Brief Overview and Background

Tucked away gracefully in the Himalayas, Bhutan is the only Mahayana Buddhist Kingdom in the world.

Bhutan, also known as “Druk Yul”, which means the land of the Peaceful Thunder Dragon, is a landlocked kingdom and shares borders with China in the North and India in the East, West, and South. Despite being sandwiched between two culturally dynamic countries, Bhutan remains untouched by their cultural influences and has its own unique culture, heritage, and traditions. Bhutan is, on its own, an undiscovered treasure of experiences ranging from inimitable cultural exposure to unmatched excursions into its pristine natural environment.

Bhutan is rated the happiest country in Asia and the eighth happiest country in the world according to business week and is the only country in the world that has and practices Gross National Happiness (GNH).

 

Bhutan at a Glance

The Himalayan blue poppy is the national flower of Bhutan. In Bhutan, it grows to a height of 1 meter on the rocky mountain terrain, above the tree line at altitudes of 3500m to 4500m.

Total Area:
38,394 square kilometers
Location:
Landlocked between China (Tibet) and India
Altitude:
100m above sea level in the South to over 7,500 m. above sea level in the North.
Population:
672,425 (2007) : 364,482 male and 307,943 female.
Language:
Dzongkha is the national language but there are as many as 19 local dialects in Bhutan
Political System:
Democratic Constitutional Monarchy
State Religion:
Drukpa Kargyu
Capital:
Thimphu
Time:
6 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+6)
Local Time:
6

hrs ahead of GMT and half an hour ahead of Indian Standard Time

Longitude:
26 45’ – 28 15’ North
Terrain:
It can be divided into three major geographic regions from North to South; the high Himalayas of North, the hills and valleys of the central and the foothills and plains of the South.
Country code:
975
Currency:
Ngultrum  is equivalent to Indian currency.
National dress
Gho for men: which is a knee length robe, tied at the waist by kera (a traditional belt).Kera for woman: which is a long ankle length dress complemented by a elegant outer jacked known as tego and a inner layer known as wonju.
National emblem of Bhutan
The emblem of Bhutan is used in official government publications such as legislation and websites
National animal
Takin is the national animal of Bhutan and is found in the eastern Himalayas.
National flag
The yellow color on the flag signifies civil tradition and temporal authority as embodied in the Dragon King of Bhutan, whose royal garb traditionally includes a yellow kabney (scarf).The orange half signifies Buddhist spiritual tradition.The Thunder Dragon, extents evenly over the line between the colors signifying the equal importance of both civic and monastic traditions in Bhutan and conjures the strength of the sacred bond between sovereign and people.The white color of the dragon signifies the pureness of inner thoughts and deeds that connect all the ethnically and linguistically diverse citizens of Bhutan.The jewels held in the dragon’s claws signify Bhutan’s wealth and the safety and protection of its people, while the dragon’s roaring mouth signifies Bhutanese deities’ pledge to the defense of Bhutan.
National sport
Archery is the national sport of Bhutan and was stated as the national sport in 1971, when Bhutan became a member of the United Nations. Bhutan also maintains an Olympic archery team and this sport is popularly played in the country.

 

Culture and religion

Although Bhutan is a very small country, the culture of Bhutan   is very rich and unique which is deeply steeped to the Buddhist heritage and is the main attraction for tourist.

The unique culture of Bhutan is given vital importance by the government of Bhutan in order to keep the cultural heritage integral and intact. Therefore, the government of Bhutan is increasingly making efforts to preserve and sustain the current culture and traditions of the country. For its largely unspoiled natural environment and cultural heritage, Bhutan has been referred to as the last Shangri-la.

Majority population of Bhutan practices Buddhism, less than one percent of the population practices islam and a small percent of the population practices Bon and Christianity.

 

History

Bhutan has never been captured, governed or conquered by an external power and continued being independent throughout its history because Bhutan has continuously and successfully defended its sovereignty.

Zhabdrug Nawang Namgyal from western Tibet defeated three Tibetan invasions and established himself as the ruler. He first unified Bhutan in the 17th century by establishing comprehensive system of law and governance.

After his death Ugyen Wangchuck established power and promoted closer ties with the British in India in the year 1885 and was elected as the hereditary ruler of Bhutan in 1907. When the first king of Bhutan Ugyen Wangchuck deceased in 1926, his son Jigme Wangchuck was crowned the second ruler of Bhutan when India gained independence in 1949. Recognized Bhutan as an independent country the treat of peace and friendship was signed between India and Bhutan.

Our third king Jigme Dorji Wangchuck helped Bhutan emerge from its isolations and began a program planned development thus; Bhutan became a member of United Nations, national assembly and established royal Bhutanese army and high court.

Our fourth king Jigme singye Wangchuck was crowned at the age of twenty and is internationally well known for his overarching development of gross national happiness. Our fourth kind Jigme singye Wangchuck abdicated in December 2006 and his son Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck was crowned as the fifth king of Bhutan.

 

Map of Bhutan

 

 

Arts and crafts

Bhutanese art is mostly representational and Bhutan’s artistic tradition has its origins in Buddhism with almost all representation in the arts running along the dominant theme of good and evil. The arts and crafts of Bhutan that represents the exclusive “spirit and identity of the Himalayan kingdom” are defined as the art of Zorig Chosum, which means the “thirteen arts and crafts of Bhutan”. Each region has its specialties: raw silk comes from eastern Bhutan, brocade from Lhuntshi (Kurtoe), woolen goods from Bumthang bamboo wares from Kheng, woodwork from Tashi Yangtse, gold and silver work from Thimphu, and yak-hair products from the north or the Black mountains.

The thirteen arts of Zorig Chusum are the following

1. Lhazo (painting)
2.  Shingzo (carpentry)
3.  Parzo (carvings)
4.  JInzo (sculpture)
5.  Lungzo (casting)
6.  Garzo (blacksmith)
7.  Tsharzo (bamboo works).
8.  Serzo ngulzo ( goldsmithing and silver smithing):
9.  Thagzo (weaving)
10.  Tshemzo (embroidery)
11.  Dozo (masonry)
12.  Kozo (leather works)
13.  Dezo (paper works)

 

Environment

Bhutan is considered to be the world’s last remaining hotspots because of its location and unique geographical and climatic variations.

High mountains and deep valleys in Bhutan offer eco systems that are both rich and diverse. The government of Bhutan protects the pristine environment and has enacted a law to protect the bio diversity. Today, approximately 72% of the total land area of Bhutan is under forest cover and approximately 60% of the land area falls under protected areas comprising of 10 national parks and sanctuaries.

 

Economy

Despite Bhutan’ small population there has been much economic development in recent years and the economy is growing rapidly.

While a large part of the Bhutanese population is still illiterate and reside in rural areas with approximately 1in 5 still living under the poverty line, the majority of all Bhutanese have shelter and are self-sufficient. Rapid modernization has brought about vast improvements in the living standard of the Bhutanese people. All villages now have access to basic amenities such as education, running water, basic healthcare and are connected by roads and electricity. Even the most remote villages have connection to the telecommunication network including mobile phone service.

