Paro (2,200m / 7,218ft) :
The beautiful valley of Paro encapsulates within itself a rich culture, scenic beauty and hundreds of myths and legends. It is home to many of Bhutan’s oldest temples and monasteries, National museum and country’s only airport. Mount Jhomolhari (7,314m) reigns in white glory at the northern end of the valley and its glacial water plunge through deep gorges to form Pa Chhu (Paro River).
Places of Interest in Paro :
Built in 1646 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the first spiritual and temporal ruler of Bhutan, the Dzong houses the monastic body of Paro, the office of the Dzongda (district administrative head) and Thrimpon (judge) of Paro district.
Ta Dzong :
One time watch tower built to defend Rinpung Dozng during inter-valley wars of the 17th century. It holds fascinating collection of art, relics, religious thangkha paintings and Bhutan’s exquisite postage stamps.
Drukgyel Dzong :
This Dzong, with a delightful village nestling at its foot, was built in 1646 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to commemorate his victory over the Tibetan invaders. The glory of Drukgyel Dzong remained even when it was destroyed by fine in 1951. On a clear day, one can see the commanding view of mount. Jhomolhari from the village, below the Dzong.
Kyichu Lhakhang :
It is one of the oldest and most sacred shrines of the Kingdom dating back to 7th century (the other is Jambey Lhakahng in Bumthang).
Taktshang Lhakhang (Tiger’s Nest) :
It is one of the most famous of Bhutan’s monasteries, perched on the side of a cliff 900m above the Paro valley floor. It is said that Guru Rinpoche arrived here on the back of a tigress and meditated at this monastery and hence it is called ‘Tiger’s Nest’. This site has been recognized as a most sacred place and visited by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1646 and now visited by all Bhutanese at least once in their life time.
Thimphu (2,400m / 7,875 ft) :
The capital town of Bhutan and the centre of government, religion and commerce, Thimphu is a unique city with unusual mixture of modern development alongside ancient traditions. Although not what one expects from a capital city, Thimphu is still a fitting and lively place.
Places of Interest in Thimphu :
Also know as ‘fortress of the glorious religion’, it was initially built in 1641 and later rebuilt in its present form by King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk in 1965. The Dzong houses, main secretariat building and it also has the throne room of His Majesty, the King of Bhutan.
Memorial Chorten :
This stupa was built in 1974 in the memory of Bhutan’s third King, His Late Majesty, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, who is popularly regarded as Father of modern Bhutan. The paintings and statues inside the monument provide a deep insight into Buddhist philosophy.
Simtokha Dzong :
Five miles from Thimphu stands the 17th century Simtokha Dzong standing on a lofty ridge. Built in 1627, the oldest Dzong in the country, it now huses the School for Buddhist studies.
National Library :
The history of Bhutan lies imprinted in archaic texts, which are preserved at the National Library. Besides thousands of manuscripts and ancient texts, the library also has modern academic books and printing blocks fro prayer flags.
Arts & Crafts School :
This school teaches the techniques of traditional thangkha paintings. On a visit, one can see students at work producing intricate design on cloth.
Folk Heritage Museum :
Established in year 2001, it provides deep insight into classical Bhutanese rural lifestyle by displaying original artifacts.
Textile Museum :
Established in year 2001, it displays Bhutan’s finest woven embroidery and appliqué textiles along with age old production techniques like weaving, dying and spinning.
Handicrafts Emporium :
There are various Handicrafts Emporiums n town displaying a wide assortment of beautifully hand – woven and crafted products.
Wangdue Phodrang (1,300m / 4,265 ft) :
Wangduephodrang is the last town on the central highway before central Bhutan. The town is not more than an enlarged village with a few well – provided shops. Located in the south of Punakha, the higher reaches of the Wangduephodrang valley provide rich pastureland for cattle. This district is also famous for its fine bamboo products, slate and stone carvings.
Places of Interest in Wangduephodrang :
Wangduephodrang Dzong :
Sitting on top of the hill at the confluence of Punakha Chhu and Tang Chhu rivers, Wangduephodrang Dzong is town’s most visible features. The Dzong is open for visitors during Wangduephodrang festival celebrated in autumn.
Punakha (1,300m / 4,265 ft) :
Punakha served as the capital of Bhutan until 1955 and still it is the winter seat of Je Khento (the chief abbot). Blessed with temperate climate and owing to its natural drainage from Pho Chhu (male) and Mo Chhu (female rivers, the Punakha valley produces abundant crops and fruits. There are splendid views of the distant Himalayas at Dochula pas (alt. 3,050m) on Thimphu – Punakha road.
