Top 40 Places to Visit and Things to Do In Bhutan

Posted on 08/August/2020

 

Top 40 Places to Visit and Things to Do In Bhutan

 

Ancient monasteries. Vibrant festivals. Unique culture. Breath-taking landscapes. Delicious food. Profound spirituality. It is no surprise that the once isolated Kingdom of Bhutan is voted as Lonely Planet Top Country to Visit in 2020.

Bhutan is divided into 20 districts known as dzongkhags. The number of districts you cover in your trip will largely depend on the number of days you have in the country.

Typically, on a 5-day trip to Bhutan you will be able to explore Thimphu, Punakha and Paro districts. If you have 7 days, you can travel further to the charm of Gangtey and if you have 10 days to explore, you will be able to travel to central Bhutan and check out the beautiful Bumthang and tranquil Trongsa.

Speak to the friendly travel consultants at Druk Asia, and we will whip up the best itinerary for you based on your interests.

Below are some best things to see and do in Bhutan.

Thimphu

Thimphu is the capital of Bhutan and it is also the largest city in the country, located in the western region. Thimphu is also the political and economic hub of the country where it houses most of the important political buildings in the country. Many of the locals from rural places also migrate to Thimphu to seek employment. This vibrant city contains a rustic charm that has much to offer to travellers.

1. Buddha Dordenma

Buddha Dordenma

 

 

Buddha Dordenma also known as Buddha Point is definitely an attraction in Bhutan. This sitting Buddha statue measuring 51.5m in height is one of the largest sitting Buddha statues in the world. The Buddha Dordenma statue is made of solid bronze and gilded with gold paint, including all of the 125,000 smaller Buddha statues that have been placed within the large statue; 100,000 statues of which are 8-inches-tall and 25,000 statues of which are 12 inches tall. Visitors can enter into a majestic meditation hall with beautifully carved pillars painted in gold, and a gold statue of the four-faced Buddha. While walls are elegantly painted with murals of Buddhism. This picturesque place will definitely have a spot on your IG feed. From Buddha Point, you can also have an overview of the Thimphu city.

 

 

2. Tashichho Dzong

 

 

Tashichho Dzong (fortress), or commonly known as Thimphu Dzong, is an impressive structure situated in the northern part of Thimphu city. Tashichho Dzong has been the seat of the government since 1952 and currently houses the throne room and offices of the king, the secretariat and the ministries of home affairs and finance. As a tourist, you will not be allowed to visit the Royal and government offices, but you can certainly visit the monastery and admire the marvellous architecture and surroundings of the dzong. One of the most prominent things you will notice upon arriving at the dzong would be the Bhutan national flag flying splendidly outside the building. If you visit Bhutan from April to July, you will see a stretch of colourful rhododendron flowers greeting you along the pathway. Or if you visit in March, you may also be in luck to see the blooming cherry trees!

 

 

3. Jungshi Handmade Paper Factory

 

 

Pay a visit to Jungshi Handmade Paper Factory to witness the making of authentic Bhutanese paper known as deh-soh. These sehsoh are produced using the traditional method that has been practiced for many generations. This ancient craft is one of the thirteen traditional arts of Bhutan that is still being preserved. The barks of daphne tree and dhekap tree are used to manufacture the papers. Deh-sho papers were originally used in monasteries for woodblock, manuscripts, and writing of prayer books.

You can try your hand at this ancient craft. You can also find other products like stationeries and greeting cards that will make unique souvenirs.

 

 

4. Shopping at The Craft Gallery

For the best Bhutanese products you will find in Bhutan, visit the The Craft Gallery, a store located in Thimphu town. The two-storeyed shop showcases some of the finest crafts by the local artisans. The Craft Gallery is a project of the Gyalyum Charitable Trust, initiated by Queen Mother Sangay Choden Wangchuck. Aside from promoting authentic quality Bhutanese products, the Gallery also strives to provide a sustainable stream of income to the artisans. Thus, by purchasing from the Gallery, you are directly contributing to the cause of various non-profit organisations and local artisans. You can find all kinds of local products such as shawls, honey, embroidery products, jewellery and textiles. It’s definitely a great place for a one-stop souvenir shopping if you’re planning to grab some souvenirs for friends and family back home.

