Wangdue Phodrang

Covering the area of 4,308sq.km, Wangdue Phodrang is one of the largest dzongkhags in the country which ranges from 800-5800 meters in altitude. Due to its altitude variations it has extremely varied climatic conditions ranging from subtropical forests in the south to cool and snowy regions on the north. The valley provides rich pastureland for cattle and is also famous for its fine bamboo products, slate and stone carvings. Blessed with the rich natural resources and diverse climates, Wangdue Phodrang Dzongkhag is home to many rare and exotic animals like Red Pandas, Tigers and Leopards. Gangtey Monastery, Dargay Goempa, Adha & Rukha, and Gaselo & Nahee Village are the major attraction of the Valley.

Gangtey Monastery

Situated on the high bluff of stone above the town of Gangteng Village, the Gangtey Monastery is an important monastery of Nyingmapa school of Buddhism, which is the main seat of the Pema Lingpa tradition and is also known as Gangtey Gonpa. It is one of the most revered religious sites of Bhutan, known for its veneration of the Terchen King Pema Lingpa, one of the country’s great spiritual patrons. The complex consists of five temples and surrounds the main central tower. The popular festival of Bhutan, Black Necked Crane festival is celebrated in the Gangtey Monastery every year on 12th November.

Dargay Goempa

The monastery was first a simple Drubdey or meditation centre and was built in the spot where Divine Madman Drukpa Kuenley first met Ashi Genzo who was renowned for her beauty. Lam Drukpa Kuenley is considered to be country’s favorite and most iconic saint due to his unorthodox method of teaching through ribald humor.

Adha & Rukha

The village of Adha and Rukha is located under the Wabgdue Phrodang Dzongkhag. It serves as the best places to gain insights into the lives of rural Bhutanese farmers. One can enjoy the home stay with the local families in Adha & Rukha, the farmers will happily welcome you into their homes and regale you with local legends of mermaids and ancient kings.

Gaselo & Nahee Village

These villages are located in the west of the province, under the Wangdue Phrodang Dzongkhag. The life in this village is still medieval and farmers are always happy to see visitors. Experience the joy and simplicity of farming life.

Thimphu

Thimphu, the capital of the dragon kingdom is situated in the western central part of Bhutan at an elevation of 2,320 meter. Thimphu is the world’s third highest capital which is spread over an attitudinal range between 2,348 meters and 2,648 meter. Thimphu is the most modern city in Bhutan with an abundance of restaurants, internet cafes, nightclubs and shopping centers. Thimphu reflects the culture of Bhutan in terms of literature, religion, custom and national dress code, monastic practices of the monasteries, music, dance and literature. Thimphu houses the several attractions such as the National Post Office, the Clock Tower Square, the Motithang Takin Preserve, Tango and Cheri Monasteries, Buddha Dordenma, National Memorial Chorten, Centenary Farmer’s Market, Simtokha Dzong and many more.

Simtokha Dzong

Simtokha Dzong was built by Zhabdrung Ngawang in 1629 which houses one of the premier Dzongkha language learning institutes. The dzong is located about 5 kilometers south of the capital Thimphu. The dzong was built in order to subdue an evil spirit that was harassing travelers in the region. The central tower (Utse) of the dzong consists of 12 sides. The central houses a large statue of Yeshay Gonpo (Mahakala), the chief protective deity of Bhutan. The dzong also contains the bed chambers of both Zhabdrung Ngawang and Jigme Namgyel. Various statues and paintaings of various Buddhas, deities and religious figure including The Eight Manifestations of Guru Rinpoche, Jampelyang the Bodhisattava of Wisdom, Shakya GUalpo the Buddha of Compassion are also carved and painted in the Dzong.

Tashichho Dzong

Tashichho Dzong a Buddhist Monastery and fortress is located on the western bank of the Wang Chu at the northern edge of the Capital, Thimphu. The dzong was first constructed in 1216 A.D by Lama Gyalwa Lhanangpa, later Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal built the new one considering the original one less spacious, and was called as lower Dzong. The Dzong serves as the seat of the government since 1952 and presently houses the throne room and offices of the king, the secretariat and the ministries of home affairs and finance. The main structured building is of two-storied with three-storied towers at each of the four corners topped by triple-tiered golden roofs.

