Tiger's Nest Monastery, or Paro Taktsang, is one of the most beautiful places in Bhutan to visit. Having great religious significance and serving as one of the prime tourist destinations of the country, Tiger's Nest Monastery offers beautiful and splendid views of the surroundings. Located on an upper cliff in the Paro Valley, this monastery is undoubtedly an architectural marvel.
Tango Monastery enriches one's travel experience with its serene aura and quaint environment keeping in with Bhutanese tradition of focusing on spirituality more than fancy facades. Located near the Cheri Mountains in Thimphu, the Tango Monastery is a prominent Buddhist learning centre in Bhutan. The one-hour long hike up to the top of the monastery is worthwhile.
One of the finest examples of architecture, the Rinpung Dzong, also known as the Paro Dzong, has a very spiritual environment. Beautifully lit-up at night, the dzong has many illustrations portraying the life of Buddha. A hike to the top of the fortress welcomes you with the spectacular view of nearby valleys. The dzong also holds the colourful annual festival Paro Tshechu which makes it even more impressive than it already is.
Tashichho Dzong is a fortress located about 2 km away from the city of Thimphu in Bhutan. It had been constructed in 1641 and underwent several restorations since then. It currently serves both as a monastery and the central secretariat of the present government. Also known as the "fortress of the glorious religion", it is found right on the banks of the Wangchhu River.
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Dzongs are administrative districts (and monasteries) in Bhutan and Punakha Dzong is the second oldest and second-largest dzong in the country. It was here that the first national assembly was held in 1953 and it remained the seat of the Government of Bhutan until 1955. Not only does this dzong boast of Bhutanese architectural marvel, but it also remains culturally important for housing sacred relics of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism and the sacred remains of Ngawang Namgyal, the Tibetan Buddhist lama and unifier of the country of Bhutan.
Dechen Phodrang, also known as Palace of great bliss, is a monastic school (Lobra) in Thimphu. It is home to above 500 monks and provides them with a prestigious eight-year course. Situated on a valley 4km away from Gaden Lam, it offers a mesmerising view of Thimphu. This two storey splendid dzong houses many ancient paintings and the central statue of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, which are truly picturesque.
Built-in 7th century, Kyichu Lhakhang is a beautiful monastery of great significance. Also known as Lho Kyerchu or Kyerchu Temple, this monastery is situated in Lango Gewog of Paro in Bhutan. The Jowo temple dates back to the 7th century, gaining the title of one of the oldest temples in Bhutan.
The Memorial Chorten, also known as Thimphu Chorten/ Memorial Stupa is one of the tallest monuments in Thimphu. Located in the southern central part of the city, in Doeboom Lam, the Stupa attracts tourists from all around the globe with its elegant architecture. The Chorten is a place that would give you an insight into Buddhism through its great artwork, wall carvings and marvellous sculptures. This ancient monument highlights Buddhist culture, serving as a great place to wander around while enjoying the aura of the site.
Zuri Dzong is one of the oldest dzongs in Bhutan dating back to 12th century. Rich in history and royal in values, the cave in the area is believed to be the site where Buddha meditated in the 8th century. Protected by double walls and a bridge, this five-storey building is also an ideal place to hike. Apart from its historical significance, the Zuri Dzong is one of those places where you can enjoy the mesmerising view of Paro Valley.
Bhutan's first-ever monastery, Cheri Gompa was founded in 1620 by Zhabrung Ngawang Namgyal. An hour-long hike to Cheri Gompa's topmost part greets you with a picturesque view of lush valleys and green forests. The trail takes you through Tango Monastery, crossing the bridge over Wang chhu which then leads you to Cheri Goemba. A significant attraction of the Goemba is a silver chorten which holds the ashes of Zhabrung's father. Apart from this, it's a meditation retreat so make sure you don't distract anyone who's there.
Located by a mountain river, Khurje Lhakhang consists of three beautiful temples. The oldest temple contains the rock which has the imprint of Guru Rinpoche's body and hence is considered to be the holiest. Another temple was constructed on the site where Guru Rinpoche had meditated. The third was constructed by the Queen Mother Ashi Kesang. The three temples are also surrounded by a 108 chorten wall. The Kurjey Lhakhang is where the festival of Kurjey Tshechu takes place in Summer.
Tamshing Lhakhang is a monastery just across the river from Kurje Lhakhang. For those with an interest in art in general and paintings in particular, this site is highly recommended. It has a number of ancient paintings such as that of 1000 Buddhas and 21 Taras. It is also where the famous masked dance and other sacred dances take place. The festival Tamshing Phala Chhoepa also takes place in Autumn.
The most significant tourist destination in Lhuentse, Lhuentse Dzong has a rich history combined with intricate architectural details. Located in the Kuri Chhu Valley, Lhuentse Dzong is a fine example of Bhutanese architecture. It is the pride of Lhuentse residents who fondly speak of this little monastery to tourists and outsiders. This is where Lhuentse Tshechu takes place every year. You can spot various colours if you visit the dzong around Tshechu.
Jambey Lhakhang is considered to be one of the oldest and most sacred temples in Bhutan and is also where a number of festivals are celebrated. One could also play witness to the sacred rituals and dances performed by the monks and locals in colourful and vibrant costumes and marvel at wonderful carvings and architecture. It is located near Khurjey Lhakhang and is a 10-minute drive from Chamkhar town. Following appropriate etiquette for attire is advisable.
Located at 3 hours uphill trek from Thimphu, Phajoding Monastery is one of the most peaceful sites in Bhutan. Currently, it is a residence for around 30 monks, all of whom are very friendly to talk to. Built in 13th century, the architecture of this monastery is simple, yet attractive. It is best visited for the spectacular view of Thimphu which it provides.
Gangtey Goemba is located at the top of a hill and provides a magnificent view of the entire Phobjikha valley. It is a very significant site related to Saint Pema Lingpa, the reincarnation of Guru Rinpoche who introduced Buddhism in the country and uncovered its treasures. It also houses one of the largest halls in Bhutan. The prominent festivals are the Gangety Tsechu and the Black Necked Crane festival (in which young children dress up as the cranes to welcome their arrival).
Apart from being historical and architecturally beautiful, these provide tranquillity to mind. They are a perfect escape from the regular chaos in the cities, which never seems to end. But here, there is no mayhem. All that prevails is serenity!