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Burma Tour > Bhutan Guide > Bhutan Festival

Bhutan Travel tipsBhutan Weather I Bhutan Travel Distance  I Bhutan Festival 2008 

Bhutan Prime Attractions

PARO (altitude 2,200 m/8,500 feet)

Situated at an average elevation of 8,500 feet high from sea level. The beautiful valley which encapsulates within itself rich culture, scenic beauty and hundreds of myths and legends is home to many of Bhutan's oldest temples and monasteries, country's only airport and the National Museum. It has always been one of countrys strongest and important fortresses and on several occasions it was used for defending the valley from the Tibetan incursions.  Mount Chomolhari (7,300 meters) reigns in white glory at the northern end of the valley and its glacial waters plunge 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.

DRUKGYEL DZONG: This Dzong, with a delightful village nestling at its foot, was built in 1646 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to commemorate his victory over the Tibetan invaders led by Mongolion Warlord, Gushri Khan. Historically and strategically this Dzong withstood all its glory and had captured western eyes in 1914 vide National Geographic magazine. The glory of Drukgyel Dzong remained even when it was destroyed by fire in 1951. On a clear day, one can see the commanding view of Mount Chomolhari from the village, below the Dzong.

RINPUNG DZONG: Also known as "fortress of the heap of jewels", it was built during the time of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1646. The approach to the Dzong is through a traditional covered bridge called the Nemi Zam. A walk through the bridge to the Dzong, over a stone inlaid path, offers a good view of the architechtural wonder of the Dzong as well as life around it. It is also venue of the Paro Tshechu, held once a year in spring.

TA DZONG: On a ridge immediately above the Rinpung Dzong is the Ta Dzong, built in 1951 as a watchtower. Unlike the rectangular shape of the Dzongs, Ta Dzong is round, more like parts of a European castle. Since 1967 the Dzong was re-established as the National Museum and holds a fascinating collection of art, relics, religious thangkha paintings and Bhutan's exquisite postage stamps.

KYICHU LHAKHANG: The origin 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 and in 1968, H.M. Ashi Kesang, the Queen Mother of Bhutan, arranged for a second temple to be built alongside the first one, in same style.

 

THIMPHU (altitude: 2316 m/ 7,600 feet)
 

The capital town of Bhutan, and the center of government, religion and commerce, it is a unique city with 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 monk body, Thimphu maintains a strong national character in its architectural style.

MEMORIAL CHORTEN: The building of this chorten was originally the idea of Bhutans third King, H.M. Jigme Dorji Wangchuk (the father of modern Bhutan), who had wished to erect a monument to world peace and prosperity, but was unable to give sharp to his idea in his lifetime due to pressures of state. After His Majestys untimely death in 1972, the Royal Family and Cabinet resolved to fulfill his wishes and erect a memorial that would perpetuate his memory and also serve as a monument to peace. The National Memorial Chorten was consecrated on July 28, 1974. The finely executed wall paintings and delicately fashioned statues within the monument provide a deep insight into Buddhist philosophy.

TASHICHHODZONG: meaning "fortress of the glorious religion", was initially erected in the year 1641 and later in 1965 the Third King rebuilt it into the present form. The fortress serves as the office of the King, ministers and various government organizations and also headquarters for monastic body of Bhutan. Bhutan's spiritual leader Je Khenpo and the monks of both Thimphu and Punakha reside here during summer. It is also the venue for Thimphu Festival in the autumn.

SIMTOKHA DZONG: Five miles from Thimphu, on a lofty ridge stands Simtokha Dzong, built in 1627 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. The oldest fortress of the Kingdom, it now houses the School for Buddhist studies.

NATIONAL LIBRARY: The National Library was established in the late 1960s primarily to conserve the literary treasures which form a significant part of Bhutans cultural heritage. It now houses an extensive collection of Buddhist literature mostly in block-printed format, with some works several hundred years old. This collection, known as the Choekey Collection, mainly comprises Buddhist literature written in Choekey, the religious script of Northern Buddhism, but also includes works written in Tibetan and in Dzongkha, Bhutans national language. There is also a small Foreign Books Collection, stock of which mainly comprises works written in English, with subject interest on Buddhist studies, Bhutan, the Himalayan region and neighboring countries.

PAINTING SCHOOL: This School teaches the techniques of traditional paintings. On a visit one can actually see, students at work, producing intricate design on cloth. The offers a six year course on the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan.

