It is located just below the Khaling satellite town.

Khaling Handloom Center was instituted with the funding from National Women Association of Bhutan (NWAB) whose main aim was to help the income generation for rural women through use of traditional weaving practices. The center trains rural weavers and helps them with finances and finding avenues for selling the products.

Rangjung Town is one of the newer towns in Tashigang that lie at about an hour drive from Tashigang town. The majestic Rangjung Yoedsel Choling Lhakhang is located here.

 

x. Tashiyangtse

Tashiyangtse, until the late 90s, was under Tashigang Dzongkhag and therefore is one of the newer Dzongkhags in the country located at the extreme east of the country. It borders the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. It is another roosting place for the endangered Black necked crane in Bhutan, and famously known for its wooden bowls and containers. The landscape is known to resemble the valley of Thimphu.

Places of interest:

The Bomdeling Wildlife Sanctuary is winter roosting grounds for the endangered black necked cranes. The sanctuary also provides a safe haven for tigers, red pandas and leopards amongst other wildlife forms.

The Tashiyangtse Dzong was built in the late 1990s after Tashiyangtse was designated as a new Dzongkhag. It makes it one of the newer Dzongs in the country.

Chorten Kora is one of the largest and most famous of stupas in Bhutan. It is located right below the Tashiyangtse town. It is considered to be the replica of Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu, but slightly smaller in size. It was constructed in 1740 by Lama Ngawang Loday after her had put down the design on a radish. The radish by the time it reached the place had dried up a bit and therefore justifying the shrinkage in size of Chorten Kora. Apart from the locals people from as far as Merak and Sakteng, and the neighboring Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh visit the Monastery.

Chazam (iron-chain link bridge) was built by Drubthob Thangthong Gyalpo the iron chain builder in the 15th century. He is said to have built a total of 108 bridges spread across Tibet and Bhutan. One can visit the abandoned site that has the remains of this famous iron bridge.

Gomkora is one of the most sacred places in eastern Bhutan known famously for it festival, the Gomkora tshechu. The three day festivals with its unique appeal draws in huge crowds from as far as Merak, Sakteng, and Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh in India. It is considered a blessing if a woman gets pregnant during the festival.

The monastery was built near the sacred rock on which an evil dragon was crushed by the Guru Rimpoche. The impressions of the dragon’s body and his hat is believed be on the rock. The Gomkora monastery is also known to have a Tshebum or vase containing water of immortality hidden within the confine of it.

The National Institute of Zorig Chusum the second institute for teaching Zorig Chusum or the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan is situated in the Dzongkhag.

 
Southern Bhutan

 

 

 

SOUTH-EAST BHUTAN

 

SAMDRUP JONGKHAR:  Elevation 180m

 

The southeastern town of Samdrup Jongkhar is a small border town, six-hour drive from Trashigang.  With generally warm weather, the district is ideal for birdwatching.

 

SOUTH-WEST BHUTAN

PHUENTSHOLING:  Elevation 300m

 

To the southwest lies Phuentsholing, a bustling industrial town that is the southern gateway to India.

It’s the drive from Phuentsholing to Thimphu that makes the journey from the south worthwhile as the high way takes you on a slow journey from the tropical plains through changing vegetation up to the higher altitudes of the Himalayan kingdom.

xiv. Gelephu

Gelephu under Sarpang Dzongkhag is the third road entry point to Bhutan and an important commercial town in the southern belt.

Gelephu Tshachu is one of the most frequented of hot springs in the country. The warm winters make it an ideal place for visits.

Gelephu Domestic Airstrip was build recently as part of the three domestic air destinations in the country. The airstrip is proposed to be upgraded to a cargo airstrip.

 

 
 

 

 

Central Bhutan

TRONGSA:  Elevation 2,316m

About four hour’s drive from Wangduephodrang is the central district of Trongsa, the ancestral home of Bhutan’s royal family, from where the first two kings ruled the kingdom.

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Western Bhutan

THIMPHU:  Elevation 2,320m

Thimphu is the capital of Bhutan with a population of approximately 100,000 people.  Thimphu became the capital in 1961, and the town is the largest in Bhutan.

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East & South

For those with enough time on their hands, venture into eastern Bhutan for something quite different.  This is the land of the Sharchops, who speak their own language and nurture their own culture and weave beautiful textiles.

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