Bhutan is the Himalayas' last kingdom, wrapped in stunning snow-capped mountains and shady forests that create a picturesque landscape. But that's not all; the unique and best thing about Bhutan is that it is the only country with 72 percent forest cover, making it a carbon-neutral country and the only climate-neutral country in the world. Other than that, Bhutan is a place where traditional Buddhist culture meets majestic fortresses like dzongs and monasteries. Without a doubt, it is a mystical and magical place. Its unique monastic architecture and the graffiti on the walls with drawings of penises as a sign of evil's expulsion make Bhutan a sui generis destination. Considering the last Shangri La, this country is undoubtedly the best place for a family vacation, a honeymoon, and even an adventure vacation. And to be part of this beautiful place, you can contribute to the Bhutan experience with this guided list of the main tourist attractions you should see and experience.
Thimphu is a fascinating tourist destination and the capital of Bhutan. It is located at the highest elevation offering a fantastic view of the emerald green forests and a beautiful view of the Raidak or Chuu river. Thimphu is a must-see, a place with old-world charm and modernity. You will be surprised when you see your red light as a traffic cop.
Interestingly, the red light in the city lasted only three days until the locals didn't like it and found it quite harmful, so the human traffic controller replaced it. Today, the city is flooded with tourists using cameras to explore Bhutanese culture's unique treasures, cuisine, and lifestyle. Thimphu's main attractions are Buddha Dordenma, the Chorten Monument, the Dechencholing Palace, the Bell Tower Square, and the Motithang Takin Reserve. Other tourist spots are dzongs like Simtokha, Tashichho Monasteries, Dechen Phodrang, Tango, and Cheri. For hikers, Thimphu also offers charming cafes and bars and nightclubs, and restaurants to make contacts and meet like-minded people.
Its peaceful and tranquil beauty and clean air, surrounded by rugged mountains, lush green fields, and historic buildings, make Paro the most popular tourist destination in Bhutan. So Paro welcomes a maximum number of tourists all year round. There are frequent visits to the beautiful Dzongs like Paro and Zuri; monasteries and palaces like Paro Taktsang (Tiger's Nest Monastery), Pelri Goemba, Ugyen Pelri Palace. Other attractions are temples, monasteries, museums like Druk Choeding, Khangkhu Lhakhang, Bondey Lhakhang, and National Museum. Paro is a historic city with a peaceful atmosphere and is best explored on foot. It is worth taking a walk and witnessing the inhabitants' daily lives, which ultimately makes it a must-see in Bhutan.
Another unique destination in Bhutan is Punakha, and adventurers often visit this place. It is the "best place" for those who enjoy rafting the adrenaline rush on the two rivers/Chus - Mo and Pho. Punakha is well known for the 17th century Punakha Dzong Fortress, which stands majestically alongside Pho and Mo Chhu. In this Himalayan city, mask dances and traditional music occur during Punakha Tshechu, a religious festival in Bhutan. The area's feeling is surreal; so many people come here, especially to understand Bhutan's culture and history and enjoy the divine natural beauty. Around the city in the Punakha Valley, there are several places of interest like Chimi Lhakhang and Namgyal Chorten that are well worth visiting. From these places, you can have a magnificent view of the rivers and mountains. Punakha Dzong and Limbhukha are also the best places to see during your stay in Punakha.
Known by the locals under its official name - the Chokhor Valley - the word Bumthang (which refers to all of Central Hutan) has become the de facto nickname of this mountain range in the northern foothills of the country.
It is home to several imposing monasteries and is one of the most popular destinations for traditional Dzong architecture.
Before exploring the nearby Tamshing Goemba Monastery, you can start a tour of the mighty ramparts of Jakar Dzong
Then there are even more mysterious religious sites in the village of Shinyer, not to mention the traditional arts and crafts center of Chhumey - the place to buy Himalayan wool!
