Places to Visit at Bhutan

Places to Visit at Bhutan

Bhutan is a small country located in the southern foothills of the Himalaya mountains. The country is in between the Republic of China and the Republic of India. The elevation level is here 38,394 km² and the population is 735553. Southern Bhutan is respectively hot and has a humid atmosphere, but the climate always varies from 15 to 30 degrees. In the northern areas, the temperature is low and cold, as it is near the mountains. In this region the mountains tops usually stay covered in snow thus, the lower parts stay cool.

Bhutan is rich with precious culture and diversity. There are so many celebrations that are held here from time to time. Every single village in this country have their own celebration and one of the well-known is the annual Tshechu and it’s a very religious festival of this place. In Tshechu the people dress up in colorful clothes and join at the nearest monastery or temple.

This celebration is usually done to pray to the second Buddha, the Guru Rimpoche. The people gather to have their traditional dance, they share meals which includes, red rice, spicy pork, ema datshi and momos which is generally made by pork or beef. They also drink the traditional rice wine known as Ara. This is the celebration where families gather and catch up with everyone.

The following information introduces the main centers of interest in Bhutan, from the west to the east.

The Paro Valley

The first thing you will notice in the Paro valley is the transparent purity of the air and the absence of noise.

As you disembark at the Paro airport and breathe your first wisp of Bhutanese silence, you will notice that Bhutan is unlike other places; and Paro is a perfect entry to this other world. The Paro valley has kept its bucolic nature in spite of the airport and the existence of development projects. Fields, brown or green depending on the season,  cover most of the valley are considered to be among the most beautiful in the country.

Paro is believed to be one of the first valleys to have received the influences of Buddhism, and two temples bear witness to the glorious introduction of the religion: Kyichu and Taktshang.

Places to Visit in Paro

  • Kyichu Lhakhang
  • Drukgyal Dzong
  • Tiger’s Nest Monastery
  • The National Museum (Ta Dzong)
  • Rimpung Dzong
  • Chelela Pass
  • Tachog Lhakhang

Thimphu (The Capital of Bhutan)

The entry into Thimphu is over a large and ugly concrete bridge. The bridge is named Lungten Zampa, which means ‘the bridge of the prophecy’.

It was only in the late 1960s and early 1970s that Thimphu began to take on the form that we see today. Thimphu is unlike any other world capital. Small and secluded the city is quite and there are never the traffic jams familiar in other Asian capitals. The best way to explore Thimphu is on foot.

The main street in Thimphu, Norzim Lam, is lined with shops of all descriptions. Night-life in Thimphu is relatively limited, but is growing. People go to bed early and official evenings end about 10:30 pm. There are three nightclubs, which are worth a visit, but they are not open every day.

Moreover, stores change very quickly, both in name and commercial activity. Don’t be surprised if stores or restaurants no longer exist at the time of your visit. Small shops are worth a visit and the shopkeeper will not be offended by a visitor who only wants to look.

Tourist Attractions in and around Thimphu

  • Buddha Point
  • National Memorial Chorten
  • Changangkha Lhakhang
  • Takin Zoo
  • BBS Tower
  • Simply Bhutan
  • Zilukha Nunnery Monastery
  • Bhutan Textile Museum
  • Bhutan Postal Museum
  • School of Traditional Arts and Crafts
  • Handmade Bhutanese Paper Factory
  • Centenary Farmers Market
  • Handicraft Emporium
  • Tashichoe Dzong
  • Simtokha Dzong

Day Walks from Thimphu

There are some very good day walks in the environs of Thimphu. It is best to take somebody along who knows the way.Given the altitude and the condition of the paths, it is important to be in good shape before setting out on a hike. In April and May, any of these walks will offer an opportunity to see rhododendrons in blossom.

Tala Monastery

If you are feeling energetic, a walk of one nd a half hours above Simtokha Dzong will take you to the mountaintop where Tala Monastery is situated at 3,050 meters (10,000 feet). The monastery was built during the 1860s by the 34th Je Khenpo, Sheldrup Oezer. On a clear day there is a wonderful view  over the mountains north of Thimphu.

