Bhutan is divided into Western Bhutan, Central Bhutan and Eastern Bhutan. Bhutan is a country tucked high up in the Himalayas with magical natural beauty, great landscapes, majestic Himalayas and it’s unique Buddhist culture and heritage. No wonder the land of thunder dragon is packed with many places to visit at Bhutan. A wide number of Buddhist monasteries or dzongs, temples, age-old shrines, dzong fortresses are scattered all over the country. So, there are lots of things to see in Bhutan and things to do in Bhutan. These include sightseeing in Bhutan, trekking in Bhutan, rafting in Bhutan etc. Below are the famous places in Bhutan and important tourist places in Bhutan.
Taktsang Monastery (The Tigers Nest)
Taktsang Monastery also known as Tigers Nest located in the Cliffside, 3120 meters above the sea level is a sacred site of the Buddhist and attracts several travelers throughout the year. It is situated 900m above the Paro Valley and offers the picturesque view of the Paro Valley. Visiting the Paro Taktsang Monastery is a memorable experience as it is located at an isolated cliff away from the crowd and is surrounded by majestic mountains and beautiful green valleys. The refined architectural appearance of the Monastery is shaped in the best traditions of Buddhist. Monastery consists of white buildings with golden roofs. Paro Taktsang Monastery encompasses 4 main temples and several dwellings. The interior design of the temple mesmerizes with its luxurious beauty, the gold-plated dome and flickering lights illuminates the golden idols. A large statue of a tiger is located at the hall of Thousand Buddhas and is carved into the rock. The tiger is respected as the symbol of Paro Taktsang because of the legend, according to which the location of the Monastery was chosen by a tigress. The tigress brought here the founder of Bhutans Buddhism guru Padmasmabhava on her back.
Paro is a valley town in Bhutan, west of the capital, Thimphu. Paro valley starts from the confluence of the Paro Chhu and the Wang Chhu rivers at Chuzom up to Mt. Jomolhari at the Tibetan border to the North. This spectacular region is one of the biggest valleys in the kingdom and is covered in fertile rice fields and is ornamented with a beautiful, crystalline river meandering down the valley. The country’s first international airport is located in Paro. As Paro houses many historical and religious sites and only the international airport of the country, there are a large number of luxurious, high-end tourist resorts in Paro. Visitors often spend several days in Paro as there are over 155 temples and monasteries in this area, some dating as far back as the 14th century. Among them Taktsang Monastery is considered as the most popular and ideal landmark of Bhutan. This iconic temple is located upon a sheer cliff face, 900m above the Paro Valley. Dzongdrakha Temple and Kila Gompa are secondary examples of cliff-side temples that are also located in Paro Dzongkhag.
Trongsa Dzong is the largest dzong fortress in Bhutan, located in Trongsa district, in the centre of the country. It was built on a spur overlooking the gorge of the Mangde River in 1543 by the Drukpa Lama. It served as the seat of power over central and eastern Bhutan as both the first and second kings of Bhutan ruled the country from this ancient seat. All four kings were invested as Trongsa Penlop (governor) prior to ascending the throne. The dzong is a massive structure with many levels, sloping down the contours of the ridge on which it is built. Because of the dzongs highly strategic position, on the only connecting route between east and west, the Trongsa Penlop was able to control effectively the whole of the central and eastern regions of the country from here. And while the mechanics of state have largely moved to Thimphu, this great palace still holds great political and religious importance, and displays a mosaic of gorgeous 15th and 16th-century architecture typical of the region.
Situated in the western central part of Bhutan at an elevation of 2,320m (7,656 ft), Thimphu is the capital and largest and only city of the Kingdom of Bhutan. Thimphu was selected to be the capital of Bhutan in 1952 but was not officially established as the capital of Bhutan until 1961. Thimphu is the world’s third highest capital which is spread over an altitudinal range between 2,348 meters and 2,648m. The Kingdom’s capital city is home of Royal family. Thimphu reflects the culture of Bhutan in terms of literature, religion, custom and national dress code, monastic practices of the monasteries, music, dance and literature. Despites of number of restaurants, internet cafes, nightclubs and shopping centers in Thimphu, it retains its cultural identity and values amidst the signs of modernization. Thimphu is the only capital city in the world that does not use traffic lights. Thimphu serves as the best place for travelers to immerse themselves in the lifestyle of contemporary Bhutanese as Thimphu has the combination of both ancient tradition and modernity.
Jakar located at Choekor Valley is considered to be one of the most beautiful in all Bhutan, and it is commonly referred to as Little Switzerland is a spacious town which is surrounded by tree-covered mountains. Jakar is a bustling little one-street town with an abundance of restaurants and handicraft stores. Jakar sells a good amount of chugo, a hard, chewy dried cheese snack popular among Bhutanese. Internet cafes and the odd espresso bar have also started to make an appearance here. The Jakar Dzong or the Castle of the White Bird enhances the beauty of Chamkhar valley and overlooks the town. It was constructed in 1549, by the Tibetan Lam Nagi Wangchuk, which played an important role as the fortress of defense of the whole eastern Dzongkhags. It also served as the seat of the first king of Bhutan.
