Bordered by India and China, the isolated Kingdom of Bhutan is blessed with unspoiled natural beauty. See it for yourself in these Bhutan photos, or plan your trip there with this Bhutan travel guide.
Often called the Tiger's Nest, Taktsang Monastery is precariously perched on a near vertical cliff, around 30 minutes drive north of Paro. This setting alone makes it unforgettable! It also has an impressive history, and is the place where Buddhism began in Bhutan. A two hour hike from the car park at the base of the hill will take you to the monastery's entrance. Alternatively, horses can be hired for those who don't wish to walk.
Visitors to Bhutan often say that Punakha Dzong is their favorite place in the whole country. Its beautiful setting exudes an enticing sense of calm and peacefulness. It's not surprising that in ancient times, it was known as the Druk Pungthang Dechhen Phrodang or “the palace of great happiness”.
Punakha served as Bhutan's capital for over 300 years, and the and the first king was crowned there in 1907. The Dzong was constructed in 1637-38, and was the seat of Bhutan's government until Thimphu was established as the new capital, in 1955. It stands at the confluence of two rivers -- the Mo Chhu (Mother River) and the Pho Chhu (Father River).
Punakha can be reached from Thimphu in around three hours by car. The climate there is quite warm in winter and hot in summer. You'll be able to enjoy a bustling, informal market outside Punakha Dzong. If you're there during the summer months, you'll also be able to explore Punakha Dzong. It's open to the public during these months, when the monks are in Thimphu.
The most well known pass in Bhutan, Dochula Pass is located an hour from Thimphu at an altitude of 10,000 feet. It can be visited on the way to Punakha. There are 108 Buddhist stupas overlooking the Himalayas. These stupas were built in 2004, in memory of the war between the Assamese (of India) and Bhutanese militants. When the sky is clear, the mountain view is spectacular.
Thimphu Memorial Chorten
The Thimphu Memorial Chorten is an unmissable feature of Thimphu. It was built in 1974, in memory of the third king, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, who died suddenly while traveling abroad in 1972. It was recently renovated as part of coronation and centenary celebrations in 2008.
The towering 169 foot tall Sitting Buddha is located atop a hill in Thimphu.
One of Bhutan's most popular Tshechu festivals happens in Paro. Tshechu festivals are grand events at temples, whereby entire communities come together to witness religious mask dances, receive blessings and socialize. Each mask dance has a special meaning or a story behind it.
Located in the center of Bhutan, Trongsa is often referred to as the gateway to the east. It was built in 1648, and sits on a spur overlooking the gorge of the Mangde River. It's the largest dzong fortress in Bhutan and has a very strategic position. The view from the Dzong extends for miles, and all west-east traffic has to pass by it.
Weaver in Bumthang
Bhutan's Bumthang district is where you can go to still see authentic, undeveloped Bhutan. It's the most historic district in the country, with a large number of ancient temples and sacred sites. It consists of four mountain valleys: Ura, Chumey, Tang and Choekhor. Weaving is one of the main sources of income there.