Have you ever wondered what a Land of Happiness would look like? If happiness is a place, then it is Bhutan. One has to experience Bhutan first-hand to fully understand how they have managed to turn a fairy tale dream into a living reality. When it comes to experiences, the Land of Thunder Dragon has a lot in store. It has Monasteries, Forts, Trekking spots, Shopping places, and many Buddhist relics, majestic Himalayas, panoramic valleys, copious flora and fauna and what not.
Did you know: Bhutan is reputed for pioneering a concept, known as Gross National Happiness, that places people (and not material wealth) at the centre of its developmental values
Here goes the list of iconic places to include in your itinerary for your next trip to Bhutan or as they call it The Last Shangri-La:
- Rinpung Dzong
- Chele La Pass
- Tiger’s Nest Monastery
- Zuri Dzong Hike
- Punakha Dzong
- Phobjikha Valley
- Jigme Dorji National Park
- Norzin Lam Street
1. Rinpung Dzong
Dzong is a fort in Bhutan’s lexicon, Rinpung is a tourist spot you should not miss on your trip to Bhutan. This fort has white towering walls, and it exemplifies the typical Bhutanese architecture and deep-rooted decades-old traditions. The fort exudes a deep sense tranquillity owing to the vicinity which has many shrines and temples. Some of those renowned shrines are Kungarwa, Monk’s assembly hall, Sandalwood stupa, and protector’s shrine. The timings to visit this architectural wonder is from 9 AM to 5 PM. In the festival of Tshechu, there are processions in which holy images are carried followed by the mask dances which portrays the iconic monk stories. It’s no surprise that Rinpung is among the best places to visit in Bhutan.
Best time to visit: In March-April when annual festival of Tshechu is held in Rinpung Dzong from 11th to 15th day
Did you know: Rinpung Dzong was built in the 16th Century is famously known as the Fortress on a Heal of Jewels.
2. Chele La Pass
Breathtaking panoramic view of the valleys, gushing waterfalls, alpine flowers, and magnificent clouds drifting above the hills. And if this is not all, the Chele La Pass is situated at an altitude of 3987 metres. Located at 13000 feet above the Paro valley, Chele La Pass is the highest road pass of Bhutan. You get to witness the beautiful Jomolhari Mountain and other adjacent peaks with Himalayan. Mount Jomolhari is Bhutan’s most sacrosanct mountain at the height of 22,000 feet. If you’re coming here by car, then the road trip is one of the best that you can ever come across. It has thick forests, rivers, waterfalls, stunning scenery which will attract you to stop on the way and admire the visual. To sum it up, a must-visit place to include in your itinerary of best places to visit in Bhutan.
Suggested Read: Best things to do in Bhutan
Attraction: Haa Summer Festival which attracts millions of tourists which is a symbol of the rich culture of the nomadic heaps.
Did you know: Chele La Pass is situated at an altitude of 3987 meters, giving the spectacular visual possible from its zenith.
3. Tiger’s Nest Monastery
Taktsang or Tiger’s Nest Monastery is a pilgrimage site and one of the best architecture you will come across in the country. This monastery is of Saint Rinpoche and is an ideal place for trekkers and adventure lovers as well. This is because there is a small trek of 900 metres to reach the monastery, and the journey has panoramic views of the Paro valley. This monastery is hanged on a cliff as it stands over and above the lush green forests having umpteen forms of flora and fauna in the likes of blue pine and rhododendrons. The holy ambience, a cafeteria on the way up to relax and eat something, breathtaking views of the Paro valley, chapel of butter lamps, caves, waterfalls. You just cannot afford to miss out on this monastery if you’re planning to visit Bhutan.
Did you know: Going by the archives, Guru Rinpoche rode to this site on a tigress back to combat the local demon. Post which he meditated here for 4 months.
4. Zuri Dzong Hike
The peak of Dzong trek is an ideal spot to get the bird’s eye view of the Paro valley in its entirety. Can it get any better than this? The murals in the upper chapels are signs of the rich history and cultural heritage of this fort in Bhutan. The experience is so surreal, its bound to give goosebumps. This hike will give you tons of anecdotes to chant in front of your friends after you leave this place and not to forget the memories to cherish for a lifetime which you will carry in your heart. Zuri Dzong fort is thus a point of interest in Bhutan which you must experience to have the total Bhutan experience.
