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.
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.
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
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.
The building of this chorten was originally the idea of Bhutan’s
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 Majesty’s
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.
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.
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.
The National Library was established in the late 1960s primarily to
conserve the literary treasures which form a significant part of
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, Bhutan’s
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.
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
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.
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.
a recent addition in the capital city, this museum displays the
colorful and intricately hand woven archaic textiles of Bhutan.
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.
(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.
"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.
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
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
from Punakha. It presents an incredibly complex
iconography, which belongs to the Nyingmapa tradition.
(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
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.
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.
(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.
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.
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.
(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.
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.
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.
En route to Trongsa is Chendebji Chorten,
patterned on Kathmandu’s
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
BHUTAN’S RELIGIOUS TREASURE DISCOVERER:
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
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.
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 country’s
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.