Located at an altitude of 2280 meters, Paro is perhaps one of the most beautiful valleys in Bhutan, pre dominantly agrarian in nature. Home to Bhutan’s only international airport, the Paro international airport, Paro in fact is people’s first point of contact with Bhutan. Paro includes some of the best points of interest such as the majestic Rimpung Dzong, National Museum, Kyichu Lhakhang, Drugyel Dzong Ruins, Chomolhari Mountain (7300 Meters) at the north end of valley, world famed Taksang Monastery.
The villages are characterized with traditional Bhutanese houses and at leisure one can easily discover these villages at one’s pace. The roads leading from end of Paro town to Drugyel Dzong is very apt for Bicycle enthusiastic. Furthermore some of the famous trekking and hike routes also start from Paro such as the Druk path trek, Chomolhari Trek, Hike to Bumdra or hike to Jele Dzong. The National capital Thimphu is a smooth one and half hour drive and one easily incorporate a day tour to Thimphu with Paro as a base. The Haa Valley can also be accessed at one and half hour drive from Paro via the Cheila Pass criss- crossing amidst pristine pine forest and abundant bio diversity. En route one easily incorporate a picnic at Cheila Pass or a hike to Kila Gompa Nunnery or one may simply drive to Cheila and bike free wheel back to Paro, the choices are plenty.
There are numerous tourist hotels in Paro, However the best in terms of ultimate luxury are Uma Paro, The Zhiwaling Hotel, Amankora, Naksel Boutique Hotel and The Haven Bhutan. Other good hotels are Gangtey palace, Olathang Hotel, Tenzinling Resort to name a few. Paro is also incredibly famous for its annual festival, the Paro Tshechu and besides Paro Bhutan is also home to bhutan only international airport
Located at an altitude of 2638 meters, theHaa Bhutan used to be off limits to tourist till 2002. Since opening it has become an instant hit for nature lovers. The valley is characterized with important landmarks such as eminent Meri Phuensum Mountains . The dzongs are magnificent. The dumchung Dzong is said to have been built at right side of Chenrezi mountain and the the Wangchucklo Dzong left side of same mountain. It is perceived the Two dzongs and the Meri phuensum mountain has been instrumental in building peace and synchronization in the region.
The valley features popular nature trek trails and is ideal for overnight camping in harmony with nature and bountiful of impressive biodiversity. Hotels are scarce in this area with one or two hotels catering to tourist. The valley is a easy one and half drive from Paro via scenic Cheila pass. The route is highly popular for picnicking and free wheel cycling.
One of the smallest capitals in the world,Thimphu bhutan is a unique city fused with indigenous local Bhutanese elements with a touch of a little modern feel. Home to all the government offices and off course the Royal families of Bhutan, Thimphu lies at an altitude of 2320 meters. There are numerous places of interest in and around thimphu, namely the Tashichhoedzong, Memorial Chorten , Semtokha Dzong , The Institute of Zorig Chusum , National Library The Folk Heritage Museum , The Institute of Traditional Medicine: Centenary Farmers’ Market to name a few. The valleys of Punakha and Paro are an easy one and half drive from the capital.
The picturesque valley also offers many hiking trails especially towards Tango Cherri areas and in fact the Druk path trek may also be undertaken from Thimphu as against normal route of Paro to Thimphu. There are abundant hotels in the valley to suit all kinds of pocket.Thimphu is also Bhutan Capital
Located at an altitude of 1500 to 4,500 m, the area is gifted with pristine natural beauty and is famous for its Hot springs, the nomadic Laya Tribes, whose lifestyle features Yak herding and harvesting of rare fungi called cordyceps. The area is also popular for numerous trekking it features, most famous been Snow Leopard trek or Snowman Treks. Some of the highest peaks in Bhutan are witnessed in the area and whose base is laden with numerous glacier lakes. The whole area falls under Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Park, which is home to rare flora and fauna such as Snow leopard, Takin, Red Panda, the mountain goats, Blue sheep and the Blue Poppy.
Popular places of interest are as follows:
1. Gasa Dzong: Built at the back drop of Mt. Gangboom and has been in existence since 17th Century.
2. Laya Village: Home to Nomadic tribes, the layaps.
3. Lunana village: The area is renowned for its glacier lakes and one can witness life style in the upper Himalayas, were fusion of nomadic tribes and Himalayas co-exist in perfect harmony.
4. Hot springs: The hot springs at the base of the Mochu river are natural and known to have healing properties.
5. Holy places: Zabsel and Phulukha Monastery, Throe Lhakhang, Dung Goemba, Drophel Choling, Yonzho Lhakhang, Jangchub Choling, Bumpa lhakhang are some of the places of worship in the area.