Did you know: Being the oldest Dzong in the country, Lord Buddha visited this place in the 8th Century and did meditation in a cave in this Dzong
5. Punakha Dzong
“The Land of Thunderbolt” as it is known as in the local lexicon, is the second oldest and the second largest Dzong of Bhutan. Punakha Dzong is renowned for its supreme architecture and attracts millions of tourists round the year from all parts of the world. This Dzong has tons of interesting stories waiting for you and it’s an epitome of Buddhist culture. Punakha Dzong is situated at an altitude of 1200 metres with no problem of oxygen shortage or altitude sickness, making it an ideal destination for novice trekkers. The country’s first assembly was held in 1953 in this Dzong. This location is placed between two rivers Pho Chu and Mo Chu, which are a treat to watch in itself. Punakha is blessed with a temperate climate, and lovely lilac-coloured jacaranda trees grow around the Dzong during the spring season. Thus, all this coupled with the attractions involved makes Punakha Dzong a best tourist place in Bhutan.
Key Attractions: Paintings of the fort, Drukpa Lineage of Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism, and the sacred remains of Ngawang Namgyal and the tertön Pema Lingpa.
Did you know: Punakha is the winter capital of Bhutan where the head clergy spends his winter here.
6. Phobjikha Valley
Phobjikha Valley also known as Gangteng valley is a huge U-shaped glacial valley in the Central Bhutan region. It is also home to the famous Gangteng monastery. Phobjikha valley is around 3000 metres elevation with a bowl shape on the western slope of mountains that catches your attention inadvertently. This valley is adjacent to the Jigme Singye Wangchuk National Park. There you get to see wild boars, leopards, red foxes, black bears from Himalayas and many such other species. The march done by the rare black-necked cranes that visit here in winters, they do a lot of activities to entertain you and if you’re a photographer by any chance, then this place is nothing less than a paradise for you. The three-day trek here is pretty famous and many birdwatchers flock here in October- March season. You should join them too in exploring this beautiful tourist attractions in Bhutan.
Key Attractions: Hike through the valleys to witness the most spectacular views of the lush greenery and birds. Also, black neck cranes migrate to this place.
Did you know: The reason for activities performed by these black neck cranes is unknown, but Buddhists see it as an auspicious sign or a good omen.
7. Jigme Dorji National Park
A picturesque arena of undistributed wildness, that’s what concisely but precisely defines this place in Bhutan. It was set up in 1974 to protect and safeguard the endangered animals which are indigenous species which now reside in 4300 square kilometres. It boasts of being the home to 37 known species of mammals along with the Royal Bengal Tiger, Clouded Leopard, Himalayan Black Bear, Snow Leopard, Bhutanese Takin to name a few. And, there are 6500 people which stay in the park to look after the animal husbandry and agriculture. Isn’t that cool enough to explore the place? Also, this is a must-visit place since it has the best of both the worlds- the wildlife and some iconic cultural sites as well. There are many other such features or USPs so to say, that makes this National Park one of the best places to visit in Bhutan.
Recommended Read: Top 10 National Parks in India
Quick Trivia: Jigme Dorji National Park is the only park that has national animal – Takin, National Flower – Blue Poppy, National Bird – Raven and National Tree – Cypress existing together, under one common roof
8. Norzin Lam Street
The main street of Norzin Lam in the capital city is an attraction that cannot be missed on your next trip to Bhutan. This street hosts myriad shops selling everything that you can think of to carry with you back home. Be it woollen clothes, souvenirs, local wines or crafts, you name it and they have it. There is an artery as well in Thimpu which is very famous in the country. Although this place remains crowded in the peak season, but with some strolling down the street, you can get some artefacts and many rare items. You can buy wooden items, carpets, home décor items, clothing and whatnot. And just in case you are staying nearby, you can enjoy a football match from your hotel room since the ground is in proximity. Enjoy the local cuisine in the nearby restaurant after you are done with your shopping, the food is simple delectable. To put it this way, this shopping street is one of the must-visit places to see in Bhutan.
Tip: The prices here can come to you as surprise as they are somewhat on the higher side, but your bargaining skills comes into the picture.
These were some of our best picks from a whole lot of eclectic places to visit in Bhutan. We have tried to select the best from that lot that was a difficult job albeit. This is because of the copious sightseeing options and natural beauty in Bhutan. Go see for yourself, if you still entertain any apprehensions. Bhutan has so much to show you that you will feel ecstatic and flabbergasted every day, you will never run out of entertainment or peace depending on the tourist spot you choose to explore.
Do let us know in the comments section below about your experience of exploring these places in Bhutan.