The Bhutanese economy is predominantly agricultural. Farmers supplement their income through the sale of animal products such as cheese, butter and milk. Farmers’ markets are common throughout the country, supplying the people with fresh, organic, local produce.

 

*Agriculture

Agriculture consists largely of subsistence farming as well as animal husbandry and forestry provide the main livelihood for more than 60% of the population in Bhutan. The economy of Bhutan is closely affiliated with India through strong trade and monetary links.

 

*Cottage industry

Maximum production in the industrial sector is of the cottage industry type.

Bhutan’s rich bio diversity offers the country with abundant forest resources and this has brought about the development of thriving cane and bamboo handicraft industry.

 

*Tourism

The Bhutanese tourism industry was first established in 1974 and due to Bhutan’s unique landscape, culture and tradition, tourism is grown to become a major contributing factor to the Bhutanese economy. Employment opportunities and revenue produced by the tourism industry has positively influenced the economy of Bhutan. However, the government balances tourism with preservation of culture and tradition.

 

*Hydroelectricity

Due to its fast flowing glacier –fed rivers, Bhutan has immense potential to produce hydro electricity. Hydropower exports to India have increased Bhutan’s development and growth, unquestionably being the largest contributor to the economy of Bhutan. With its ample water resources Bhutan still has the capacity to generate another 30,000 MW of electricity. Although Bhutan has a small population there has been a lot of economic development in recent years and the economy is growing rapidly.

 

Bumthang

Bumthang is home to some of the country’s most ancient and precious Buddhist sites. This expansive valley is dominated by the sparkling Jakar Dzong, which is also known as the ‘Castle of white bird.’ In Chamkhar valley one comes across the old Wangdicholing palace of the first and second kings of Bhutan.

Aside from devout Bhutanese pilgrims, the sacred shrines and temples of Bumthang today attract a considerable number of foreign visitors who come to experience the spiritual power of the region, as well as enjoy the regions various annual festivals.

The regional cuisine of Bumthang includes buckwheat pancakes called Khooli and buckwheat noodles known as Puta. Another well loved specialty of the region is Chugo which is hardened cheese cubes made from Yak milk.people from Bumthang are renowned for their skill in weaving especially yathra which are hand spun from yak hair and sheep wool and woven on trestle looms in a vibrant palette of colors and patterns. 

 

Jakar Dzong (Castle of white bird)

The greatest grand father of the first Zhabdrung founded Jakar Dzong. The Dzong was initially built as a monastery in 1549. It was upgraded after Zhabdrung had firmly established his power in 1646. The Dzong is now used as administrative center or Bumthang valley and houses the regional monk body.

A special feature of the Dzong is the approximately fifty meter high Utes or the Central tower, which is distinct from most other Dzongs in Bhutan. The other unique feature of the Dzong is a sheltered passage, with two parallel walls, interconnected by fortified towers, which gave the population of the fortress access to water in the case of a siege. The protected water supply is still intact to this day.

 

Phurling Gonpa (Monastery of the flying hat)

Phurling Gonpa or Buli Gonpa is located in Buli, on top of a small hillock overlooking the Gaytsa village approximately 15 minutes walk from the high way. In the 14th century, the monastery was founded by Terton Dorji Lingpa (one of the five great Tertons). As the Terton was meditating on a hillock on the other side of the temple a strong wind blew off his hat and landed on the spot where the temple stands today, hence the name Phurling.

Relics: Amitayus on the top floor, the Buddha on the second and Jowo Jamba (Maitreya) on the ground floor, a sacred chapel of the area’s guardian deity, statue of Terton Dorji Lingpa, the hat which blew to the area and the Tempai Serku that originally belonged to Terton Dorji Lingpa.

 

Chakar Monastery (iron castle temple)

Chakar Monastery located on the way to Kurje Lhakang has its origins in the 8th century when Chakar King Sindhu Raja built a nine-stored iron castle. As the castle deteriorated, Terton Dorji Lingpa built a temple on the site.

Relics: images of Terton Dorji Lingpa, Vairotsana, Tamdrin (Hayagriva), Chana Dorji (Vajrapani), Chenrezig (Avalo keteshvara) and Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel. The treasures inside the temple are dedicated to Trashi Kheudron, daughter of Chakar king who is believed to be one of Guru Rinpoche’s mystical consorts.

 

Chojiedra Gonpa (Monastery of religious masters)

This Monastery lies on the face of a steep cliff north of Tharpaling Monastery, approximately 30 minute drive from Gaytsa. Legend has it that in the 8th century Guru Padmasambava flew on a tigress to the spot and left remarkable imprints on the rocks in the vicinity of the monastery. The monastery itself was founded in the 12 century.

Relics: rock imprints of Guru’s throne, conch, tigress, among others; holy water; a skull believed to belong to one of Guru’s consorts, statue of Guru Pema Jungney and the Goenkhang of Gonpo Manning Nakpo (an emanation of Mahakala). The cliff is also believed to be the palace of female deity Dorji Yudenma.

 

Jampa Lhakang (Temple of Maitreya)

Jampa Lhakang is one of the oldest temples in Bhutan. Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo founded this temple in the 7th century AD. Legend has it that Guru Rinpoche visited the site several times and deemed it exceptionally sacred. In the 8th century, king Sindhu Raja renovated the structure. Today, it is the venue of the famous festival Jambay Lhakang Drup where naked dances are performed.

Relics: Future Buddha Jowo Jampa (Maitreya), 100 statues of gods of Kalachakra.

 

Kencho Sum Lhakang (Temple of sacred trinity)

Kencho Sum Lhakang is 10 minutes drive from Chamkhar town. The temple has its roots in the 17th century AD although the current structure dates only from the 15th century. It is believed to have built on top of a subterranean lake from where treasure discoverer Terton Pema Lingpa discovered several religious treasures.

Relics: statues of the three Buddha (past, present and future) believed to have miraculously flown to the site from Kurtoe, a large ancient bell is kept which when rung it is believed to be heard as far away as Lhasa in Tibet. Statues of Buddha Vairocana, Avaloketeshvara , Guru Padmasambava and  Jowo jampa.

 

Kunzangdrak Lhakang (The cliff of Goodness)

Kunzangdrak Lhakang is located on the face of a steep cliff and was founded by Terton Pema Lingpa in the 15th century on a site blessed by Guru Padmasambava. The monastery complex consists of three sacred temples.

Relics: Palm and the foot imprints on the rock of Guru Padmasambava and his tigress; several holy water; statues of Amitayus, Avaloketeshvara, Amitabha, Guru Nangsi Zilnon, Namkhai Nyingpo (Akashagarba) and an alter room dedicated to Gonpo Maning Nakpo (emanation of Mahakala).

 

Kurje Lhakang (Temple of Body imprints)

About 15 minutes drive from Chamkhar town; Kurje temple is built against a rock cave where in the 8th century Guru Padmasambava subdued evil spirits, which had king Sindhu Raja, and his family stricken with ailments. There are three main temples: the oldest built in 1652 on the site where Guru meditated, the second temple was build where his body imprints were left and the third was built in the 1990s by the Queen mother Ahi Kezang. 108 Chorten walls surround the three temples.