National Memorial Chorten

National Memorial Chorten was built in 1974 in the memory of the third Druk Gyalpo, Jigme Dorji Wangchuk. The Chorten is a large white structure crowned with a golden spire and is dedicated to World Peace. The Chorten is located close to the center of Thimphu city and is approached through a small garden and a gate decorated with three slate carvings. The exterior of the gate represents the three protective bodhisattvas: Avalokitesvara (the symbol of compassion), Manjusri (the symbol of knowledge) and Vajrapani (the symbol of power). The Chorten is an extraordinary example of Buddhist architecture and artwork with gorgeous paintings and intricate sculptures.

Buddha Dordenma Statue

The Buddha Dordenma also known as the Buddha’s point is located atop a hill in Kuenselphodrang Nature Park and overlooks the Southern entrance to Thimphu Valley. Buddha Dordenma is a gigantic statue of Buddha which houses over one hundred thousand smaller Buddha statues same as Buddha Dordenma made of bronze and gilded in gold. The massive statue of Shakyamuni is one of the largest statues of Buddha in the world and measures 51.5 meter in height.

Folk Heritage Museum

Folk Heritage Museum is located in the capital city of Thimphu and was established in 2001 which provides a glimpse of the traditional Bhutanese lifestyle, in addition to artifacts from rural households, and also displays an impressive collection of typical household objects, tools and equipment. The museum is located in a three-storey 19th century traditional house. The museum regularly holds events for education and culture demonstrations. The museum opens every day except government holidays from 10:00 AM to 4:30 PM on weekdays, 10:30 AM to 1:00 Pm on Saturday’s and 11:30 AM to 3:30 PM on Sunday’s.

Centenary Farmers Market

Centenary Farmers Market or Thimphu’s weekend market is located below the main town, near the Wang Chhu River and is the largest domestic market for the farmers in Bhutan. Farmers arrive here from all over the country to sell their farm products in the market. Fresh and organic products are available within the Farmer’s Market due to which it has become a favorite spot for tourists and a recreational place for people from all walks of life.

Motithang Takin Preserve

Motithang Takin Preserve is located in the Motithang district of Thimpu and is a wildlife reserve area for Takin (Budorcas Taxicolor), the national animal of Bhutan. Takin was declared as the National Animal of Bhutan due to a legend of the animals’s creation in Bhutan in the 15th century by Lama Drukpa Kunley, popularly known as the Divine Mad Man.

Druk Wangyal Lhakhang

The Druk Wanggyal Lhakhang (temple) was built in honor of His Majesty the fourth Druk Gyalpo, Jigme Singye Wangchuk. The past and future of the temple appears to merge in the details of the lhakhang and its structure states the story of a supreme warrior figure, whose vision pierces the distant future in a fine blend of history and mythology.

Dochula

Dochula Pass situated at an altitude of 3050 meters is just an hour drive from Thimphu. The pass is a popular tourist destination as it offers the flawless 360 degree panoramic view of the Himalayan mountain range. The dochula also houses 108 Druk Wangyal Chortens built by the eldest Queen Mother Her Majesty Ashi Dorji Wangomo Wangchuk. During a clear warm day, great pictures of the snow-capped mountains can be photographed at Dochula.

Samtse

Samtse Dzongkhag is located in Southern Bhutan which ranges from 600-3,800 meters covering the area of 1,582 sq. km. Two main ethnic groups reside in Samtse, the Lhotshampas and the Doyas. Samtse is a religiously diverse district and both Hinduism and Buddhism are widely practiced in the dzongkhag. Losar (New Years), Thrue and Lomba are the main festivals celebrated by Buddhist while Diwali and Dussehra are the festivals celebrated by the Hindus. Due to its hot and humid climate, Samtse is rich in the diversity of flora and fauna. One of the more exotic animals found in this district are the local elephants, some of which have been domesticated. The main crops grown in the region are oranges, cardamom, ginger and areca nuts and these cash crops are exported to the nearby Indian state of West Bengal and even to Bangladesh. Samtse also consists of construction based industries; minerals like Dolomite and Quartzite are mined at Pugil, providing raw materials for two major cement plants.

