The 13 best places to visit in Bhutan

 

Built in 1974 in the capital city, Thimphu, is one of the cities most prominent landmarks and one of the most visible religious structures in Bhutan, the Memorial Chorten. Designed to represent the mind of the Buddha, this enormous fairly modern stupa has become one of the symbols of the capital.

13. Memorial Chorten

 

To the west of the capital, Thimphu, is the Chele La Pass, at 3,988 metres (13,084 ft) above sea level it is one of the countries highest mountain passes. Close to the major town of Paro, the route is well trodden by locals and tourists alike with the pass offering some great starting points for treks or just incredible views among the Himalayan Mountain range.

12. Chele La Pass

 

At the northern edge of the capital, Thimphu, is the enormous Buddhist Monastery of Tashichho Dzong. Standing in a valley beside the Wang Chu River, this impressively large whitewashed two storey building with three storey corner towers, triple tier golden roofs and ornate windows was surprisingly built as recently as 1968. Re-built on the site of a 13th century Dzong that was destroyed by fire in 1772, the Tashichho Dzong that stands there today holds within it thirty nine temples, chapels and shrines.

11. Tashichho Dzong

 

To the east of Thimphu in the centre of the country is the Gangteng Monastery, sometimes called the Gangtey Gonpa. Built in 1613 it is regarded as one of the most important monasteries in the school of Buddhism and the main seat of the Pema Lingpa tradition. It is said that the hands of a British Officer, severed during the 1864 battle between the British and Bhutanese armies have been preserved in the sanctum of the Gangteng Monastery.

10. Gangteng Monastery

 

At the southern edge of the Jigme Dorji National Park, accessible within an hours trek is the Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Temple. Built by the Queen Mother during the 1990's, it's design was in keeping with Bhutanese architecture and tradition. It was gifted to the king, dedicated to the well being of the Kingdom, it's people and all who lay eyes upon it. From it's high vantage point if offers wonderful views across the Punakha Valley.

9. Khamsum Yulley Namgyal

 

Completed as recently as 2015, made from bronze and gilded in gold is the great Buddha Dordenma statue, celebrating the 60th anniversary of the fourth king, it overlooks the southern approach to Thimphu. Built among the ruins of the ancient palace of Kuensel Phodrang, this historically important site offers visitors incredible views out across the mountains and valleys. The statue along with the building beneath holds over 100,000 Buddha statues, all of which mirror the largest, each made of bronze and gilded in gold.

8. Buddha Dordenma Statue

 

Built in 1668 at a height of 4,150 metres (13,615 ft) above sea level in the Himalayan Mountains on the border with Tibet is the Lingzhi Yugyal Dzong, one of the main defensive fortresses in northern Bhutan. Partly damaged during an earthquake in 1867, the building today was heavily restored during the 1950's and again as recently as 2010. It's position high in the mountains gives it incredible views over the surrounding landscape.

7. Lingzhi Yügyal Dzong

 

East of Thimphu in the centre of the country is the enormous fortress of Trongsa Dzong, a large complex built across many levels housing many temples within a maze of courtyards. Constructed in 1543 above the ravines of the Mangde Chuu, beautifully back-dropped by the Black Mountains, the entire monastic complex has grown and grown throughout the centuries to become the largest of it's kind in all of Bhutan.

6. Trongsa Dzong

 

Meaning, 'The Palace Of Great Happiness', the Punakha Dzong is the second largest and the second oldest Dzong in all of Bhutan. Built in 1637 the Dzong houses the sacred relics of the southern Drukpa Lineage and the sacred remains of the Pema Lingpa, considered the foremost of the Five Terton Kings. For this it holds a prominent place for all the peoples of Bhutan, in what is seen as one of the countries most majestic structures.

5. Punakha Dzong

 

On the road from Thimphu to Punakha at an elevation of 3,140 metres (10,300 ft) above sea level in the snow capped Himalayan Mountains is the Dochula Pass. Apart from the incredible scenic views that come with all Bhutanese mountain passes, the Dochula Pass also boasts 108 memorial chortens, built at the behest of the oldest Queen Mother. The chortens are adjacent to the countries first Royal Botanical Park and the ​Druk Wangyal Lhakhang Monastery Temple.

4. Dochula Pass

 

Encompassing some 4,316 square kilometres (1,666 square miles) in north western Bhutan is the countries second largest area of protected parkland, the Jigme Dorji National Park. Within it is a significant proportion of the highest peaks within the Himalayan Mountain range, some of the most rugged and natural landscape on the planet. The park is also home to some of the rarest animals, these include the snow leopard, clouded leopard, Bengal tiger, Himalayan blue sheep, Himalayan black bear, the red panda and the spotted linsang. Wherever visitors find themselves in this national park the views will undoubtedly be spectacular and unforgettable.

Pictured is the Jomolhari. On the border of Chinese Tibet and Bhutan with an elevation of 7,326 metres (24,035 ft) above sea level, the Jomolhari is the 79th tallest mountain on Earth and sacred to Tibetan Buddhists.

3. Jigme Dorji National Park

 

Bhutan is one of two countries located entirely within the Himalayan Mountain Range, the other being Nepal. For this reason the landscape within Bhutan is some of the most visually striking on Earth. The Ganghar Puensum is the tallest mountain in the country with a height of 7,570 metres (24,836 ft) above sea level and is a candidate for the tallest unclimbed mountain in the world. This incredible area of the Himalayas is open to trekkers, with the view of the Gangkhar Puensum from the Gophu La Pass cited as one of the most impressive in the region.

Pictured is the Gangkhar Puensum visible from the Gophu La Pass.

2. Gangkhar Puensum

 

Constructed in the west of the country in 1692 is the monastery of Paro Taktsang, sometimes known as the Tiger's Nest. Built precariously on a vertical cliff face, the temple sits at 3,120 metres (10,240 ft) above the Paro Valley making it a true feat of 17th century engineering. As one of the most prominent sacred Buddhist sites within the Himalayas, it is today the most iconic symbol of Bhutan.

1. Paro Taktsang

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