Relics: the first temple has the statues of Buddha Amitabha, Sakyamuni, Maitreya, the second temple has Guru Rinpoche (about 12 meters high0, the third complex comprises Khenlop Chosum Lhakang, Phurba Lhakang (temple of Vajrakila) and Neten Chudrug Lhakang (temple of sixteen Arhats). The cypress tree near the entrance is said to be the offshoot of guru’s walking stick. The holy water there is considered to be very sacred. 

 

Tamzhing Lhakang (The fulfilling Dharma Center)

Located at Tamzhing on the ridge facing the Kurje Lhakang, the temple was founded by the great treasure discoverer Terton Pema Lingpa (reincarnation of Guru Padmasambava) in 1501 AD. The monastery has very ancient religious paintings , 1000 buddhas and 21 Taras.

Relics: The statue of Guru which was supposedly built by Khandroms (Celestial nymphs); the Uzham (hat) of Guru’s statue was crafted by Pema Lingpa himself. Weapons in the armory were also casted by Terton Pema Lingpa; images of Peling Tshokhor sum, Duesum Sangay (past, present and future Buddhas), Guru Tshengyed (the eight manifestations of Guru Rinpoche), a life sized replica image of Terton Pema Lingpa called Ngadrama (my replica) and Terton Pema Lingpa’s Throne.

 

Mebar tsho (the burning Lake)

Mebar tsho in Tang, thirty minutes drive from Chamkhar town proper relates to treasure discoverer Terton Pema Lingpa. Who at the age of 25 had a vision of Guru Rinpoche who directed him to salvage a treasure from the bottom of the lake. As destined, Terton Pema Lingpa with a handful of people headed for the gorge lit a butter lamp and jumped into the lake. Terton Pema Lingpa miraculously reappeared from the lake with a chest and a scroll of paper in his hand with his butter lamp still burning. On the scroll were the holy and mysterious scriptures. On the entrance to the lake is the image of Terton Pema Lingpa along with his two sons carved on to a rock.

 

Shingkhar Dechenling Lhakang

Shingkhar Dechenling Lhakang in Shingkhar village was founded by Kuenkhen longchen Rabjam, one of the greatest Nyingma masters. In the 14th century he identified Ling Gyed (the eight Vast lands) of which Shingkhar Dechenling is one.

Relics: stone throne of Longchen Rabjam, images of Guru Tshengyed (eight manifestations of Guru Rinpoche), a wooden statue of Guru Rinpoche, a statue of white Tara, a Kudra (an image of the builder).

 

Shugdrag Singye Dzong

About 13 kilometers from Chamkhar town, Shugdrag Singye Dzong is where Guru Rinpoche meditated and transformed himself into intimidating manifestations.

Relics: the meditation cave of Khandu Yeshey Tshogyal (Guru Rinpoche’s consort), rock imprints of the mantra ‘Om Ma Ni Padme hung’, site where Terton Rinchen Lingpa discovered Zabter Gi Shogser (a religious text), footprints of Khandu Yeshey Tshogyal, imprints of the sixty five marks of Buddha hood, foot prints of the horse that Guru Rinpoche rode and treasure statue of Guru Rinpoche.

 

Tak Rimochen Lhakang (Temple of tiger stripes)

Tak Rimochen Lhakang in Tang valley is an important meditation seat of Guru Rinpoche. After meditating in Paro Taksang, Guru Rinpoche is said to have flown on his tigress to subdue a demoness in present day Tang.

Relics: imprints of tiger stripes on a rock cliff, holy water with healing powers, the throne of Guru Rinpoche, an impression of a door which is believed to be the secret passage to the religious treasures hidden by Guru Rinpoche, foot print of Khando Mandarawa (one of the two mystical consorts of Guru Rinpoche), rock formation in the shape of Torma (ritual cake) made by Guru Rinpoche, the statue of Guru Tshengyed (eight manifestations of Guru Rinpoche) among others.

 

Tharpaling Lhakang (the and of liberation)

Tharpaling is one of the main places where Gyalwa Longchen Rabjampa spread his teachings in the 14th century. Towards the north of the temple lies Singye Dra where Rabjampa discovered sacred relics and scriptures. The temple lay in ruins and its significance belittled for centuries until the first king of Bhutan, Gongsa Ugyen Wangchuck and the great saint Tokden Shakya Shiri restored the site and built a retreat center. A small shrine, which is adjacent to the old temple, is believed to have been used for meditation by the first king.

 

Nimalung Lhakang

Nimalung Lhakang is located approximately 15 minutes drive from Chumey village. It was uilt in 1935 and today it serves as a monastic school as well as a meditation center.

Relics: statue of Guru Rinpoche, paintings of Guru Rinpoche and his disciples, the lineage of Terton Pema Lingpa, zambala, Buddha and several Buddhist masters affiliated with the monastery.

 

Tharpaling Phallus

Any pilgrimage to Tharpaling Temple is incomplete without a glimpse of the 7ft. phallus carved of stone and cement. With its tip pointed towards the valley opposite the temple. It is said to have miraculously curbed the supposedly negative vibes that emanated from the valley that had the shape of a female organ. The strange setting had posed a threat to the sanctity of the temple with numerous inexplicable incidences of monks giving up their religious lives.

 

Gangtey

Travellers and the locals often call Gangtey the most beautiful and scenic regions in the valley of Bhutan. One will not find shops, museums, restaurants, many vehicle movement and other places of attractions in Gangtey.

Gangtey is also the winter home to over 400 highly endanger black-necked cranes and offers untouched beauty, peace, tranquility and a rare experience which will be remembered a lifetime.

 

Gangtey Goenpa

Gangtey Goenpa is one of the biggest monasteries in Bhutan and the seat of the Peling tradition of tantric Buddhism in western Bhutan. Pema Thinley who is the grandson of Terton Pema Lingpa built Gangtey Goenpa in Phobjikha valley in 1613. The monastery currently hosts an institute for Buddhist studies and is the seat of Gangtey Trulku, the body emanation of Terton Pema Lingpa.

 

Black necked crane information center

Along the main road of Phobjikha valley, Black-necked crane information center is located at the edge of the forest and wetland. The center has an observation room equipped with high power telescope and spotting scopes to catch the finest view of the cranes. The center also offers display information that outline the natural and cultural history of the area.

 

Haa

Haa is one of the smallest Dzongkhag in the country, the tiny region is one of the most beautiful and isolated areas in the kingdom, adorned with pristine alpine forests and tranquil mountain peaks.

In the fertile valleys, the people of Haa grow high altitude crops such as wheat, potatoes, barley and millet. A series of picturesque temples grace the valley of Haa and fortunately tourist have been recently granted permission to enter the Dzongkhang to experience our culture and traditions.

 

Meri Phunsum

Meri Phunsum also known as the “three brother hills” are sacred majestic mountains, where two of the oldest and most sacred temples are located. Local historians maintain that two important temples on Haa district, the Black temple and the White temple which were built at the same time as Kichu Lhakang in Paro, built in the 7th century AD at the sacred site known as Meri Phunsum. A third temple, Haa Goenpa was built further up the valley at the site where a lame pigeon, actually a bodhisattva in disguised form was found by a local farmer who was drawn to the spot by a mysterious fire seen on several consecutive nights and by unexplained sounds of oboes and trumpets (musical instruments closely associated with Bhutanese and Tibetan monasteries).