Punakha

Punakha was the capital of Bhutan until the 1960’s, later it was replaced by Thimphu but it still holds the serene atmosphere of a place with a majestic past. Punakha Dzong is the major attraction of the valley which has been inextricably linked with momentous occasions in Bhutanese history. It served as the capital of the country from 1637 to 1907 and the first national assembly was hosted here in 1953. It is the second oldest and second largest Dzong in Bhutan and one of the most remarkable structures in the country. Punakha Valley has a pleasant climate with warm winters and hot summers. It is located at an average elevation 1200 meters above sea level. Majestically standing on an island between the confluence of the Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu rivers, the Punakha Dzong is one of the most impressive of all Bhutan’s ancient fortresses. An arched wooden bridge connects the Dzong with the mainland and houses many precious relics. The Dzong serves as the winter home of the monastic body.

Punakha Dzong

Punakha Dzong is one of the most beautiful dzong in the country and is the second largest and second oldest dzong in Bhutan. The dzong is situated at the confluence of the two rivers Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu. On October 13, 2011, te wedding of the King of Bhutan, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, and his fiancé, Jetsun Pema, was held at the Punakha Dzong. The beautiful dzong contains the preserved remains of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the unifier of Bhutan as well as sacred relic known as the Ranjung Karsapani. The dzong was constructed as an “embodiment of Buddhist values” and was one of the 16 dzongs built by the Zhabdrung during his rule from 1594 to 1691.

Chimmi Lhakhang

Standing on a round hillock near Lobesa, Chimmi Lhakhang is the Buddhist monastery built in 1499 by the 14th Drukpa, Ngawang Choegyel. Later the site was blessed by the “Divine Madman” the maverick saint Drukpa Kunley (1455-1529). The lhakhang is located 10 kilometers from Punakha near a village called Sopsokha from where a 20 minutes’ walk along muddy and dusty path through agricultural fields of mustards and rice, leads to a hillock where the monastery and the chorten are situated. Chimmi Lhakhang is also popularly known as the “Fertility Temple”.

Paro

Paro, a valley town in Bhutan is situated west of the Capital, Thimphu. The valley starts from the confluence of the Paro Chhu and the Wang Chhu rivers at Chuzom to Mt. Jomolhari at the Tibetan border to the North. This majestic valley serves as one of the biggest valleys in the kingdom and is covered in fertile rice fields and is decorated with beautiful, crystalline river meandering down the valley. Paro houses the country’s first international airport along with the many historical and religious sites and only the international airport of the Country. There are over 155 temples and monasteries in this area, some dating as far back as 14th century, among which Taktsang Monastery is considered as the most popular and ideal landmark of Bhutan.

Taktsang Monastery (The Tiger’s Nest)

Taktsang Monastery located outskirts of Paro town at an altitude of 3.210 meters is the important and popular monasteries in Bhutan both among locals and tourists. The monastery is perched on a vertical cliff defying all te engineering logics. Hike to Taktsang is the most popular activity among tourists, hiking along the beautiful forest of blue pine and rhododendrons and walking uphill towards the monastery. The monastery itself is surrounded by majestic mountains and beautiful green valleys. Its architectural design is shaped with best of Buddhist traditions and arts. The monastery is a white building with a golden roof and has four main temples and several dwellings. A large statue of tiger is located at the hall of thousand Buddhas carved into the rock. Taktsang is also popularly known as the “Tiger’s Nest” which is associated with the legend that during 7th century Guru Padmasambhava flew here on a back of a flying tigress and meditate here for 3 years, 3 months, 3 days and 3 hours. Taktsang is located about 10 km from Paro town and the hike to reach the monastery is about 2-3 hours. No trip to Bhutan would be complete without a visit to this remarkable heritage site.

National Museum of Bhutan

The National Museum of Bhutan is a renovated form of Ta-Dzong, an ancient watchtower that now displays hundreds of ancient Bhutanese artifacts and artwork including traditional costumes, armor and weaponry, masterpieces of bronze statues and paintings, and handcrafted implements for daily life. The museum houses over 3,000 works of Bhutanese art, covering more than 1,500 years of Bhutan’s cultural heritage. Its rich holdings of various creative traditions and disciplines represent a remarkable blend of the past with the present and are a major attraction for local and foreign visitors.

Drukgyel Dzong

Drukgyel Dzong was built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1646 to commemorate his victory over the Tibetan invaders. Historically this Dzong has withstood the taste of time and the glory of Drukgyel Dzong remained unchanged even it was destroyed by fire in 1951. Majestic view of Mt. Jomolhari can be spotted on a clear day from the village below the Dzong.