INSTITUTE OF TRADITIONAL MEDICINE: 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 practioners.

HANDICRAFTS EMPORIUM: There are various Handicrafts Emporium in town such as Government owned Emporium and local Handicrafts, displaying wide assortment of beautifully hand-woven and crafted products.

FOLK HERITAGE MUSEUM: this heritage museum, housed in a 19th century farmhouse displays the living style of the 19th century Bhutanese family.

TEXTILE MUSEUM: a recent addition in the capital city, this museum displays the colorful and intricately hand woven archaic textiles of Bhutan.

WEEKEND MARKET: if you are in Thimphu during weekends you should not miss a visit to the weekend market. Vendors from throughout the region arrive on Friday afternoon and remain selling their goods until Sunday night. It's an interesting place to visit, where village people bring their products of vegetables, foodstuffs and handicrafts to sell. At the northern end of the market is a collection of stalls where they sell indigenous goods and handicrafts products. Here you will find locally produced goods, including religious objects, baskets, fabrics and different hats from various minority groups.

PUNAKHA (altitude: 1,300 m/4,430 feet)

Punakha served as the capital of Bhutan until 1955 and still it is the winter seat of Le 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 Thimphu - Punakha road.

PUNAKHA DZONG:  "palace of great happiness" was built in 1637 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal after Simtokha Dzong and is located strategically between the confluence of Pho Chu and Mo Chu Rivers. The Dzong, which was damaged by four catastrophic fires and an earthquake, has been fully restored by the present King. Punakha served as the capital of the country until second king who moved the capital to Bumthang as summer and Trongsa as the winter. It was here on 17th December 1907, Bhutan's first king, Sir Ugyen Wangchuk was crowned as the first hereditary ruler of Bhutan. It is also the venue for Punakha Festival held in February or March.


 


 

CHHIMI LHAKHANG: it's a 20 minutes walk across fields through the village of Sopsokha from the roadside to the small temple located on a hillock in the centre of the valley below Metshina. Ngawang Chogyel built the temple in 15th century after the 'divine Madman Drukpa Kuenlay built a small chorten there. It is a pilgrim site for barren women.

KHAMSUM YUELLEY NAMGYAL: a three-storey chorten built by Her Majesty the Queen Ashi Tshering Yangdon in 1999 for the protection of the country, stands on a beautiful hillock called Ngezergang, and is about 10 kilometers from Punakha. It presents an incredibly complex iconography, which belongs to the Nyingmapa tradition.

 

Wangduephodrang (altitude: 1,300m/4,430 feet)

Located at same elevation as Punakha, it's about 30 minutes of drive from Punakha. It is the last town of western Bhutan before you enter into the central part of Bhutan. Known for fine bamboo work and its slate carvings.

WANGDUE DZONG: Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1638 had built this massive fortress sitting on a hilltop at the confluence of Punakha Chu and Tang Chu Rivers. Wangdue Festival is celebrated here in the fall.

RINCHENGANG VILLAGE: a small clustered village facing the Wangdue Dzong is known for its skill in traditional method of stone masonry. It is about 20 minutes hike uphill with great view of the Dzong, valley and the river.

PHOBJIKHA VALLEY: (altitude 9600 feet), takes about two hours of drive from Wangdue Phodrang, a glacial valley located on the western slopes of the Black Mountain at an altitude of 9840 feet above the sea level. There is no telephone or electricity and is the winter home to the rare black-necked crane that migrate from high plateaus of Tibet in late fall to escape harsh winters. There are also muntjak (barking deer), wild boar, sambar, Himalayan black bear, leopard and red fox. The valley is a designated conservation area and borders Black Mountain National Park.

GANGTEY GOENPA: the largest Nyingma monastery in Bhutan. Gyalse Pema Thinlay built a small temple in 1613, which was later built into larger Goenpa by the 2nd reincarnation Tenzin Legpai Dhendup.

ROOSTING GROUND: it is about 20 minutes walk from the bridge crossing the swamp on rough wooden slabs. The best time is at dawn and dusk when all the birds in the valley congregate for the night (only possible during November - March).

CRANE OBESERVATION AND EDUCATION CENTER: activities within the Center are; early morning crane observation and counting/ crane study using nature trails. The Royal Society established the centre for Protection of Nature (RSPN), the only NGO in the country.

 

TRONGSA (altitude: 2,300 m/7,600 feet)

Trongsa forms the central hub of the nation and is historically 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.

