Nestled in the eastern Himalayas, Bhutan’s commitment to preservation of its environment and history has ensured it remains a secluded sanctuary of rich cultural and spiritual heritage, as well as one of immense natural beauty. Famed for its dzongs (fortresses), monasteries, festivals, and rolling lush green hills, it is no wonder that Bhutan is often referred to as one of the last Shangri-las on Earth.
Where to Visit
A visit to Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital city, provides a unique opportunity to delve into the country’s culture and history. This wonderful city hosts much to see and do, including the impressive Trashi Chho Dzong, the current seat of the Bhutan government. It is also home to the offices of the king, and was the site of the extravagant 2008 coronation of the fifth Bhutanese king. Also explore the famous temples and monasteries of Thimphu such as Changangkha Lhakhang, the oldest surviving temple, and the Dechen Podrang Monastery, established in the 12th century. Thimphu is also a fantastic place to participate in the city’s rich history, with visits to the handmade paper and textile museum absolute must-dos!
Situated at the confluence of the Pho and Mo rivers (meaning father and mother respectively), Punakha is the once capital of Bhutan. Still an important cultural centre of the country, Punakha is an important stop on any Bhutan itinerary. Visit the Punakha Dzong, the ‘Palace of Great Happiness’ and be immersed in its exquisitely decorated rooms and humbling halls. Spend time at Chimi Lhakhangov discovering its incredible history, and at Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang, enjoying spectacular views overlooking the Punakha valley.
Finally, it wouldn’t be a trip to Punakha without a trip to the Mo or Pho rivers. Enjoy the beauty from the riverbank or cross the iconic Punakha Suspension Bridge and admire the rushing waters from above. For the more adventurous, enjoy an exhilarating whitewater rafting expedition down the river.
The location of Bhutan’s only international airport, Paro serves as a gateway to the rest of this captivating country. Situated approximately 50km to the west of Thimphu, Paro is where the famous Tiger’s Nest Monastery can be found. First established in 1962, this icon of Bhutan is perched on the edge of a cliff, 900m above the valley floor. A place of great spirituality, Paro is home to many temples and monasteries. Be sure to visit Jangtsa Dumtseg Lhakhang, a monastery steeped in legend, and Kyichu Lakhang, built in 659 CE, marking the establishment of Buddhism in Bhutan.
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