 

Chele-la pass

Chele-la pass is considered to be one of the highest motor able passes in Bhutan at an elevation of 3,988 m. Approximately an hour drive along a thickly forested road is chele-la pass “a botanical paradise” separating Haa and Paro valley. The pass provides stunning views of the sacred mountains Jomolhari and Jichu Drake and adjoining peaks to the northwest. It is also marked by hundreds of prayer flags fluttering in the wind. Here visitors can see the cascades of wild roses, purple and yellow premolars and swathes of deep blue iris covering the forest floor.  The top of the pass bloom with rhododendrons in a variety of colorful pale, deep pink, burnt orange, mauve, white and scarlet.

 

Lhakhang karpo (The White temple)

Located in the Usu Gewog, the monk body in Haa is not housed in its Wangchuk Lo Dzong but in Lhakang Karpo, which functions as the Haa Dratsang (monastic body). The annual Haa tshechu is held here. The name Lhakang Karpo means the white temple. We believe that the temple has been established in the 7th century during the time of the Tibetan Emperor Songtsan Gampo.

 

Lhakang Nakpo (The Black temple)

Lhakang Nakpo is located at Usu Gewog above the White temple. It was built in the 7th century. Inside the temple is a small pool asspciated with the Buddhist protector Mahakala. According to the legend, rays of light emanated from the body of Chogyal Songstan Gampo to this place and the White temple was built where the bright rays of sun fell and the black temple was built where the dark rays fell.

 

 Paro

The beautiful valley of Paro encapsulates within itself a rich culture, scenic beauty and hundreds of myths and legends. It is home to many of Bhutan’s oldest temples and monasteries, national museum and country’s only airport. Mount Jomolhari (7,314m) reigns in the white glory at the northern end of the valley and its glacial water plunge through deep gorges to for Pa chhu (Paro river). Paro is also one of the most fertile valleys in the kingdom producing a bulk of locally famous red rice from its terraced fields.

 

Taktsang Monastry

Taktsang Monastry is Bhutan’s most iconic landmark and religious site. The name Taktsang translates to “The Tiger’s Nest”. This temple is one of the most holy sites in the kingdom and clings impossibly to a sheer cliff face 900 hundred meters above the Paro Valley. t was first built in 1692 at a cave where Guru Rimpoche meditated in the 7th century A.D. Legend states that Guru Rimpoche flew to the site atop the back of a tigress and meditated in the cave for 3 years, 3 months, 3 days and 3 hours in order to subdue evil demons residing within it. The cave has been considered a sacred site ever since and many famous saints have travelled to meditate in it. Visiting Tiger’s Nest temple will be rewarded with a breathtaking view and ones in a lifetime memory.

 

National museum

One time watchtower built to defend the Rinpung Dzong during the inter-valley wars of the 17th century, since 1967 Ta Dzong is serving as the national museum of the country.

The museum has different galleries, which provide better display and various categorizations such as anthropology, arms and armor, pre-history, manuscript, paintings, textiles, bronzes, decorative arts, philatelic items, epigraphic items and numismatics displayed over several floors.

The star attraction of the museum is such as the horse-egg, horn, 12th century arrowhead and a 1000-year-old statue. The horse-egg is one of the most precious objects, which were gifted to the museum in 1969. This horse-egg is believed to have originated from a horse in Trashiyangtse, which is made up of unknown substance.

 

Drugyal Dzong

Now in ruins is located 14kms north of Paro town, near the end of the paved road. Its name means victories fortress and was built 1644-49 to commemorate the Bhutanese victory over the Tibetan-Mongol forces. It was later burnt in fire by accident in 1951. On a clear day, Mt. Jumolhari, Bhutan’s holy peak can be seen against its backdrop.

Drukgyal Dzong was one of the four principal Dra Dzongs (defense fortress). Accounts differ on the founder of Drukgyal Dzong. Most writers feel that it was Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal who built it to commemorate his victory over the Tibetan army in 1649. Others believe that it was Tenzin Drugda, the second Desi, (who was Paro Penlop at the time) who built it at the behest of Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyal. Despite differences of opinion on the founder of the Dzong, people agree on the fact that it was built to commemorate the victory of the Bhutanese over the allied Tibet-Mongol forces. Hence the name Druk Gyal “the fortress of victory’ The Dzong was used as a summer residence by the Ringpung Rabdey. In 1951, in the 10th month of Bhutanese calendar, on the last day of the three-day annual prayers, the Dzong was burnt. Only the ruins of giant walls, charred gigantic wooden posts, beams and watch towers can be seen of what was once an important fortress that repelled several invasions from the north.

 

Kichu Lhakang

It is one of the oldest and most sacred shrines of the kingdom. The lhakang complex is composed of two very sacred temples. Songtsen Gempo who was a Tibetan king built the first temple in the 7th century. In 1968, Ashi Kesang who is the queen mother of Bhutan built the second temple in the original pattern.  There is also a belief that the two orange trees in the complex bear fruits though out the year.

 

Farmhouse

Visitors also have the option of spending a night in a traditional Bhutanese Farm House. Agriculture is still one of the major sources of livelihood amongst the Bhutanese people and a Farm-Stay will give you an excellent glimpse into the day-to-day life of a typical Bhutanese family. It may not be luxurious but accommodation is clean with basic facilities and definitely a warm welcome. It’s a genuine chance to live with a Bhutanese family and experience something different.

 

Druk choeding

Druk choeding was built in 1525; Ngawang Chhogyel, one of the prince abbots of Ralung in Tibet and an ancestor of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, formed this town temple.The main statue is of a seated Jampa (future Buddha). Also present is the local protector Gyenyen, surrounded by a fearsome collection of old Bhutanese shields and weapons.

 

Dungtse Lhakang

Dungtse Lhakang, Thangtong Gyalpo who is also known as the iron bridge builder built a chorten like temple in 1433. It is believed that the temple is built on the head of a demoness who was causing illness to the inhabitants. This temple has three floors representing hell, earth and heaven. The paintings and art inside the temple are said to be the finest in the country.

 

Ugyen Pelri palace

Ugyen Pelri palace was built in 1930 by Paro penlop (Governer) Tshering penjor. It is concealed in the woods; enclosed by perimeter wall. The elegant building is modeled after Zangtopelri, a celestial paradise of Guru Rinpoche and functions as royal residence in ParoIt is one of the most beautiful landmark and example of Bhutanese architecture.

 

Jangsarbu lhakang

Jangsarbu is a small temple, which is home to a magnificent statue of Sakyamuni Buddha that was carried all the way from Lhasa, and also houses the protector deity of Paro. Legend has it that the statue of Sakyamuni was destined for Paro Dzong and merely placed in the temple for overnight safe keeping. However, when the time came to move the statue, it proved impossible to lift so now the statue has become a permanent feature of the temple.

