The Bhutan Odyssey - Best places to visit in Bhutan
Bhutan is one of the least travelled destinations in the Himalayan mountain range. But, it's monumental fortresses, grand mountains, Buddhist monasteries, historical museums, verdant valleys and ancient temples are all worth a visit. 71% of the entire land of Bhutan is under forest cover and that adds to the beauty with abundant flora and fauna. This fairytale land has been successful in striking a perfectly right balance between tradition and modernisation. Bhutan is magical in ways that are unimaginable. You have to see it to believe it. So here, in this article, we have compiled the 20 best places to visit in Bhutan.
If you missed out on our previous blogs of the series - 'The Bhutan Odyssey', read them by clicking on the links or the photos below: 1. Introduction to Bhutan and why you should visit it 2. Plan your trip to Bhutan 3. Places to visit in Thimphu 4. Travel to Phobjikha (Gangtey) Valley of black-necked cranes 5. Punakha - Sightseeing places in the winter capital of Bhutan 6. Paro Taktsang (Tiger's nest monastery) – A complete travel guide
8. 20 Best places to visit in Bhutan (This article)
So here is a compilation of 20 places to visit in Bhutan you must not miss out on -
1. Paro Taktsang or Tiger's Nest Monastery, Paro
Paro Taktsang or the Tiger's Nest monastery is the most sacred Buddhist site in Bhutan. It is said that a trip to Bhutan is incomplete without a visit to this holy place. Paro Taktsang is basically a group of temples clinging to the brink of an unimaginably steep and rocky cliff. It is believed that Guru Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche) flew on a tigress's back to this monastery site in the 8th century; hence the name Tiger's Nest monastery. One has to hike on a trail for 3-4 hours to reach the monastery that hangs some 800 metres above the valley. The hiking trail is extremely beautiful and dotted with colourful Buddhist flags, bright red rhododendrons and some breathtaking views of the Paro valley. Read more about Paro Taktsang and the experience of our hike to the monastery with some handy tips in our separate article on Paro Taktsang - A complete travel guide.
2. Buddha Dordenma Statue, Thimphu
The statue of Shakyamuni Buddha in Thimphu is the largest statue of sitting Buddha in the world. This 169-foot-tall statue of Buddha is made of bronze and is coated with gold. A meditation hall on which the statue sits houses another 125000 smaller statues of Lord Buddha. The population of Thimphu is 1.25 lakhs and the number of Buddha statues at Buddha Dordenma site itself is 1.25 lakhs, which interestingly means that there are more Buddha statues in Thimphu than the number of people. The walls of the meditation hall are painted with beautiful paintings depicting the life story of Lord Buddha from birth to enlightenment. Read more about the Buddha Dordenma statue in our separate article on Places to visit in Thimphu.
3. Punakha Dzong, Punakha
Punakha Dzong is an impressive fortress built on a small island at the confluence of two rivers - Po Chhu and Mo Chhu flowing through the Punakha valley. The magnificent dzong hides behind the purple blooms of jacaranda trees. The dzong that was built in the 16th century by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (The Beard Man), can be accessed by crossing a suspension bridge over the Mo Chhu river. It has three courtyards in total and houses important relics like Rangjung Kharsapani that was brought to Bhutan from Tibet by the Beard Man. The Last royal wedding of the 5th King of Bhutan took place at this majestic dzong. Read more about Punakha dzong and stories attached to it in our separate article on Punakha - Sightseeing places in the winter capital.
4. Phobjikha Valley, Phobjikha
Phobjikha valley is a vast bowl-shaped glacial valley located in Central Bhutan. It is also referred to as Gangtey valley. The valley is home to the rare species of black-necked cranes every winter. These birds migrate to Phobjikha valley from as far as Tibet. To protect the birds from being electrocuted by electric poles, the villagers of Phobjikha village have buried the transmission lines supplying electricity under the ground. No overhead electric lines can be seen in the entire valley. The valley is full of green pasture dotted with red rhododendrons and purple Lilac primulas. It has multiple trekking trails that are still untouched by excessive tourism. Read more about Phobjikha valley, black-necked cranes and the Phobjikha village in our separate article on Phobjikha - Valley of black-necked cranes.