Punakha was the capital of Bhutan until the 1960s, later it was replaced by Thimphu but it still holds the serene atmosphere of a place with a majestic past. The major attraction of the valley can be given to Punakha Dzong, it has been inextricably linked with momentous occasions in Bhutanese history. It served as the capital of the country from 1637 to 1907 and the first national assembly was hosted here in 1953. It is the second oldest and second-largest dzong in Bhutan and one of the most majestic structures in the country. Punakha valley has a pleasant climate with warm winters and hot summers. It is located at an average elevation of 1200 meters above sea level. Due to the favorable climatic conditions, rice grows very well in this region and is the main cash crop cultivated here. Majestically standing on an island between the confluence of the Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu rivers, the Punakha dzong is one of the most impressive of all Bhutan’s ancient fortresses. An arched wooden bridge connects the Dzong with the mainland and houses many precious relics from the days when successive kings reigned the kingdom from this valley. The dzong serves as the winter home of the monastic body.
The Gangteng Monastery sits on the high bluff of stone that is above the town of Gangteng Village. The Gangtey Monastery, generally known as Gangtey Gonpa, is an important monastery of Nyingmapa school of Buddhism, which is the main seat of the Pema Lingpa tradition, is located in the Wangdue Phodrang District in central Bhutan. Its undoubtedly one of the most revered religious sites here, known for its veneration of the terchen king Pema Lingpa, one of the country’s great spiritual patrons. The complex consists of five temples and surrounds the main central tower. Tshokhang, the main hall in the monastery is built in Tibetan Architectural Style. It also houses a school. The popular festival of Bhutan, Black-necked Crane festival is celebrated in the Gangtey Monastery every year on the 12th November. The monastery underwent a major renovation from 2000 and lasted for 8 years. The massive restoration work was organized by the 9th Gangteng Trulku, Kunzang Rigzin Pema with to preserve this remarkable legacy for the future.
Trashigang serves as the largest town in the eastern region, and a base for tourists venturing into the surrounding villages and mountains. It was once the centre of an important trade route with Tibet. Trashigang extends from the easternmost corners of the kingdom, stretching up to the edge of the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. It is the country’s largest district, with an altitude ranging from 600m to over 4000m. Trashigang town stands as the main market place for the semi-nomadic people of Merak and Sakteng. Trashigang Dzong (The Fortress of the Auspicious Hill), one of the largest dzong fortress in Bhutan was built in 1659, to defend against Tibetan invasions. This wonderful fortress is situated atop a ledge with steep cliffs on three sides overlooking the Dangmechu River. According to legend, the sight of the Dzong scared the Tibetan army which retreated while remarking that the Dzong was a Sky Dzong and was not on the ground. It has been the political stronghold of Eastern Bhutan for over 300 years.
Bumthang is the most historic place in Bhutan as number of ancient temples and sacred sites are located here. This religious heartland of the nation and home to some of its oldest Buddhist monasteries and temples spreads from 2,600m-4,500m. Bumthang is composed of four main valleys Ura, Chumey, Tang and Choekhor which leads to the Bumthang Valley. Bumthang is translated as a beautiful field as bum is said to be derived from either bumpa which means a vessel for holy water or simply bum which means a girl pointing that this is the valley of the beautiful girls and thang means field of a flat piece. The valley is fertile so it produces large amount of buckwheat, rice and potatoes. Apple orchards, honey, woolen products and dairy farms are also common sights here. Some of Bhutan’s oldest and most revered temples are found in Bumthang, including Jambey Lakhang which was built by the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo in 659 A.D in order to subdue an evil demon that lay over the Himalayan region and is the oldest Lhakhang in Bhutan. Bumthang also houses the Kurjey Lhakhang which was the final resting place of the remains of the first three Kings of Bhutan and Tamzhing Monastery which is the most important Nyingma institution in the country.
Mongar situated at an elevation of 1,600 meters (5,200ft) is a town in Eastern Bhutan. Mongar, one of the six districts which give rise to eastern Bhutan share its border with Bumthang, Lhuentse, Pema Gatshel and Trashigang. The district covers an area of 1,954 sq km, with a population of about 38,000 with elevations ranging from 400m to 4,000m. It has got spectacular landscape with stark cliffs and deep gorges set surrounded by dense conifer forests. Mongar is known for its weavers and textiles and fabrics products which are considered some of the best in the country. The road approaching Mongar passes over sheer cliffs and through beautiful fir forests and green pastures and is one of the most breathtaking journeys in the country. Travelers passing this way will have the opportunity to even catch a glimpse of Gangkhar Puensum (7541 meters), the world’s highest unclimbed mountain on a clear day and visit Rhododendron garden which has countless varieties of rhododendrons.