 

Chele-la pass

Chele-la pass is considered to be one of the highest motor able passes in Bhutan at an elevation of 3,988 m. Approximately an hour drive along a thickly forested road is chele-la pass “a botanical paradise” separating Haa and Paro valley. The pass provides stunning views of the sacred mountains Jomolhari and Jichu Drake and adjoining peaks to the northwest. It is also marked by hundreds of prayer flags fluttering in the wind. Here visitors can see the cascades of wild roses, purple and yellow premolars and swathes of deep blue iris covering the forest floor.  The top of the pass bloom with rhododendrons in a variety of colorful pale, deep pink, burnt orange, mauve, white and scarlet.

 

Phuntsholing

Phuntsholing is a thriving commercial hub of Bhutan. Phuntsholing is a border town to the southern Bhutan and is the administrative seat of Chukha district. This town is a multicultural region as it lies opposite to the Indian town of Jaigaon and cross-border trade has resulted in thriving local economy.

 

Zangto pelri Lhakang

Zangtopelri Lhakhang (temple) represents the heaven of Guru Rinpoche and is centrally located in Phuntsholing main town. On the ground floor of Zangtopelri Lhakang, there are statues of eight manifestations of Guru Rinpoche and painting of Buddha’s life. On the 1st floor there are statues of the eight Bodhisattvas.

 

Kharbandi Goenpa 

Founded in 1967 by the Royal Grand mother, Ashi Phuntsho Choden. The temple is located at an altitude of 400m. This beautiful monastery contains paintings of Buddha’s life, statues of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and Guru Rinpoche. From the monastery garden there is a mesmerizing sight of Phuntsholing town and surrounding plains.

 

Punakha

The district is deeply associated with history. Not only was it the capital of ancient Bhutan, it was also the place where the first hereditary king of Bhutan was unanimously elected in 1907.many historic events took place in Punakha Dzong (fortress). Today, Punakha remains the winter residence of the national clergy and chief abbot of Buddhist Bhutan. Beside the temples and monasteries, Punakha is also famous for its hot springs and gentle terraces that line its slopes are a treat to the eyes. With an immense wealth of flora and fauna, parts of the Jigme Dorji Wangchuk national park falls within its boundaries.

 

Punakha Dzong

Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, the founderof Bhutanese state built Punakha Dzong (fortress) in 1637.

The Punakha Dzong, often referred to as the ‘Palace of Happiness’, is the second oldest and second largest dzong in Bhutan. This spectacular emblem of Bhutanese religious architecture sits right at the confluence of the Mo Chhu and Pho Chhu rivers and is perhaps the obvious key to unlocking Punakha’s secrets. The Theranghung “self-created” image of Avalokitesvara enshrined in the utse of the dzong (brought by the Zhabdrung from Tibet) is displayed during the festival.

 

Khamsum Yuley Namgyal Chorten

Khamsum Yuley Namgyel Chorten was built in the 1990s and took period of nearly 10 years. It was built by the Queen mother to remove negative forces and promote peace, stability and harmony in the changing world. It is majestically located on a ridge with amazing views of the valley. It is one of the finest Bhutanese architects and is approximately 30 minutes drive from Punakha town. However, visitors will have to hike approximately 45 minutes through the rice fields. While returning back to the base one will have the option of walking along the riverside following the ancient trail that goes through farmlands and small villages, exiting near Punakha Dzong.

 

Talo Goempa

The village of Talo (alt.2800m), which is, scattered along the hill slopes known for its cleanliness and hygiene among Punakha village. Talo Goempa is built on a plateau and has magnificent view of surrounding villages. Talo is particularly known for its beauty.

 

Chimi Lhakang

Chimi Lhakang (temple) is located on a hillock in the center of the valley and is dedicated to Lama Drukpa Kinley who is also known as the “Divine mad man.” Chimi Lhakang is also well known as the fertility temple and it is believed that couples that visit the temple are always blessed with a child very soon.

 

Nalanda Buddhist collage

Locals address this place as ‘Dalayna’ while the monks address it as ‘Nalanda Buddhist collage. Today Nalanda Buddhist collage educates 120 monks of all ages.

The reincarnation of Gyelwang Tenpi Ningchey Rinpoche, currently resides at Nalanda Buddhist Institute.

The monks have English class twice a day, 6 days a week. The senior English group welcomes visitors to come and help them with their conversation practice and to learn about where their country and culture. Evening class is from 5-6pm.

 

Limbukha village

Limbukha village is known for its love for peace and tranquility. Limbukha farmers grow Bhutan’s red rice, which is supposed to have medicinal values. This particular rice needs clean mountain spring so that the taste is good and nutritional value is maintained. Legend says that during medieval wars the people of Limbukha always volunteered as peace negotiators. This is also depicted during yearly festival called ‘Serda” when the men are found carrying peace flags instead of swords and weapons.

 

Thimphu

Thimphu is the Kingdom’s capital city as well as the main center of commerce, religion and government in the country.

Thimphu is the most modern city in Bhutan with an abundance of restaurants, internet cafes, nightclubs and shopping centers, however it still retains its’ cultural identity and values amidst the signs of modernization. Thimphu is one of the few towns in Bhutan that have been equipped with ATM banking facilities and is a good place to stock up on some currency.

One of the most curious features of Thimphu is that it is the only capital city in the world that does not use traffic lights. Instead a few major intersections have policemen standing in elaborately decorated booths (small pavilions), directing traffic with exaggerated hand motions. The juxtaposition of ancient tradition and modernity make Thimphu the ideal location for visitors to break away from their tour itinerary and just immerse themselves in the lifestyle of contemporary Bhutanese.

 

Thimphu Tshechu

One of the biggest and most colorful festivals in the country is the Thimphu festival (Tshechu). This festival is held in the capital city for three days beginning on 10th day of the 8th month of lunar calendar, attracting the largest audience. Unforgettable Awe-inspiring Chaam dances are performed by special monks in honor of Guru Rinpoche, the saint who brought Buddhism to Bhutan. Attending tsechu is one the best ways to experience the ancient living culture of Bhutan.

 

Tashi Chhodzong

Tashichho Dzong (fortress) has been the seat of the government since 1952 located on the northern edge of the capital city of Thimphu along the western banks of the Wang chu river. Presently houses the king’s office, the secretariat and the ministries of home affairs and finance. The fortress is located adjacent to the Dechencholing Palace, the Palace housing the Royal Family of Bhutan.

Lama Gyalwa Lhanangpa originally built Tashi Chhodzong in 1216; the fortress has been destroyed twice, once by a fire in 1771, and again in 1897 by an earthquake, and has been rebuilt and expanded multiple times over the course of its 800 years of history.

 

Changangkha Lhakang

Located on a ridge overlooking Bhutan’s capital city, this temple is the home of the guardian deity of Chang valley. Phajo Drugom Zhigpo, the forerunner of Drukpa Kagyud School, founded it in the 14th century however; his son Nyima built temple.

