Discover Bhutan – The Kingdom of Happiness

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1 Happy children Bhutan

Bhutan is located at the eastern end of the majestic Himalayas, bordered by India to the east, south and west and China to the north. The impressive landscape ranges from sub-alpine Himalayan heights in the north and subtropical plains in the south. Bhutan has some of the highest unclimbed mountains in the world, including Jhomolhari and Jitchu Drake. Mountaineering is prohibited in the peaks. Buddhists believe the peaks are the abode of spirits and deities.

Fast flowing rivers in the central region of Bhutan carved out deep gorges in the lower mountain areas of the Black Mountains. The country is ranked as one of the world’s ten most important bio diversity hotspots due to its climate and geographical variations. Bhutan’s valleys and rugged mountains offer a wide variety of plant and animal species in their natural environments. Trekking is popular among tourists and some of the treks will take you through physically challenging routes.

The Kingdom of Bhutan is predominantly Buddhist and also home to the world’s last remaining Buddhist Kingdom. Buddhism is a way of life and it is deeply engrained in die society mentality. Gross National Happiness was established in 1998 and encourages the sustainable use of the environment, preserves and promotes the cultural heritage and aims to increase economic growth. Bhutan can culturally be divided into the regions of Central Bhutan, Eastern Bhutan and Western Bhutan. Jakar, Wangdue, Punakha, Thimphu and Paro are popular tourist destinations.

Taktsang Monastery, also referred to as Tiger’s Nest, is an elegant structure located in the cliff side of the upper Paro Valley and is one of the most important Buddhist sites.

Taktsang Monastery

Taktsang Monastery

The monastery is located ten kilometers north of Paro. The temple is the country’s unofficial symbol. It is believed that Yeshe Tsogval became a follower of Guru Rinpoche and transformed herself into a tigress and carried the Guru on her back from Tibet to Taktsang.

Guru Rinpoche used one of the eight caves to meditate and then emerged into eight incarnated forms. The Guru reincarnated again in the eighth century in the form of Tenzin Rabgye, and the people of the valley saw various religious symbols in the sky. The monastery was built in 1692.  You can arrange a taxi to take you to the monastery, or you can rent a horse. A hike up to the temple can be rather strenuous.

Bhutanese architecture typically involves a traditional technique for building walls using raw materials such as lime, chalk and earth. Wattle and daub construction methods are used for making walls. One of the most amazing features of Bhutanese architecture is that no nails are used in building these structures. In Bhutan most castle fortresses, called dzongs, feature the characteristics of Bhutanese architecture.

The Rinchen Pung Dzong in Paro Valley is perhaps one of the country’s best known and impressive structures and an excellent example of Bhutanese architecture.

Rinchen Pung Dzong

Rinchen Pung Dzong

The massive building watches over the town of Paro and is visible throughout the valley. The Rinchen Pung Dzong consists of a front courtyard of the administration section and the courtyard of the monastic portion. The central tower is about five storeys tall. The carved wood painted in black, ochre and gold and the whitewashed walls establish a sense of wealth and power. Rinchen Pung Dzong is home to around 200 monks and the kunre (classroom) is in the south-east corner.

The mystical spiral is a must see. Ensure to also visit the large prayer hall and the exterior murals depicting the life of Saint Milarepa. Outside the north-east entrance masked dancers perform the main dances of the tsechu. The National Museum is situated to the dzong’s north-eastern entrance.  Below the Rinchen Pung Dzong a wooden bridge spans the Paro Chuu or River.  

Dagana contains environmentally protected areas. In south-eastern Dagana along the border with India lies the western half of Phibsoo Wildlife Sanctuary, covering parts of and Nichula Gewogs, Karmaling and Lhamoy Zingkha.

Gasa Dzong

Gasa Dzong

Gasa Dzong has become a tourist destination because of the exceptionally scenic location of its Dzong and its pristine forests. Gasa Dzong or Gasa Tashi Tongmön Dzong is the administrative center of the District of Gasa in the north-western region of Bhutan. The Dzong was built in the 17th century by Tenzin Drukdra the second Druk Desi over the site of a meditation place established by Drubthob Terkungpa in the 13th century.

Meri Puensum consists of three small mountains in the valley of Haa that symbolize Rigsum Gonpo: Jampelyang (manjushri), Chana Dorjee (Vajrapani) and Chenrezi (Avaloketeshvara). Dumchung Dzong was built on the right side-near the right knee- of Chenrezi, and the Wangchucklo Dzong on the left side of the same mountain. Both Dzongs are located in this sacred place. According to the locals, the two Dzongs and Meri Puensum strengthen and maintain the peace and harmony in the region.

The Kurjey Temple is located at Kurjey in the Chokhor Valley in Bumthang district and is approximately a fifteen minutes drive from Chamkhar Town. The history of the temples is associated with Sindhu Raja and Guru Rimpoche. It is believed that Sindhu Raja invited Guru Rimpoche to Bhutan to subdue evil spirits plaguing the land. The Guru meditated in a cave and after subduing the evil spirits, imprints of the Guru’s body remained in the rock face.

Bhutanese wear long scarves when visiting Dzongs. The color of the scarves signifies the status or rank. Yellow is worn by the King and Head Abbot, orange by ministers, green by judges, red by district administrators and commoners wear white.

Explore Thimphu – The Capital of Bhutan

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Thimphu is situated in the Wang Chuu Valley and offers several tourist attractions. The National Post Office on Drentoen Lam is where the famous Philatelic Bureau sells souvenir stamps. Philatelists from around the world purchase quality stamps from here. The Clock Tower Square is famous for its fountains and prayer wheels. Norzin Lam is the main street and is lined with shops and hotels.

Changangkha Lhakhang is one of the oldest temples in the city and worth visiting. The National Memorial Chorten is a great place to visit in the evenings. You can view the 51-meter bronze Statue of Sakyamuni Buddha sitting on top of Kuensel Phodrang Hill.

Thimphu is home to several museums, including the National Folk Heritage Museum and the Royal Textile Academy. The textile museum features exquisite Bhutanese textiles from the 16th century and you can also visit the weaving center.

Tashichho Dzong

Tashichho Dzong

The Tashichho Dzong, located on the northern edge of the city on the western bank of the Wang Chu, is a notable landmark in the city. Built in the 18th century by the first Dharma Raja, this remarkable structure features three-storied towers at each of the four corners topped by triple-tiered golden roofs.

The Zorig Chusum School of Traditional Arts is in close proximity to the National Library and visitors can buy the work created by the students at the small gift shop. The arts include gold and silver work, leather work, masonry, paper making, carpentry, metal work, sculpture and bamboo carving.

Thimphu Centenary Farmers Weekend Market located below the main town near the Wang Chu, brings farmers from as far as Tsirang in the south, Tashiyangtse in the east and Lingshi in the north to sell their products. The two storied building houses approximately 400 stands selling fruits, vegetables and meat. You can also find balls of homemade cheese, dried fish and a leg of yak.

The Memorial Chorten

The Memorial Chorten

The Memorial Chorten, also referred to as the Thimphu Chorten, is located on Doeboom Lam in the southern-central part near the Indian Military Hospital. The Tibetan style Chorten is commonly referred to as the most visible religious landmark.

Tourist Visa Requirements for Bhutan

All tourists (excluding Indian, Bangladeshi and Maldivian passport holders) who wish to travel to Bhutan require a visa and must book their holiday through a Bhutanese tour operator or one of their international partners. The tour operator will take care of Visa arrangements for visitors.

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