Trongsa is located in Bhutan's center, and its lush flora creates a beautiful place to surround the senses and meditate. Bhutan is a must-see and is conveniently located in the center with a strategic intersection connecting the roads to Bumthang, Gelephu, and Punakha. A remarkable attraction in Trongsa is the Trongsa Dzong. It is one of the best Buddhist monasteries with red roofs and white walls over a valley. Trongsa is a sleepy town, and apart from sightseeing, the only way to pass the time is to take a walk through the stores, which are beautifully decorated with potted plants and crowded with happy people.
Close to the foothills of the Choekhor valley lies Jakar, locally known as Chamkhar. This region is mainly known for its commercial center, and the famous attraction of this place is the Jakar Dzong. Peacefully situated above the city in the Chamkhar valley of Bumthang, this popular Dzong is probably the largest in all of Bhutan. It will probably take Jakar several days to make a full tour of the surrounding valleys. Here, besides Jakar Dzong, are the Wangdicholing Palace built-in 1857, the Bumthang Brewery, Lhodrak Kharchu Gumba founded by Namkhai Nyingpo Rinpoche in 1970, the Cheese Factory, which is the only commercial cheese factory in Bhutan, and Jakar Lhakhang from the 14th century. Jakar's national airport is the Bathpalathang Airport, located on the eastern shore of Chamkhar Chhu.
Phobjikha is a vast U-shaped glacial valley bordering the Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park. In this always enchanting land, you can find the beautiful black-necked cranes in winter. And not only that, as picturesque and peaceful as this place is, Phobjikha also witnesses exciting festivals. The Tsechu Festival and the Crane Festival, which welcomes black-necked cranes, are held every year within the borders of Phobjikha Valley and are stored in the courtyard of Gangteng Monastery. However, this dwelling on the Black Mountains' western slopes offers fascinating views of beautiful valleys, swampy land, and grassy pastures. Since Phobjikha is close to the Jigme Singye-Wangchuck National Park, besides the cranes, you can also see muntjacs (barking deer), wild boars, sambars, highlanders, Himalayan black bears, leopards, and red foxes in the surrounding hills. Besides the animal world in Bhutan, Nyelung Dechenling, Gangte Goemba, Khewang Lhakhang, Damchen Lhakhang, Kumbu Lhakhang, White Chorten, and Wangmo Hand Carpet Factory are other attractions in Phobjikha.
08: Wangdue Phodrang
Another place to visit in Bhutan is Wangdue Phodrang, a beautiful and peaceful city. This place is located in the center of Bhutan and is a border town near Punakha. Wangdue Phodrang is widely known for its bamboo products, slate, and stone carvings. Another notable attraction is the Wangdue Phodrang Dzong, which is only open to visitors during the Wangdue Phodrang Tshechu celebration in autumn. With the Punakha Chhu and Tang Chhu rivers' confluence, Wangdue Phodrang offers rich pastures for cattle and an attractive landscape. The tourist attractions most visited here are Radak Neykhang, archery range, vegetable market, army training center, Dzong gate, and eight chortens.
09: Jigme Dorji National Park
Jigme Dorji national park in Bhutan and one of the top wildlife destinations in Asia. This park is the second largest national park and includes districts like Gasa District, Thimphu District, Paro District, Punakha District, and Wangdue Phodrang District. Why Jigme Dorji National Park is famous for offering the best of both worlds, including wildlife and cultural sites within the park, consists of about 6,500 people who live within the park and are engaged in agriculture and livestock breeding; it has been listed as a temporary site by UNESCO. However, the National Park is home to diverse flora and fauna. About 37 known species of mammals and endangered species are Cloud Leopard, Snow Leopard, Takin, Bengal Tiger, Himalayan Blue Sheep, Himalayan Black Bear, Black Musk Deer, Red Panda, and Ussuri Dhole. But this national park is also home to the Sambar, the Saw, the Barking Deer, the Marmot, the Goral, the Pika, and more than 300 bird species. Jigme Dorji National Park is the only park where national animals - takin, national flower - blue poppy, national bird - raven and national tree - cypress - live together in the same enclosure. These characteristics make the park one of the best places in Bhutan to visit.