5. Royal Textile Academy

Weaving is an integral part of the Bhutanese culture and tradition. Through the Royal Textile Academy, you will be able to learn about the textile heritage, different weaving styles and the intricacies of the Bhutanese textile. You will get to see the different intricate patterns of the Bhutanese textiles learn about the patterns that originated from the different districts. Upon visiting the centre, you will be able to better appreciate the beautiful traditional costumes, Kira and Gho that you see the locals wear on the street.

6. Simply Bhutan

Simply Bhutan is an interactive museum that offers you an excellent guided introduction to different aspects of the traditional Bhutanese life. This place is a great place for your induction to Bhutan. For instance, you will get to understand how to dress up in Bhutanese traditional clothes, how to distill ara (rice wine), and you will even get to enjoy some local butter tea, watch the local dance performance as well as learn how they construct their beautiful homes out of rammed earth. The infrastructure in this museum primarily portrays the ancient Bhutanese architecture. The structure of the museum itself is built reusing old timber, door and window frames and numerous other materials from demolished houses. Unlike most museums where you aren’t allowed to touch the artifacts or take photographs, you are free to snap away freely here. You can also try a hand at the archery and the local dart game known as Khuru.

You will also get to meet Pema Tshering, a talented foot artist who is diagnosed with cerebral palsy. There is a little shop inside Simply Bhutan where Pema does his wood carving and painting using his foot. If you see him, don’t hesitate to say hello and support his artwork, he will be greeting you with his dazzling smile for sure!

 

 

7. Folk Heritage Museum

 

 

Folk heritage museum is set inside a three storeyed 19th century traditional house. The museum provides visitors with a glimpse of traditional Bhutanese lifestyles and artifacts in a traditional household. You will see a collection of household objects, tools and equipment in a typical Bhutanese home. The museum perfectly recaptures the rural setting and ambience of a traditional household as you get to witness the paddy, wheat and millet fields set up, a traditional water-mill with mill stones that is more than 150 years old, as well as traditional kitchen gardens and hot stone baths that are famous throughout the country. Visiting the museum will definitely allow you to learn more about the local culture, customs and traditions.

8. Motithang Takin Preserve

 

 

The Takin Preserve is a wildlife reserve area for Takin, the national animal of Bhutan. It’s also commonly known as the Takin Enclosure of Takin Zoo. The mini zoo was converted into a preserve when it was found that the Takin refrained from inhabiting the surrounding forest even when set free. The declaration of Takin as the national animal was related to the local myth from 15th century. The famous Tibetan saint, Drukpa Kunley, popularly known as the “Divine Madman” is said to be responsible for the creation of this unique creature called Takin, a gnu goat that resembles an ox but more closely related to a sheep. Some has claimed that Takin is one of the most queer looking animals that they have ever seen!

Tips: After visiting the Takin Preserve, request for your guide to bring you to the BBS Tower. Just a 5 to 10 minutes drive to the upper part of the road will lead to Sangaygang BBS (Bhutan Broadcasting Station) Tower at 2,685 meters. The bird’s eye view of the entire Thimphu city will be your splendid photo background. You will get to see a lot of colourful prayer flags surrounding the BBS tower.

 

 

9. Centenary Farmers Market

Centenary Farmers Market, popularly known as the weekend market in Thimphu, is the largest domestic market of Bhutan. It is about a 10 minutes drive from the clock tower square, near Wangchhu river and just north of Changlimithang Stadium. Before the opening of the market in 2008, the farmers used to sell their produce in the open space under rows of tents. The Farmer’s Market is a two-storey building with about 400 stalls that provides farmers from around the country the opportunity to display their produce and for others to support the local agriculture. Vendors throughout the region start arriving to the capital of Thimphu on Thursday and Friday, and remain till Sunday evening. The best time to explore the market is within these three days when the rush of trade is going on. It is also a great way to get acquainted with the locals and learn about the ingredients of a Bhutanese diet.