5. Rinpung Dzong, Paro
Popularly known as Paro Dzong, Rinpung Dzong is located on a small hill overlooking the Paro valley. It houses the government and monastic bodies of Paro district. The dzong is situated beside the Paro Chhu river and can be accessed after crossing a cantilevered wooden bridge on the river. Rinpung Dzong houses the finest examples of Bhutanese art. Every year, an annual festival is held at the dzong called as the Paro Tsechu. It is a grand celebration that involves masked dances and local folk songs. Read more about Rinpung Dzong in our separate article on Places to visit in Paro.
6. Bhutan Postal Museum, Thimphu
Bhutan Postal Museum is one of the most unique museums in the world. One can get personalised postage stamps printed here. The postage stamps can be printed with one's own photograph and then postcards can be shared by using those stamps to one's family and relatives; just the old-fashioned way! It is an absolute pleasure to put the postcards in the red coloured post box. Read more about Bhutan Postal Museum and its entrance charges in our separate article on Places to visit in Thimphu.
7. Chimi Lhakhang, Punakha
Offering prayers at Chimi Lhakhang, also known as the Fertility temple, is believed to induce fertility to couples who wish for a child. The temple houses a big statue of the Beard man and 10001-armed Lord Avalokiteshwara. Chimi Lhakhang safeguards an original wooden effigy of the Divine Madman's thunderbolt that he used to subdue the demons. The effigy is in the shape of a phallus. It is said that phallus brings good luck and prosperity. Wooden phalluses are even sold outside the temple. Read more about Chimi Lhakhang and stories related to it in our separate article on Punakha - Sightseeing places in the winter capital.
8. Gangtey Monastery, Phobjikha
Gangtey Monastery is perched at the cliff of a hill overlooking the enormous Phobjikha valley. The monastery houses a central prayer hall surrounded by butter lamp house and monk quarters. It is said that when the rare black-necked cranes migrate to the valley during winter and when they leave the valley after 5 months, each crane encircles the Gangtey monastery three times in clockwise direction. The villagers of Phobjikha believe that these cranes are reincarnations of the former monks of the monastery. The monastery hosts a 'Crane festival' annually to welcome the arrival of cranes. Read more about Gangtey monastery and the black-necked cranes in our separate article on Phobjikha - Valley of black-necked cranes.
9. National Museum of Bhutan, Paro
The National Museum of Bhutan located in the town of Paro is a cultural museum that beautifully depicts the history of Bhutan and the Kings and the rulers. It houses various masks used in Cham dances, antique utensils and vessels, huge thangkas and large posters imparting knowledge on the flora and fauna in the country of Bhutan. The artefacts in the museum are as old as 1500 years. Read more about the National Museum of Bhutan in our separate article on Places to visit in Paro.
10. National Memorial Chorten, Thimphu
National Memorial chorten is a Tibetan style religious stupa erected in the memory of the third King of Bhutan. It is a whitewashed monument with gold spires. The stupa is located in the centre of the town of Thimphu and is surrounded by well-manicured gardens. It is revered as the monument of great religious significance by local Bhutanese. Read more about National Memorial Chorten and stories related to it in our separate article on Places to visit in Thimphu.
11. Sangchen Dorji Lheundrup Nunnery, Punakha
Sangchen Dorji Lheundrup Nunnery is a Buddhist nunnery cum temple located on a hill in Punakha district. It houses a Nepalese styled stupa and a temple dedicated to the female form of Lord Avalokiteshwara. The temple is surrounded by quarters where the nuns stay and pursue higher Buddhist studies. One can get a chance to peek into the daily life of a nun by visiting the nunnery. Read more about the Sangchen Dorji Lheundrup Nunnery in our separate blog on Punakha - Sightseeing places in the winter capital.
12. Dochula Pass, Thimphu
Dochula Pass is a group of 108 chortens built in the middle of road crossing between Thimphu and Punakha. These 108 chortens are arranged in a circle with 3 tiers of 45, 36 and 27 smaller chortens encircling the main chorten. The chortens were built to ward off evil spirits and to mark an important event or victory in Bhutanese history. 108 is an auspicious number representing the no. of prayers in Buddhism that make up a cycle. Read more about Dochula Pass and stories related to it in our separate blog on Punakha - Sightseeing places in the winter capital.
