PARO VALLY :
The beautiful valley, where nature and man conjured to create their dearest image, is home to some of Bhutan’s oldest temples & monasteries – as well as its only airport. Mount Jomolhari (7300 M) reigns in white glory at the northern end of the valley and its glacial waters plunge through deep gorges to form the Pa-chu (Paro river). Paro is one of the most fertile valleys in the Kingdom, producing a bulk of famous red rice from its terranced fields.
Drugyel Dzong : The fortress was built in 1649 by Shabdrung Nawang Namgyel to commemorate his victory over the Tibetan invaders, led by Mongolian warlord Gushi Khan in 1644. Strategically built over the only passage into Paro valley, the dzong helped repel numerous invasions all through the course of Bhutanese history. It so impressed early visitors that in 1914 the dzong featured on the cover of the National Geographic Magazine. Unfortunately the dzong was gutted by accidental fire in 1951. The ruin, as it stands today, still attract tourists. On a clear day one can see the commanding view of Mt. Jomolhari from the village nestle below the dzong.
Taktsang Gompa : Literally meaning the tiger’s nest, this temple clings precariously to a cliff 3000 ft above Paro valley. Legend has it that the great Indian saint Guru Padmasanbhava flew to this spot on the back of a tigress and meditated in a cave for three months in eight century. It remains a most sacred and pilgrimage spot for the Buddhist followers. The hike uphill to the monastery is two hours and is breathtaking, thrilling which will be remembered in a lifetime.
Rimpung Dzong : The Fortress on a heap of Jewels was built in 1646 by Shabdrung Nawang Namgyel. The approach to the dzong is through a traditional roofed wooden bridge and a walk through the stone inlaid path offer a good view of the architectural wonder of the dzong as well as life around it. The Dzong now houses the state monastic school and the civil administration of Paro region. It is also the venue for the Paro Tsechu (festival) held once a year in spring.
Ta-Dzong : Looking down over the Rimpung Dzong, the Ta-Dzong (watch tower) was built in 1651, unlike the rectangular shape of dzongs, it is round more like parts of an European castle. Since 1967 the watch tower was transformed into the National Museum and holds a fascinating collections of arts, relics, thangka (religious paintings).
Farm House : Paro valley is embellished by cluster of farm houses. Bhutanese farm houses are very colourful and traditionally built with mud walls and wooden frame without a single nail. From outside the house looks very big but is quite simple inside. The houses are normally of three storey with the ground floor for the animals, the attic used for the storage of hay. The families live in the middle floor with a chapel for workship which is decorated with paintings. A visit to a farm house is very interesting and offers a good glimpse into the farmers’ lifestyle.
THIMPHU VALLEY :
Thimphu, the modern capital of Bhutan lies at Alt. 8000 ft in a valley traversed by Wang-chu (Thmphu river). Tashi-chho Dzong is the main secretariat building which houses the King’s throne room and the summer residence of the central monk body. Although what one expect from the capital city, Thimphu is still a very interesting place to be visited. Home to civil servants, expatriates and the monk body. Thimphu maintains a strong national character in its architectural style.
Memorial Chorten : The stupa was built in 1974 in memory of the third monarch Jigme Dorji Wangchuck who passed away in 1972. The tantric images and paintings inside the monument provide a very rare insight into Buddhist philosophy.
Tashichho-Dzong : Originally the dzong was built in 1661 by Je Sherab Wangchuk and renovated in 1960s by third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. The fortress houses the main secretariat building with thorne room for the King, offices for ministers and the residence for the central Monk Body. Thimphu also helds Dromche and Tsechu festival once a year in autumn. The dzong can be visited before and after the official hours.
Simtokha Dzong : The oldest and first dzong built by Shabdrung in 1629, stands on a lofty ridge overlooking the Thimphu valley. At present the dzong is established for higher monastic studies.
Changangkha Lhakhang : One of the oldest drukpa kagyu temple founded by Phajo Drugom Zhingpo 1208 – 1276. It is worth visiting the temple where one will witness the Bhutanese families’ making ceremonies for the new borne babies. The Buddhas images and religious paintings are well preserved.