Relics: Ancient sacred statues of Avalokiteshvara, Hayagriva (Tandin) in wrathful form, Yum Sonam Peldon, Buddha Shakyamuni, Manjusri, Avaloketesvara,Vajrapani and Guru Padmasambhava. Sacred scriptures such as 16 volumes of Satssahasvika Prajnaparamita, Sangay Tshenbum (1,00,000 names of Buddha) and 100 volumes of Narthang Kanjur (translated words of Buddha printed in Narthang, Tibet)

 

Semthokha Dzong (Fortress)

The fortress is approximately 05 kilometers from the city of Thimphu and it is a well-known landmark found on the way to Thimphu- Punakha high way. Built in 1629 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the 18th Drukpa (or throne holder) who unified Bhutan, the fortress was the first of its kind built in the country.

The name Simtokha literally means “Atop a Demon” and the legend associated with the fortress construction tells us that it was built in order to subdue an evil spirit that was harassing travelers in the region.

Today the fortress serves as an important historical monument for the country, housing countless statues and paintings of various Buddhas, deities, religious figures including The Eight Manifestations of Guru Rimpoche, Jampelyang the Bodhisattva of Wisdom, Shakya Gyalpo the Buddha of Compassion and many more, all carved and painted in exquisite detail.

 

Tango monastery

Driving up the valley the road crosses to the east side of the Wang Chhu at Begana, near a training facility operated by the electricity department. A few kilometers beyond this, 12km from Thimphu, a road leads east and climbs a short distance to a parking lot. The trail to Tango monastery is a climb of 280m and takes about half an hour if you follow the steeper shortcut, or about an hour if you take the longer, more gradual trails.

Tango monastery site has had religious significance since the 12th century when it was the home of the Lama who brought the Drukpa Kagyupa school of Buddhism to Bhutan. Drukpa Kunley also known as “The Divine Madman” built the monastery in the 15th century.

Tango is the highest center of Buddhist learning in the country; almost every Je Khenpo (religious head of Bhutan) completed the 9-year program there. After completing that program, monks traditionally spend 3 years, 3 months and 3 days in meditation at the nearby Cheri Goemba retreat, built in 1619 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the founder or first unifier of Bhutan. It is currently the home of an 11-year-old boy believed to be the seventh reincarnation of the fourth desi, or ruler, of Bhutan.

The 8th Desi (secular ruler) Druk Rabgye built the quaint three- story tower and several surrounding buildings.

Relics: statue that shed tears when Gyalsay Tenzin Rabgye passes away; Kudung stupa of Gyalsay Tenzing Rabgye where his ashes are preserved; sandal wood tress that are supposed to be the walking sticks of Phajo; another stupa is built at a site where Khando Sonam Peldon attained enlightment; a skull believed to be that of the famouse king of Tibet, Thrisong Detsen.

 

Dechenprodrang monastery

First built by Gyalwa Lhanangpa in 1216 and then known as Dho Ngon Dzong, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal renamed it as Tashi Chhodzong in the 17th century. In 1772, it was shifted near Tashi Chhodzong . the 13th century structure remained was renovated and renamed as Dechenprodrang.

Relics: the main relics are the statue of Buddha and Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. The latter is supposed to have spoken. There are also statues of 16 Arhats and a Goenkhang (inner sanctum) of Mahakala, Mahakali and the Raven deity.

 

Pangri Zampa Lhakang

Pangri Zampa Lhakang in the north of Thimphu was built in 1529 by Lama Ngawang Chhogyal. Today it houses the center for astrology.next to the main lhakang lies the Zhabdrung lhakang.

Relics: Chapels of the Kagyu lama and the guardian deities of Bhutan, Yeshey Gonpa and Palden Lhamo; meditation room for Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal;a statue of guardian deity the Tshomen (Mermaid).

 

Changri monastery

The Cheri Monastery is a beautiful Buddhist monastery located 14 kilometres to the north of the capital city of Thimphu in Bhutan, near Cheri Mountain. It was founded by Lama Gyalwa Lhanampa in the 13th century and built in its present form by Tenzin Rabgye, the 4th Temporal Ruler of Bhutan, in 1688. In 1627 Shabdrung in Cheri, which to these days has become a meditation center for higher-level Buddhist studies, started the first Buddhist monastic school for Bhutan. The monastery buildings are old and still contain many sacred relics from the past.

Along the trek, one may find thousands of small “tsa-tsa”, or miniature stupas, hidden among the cracks and crevices of the mountain, placed by pilgrims and families to ward off evil. The trail goes through the woods of blue pine, Oak trees and lot of Rhododendron undergrowth; visitors are rewarded for their journey through picturesque views of the adjacent river and surrounding countryside.

Relics: the monastery and the surrounding areas are filled with sacred sites and relics. Among others it has a stupa containing the ashes of Zhabdrung’s father Tenpai Nyima, statue of Zhabdrung built by himself, images of guardian deities Adarpati and Baayup,

 

Zilukha nunnery / Drubthob monastery

Zilukha nunnery is located on the slopes looking down at the golf course and Tashi Chhodzong with around 70 or so resident nuns. The monastery was founded by later reincarnation of Druthob Thangtong Gyalpo or Drubthob Chakampa, who in the 15 century was known all over Tibetan Buddhist world for building iron bridges and he is also considered the father of Tibetan opera. Zilukha is among the few nunneries in Bhutan.

Relics: statues og Thangtong Gyalpo, Neten Yenlajung (one of the 16 Arhats), Tara, wall murals of the eight manifestations of Guru Rinpoche, Hayagriva, Avaloketeshvara and Amitayus; a mural of 16 Arhats at the entrance and among other scriptures, Rinchen Terzoed (the precious teachings of great masters).

 

Painting school (zorig chosum)

Essential parts of Bhutan’s cultural heritage are the thirteen traditional arts and crafts that have been practiced from time immemorial. These arts were formally categorized during the reign of Gyalse Tenzin Rabgay, the fourth temporal ruler of Bhutan. The thirteen arts and crafts are categorized as follows:

  • Thang-zo (weaving)

Women of eastern Bhutan are skilled at weaving and they weave some of the most highly prized textiles. Bhutanese textiles are woven from cotton, raw cotton and silk with intricate motifs woven into the cloth. Khoma village in Lhuentse is famous for Kushithara, while Rahi and Bidung are known for bura textiles, namely Mentsi Matha and Aikapur. One type of cotton fabric woven in Pemagatshel is the Dungsam Kamtham. Which lends its name to the village Decheling (Samdrup Jongkhar)Adang village in Wangdue Phodrang is known for textiles such as Adang Mathra, Adang Rachu and Adang Khamar while the Bumthaps in central Bhutan are known for Bumthap Mathra and Yathra, both textiles woven out of Yak hair and sheep wool. It’s interesting to note that the people of Nabji and Korphu in Trongsa are known for textiles woven out of nettle fibers. Weaving is also a vocation amongst the Brokpas of Merak and Sakteng.

  • Tsha-zo (bamboo products)

Taking advantage of these abundant natural resources, the Bhutanese people have mastered the skill of weaving cane and bamboo products. This art is spread throughout the country and products such as baskets, winnowers, mats, containers known as Palangs and bangchungs are all made. The people of Kangpara in eastern Bhutan and the Bjokaps of Central Bhutan are the pioneer’s and masters of this craft. Their products are now sold to tourists earning them additional income and keeping this craft alive.