 

TRONGSA DZONG: built in 1648, is the ancestral home of the Royal family. Both the first and second King ruled the country from the ancient seat. All four Kings held the post of Trongsa Penlop (Honorary Governor) prior to being crowned as the King. The Dzong is massive structure with many levels, which slope down the contours of a hill on which it perches. Because of its highly strategic position as the only connecting route between east and west, the Trongsa Penlop was able to control the whole eastern region effectively. It is in this Dzong the annual Trongsa Festival is performed during December or January.

TA DZONG: this watchtower, which once guarded Trongsa Dzong from internal rebellion, stands impressively and provides visitors an insight into historical significance of Trongsa in Bhutan's history. Kungarabten, about 15 miles from Trongsa was the winter palace of second King Jigme Wangchuk. It is a splendid building with superb woodwork and decorations. The 1st floor was used as storage for food, 2nd floor as the residence of royal attendance and the army, 3rd floor as the royal residence and king's chapel. Part of this floor is presently used as Library. The top floor is an alter room with statues of Sakyamuni, the Shabdrung and Guru Rimpoche. Right above the palace is the nunnery; it is about 40 minutes walk uphill.

CHENDEBJI CHORTEN: En route to Trongsa is Chendebji Chorten, patterned on Kathmandus Swayambhunath stupa, and with eyes painted at the four cardinal points. It was built in the 18th century by Lama Shida from Tibet, to cover the remains of an evil spirit that was subdued at this spot.

 

Bumthang (altitude: 2,600 m / 8,530 feet, 500 m/ 13,125 feet)

It is about two and half-hours drive from Trongsa to Bumthang. Located at an altitude of 8530 - 13125 feet above sea level, Bumthang is the general name given to a complex of four valleys- Chumey, Choekhor, Tang and Ura. Choekhor and Chumey are agricultural valleys while Tang and Ura depend mostly on the animal husbandry. Bumthang is considered the holiest valley in Bhutan. Many Bhutanese from all over the country visit here on pilgrim to pay their respect and to be blessed by the many holy sites where various religious masters have meditated.

JAKAR DZONG: Founded by great grandfather of Shabdrung, the Dzong was initially built as a monastery in 1549. It was upgraded after the Shabdrung had firmly established his power in 1646. The Dzong is now used as administrative center for Bumthang valley.

JAMBAY LHAKHANG: Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo miraculously built 108 temples in 7th century in order to consecrate the Himalayan region. Jambay Lhakhang is one of those temples. This is the venue for Jambay Lhakhang Festival during October or November.

KURJEY LHAKHANG: it takes about 30 minutes of hike north to reach Kurjey Lhakhang. It was during 8th century a king from Bumthang, known as Sendhu Raja had invited Guru Rimpoche (Precious Master), who brought Buddhism into Bhutan, to cure him from a dreadful disease. Guru meditated at Kurjey for three months, left his body print on the rock and subdued the local deities including powerful Shelging Karpo, who had stolen the king's life force and was the cause of King's disease. Kurjey is complex of three temples, on the right beneath a giant cypress tree, the main temple built in 1652 by Minjur Tempa, Trongsa Penlop. This temple houses the cave where Guru Rimpoche had meditated and left his body imprint. The First King of Bhutan built the middle temple during his tenure as Trongsa Penlop in 1900. The third temple is recently constructed under patronage of Her Majesty queen mother Ashi Kesang Wangmo Wangchuk.

THANGBI TEMPLE: founded by Shamar Rimpoche in 1470, is located in the midst of buckwheat field. After a dispute the temple was taken over by Pema Lingpa from Shamar Rimpoche. It is 17 Kilometers drive north of Kurjey Temple on an unpaved road to Toktu Zampa. You start your walk from here by crossing a small suspension bride and walk 20 minutes past fields of buckwheat to the Thangbi Temple. This is the venue of Thangbi Festival.

TAMSHING TEMPLE: founded in 1501 by Terton Pema Lingpa, the re-incarnation of Guru Padmasambhava. The monastery has very interesting religious paintings like 11000 Buddhas and 21 Taras (female form of Bohhisatava). The temple was restored at the end of the 19th century.

BHUTAN’S RELIGIOUS TREASURE DISCOVERER:
 Terton Pema Lingpa in 1501, founded Tamshing Monastery, located opposite Kurjey Lhakhang. Believed to be the reincarnation of Guru Rimpoche, he discovered many religious treasures around the country. The mural paintings inside the temple are known to be unrecorded ancient painting. The best way to enjoy the serene and the beauty of valley is to hike fro about one hour from Kurjey over Chamkhar River to arrive at Tamshing.

