Places

PARO

Paro at 7,000 feet is 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. 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

Drugyal 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 Mongolian 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 Drugyal 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.

Paro 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 architectural 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 thangka 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 Jambay 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

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THIMPHU

Thimphu at 7,600 feet is 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

This chorten was built in 1974 in memory of Bhutan's third King. His Late Majesty, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, is popularly regarded as Father of Modern of Bhutan. The paintings and statues inside the monument provide a deep insight into Buddhist philosophy.

Tashichhodzong

Also known as "fortress of the glorious religion", the Dzong was initially erected in 1641 and rebuilt by King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk in 1965. Tashichhodzong 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.

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 history of Bhutan lies imprinted in archaic texts, which are preserved at the National Library. Besides thousands of manuscripts and ancient texts, the library also has modern academic books and printing blocks for prayer flags.

Traditional School of Arts & Crafts

This School teaches the techniques of traditional paintings. On a visit one can actually see, students at work, producing intricate design on cloth.

Indigenous Hospital

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.

Weekend Vegetable Market
Every Saturday and Sunday most of the Thimphu’s scant population and many valley dwellers congregate on the river where the weekend market is held. It is an interesting place to visit and provides opportunity to mix up with the local people.

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PUNAKHA

Altitude 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 Dochu La pass (alt. 3,100 m) on Thimphu - Punakha road.

Punakha Dzong
The dzong is strategically positioned at the junction of Pho Chu and Mo Chu rivers. Built in 1637 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the dzong still serves 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.

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WANGDUEPHODRANG

Altitude 4,430 feet
The last town before central Bhutan, Wangduephodrang is like an enlarged village with a few well-provided shops. Located towards the south of Punakha, the higher reaches of the Wangduephodrang valley provide rich pastureland for cattle. This district is also famous for its fine bamboo work and its slate carvings.

PHOBJIKHA

Altitude 9,840 feet
Towards the east of Wangduephodrang, 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 migrate from the arid plains in the north to pass winter in milder and lower climate.

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TRONGSA

Altitude 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, the dzong 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. Because of its highly strategic position as the only connecting route between east and west, the Trongsa Penlop was able to control the whole of the eastern region effectively.

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.

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