Bhutan – Top 10 Scenic Spots
Bhutan is still one of the least heard or visited travel destinations, but its long list of forts, monasteries, Buddhist relics, trekking spots, and shopping areas are surely worth a visit. Not to mention its natural beauty: panoramic valleys, preserved nature and wildlife, and the majestic Himalayas are enough to touch the heart of the “nature-tourist.” So to help you out, here’s a list of the top scenic spots to visit Bhutan. Although we’re sure there are still a lot more to discover in this country.
Paro Taktsang or Tiger’s Nest Monastery
Sitting more than 800 metres above the Paro Valley, perched on a ledge halfway up the cliff face of the mountain, sits the awesome Taktsang or “Tiger’s Nest” monastery. Known for its unique and spectacular position, the monastery is surrounded by unlevelled mountains, lush green fields, and historical Buddhist buildings. It is also immersed in historical mythology as it is said that in the second half of the 8th century, Guru Padma Sambhava known as the second Buddha in Bhutan, meditated at the spot where the monastery now stands, having alighted there on the back of a flying tigress. Although it takes an entire day, this trek that involves breathtaking panoramic views is definitely worth it.
Other than being a majestic structure, Punakha Dzong’s location adds to its dazzle. Surrounded by the river valley of Pho and Mo Chu, this architectural marvel of Pungthang Dewachen Gi Phodrang is considered to be the most beautiful Dzong of Bhutan. If the outside appearance is awe-inspiring, the interiors have priceless historical dignity. Intricate paintings and the architecture of the fort, sacred relics of the Southern Drukpa Lineage of Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism, and the sacred remains of Ngawang Namgyal and the Tertön Pema Lingpa are only some of the important cultural symbols of Bhutan you’ll witness. So after appreciating its majestic natural setting, you can then bask in the temple’s treasures after.
The gigantic, shining statue of Shakyamuni Buddha is one of Thimpu’s spectacular tourist spots. Not only is it towering and eye-catching in itself, but also its location in the midst of scenic and lush greenery and elevated position is like a punctuation of Buddhism’s light in Bhutanese culture and life. The quiet and reverent atmosphere in the place also helps guests appreciate this architectural, cultural, and religious wonder. Guests are treated to the awe-inspiring 169-foot tall Buddha statue along with thousands of smaller bronze and gold statues of Lord Buddha, and the surrounding Kuensel Phodrang nature park.
National Memorial Chorten
Another one of Thimphu’s important historical location, the National Memorial Chorten is a stupa dedicated to honour the third Druk Gyalpo (Dragon King), Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, the grandfather of the current Dragon King. The chorten’s most noticeable features are the golden spires and bells. Its architectural exterior also includes intricate carvings and beautiful slates of religious, historical, and cultural Bhutanese icons. The interiors are filled with depictions, mandalas, statues, and shrines of the Dragon King and other prominent Buddhism figures. A visit will definitely increase your cultural reverence towards Bhutan and the beautiful surrounding views is definitely a plus.
Bhutanese handicrafts are filled with Buddhist influences, but other than that, its also generally some of the most intricate, detailed, and extremely beautiful trinkets around the world. Other than getting great snaps and Instagram-worthy selfies with these creations, the locals would greatly appreciate if you do buy one as doing so will definitely help Bhutanese craftsmen.
Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten
Standing regally on the hill above the Punakha valley, Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten is a testament to Bhutanese Architecture’s level of intricacy. This chorten was built by the Queen Mother as a symbol of bringing peace into the world and help Bhutan achieve its national goals. Other than the beautiful exterior design of the structure, its interiors feature remarkable images that depict stories about the mandalas of Vajarakilaya.
Located at the northern end of the city, Tashichho Dzong is the house of the administrative headquarters, royal palace, and also a monastery. Other than its modern significance, it is also a lively location especially with parts exclusively opened to the public. The Dzong in itself is also so majestic and huge that you can feel the atmosphere of importance just from looking at it. It is also a worthy subject of photography. For better photos, you can also come back during the evening and be awed by the beauty of the structure emphasised under the starry sky.
Zuri Dzong is another one of Paro’s impressive collection of monasteries constructed in elevated locations. It was built in 1352 as a fort and the five-storey main building is still well protected by double walls and a bridge. The Dzong is composed of numerous chapels with murals and artworks depicting Buddhism figures. Other than the structures’ beauty, the trek going to the structure is equally splendid. That trek involves walking by the hillside and getting to appreciate Paro from that elevation. You’ll also be enchanted by the greenery and vegetation especially the colourful rhododendrons.
Main Street, Paro
Paro is one of Bhutan’s oldest districts so walking along it’s aged streets can take you back in time. And it’s filled with everything you can typically find in Bhutanese streets: handicrafts, souvenirs, and Buddhist prayer materials. The structures and the architectural design of its streets also show a glimpse of Bhutan’s situation when it was closed to the world. Other than these noticeable historical treasures, don’t forget to enter and try out the goodies in the food establishments where delicious Bhutanese dishes await for you. So definitely include a trip to the town on your visit to Paro.
The most popular tourist spot for trekkers is the Chomolhari. Why? Because of its challenges and its rewards – rewards being the breathtaking sights upon reaching the trek’s end at an altitude of about 5,000 metres. Though the trek spans for about a week or two, the glacial lakes, snow-capped mountain ranges, and the panoramic view of the landscape below waiting for you at the trek’s conclusion are worth it. So, better prepare your legs and stamina if you plant to brave Chomolhari’s obstacles.