 

MONGAR (altitude: 1,600m/6000 feet)

The journey from Bumthang to Mongar is one of the most beautiful in the Himalayas crossing 3,800 m high Thrumsingla pass. Mongar marks the beginning of eastern Bhutan. The second largest town in the subtropical east, Mongar, like Trashigang further east, is situated on the side of a hill in contrasts to other towns of western Bhutan which are built on the valley floor.

MONGAR DZONG:  It is the site of Bhutan's newest Dzongs, built in 1930 yet the Dzong is built in the same method and traditions of all the other Dzongs, no drawings and nails have been used. A visit to the Dzong gives visitors an impression of how traditional Bhutanese architecture has continued to thrive through the centuries.

 

lhuntse

While traveling from Bumthang to Mongar, you can take a different road to Lhuntshi district from the Gongola before arriving Mongar. It is about 6 hours from Bumthang and 3 hours from Mongar. Lhuntshi is among the few remote districts of Bhutan and is famed for its intricate and colorful weavings. Formerly known as Kurtoe, the region is ancestral home of Bhutan's royal family. The landscape is spectacular with stark cliffs, gorges and dense coniferous forests.

 

Trashigang (altitude: 1,100 m/ 3,775 feet)

In the far east of Bhutan, on the bank of Gamri Chu river, lies Trashigang the countrys largest district. Trashigang, once the center of a busy trade with Tibet, is today the junction of east west highway with road connecting to Samdrup Jongkhar and then to the Indian state of Assam. This town is also used as the market place for the hill people from Merak and Sakteng who are remarkable for their exceptional features and costumes.

TRASHIGANG DZONG: Built in 1659 the Dzong serves as the administrative seat for the district as well as the home of the monk body. The Dzong commands remarkable view over the surrounding countryside.

 

Trashiyangtse (altitude:  1,700 m/6,000 feet)

Driving from Mongar to Trashigang you take the left road to Trashiyangtse before crossing Chazam (Bailey bridge) to Trashigang. The road traverses north and takes about 2 hours to reach at Tashiyangtse. Trashiyangtse Dzong is half-hour walk from the main road. Established in 1656, the Dzong was completely renovated in 1976. Trashiyangtse 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.

CHORTEN KORA: a large stupa designed similar to Nepal's Boudhanath stupa, was constructed in 1740 by Lama Ngawang Lodey. During the second month of lunar calendar (March or April) the people in Tashiyangtse celebrate a festival known as Chorten Kora.

BOMDELLING: winter home to the black-necked crane, it is about one hour scenic hike from Tashiyangtse. The broad valley of Bomdelling is another bird sanctuary preserved as habitat for migrant birds specially the endangered black-necked crane.

RINCHENGANG TEMPLE: The temple is located above the Trashiyantse town and from here you can capture the beautiful view of the Trashiyantse valley. It was founded by the Terton Dorji Lingpa the treasure discoverer of the 14th Century.

ZORIG CHOSUM (13 ARTS & CRAFTS SCHOOL): It is the only traditional school in eastern Bhutan. Here you will be able to see the students learning the traditional art of painting, carving etc.. The School started in 2001.

PHUENTSHOLING: The Gateway to the south, it is a thriving commercial center on the northern edge of the Indian plains. Situated directly at the Himalayan foothills. Phuentsholing is a fascinating mixture of Indian and Bhutanese, a perfect example of mingling of people and their culture. Being the frontier town Phuentsholing serves as the convenient entry / exit point for Bhutan and also the important link to visit the Indian state of West Bengal, Sikkim and Assam.

RICHENDING GOEMPA Royal Grandmother, Ashi Phuntsho Choedron, founded the beautiful monastery situated at an altitude of 1,300 feet, in garden of tropical plants and flowers in 1967. The monastery contains paintings on the life of Buddha and statues of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and Guru Rimpoche. From the monastery garden there is a fascinating view of Phuentsholing town and surrounding plains.

ZANGTHO PELRI: A small temple built in the center of Phuentsholing town, represents the heaven of Guru Rimpoche. On ground level there are statues of the eight manifestations of Guru Rimpoche and paintings on Buddha's life. Next floor contains eight Bodhisattavas and statues of Avalokiteshwara and Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal while on top floor, the main statues is of Amitabha.

 

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