Top 10 Best Places To Visit In Bhutan.
From magical monasteries to stunning scenery, the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan has plenty to entice intrepid travellers and to get youstarted with your holiday planning, we've listed our top pick of destinations.
Tiger's Nest Monastery.
One of the most sacred places of pilgrimagein the country, the Tiger’s Nest Monastery, known by the Bhutanese as the Taktsang Monastery, has become the unofficial symbol of Bhutan.
Perched on a sheer ridge at a dizzying heightof 3, 000m above sea level, and appearing to cling to the side of a rugged cliff face, the sight of this exquisite holy building will leave you breathless in every way possible.
The building itself has fascinated historiansand architects for decades and can only be accessed by trekking for several hours, makingthe reward of seeing it all the more sweet.
Legend has it that Guru Rinpoche, father ofBhutanese Buddhism, rode here on the back of a tigress in order to meditate back inthe 8th century, hence it acquiring its nickname.
The monastery was then built in 1692 to honourthis site and rebuilt in 1998 after it was destroyed by a fire.
Home to the glorious Punakha fortress (dzong), which sits at the confluence of the Mo Chhu and Pho Chhu rivers, Punakha is the formercapital of Bhutan.
The fortress is often described as one ofthe most beautiful in the country, with its sparkling white-washed walls and intricatepatterned roof.
The sound of the rivers adds an additionalatmospheric element for those wandering through the dzong’s hallowed halls.
Another particular point of interest in Punakha, which should be on the ‘to-see’ list of all visitors, is the Khamsum Yuley Temple.
This temple contains many exquisite paintingsand murals, a dream come true for art and history lovers.
Surrounded by rugged, green mountains andblessed with a year-round mild climate, Punakha is an adventurous destination for those seekingto get off the beaten track for a while.
Located in the heart of Bhutan, Wangdue isa delight for all the senses, encompassing picturesque scenery, majestic architectureand an ancient culture eager to be experienced.
The Wangdue Dzong was one of the main featuresof this city but, unfortunately, it burned to the ground in 2012.
Reconstruction is currently underway but thismonumental task is expected to take several more years.
According to legend, the dzong was originallybuilt in this location because, whilst searching for a suitable building site, locals saw fourravens fly, from that point, off in four different directions.
This supposedly symbolised the spread of Buddhismto the four points of the compass.
There are few better places to escape fromthe stresses of modern life and reconnect with nature than Wangdue.
Travellers can also interact with the localmonks in order to learn about their traditional lifestyle and the inner workings of Buddhism.
Paro and the Paro Valley.
The city of Paro is home to a wealth of architecturaland natural beauty.
All visitors to Paro should definitely maketime to check out the Rinpung Dzong, a marvellous monastery that commands unparalleled viewsof the lush Paro Valley.
Whilst in the city, travellers can partakein a range of activities, including mountain biking, rafting and hiking.
One particularly popular option is the SnowmanTrek, a challenging yet exciting trail that stretches over 5km through high altitude passes.
If you don’t manage any of these, fear not, adrenaline will be pumping from the get-go as you come in to land in the narrow valleythat houses Paro’s international airport.
For something more tranquil, try meditatingoutside as the sun rises from behind the region’s dramatic peaks.
If a meditation session doesn’t seem likequite your thing, a leisurely stroll along the peaceful water can be just as, if notmore, relaxing.
An intriguing blend of modernity and antiquity, Thimphu – Bhutan’s capital, allows travellers to step away from the typical tourist experienceand be part of something wholly unique.
Being one of just two nation capitals in theworld that doesn’t use traffic lights, police beckoning and waving traffic along are a commonsight here.
Stately monks draped in blood-red robes weavingin and out of magnificent monasteries are also commonplace in this spiritual city anda trip to see the Tashichho Dzong (Fortress of the Glorious Religion) is an absolute must.
Travellers arriving in Thimphu are sure tobe pleasantly surprised by the spectacular views over the surrounding region’s naturalbeauty as well as by the range of amenities available, such as cafes, bars and nightclubs, all of which are transforming the international view of the mysterious Bhutan.
