Places To Visit In Bhutan...

The places of tourist interest in Western Bhutan are Paro, Thimphu the capital and Punakha the old capital. In Central Bhutan Tongsa the ancestral seat of Bhutan’s ruling dynasty and the bucolic beauty of the high valley of Bhumthang are most visited by tourists. Large fortress monasteries called dzongs dominate the valleys of Bhutan and are the administrative centers of the regions. Classic examples of Bhutanese architecture, they have gently tapering walls, single roofs, large countryards with tall towers or “Ushi” in the centre, and beautiful galleries

A few years old, Thimphu was built by the late king Jigme Dorje Wangchuk, to replace the ancient capital of Punakha a mountain range away. At an altitude of 7,710 ft in the fertile valley of the Wang Chu river, the capital Thimphu is an engaging blend of the old and the new. A unique law, which retains the forms and motifs of Bhutan's traditional architecture even in new buildings, give Thimphu a delightful structural harmony. The capital's most striking visual landmark is the magnificent Tashichhodzong, which is the seat of the Royal Government and Central Monastic Body.

To the west of Thimphu, the Phajoding monastery overlooks the town from 10,000 feet and commands a splendid view of whole area. Visitors may also go to Dontsho la pass for an impressive vista of snow peaks, lakes, streams and alpine flowers, and to Dochu la, another scenic mountain pass, where the panorama of vivid rhododendrons and azaleas against the backdrop of the great Himalayas is breathtaking.

With patchwork fields, willow glades, murmuring trout filled streams and scattered hamlets, Paro is the most attractive of Bhutan’s valleys, the air exudes a sense of profound peace. It was here that Padma Sambhava, better known as Guru Rimpoche, came from India in the 8th century with the message of the Lord Buddha. At 7,382 ft Paro is the only airport site of Bhutan. Besides the colourful spring Tsechu, Paro has a number of sights and monuments to enthrall the visitor. The pastoral beauty of Paro valley, magnificent views of Mount Jhomolhari, the incredible monastery of Taktsang which clings to a sheer rock cliff, the ruins of Drukgyel Dzong - fortress of the victorious Drupas and the National Museum, housed in an ancient watchtower, are a few of the attractions that make Paro one of the high-points of any holiday in Bhutan.

Below the Dzong, across a covered medieval bridge, is uggen palri a royal palace, where architect’s imagination reached, here to unattainable peaks in the ecstasy of devotion. Here is Bhutan’s architecture at its height. About 6.5 km north of the Dzong, is the legendary and most revered sacred shrine in Bhutan Kytchu-Lakhang was built in the seventh century, the wooden floor tells the tale of the years of prostration by the devout monks, for goughed into the heavy timber are footprints as clear as if freshly made. The Queen Mother of the present king recently added a new chapel dedicated to the Guru Rimpoche with a great image of the saint crafted by Bhutan’s foremost artisans.

Vhunzom Or Confluence
In an area called “Vhunzom” or confluence the meeting place of the Para Chu and Wang Chu rivers branch roads lead off to Paro and the Ha valleys. This was an important station in Bhutan’s once thriving trade with Tibet, beyond it lies the Chumbi valley.

Taktsang and Kyichu
Beyond Paro, the road runs along the river valley to the Tibetan border. A few miles down the road, a side track leads onwards Tastsang a gem-like monastery that clings to a sheet 3,000 foot rock face. The name Taktsang means “Tiger’s Nest” for the legend that Padma Sambhava, the bringer of Buddhism, flew here from Tibet on the back of a Tiger. Today pilgrims and other visitors reach it by crossing a bridge and mounting a steep, winding track on horseback. The monks welcome visitors and will readily act as guides and show their small sacred library. Another 15 minutes further along, even higher Thantaktsang is the Sang-Tog Peri monastery. Its name literally means “the temple of heaven” a claim which no one who sees it, would think to contest.

