Places interest in Bhutan
Places interest in Bhutan - There is much to see and do in Bhutan in addition to simply taking in the breathtaking scenery. Bhutan can culturally and geographically be divided into three regions, which are further divided into 20 districts or Dzongkhag, though several of them have restricted access and are not open to tourists. The districts open to tourism and through which our tours and treks operate include Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, and Wangduephodrang in western Bhutan; Trongsa and Bumthang in central Bhutan; and Mongar, Lhuntse, Trashigang, and Tashiyangtse in eastern Bhutan.
Central Region of Bhutan: Central Bhutan is separated from Western Bhutan by the Pele Pass (3420m) in the Black Mountain ranges. The region includes Trongsa (2180m, 7153ft.) and the valleys of Bumthang (2580m , 8500ft.), comprising of Chumey ,Choekhor, Tang and Ura valleys. Central Bhutan is known for its buckwheat cultivation, sturdy stone houses, and presence of ancient monasteries and temples.
Bumthang: Bumthang is the perfect place for day hikes, with its lush valleys and hilly forests. It's about two and half hours from Trongsa, and the drive includes a climb over the 3,500-meter Yutong-La (pass), where you may see some yaks grazing, depending on the season.
There are many temples and monasteries in the Bumthang region, some of which are the oldest in Bhutan. You can reach some by car, while others require a short hike. Among them are Tharpaling Monastery, Thangbi Monastery, Kurjey Lhakhang (temple), and Jambey Lhakhang, which was built in the 7th century and is the oldest in the region. You can take along a packed lunch and enjoy the peacefulness and beauty around you.
Other sights include the Jakar Dzong, which is said to be the largest dzong in Bhutan; the Udee woodcarving factory in Jakar; and Mebar Tsho (Burning Lake), where some of Guru Rinpoche's treasures were found in the 15th century by the famous treasure discovers Pema Lingpa--it's a nice spot to meditate. You can also tour Tamshing Lhakhang, which houses interesting religious Buddhist paintings. Bumthang is a good place to buy woven textiles, which are designed with patterns unique to Bumthang, and you can even watch some of the weavers at their looms. Bumthang is the best place to buy hard yak cheese, or you can stop at the Yoezer Lhamo shop and buy Swiss cheese. Bumthang is also famous for its Red Panda beer.
Trongsa: This town is located in the center of Bhutan. The Royal Family has strong links with Trongsa. Both the first and the second king ruled the kingdom from Trongsa's ancient Dzong. The Crown Prince of Bhutan normally holds the position of Trongsa Penlop prior to ascending the throne. The secular and religious center, the Dzong is an impregnable fortress and is itself a labyrinth of temples, corridors and offices. The town is the quaintest and the most charming of all Bhutanese towns. The town's vista is traditional in appearance as the wooden slatted houses line up together on the side of the hill.
Jakar: Jakar (2,800m) is the principal administrative town of Bumthang district in the north of Bhutan. 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 clusters 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.
Eastern Region of Bhutan: Eastern Bhutan is different from western and central Bhutan in terms of development and lifestyle, and if you enjoy seeing the countryside, then it's well worth the long haul to get there. Eastern Bhutan is the least travelled area of the country because of terrain and distance. It is also a least developed area and tour to eastern Bhutan provides a complete rustic experience. This region comprises Mongar (1600m, 5250ft.), Lhuentse (1555m, 5100ft.), Trashigang (1070m, 3525ft.) and Tashiyangtse (950m, 3200ft.). Merak Sakten, a nomadic village in the extreme north east of Bhutan stands as the legendary beauty of eastern Bhutan. Eastern Bhutan is known for exotic textiles weaving tradition and simple lifestyles of people. Further down the south east is Samdrup Jongkhar, a small commercial hub of the eastern Bhutan, which also serves as convenient entry and exit point.
Lhuntse: Lhuentse is 77 kilometers from Mongar and is one of the most isolated districts in Bhutan. The landscape is spectacular with stark cliffs and gorges and dense coniferous forests. The region is notably famous for its weavers and special textiles and fabrics, generally considered to be the best in the country. The Kurtoe region of Lhuentse is also the ancestral home of the Royal dynasty.
Mongar: Mongar like Trashigang further east, is built on the side of a hill because valleys in Eastern Bhutan are too narrow for towns to develop on the valley floor. Mongar Dzong is modern compared to other Dzongs in the kingdom.
Trashigang: In the far east of Bhutan, on high above the bank of Gamri River, lies the second largest district in Bhutan. It has once served as the center of a busy trade with Tibet prior to Chinese occupation, now serves as the junction for east - west highway. It is also the market place for all the 6 districts of eastern Bhutan. Trashigang is also the market place for people from Merak & Sakten who stroll the town with their unique little yak hair hats and different costumes than the mass Bhutanese. Place you can visit is Trashigang Dzong (1,100m), a 17th century fortress standing at the extreme end of the spur, overhanging the Gamri River. If you are interested in rural life and textiles, there are several villages where you can make day excursions.
Tashi Yangtse: Tashi Yangtse is a small village with a garden aspect and a lovely place from where to launch a couple of hour's stroll into surrounding countryside. This region is known for its specialty in making of various kinds of wooden utensils.
