Journey by air to Paro is approx. one hour from Kathmandu or Calcutta.
Paro is one of the most populated areas of the country. Because
of its proximity to the airport, there are hotels & tourist
facilities close by. The valley of Paro contains a wealth of attractions
and requires a few days to be properly explored.
- Drugyal Dzong:
Drugyal Dzong means victorious fortress which was built in 1647
AD by Shabdrung Ngawang to commemorate his victory over the Tibetan
invaders, led by Mongolian warlord, Gushri Khan in 1644 AD. Strategically
built over the only passage into Paro valley, the Dzong helped
to repel numerous invasions all through the course of Bhutanese
history. The Dzong was gutted by an accidental fire in 1951. The
ruins, as it stands today still attract tourists.
- Taktsang Monastery:
Literally means the Tiger’s Nest (den). This temple clings
precariously to a granite cliff 800m above the Paro valley. Legend
has it that the great Guru Padmasambhava flew to this spot on
the back of a Tigress and meditated in a cave during the 8th century.
The temple was built around the cave and is a hallowed shrine
for Bhutanese pilgrims. A terrible fire in April 1998 destroyed
Taktsang’s medieval wall paintings and all inner temples.
A new construction has already begun by the Royal Government.
- Rinpung Dzong (Paro Dzong):
Rinpung Dzong, meaning the fortress on a heap of jewels was built
during the time of Shabdrung in 1646. The approach to the Dzong
is through a traditional covered bridge. A walk to the Dzong offers
a good view of the architectural wonder of the Dzong as well as
life around it. The Dzong now houses the Paro monastic school
and the office of the civil administration. It is also the venue
of the great Paro Tsechu (festival) held once a year in spring.
- Ta Dzong:
The castle-shaped Ta Dzong was built in 1651 as a watch tower
to defend Rinpung Dzong during inter-valley wars of the 17th century.
Ta Dzong has housed the nation’s heritage in Bhutan’s
National Museum since 1976. It holds a fascinating collection
of arts, relics and religious Thanka paintings.
- Farm House:
The beauty of Paro valley is embellished by cluster of quaint
farmhouses. Bhutanese houses are very colourful and traditionally
built without the use of a single nail. The house looks very big
from outside but is quite simple inside. It’s normally three
story. The ground floor is always used for cattle while the attic
is used for hay. The families live in the middle floor. The best
room is always kept for the family chapel. A visit to a farm house
is very interesting and offers a good glimpse into the life style
of a farmer.
The modern capital of Bhutan lies at an elevation of 2,300m in a
valley traversed by the Wang Chu. (river). Thimpu, perhaps the most
unusual capital city in the world, is a bustling town on the banks
of the Thimpu river & set gloriously in the hills of Thimpu
valley. Thimpu is home to the revered Bhutanese Royal family, the
Royal government, the judiciary and to several foreign missions
and development projects.
Memorial Chorten: This stupa was built in 1974 in the memory of
the late third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck . The painting and images
inside the monument provide a rare sight into Buddhist philosophy.
- Tashichho Dzong (Thimpu Dzong):
It was initially built in the 17th century and was rebuilt in
early 1960s by the third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk. Tashichho
Dzong is the main secretariat building which houses the throne
room of His majesty and a summer residence of the central monk
body. It is open to visitor during Thimpu festival and when the
monk body moves to their winter home in Punakha.
- Changangkha temple:
It was built in the 15 century by Lama Phajo Drigom. It lies on
a hilltop commanding the Thimpu valley. The temple has very old
scriptures and Thankas. The main deity of the temple is Avalokiteshvara,
God of compassion.
Simtokha Dzong: It is the oldest Dzong in the country stands on
a lofty ridge at the end of valley. It was built in 1627-1629
and now houses the school for Buddhists studies. All the Bhutanese
language teachers pass out from this university.
