Listed below are the most visited places

  • Rimpung Dzong (Paro Dzong)
  • Ugyen Pelri Palace
  • National Museum of Bhutan
  • Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest)
  • Jangsarbu Lhakhang
  • Chelela Pass

O ne of the most popular rice bowls of Bhutan, Paro Valley lies on the banks of the Paro Chhu, just a short distance northwest of the imposing Paro Dzong. Green paddy fields flooded to the brim dotting the ethereal landscape; wind gushing through the valley, the river gently meandering and the ubiquitous prayer flags fluttering furiously, spreading good wishes; gives a rather unhurried feel to this rustic town. In the far distance, the monastery whose mere mention brings the word precarious to mind, Paro Takstang or Tiger nest, evokes a sense of pure wonderment at how marvellously it held onto to the near-vertical cliffs.

After Thimphu, Paro is Bhutan’s largest city, and without doubt one of its most beautiful. Set within a lush valley of green rice fields, the town is home to an array of historical sites and gorgeous architecture. The two most popular sites within Paro are National Museum of Paro and Rinpung Dzong. The Dzong is the administrative and monastic centre of the western region. The museum, pictured right, has a beautiful collection of festival masks, stamps, paintings, weapons, jewellery and slate carvings.

Suggestive list of places of attraction

  • Memorial stupa
  • Buddha point
  • Takin reserve zoo
  • National Library
  • Folk Heritage Museum
  • Textile Museum
  • Jungshi Paper Factory
  • Tashichhoe Dzong

T he capital of one of the world's most intriguing destinations, Thimphu combines a natural small-town feel with a new commercial exuberance that constantly challenges the country's natural conservatism and Shangri La image. Over the years, this small city has transformed into a busy, energetic and eclectic version of its former self.

It is a place that has opened its arms and welcomed tourists from around the world. On any given day you can see a mix of camera-toting holiday makers walking down its humble streets alongside red-robed monks, traditionally garbed locals and the fashionably clad youth of the city.

Thimphu has much to offer in terms of experiences, from modern amenities to tranquil monasteries, quaint cafes to buzzing bars, local markets and boutiques. Finding a balance between the esoteric and espresso – the juxtapositions of old and new remain part of Thimpu's charm. Fortunately the commercialization in Thimphu is limited as international food and retail chains are not permitted to set up here, thereby, keeping the rich local flavours thriving.

The former capital of Bhutan, Punakha’s rich cultural heritage and its natural beauty is the ideal calling for all kinds of travel lovers. Experience the serenity of the hills, take a stroll in the local markets or just soak in the rich culture of this quaint city. There is just so much beauty in this semi-tropical valley. Just two hours from Thimphu the capital, over the spectacular Dochu La pass, Punakha greets you with exotic flowers and trees, rice terraces and birds twittering in feathery blue pines.

Rhododendrons bloom in the spring and there are pine and oak forests, remote farms and hamlets, snowy peaks peeping here and there on the horizon, and possibly a black bear or two...

The Punakha valley is also trekkers' paradise, whether you opt for a day's easy ramble through villages and paddies or the six day hike from Shong Pang to Chung Soka, reaching an altitude of 3490 metres. Often referred to as the 'Palace of Happiness', the Punakha Dzong is the second oldest and second largest dzong in Bhutan. This insignia of Bhutan sits at the confluence of Mo Chhu [mother] and Pho Chhu [father] rivers and acts as the winter residence of the Chief Abbot of Bhutan.

If there is only one dzong you get to see in the Thunder Dragon Kingdom, let it be the Punakha Dzong. The Dzong which looks like something straight out of a painting, is the seat of all royal crowning functions. Plan a visit in the spring season for gorgeous views of the lilac-coloured jacaranda trees that grow around the Punakha Dzong.

Wangdue Phodrang lies at south of the Punakha valley. Two and half hours drive from Thimphu. Wangdi, one of the largest dzongkhags (districts) in the country, is important in the history of Bhutan as it was the country's second capital in the early days. As the district covers 4,308 sq km and ranges from 800-5800 m in altitude it has extremely varied climatic conditions ranging from Sub-Tropical forests in the south to cool and snowy regions in the north.

This also makes this region home to many rare and exotic animals like Red Pandas, Tigers and Leopards. There are also large numbers of rare birds such as the Black Necked Crane, White-Bellied Heron and the Spotted Eagle. One of the most notable sites in the district is Phobjikha Valley. This valley is the habitat of rare and endangered Black Necked Cranes that roost there during their annual migrations. Wangdue Phodrang district has a rich tapestry of ancient Buddhist temples and monasteries that is sure to enrapture any visitor.

Wangdi Phodrang Dzong :
This is third Dzong built by Zhabdrung Rimpoche in 1638 AD atop a high ridge between the Punak Tsang Chhu and the Dang Chhu. It’s the administrative and religion centre for Wangdi district. Sadly the Dzong caught fire on 24 June 2012 and was virtually destroyed save for the lower walls. The mammoth task of rebuilding is expected to continue until 2021.