Samdrup Jongkhar: There is almost nothing of interest to the traveler in Samdrup Jongkhar except for the scenic drive and the few places while driving from Trashigang. The primary reason for driving to Samdrup Jongkhar would be to reach the nearest airport at Guwahati in Indian State of Assam, from where you can fly to Calcutta or New Delhi. En route you will stop at the Zangdo Pelri Temple, School for the Blind, Khaling Weaving Centre and finally at Dewathang. At present due to security reasons, exit to Indian State of Assam is closed and you will have to travel back retracing the lateral highway.
Western Region of Bhutan: Western Bhutan comprised of the Haa Valley (2670m, 8760ft.) opened to visitors only in 2001, Paro (2280m, 7480ft.) the Valley that encompasses the only airport in Bhutan, Thimphu (2320m, 7600ft.) the capital city, the Punakha Valley and Wangduephodrang (1250m, 4200ft.). Western Bhutan is known for its stunning scenery with beautiful farmlands and apple orchards, the pristine rivers from perpetual snow-capped mountains meandering through the main towns of Paro, Thimphu, Punakha and Wangduephodrang.
Paro: The town of Paro lies on the banks of Pachhu River at the elevation of 2300 meters which is the 2nd largest city after Thimphu. If you are flying into Bhutan, your first vision of the country will be Paro Valley, as you descend between the mountains to the country's only airport, which in itself is an experience when you see how close the mountains are and how sharp the descent is!
Paro Tiger's Nest monastery is one of the main attractions in Paro. It was built in 1646 and now houses government offices and religious institutions, as do all the Dzongs currently. You'll cross a traditional wooden bridge on the way to the Dzong. On the hill above the Dzong is the National Museum, which used to be a watchtower for the Dzong. It contains a collection of art, costumes, relics, religious paintings, handicrafts, and national stamps.
Not far from the town center is Kyichu Monastery, which is the oldest monastery in the country, built in the 7th century. Another nearby attraction is Taktsang (Tiger's Nest) Monastery, which is Bhutan's most famous monastery. Guru Rinpoche is said to have flown on the back of a tigress from Singye Dzong in Lhuntse to meditate in a cave where Taktsang Monastery now stands. It is perched on the edge of a steep cliff, about 900 meters above Paro Valley. The hike to reach the viewpoint to the monastery makes for a nice half-day excursion.
You will want to visit the Drugyel Dzong, which was built in 1646 to commemorate Bhutan's victory over Tibetan invaders during the 1600s. On a clear day you can see Mount Jumolhari, Bhutan's second-highest mountain at 7,329 meters, from the village below the Dzong. There is also an assortment of shops and handicraft stores to peruse in Paro town.
Thimphu: Thimphu is the capital of Bhutan and is therefore the most populated district in the country, with about 60,000 people. You can easily spend several days in Thimphu visiting all the sights. Many of the sights in the main town can be reached on foot, which is a good way to absorb the culture and see the way of life for the Bhutanese people. As you stroll through the streets, you will notice that there is not a single traffic light in the town (or in the entire country).
There are many attractions in and around Thimphu Valley, including museums, monasteries, temples, Dzongs, a zoo, archery fields, restaurants, handicraft shops, the weekend market, the National Library, the School of Arts and Crafts, a traditional paper factory, a radio tower (which affords a gorgeous view of the valley), and the National Institute of Traditional Medicine.
Two interesting museums are the Textile Museum and the Folk Heritage Museum. At the Textile Museum you will see a beautiful display of the garments worn by the Bhutanese from the 1600s up to the present. The Folk Heritage Museum lets you explore a traditional Bhutanese home and teaches you about the daily life of the rural folk.
The weekend market is a must, for it is there that you'll see the variety of food of the country, including basket upon basket of fiery chilies, fresh cheese, and mangoes. You may also see some less-familiar produce, such as ferns. In addition, many stalls contain Bhutanese handicrafts and household items. It's fun to wander the aisles, taking in the bustling atmosphere of the market.
Punakha: Located at an altitude of 4430 feet above sea level, Punakha (1,300m) had once served as the winter capital of Bhutan. It is still being used as the winter home to Bhutan's spiritual leader and the monks of Thimphu and Paro. Blessed with temperate climate and fed by Pho Chu (Male) and Mochu (female) rivers, it is the most fertile valley and best red rice grower in the country. During a clear weather there is splendid view of the distant Himalayan snowcapped peaks at Dochula Pass on Thimphu to Punakha road. The main attraction in Punakha is the Punakha Dzong. It is the winter residence of the chief abbot and monks, who migrate there from Thimphu every winter. This Dzong is noteworthy both for being one of the most beautiful Dzongs in Bhutan and also for having been built by the first Shabdrung in 1637.
Wangdue Phodrang: This is the last town on the highway before entering Central Bhutan. Sitting on the top of a hill the formidable Dzong is the town's most visible features. In the 17th century Wangdue played a critical role in unifying western, central and southern Bhutan. The town itself is little more than an enlarged village with well-provided shops and hotels. The road from Wangdue to Trongsa is one of the prettiest in Bhutan passing streams, forests and villages before climbing the Pelela Pass on the Black Mountain ranges in to the Trongsa valley. South of the highway is the Gangtey Gompa an old monastery dating from the 17th century? A few kilometers past the Gompa is the village of Phobjikha - one of the winter homes of the Black Necked Cranes who migrate to Bhutan from Central Asia to pass the winters in lower climes.