Places of Interest in Punakha :
Punakha Dzong :
Built strategically at the junction of Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu rives in 1637 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to serve as the religious and administrative centre of the region, Punakha Dzong has played an important role in Bhutan’s history. Damaged by four catastrophic fires and an earthquake, the Dzong has been fully restored by the present King.
Trsongsa (2,300m / 7,545 ft) :
Trongsa forms the central hub of the nation and is historically the place from where attempts at unifying the country were launched. Both His Majesty King Ugyen Wangchuck, the Penlop of Trongsa, who was elected the country’s first hereditary monarch and his successor, King Jigme Wangchuck, ruled the country from Trongsa ancient seat. The Crown Prince of Bhutan normally holds the position of the Trongsa Penlop prior to ascending the throne including the present King who was appointed Penlop in 1972, shortly before his succession to the throne.
Places of Interest in Trongsa :
Chendbji Chorten :
Approximate four hours drive from Wangdephodrang is Chendbji Chorten, patterned on Swayambhunath temple in Kathmandu. It was built in 18the century by Lama Shida, from Tibet, to cover the remains of an evil spirit that was subdued at this spot.
Trongsa Dzong :
Like almost all towns in the Kingdom, this Dzong architecture dominates the entire Trongsa horizon dwarfing the surrounding buildings. Built in 1648, it was the seat of power over central and eastern Bhutan. Both the first and second King ruled the country from this ancient seat. Protected from invaders by an impenetrable valley, Trongsa Dzong is an impregnable fortress.
Ta Dzong :
This watch tower which once guarded Trongsa Dzong from internal rebellion, stands impressively and provides visitors an insight into historical significance of Trongsa in Bhutan’s history.
Bumthang (2,600m, 4,500m / 8,530-14, 765 ft) :
Bumthang has an individuality that charms its visitors and separates it from other regions. Comprising of four smaller valleys, the deeply spiritual region of Bumthang is also the traditional home to the great Buddhist teacher Pema Lingpa to whose descendants the present dynasty traces its origin.
Places of Interest in Bumthang :
Jambey Lhakhang :
This monastery was built in the 7th century by Tibetan King, Songtsen Gampo. It is one of the 108 monasteries built by him t subdue evil spirits n the Himalayan region. Its present architectural appearance dates from the early 20th century.
Kurje Lhakhang :
Situated before Jambey Lhakhang, Kurje Lhakhang consist of three temples. The one on the right was built in 1652 on the rack face where Guru meditated in the 8th century. Second temple is built on the site of a cave containing a rock with the imprint of Guru’s body and is therefore considered the most holy. The third temple was built in 1990s by Ashi Kesang, the queen mother. These three Temples are surrounded by a 108 chorten wall.
Tamshing Lhakhang :
Located opposite Kurje Lhakhang on the other side of the river, this temple was founded in 1501 by TertonPema Lingpa, the reincarnation of Guru Padsambhava. The monastery has very ancient religious paintings like 1,000 Buddhas and 21 Taras (female form of Buddhistava). The temple was restored at the end of the 19th century.
Jakar Dzong :
Built in 1549 by the great grandfather of the first Shabdrung, the Dzong was initially built as monastery. It was upgraded in 1646, after the Shabdrung had firmly established his power. Jakar Dzong is now used as the administrative centre for Bumthang valley and also houses the regional monk body.
Phuentsholing (300m / 985 ft) :
The frontier town, it is a thriving commercial centre, situated directly at the base of Himalayan foothills. It is a fascinating place where different ethnic groups mingle, prominently Indian, Bhutanese and Nepalese. Being the border town, Phunetsholing serves as the convenient entry / exit point for Bhutan and also the important link to visit the Indian state of West Bengal, Sikkim and Assam.
Places of Interest in Phuentsholing :
Zangtho Pelri :
Situated in city centre, this small temple represents the heaven of Guru Rinpoche. At ground level there are statues of the eight manifestations of Guru Rinpoche and paintings depicting scenes from the life of Buddha. The floor above contains wall paintings of the eight Bodhisattvas and statues of Avalokiteshvara and Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. On the top floor, the main statues is of Amitabha.
Kharbandi Goemba :
Founded in 1967 by Royal Grand Mother, Ashi Phuntsho Choedron and situated at the altitude of 400m, this beautiful monastery contains paintings on the life of Buddha, statues of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and Guru Rinpoche. From the monastery garden there is a fascinating view of Phuentsholing town and surrounding plains.