Find your Zen in these 15 best places in Bhutan
Exploring the Dzongs, temples, legends & faith of Bhutan
What lies beneath the shrouds of the mighty eastern Himalayas that snuggle Bhutan? Would it reveal the Druk(Bhutanese for thunder dragon) to roar and rip across the beautiful valleys? Or, would it be the Zen to unravel before your eyes, unruffled by the storms of life?(the long-train of Buddhist monks are as omnipresent in Bhutan as the monasteries, dzongs, the prayer flags and chants that reverberate in the air). The staggering beauty of the land, the ancient traditions and undying values followed by its people till date, the serenity that pervades the ethos of the place…Would this be the Shangri La(a utopian world in the Himalayas visualized by the author James Hilton in his book, the Lost Horizon) materialized on earth?
Follow the trails of Happiness – the best places to visit in Bhutan
Tucked away from the spoils and riches of the modern world, Bhutan’s old-world charm is a retreat away from the mundane and chaos of daily life.
Discover your trail to the havens to peace in the temples and monasteries, the peaks of adventure and swathes of undisturbed wilderness in the Himalayas. Be it the iconic attractions, or the offbeat getaways, the land’s allure and its people’s simplicity hold a promise – happiness to take home, in the many things to do in Bhutan. So, where would you begin?
Travel back in time, into Bhutan’s HISTORY & CULTURE – visiting the Dzongs
You will not stop marvelling at these vignettes from the past, literally! The fortresses or dzongs were of special military significance, during the olden times and, they sport a distinct Old-Tibetan architectural style. With massive walls housing a complex of temples, courtyards, administrative offices, the dzongs are a treasury of old-world relics. Lately, they have turned into cultural hubs to host important festivities of the region. You will literally travel back in time, as you step into the premises of the dzongs.
Some of the iconic Dzongs of Bhutan are:
The seat of power of the Wangchuck dynasty, and the rulers therefrom, Trongsa Dzong’s strategic location, made it the ‘forefront of the warriors”. Perched high on a mountain, above the MangdeChhu gorge, the Dzong offers excellent views both to the east and the west. Eager for more history-bytes about Bhutan’s kings and kinship? Visit the museum, which was once the watch tower of the Dzong.
Location: Trongsa Dzongkhag
A dzong associated with a legend of an evil spirit? That’s what the name Semtokha translates to, which led to the construction of Dzong to ward off the demon. Adding to the mystical aspect is the statue of the chief protective deity of Bhutan in its central tower! That is not all! The Dzong houses the bed chambers of the father of Bhutan’s first king and the first leader of united Bhutan, making it one of the must-visit places in the country!
It was the venue for the royal wedding of the king of Bhutan in 2011. It enshrines the remains of the unifier of Bhutan-ZhabdrungNgawang Namgyal, along with a sacred relic, which is believed to be a miracle-bearer! A plethora of murals about Buddha’ s life adorns its halls. That is Punakha Dzong, which stands tall at the confluence of Bhutan’s two major rivers, the Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu-offering spectacular vistas all around.
Popularly hailed as the “castle of the white bird”, the dzong stands out as an iconic feature in the Chamkhar valley. The prominent feature of this dzong is its 50 m high central tower or utse, which is very distinct from the rest of the dzongs in Bhutan. That apart, a secret passage within the structure, leading to a protected water supply,during siege, is well-preserved till date!
Here is a Dzong that was built in layers, at different times! Ravaged by fire and earthquake, and reconstructed in 1902, the Dzong assumes a significant political stature- as the seat of the Bhutan government since 1952, housing the throne, and other important ministries of the government.
Located near the banks of the Wang Chhu river, amid beautifully landscaped lawns and gardens, Tashichho Dzong is one of the best places to visit in Bhutan.
Follow the pilgrim’s path to happiness in Bhutan: – Temples and monasteries
The beliefs and traditions of the Bhutanese are enshrined in the numerous temples and monasteries sprinkled across the region. Steeped in legends of yore and surrounded by the unfazed wilderness of the Himalayas, the shrines draw you to a different universe altogether(figuratively, that is). Is it in such realms that one experiences heightened bliss? Visit the temples and monasteries of Bhutan to find out!
