Paro

Paro is a name of the town center as well the name of district or Dzongkhag. The small and charming town of Paro lies in the center of the valley at an average elevation of 2280m, on the bank of Pa Chhu River. Paro town was first formed in 1985 with one main street, lined with colorfully painted shops. Of recent, new constructions have taken place at the back of the main street. The head quarter of Paro district is located in nearby Rinphung Dzong. Bhutan's international airport is also located here and the capital is just over 1hour away. Paro is known to be most fertile valley. It is one of the most historic valleys in Bhutan. Both trade goods and invading Tibetans came over the pass at the head of the valley, making Paro the closest cultural connection with Tibet of any Bhutanese district. Paro is one of the most tranquil and beautiful valley in Bhutan.

Attractions

  • Taktshang - Tiger's Nest
  • Bitekha Dzong
  • Cheli la Pass
  • Chumophug
  • Druk Choeding Lhakhang
  • Kila Gompa Nunnery
  • National Museum of Bhutan
  • Paro Rinpung Dzong
  • Ugyen Pelri Thang Palace

Thimpu

Thimphu is the capital of Bhutan, and also the name of the valley and Dzongkhag or district. With estimated population of around 100,000, Thimphu is Bhutan's largest city. Thimphu valley is at an average elevation of 2300m. It was a wooded farming valley until 1951, when massive 17th century Fortress, Tashicho Dzong, was revamped by King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk to form Bhutan's official capital and replace the ancient capital of Punakha. Today the city sprawls across the western slopes of the Wang Chuu river valley, with several government offices located around Tashichoe dzong.

Rapid expansion following the pattern of rural exodus has resulted in considerable rebuilding in the city centre and mushrooming suburban development elsewhere. Norzin Lam, the recently upgraded main thoroughfare, is lined with shops, restaurants, retail arcades and public buildings. Elsewhere, there is a mix of apartment blocks, small family homes and family-owned stores. By regulation, all buildings are required to be designed in traditional style with Buddhist paintings and motifs. A lively weekend market (now open all days of the week) near the river supplies meat, vegetables and tourist items. Most of the city's limited light industry is located south of the main bridge. Thimphu has a growing number of commercial services and offices which provide for ever-growing local needs. Thimphu is one of national capitals that do not have traffic lights. Instead of traffic lights, traffic police directs the oncoming traffic with their dance-like movement of their arms and hands. The Memorial Chorten dominates the skyline of Thimphu. The Buddha Dordenma statue, the largest Buddha statue in the world, is on a ridge top, overlooking the city.

Attractions

  • National Library
  • Memorial Chorten
  • Simtokha Dzong
  • Takin Sanctuary
  • Wangditse Goemba
  • Zangto Pelri Lhakhang
  • Changangkha Lhakhang

Wangdue

South of Punakha is Wangduephodrang also commonly known as Wangdue, the last western town on the highway before entering central Bhutan. It is a bustling town with a pretty view of the valley and the dzong.

The second largest district in Bhutan has a population of approximately 28,000 and is located at an altitude of 4,300 feet. The little town is popular for the tales of shaman culture, ornamental speeches or Lozeys of Shaa, ancestral home of Pema Tshewang Tashi, the knight whose lozey still remains a favourite amongst the Bhutanese. The higher reaches of the valley provides rich pastureland for cattle. The district is also known for its fine bamboo work and its slate carvings.

Wangdue played a critical role in unifying the western, central and southern districts in the 17th century. Summers in Wangdue are moderately hot and winters are cool. The exotic black necked cranes can be seen in Wangdue.

Attractions

  • Gangtey Goenpa
  • Phobjikha Valley
  • Wangdue Phodrang Dzong

Punakha

Punakha district is a significant place in Bhutanese history and it is still given the importance it deserves. One of the most beautiful valleys in Bhutan it attracts many tourists.

Punakha is relatively warmer compared to many other places in Bhutan. In Punakha, the temperature varies from 35 degree Celsius during summer to negative 4 degree Celsius during winters.

Punakha is the winter residence of the central monk body, the summer residence being Thimphu. With Phochhu (male) and Mochhu (female) rivers flowing through the valley, the fertile land of Punakha is popular for growing organic vegetables, fruits and rice. Khuruthang is the main town of Punakha which is about four kilometers from the dzong.

Attractions

  • Punakha Dzong
  • Chimi Lhakhang
  • Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang (Nunnery)

Haa Velley

At 2,670m is another beautiful valley, quite like Paro but being higher, rice crops are not grown here. The main crops of the valley are wheat, barley, millet and Potatoes.

In ancient times, this was an active trading post, through Amo chu valley, which linked Bhutan with Dromo (Chumbi) valley of Tibet. Large areas are occupied by Indian Military training camp center, one of the reasons why this area was closed for tourists until 2001. In terms of the sights, there is not much to see here but the valley is quite beautiful and there are some large and interesting villages. Places you can visit here are Lhakang Karpo and Lakhang Nagpo and Yading Village.

There are two roads connecting Haa, both of which are scenic. The road across Chele la pass to Paro is 61kms and takes about 2½ hours drive. The other road follows the gorge of Ha Chu and Wang Chu rivers for 2 hours to Chuzom, (river confluence and the road junction). From Chuzom, Thimphu is 1 hour north east, Paro is ½ hour drive north west and Phuntsholing is 4 hours to the south.

Attractions

  • Chhundu Lhakhang
  • Juneydrak Hermitage
  • Lhakhang Karpo & Nakpo

Bumthang

Bumthang comprises four major valleys – Chokor, Tang, Ura and Chhumey. It’s known as the most sacred district in the country because Guru Rinpoche healed a local king here and brought about the acceptance of Buddhism in Bumthang and subsequently the whole country. It has famous “nyes” (sacred sites) which pilgrims from all over the country visit. Bumthang is also known for its natural scenic beauty, apples, organic apple juice, cheese and the colourful yathra cloth.

Bumthang has an individuality that charms its visitors and separates it from other regions. Comprising of four smaller valleys namely Tang, Ura, Choekhor and Chumey, the deeply spiritual region of Bumthang is shrouded in religious legend. Bumthang is also the traditional home to the great Buddhist teacher Pema Linga to whose descendants the present dynasty traces its origin.

Attractions

  • Jakar Dzong Fortress
  • Wangdicholing Palace
  • Mebartsho

Trashigang

Not many tourists make it to Trashigang as it requires a lot of driving around but it is the focal point of eastern Bhutan and used to be a centre of trade with Tibet. At present, the main town is a small parking space surrounded by shops and crammed with cars in the centre of which stands a huge prayer wheel. The prayer wheel serves as a rest place and vegetable stall on most days. The dzong offers an overarching view of the valley below and is unusual for the fact that both administrative and monastic bodies face a single dochey (courtyard).

Attractions

  • Gom Kora
  • Trashigang Dzong

Trongsa

It’s a sleepy but pleasant town, seven hours’ drive from the Capital. You can get a fine view of the Black Mountain Range towards the southwest. A major part of the town’s population comprise of Bhutanese of Tibetan descent. Tibetans immigrated to this part of the country in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The Thruepang Palace where the third king was born is located in Trongsa but it’s closed to visitors. The small town has a great historical significance because all the kings of Bhutan were invested with the title of Trongsa Penlop before ascending the throne. The first and second Kings ruled from Trongsa.

Attractions

  • Chendebje Chorten
  • Trongsa Dzong Fortress
  • Kuenga Rabten Palace