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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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, 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.
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.
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.
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.
Where traditional medicine which is prepared from herbs is still practiced here
in this Hospital.
Where thousands of manuscripts and ancient texts are stored, as well many modern
Painting School - Located above the library. At this school, children learn the
traditional techniques and painting.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.