THIMPHU

Thimphu is the capital city of Bhutan and is therefore the most populated district in the country, with about 80,000 people. You can easily spend several days in Thimphu visiting all the sights. Many of the sights in the main town can be reached on foot, which is a good way to absorb the culture and see the way of life of the Bhutanese people. As you stroll through the streets, you will notice that there is not a single traffic light in the town (nor in the entire country). Instead you will find a friendly traffic policeman controlling the traffic.

Thimphu Bhutan

There are many attractions in and around Thimphu valley, including museums, monasteries, temples, dzongs, a zoo, archery fields, restaurants, handicraft shops, the weekend market, the National Library, the School of Arts and Crafts, a traditional paper factory, a radio tower (which offers a picturesque view of the valley), and the National Institute of Traditional Medicine.  A visit to the 160 feet Buddha Statue on a hill top overlooking Thimphu valley is a must.

Two interesting museums are the Textile Museum and the Folk Heritage Museum. At the Textile Museum you will see beautiful displays of the garments worn by the Bhutanese from the 1600s up to the present time. The Folk Heritage Museum lets you explore a traditional Bhutanese home and provides you with the idea of the daily life style of a rural folk.

The weekend market is interesting to visit, for it is there that you'll see the variety of farm produce brought in by the farmers across the country, including basket upon basket of fiery chilies, fresh cottage cheese, and fruits of many varieties.   Depending on the season, one may also see some less-familiar products, such as wild ferns which for many Bhutanese is a delicacy. In addition, a short walk on the wooden cantilever bridge crossing the Thimphu Chu. There are many stalls containing Bhutanese handicrafts and household items on the other side of the river. It's fun to wander the aisles, taking in the hustling and bustling atmosphere of the market.

 
PARO

If you are flying into Bhutan, your first vision of the country will be Paro valley, as you descend between the mountains to the country's only airport, which in itself is an experience when you see how close the mountains are and how sharp the descend is!

One of the main attractions in Paro is the Rinpung Dzong (fortress). It was built in 1646 and now houses government offices and religious institutions, as do all the dzongs in the country. You'll cross one of the oldest traditional wooden cantilever bridge on the way to the Dzong. On the hill above the Dzong is the National Museum, which used to be a watchtower (Ta Dzong) for the Dzong. It contains collection of art, costumes, relics, religious paintings, handicrafts, and some rare national stamps and first day covers. 
 
 Paro Dzong

Not far from the town center is Kyichu Monastery, which is the oldest monastery in the country, built in the 7th century by a Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo. Another attraction is Taktsang (Tiger's Nest) Monastery, Bhutan's most sacred monastery. Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) is said to have flown on the back of a tigress from Singye Dzong in Lhuntse (in the far east) to meditate in a cave where Taktsang Monastery now stands. It is perched on the edge of a steep cliff, about 900 meters above Paro valley. The hike to reach the viewpoint to the monastery makes a nice half-day excursion.
 
You will want to visit the Drugyel Dzong (Victory Fortress), which was built in 1646 to commemorate Bhutan's victory over Tibetan invaders during the 1600s. On a clear day you can see Mount Jumolhari, Bhutan's second-highest mountain at 7,329 meters, from the village below the Dzong. There is also an assortment of shops and handicraft stores to peruse in Paro town. On the way to Thimphu, one could visit and walk on the iron chain bridge to the Tachog Gonpa (monastery), the iron chain parts collected from various parts of the country. If one travels to the eastern district of Trashigang, then you will be able to visit one of the oldest iron chain bridge.
PUNAKHA

A good three hour's winding mountain drive from Thimphu will take you to Punakha, once the capital of Bhutan. Along the way you'll drive over the Dochu La (pass), where you will have a spectacular view of the Himalayan mountain ranges on a clear day. Before reaching Punakha, you can stop at Metsina and take a 20-minute hike through the rice fields to Chimi Lhakhang built by most famously known as "The Devine Mad Man", which is a fertility temple, where you may receive a special blessing of the Phallus if you wish.

Punakha Dzong

The main attraction in Punakha is the Punakha Dzong. It is the winter residence of the Chief Abbot and monks, who migrate there from Thimphu every winter. This Dzong is noteworthy both for being one of the most beautiful Dzong in Bhutan and also for having been built by the first Shabdrung Nawang Namgyel in 1637.

WANGDUE PHODRANG

Wangduephodrang is the last town before the long stretch of highway to central Bhutan. It's a small clean town with few shops, and it's known for its slate and stone carvings and bamboo works. Situated on the hill is the Wangduephodrang Dzong, which had political significance in the 17th century.  Unfortunately, the beautiful Dzong was razed to ground in June 2012. The reconstruction project is in good progress at the moment to bring it to its earlier glory.  


Along the way to central Bhutan, about a two-hour drive from Wangduephodrang, you can take a short side trip to Gantey Gompa, which is a beautifully located monastery in a wonderful valley. While you're there, you can explore Phobjika Valley, the winter habitat of the black-necked cranes, which migrate from Tibet every year in late autumn and leaves in early Spring the following year.

 
TRONGSA

Trongsa is about four hour's drive from Wangduephodrang and is situated right in the middle of Bhutan. It is the ancestral home of the Royal Families, and both the First and Second King's ruled the country from here.
 
Trongsa Dzong

Aside from the breathtaking scenery, the most notable feature in Trongsa is the Trongsa Dzong, which is believed to be the most impressive Dzong in Bhutan. Because of its enormity, it can be seen from a great distance, and it's interior is multilevel and contains numerous corridors and temples. Above the Dzong is the watchtower, which houses two interesting chapels. Today, this watch tower has been converted into a Museum which displays most of the dresses of the Secular leaders and the King's of Bhutan's as well as religious artifacts.  Trongsa is known for production of handmade bamboo baskets, wooden bowls, and bamboo hats, which are worn by farmers even today while working in their fields or herding the cows in the forests.
 
BUMTHANG

Bumthang is a perfect place for day hikes, with its lush valleys and hilly forests. It's about two and half hours drive from Trongsa, and the drive includes a climb over the 3,500-meter Yutong La (pass), where you may see some yaks grazing, depending on the season.

There are many temples and monasteries in Bumthang region, some of which are the oldest in Bhutan. You can reach some by car, while others require a short hike. Among them are Tharpaling Monastery, Thangbi Monastery, Kurjey Lhakhang (temple), and Jambey Lhakhang, which was built in the 7th century and is the oldest in the region. You can take along a packed lunch and enjoy the peacefulness and beauty around you. Bumthang is considered to be one of the holiest places in Bhutan.

Bumthang_Jakar

Other sights include the Jakar Dzong, which is said to be the largest Dzong in Bhutan. Another holy place to visit is the Mebar Tsho (Burning Lake), where some of Guru Rinpoche's treasures were found in the 15th century by the famous treasure revealer Terton Pema Lingpa--it's a nice spot to meditate. You can also tour Tamshing Lhakhang, which houses interesting religious Buddhist paintings. Bumthang is a good place to buy woven textiles (yathra), which are designed with patterns unique to Bumthang, and you can even watch some of the weavers at their looms. Bumthang is the best place to buy hard dried yak cheese (chugo), or you can stop at the Yoezer Lhamo shop and buy Swiss style cheese. Bumthang is also famous for its Red Panda beer.  It is also known as the little Switzerland in South Asia.