The old capital a three hour drive to the east of thimphu takes one to the old capital of Bhutan i.e punakha. A superb example of Bhutanese architecture, the punakha dzong majestically stand on the bank of the river punakha. With abundance of trouts, the punakha river is considered an angler’s paradise. Blessed with a temperate climate and drained by Pho - Chu (Male) and Mo - Chu (Female) rivers the fertile valley of Punakha produces rich crops. Until 1955, Punakha served as the Capital of Bhutan and even today, it is the winter seat of the Je khenpo (chief Abbot) and the central Monk body. The Dzong was built at the junction of the two rivers in the 17th century by Shabdrung Nawang Namgyel. At present it serves as the winter residence for the central Monk body and administration center for the valley.

Paro Valley
This beautiful valley, where nature & man conjured to create their dearest image, with its rich terraced farmland, is home to some of Bhutan's oldest Temples & Monasteries as well as Bhutan's only Airport. To the north of the valley Mount. Jhomolhari at a height of 7300 meters reigns in white glory and the glacier water from its peak plunge, through deep gorges finally forming pa - Chu or Paro River.

Drukgyal Dzong
The dzong with a delightful village nestling at its foot was built in 1647 by Shabdrung Nawang Namgyel to commemorate his victory over the Tibetan invaders led by Mongolian warlord, Gushri khan 1644. Historically & strategically this Dzong withstood all its glory and had captured western eyes in 1914 vide National geographic magazine. The glory of Drukgyal Dzong remained even when it was destroyed by fire in 1951. Since then the dzong has been in ruins. On a clear day one can see the commanding view of Mount. Jhomolhari from the village.

Taksang Monastery
Literally meaning Tiger's nest; built around the cave in which Guru Padmasambava meditated in the eight century, clings seemingly impossible to a cliff of rock at 800 meters above paro valley. It is believed that Guru Rimpoche landed on this spot in a miraculous manner, flying on the back of a tigress. For local people it is a place for pilgrimage but for tourist a hike up to the view point cafe opposite the monastery is breathtaking, thrilling and mystical.

Ringpung Dzong
Meaning fortress on the heap of jewels was built during the time of Shabdrung Nawang Namgyel in 1646. The approach to the dzong is through the traditional covered bridge called Nemi Zam. A walk through the bridge to the dzong is very interesting. The dzong now houses the paro Monastic body and the office civil administration for paro valley. It is also the venue of paro tsechu festival, held once a year during spring time.

Ta - Dzong
Located behind Ringpung Dzong on the hillside, is the castle shaped Ta - Dzong, one time used as watch tower to defend the Dzong below was built in 1651. Since 1967 the Dzong was re- established as the only national Museum and it has fascinating collections of Art, relics and religious Thankha painting.

Farm House
Bhutanese farm houses are very decorative. Built & painted in traditional style. The house looks very big from outside but it is quite simple inside. The houses are normally of 3 storeys. The ground floor is always used for cattle, top floor is used for drying hay and in the middle family lives. The best room in the house is always kept as family shrine. A visit to a farm house is very interesting to see how Bhutanese people live.

Thimphu Valley
Thimphu, the modern capital of Bhutan lies at an elevation of 2300 meters in a valley transverse by the Wang - Chu Thimphu river. The Tashichho Dzong the main secretariat building houses the Throne room of the King and the Summer residence of the central Monk body. The city of Thimphu is nothing like what a capital city is imagined to be. Nevertheless, for Bhutan it is a fitting and lively place. Unlike many modern cities, Thimphu has kept a strong national character in its architectural style.

Memorial Chorten
This chorten was built in 1974 in the memory of the Third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, who died in 1972. The paintings and Images inside the monument provide a very rare in - sight into Buddhist philosophy.

Tashichho Dzong
The Dzong which was initially built in the 17th century, was rebuilt in early 1960s by third King, H.M. Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, as the permanent capital of Bhutan. The dzong houses as the main secretariat building and summer residence for the central monk body. The dzong is opened for visitors during the Thimphu festival and in winter when the Monk body moves to Punakha.