Phajoding Monastery and Excursion to the Lakes

One of the most enjoyable hikes goes to Phajoding Monastery, which can be seen on the mountain to the west of Thimphu. It is about three-hour walk to the monastery from Kyebitsho.

In winter and spring there is a good chance of encountering herds of yak in the pastures above the monastery. Continuing up towards the ridge at 4,100 meters (13,450 feet), the route passes in front of Thugjedra, which is one of the places where Phajo Drugom Shigpo meditated.  The present building dates from 1749 and was also constructed by the ninth Je Khenpo, Shakya Rinchen. It is a very steep, hour-long climb to the summit.

From the ridge it takes three hours more walk to the lakes. If you plan to visit the Jimilangtsho lakes, you should count on making a two day excursion.

Thadra Monastery

This hike starts above Yangchenphug high school. It takes two hours to walk to the pretty Thadra Monastery, at 3,270 meters (10,730 feet), which was built in 1731 by Lama Tsulag Gyatso. The monastery perches directly above the Lungtenphug military camp.

Trashigang Nunnery

Another very beautiful day walk leads to the Trashigang Nunnery, at 3,200 meters (10,500 feet). Starting at the village of Yusipang, about 15 kilometers from Thimphu on the road to Punakha, the path goes down into the valley, crosses the river, and then climbs for about one and half hours up to the monastery. Built in 1768 by the 12th Desi, Kunga Gyatso, it is made up of little houses inhabited by Drukpa nuns.

Thimphu to Punakha by the Old Route

If you are brave and a botany lover, it is interesting to walk the old Sinchu La route from Thimphu to Punakha. This can be done in one day , but you need a car to fetch you back from the upper reaches of the Punakha village Sirithang.

The path starts at Phanri Zampa, just behind Dechencholing. Crossing the river, it climbs for three hours through a forest filled with rhododendron to the Sinchu La Pass. The long descend through another forest takes about five hours. It has no view.

The first village is Tonshinkha where the Indian saint, Ngagi Rinchen, is  said to have drawn a thousand pictures of Buddha on a rock with one magic gesture. From there the path goes down by much gentler slopes and crosses rice fields for a couple of hours to the village of Sirigang, situated on the motor road north of Punakha Dzong at an altitude of 1,350 meters.

Punakha

The small size of the place is surprising considering the primordial role that Punakha has played in the history of Bhutan and the fact that it was the country’s winter capital fr 300 years. It as in Punakha Dzonf that Ugyen Wangchuk, the First King of Bhutan, was crowned om 17th December 1907.

Exactly covering a spit of land at the confluence of the two rivers, the Dzong resembles a gigantic ship.

Tourist Attractions in and around Punakha

  • Chimi Lhakhang
  • Punakha Dzong
  • Talo Village
  • Punakha Suspension Bridge
  • Khamsum Yuelley Namgyel Chorten

Phobjikha Valley / Gangtey

The road begins its climb over the Black Mountains immediately after the bridge at Tikkle. The valley is very narrow, with houses and fields perched on steep slopes. At a point 40 kilometers from Wangdue, the featureless, recent village of Nobding stands on a plateau surrounded by forest.

Ten kilometers beyond Nobding, the road branches off on the right and goes for seven kilometers through a forest of oak and rhododendron into the broad Phobjikha Valley at 3,000 meters where Gangtey monastery is located.

Phobjikha is one of the few glacial valleys in Bhutan and the valley floor is quite marshy in places. Phobjikha is also the chosen home of the rare black-necked crane which migrates from the Tibetan plateau during winter. These elegant and shy birds can be observed from the ends of October to the end of March.

Places to visit in Phobjikha

  • Gangtey Monastery
  • Gangtey Natural Trial Hike
  • Black-necked Crane Reserve Center