13. Royal Society of Protection of Nature (RSPN) Centre, Phobjikha
The RSPN centre is like a mini-museum located in Phobjikha valley that educates the tourists on the black-necked cranes, their behaviour, their habitat and the conservational efforts by the locals. The centre showcases detailed information about the birds and their migratory patterns. They also display a short documentary film on the migratory black-necked cranes. The centre also houses telescopes that can be used to view the activities of the cranes. Read more about the RSPN centre and their conservational efforts in our separate article on Phobjikha - Valley of black-necked cranes.
14. Tashichho Dzong, Thimphu
Tashichho Dzong, popular as Thimphu Dzong, is located on the banks of Wang Chhu River in Thimphu. The dzong was built in the 16th century by the Beard Man. It looks spectacular with its whitewashed walls adorned with red and golden roof. Tashichho Dzong houses administrative as well as monastic bodies of the Thimphu district. The dzong houses a monastery, secretariat, King's throne and ministry of finance and home affairs. Read more about Tashichho Dzong in our separate article on Places to visit in Thimphu.
15. Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten, Punakha
Khamsum Yulley Namgyal chorten is a religious stupa that can be accessed by hiking a hill in Punakha valley. The hike is 45-minute long, firstly through the paddy fields and then through pine forests. At the top are the chorten, a large Bodhi tree and huge prayer wheels. The chorten is 4 storeyed with an accessible roof that provides incredible views of the Punakha valley with zigzag Mo Chhu river flowing through. Read more about Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten in our separate article on Punakha - Sightseeing places in the winter capital.
16. Takin Nature Preserve, Thimphu
Takin, the national animal of Bhutan, is a hybrid of a cow and a goat. The mammal is brownish-black in colour, has short legs, elongated nose and fat body. Motithang Takin Nature Preserve in Thimphu is a wildlife conservation park that houses takins, sambar deer, barking deer and varieties of birds. Read more about Takin Nature Preserve in our separate article on Places to visit in Thimphu.
17. Punakha Suspension Bridge, Punakha
Punakha suspension bridge is the longest man-made walkable suspension bridge in entire Bhutan. The suspension bridge hangs over swiftly flowing Po Chhu river and is laden with plenty of colourful Buddhist flags. The bridge sways with strong wind and one can have fun time crossing it from one side to the other. Read more about Punakha Suspension bridge in our separate article on Punakha - Sightseeing places in the winter capital.
18. Norzin Lam Market, Thimphu
One can buy souvenirs for their family and relatives at a reasonable rate from the Norzin Lam market in Thimphu. The several lined-up shops sell authentic handicrafts, perfumed soaps, handmade bags, traditional paintings, magnets, artefacts, key chains, postcards and textiles. The owners are ever-smiling and welcoming. Read more about Norzin Lam market in our separate article on Places to visit in Thimphu.
19. Kyichu Lhakhang, Paro
Kyichu Lhakhang is the oldest temple in the Kingdom of Bhutan. It was built in the 7th century by a Tibetan emperor. Kyichu Lhakhang houses a statue of Lord Avalokiteshwara with 11 heads and 1000 arms. It is believed that the temple was built to ward off evil spirits that threatened Buddhism in Tibet. Read more about Kyichu Lhakhang in our separate article on Places to visit in Paro.
20. Chelela Pass, Haa Valley
Chelela Pass is located at an altitude of 3990 metres above the sea level in Haa Valley. It is the highest motorable pass in the country of Bhutan. The entire Himalayan mountain ranges, particularly Mount Jomolhari, can be viewed from Chelela Pass on a clear day. Chelela Pass is a 2-hour drive from Paro city.
Are you planning a trip to one of the happiest nations in the world? Do you wish to cover all these top 20 places to visit on Bhutan? You can book a hassle-free trip customised as per your requirements with Nature Tourism Bhutan, just as we did.
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