Trongsa is smack in the middle of the country, set at the strategic junction of roads to Punakha, Bumthang and Gelephu but separated from both east and west by high mountain ranges. The dzong and surrounding town is perched above a gorge, with fine views of the Black Mountains to the southwest.

It's a sleepy and pleasant town, lined with traditional whitewashed shops decorated with pot plants. The town received a large influx of Tibetan immigrants in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and Bhutanese of Tibetan descent run most shops here. The Trongsa Dzong literally means the Dzong on the tip of a Dungkhar (of the never changing country of Druk and the everlasting Dharm).

Trongsa Dzong is situated overlooking the Mangdechhu River. This commanding dzong, high above the roaring Mangde Chhu, is perhaps the most spectacularly sited dzong in Bhutan, with a sheer drop to the south that often just disappears into cloud and mist.

The rambling assemblage of buildings that comprises the dzong trails down the ridge and is connected by a succession of alley-like corridors, wide stone stairs and beautiful paved courtyards. The southernmost part of the dzong, Chorten Lhakhang, is the location of the first hermitage, built in 1543.

On the far side of the Black Mountains you will enter a part of the country that until the 1970s was only accessible by mule and foot trails. The district of Bumthang is located in the north of Bhutan and is commonly referred to as “the spiritual heartland of Bhutan”, although, literally translated the region is known as the “Valley of the Beautiful Girls”. 

Bumthang is often referred to as the ‘Switzerland of the East’. Its wide open valleys, its snow capped mountains, its green country side, its fast flowing mountain streams and its easy paced life all give it’s a Swiss like look and feel. Besides natural beauty the four valleys are blessed with some of the oldest Buddhist temples and monasteries in the kingdom, including Jakar Dzong and Thangbi Goemba. Jakar Dzong is the dominant fixture of the Choekor valley, proudly overlooking the town. Constructed back in 1549 by a Tibetan, it played an important role in the defence of the area – however its biggest claim to fame is that it was the seat for the first ever king of Bhutan.

Walking is a popular activity for visitors to the area. The varying terrain and scenery makes for a fantastic range of hiking opportunities. The popular half day trek to Pelseling Goemba is highly recommended and takes in a mixture of forest, meadows, villages and sacred sites - a dream come true for nature-lovers and photography enthusiasts alike. 

Lhuntsi is an off-the-grid district in eastern Bhutan with exceptionally beautiful landscapes, and many sacred sites. The District is also the ancestral home of the Royal Family. The district is famed for the most beautiful and intricate of textiles, Kishu Thara weave of Kira.

Lhuntse Dzong is loacted in Kurichhu valley that forms part of the Lhuntse dzongkhag. Situated in the eastern part of Bhutan, Lhuntse, was anciently knows as Kurtoe. The landscape is spectacular with stark cliffs and gorges and dense coniferous forests; making it an exotic place for nature lovers. The Kurtoe region of Lhuentse is also the ancestral home of the Royal dynasty.

Its interest lies mainly in the many weaving villages dotted through the region. Khoma is a typical example and within easy reach of the town.

C reated in 1992, Trashiyangtse is the newest district in Bhutan. It was formerly part of Trashigang. The district’s climate ranges from sub-tropical in the south to alpine temperatures in the north, borders North-Eastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.

Many Bhutanese travel to the valley to witness the annual circumambulation at Chorten Kora and Gomphu Kora monasteries, because of which over the years the area has become an area of prayers and pence for many devotees. The district is home several important monasteries and temples, including the Dongdi Dzong, now known as Trashiyangtse Dzong.

The people of the region have developed incredible skill at woodworking and paper making. The items they produce such as traditional wooden bowls are prized throughout the country. Hence, Institute for 13 Arts and Crafts (Zorig Chusum) has been established in the region leading to a greater number of skilled artisans.

The district also features the famous Iron Chain Bridge over the Kholong River at Duksum built by the Tibetan King Dupthob Thangthong Gyalpo. Another popular landmark is the ruins of Tshenkharla Dzong, a castle like structure built by a Tibetan prince.

And apart from Phobjikha in Wangduephodrang, Bumdeling in Trashiyangtse is another bigger winter roosting ground of the rare and endangered black-necked cranes. Bumdeling is also home to the national butterfly, the Ludlow’s Bhutan Glory and the black-necked cranes. The Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary has one of the richest temperate Fir forests in the eastern Himalayas and provides an ideal protected habitat for big cats like Tigers and Leopards.