Located at an altitude of 1300 - 3000m Punakha bhutan is Bhutan’s old capital. Through out history it has played a very important role in shaping the destiny of Bhutan and even today is winter home to Bhutan chief abbot. Because of its significance in history the area excludes Bhutan rich sense of culture. The area is basically agrarian in nature and stands as a symbol of united Bhutan. The Mochu and Pochu rivers provide a perfect venue for rafting and nearby areas such as Talo offer popular spots for picnicking. Chorten Nigpo walks in very popular as well, taking one through several villages, in summer the area comes live with lush green rice paddy fields and in autum the golden hue of ripening rice.
Popular places of interest in the area are summarized as follows:
1. Punakha Dzong: Built in 1637 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the
Dzong sits in the confluence between Mo Chhu and Po Chhu River. One of the most beautiful dzong in Bhutan, it has witnessed coronation of five generation of Bhutan’s kings; saga began with the coronation of first king of Bhutan in 1907. The interiors of the dzong are one of the best in the country with woodwork at its best.
2. Khamsum Yuley Temple: Built by Queen Mother of the 5th king of
Bhutan to bring universal peace to the world. The temple enjoys of the best views of Punakha valley. The interiors are intricately hand painted and some of the best Bhutanese art are displayed.
3. Chhimi Lhakhang: Widely know as the “Divine Madman’s Temple” the temple was built by Drukpa Kinley. It is said that should anyone wish to conceive a baby, one should visit temple for prayers and will be blessed with one. The phallic symbol, which one comes across, in many areas of Bhutan is also associates with Lam Drukpa Kinley and tales of his deeds abounds the walls of Chhimi Lhakhang.
4. Nalanda Buddhist College: School for aspiring Buddhist monks. It
would be interesting to visit the area to get a glimpse monks way of life.
Located at an altitude of 1364 m, Wangdue Phodrang is a gateway to eastern part of Bhutan. The area is characterized with numerous small villages and Bhutan’s culture at its heart can be experience here. The villages of Gaselo and Nahee are good spot for picnics, the area is primarily agrarian and beautiful rice terrace field has can be witnessed here. West of Wangdue Phodrang lies a village called Shaa, of particular interest the locals practice animism here. The animists are nature worshippers, a festival occurs every three years called the “Bonko’ (an animist festival) which is a delight for the locals and a rare treat for the visitors. Important points of interest are as
Wangdue Phodrang Dzong: Located atop a hill, the Wangdue Phodrang Dzong is one of the most iconic structures in Bhutan. The Dzong commands a majestic view of the Punatsangchhu and Dhangchhu rivers.
Gangtey Goemba: Built in the 17th century, the Gangtey Goemba is located in east of Wangdi in Phobjikha valley
Located at an altitude of 600 m – 4000 m, Trashigang Bhutan is the heart of eastern Bhutan. It shares a enquire way of life primarily influence by nomadic tribes of Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh and the northern most part of Trashigang is home to Bhutan’s semi-nomadic people of Merak and Sakteng, having recently opened to visitor the Merak Sakten is a popular area for trekkers and culture lovers. Should you have a flair for witnessing nomadic lifestyle in original, this is the right place to hit.Trashigang is also endowed with rich bio diversity; Bhutan’s largest river, the Dangmechu flows through the district, Other highlights of the area includes
1. The imposing Trashigang Dzong built in 1659
2. Chador Lhakhang- famous for fascinating tales revolving the thumb-size replica of Chador Vajrapani.
3. Bremung Lhakhang-Built in 15th century the most revered temple in Trashigang
4. Kupijigtsam Lhakhang: Built in the 15th century features scared relics of the east.
5. Kanglung Zangdopelri: The lhakhang houses some of the most intricately designed statues in Bhutan.
6. Sherubtse College: Bhutan first college fondly called “ peak of learning”
7. Yonphu Lhakhang: The oldest temple in Trashigang
8. Rangjung Lhakhang: The temple feature Tibetan architecture in design, located in Rangjung village.
9. Radhi village: iknown as the Rice Bowl of the East, features largest rice terrace fields in Bhutan. Radhi women are also known to be expert weavers and area is famous for traditional handlooms as well.
10. Namdru Choling lhakhang: Built in the late 1890’s this lhakhang caters to the spiritual requirements of Rangjung town.
Located at an altitude of 1000m to 5000 m, the Trashi Yangtse valley borders north-eastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh and is famous for wood carvings. Many Bhutanese also flock to Trashi Yangtse to witness the annual circumambulation at Chorten Kora and Gomphu Kora monasteries, because of which over the years the area has become an area of prayers and pence for many a devotees.Points of interest in the area include the following:
1. Dongdi Dzong: Oldest dzong in the vicinity built in 8th century by Gongkar Gyalpo, son of Lhasey Tsangma, a Tibetan Prince.