Zelukha Nunnery : The nunnery was founded by the incarnated lama Drubthob Cha-zampa in 1950s. The Lama took the refuge in Bhutan during the Chinese invasion in Tibet. The temple is very interestingly built with huge statues, colorful paintings and above all the nuns performing the rituals.
Traditional Herbal Medical School : In Bhutan equal emphasis is given to both Alopathy and Traditional Medicines. The rich herbal medical lesson are put into practiced and produced here. It is worth visiting to observe the minerals and herbs used for the medicine and figure for diagnoses the patients.
Zorig Chusum Lobdrak : The Royal Government of Bhutan built this school to preserve the traditional way of building the thirteen types of Arts and crafts in the country. Both boys and girls are given the opportunity to take their interest in this Arts and Crafts where they learn the painting thangkas, sculptures, embroidery, woodcarvings, metal works etc.
Textile Weaving Center : The Royal Government has given the opportunity to the private people for the business in several lines. Out of which, this weaving center was introduced and one can have the opportunity how the textile are dyed and woven mainly by females. One can have good price for souvenirs here.
National Library : The library preserves 1000s of ancient Buddist texts of different sects. Besides it displays the manuscripts written in different ink like gold, red, black etc. Also the building is built in a temple style and houses the different budha statues.
The Textile Museum : The museum was introduce with the initiative of queen of Bhutan to preserve the old traditional textile used in early times in the country.. Also it will give an idea how the weaving are done on different handlooms, and how the dying are done from the minerals and plants.
The Cultural & Heritage Museum : With initiative of the queen of Bhutan, to preserve the cultural & heritage of the Bhutanese lifestyle in this fast growing development of modern technique, opened the museum for the public. You can have the idea how Bhutanese lived in their surrounding in Bhutan. Note : If your visit coincide with weekend in Thimphu, visit the weekend market which will be on from late Friday – Sunday.
Blessed with temperate climate and fed by Pho-chu (male river) and Mo-chu (female river), Punakha is the most fertile valley in the country. Until 1955, Punakha served as the capital and is even to-day the winter seat of Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot) and central Monk Body. The dzong was built at the confluence of male and female river in 1638 by Shabdrung. After the slight destruction of fire in 1984 and major by flood in 1994 the present dzong was renovated from 1994 – 2003. Punakha valley is flourished with rich vegetation and the dzong is extra ordinarily renovated with detailed arts and crafts.
Khe-mi Lhakhang : Chimi Lhakhang was built by the divine mad Lama Drukpa Kuenley in 15 th century. The legend says that the lama subdue the evil spirit who appeared half human half dog. Khe means dog and Mi is human. The temple is short hike from the motor road through the paddy fields and villages.
Khumsum Yuele Chorten : The temple is newly built by the queen mother of the crown prince for the well being of Prince and the country. The temple is built on the ridge of a mountain looking over the Punakha valley and one has to hike with gradual up hill through the agriculture field and pine forests for almost 1 hours.
For Birders : Punakha valley is in the temperate climate and has many kinds of Himalayan birds including the water birds like Heron, kingfishers, lapwing, ibis bill, shell duck, cormorant etc. which migrate in winter.
To the south of Punakha, located at Alt. 4,500 ft., is Wangduephodrang Dzong built in 1639 by Shabdrung. The dzong stands at confluence of Puna Sang-chu and Dang-chu rivers. Phobjekha valley in Wangdue is the winter habitat for the rare black necked cranes. The region is also known for its fine bamboo works and its slate mining.
Trongsa forms the central hub of the nation and is historically the place from where attempts at unifying the country were launched. It is from here the first Monarchy was elected and still traditionally the crown prince has to take the position of governor before he takes the seat of the Golden Throne. The landscape around Trongsa is spectacular, for miles on end, the dzong seems to tease you, wondering if you will ever reach there.