  • Shag-zo (wood products)

The master craftsmen of this vibrant art are known as Shag Zopa. They are famed for the wooden cups and bowls traditionally known as dapas and phobs. These wooden bowls are made of special wooden knots known as Zaa and are highly valued. Until the advent of steel and brass, these bowls were widely used by the Bhutanese. Today they are typically sold at craft markets and offered as gifts.

  • Lha-zo (Bhutanese painting)

The materials used in Bhutanese paint are the natural pigmented soils that are found throughout the country. These natural soil pigments are of different colors. The mere sight of these enormous scrolls painted is believed to cleanse the viewer of his sins and bring him closer to attaining nirvana. Thus, it brings merit not only to the believers but for the painters as well.

  • Shing-zo (art of carpentry)

Shing-zo or carpentry plays a major part in the construction of Bhutan’s majestic fortresses, temples, houses, palaces and bridges.

  • Do-zo (art of masonry)

In Bhutan, temples, Dzongs, Chortens (or stupas) and farmhouses are all constructed using stone. Classic examples of stone-work are those of Chorten Kora in Tashiyangtse in eastern Bhutan and Chendebji chorten in central Bhutan.

  • Par-zo (art of carving)

Par zo is the art of carving and another traditional Bhutanese art form that has been perfected over generations. Major carvings are carried out on stone, wood and slate. The traditional designs crafted on these materials create beautiful and distinctive art works unique to the Land of the Thunder Dragon. One of the popular and unique wood carving that draws attention from visitors are the phalluses of various sizes and shapes that are hung on the four corners of traditional Bhutanese houses and placed over the main entrance door. These carved wooden phalluses are also wielded by the Acharyas- the clowns during religious festivals as a sign to bless spectators and drive away their evils and misfortunes.

  • Jim-zo (clay art)

Jim zo or clay work is an ancient craft that has been practiced and passed down over the centuries. This art form preceded other sculpture works such as bronze and other metal works. Statues of deities, gods and goddesses and other prominent religious figures exemplify clay work in Bhutan.

  • Lug-zo (bronze art)

Bronze was commonly used to cast containers such as cups, urns, and vases. People also shaped bronze into weapons and armor such as battle-axes, helmets, knives, swords and shields. Bronze casting in Bhutan was introduced only in the 17th century and was mainly spread through the visiting Newari artisans that came from Nepal.

(10)Gar-zo (iron art)

It is believed that a Tibetan saint known as Dupthob Thangtong Gyalpo introduced the iron art. The Bhutanese people as a master engineer revere him for his skill in casting iron chains and erecting them as bridges over gorges. He is supposed to have built eight suspension bridges in Bhutan. You can still see one of the bridges crossing over the Paro Chu, on the road from Paro to Thimphu, and linking the highway to the famous Tachog lhakhang. The remains of another bridge can be viewed at the National Museum in Paro.

(11)Troe-zo (craft of traditional ornament making)

Using precious stones and metals such as corals, turquoise, silver and gold, these master craftsmen create all manner of ornaments and implements including necklaces, bangles, earrings, rings, brooches, amulets to contain ritual objects, traditional containers to carry the much chewed beetle nut, ritual objects and much more.

(12)De-zo (traditional Bhutanese paper)

This traditional paper is made from the bark of the Daphne tree and was widely used in the past. Most religious scriptures and texts were written on Dezho using traditional Bhutanese ink or occasionally in gold.

(13)Tshem-zo (art of embroidery)

Monks normally practice the art of embroidery and appliqué. Using this art they produce large religious scrolls known as Thangkas that depicts Gods and Goddesses, deities and saints. Traditional boot making is normally the work of Bhutanese laymen. Officials wear these boots during special functions and gatherings are made of leather and cloth. However, this is a vanishing practice but with the government’s support it has seem a recent revival in the kingdom’s urban centers.

The third category is tailoring. These craftsmen are skilled at sewing the traditional Bhutanese garments known as Gho and Kira.

 

Buddha Dhordhenma (Buddha point)

Buddha point at Kuenselphodrang offers a magnificent panoramic view of the valley below and great photograph opportunities. The throne that the Buddha Dordenma sits upon is a large meditation hall. The statue sits high on a spur overlooking the southern approach to Thimphu. It is one of the largest statues in the world at a height of 169 feet (51.5 meters) accommodating 1,00,000 8-inch tall and 25,000 12-inch tall gilded Buddhas respectively in the interior. The statue is surrounded by 943 acres of forest area that comprises the Kuenselphodrang Nature Park.

Apart from commemorating the centennial of the Bhutanese monarchy, it fulfills two prophecies. In the twentieth century, a renowned yogi prophesied that a large statue of Padmasambhava, Buddha or a phurba would be built in the region to bestow blessings, peace and happiness on the whole world. Additionally the statue is mentioned in the ancient terma (treasures) of Guru Padmasambhava himself, dating from the 8th C, and recovered by terton Pemalingpa in the 15th C.

Under the eyes of the Buddha statue, the Kuenselphodrang nature park was formally opened as a recreational park in 2011. The park conserves 943.4 acres of forest area that surrounds the Buddha Dordenma statue and has several enjoyable walking trails that range from leisurely to moderate.

 

Royal textile academy

Explore the art of weaving and the country’s rich textile heritage at Royal Textile Academy of Bhutan, a modern building combining Bhutanese traditional design. Established in 2005, the academy features a museum detailing the national art of weaving. Admire royal robes worn at a wedding by a king and his four wives, or watch the video demonstrating how to put on the gho and kira, traditional Bhutanese garments. You can also view jewelry, kettles, crowns, and armory donated by the royal family. Watch smaller groups of weavers working on their patterns or sit in on some of the school’s classes.

 

Bhutan postal museum post office

The Museum is attached to the post office. Five galleries trace the development of the Bhutanese postal system, from the earliest mail runners to Bhutan’s idiosyncratic and highly collectable modern stamps. They offer personalized postage stamp service & product. It is a good souvenir and the stamps can be used to send international postcards.

 

Folk heritage museum

Folk Heritage Museum at Thimphu provides you a glimpse of lifestyle, items and artifacts of Bhutanese villages and rural households. Besides the display, the museum also organizes demonstrations of rural traditions, skills, habits and customs, educational programs for children and research and documentation on rural life of Bhutan. The museum building itself is one of the star exhibits of the library. It is a restored three-storied traditional rammed mud and timber house that resembles the average rural household in the Wang area during the mid-19th century, complete with typical household objects, domestic tools and equipment that were used by rural families of that period.

The activities of the museum follow a seasonal rhythm, just like the activities of a true rural household, offering you something new to see every time. The rural setting and flavor has been well-preserved and you can see paddy, wheat and millet fields here, a traditional water-mill with mill stones more than 150 years old, traditional style kitchen gardens with vegetables that were grown over the past 100 years and the famous traditional hot stone bath. They include demonstrations of the traditional way of extracting oil or Markhu Tsene, brewing ara or Ara Kayne, roasting rice or Zaw Ngowni and pounding rice or Thom Dhungni within the museum premises and organizing an open air buffet lunch and dinner offering a taste of the traditional cuisine at the museum.