2. Chorten Kora: Built in 1740 by Lama Ngawang Loday in same style as famous Boudnath Stupa in Nepal.
3. Institute of Zorig Chusum: Traditional wood carving institute
4. Bomdeling: Natural habitat for the endangered black necked cranes.
5. Rigsum Goemba: Built in 18th century by Lam Tshering, with a unique architectural design featuring earth rammed walls.
6. Tshenkharla Dzong: Built in 8th century AD by Lhasey Tsangma; one of The oldest Dzongs to be built in Bhutan, ruins of it still remains today depicting an era of earliest Bhutan.
7. Gom Kora: One of the most revered temples in Bhutan famous for its annual Circumambulation.
Located at an altitude of 800m to 5700m the area is famous for its numerous trekking routes offering rich biodiversity. Lhuentse is regarded as the ancestral home of the royal family of Bhutan hence features many pilgrimage sites as well. Some of the best hand made textile also comes from this area, the Kurtoep women are known to be a connoisseur of traditional wavering. Important places of interest as indicated below.
1. Lhuentse Dzong: Built in 1654 by the Trongsa Penlop Chogyal Minjur Tempa
2. Kilung Lhakhang: History has it, the monastery houses a holy chain mall, which was used to recapture a statue that miraculously flew away from the Lhuentse Dzong.
3. Jangchubling monastery: Built in 18th century by Pekar Gyatso, The daughter of 1st King of Bhutan , Ashi Wangmo lived in the monastery as a nun.
4. Dungkar Nagtshang: The house belongs to Trongsa Penlop Jigme Namgyal, ancestor of the Wangchuck dynasty.
5. Gangzur village: The village is renowned for traditional pottery.
6. Khoma village: The village if famous for its textile weaving.
7. Singye Dzong: One of the most important sites of pilgrimage, It is believed that Guru Rinpoche ( Bhutan patron saint ) once meditated here.
Located at an altitude of 400m to 4,000m. Mongar Bhutan is well-known for its weavers and textiles, which are considered one of the best in the country. Bordering the districts of Bumthang, Lhuentse, Pema Gatshel and Trashigang the area boast of rich diversity of flora and fauna. Important places to visit in the area are summarized below.
1. Mongar Dzong: Built in 1930s, the mongar Dzong is one of Bhutan’s newest dzongs in Bhutan.
2. Zhongar Dzong Ruins: Built in the 17th century, the ruins today’s excludes a sense of medieval Bhutanese bureaucracy.
3. Dramitse Lhakhang: Built in 16th century by Ani Cheten Zangmo, the daughter of the renowned terton Pema Lingpa. The monastery is also listed in UNESCO world heritage list.
4. Aja Ney: One of the most revered pilgrimage site in bhutan, the journey to Aja Ney is about two days trek from Serzhong village.
5. Yagang Lhakhang: Built in the 16th century by Sangdag, the youngest son of Terton Pema.
6. Jarung Khashor Chorten: The Chorten incorpotaes design and style of Jarung Khashor Chorten in Nepal.
Located at an altitude of 200m to 3,500m Samdrup Jongkhar is the gateway to eastern Bhutan and also acts as a transit point for tourist heading to Assam in India or coming from Assam in India to Bhutan. Places of interest in the areas include the following.
1. Samdrup Jongkhar Dzong: Administrative centre of the district.
2. The Dratshang: House the monk body of the district
3. Zangdopelri: A area of worship for the locals
Phobjika or Gangtey Valley
Phobjikha bhutan at an altitude 9600 feet is part of the Wangdiphodrang District but it is located in a separate valley.
Takes about two hours of drive from Wangdi 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 endangered black-necked crane that migrate from high plateaus of Tibet in late fall. In addition to the cranes 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 Gompa Monastery
Gantey Gompa monastery sits atop a hillock that overlooks the Phobjikha valley. It is headed by the ninth Gangtey Trulku and is the largest Nyingma monastery in western Bhutan. Gyalse Pema Thinlay built a small temple in 1613, which was later built into larger Goemba by the 2nd reincarnation Tenzin Legpai Dhendup.
Phobjikha is a wide, beautiful valley and thought to have been created by glacier instead of river. Later take a walk and watch the rare and endangered Black-necked cranes that migrate here in the winter from Tibet and Siberia. These birds have very interesting mating dances and they hold special place in Bhutanese folklore, songs and paintings. The valley is a designated conservation area and borders the black Mountains National Park. Because of the large flock of black-necked cranes that winters here. , it is one of the most important wild life reserves in the country.
It takes about 4 hours from Phobjikha to reach Trongsa by car. If you plan to skip visiting Phobjikha Valley, then it takes about 6 hours from Punakha area. Located at an altitude of 7220 feet above sea level, Trongsa forms the central hub of the nation and is historically the place from where the nation was unified. The landscape around Trongsa Bhutan is spectacular and for miles on end, the Dzong seems to tease you, wondering if you will ever reach there.
