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Tourist Places To Visit In Bhutan
Surrounded by snow peaked mountains, pristine rivers, and green valleys, Bhutan is a peaceful country dotted by monasteries and dzongs, and sheer natural beauty. The fresh air and greenery here offer a pleasant getaway for travelers. And the tranquil air of the monasteries and hills all around offer a rejuvenating experience. If you are planning to visit this magical Himalayan kingdom, here's our top picks of places you must visit in Bhutan, from Paro to the capital city Thimphu, from Punakha to Bumthang and Dochula Pass.
It is believed that somewhere in the 8th century Guru Rimpoche flew in from Tibet on the back of a flying tigress to Bhutan and landed here where he meditated before preaching Buddhism to the people of Bhutan; hence this monastery is one of the most important places in Bhutan. The monastery is located on a granite cliff in the high mountains of Paro. Hidden away in the clouds, the sight from the monastery can take your breath away. Travellers can trek up to the monastery; the trek can take up to 2 hours and is completely worth it. The Taktsang Monastery is also referred to as the Tiger's nest because of the tale of the Guru Rimpoche.
The second largest and oldest monastery in Bhutan is truly a sight to cherish. Placed in between two rivers, the Pho Chu (male) and the Mo Chu (female), surrounded by lilac colored Jacaranda trees and the perfect climate, the monastery is rightly called the ‘Palace of Happiness’. A three-hour drive to the east from the capital city of Thimpu, Punakha Dzong is a must see in Bhutan. The monastery also houses relics from the past of various kings allowing visitors a peek into the rich history of Bhutan.
Buddha Dordenma Statue, Thimpu
The 169 feet Buddha statue situated in the capital city of Thimpu is believed to have fulfilled the prophecy of Yogi Sonam Zangpo that a statue will be erected in the region to bestow blessings, peace, and happiness to the world. The statue also commemorates the centennial of the Bhutanese Monarchy. With about thousand smaller Buddha statues made out of gold and bronze, this is one place if you have to visit if you plan a trip to Bhutan. The statue is visible from almost anywhere in Thimpu and the view of the city from here is amazing.
Found on the road to Punakha from Thimpu, the Dochula pass is one of the most beautiful places on the planet. With a breath-taking view of the snow-clad peak of the Gangkar Puensum in the background and 108 stupas or chortens built in the memory of soldiers, the pass is one of the most famous places in Bhutan. The pass is adjacent to the first botanical garden in Bhutan, the Royal Botanical Garden and gives you a view of the beautiful Rhododendron garden that the botanical garden houses.
Sometimes known as the ‘bride of the Kanchenjunga’, Jomolhari is believed to be the abode of the goddess Jomo who was a disciple of Guru Rimpoche and was bound by oath to him to protect the people of the region. The splendid snow-clad peak of the Jomolhari is at an elevation of around 7000 meters. The glacial lakes and the view of the valleys will make you feel like you are in paradise. The Jomolhari trek, one of the toughest treks in the region is also a popular attraction. Trekkers are rewarded with the mind-blowing view that awaits them here.
Head to Phobjikha Valley during November. Watch hoards of Black-necked cranes migrate to the valley. Enjoy the endless views, the distant snow-peaked mountains and the lush forests surrounding the valley all around. This is the perfect destination for hikers. Just pack a filling snack and head out.
The Bhutanese capital Thimphu is located in a gorgeous valley in the heart of country’s west. It is the centre of Bhutan government and also home to all the hustle and bustle in the country. From Buddhist shrines and sites to monasteries, you will find palaces too here. Visit Tashichho Dzong, which is a government palace with roof made of golden leaves. This is also a monastery with strong fort walls. Don’t miss touring Fort Heritage Museum, Memorial Chorten and Buddha Dordenma.
Another beautiful tranquil town of Bhutan, Paro is known for being home to the renowned Tiger’s Nest monastery — Taktsang Palphug. Paro is also the only place in Bhutan that has an international airport. You can visit the Tiger’s nest, hike through the dense forests of Paro’s valley, check out the great fort of Drukgyel Dzong and indulge in activities like kayaking, rafting, mountain biking and steep trekking.
A Himalayan town in Bhutan, Punakha is known for its Dzong or fortress. Punakha Dzong is a strong fortress located at the crossing of Mo Chhu and Pho river, dating back to 17th Century CE. Their festival named Punakha Tshechu hosted in the fortress is very famous, attracting locals and tourists alike for their dancers in costumes and masks. You can also visit Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten and Chimi Lhakhang temple here.
Phuntsholing makes for a border town between Bhutan and India. It forms the southernmost portion of the country, and is known for the famous Bhutan Gate. You can also visit the Karbandi Monastery, Zangto Pelri Lhakhang and go for a stroll to Torsa River Side. Tourists also swear by the Amo Chhu Crocodile Breeding Centre, where you get to see these crocs up close in their habitat.
