I’m just doing some research into Bhutan as I plan to visit in the near future. I thought I’d share my thoughts with you about this fascinating place.
Though I`m familiar with the country, we must do as much research as we possibly can before visiting so that we can find great places and ways to maximize our time while there.
What is Bhutan famous for? The `Kingdom of Bhutan’ as Bhutan, is a South Asian nation bordered by India and China and nestled at the east of Himalayas. The nation is famous for it’s `out of the ordinary’ daily life and local culture. Monasteries and palaces conform to the country’s traditional architecture style. The country has serene natural landscapes, beautiful sights, which you can experience as part of a set itinerary.
In this blog post, I cover a list of the items that Bhutan is most famous for, facts about the nation, and some of the most magnificent locations you can’t miss if you visit there.
Tiger`s Nest Monastery
Tiger`s Nest Monastery is one of the must-visit locations in Bhutan. It’s known for the stunning and the sacred monastery of Guru Rinpoche.
The monastery is regarded as a place of pilgrimage and is an easy half trek, which offers you a chance to enjoy the panoramic views of the Paro valleys.
This location is Bhutan’s most religious location. It hangs on a cliff and stands high above an enchanting forest of thousands of rhododendrons and blue pines. When you arrive in Bhutan, head down to this beautiful and very exceptional monastery and climb the hill with a height of 900 meters.
Chomolhari is among the top Bhutan tourist spots and is best known for its treks. Chomolhari Trek is the most popular of them all, offering scenic views at altitudes rising to 5,000 meters. The trek starts at Paro and is one of the most challenging treks in the nation. If you fancy treks, then this location is ideal for you.
Chomolhari trek not only rewards you a challenging trek but also with blissful views. The trek stretches through scattered farmlands and hamlets, into deep and richly forested valleys. The route traverses through alpine meadows, rhododendron forests, and tons of wildflowers.
TIP: It’s an excellent location to visit if you want to experience the most untouched parts of the nation.
Chele La Pass
Sitting at an altitude of approximately 3,989 meters, Chele La Pass is another location you don’t want to miss when you visit Bhutan. Bhutan is a mountainous nation linked with series of passes, and Chele La, located between the valley of Paro and Haa, is the highest motorable pass.
Famous for short excursions (two and half hours), the pass also offers stunning views of Himalayan, especially Mt. Jhomolari, which is the country`s most sacred peak at 22.000 feet.
The pass is covered in untouched forests and is home to thriving flora and fauna. If you love hiking, the surrounding areas of Chele La feature several ancient trails you can hike on.
Rinpung Dzong is a stunning dzong (fort), featuring towering walls, and was built in the 16th century. The fort ranks as a high spot of Bhutanese architecture. The enormous buttressed walls that tower over the town of Paro are visible throughout the valley, especially when floodlit at night.
Referred to as the Fortress on a Heap of Jewel, this location is among the best places to visit in Bhutan if you want to have a feel of the country`s deep-rooted traditions.
The entire area is littered with various shrines and temples.
INFO: Every year the annual festival of Tshechu is held here from March to April.
Buddha Dordenma Statue
Atop a hill in the capital and largest city of Bhutan, Thimpu, is a gigantic, golden Buddha sitting atop meditation hall. The statue is 169 feet tall, making it visible from almost any spot in Thimphu. Unknown to many visitors viewing the statue, they aren’t viewing one Buddha, but 125,000 of them.
There are 125,000 tiny Buddhas enclosed in its bronze chest. The throne on which the statue sits is a vast meditation hall, where many devotees meditate every day.
Buddha Dordenma Statue is among the most massive statues in the world and is a symbol of the dominant religion in Bhutan. There are several small temples and various paintings that decorate the walls that are made of rock and cement.
Zuri Dzong Fort
Zuri Dzong is among the oldest dzongs in Bhutan, having been built in the 12th century (1352). Royal in values and rich in history, the cave in the location is believed to be the spot where Buddha meditated in the early 8th century.
Protected by a bridge and double walls, this five-story building is also an ideal location to go hiking. You can hike north from GonsakaLhakhang if you need a moderate hike or hike from Paro Ta dzong if you need something mild or easier.
