Among many excellent scenic spots and views in Bhutan, the flights in and out of Bhutan from Kathmandu maybe one of the most impressive one all over the world. You may find out that great Himalaya mountain-chains reaching out to you included Mt.Everest, Mt.Cho Oyu, Mt.Kangchenjunga, Mt.Makalu, Mt.Manaslu, etc. When going through check-in formalities from Kathmandu to Paro, you may ask for left window-seat A, while you are flying from Paro to Kathmandu, right window-seat B, in that case, will make you enjoy the magnificent mountain view of Himalayas during the flight.
As the capital city of Bhutan, Thimphu is also the nation's largest city. The city didn't really develop until the king declared Thimphu the new capital in 1961. Vehicles first appeared on the streets a year later, and slowly the city began to adapt to its role as the nation's capital. Currently the town is undergoing massive development. New tree-lined streets are being laid and the clock tower area in the center of the city has been transformed into a park-cum-open air theater where live cultural performances take place. Although Thimphu is a new capital, it never lacks of attractions.
Trashi Chhoe Dzong - The present dzong was built in the 18th century by Shabdrung Rinpoche to house government officials. Later it was enlarged to accommodate both the monastic and civil bodies. Three times suffering severe damage from fire and once from an earthquake in 1897, much of the historic building dates from the rebuilding in 1902. To accommodate the national government and the central monastic body, the dzong was totally refurbished and enlarged in 1962, a year after Thimphu was designated the nation's capital. The Dzong housed the original National Assembly and now houses the secretariat, the throne room and officers of the king and the ministries of home affairs and finance.
Simtokha Dzong - Built in 1629 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, Simtokha was the first dzong to be built in a unified Bhutan. Currently, it houses the country's main Dzongkha language learning institute. Simtokha is about 5km south of Thimphu.
The National Memorial Chorten - Located off Jangchhub Lam. A good place to visit in the evening when the locals are doing their evening prayers. The stupa was built in 1974 in memory of the third king.
The National Folk Heritage Museum - Located behind the National Library. A traditional house that showcases rural life. Exhibits and cultural shows are held in the museum compound. Open: Mon-Fri 10:30AM to 4:30PM, Sa 10:30Am to 1PM and Su 11:30AM to 3:30PM. Entrance: 150nu.
The Textile Museum - Has a display of exquisite Bhutanese textiles from the 1600s to the present day.
Takin Preserve or Takin Mini Zoo - The Takin is the national animal of Bhutan, and looks like a cross between a cow and a goat. Legend has it that the animal was created by the great Buddhist yogi, Drupa Kunley, and it can be found only in Bhutan and nearby areas. Taxonomists place the animal in a category of its own as it is not similar enough to any other animal to fit established categories.
Weekend Market - Vendors from throughout the region arrive on Thursday and Friday and remain until Sunday night. It's an interesting place to visit, where village people jostle with well-heeled Thimphu residents for the best and cheapest vegetables and foodstuffs.
Central Post Office - Another pride of Bhutan, it houses multifaries collection of stamps and are best seen in commemorative books that can be found inside Thimphu's Central Post Office. You can also make your own customized head-picture stamps here and send to you friends or families.
It is a historic town with many sacred sites and historical buildings scattered through the area. In addition, the Paro Valley is wide and verdant and is recognized a one of the most beautiful in all Bhutan. However, apart from the main street (which is constructed of traditional wooden structures), the bazaar area is a nondescript hodgepodge of concrete buildings that is totally bereft of charm and character. Along with Jakar and Punakha, Paro forms the 'golden triangle' of popular tourist destinations in Bhutan. Although Paro is not the capital city, but it plays an important role as the political, economy, cultural center with a great deal tourist sites and attractions.
Taktsang Goemba(The Tiger's Nest) - Precariously perched on the edge of a 1,200 meter cliff, this monastery creates an impressive sight, and is the unofficial symbol of Bhutan. It is about 2-3 hour, totally up-hill hike from the parking lot to the monastery, though there is a cafe located on ridge across from the Taktsang (about 90 minutes into the walk) that provides a welcome opportunity to take a rest and purchase refreshments and snacks. Taktsang was established as a sacred place for meditation by Guru Rinpoche who visited the site on his second visit to Bhutan in 747 CE, though the first monastery was not constructed until 1694. In 1998 a tragic fire destroyed most of the original buildings, but these have since been painstakingly restored to their former glory.
