Bhutan lies deep within the Western Himalayas and provides a stunning mix of old-world charm and glorious landscapes. Bhutan is a nation forgotten to time, a nation that is often describes as the happiest on earth.
Known as the Land of the Thundering Dragon, Bhutan delights and spoils its visitors with a beautiful array of cultural heritage and beautiful mountains.
To help you plan your trip to Bhutan, we have put together this article which list our top ten favourite places to visit in Bhutan.
Without doubt, Taktstang Monastery is the most famous place in all of Bhutan, and for good reason. Known as the Tiger’s Nest, Taktsang sits atop a rocky outcrop on the edge of a giant cliff face! Its position and incredible architecture has drawn tourist to Taktsang for decades. The monastery is located north of Paro and was built in 1692. There are over 2,000 steps to climb to reach the monastery, however, the views from the top are more than worth it. The monastery is also famous as being the original home of the Guru Padmasambhava. The Guru Padmasambhavat is widely associated as being the first person to introduce Buddhism to Bhutan.
Punakha Dzong is one of the most historical and important landmarks in Bhutan. Officially named Punthang Dechen Phodrang (Palace of Great Bliss), Punakha Dzong was the home of Zhabdrung who built the temple in 1637. Zhabdrung mummified body still rests in the temple today. The Dzong was the coronation point for the first King of Bhutan in 1907 and, even today, the Dzong is the winter house for Bhutan’s spiritual leaders. The Dzong sits at an altitude of 4430 feet above sea level and tourists are only allowed to visit the huge Kuenrey (assembly hall) within the grounds of the temple.
One of the most popular places in Bhutan, Dochu La Pass is just a short drive from Bhutan’s capital and takes drivers up and over one of the most beautiful passes in the country. The pass sits at an altitude of 3150 metres and offers spectacular views across the Himalayas. Early in the morning is often clouded, so try visiting a little later in the day if possible. Makes sure to grab a coffee and enjoy the many prayer flags billowing in the mountain breeze.
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 one of the finest in the country and is 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. The museum gives tourists a fascinating insight into the countries’ history and culture.
Both Gangtey Valley and Phobjika are a definite must-see when visiting Bhutan. Nature lovers will be particularly pleased as the area is home to the black-necked crane – a very rare and exceedingly endangered bird. Black-necked cranes migrate every year to Gangtey Valley in winter from their more northern summer homes in Siberia and Tibet. Wildlife enthusiasts should visit Bhutan from November to March for the best opportunity at spotting these rare and shy birds. Phobjika is also one of the most beautiful regions in all of Bhutan. The area is located in a lush glacial valley on the western tip of the Black Mountains.
The capital city of Bhutan is unlike any other capital you’re likely to come across. It’s the only capital city on earth that doesn’t have a single traffic light! It is also home to Bhutan revered monarchy and sits among giant mountains like an oasis. Thimphu is incredibly small for a capital city and houses a population of only 20,000. This gives the city an overall different feel and makes for a much more peaceful city experience. Thimphu has a certain charm about it that is difficult to describe, one has to experience it to understand!
Drukgyel Dzong is one of the most historically fascinating sites in Bhutan. The ruined Dzong tells the tale of how a few Bhutanese warriors defended their countries borders against northern invaders in the 17th century. The Dzong was constructed in 1646 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal specifically to celebrate the famous victory over the Tibetan invaders. Sadly only remains are left as a fire tore through the Dzong in 1951, destroying almost everything. Even so, huge remnants remain and the view from the approaching road on a clear day is nothing short of spectacular.
Another of Thimphu’s most popular sites is Tashichho Dzong. The Dzong is both a fortress and temple combined and lies on the banks of the Wang Chu river in the northern area of Thimphu. The Dzong is generally home to Druk desi (or ‘Dharma Raja’), the leader of the Bhutanese civil government. The Dzong plays host to the country’s largest festival in the summer months and Bhutan’s spiritual leaders live there during this period. The Dzong is hugely important to locals as it was built by Dharma Raja who is said to have bought the Lho-Drukpa sect of Buddhism to Bhutan.
Only recently completed in 2015, the Buddha Dordenma is one of the largest Budhist statues on earth and cost in excess of one hundred million dollars! The huge bronze Buddha stands 169 feet (51.5 meters) tall and houses over 150,000 smaller Buddha statues. The statue sits atop the summit of a hill overlooking Bhutan’s capital city and offers visitors stunning views across the valley. For pure size and oddity, the Buddha Dordenma is well worth a visit!
One of the most popular sites in Bhutan’s capital city is the National Memorial Chorten. The memorial is both a temple and chorten rolled into one building and sits right between two main roads that have to divert around the building. Constructed in 1974, the memorial was built to honour the 3rd king of Bhutan. Sadly, the 3rd king died before the Buddha memorial was completed.
Burnham started his career as a professional tennis player before retiring due to injury. Since then Burnham has thrown himself into adventure travel. He has hiked some of the most iconic and obscure trails across the planet!