The capital of Bhutan, and the center of government, religion and commerce, it is a unique city with an unusual mixture of modern development alongside ancient traditions. Although not what one expects from a capital city, Thimphu is still a fitting and lively place. Home to civil servants, expatriates and the monk body, Thimphu maintains a strong national character in its architectural style.
What to see in Thimphu
This stupa was built in 1974 in the memory of Bhutans third King. His Late Majesty, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, who popularly regarded as the Father of Modern Bhutan. The paintings and statues inside the monment provide a deep insight into Buddhist ohilosophy.
Also known as “fortress of the glorious religion”, the Dzong was initially erected in1641 and rebuilt by King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck in 1965. Tashichho Dzong houses the main secretariat building and the central monk body. It is open to visitors during Thimphu Tshechu and when the monk body moves to warmer Punakha in the winter months.
On a lofty ridge stands Simtokha Dzong, built in 1627 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel. The oldest fortress of the Kingdom, it now houses the School for Buddhist studies.
This school teachers the techniques of traditional paintings. On a visit one can actually see students at work producing intricate design on cloth.
Traditional Medicine Institute:
In Bhutan, equal emphasis is given to both allopathic and traditional medicines. The rich herbal medicines abundant in Kingdom are prepared here. The Institute also imparts the art of herbal medicines to would be practitioners.
There are various Handicrafts Emporium in town such as Government owned Emporium and other private Handicrafts, displaying wide assortment of beautiful hand-woven and crafted products.
This beautiful valley, which encapsulates within itself rich culture, scenic beauty and hundreds of myths and legends, is home to many of Bhutans oldest temples and monasteries, the countrys only airport and the National Museum. Mt. Jhomolhari (7,300 meters) reigns in white glory at the northern end of the valley and its glacial waters pluge through deep gorges to form the Pa Chu (Paro river). Paro is also one of the most fertile valleys in the Kingdom, producing a bulk of the famous red rice from its terraced fields.
What to see in Paro
Ta Dzong, built 1951 as a watchtower. Unlike the rectangular shape of the Dzong, Ta Dzong is round, more like parts of a European castle. Since 1967 the Dzong was reestablished as the National Museum and holds a fascinating collection of art, relics, religious thangkha paintings and Bhutans exquisite postage stamps.
This Dzong was built in 1646 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel to commenmorate his victory over the Tibetan invaders led by Mongolian Warlord, Gushri Khan. Historically and strategically this Dzong withstood all its glory and had captured western eyes in 1914 vide National Geographic magazine.
Also known as “fortress of the heap of jewels” was built during the time of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel in 1646. The approach to the Dzong is through a traditional covered bridge called the Nemi Zam. It is also a venue of the Paro Tshechu, held once a year in spring.
The original of Kyichu Lhakhang dates back to the seventh century, it is one of the oldest and most sacred shrines of Bhutan ( the other is Jambey Lhakhang in Bumthang). Kyichu Lhakhang is composed of twin temples, the first temple was built by Buddhist Tibetan King, Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century.
The beauty of Paro valley is embellished by cluster of quaint Farm House. Bhutanese Farm Houses are very colorful, decorative and traditionally built without the use of single nail. All houses follow the same architectural pattern. A visit to Farm House is very interesting and offers a good glimpse into the lifestyle of a farmer.
Punakha served, as the capital of Bhutan until 1955 and still it is the Winter seat of Je Khenpo(chief Abbot). Blessed with temperate climate and fed by Pho Chu (male) and Mo Chu (female) rivers, Punakha is the most fertile valley in the country. There are splendid views of the distant Himalayas at Dochula pass (alt. 3,100 m) on way to Punakha.
What to see in Punakha
Built strategically at the Junction of Pho Chu and Mo Chu rivers in1637 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namyal to serve as the religious and administrative center of the region. Damaged by four catastrophic fires and an earthquake, the Dzong has been fully restored by the present king. The Dzong is open for visitors during Punakha festival and in summer months when the monk body moves to Thimphu.
The last town before central Bhutan, Wangdiphodrang is like an enlarged village with a few well-provided shops. Located towards the south of Punakha, the higher ridges of the Wangdiphodrang valley provide rich pastureland for cattle. The district is also famous for its fine bamboo work and its slate, stone carvings.
Sitting on top of the hill at the confluence of Punakha and tang rivers Wangdiphodrang Dzong is a town,s most visible feature. The Dzong is open for visitors during Wangdiphodrang Tshechu, celebrated in autumn.
Towards the east of Wangdiphodrang, there is an old monastery of Gangtey Gompa dating back to the 17th century. A few kilometers past the Gompa, on the valley floor is the village of Phobjikha. This is the winter home of black necked cranes that migrates from the arid plains in the north to pass winter in milder and lower climate.
Trongsa forms the central hub of the nation and is histrorically the place from where attempts at unifying the country were launched. The landscape around Trongsa is spectacular and for miles on end, the Dzong seems to tease you, wondering if you will ever reach there.
What to see in Trongsa
Built in 1648, it is the ancestral home of the Royal family. Both the first and second King ruled the country from this ancient seat. All four Kings held the post of Trongsa Penlop (honorary governor) prior to being crowned as King. The Dzong is a massive structure with many levels, which slope down the contours of a hill on which it perches.
This watchtower, which once guarded Trongsa Dzong from internal rebellion, stands impressively and provides visitors an insight into historical significance of Trongsa in Bhutans history.
Patterned on SWAYAMBHUNATH temple in Kathmandu (Nepal). It was built in 19th century by Lama Shida, from Tibet, to cover the remains of an evil spirit that was killed at this spot.
Built in 1659 the Dzong serves as the administrative seat for the district as well as the home of the monk body.
The temple of Gom Kora is set on a small alluvial plateau overlooking the river. It is one of the famous places where Guru Rinpoche meditated in order to subdue a demon that dwelt in big rock, behind the temple is a huge black rock surrounded by rice fields and clumps of banana trees, which looks like an oasis in an arid landscape.