1.The Tiger’s nest temple / Taktsang Lhakhang
The temple stands on a cliff face, 900 m above the Paro valley. Legend has it that Guru Rimpoche had flown to this site , on the back of a tiger and meditated in a cave, during 7th century AD! A temple was therefore constructed at this site to commemorate the Guru’s time spent here. The sacred heritage site is one of the holiest places in Bhutan drawing natives and tourists alike!
Location: Paro valley
2.Buddha Dordenma statue:
Feel drawn into an aura of peace and happiness, as you look in awe at the towering 51 m high statue of the Buddha. Gilded in bronze and gold, the massive statue sits on a throne, which also serves as a meditation hall. Wondering what the gigantic statue has in store?Don’t be surprised to learn that more that there are about 100,000 figurines of Buddha, placed inside!
What happened in the Bhutan of yore, when an ogress tried to thwart the spread of Buddhism? A mighty Tibetan king SongstsenGampobuilds a temple,overnight, where the ogress lay.
Hailed as the sacred jewel of Bhutan, Kyichu’s ornate architecture would be something to reckon with. The temple is also believed to have been visited by Guru Padmasambhava during the 8th century!
Location: Paro valley
Enveloped in auspiciousness, is the 12th century temple, perched on a ridge in central Thimpu. Lhakhang enshrines the protector deity – Tamdrim. That apart, a thing of beauty about the temple are the intricate murals of the insides, the black and gold prayer wheels and, the spectacular views of the valley from the pilgrim path!
Ever wondered about the origin of DramitseNgacham – the popular UNESCO world heritage listed dance of Bhutan? It was here at Dramitse Lhakhang! Built in the 16th century by the daughter of the renowned religious treasure seeker – Pema Lingpa, the Lhakhang is one of the most religious sites in Bhutan.
What adds to the beauty of the place is its location in Mongar, where the approach roads through high cliffs and verdure forestlands, make the journey worth it!
HAPPINESS is in the “picture-perfect” – Soak in the beauty of Bhutan’s scenic locales
Dramatic landscapes characterised by verdant forestlands, deep valleys, towering peaks, crystal clear river streams, Bhutan offers you a fresh breath energy. So, breathe in the lushness of the region , as you pass through these scenic routes(listing a few among many), worth every click and snapshots!
For a spectacular and panoramic view of the Himalayan mountain range, head to Dochunga pass Dotted with about 108 chortens, the pass lies between Punakha and Thimpu, and, is a popular picnic spot for natives and tourists.
Picturesque from every angle, the Paro valley starts at the confluence of the two mighty rivers of Bhutan and stretches upto Mt Jomalhari on the Tibetan border. Covered by rice-fields, alongside meandering river streams, the traditional-style houses along with the numerous temples and monasteries add to the charm of the place.
Popular for its hot springs, pristine forests and scenic locales and the indigenous Layaps(herd community), Gasa sports some of the most challenging treks in the Himalayas – the Snowman trek. That apart, the picturesque location of its Dzong, which stood vanguard against many invasions, makes Gasa a crowd-puller amongst tourists!
A popular attraction in the Wangdue Phodrangregion (one of the largest in Bhutan), the valley is home to rare and exotic species of the wild-especially the black-necked crane. Playing conducive to the wildlife diversity of the region are the valley’s diverse climatic features(subtropical forests in the south to snowy regions in the north).
Being one of the smallest Dzongkhags of Bhutan, Haa is not as touristy compared to other regions. Hence, you will experience a burst of wilderness in the alpine forests and the mountain peaks that are found in the region. Home to many nomadic tribes and comprising the Torsa Strict Nature Reserve, Haa is also popular for its biking and hiking trails.
So, breathe in the freshness of your surroundings,sink in, into the harmony of nature. Feel the surge of happiness- to discover a world (just like Bhutan) within you, unfazed and unspoilt – Could this be the Shangri La you were seeking all your life?
Let us know of your experiences in the comments below!
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