Simtokha Dzong
Six kilometers away from Thimphu, on a lofty ridge. Built in 1627, this oldest Dzong in the country now houses the school for Buddhist studies.

Indigenous Hospital
Where traditional medicine which is prepared from herbs is still practiced here in this Hospital.

National library
Where thousands of manuscripts and ancient texts are stored, as well many modern printing blocks.
Painting School - Located above the library. At this school, children learn the traditional techniques and painting.

Wangdi Phodrang
Towards the south of Punakha, located at the altitude of 1,350 meters is Wandgdi Dzong, built again in the 17th century by Shabdrung. The Dzong stands at the confluence of Punakha - Chu and Tang - Chu river. The higher reaches of the valley provides rich pastureland for cattle. Phubjikha valley in Wangdi Phodrang is the winter place for the rare black neck cranes. The district is also known for its fine bamboo work and its slate carvings.

The landscape around Tongsa is spectacular, and for miles on the end of the Dzong seems to tease you, wondering if you will ever reach there.

Tongsa Dzong
Built in 1648 is the ancestral home of the Bhutan's Royal family. Both the first & second kings ruled the country from this ancient seat. All four kings of Bhutan held the post of Tongsa penlop prior to being crowned as King. A massive structure with many levels which slopes down the contour of hill on which it is set. Because of its highly strategic position on the only connecting route between eastern & western sectors the Tongsa penlop was able to control the whole of the eastern region effectively for centuries.

Bumthang Valley
To the east of Tongsa lies Bumthang valley at the altitude of 2,600 meters, where tales of Guru Padmasambava & his re - incarnations known as Lingpa dominates the holy places. The valley is home to some of the most sacred and the oldest Monasteries in the country. Jambey Lhakhang built by Tibetan King Songten Gembo, incarnation of Buddha of compassion, in the 7th century, is among 108 monasteries built by him to subdue the evil spirit in the Himalayan region.

Kurje Lhakhang
The Monastery located above Jambey Lhakhang, consists of three temples. The first one on the right side being the oldest built in 1652 on the rock face where Furu Rimpoche meditated in the 8th century. The second Temple is the holiest because this is the site of a cave containing a rock with the imprint of Guru Rimpoche's body. The cave is not visible as it is concealed by a large statue of Guru Rimpoche. The third temple was built on this holy place by the present Queen Mother of Bhutan is yet to complete. The three Temples are surrounded by a 108 chorten (stupa) wall, which is the symbol to dedicate it to each joint of human body.

Tamshing Lhakhang
Located opposite Kurje Lhakhang on other side of the river was founded in 1501 by Terton Pema Lingpa, reincarnation of Guru Padmasambava. The monastery has very interesting religious paintings inside such as thousand Buddhas and twenty one Taras (female form of Buddhisatawa). This temple was later restored at the end of 19th century.

Jakar Dzong
Founded by great grand Father of Shabdrung Nawang Namgyal was initially built as monastery in 1549. The monastery was later rebuilt as Dzong during the time of Shabdrung after he had firmly established his power in 1646. The Dzong is now used as Administration center for Bumthang valley.

Mongor is the site of one of Bhutan's newest Dzong built in 1930s following the traditional architectural pattern handed down through times, without any plans on paper or the use of any nails. A visit to the Dzong gives visitors an impression of how over the centuries traditional Bhutanese architecture has continued to exist to this day without any changes.

In the far east of Bhutan, on the bank of Gamri chu river, lies Tashigang, the Country's largest district. Tashigang Dzong stands on the hill slope below the main street. The Dzong built in the mid 17th century, serves as the Administrative seat for the district, as well as school for the monks. Tashigang once the center of a busy trade with Tibet, is today the junction of the east west highway with road connecting to Samdrup Jongkhar and then to the Indian state of Assam.