Built in 1648, it 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 (Watch Tower)
This watchtower, which once guarded Trongsa Dzong from internal rebellion, stands impressively and provides visitors an insight into historical significance of Tongsa in Bhutan's history.
About 15 miles from Trongsa is 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 Shubdrung and Guru Rinpochey. Right above the palace is the nunnery, it is about 40 minutes walk uphill. There are about 70 nuns enrolled.
It is about two and half hours drive from Trongsa to Bumthang Bhutan. 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 in ancient times various religious masters have meditated.
Jambay Lhakhang (Temple)
Jambay Lhakhang is one of the 108 temples built miraculously by a Tibetan King Songtsen Gompo in the 7th century in order to consecrate the Himalayan region. This is also the venue for Jambay Lhakhang Festival during October or November.
Kurjey is complex of three temples, on the right beneath a giant cypress tree, the main temple built in 1652 by Minjur Tenpa, Trongsa Penlop. This temple houses the cave where Guru Rinpochey had meditated and left his body imprint. The middle temple was built by the First King of Bhutan during his tenure as Trongsa Penlop in 1900. The third temple is recently constructed under patronage of Her Majesty queen mother Ashi Kesang Wangchuk.
Founded by Shamar Rinpochey in 1470, this temple is located in the midst of buckwheat field. After a dispute the temple was taken over by Pema Lingpa from Shamar Rinpochey. 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.
Located opposite Kurjey Lhakhang this temple was founded by Bhutan's own religious treasure discoverer, Terton Pema Lingpa in 1501. Believed to be the reincarnation of Guru Rinpochey, he discovered many religious treasures around the country. The mural paintings inside the temple are known to be un-restored ancient painting.
Ten minutes walk south will bring you to Konchogsum temple. The temple was restored in 1995 and looks new, but it actually dates back to 7th century. This temple has many interesting stories to tell.
Membertsho (Burning Lake)
It is about 20 minutes drive from the hotel where you stay and then about 10 minutes of walk. The significant of this place is that Pema Lingpa in the early 16th century discovered many religious items from a pond here.
It is about 50 kilometers from Chokhor valley and takes about one and half hour. Located in a broad valley, Ura village is a clustered of traditional houses fenced by cobblestone streets that give the village a mediaeval atmosphere. The women in Ura village cover their head with white cloth piece to protect from the harsh cold wind and carries sheepskin (behind their back) used as cushion and as well as to protect their cloth from the loads they carry. This is the venue for Ura Yakchu Festival.
Tang is the most remote of Bumthang’s valleys. As it is higher than Choskhor and the soil is not as rice. There’s not much agriculture here, although the valley, thought which runs the Tang Chhu, turns bright pink with buck white flower in October. People in this valley raise sheep and at higher elevations, yaks. There is a small chorten here, but no longer a village. The road climbs high above the river. After a short descent to the river, it’s 3km to school at Mesithang and to Tang Rimpochen Lhakhang.
Jaker Dzong is in a picturesque located overlooking the Choskhor valley. The current stucture was built in in 1667 and is said to be the largest dzong in Bhutan, with a circumference of more than 1500m.its official name is Yuelay Namgay Dzong, in honour of the victory over the troops of Tibetan ruler Phuntsho Namgyal.
Phuntsholing Bhutan (Alt. 350 m) is a frontier and thriving commercial center on the northern edge of the Indian plains and south of Thimphu and Paro. It takes about 5-6 hours drive to reach Phuntsholing from Paro and Thimphu. Situated at the foothills of Himalaya, it serves as the main trading zone for Bhutanese with other neighboring countries of South Asia. Visitors can reach Phuntsholing by road from Sikkim, Darjeeling and Bagdogra airport in West Bengal. It takes about 3-5 hours of driving from the places mentioned above.
ZangdoPelri Temple is located in the center of Phuntsholing town. Zangdoperli means the abode of Guru Rinpochey. The temple has 3 floors. On the ground level there are statues of Guru and his eight manifestations. And the wall is covered with paintings of Buddha's life story. On the second floor it contains of eight Bodhisattavas and statues of Avalokiteshwara and Shubdrung Nawang Namgyal while on the top floor the main statue is of Buddha Amitabha.
Kharbandi or Richending Monastery
Kharbandi Gompa or Richending monastery is short distance away from Phuntsholing along the road to Thimphu on the ridge. It was built in 1967 by the Royal Grandmother and the monastery contains paintings on the life of Buddha and statues of Shubdrung Nawang Namgyal and Guru Rinpochey. The view from the monastery garden towards the Phuntsholing and surrounding Indian plains are superb.
Trophel Tours & Treks is accredited by Tourism Council of Bhutan (License No: 1030972) and member of Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) and Global Sustainable Tourism Council.