This well-kept secret of Bhutan, came on the tourist map around 2002. The pristine valley is the second least populated dzongkhag (District) in the country and popularly known as “Hidden-Land Rice Valley.” Nestled on the western most edge of Bhutan, Haa Valley is one of the most picturesque valleys in the country. The isolated valley lies behind the mountain ridge of Chele La and it borders with the northern boundaries of the Chumbi Valley of Tibet on one side. Down there, a glistening river babbles over the stones, willows and pines line the banks and traditional houses add a distinctive Bhutanese touch with carved eaves and window frames and auspicious symbols painted on outside walls.

Close to Paro, Haa can be accessed on the long winding road from Chuzom or if you don't mind a vertiginous short cut, over the Chelela Pass, at 3998 metres, the highest road pass in Bhutan. The roads signs and milestones all along the winding roads of Bhutan constantly reminds an Indian of our Border Roads Organization (BRO) because they were so similar to BRO’s milestones seen in remote Himalayan frontiers, except the only difference that the project is called Dantak in Bhutan.

As you reach the supremely sylvan-looking Haa Valley, you are greeted by the familiar sight of green rooftops of the Indian Army’s training mission in Bhutan.

People of Haa valley are commonly known as “Haap”. The smiling faces and the warm personalities of the people, compel you to fall in love with it.

The U-shaped Phobjikha glacial valley (3000m) is also simply known as Gangtey after the 17th century monastery that perches on a hillock rising from the flat valley floor. This wide and rolling valley is surrounded by mountains on all side, creating a sense of deep isolation. Phobjikha is one the kingdom’s few glacial valleys and is located on the periphery of the Black Mountain National Park. Even the phone signal is patchy here. It's hardly touched by modernernisation - electricity only reached here a couple of years ago. Gangtey is the winter home to more than 400 highly endanger black-necked crane who on arrival circle the Gangtey Goempa Monastery three times as well as while returning back to Tibet. These elegant birds can be seen from the end of October to March. Gangtey Goenpa is believed to house the mummy of a Yeti. Italian mountaineer Reinhold Messner wrote "Nailed to the wall by the back of its scalp was the hide of a "red yeti". To date, his writing has not been corroborated by anyone else but the monks.

The valley boasts two beautiful meandering rivers, Nakay Chhu (Chhu Naap-black water) and Gay Chhu (Chhu Karp-white water). According to a local legend, the two rivers actually represent a snake and a boar. The two animals once raced each other with an agreement that if the snake (Nakay Chhu) won, Phobjikha valley would be able to grow rice, but if the boar won, then rice could never be cultivated in the area. The snake lost since it had to meander all the way during its journey. Rice cannot be cultivated in the valley even today. Trekking is a popular tourist attraction in Gangtey. The route followed by international trekking enthusiasts starts from the Gangtey Gonpa, passing through the Kumbu village, goes through the Gedachen and Khebayathang villages, leads to the Kilhorthang village and terminates in the Kungathang Lhakhang. There is also a shorter trek of about 90 minutes, known as the Gangtey Nature Trail, starts from the mani stone wall to the north of the Gangtey Gonpa and ends in Khewa Lhakhang.

Gangtey is one of the most watched valleys for tourism. Gangtey Valley is known for its marshland, scenic and cultural uniqueness. Gangtey Valley celebrates the colourful musk dance festival of Bhutan and the Crane festival each year during the winters. An area of the valley has been declared as a protected area for the protection of the nature. It has become the showcase for government's attempt to balance conservation and tourism. Gangtey Valley is highly sensitive to pollution and human traffic. While tourism would benefit the locals by providing employment and additional income, the cranes may choose to avoid this area if it becomes polluted. The valley is an example why Bhutan has to limit the growth of tourism at the moment. Tourists, and even the travel agencies who arrange tours, may not be aware of how vulnerable this area is to human traffic.

Phuentsholing is a small town in Bhutan adjacent to the Indian border. While Phuentsholing is on the Bhutan side of the border, Jaigaon (a bigger town) is on the Indian side of the border. Depicting traditional Bhutanese architecture, Bhutan Gate is the main gateway for entry from India. One of the most photographed attractions, the gate demarcates the Bhutanese and the Indian territory with adjoining cities, Jaigaon and Phuentsholing. One cannot help but observe the sharp contrast between Jaigaon and Phuentsholing. Phuentsholing and Jaigaon are merely separated by a compound and a huge arch. While you are infested with blaring cacophony and bad roads at Jaigaon, Phuentsholing ushers you with a myriad of mountains and green carpet promising you more as you drive through the valley.

Phuentsholing is important because it is currently the only route (by land) from India to Bhutan. Hence anybody going Bhutan has to stop here, get the permit from immigration office, and then proceed.

Unlike other cities in Bhutan that offer unexplored terrain and natural scenic beauty, Phuentsholing is the perfect mix of traditions, beautiful landscapes, modern life and culture. There is a lot more to Phuentsholing than meets the eye. The city is a hub for different ethnic groups living in perfect harmony, be it Bhutanese, Nepalese or Indians. For this very reason, Phuentsholing is a must-visit.

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