 

Memorial chorten

The Memorial Chorten is a stupa built in memory of the 3rd King of Bhutan, Jigme Dorji Wangchuk and was built by his mother, Queen Ashi Phuntsho Choden Wangchuck. Owing to its central location, the Chorten is frequently called the most visible religious structure in Thimphu. The stupa is shaped in the Tibetan style, also know as the Jangchup style, with paintings dawn along the interior of the chorten depicting larger than life size images of various tantric deities of the Buddhist pantheon.

The people hold the chorten in great religious fervor, and the “Moelam Chenmo”, also known as the Great Prayer Festival, is held here every year. Visiting the chorten offers guests an excellent introduction to the rich and varied cultural heritage of the country.

 

Centenary farmers market

Located below the main town, near the Wangchhu River, Thimphu’s weekend market is by far the largest domestic market for the farmers in Bhutan. Farmers come from all over the country to sell their farm products in the market. With its wide assortment of fresh, organic produce, the Farmer’s Market has become a favorite spot for tourists and a recreational place for people from all walks of life.

 

Jungshi paper factory

Jungshi handmade paper factory is a skill that has been long natured in Bhutan and for centuries this cottage industry produced enough for religious and domestic uses. Visitors can watch the factory workers as they soak, boil and clean the fibers before pounding them to pulp and rhythmically swirling them onto bamboo screens.

 

Arts and crafts bazaar

The Authentic Bhutanese Crafts Bazaar also known as the handicraft market of Thimphu. A spectacle of traditional bamboo huts showcases wide range of authentic Bhutan-made art and craft products with reasonable price range. The products in its 80 stalls cover all aspect of traditional Bhutanese art and craft synergized for contemporary use and market needs. Visitors will find an interesting assortment of genuine Bhutanese handicrafts and textiles available for sale here.

 

Takin preserve

The Takin Preserve, located in the Motithang district of Thimphu, is a wildlife reserve area for the Takin, the national animal of Bhutan. Native to Bhutan, India, and China, the Takin are docile creatures whose unique appearances attract special attention. Local legends attribute the creation of these animals in Bhutan by a 15th century saint name Drukpa Kunley, popularly known as the Divine Madman.

While originally a mini-zoo, the area was converted into a 8.4 acre preserve when it was discovered that the animals refrained from inhabiting the surrounding forest area, even when set free. A popular stop with tourists and locals alike, the preserve also houses a few native deers of Bhutan, including the barking dear and Sambar.

 

Trongsa 

With enhancing historical landmarks, Trongsa is both sacred and temporal heart of Bhutan. Its significance is reflected today in the fact that the first king of Bhutan must first be instituted ad the Governor of Trongsa. This region is well known for it folk songs and dances. Some of the best traditional singers in the country come from Trongsa. The entire landscape around Trongsa is remarkably beautiful and peaceful.

 

Trongsa Dzong (Fortress)

Trongsa Dzong symbolizes Bhutan’s architectural heritage, political history and is one of the biggest built without using a single nail. The magnificent structure dates back to 1541 when Ngagi Wangchuk constructed a small temple at the site. In 1647 Chogyal Minjur Tempa, the first governor in Trongsa constructed the fortress. In its entirety the fortress has 25 temples, four gateways and four courtyards.

 

Trongsa Ta Dzong

High above the Trongsa valley, at a strategic vantage point over Trongsa Dzong, rises its watchtower known as the “Ta Dzong.” The tower of Trongsa tells stories of the Dzong and the valley that it has watched over for centuries. Ta Dzong, which is a cylindrical stone structure, Chogyel Minjur Tenpa built rising five stories in 1652. After more than 350 years, it has been resurrected into a museum that represents a tasteful blend of tradition and modernity.

 

Chendibji Chorten

Approximately four hours drive from Wangduephodrang is Chendbji Chorten. Lama Ngesup Tshering Wangchuk constructed the Chorten (stupa) in the 18th century to subdue the dreaded demoness of Chendibji valley in order to bring peace to the valley. It is located in a picturesque gorge.

 

Wangdue Phodrang

The Bhutanese knows Wangdue Prodrang as Sha or “east”. Wangdue Phodrang district is an important gateway to the far-flung corners of Bhutan. The region is the second largest after Gasa, is multi lingual and multi ethnic.

The district comes with a wide climatic variation, the southern extremes are sub tropical while the northern part has cool summers and cold winters with the far north mostly under snow.

Wangdue Prodrang district is rich in monasteries and Buddhist shrines, the district also presents a rich ethnic, linguistic mosaic and rich in bamboo products.

Gangtay Goenpa

 

Bey Langdra

This sacred site in Wangdue is highly valued. Guru Padmasambava saw in his vision, the sufferings the people in the locality endured because of drought and a powerful malignant spirit. The Guru meditated and conquered the spirit, which turned into a red bull to distract the Guru. The spirit was subsequently turned into a protecting deity of the place and the numerous treasures the Guru concealed. The great Terton (treasure discoverer) Dorji Lingpa discovered one of the most profound treasures from this site.

Relics: a cypress tress, which was believed to be Guru’s, walking stick; rock imprints of Guru’s reldri (sword) and bull representing the tussle between the spirit and the Guru. There are numerous holy streams with which the Guru put an end to the drought; one can also see the imprints of the Guru’s body, hat and many other sacred remains.

 

Nyizergang Lhakang

Founded by Terton Wugpa Lingpa in the 13th century. The founder is believed to have used his divine powers to cure epilepsy, which afflicted the people. The two dances- Kuenri and Ngaps represent the passage between death and rebirth and are performed only in this monastery.

Relics: Za, an object representing the planetary deity; a necklace with beads of Za (rare wood burls) believed to cure epilepsy. A rare mask of Raksha (ox- headed mask), which was later, destroyed when the temple was gutted.

 

Kumbu Lhakang

A temple of 1,00,000 statues, Kubum Lhakang in Phojikha valley is one of the rare repositories of Bonism, a forerunner of Buddhism in Bhutan. Founded in the 13th century by Bon master Tsenden Dulwa from Tibet. Newborns are given ‘Kubum” as their first name.

Relics: Serthur (gold needle) revealed as treasure by Terton Dorji Lingpa; 1,00,000 statues of Bon founder Tonpa Sherub;108 volumes of sutra written in a day; Bon ritual texts.

 

Gangtay Goenpa

Gangtey Goenpa is one of the biggest monasteries in Bhutan and the seat of the Peling tradition of tantric Buddhism in western Bhutan. Pema Thinley who is the grandson of Terton Pema Lingpa built Gangtey Goenpa in Phobjikha valley in 1613. The monastery currently hosts an institute for Buddhist studies and is the seat of Gangtey Trulku, the body emanation of Terton Pema Lingpa.

ey)2,900m / 9,510ft

Pele La Pass3,420m / 11,220ftTrongsa2,200m / 7,215ftYutong La Pass3,425m / 11,269ftBumthang2,800m / 9,185ftThrumshing La Pass3,750m / 12,303ftMongar1,700m / 5,580ftKorila Pass2,450m / 8038ftTrashigang3,773m / 12,375ftTrashiyangtshe1,850m / 6,070ft

 

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