10. Bhutan Postal Museum

 

 

The Bhutan Postal Museum is home to the world’s largest photo book and most bizarre collection of Bhutanese stamps that will intrigue any philatelist. There are five galleries in the museum that trace the development of the Bhutanese postal system, from the earliest mail runners to Bhutan's often unusual and highly collectable stamps.

One of the most interesting things that you can do in Bhutan is to get your own personalized legitimate stamps at the General Post Office for 500 Ngultrum (around USD7). It contains 12 stamps with a mix value of 30 Ngultrum, 45 Ngultrum and 50 Ngultrum. Go ahead to pick up some postcards and start sending some greetings and share some Bhutan love with your family and friends! Imagine the pleasant surprise of your family and friends when you send them a postcard with your face on the stamp!

 

 

11. National Memorial Chorten

 

 

National Memorial Chorten is a prominent stupa erected in 1974 in honor of the father of modern Bhutan, the third king of the country, His Majesty Jiqme Dorji Wangchuck. The stupa is a prominent landmark located in the heart of Thimphu city with its golden spires and bells. The Memorial Chorten is designed as a Tibetan style chorten, also called the Jangchup Chorten, has the design of a classical stupa pattern, with a pyramidal pillar crowned by a crescent moon and sun. The distinctive feature of the chorten is the outward flaring of the rounded part giving it a pyramidal shape of a vase. Do always remember to circumambulate in a clockwise direction while you are there as with any religious structures in Bhutan. You can see many elderly Bhutanese hanging out near the large prayer wheels, catching up with one another or offering prayers with the prayer beads clutched on their hands.

 

 

12. Dochula Pass

 

 

The Dochula Pass is located between Thimphu to Punakha at an elevation of 3,100 metres. There are 108 memorial chortens or stupas built by the eldest Queen Mother, Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, in honour of 108 Bhutanese soldiers who perished during the battle against Assamese insurgents in 2003. There is also a small monastery, Druk Wangyal Lhakhang nearby the monastery that was built in honour of the fourth king of Bhutan, His Majesty Singye Wangchuck who was at the forefront of the battle that eventually led the country to victory.

In commemoration of the occasion, there is a Dochula Druk Wangyel Festival held annually on December 13th in the open area in front of the temple.

This scenic spot is definitely a photography haven for the photo enthusiasts. If you are lucky, you can even see the gorgeous himalayan mountains from the pass including Gangkar Puensum, the highest mountain in Bhutan. During the winter season, the weather will be extremely chilly, do remember to have your jacket on! Sometimes, the pass might be even covered in snow.

 

 

13. Have a drink and chill at Mojo Park

For those who are wondering if there is nightlife in Bhutan, Mojo Park is definitely one of the most popular bars often frequented by locals and tourists. This unpretentious bar has a nice ambience if you would like to hang out with some chilled beers and watch local live bands. They also serve craft beers, cocktails and mojito. The bar is located in the heart of Thimphu town and open seven days a week including “dry Tuesdays” where sale of alcohols are prohibited. If music and mingling is your cup of tea, head to Mojo Park for a memorable night in Thimphu.

Punakha

Once upon a time, Punakha used to be the capital of Bhutan and the seat of government until 1955 before it was moved to Thimphu. Punakha is also the main district for rice crops production in Bhutan. When you are in Punakha, you will be greeted by beautiful sceneries of paddy fields and rice terraces. The pleasing landscapes and significant sites in the district makes it one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country.