Jangtsa Dumtseg Lhakhang

Jangtsa Dumtseg Lhakhang is a Buddhist temple and is notable as it is in the form of a chorten, very rare in Bhutan. The Lhakhang is situated on the edge of a hill between the Paro Valley and the Dopchari valley, across the bridge from Paro. It is believed that the Lhakhang was built by the saint Thangtong Gyalpo to subdue a “serpentine force” that was located at the foundation of the chorten. But according to Bhutanese source it was built “on the nose of a hill that looks like a frog in order to counteract Sadag (earth-owning spirit) and Lunyen (powerful naga spirit). The Buddhist iconography depicted in the Chorten is considered a unique repository of the Drukpa Kagyu School.

Dobji Dzong

Dobji Dzong is situated at an altitude of 6,000 feet on the way to Haa in western Bhutan. It was built by Ngawang Chogyal, the brother of Drukpa Kuenley popularly known as the “Divine Madman” in 1531. The dzong houses relics such as the statue of Jetsun Milarepa, Guru Langdarchen, Dungsay Dewa Zangpo, and Ngawang Chogyal while the gonkhang the Goem-Chamdal Sum: Mahakala, Mahakali and the Raven Crown.

Tamchog Lhakhang

Tamchog Lhakhang is located along the Paro-Thimphu highway across the Paro river and was built by the great Tibetan saint, Thangtong Gyalpo. Tamchong Lhakhang is the private temple however may visit the temple by taking permit. One must cross an iron chain bridge, one of the few remaining of the many that Thangthong Gyalpo built to reach the temple.

Kyichu Lhakhang

Kyichu Lhakhang is one of the oldest monasteries in Bhutan build during 7th century in 659 AD by Tibetan King Songsten Gampo to suppress down the giant demons. Kyichu is said to be one of the main 12 temples of the 108 temples that were built overnight across Tibet and borderlands. In the 8th century the temple was visited by Padmasambhava and it is believed he concealed many spirituals treasures in the temple.

Haa Valley

Haa is one of the smallest Dzongkhag in the country, located in the South West of Paro covering an area of roughly 1706 sq.km. Haa is the ancestral home of Queen Grandmother and the illustrious Dorji family and is one of the most beautiful and isolated areas in the kingdom, adorned with pristine alpine forest and tranquil mountain peaks. The wooded hills of Haa provides an ideal location for hiking and mountain biking. Haa is home to a number of nomadic herders and hosts an annual Summer Festival that reflects their unique lifestyle and culture.

Haa Valley

Haa Valley is a steep north-south valley with a narrow floor. The name Haa, suggest the esoteric hiddenness. The region comprises of the Torsa Strict Nature Reserve, one of the environmentally protected areas of Bhutan. Torsa is connected to the Jigme Dorji National Park via a biological corridor, cutting across the northeastern half of Haa District. The main crops grown in the valley are wheat and barley, although some rice is grown in the lower reaches of the valley.

Gasa

Gasa is the northernmost district of Bhutan which adjoins the districts of Punakha, Thimphu and Wangdue Phodrang and has the smallest population with just about 3000 inhabitants. Gasa elevation ranges from 1500 to 4,500 meters so it experiences extremely long and cold winters and short but beautiful summers. Gasa has become a tourist destination because of its pristine forests and the exceptionally scenic location of Dzong. Gasa is famously known for its inhabitants, the Layaps, and for the Snowman Trek-one of the most challenging treks in the Himalayas.

Laya Village

Laya Village is situated at an altitude of 3800 meter which is adorned with their own unique culture. Anyone accompanying the Snow Leopard Trek of The Grand Snowman Trek will converge through Laya. The village celebrates the Owlay festival which takes place once in three years.

Gasa Dzong

Gasa Dzong was built in 17th century by Tenzin Drukdra the second Druk Desi over the site of a meditation place established by Drubthob Terkungpa in the 13th century. The Dzing is locally known as Tashi Thongmon Dzong and served as a defending barrack in the 17th century. The dzong is circular in shape and consist of three watch towers that are placed at strategic points.

Lunana Village

The nomads of the village have top knowledge on medicinal herbs and have benefited a lot from cordycep harvesting. Lunana is the most remote village of Gasa district which reflects the culture of the Himalayan people residing amongst the glaciers.