Aside from its historical importance, the Zuri Dzong fort is one of those spots where you can relish in mesmerizing views of Paro Valley.
Haa Valley, which is located only 13 miles from the India–China border, links major Bhutanese villages like Paro, Samtse, and Chhukha. The valley used to be off from visitors till 2002 when it was opened and became well known to the world.
The location is prevalent among nature lovers and day hikers. It takes a three-hour drive from Paro across the motorable Chelala pass.
Although very close, Haa Valley is not as developed as Paro, and here you`ll have a feel of the traditional way of life commonly seen in the eastern part of Bhutan. The valley has picturesque scenery and a sense of peace.
NOTE: Here, you`ll find yak herders and farmers who cultivate high altitude crops like potatoes millet, and wheat.
National Museum of Bhutan
The National Museum of Bhutan is perched above Paro Dzong as it’s a ta dzong (watchtower) that was built in 1649 to secure the undefended dzong and rehabilitated in 1968 to house the National Museum.
It is an unusual building considered to be in the shape of a conch shell, featuring 2.5m-thick walls. The watchtower got damaged by an earthquake in 2011 but reopened in 2019 as the country`s premium museum.
From ancient statues to contemporary paintings, the museum currently houses around 3000 masterpieces and displays more than 1,000 years of the cultural heritage of Bhutan. The place is also the country`s photo gallery, and numerous Bhutanese hold their dance ceremonies here, as well.
Motihang Takin Preserve
Motihang Takin Preserve is a wildlife reserve location for takin (Budorcas taxicolor), Bhutan`s national animal.
The area was initially established as a zoo before the king decided that it was not keeping with the nation`s religious and environmental convictions, and the animals were released into the world. The animals were so tame, so this enclosed area was designated to keep them safe.
Visit this location and see this curious national animal. It falls under the goat species, and according to the local legends, the animal was assembled by a 15th-century by a legend who was seeking to create a miracle. It`s believed that the saint joined the top of a cow`s skeleton and the head of a goat to bring this animal to life.
Located on a ridge in the higher Paro Valley, the ancient ruin of Drukgyel Dzong is regarded as the most beautiful and popular archeological sites in Bhutan. This massive fortress stood tall and acted as one of the greatest Buddhist monasteries.
It was established in 1649 after Bhutanese triumphed over Tibet’s invasion and is now one of UNESCO`s World Heritage sites.
Drukgyel Dzong is one of the famous dzongs in Bhutan and is considered the biggest landmark of Thimphu. It acts as a home to some central monastic bodies and is also the summer residence of the monks. If you visit this site, don’t miss the 5 PM changing of the flag.
Phobjikha is a town situated in the central area of Bhutan. Just like other beautiful locations to visit in Bhutan, the town is surrounded by mountains and bestowed with valleys and lush green.
The place is popular for its beautiful passes and landscapes, and a day`s hike will take you through the woods and the town. The valley has an elevation of 3000 meters and is in the shape of a bowl. This is one of the must-see places when you visit Bhutan.
A visit to this valley will also offer you an opportunity to see flocks of the endangered black-necked cranes. You`ll enjoy their sublime flight. The bird`s preening dances and aerial displays are so balletic. This is such an excellent experience for a family vacation.
Dochula Pass is a magnificent pass that was built in the memory of Bhutanese soldiers who lost their lives in a battle against the insurgents of India.
The pass overlooks the Himalayas at a 360-degree panoramic view and features a concentration of 108 chortens or stupas.
This very pass is a famous location for every person who visits Bhutan. From the pass, you can see the snow-covered mountains and the spectacular backdrop of the location. Here, you can enjoy holidays with your family, have small picnics, or just enjoy the view.
Namgay Artisanal Brewery
Namgay Artisanal Brewery is situated in Paro and brews local flavors of the country. Many styles of beer are brewed here, considering varying drinking palates for tastes.
The aim is to make every beer lover satisfied. Some of the popular beverages sold here include Bhutan Red Lice Lager and Bhutan Dark Ale.
This is a great location to enjoy yourself. The brewery continues to create beers with fresh ingredients that make it an enjoyable experience not only for you but also for the brewers. The flavor and aroma from the ingredients make the beer more enjoyable, not forgetting its distinct local taste.
