Bhutan Destinations

Bhutan with its 47,000 square kilometer area and a sparse population density of 30 people per square kilometer comes closest to the description of, Shangri La. The spiritual land of Bhutan is the only country in the world, where the Tantric form of Mahayana Buddhism is the official state religion. Buddhism provides a unique identity to the Bhutanese people. Buddhism is everywhere; it determines their thoughts, attitudes, culture, way of life and traditions.

The natural environment is mostly undisturbed and is in pristine form. The ecosystem in Bhutan is diverse, because of its location, great geographical and climatic variations. The ‘staircase’ of Bhutan starts from an altitude of 300 meters and goes up to 7000 meters. Bhutan’s rugged mountains, snow crowned peaks and densely forested valleys are rich ecologically. This makes Bhutan one of the world’s ten most important biodiversity ‘hotspots’.

Bhutan is a unique blend of the old and new. Here is a country that is slowly opening up to the modern world keeping a fine balance with its ancient traditions. They have never been colonized and are fiercely proud of their independence.

A royal decree ensures that all buildings in Bhutan must keep the traditional style. The cities of Bhutan centre on the dzong (fortress), which function as the administrative and religious headquarters of the district. The scenic backdrop provided by the Himalayas, the clean mountain streams, flowering forests and traditional architecture ensures that the cities of Bhutan are like none other in the world.

Thimphu Luxury Travel Information

Located at an altitude 2,350m, lies the charming capital of Bhutan, Thimphu. This city of 115,000 inhabitants has the rare distinction of being the only capital in the world, without any traffic lights. Thimphu became the permanent capital of Bhutan in 1952 and at that time it was just a Dzong(fortress), surrounded by a few huts. As the prayer wheels of time turned, Thimphu slowly transformed into the city of ‘today’ in the early 1970s. The buildings of Thimphu have a traditional style and that includes even the petrol pumps. This has been enforced by a royal decree to preserve the strong national character of Bhutan’s architecture.

The first must visit place in Thimphu is the Trashichhoedzong. The centre of power of Bhutan lies in the Trashichhoedzong or ‘the fortress of the auspicious religion’. The Dzong dates back to the 13th century and was then located on a spur, northeast of the present location. Subsequently after a fire in 1772 it was rebuilt at the present location, at the bottom of the valley. The Dzong has stood the test of many fires and earthquakes went on to become the seat of the government in 1969, under the third king.

The other must visit site of Thimphu, is the Memorial Chorten (Buddhist funeral monument) with its golden spires and tinkling bells, built to honour the third king who died in 1972. The memorial chorten is an excellent eye opener into the mysteries of Tantric Buddhism. The three traditional pillars of Buddhism, the Word, the Body and the Mind of Buddha are embodied in this memorial. The word of Buddha is written in gold, the body is in the form of a 1000 statues and the mind is in the form of the Chorten.

The other attractions of Thimphu are the School of Arts and Crafts, the Weekend market, the Changlimithang Stadium, and the Traditional Medicine Hospital where you can watch the preparation of traditional medicine.

Paro Luxury Travel Information

Paro houses Bhutan’s only international airport and thus it is most likely that you will first touch Bhutan soil, in Paro. The purity of the air, the absence of noise, the serene pace of life, the melody of the clean mountain streams and the magnificence of Mount Chamolhari are a few things that will seduce you to fall in love with Paro. No country in the world has a better fly in. Paro is at a distance of 55 kilometres from Thimpu.

Bhutan is the land of Dzongs (fortress), and the Paro Dzong or Rinpung Dzong built in the 16th century is the first Dzong you will see on arrival by Druk Air into Bhutan. Rinpung Dzong translates into the ‘fortress that sits on a heap of jewels’. This imposing Dzong located above the Paro River is a fine example of Bhutanese architecture with a beautifully roofed cantilever bridge leading to it. This Dzong is the administrative seat of Paro district and also houses the state monastic community.

Above the Paro Dzong is located the main attraction of Paro, the National Museum. It is housed in what was once the watch tower of the Paro Dzong and is called the Ta Dzong. The tower dates back to 1651 and it was here the first king of Bhutan Ugyen Wangchuk was imprisoned, back in 1872. Today, it is Bhutan’s only archive and contains works of art, handcrafted objects, armour, stamps, masks, silver work and an amazing collection of Bhutan’s famous fauna. A fragment of the moon’s surface got by Neil Armstrong in 1969 has also found its way into this amazing museum of Bhutanese culture!!

About 15 minutes away from Paro, perched 3000 feet above Paro Valley lies one of the most revered pilgrim sites of the Himalayan world called the Taktsang Pelphug. It is more well known as the ‘Tiger’s Lair’ in the tourist circle. The genesis of the name goes back to eighth century, when Guru Rinpoche came flying here on a Tiger’s back. Guru Rinpoche is credited with having converted Paro valley to Budhhism. The monastery virtually hangs from the cliff at an altitude of 3060 meters and the image of the monastery is the symbol of Bhutan for many travel guide books.

Punakha Luxury Travel Information

Punakha, was the winter seat of the government of Bhutan till 1952. Subsequently, the capital was permanently shifted to Thimphu. Punakha lies at an altitude of 1,350 metres and is 72kms from Thimphu. Its small size is no measure for the role played by it, in Bhutan’s history. It has the distinction of being the winter capital of Bhutan for 300 years.

Punakha’s claim to fame is the Punakha Dzong which was known in ancient times as the Pungthang Dechhen Phrodang or “the palace of great happiness”. It dates back to 1637. It is the second Dzong to be built in Bhutan and resembles a gigantic ship and is located at the confluence of the rivers Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu. The Dzong was the coronation site of Ugyen Wangchuck, the first king of Bhutan in 1907. It was also here the historic treaty was signed with the British 1910, wherein they agreed not to interfere in the internal affairs of Bhutan. Today, the Dzong is the winter home for the clergy, who migrate from Thimphu to spend the coldest six months here.

The Punakha Dzong is one of Bhutan’s most beautiful sites, especially when the Jacaranda around it bursts into beautiful violet, in the months of March and April.

Gangtey Luxury Travel Information

Gangtey is a popular Bhutanese destination located not very far from Punakha, and the fourth most visited tourism destination in the magical kingdom. The fascinating 17th century Gangtey monastery is the main seat of the Pema Lingpa tradition of Buddhism. It is perched towards one end of the spectacular glacial Phobjikha Valley, with the massive Black Mountains on the other side. The views in this region, including from the monastery and Gangtey Village, are awe-inspiring. Due to its incredible location, Gangtey is also the origin of some very popular treks in Bhutan, and moderate local hikes are a delight for those guests who so desire.

The region is famous for being the winter home of the endangered black-necked cranes, who migrate here from Tibet during that time of year. The cranes are known to circle the monastery three times on arrival at, and departure from, the region. Home to the internationally famous Black-Crane Festival, the monastery also celebrates other interesting events and festivals, and a visit here is very rewarding at any time of year.