Trongsa Dzong : The fortress was built in 1648 by Chhoyje Minjur Tempa well trusted follower of Shabdrung. It is the ancestral home of the royal family. Both the first and the second Kings ruled the country from here. All fours Kings held the post of Trongsa Penlop (honorary govennor) prior to being crown King. The fortress is in a massive structure with many levels which slope down the contours of a hill on which it perches. Because of its highly strategic position as the only connecting route between east and west, the Trongsa Penlop was able to control the whole of the eastern region effectively for centuries.
Kuenga Rabten : The Kuenga Rabten village is toward the south of Trongsa about 25 km can be made for country site visit. Kuenga Rabten Dzong, the palace of the second King, overlooking the villages with the sight of a long and big water falls can be seen. Just above the palace few minutes walk there is Nunnery where hundreds of nuns in practice of Buddhism.
Sangey Tong Lhakhang : A newly built temple with thousand of budha statues installed with beautiful painting can be visited.
For Birder : Trongsa region is rich with birds from Chendebjee onwards to the south of Trongsa toward the Shemgang region.
To the east of Trongsa lies the four bumthang valleys at alt. 9000 ft. These valleys are the religious heartlands of the nation and home to some of oldest Buddhist temples. Here tales of Guru Padmasambhava and his followers re-incarnates, known as Lingpas, still linger in most nooks and corners that have now become sacred ground. Your stay in Bumthang will be mainly in Chamkhar valley and from here you will drive and visit as per your interest.
Jambey Lhakhang : This temple was built in 7 th century by the first Tibetan Buddhist King, Songtsen Gembo. The King had taken the vow to built 108 temple in the Himalayas and two are found in Bhutan. Kyichu in Paro and Jambay in Bumthang. This temple is one of the very special pilgrimage spot for the Buddhist people.
Kurjee Lhakhang : Kur means the body and the jee means the imprint. It is believed that Guru Padmasambhava meditated in a small cave leaving his body print to subdue the local spirit which caused unbearable sickness to the King Sindu Raja of Chamkhar valley in 8th century. The temple where Guru meditated was built by his follower in 12 th century and renovated in 1652. The other temple was built by The first monarch Ugen Wangchuck in 1907 where you will witness the largest statue in the country. The new temple was built by the present Royal Queen Mother in 1980s.
Tamshing Lhakhang : The temple was built in 1501 by the Terton Pema Lingpa (treasure discoverer) who discover the religious treasure from Member Tso (burning lake). He was also a great architecture and built the temple personally. The monastery has very interesting statues and the paintings of his work.
Jakar Dzong : Ja means a bird and kar means white. While Choeje Minjur Tempa the first Trongsa Governor was wondering where to built a fortress for the administration in Bumthang region, he found a folk of white birds at the site of the present dzong, which was taken the sign of aspicious and built the fort in 1646 and named Jakar dzong, white bird fortress, It now serves as the administration body and the state monastery for the Bumthang valley. In Bumthang, one can make excursion to Ura and Shingkhar for picnic trip with visit to the Ura and Shingkhar villages. There is Ugencholing dzong, transformed into museum, in the Tang valley but you have to hike for an hour to the dzong. For the hiking trip, one can hike to Tharpaling villages on the hill top, Kuenzang drak monastery on the rocky cliff, Thodrak monastery in the chokor valley, Nimalung Monastery in Chummey valley.
Mongar is the region in the east. The newly established Mongar town in 1930s with administration and the monastery for the Mongar region. The dzong is built in traditional form without the drawing and single nails. Originally the Mongar’s administration and monastery was in Lemithang called Shongar Dzong which was destroyed by fire. The government moved on the hill to escape the hit of the summer from Shongar leaving in ruin. The mongar region is idle place for the birders.
In the far east of Bhutan, on the bank of the gangri-chu (river), lies
Trashigang, the largest district. Trashigang dzong stands astride a hill
slope below the main street. The dzong built in the mid 17 th century,
serves as the administrative seat and state monastery for the district.
Trashigang, once the bustling center of trade with Tibet, is today the
junction of the east-west high way, with roads connecting it to Samdrupjongkhar
and then to the Indian state of Assam.
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