Indigenous Hospital: Since Bhutan has its own brand of Himalayan
medicine the Government has given equal emphasis to both allopathic
and traditional medicines. The rich herbal medicine is prepared
here. The old art of healing like acupuncture is still practiced
- National Library:
The history of Bhutan lies imprinted in archaic texts, which are
preserved at the National library. Beside thousands of manuscripts
and ancient texts the library also has modern academic books and
printing blocks for prayer flags.
- Painting School:
It is the place, where young children learn the ancient art of
paintings. One can actually see students at work. Education is
free for the students. These children after passing out, are sent
to different districts in the country to apply the same art form
of traditional paintings in their areas, which is one reason that
Bhutanese houses have almost the same type of colour and design.
- Vegetable Market:
Every Saturday & Sunday most of the Thimpu’s population
and many valley dwellers congregate on the banks of the river
where the weekend market is held. This is the only time in the
week when fresh vegetables are available.
Punakha The road from Simtokha winds into pine forests and through
small villages for 20 kilometers and then opens miraculously onto
the northern ridge of the mountains. The view over the Himalayas
from Dochula Pass at 3,200m is one of the most spectacular in
all Bhutan. One of the most striking features of the valley is
its abundance of crops and vast terraces of rice fields, which
change from lush green in summer to golden yellow in autumn. Chime
Lhakhang located on the hillock among the rice fields is picturesque
and is pilgrimage site for childless couples. The temple is associated
with the famous saint Drupka Kuenlay “The Divine Madman”
who has built a Chorten the site during the 14th century. Punakha
Dzong is home to the central monk body and the Je Khenpo (the
spiritual leader) during the winter months. It was built between
two rivers in the 17th century by the Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal.
Punakha served as the capital of Bhutan until 1955 and is still
the winter residence of the central monk body. In spite of the
four catastrophic fires and earthquake that destroyed many historic
documents, Punakha Dzong houses sacred artifacts and the embalmed
body of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal.
Wangdiphodrang Dzong lies towards the south of Punakha at an elevation
of 1300 m. It is the last town on the highway before entering central
Bhutan. This Dzong built during the 17th century played a critical
role in unifying the western, central and southern Bhutanese districts.
Further up is Gangtey Gompa, an old monastery dating from the 16th
century. It is in fact the only monastery, which follows the Pelling
Nyingmapa sect of school. This valley of Phobjikha is also a home
of the rare Black necked crane, an endangered species that migrate
from the Tibetan plateau in winter. There are about 450-500 cranes
residing the Bhutan out of which 250-300 lives in this beautiful
Trongsa at an altitude of 2,200m forms the central hub of the nation
and is historically the place from where attempts at unifying the
country were launched. The Royal family has strong links with Trongsa.
Both His Majesty King Uygen Wangchuk and his successor King Jigme
Wangchuck ruled the country from this Dzong.
- Trongsa Dzong: This impregnable fortress
was built in 1648. The massive structure is built on many levels
into the side of the hill that includes the countless courtyards,
passageways and corridors in addition to the twenty three temples
inside the Dzong. Due to its highly strategic position as it the
only connecting route between east and west, the Tongsa Penlop
(Governor) was able to control the whole region effectively for
To the east of Trongsa lies the Bumthang valley at an altitude of
2,600 m. It has an individuality that charms its visitors and separates
it from other regions. Comprised of four smaller valleys, the deeply
spiritual region of Bumthang is shrouded in religious legend. Here
tales of Guru Padmasambhava and his reincarnation known as Tertons
still linger in most nooks and corners. The town of Jakar is the
largest between Thimpu in the west and Trashigang in the east. Jakar
is famous for honey production, cheese, apple juice and apricots.