Paro Dzong(also called Rinpung Dzong in Bhutanese) - Built in 1646, Paro Dzong is a large Drukpa Kagyu Buddhist monastery and fortress in Paro District in Bhutan. It houses the district Monastic Body and government administrative offices of Paro Dzongkhag.
A great annual festival or tsechu is held at Rinpung Dzong from the eleventh to the fifteenth day of the second month of the traditional Bhutanese lunar calendar. At the break of dawn on the morning of the fifteenth day, a great sacred Tongdrol banner depicting the Eight Manifestations of Guru Rinpoche is displayed for the public.
National Museum of Bhutan - On the hill above Rinpung Dzong is a seven storied the watchtower fortress or Ta Dzong built in 1649. In 1968 this was established as the home of the National Museum of Bhutan, just below Rinpung Dzong is a traditional covered cantilever bridge., the museum displays artifacts from Bhutan's history as well as examples of indigenous flora and fauna.
Drukgyel Dzong - This dzong (fortress) was built in the 16th century to commemorate a victory over the invading Tibetan forces. The fortress today lies in ruins, the elements and a fire in the 1950s having taken a toll on the site. Drukyel dzong is about 15 kms from Paro.
Drakhapo - above Shaba (keeping Shaba School to the right, follow the dirt road to end. The complex is a five minute walk from here). Drakhapo is a monastic complex perched on a cliff. Guru Rinpoche spent two months here after completing a retreat at nearby Taktsang, and during his stay placed many treasures (terma) into the cliff. The area also has several hand and foot prints embedded in the rock.
Kichu Lhakhang - It is most ancient monastery in Bhutan built by King Songten Gampo in one night sometimes around 8th century. It is located just off the road running between Paro bazaar and the Taktsang. When it is spring time in Bhutan, you may find out that Kychu Lakhang is just like a colorful flourishing world with many kinds of flowers blooming at the same time.
Jangsarbu Lhakhang - located behind Paro Dzong. This small and insignificant looking temple is home to a magnificent statue of Sakyamuni Buddha that was carried all the way from Lhasa, and also houses the protector deity of Paro. Legend has it that the statue of Sakyamuni was destined for Paro Dzong and merely placed in the temple for overnight safe keeping. However, when the time came to move the statue, it proved impossible to lift. As a result, it became a permanent feature of the lhakhang.
Once being the capital city of Bhutan till 1955, Punakha is now one of the 20 administrative districts of Bhutan. It is about 72 km away from Thimphu and it takes about 3 hours by car from the capital Thimphu. Unlike Thimphu it is quite warm in winter and hot in summer. It is located at an elevation of 1,200 metres above sea level and rice is grown as the main crop along the river valleys of two main rivers of Bhutan, the Pho Chu and Mo Chu. Dzongkha is widely spoken in this district.
Punakha Dzong - Constructed by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal(the founder of Bhutan) in 1637-38. It is the winter home of Bhutan's Central Monastic Body. The Dzong houses the most sacred relics of the Southern Drukpa Kagyu school including the Rangjung Kasarpani, and the sacred remains of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and Terton Padma Lingpa.
Punakha Dzong was the site of the coronation of Ugyen Wangchuck (or Deb Nagpo) as the first King of Bhutan In 1907. Three years later, a treaty was signed at Punankha whereby the British agreed not to interfere in Bhutanese internal affairs and Bhutan allowed Britain to direct its foreign affairs.
In 1987, the dzong was partially destroyed by fire.
Due to its location at the confluence of the Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu rivers in the Punakha-Wangdue valley, the dzong is vulnerable to flash flooding caused by glacier lakes (GLOF). According to a recent report, flash flood damage to Punakha Dzong occurred in 1957, 1960 and 1994. Currently (March 2010) work is in progress to protect the dzong from future flood damage by deepening the river channels and raising the embankments using four large steam shovels.
