Places of Interest for your Bhutan Travel.
Thimphu: The Capital City
Thimphu stands at an altitude of 2,320 meters along the Thimchu river valley. It’s the only capital city in the world without traffic lights.
With a population of approximately 100,000, Thimphu is covered with houses of red and green roofs and distinct traditional architecture. It may not be a big city, yet, for many Bhutanese, it’s the metropolis where their desires and ambitions take shape. In its own humble way Thimphu has all the offerings of a capital city. It’s about one hour drive from Paro International Airport.
The Trashichho Dzong (means Fortress of the Glorious Religion), built in 1641 by Zhandrung Ngawang Namgyel, lies on the bank of Thimchhu River. It houses the Golden Throne, the office of His Majesty the King, the seat of Je Khenpo (the Chief Abbot) and various government offices. It was the third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck who made Thimphu the capital city in 1955.
As you enter Thimphu, on the mountain overlooking the valley, you cannot miss the gigantic statue of Shakyamuni Buddha, the largest Buddha statue in the world at a height of about 53 meters (169 feet). It was built to bestow blessings, peace and happiness on the whole world. Places of Interest
Paro: Supreme Beauty
The name Paro originated from the word “Pado” meaning “supreme” and aptly so, as Paro is one of the most beautiful and prosperous valleys of Bhutan. Set on one of the widest valleys of the country, Paro has Bhutan’s only international airport.
Paro is one of the holiest valleys of the kingdom. The Taktsang monastery (known as the Tiger’s Nest), alluringly perched on a 900m cliff, is one of the most sacred sites in Bhutan and a famous icon of the Buddhist world. As legend goes, in the 8th century Guru Rinpoche is believed to have flown to Taktsang on the back of a tigress and introduced Buddhism to Bhutan. Places of Interest
The earliest recorded history of Bhutan dates back to the 7th century when the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo built two temples in Bhutan. One is Kyichu Lhakhang in Paro; built to pin down the left foot of a demon who had spread over the areas of Tibet and Bhutan. This was part of a grand plan to construct 108 monasteries to subdue the demon.
Rinpung Dzong stands like a mound of jewels on the hillside; “Rinpung” means, the “fortress of the heap of jewels”. The dzong is the administrative centre of the Paro district. Behind the dzong, overlooking the valley, is Ta Dzong. In former times it was a watchtower that has since been converted into the National Museum. The view of Paro valley from Ta Dzong is mesmerizing.
Punakha: The Old Capital
Once the old capital of Bhutan, Punakha, at 1,300 meters, is much lower and warmer than Thimphu. It’s about three-hour drive from Thimphu towards the central Bhutan.
“On the trunk of a mountain that looks like an elephant, a person by the name of Ngawang will appear…” In 1637, eight centuries later, the prophecy of Guru Padmasambhava came true. Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal began the construction of the Punthang Dechen Phodrang Dzong at the base of a hill, which resembles a reclining elephant. The archetype of the splendor of Bhutanese architecture, Punakha dzong stands on the confluence of two rivers, Pho (male) Chhu and Mo (female) Chhu. Places of Interest
It was here that one of the most important events in Bhutan’s history took place. On 17th December 1907, Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck was crowned as the first hereditary monarch of Bhutan.
Punakha was the capital of Bhutan for 300 years until 1955 and it still continues to be the winter home for the clergy and the Je Khenpo (the Chief Abbot). A short drive up the valley is the magnificent Khamsum Yulley Chorten constructed in 1992.
Trongsa: The Seat of Trongsa Penlop
As you leave Thimphu towards east, it’s like a journey into the hinterland where the scales of the past lie serene and intact. Trongsa is a quaint little town in central Bhutan and about a four hour drive from Punakha.
Trongsa is the ancestral home of Bhutan’s royal family, where the first two Kings ruled the kingdom. It was here that the first King Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck consolidated his power and became one of the most powerful men in Bhutan and established the Wangchuck dynasty. It is now a tradition to hold the post of Trongsa Penlop for the Crown Prince before ascending the Golden Throne. Places of Interest
Trongsa Dzong, built in 1647 and 2,316 meters above sea level, is one of the most magnificent dzongs and the largest in the country, and divides eastern and western Bhutan.
Bumthang: The sacred valley
The valley of transcendent beauty, Bumthang is considered as the spiritual heartland of the kingdom. It takes its name from the shape of its landscape, “the plain shaped like a bumpa”. A bumpa is an oblong-shaped ritual vase that represents the expanse of the Universe.
Its four valleys of Chumey, Choekhor, Tang and Ura are shrouded in legends and myths made spiritually rich by the visit of Guru Rinpoche. It has a wealth of monasteries and sacred sites. Jambay Lhakhang is one of the two oldest monasteries of the country. The Jakar dzong was initially built as a monastery in 1549 and later rebuilt as a dzong in 1646. Places of Interest
Bumthang is also home to one of the most scared lakes of the country, the Membar Tsho, meaning “the burning lake”. It’s believed that Terton Pema Lingpa, the treasure discoverer, pulled religious texts and artifacts from the lake holding a burning butter lamp.
Bumthang is two hours (68 km) from Trongsa and, as you enter the Chumey valley, you cannot escape the display of colorful yathras (traditional woolen fabrics) native to central Bhutan.
Trashigang: The melting pot of the East
Trashigang is the easternmost district on the national east-west highway, 547 km from Thimphu. It is the largest and most populous districts, but is more like one large village.
As you enter the district, from the Chazam (Iron Bridge) looking up, you can see the Trashigang dzong at the top of a steep hill. Trashigang dzong means “the fortress of the auspicious mountain” and almost looks part of the hill, except for its paint of bright colors. The dzong was built in 1667 and serves as the administrative seat for the district. Places of Interest
In Trashigang it is a tradition to welcome and see off guests with a cup of ara, the local spirit (made of barley or wheat) which flows abundantly in the east.