With so much on offer, it is hard not to fallin love with this intriguing city.
Set in the centre of Bhutan, the town of Trongsaoffers stunning views over the surrounding gorge and Black Mountains.
Although dating back to the 16th century, its name translates to ‘new village’ in the Dzongkha language and the town is famedfor its imposing Dzong.
Commanding an impressive position above theMangde River, this fortress has perhaps the most spectacular location in Bhutan.
Visible for kilometres around, its historicbuildings are connected by a maze of corridors, stone steps and paved courtyards.
It was from this fortress that the first twoBhutanese Kings ruled over the country and tradition still dictates that the crown princeserve here before ascending to the throne.
Besides the striking presence of the Dzong, the town also offers a range of beautiful day walks, offering ample opportunities tosoak up the montane views.
Possibly the most beautiful destination inBhutan, the Gangtey Valley, or Pobjika Valley as it is known, is a wide glacial valley surroundedby the beautiful Black Mountains.
As one of the most important conservationzones in the country, the valley sees a group of endangered black-necked cranes arrive everywinter from the Tibetan Plateau.
Alongside these birds, the area is famousfor the Gangte Goemba Monastery.
Built in the early 17th century, it is arguablyone of the holiest Buddhist sites in the world and holds a proud position overlooking therest of the valley.
Its extensive complex was renovated in 2008and contains a small guesthouse, monks’ quarters and outlying meditation centre.
Visitors can also enjoy a range of naturewalks and treks in the region, offering the chance to truly be immersed in one of Bhutan’smost breath-taking landscapes.
Manas National Park.
Lying in south-central Bhutan, Manas NationalPark is the country’s crown jewel.
Only opened to the public in recent years, the park is Bhutan’s oldest protected area and forms part of a transnational conservationzone.
It borders the Jigme Singye Wangchuck NationalPark in the north and the World Heritage-listed Manas Tiger Reserve in India.
Home to the largest tropical and sub-tropicalecosystems in Bhutan, the park is rich in wildlife.
The highly endangered Bengal tiger, Asianelephant and greater one-horned rhino all reside with its borders, alongside the goldenlangur – a primate found virtually nowhere else on earth.
More than 426 species of birds and over 900types of plants have also been recorded, making Manas one of the most biologically outstandingparks in the world.
Visitors to this wilderness can explore onfoot, by car or by boat, or even trek the park’s eco trail, as they try to spot oneof its rare inhabitants.
Commonly referred to as the ‘spiritual heartlandof Bhutan’, Bumthang boasts some of the country’s oldest Buddhist temples and monasteries.
The region encompasses the four mountain valleysof Tang, Ura, Chhume and Chokhor, with the latter being the most well-known as it holdssome of the most important temples and dzongs.
Bumthang was where Buddhism was first introducedto Bhutan and the birthplace of Saint Pema Lingpa, to whom the Bhutanese royalty tracetheir descent.
Besides its temples, the region is famousthroughout the country for its brightly coloured wool products known as Yathra.
And as it is blessed with stunning naturallandscapes, walking is one of the most popular activities for visitors.
The mixture of meadows, forests, villagesand sacred sites provide a picturesque showcase of Bhutan’s rural scenery.
Situated in the northernmost district of Bhutan, Gasa is a region of striking natural beauty.
With elevations ranging from 1, 500 to 4, 500metres, it boasts pristine forests and a scenic 17th century Dzong.
Built in 1646, the Dzong defended Bhutan fromseveral invasions in the 17th and 18th centuries.
But perhaps the most notable feature of thisregion is its people.
The Layaps are nomadic herders who still maintaintheir own unique culture.
Their main source of income comes from theiryaks, as they trade cheese, butter, meat or products made from their hair.
The region is also famous for the SnowmanTrek, one of the most demanding treks in the Himalayas, and its healing hot springs.
And the newly established Royal HighlanderFestival is becoming increasingly popular.
Celebrating Bhutan’s nomadic highlanders, it’s simply a must-see for passing travellers.