Visitors to Bumthang should plan to spend a few days taking advantage
of the valley’s relatively gentle slopes to walk to nearby
medieval temples and have a glimpse of Bhutan’s mostly rural
population. It is also known for its woolen material (yathra), which
can be seen hung outside of houses for sale. Further east there
is the Ura valley in its center. Small but old Dzong and cobblestone
paths give the village a medieval feel. Many excursions can be arranged
from this valley like Tharpaling Monastery, Kunzangdra, Tang Mebartso
and many more…
- Jakar Dzong:
It was founded by the great grandfather of Shabdrung. The Dzong
was initially built as a Monastery in 1549 but was upgraded after
Shabdrung had firmly established his power in 1646. The Dzong
is now used as the administration center for Bumthang valley.
- Jambey Lhakhang:
It was built in the 7th century by a Tibetan King Songten Gempo.
This temple is one of the 108 temples built by him to subdue a
large demon, which was stopping the spread of Buddhism.
- Kurje Lhakhang:
It is located above Jambey Lhakhang and consists of three temples.
The one on the right was built in 1652 on the rock face where
the Guru mediated in the 8th century. Second temple is built on
the site of a cave is not visible as it is concealed by a large
statue of the Guru Rinpoche. The third temple was recently built
by the present Royal Queen mother and these three temples are
surrounded by 108 stupa wall symbolic of each joint of the Human
- Tamshing Lhakhang:
It is located opposite of Kurje Lhakhang on the other side of
the river was founded in the beginning of the 16th century by
Teron Pema Lingpa, the reincarnation of Guru Padmasambhava. The
Monastery has very interesting religious paintings like 1,000
Buddhas and 21 Taras. The temple was restored at the end of 19th
Mongar & Lheuntse
Arriving in Mongar is a great relief from turns and heights of the
journey over the pass. The town is small with a sprinkling of shops.
Mongar Dzong is modern compared to the others in the Kingdom. It
was reconstructed by the order of the Third king. No drawing and
nails have been used. A visit to the Dzong gives visitors an impression
of how traditional architecture has continued to thrive through
the centuries. Lheuntse is 77 kms. from Mongar and is one of the
most isolated districts in Bhutan. The landscape is spectacular
with stark cliffs and gorges and dense coniferous forests. The region
is notably famed for its weavers & special textiles & fabrics,
generally considered to be the best in the country. The Kurtoe region
of Lheuntse is also the ancestral home of the Royal Dynasty.
Trashigang lies above the Gumri river and is the largest district
in Bhutan. It is much busier than other Bhutanese towns due to its
proximity to Samdrup Jongkhar in the south which has enable it to
grow as center of commerce. Trashigang is used as the market place
for the hill people from Merak & Sakteng, who are known for
their exceptional features and for their costume made of Sheep skin
and Yak wool. The hat they wear is unusual but has a significance
of its own. It is very different from customary Bhutanese clothing.
The 17th century Dzong is built on top of a cliff and serves as
an administrative center.
Tashi Yangtse was formally a subdivision of Trashigang and is one
of the new districts. Yangtse Dzong is half an hour walk from the
road. A town has developed around Chorten Kora, one of only two
Chortens (Stupas) built in Nepalese style and a spot where Guru
Padmasambhava is believed to have had a vision that a temple and
a Chorten would be built. The area is also known for its exceptional
woodcraft. Another temple lies on the banks of the Gumri river known
as the Gom Kora dedicated to Guru Padmasambhava, where he supposed
to have subdued a demon in form of a Garuda. A festival takes place
every year at this temple.
The road from Trashigang to Samdrup Jongkhar was completed in the
early 1960s. This town is small and busting and acts as a commercial
hub and entry and exit point in the south east.
Phuntsoling is a border town to the south bordering the Indian State
of West Bengal. It is a hub of commercial activity. Jaigaon, a small
Indian town is located near Phuntsoling and one can make road connections
from Jaigaon or Phuntsoling to the airport in Bagdogra or the railway
station in Siliguri, both in the state of West Bengal (169 kms,
a drive of about 4-5 hours) of India. There are also convenient
connections to Nepal, border at Kakarvitta or Indian hill stations
of Kalimpong, Gangtok & Darjeeling.