ThrumshingLa National Park
Situated at the heart of Bhutan and covering an area of 786 km of land, ThrumshingLa National Park is a region of densely forested land. The park is home to snow tigers, leopards, red pandas, as well as rare plants.
Rhododendrons and alpines are spread across the national park, making it a very breathtaking location.
ThrumshingLa National Park also encloses waterfalls, lakes, meadows, and beautiful treks, including Rhodungla and Bribdungla. Besides, the park is home to over 300 species of birds, making it a true birdwatcher`s paradise.
The hot springs found in Gasa in Western Bhutan are located close to the banks of Mo Chhu River. Gasa Tshachu has one of the most renowned springs in the country and is famous not only among tourists but with local Bhutanese as well.
One bathhouse is reserved for royals, and five others are available for the general public. The hot springs are said to have some healing powers.
Each pool has varying water temperatures, and each comes with different medicinal values so that you can choose one according to your preference. Bathing facilities are also offered to keep the hot springs clean and hygienic.
Lhutese is an ancient region situated in the northeastern corner of Bhutan. It`s the ancestral residence of kings and also hosts a couple of sacred sites of pilgrimage in Bhutan.
Lhutentse is the most isolated district in the country, located 75km from Mongar. It is entirely untouched by urban development.
The landscape is beautiful with stark cliffs towering above dense coniferous forests and river gorges. The location is famous for its versatile weavers, and their distinctive textiles are said to be the best in the country.
NOTE: When you visit Lhuentse, you`ll get to see women who are adept at weaving a famous textile called Kishuthara.
Punakha Dzong is not only the second largest dzong in Bhutan but is arguably the most beautiful. It`s also the most important when it comes to the country`s history.
The dzong speaks so much about the fascinating stories and traditions of the Buddhist culture. You shouldn’t miss this on your sightseeing tour in Bhutan.
Most of the country’s national treasures are hosted inside this dzong, and it’s here that the King of Bhutan and his wife had their wedding in October 2011.
Norzin Lam Street
Bhutan’s’ capital city has probably the best locations to visit. The main street of Norzin is not only a good spot for shopping, but also offers you the opportunity to take the memories back home.
This charming street is lined with numerous local craft stalls and shops as well as larger shopping centers. Here, you`ll find anything from handicrafts and artwork to woven wood items, books, carpets, and clothing.
You can also have a taste of local Bhutan food from the restaurant at Norzin Lam, and you`ll probably not forget the taste of their tasty cuisines.
Uma Paro Hotel
A ten-minutes scenic drive from Paro Airport will take you to Uma Paro Hotel found on a Himalayan hill, flanked by thick pine forests with views that overlay the Paro district.
As one of the country`s only boutique hotels, Uma Par features exquisite food, a cool pool, elegant interiors, as well as mind-bending ravishing scenery.
This is a great spot to go and chill with your family. You can spend your whole day just mesmerizing at the astonishing Himalayan landscape.
You can also get a room that specializes in different sceneries according to your individual preference.
For example, you can opt for a room that overlooks the surrounding pine forests or offering scenic views of Paro Valley.
The valley of Gangtey is among the most scenic valley in the Himalayas. You`ll be amazed at seeing such as wide, flat valley without trees after traversing through dense forests. The valley has moderate treks that pass through forests of magnolia, juniper, and rhododendrons and lead to several villages.
Besides the beautiful mountain and valley trails traversing through the beautiful valley, you can also visit the black-necked careen information center and the Gangstey monastery. Here you can learn more about the black-necked cranes or enjoy exceptional views at the monastery.
There are high power telescopes as well as spotting scopes to help you catch excellent views of the cranes.
Punakha Suspension Bridge
The deep gorges and high mountains of Bhutan led to the development of suspension bridges.
The best example of this is the Punakha Suspension Bridge, which is always decorated with colorful prayer flags. Spanning 160 meters in length, the bridge is the second largest in the country.
This iron chain bridge is perched high abode rive Po Chu and has been a precursor for the modern suspension bridges across the world.
TIP: Punakha Suspension Bridge is a good spot to visit, especially for photographers and adrenaline junkies.
Also, you`ll have a view of the King`s palace and cremation ground as you head to this bridge.