The large Gangteng Monastery originates from the fir and cascading spruce forests of Wangdue Phodrang district in central Hutan.
It is undoubtedly one of the most revered religious sites here, known for its veneration of King Terchen Pema Lingpa - one of the country's great spiritual patrons.
The large monastery is located on a high stone cliff overlooking the city of the same name (Gangteng village) and is a real miracle.
Take a look at the carved wooden frontispiece and the gleaming Garuda gargoyles before you reach the famous trekking trails of the great Phubjika valley, the territory of the rare black crane.
11: Buddha Dordenma Statue
The Dordenma Buddha statue was erected in the mountains to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the fourth king of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, and is one of the largest Buddha Rupes in the world. It is 52 meters high and contains more than 125,000 small Buddha statues. The project, which was made in the form of the seated figure of Buddha Sakyamuni, cost more than 100 million US dollars. Around the Buddha statue is the Kuensel Phodrang Nature Park, a 943-hectare forest area opened in 2011 to give visitors to the site the opportunity to relax in a quiet and peaceful environment. Interestingly, the statue's construction was predicted by Padmasambhava in an ancient terma dating from the eighth century, which was discovered by Yogi Sonam Zangpo in the early twentieth century.
12: Chele La Pass
The Chele La pass, at 3,989 meters above sea level, is considered the highest pass in Bhutan that can be accessed by car and is one of the highlights of Bhutan. The pass is located above the Haa Valley's pristine forests in the Paro district and offers breathtaking views of the surrounding waterfalls, forests, and alpine valleys. A little over two hours from Paro, the road to the pass passes through dense forests and passes rivers and waterfalls, offering a breathtaking landscape. Along the road that leads to the access, there are hundreds of posts with prayer flags, erected by the locals to scare away demons and evil spirits.
This colossal mountain, also known as Jhomolhari, is 7,326 meters high, but it is not the highest mountain in Bhutan. The mountain lies on the border between Tibet and Bhutan. It is also a source of the Paro River, which flows down the south side of the hill, and the Amo River, flowing down the north side. Known as the "Bride of Kanchenjunga," Bhutanese Buddhists believe it is the home of one of the five Tsheringma sisters, Bhutan's female tutelary goddesses and Tibet, who were pledged by Padmasambhava to protect the people, the country, and the Buddhist faith from evil demons. On the south side of the mountain, at 4150 meters above sea level, is the Chomolhari Temple, which is home to the religious pilgrims who visit the hill, and just an hour's walk up the mountain is one of the highest lakes in Bhutan, the Tseringma Lhatso or "lake of the spirits".
14: National Museum, Paro
There is no better way to get to know the culture and history of a place than by visiting its best museum. The National Museum of Bhutan is located in Paro Dzong in Paro district. It is an exciting place to visit, whether you are a history buff or not because the views that this place offers are breathtaking. Moreover, the structure of the building is unique compared to other historical monuments in Bhutan.
The beautiful building consists of six floors, and each floor is dedicated to a different category of collections. The biggest attraction of the museum is an egg stored here, which is considered a mule egg. The museum also has impressive collections of weapons, ritual objects, clothing, jewelers, religious objects, parchment paintings, and much more to educate the visitor about the history, culture, and rituals of Bhutan.
15: Dochula Pass, Thimphu
Bhutan is a country blessed with extraordinary mountain landscapes. One of the best among them is the Dochula Pass on the way from Thimphu to Punakha. The Dochula Pass is located at an altitude of 3100 meters and is 30 km away from the capital Thimphu. It is popular because of the 108 memorial stupas erected here by the Queen Mother Major Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk.
There is also a prominent monastery here, built-in memory of Bhutan's fourth head of state. Due to its popularity among locals and tourists, the Dochula Pass is one of Bhutan's most sought-after places. The Dochula Pass is frequented by tourists who want to see the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas, which are visible from here.