A covered wooden cantilever bridge crossing the Mo Chhu river was built together with the Dzong in the 17th century. This bridge was washed away by a flash flood in 1957 or 1958. In 2006 work started on a new covered wooden cantilever bridge of traditional construction with a free span of 55 meters which was completed in 2008.
Dochula Pass - On the way to Thimphu, you may come across the Dochula Pass, in which there are 108 stupas. The stupas were built in by Her Majesty the Queen Mother in honor of His Majesty the 4th King and his people for their victory in the war fought in 2003 in Southern Bhutan and for peace and prosperity of the nation. The Dochula pass also offers a beautiful panoramic view of the Himalayas on a clear day. When you pass here in a rainy day, you may find out another wonderful view here.
Chimi Lhakhang - Located just 10km away from Punakha near a village from where a 20 minutes walk along the muddy and dusty path through agricultural fields of mustards and rice, leads to a hillock where the monastery and the chorten are situated. All houses in the village have paintings of phalluses on their exterior walls. It is said that the diving mad man lama Drukpa Kunley had called the hillock where the monastery exists as the breast of a woman because of its round shape.
Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten - Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten stands majestically on a strategic ridge above the Punakha valley. Built over a period of 9 years, Bhutanese craftsmen including carpenters, painters, and sculptors consulted holy scriptures rather than engineering manuals, to construct this 4-storey-temple.
It is a splendid example of Bhutan’s fine architectural and artistic traditions and the only one of its kind in the world. Built by Her Majesty the Queen Mother, this temple is dedicated for the well being of the kingdom and the benefit of all sentient beings.
Wangdue Photrang is located in central Bhutan with another name shorten as Wangdi. It was said once built in 1638 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal(the founder of Bhutan) who was searching for the best location for a dzong to prevent incursions from the south. At the chosen spot the Shabdrung encountered a boy named Wangdi playing beside the river and hence named the dzong "Wangdi's Palace".
Wangdue Photrang Dzong - Wangdue Phodrang Dzong is 21km from Punakha. Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel met a young boy named Wangdi playing in the sand by the Punak Chhu and named the new dzong Wangdi Phodrang (Wangdi's Palace) which was later changed to Wangdue. The dzong is a dramatic example of Bhutanese architecture. The structure follows the contours of a ridge high over the river. The cacti on the slope were planted to prevent invaders from climbing to the dzong. The dzong was founded in 1638 by the Shabdrung and was Bhutan's second capital until Trongsa was founded in1644. The penlpop of Wangdue Phodrang was the third most powerful ruler in the country. The dzong controlled the routes to Trongsa, Punakha, Dagana, and Thimpu. The sole entrance to the dzong is flanked by large prayer wheels. The Guru Tshengy Thondrol, depicting Guru Rimpoche is unfurled on the final day of the autumn tsechu festival. In the main prayer hall there are statues of Sakyamuni, Guru Rimpoche, and the Shabdrung. The dzong was repaired after a fire in 1837 and an earthquake in 1897.
Phobjikha Valley - A wide and lush valley that is the winter home of the black-necked crane from Tibet.
Gangtey Monastery - A 17th century monastery in the Nyingma school of Buddhism. The monastery affords wonderful views over the Gangtey Valley and mountains beyond.
Langdra Nye (The Red Bull Sacred Site) - near Bai Village. Guru Rinpoche meditated here and the cave is considered one of Bhutan's most sacred sites. Among the relics on display is a thumb print of Guru Rinpoche embedded in rock. The name of the site is derived from an incident where Guru Rinpoche subdued a charging red bull.
As the most historic towns in Bhutan, and the first built monastery here in 1543. The town's dzong is particularly impressive and is often described as a dragon flying over mountain peaks. Constructed in 1644, it served as the original seat of power of the House of Wangchuck before it became the ruling dynasty of Bhutan in 1907. All kings of Bhutan are first given the title of penlop (governor) of Trongsa, and the first and second kings ruled from the town.