Bumthang is one of the ancient-most temples in Bhutan. It is considered one of the 20 ‘dzongkhags’ here. The sacred place is home to 4 gorgeous mountain valleys that meet like nature’s seamless painting. The valleys of Choekhor, Tang, Chumey and Ura come together to form the whole of Bumthang Valley. Visit Jakar Dzong, Jampa Lhakhang, Mebar Tsho and Tharpaling Goemba while here in the valley.
Wangdue Phodrang is a district of Bhutan that is the largest dzongkhag here. This place is protected for the most part, conserving its biodiversity in the form of Wangchuck Centennial Park, Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park and Jigme Dorji National Park. You can visit these parks to enjoy the wildlife and nature, and make friends with the ‘mountain people’ that inhabit this region. Places to visit here include Phobjikha Valley to see the Black Necked Cranes which are now endangered. You can also get to sight leopards, tigers, red pandas, spotted eagles and White-Bellied Heron
Haa Valley is a perfect day picnic when in Bhutan. It is one of those un-missables here. With very few people inhabiting the valley, you can be guaranteed a tranquil, virgin surrounding. Nature lovers and wanderers find Haa Valley particularly lovely. The fauna, avi fauna and flora here are all mesmerising, creating a quiet harmony of elements. Hikers, bikers, trekkers and those who wish to go on the 'road less travelled' find their feet turning towards Haa.
Simtokha Dzong is located in Thimphu. The word dzong literally translates to temple fortress, and in truth, a dzong is a fortress that also houses a monastery in a large portion of its area. This particular Dzong of Thimphu dates back to the 1600s, and holds great historical significance. The tourism here is also owing to the museum that has been setup inside the fortress, where you get to learn about Bhutan’s history, culture and language. Do visit if you are a history buff.
Mo Chu River
Mo Chu river of Bhutan is the hub of a horde of adventure and water sports. From trekking to hiking, biking to river rafting, you get your adrenaline kick here like nowhere else. With its Class 2 rapids that are wide and varied, you get to enjoy amazing river rafting, some even taking you past the famous Punakha Dzong.
Punakha Suspension Bridge
The Punakha Suspension Bridge is an ancient bridge in Punakha that makes for a very important landmark and tourist spot in the town. When Punakha was the capital of Bhutan back in the day, this bridge built over Po Chhu served as one of the primary roads connecting Punakha Dzong with the rest of the town. It is also Bhutan’s longest suspension bridge too. You can stroll on this bridge and enjoy the scenery, or click a thousand pictures for your desktop wallpaper!
Soi Yaktsa Trek
Bhutan is a highly active and adventurous tourist destination. Treks are pretty famous here, and Soi Yaktsa Trek is one of the renowned types. This trek route leads you up to a peak that sits at 4700 m height, showing you amazing views. You get to see Jichu Drake and Jumolhari Peak from here. The basecamp of Soi Yaktsa Trek is in Paro, from where you climb up Tshophu Lake and then Bhonte La Pass. The trek culminates only when you reach the fortress Drugyal Dzong.
Jigme Dorji National Park
Situated in Gasa, Jigme Dorji National Park is Bhtan’s second biggest park. Some of the most coveted wildlife sighting experience here is all about endangered species. There are also Bengal tigers, clouded leopards, Himalayan black bears and Himalayan blue sheep roaming around freely. There are also beautiful lakes and snow capped mountains that pepper the greens of the forest. The national park is about 122 km away from Bhutan’s capital Thimphu.
Clock Tower Square
Thimphu’s famous landmark, the Clock Tower Square is a very important tourist attraction here. The four faces of this tower have four clocks, with paintings and carvings to add an artistic touch. From flowers to fairy dragons, the tower symbolises a lot of what Bhutan has culturally represented over the centuries. There are quite a few small restaurants and shops around this tower, where you can lounge happily and enjoy the view. The town square is also great to stroll or window shop.
The Folk Heritage Museum
Museums are the guards of a culture’s heritage. In Bhutan, the Folk Heritage Museum houses a line of Bhutan’s artefacts. And does so in a unique way. The building is an old mud house that is held aloft on wooden pillars. It dates back 150 years, and is staged to show you what an old Bhutanese house looked like. From barn to store house to living area — you will get to experience a real authentic 19th century home.
Shopping in Bhutan is not malls and boutiques but small stalls and weekend markets. Not that you won’t find the former, but the latter is just so authentic and magnetic. At the weekend Market in Thimphu, you not only get to enjoy the breeze of Wang Chhu river flowing by, but also pick and choose and bargain for souvenirs, small trinkets, local street food and incenses. The market starts Thursday night and goes on until Sunday night.