Gasa Tshachu (Gasa Hot Springs)

Gasa Hot Springs is reached with a trek for approximately 40 minutes from the nearby road and is located in the valley floor. The springs are situated close to the banks of the Mo Chhu River and are most popular springs among the tourists and local people. There are three bath houses at the Gasa Tshachu, one of the bath houses consist a large bathing pool and the remaining two each have smaller pools and the temperature varies in each of the pool.

Dagana

Dagana got its name from the historic Daga Trashiyangtse Dzong established in 1651 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel and still functions as the district administration center today. It is a verdant region and 80% of the district is cover under forest and stretches all the way down to the southern border of the kingdom. Tress like Champ, Augury, Chirpine and Sal grows throughout the region. Two main ethnic groups, the Ngalops and the Lhotshampas reside in this district. The major attractions of Dagana are three stone Megaliths, known as “Sky Pillar Rock” (Do Namkhai Kaw), “The Rock of Ancient Steps” (Do Kelpai Genthey) nad “The Frontier Sky Fortress” (Tha Namkhai Dzong). It is believed that during the construction of Daga Trashiyantse Dzong, the megalith known as the Frontier Sky Fortress emitted telepathic message to the builders sating that the Dzong would collapse if it was built any higher that it currently stands. The district also houses the Buddhist monasteries and temples throughout the district.

Chukha

Two main ethnic groups reside in Chukha, the Ngalops and the Lhotshampas. Chukha, located in the dense subtropical forest in Southwestern Bhutan is a hot and wet region. The region houses varieties of flora and faunas. Chukha houses the religious Jabar Goemba Monastery and Tshamdrak Goemba. Jabar Goemba Monastery was established by the venerable Lama Drakpa Jamtsho in 17th century and is situated at a site surrounded by five mountains with an auspicious resemblance to the five religious hats worn by lamas. The main artifact of the monastery is a holy Phurba or ritual dagger that is said to have flown to the monastery from Tibet. Tshamdrak Goemba was built by Lam Ngawang Drakpa in 17th century which contains relics such as the 100 Ceremonial Drums and a large stone slab that is attributed to Ap Chundu, the guardian deity of Haa.

Phuentsholing

Phuentsholing occupies parts of both Phuentsholing Gewog and Sampheling Gewog and lies opposite the Indian town of Jaigon. Phuentsholing is a border town in southern Bhutan, and serves as the administrative seat (dzongkhag thromde) of Chukha District.

Trashigang

Trashigang serves as the largest town in the eastern region, and a base for tourists venturing into the surrounding villages and mountains. It was once the centre of an important trade route with Tibet. Trashigang extends from the easternmost corners of the kingdom, stretching up to the edge of the Indian state of Arunachel Pradesh. It is the country’s largest district, with an altitude ranging from 600m to over 4000m. Trashigang town stands as the main market place for the semi-nomadic people of Merak and Sakteng. It is home to the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary which was created in part to protect the migoi, a type of yeti. Trashigang houses one of the most reputed colleges in the country, the Sherubtse College which was founded in 1966 by a group of Jesuits under the leadership of William Mackey.

Trashigang Dzong

Trashigang Dzong (The Fortress of the Auspicious Hill), one of the largest dzong fortress in Bhutan was built in 1659, to defend against Tibetan invasions. This wonderful fortress is situated atop a ledge with steep cliffs on three sides overlooking the Dangmechu River. According to legend, the sight of the Dzong sacred the Tibetan Army which retreated while remarking that the Dzong was a “Sky Dzong and was not on the ground”. It has been the political stronghold of Eastern Bhutan for over 300 years. Due to its location, Trashigang Dzong is one of the most strategically placed Dzongs in Bhutan. The present Dzong was enlarged by Dzongpon Dopola in 1936.

Trashigang Tshechu

Trashigang Tshechu (festival) is held annually for three days during the 7th to 11th days os the tenth month of the Bhutanese calendar (December) in Trashigang Dzong. The festival is attended by the Brokpas, a semi-nomadic people that reside in the valleys of Merak and Sakteng, the Khengpa community and people from as far as Samdrup Jongkhar, Pema Gatshel and Trashi Yangtse.

Radhi Village

Radhi Village is often known as the ‘Rice Bowl of the East’ due to its verdant rice fields that supply most of the grain to eastern parts of the country. Rice fields and skill of weavers are famous in Radhi Village. Around 200 households are present in the village, all of which the people make living from fine raw silk or bura textiles during the off-agricultural seasons.