Trongsa Dzong - Constructed in 1644 and located on the top of an imposing hill, this dzong creates an impressive sight for miles around. The dzong has since been repaired on several occasions; it was damaged during the 1897 Assam earthquake and underwent extensive renovation in 1927 and 1999. Trongsa Dzong, the largest dzong at a striking location, is an important administrative building, providing the headquarters of the government of Trongsa District. Trongsa provides a strategic central location to control Bhutan and for centuries it was the seat of the Wangchuck dynasty of penlops (governors) who effectively ruled over much of eastern and central Bhutan, and from 1907 have been Kings of Bhutan. It is also a major monastic complex, with around 200 monks.
Thruepang Palace - The palace was built by the second king and was the birth place of the third. Currently it used by reigning monarchs when on official visits to Trongsa. The building is closed to the public and like many of the early palaces is unimposing, but from an architectural and historical point of view it is still worth viewing.
As one of the 20 dzongkhag (districts) comprising Bhutan, Bumthang is the most historic dzongkhag if the number of ancient temples and sacred sites is counted. Bumthang consists of the four mountain valleys of Ura, Chumey, Tang and Choekhor (also known as Bumthang valley), although occasionally the entire district is referred to as Bumthang valley.
"Bumthang" directly translates as "beautiful field". "Thang" means field or flat place, and "Bum" is said be an appreviation of either "bumpa" (a vessel for holy water, thus describing the shape and nature of the valley), or "bum" ("girl", indicating this is the valley of beautiful girls).
Bumthang farms yield buckwheat, dairy products, honey and apples among other products.
The language spoken in the Bumthang district is known as Bumthangkha. It is a Tibeto-Burman language closely related to Dzongkha, the national language of Bhutan. Bumthangkha is partially comprehensible to speakers of Dzongkha, which originated in valleys to the west of Bumthang. Each of the four valleys of Bumthang has its own dialect, and the remnants of the Kheng kingdom to the south in Zhemgang speak Khengkha which may be classified as a dialect of Bumthangka.
Jakar - Spacious and surrounded by tree covered mountains, the valley in which Jakar is located (Choekor Valley) is considered to be one of the most beautiful in all Bhutan, and it is commonly referred to as "Little Switzerland". The Jakar area is known as a bastion of Vajrayana Buddhism, especially the Nyingma tradition, and there are many monasteries and sacred sites located here.
The cluster of villages below the dzong, which are collectively known as Jakar Town, have a population of around 5,000. The main bazaar is currently a row of single storey buildings. However, due to the danger of the nearby river, this will soon be replaced by a new row of two storey shops currently under construction near the dzong.
Jakar Dzong - The fortress was originally constructed in 1667, but rebuilt after being severely damaged in an earthquake in 1897. It is one of the largest and most impressive dzongs in Bhutan and houses the administrative and monastic offices for the Bumthang district.
Wangdicholing Palace - Built in 1857, the palace served as the principal summer residence of the first and second kings of Bhutan. It is an unassuming structure, lacking the ramparts and protective walls which became standard features of later palaces. Currently, it is unoccupied and can be visited.
Kurjey Lhakhang - Views of Trongsa valley on the ascent are superb. It comprises of four smaller valleys, the deeply spiritual region of Bumthang is shrouded in religious legend. A number of small monasteries can be found throughout the hills. The valley is home to the sacred Jambay and Kurjey Lhakhangs. Kurjey Lhakhangs is one of several monasteries in Bumthang. At Kurjey, bodily marks of Guru Rinpoche are impressed upon a rock. Bumthang valley is host to spectacular religious festivals in October and November.
Black Mountain National Park - Stretching over 1,400 sq km, this reserve covers a wide range of habitat types from the permanent ice peaks of the Dorsingla Pass(alt. 4,925m) and alpine lakes, to pasture and conifer and broad leaf forests.
This reserve constitutes the largest and richest temperate forest nature reserve in the Himalayas. The Gangtey Winter Trek passes through this region.
Besides culture and adventure tours, Spa facilities are available in luxury hotels in Bhutan, which provide you therapies such as Yoga practising, Meditation, face care, body therapies, etc. It is such a wonderful experience to choose one especially after finishing an exhausted trekking tour.