14. Chime Lhakhang (Fertility Temple)

Chime Lhakhang (also known as Chimi Lhakhang or the Fertility Temple) is one of the highlights for a trip to Bhutan! Tourists and couples from all over the world visit the temple for fertility blessings. This sacred temple is associated with the famous Tibetan saint, Drukpa Kunley (“the Divine Madman”), who is known for his bizarre and unorthodox teachings that challenged the preconceived notions of Buddhism. He is famed for using his phallus to guide others to enlightenment and to subdue demons. This mad saint is the very reason why you see the symbol of phalluses scattered all over the country from souvenirs, wood sculptures to wall murals.

Before you reach the temple, you will usually begin your walk from Sopsokha Village where you can see shop houses in traditional Bhutanese architecture. There are also a few handicraft shops selling phallic symbol souvenirs in all colours, shapes and sizes! From the village, you will take a nice 20 mins leisure stroll passing through a large mustard and paddy field to reach the entrance of the temple.

 

 

15. Pho Chu Suspension Bridge

 

 

If you’re not afraid of heights, definitely check out the Punakha suspension bridge, the longest suspension bridge in Bhutan. It’s the spot for you to take all your OOTDs against lush green valleys as the backdrops. The bridge measuring 160 metre long is located above the broad and rapid Pho Chhu river. Traditionally, the bridge was constructed for the lamas of Punakha Dzong to visit the villages nearby. Admiring mother nature with the windy breeze brushing against you, along with the fluttering prayer flags as you stood on the bridge somehow brings an indescribable sense of calm and serenity.

16. Punakha Dzong

 

 

This magnificent dzong (fortress) is the second oldest and second largest dzong in the country. It’s also formerly named Pungtang Dechen Photrang Dzong, “The Palace of Great Happiness”. The Punakha Dzong is one of the top attractions in Bhutan due to the beautiful architecture and significant history. The building used to be the seat for the Bhutan Government before it was relocated to Tashichho Dzong in Thimphu. In fact, Punakha district used to be the ancient capital of Bhutan until 1955.

The fortress is also the venue for the royal wedding ceremony of the fifth king, His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and Queen Jetsun Pema in 2011.

If you visit Bhutan in May, you will be able to witness some breathtaking jacaranda blooms in the courtyard of the fortress. The dzong is also located between the Pho Chhu (female) and Mo Chhu (male) river making it absolutely picturesque and instaworthy.

 

 

17. Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Nunnery

 

 

Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Nunnery overlooks the stunning Punakha and Wangduephodrang valleys from the courtyard. The nunnery was built to serve as a college to train nuns and currently houses about 120 nuns. The double storeyed complex is a showcase of the finest craftsmanship in Bhutanese architecture skillfully crafted by local artisans. The complex also functions as a meditation center for nuns and offers life skill training to nuns including Thangka painting, embroidery, tailoring and sculpting. You can immerse yourself in meditation sessions and also observe the spiritual practice of the nuns in the nunnery. The temple is also home to the tallest Avalokiteshvara statue in Bhutan at 14 feet. There is also a striking chorten resembling Nepal’s Boudhanath Stupa at the compound.

 

 

18. Whitewater rafting in Punakha

If you are an adrenaline junkie or thrill seeker, you can do whitewater rafting in Punakha. It is definitely a fun activity to do with your friends and family. You will be rafting through the crystal clear rivers and get to admire the magnificent Punakha Dzong as you glide past it. No prior experience is required for the rafting as long as you do not mind getting a little wet by the end of it. The white water rafting can be enjoyed by all including young children and grandparents. What better way to enjoy a holiday than to soak in the beautiful landscapes of Bhutan on a raft as you continue to snap photos that will be etched on your memories!

Paro

Paro is a significant district in Bhutan with many sacred sites and historical buildings. It is also where the one and only international airport for the country is located. It is the perfect blend of ancient and modern charm.

19. Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest)

 

 

This iconic landmark of Bhutan is no stranger to the world! In fact, a trip to Bhutan is said to be incomplete without a visit to this majestic temple perched atop the cliffside some 2,600 feet above. Seeing this spectacular monastery with your own eyes will make you wonder how was this architectural feat accomplished in the 16th century! The trek up and down Tiger’s Nest can take anywhere between 3.5 hours to 9 hours depending on your fitness. It is advisable to start your trek early to avoid the afternoon heat. Remember to pack light and wear comfortable shoes for a smooth trekking experience. And of course, enjoy the gorgeous views along the way and take plenty of photos to preserve your memories! Throughout the climb, you will see many locals of all ages including toddler as young as 2 years old making their way up the Tiger’s Nest. Parents carrying their infants on the back or elderly on walking sticks are also a common sight. They will definitely serve as a motivation for you to trek your way up to the peak!

 

 

20. Paro Dzong

 

 

Paro Dzong, also known as Rinpung Dzong, “Fortress of the Heaps of Jewels” is a very distinguished building in the Paro district. You can also get a glimpse of it when your flight lands in Paro International Airport. The dzong was built in 1644 under the instruction of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel. Formerly, it used to serve as a fort to defend Paro valley against Tibet invasions. This ancient fortress is closely situated near the Paro town and is easily accessible. Like most dzongs, it currently houses the monastic body as well as the district government offices.

During the popular Paro Tshechu (masked dance festival), usually held in March, thousands of people will flock the courtyard of the dzong in their best attire to join in the special occasion.

Some of the scenes from Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1993 film Little Buddha were also filmed in Paro Dzong.

 

 

21. Kyichu Lhakhang

Kyichu Lhakhang (also known as Lho Kyerchu or Kyerchu) is the oldest and one of the most beautiful temples in Bhutan. It’s also revered as one of the most beautiful worship sites and a sacred jewel of Bhutan. The original temple was said to have been built overnight and used to be a smaller structure prior to the expansion. This spectacular temple has a very quiet and serene ambience that fosters a contemplative space. You are sure to feel more calm and relaxed as you stepped foot into this sacred site. You can also see many elderly circumambulating the temple spinning the prayer wheels. There is also a magical extraordinary orange tree outside the courtyard that is said to bear fruits all year round!

22. Experience Hot Stone Bath at Aum Choden Homestay

One of the most authentic Bhutanese experiences you can have in the Land of Thunder Dragon is definitely pampering yourself with a hot stone bath! Aum Choden Homestay is a two storey traditional Bhutanese house that is 108 years old. It has a rustic charm that will leave you feeling rejuvenated.

Soaking in a medicinal hot stone bath is recommended for those who would like to immerse themselves in the local culture. The locals usually soak themselves in hot stone bath once or twice weekly and it is believed that the hot stone bath has healing properties. Stones are fire-roasted and plunged into the wooden bath tub. Medicinal hot stone bath can help to alleviate some health issues such as stomach ache, hypertension, arthritis or joint pains.

Aside from hot stone baths, some of the activities you can do there include archery, darts, trying out the traditional costumes, Gho and Kira, and demonstrations of Bhutanese cooking.

23. Chele La Pass

Chele La Pass is the highest mountain pass in Bhutan at 3810m (13,000ft) and situated between Paro and Haa valley. The drive to the pass is through either Paro or Haa valley through thick dense forests. If you are lucky and the skies are clear, you can see the magnificent views of Mount Jomolhari, Jichu Drake and other peaks from the pass. The best time to visit Chele La pass is during spring from March to June, where you can see beautiful rhododendrons greeting you along the pass. However, during the winter season, you can also witness the spectacular views of the snow-capped mountains. You will definitely be mesmerised by the stunning mountain views and lush green valleys.

Haa Valley

Haa is one of the most beautiful and pristine places in Bhutan with untouched natural beauty. It is one of the smallest districts and least populated valleys in Bhutan. Another name of Haa is Hidden Land of Rice Valley. If you are looking for a peaceful getaway, Haa valley is definitely a great option to embrace some tranquility and unwind.

24. Exploring Haa Valley

You can take a stroll along Haa Chu river that flows right through the center of the valley. There are also a lot of great picnic spots in Haa valley and it’s a great place for bird watching. You will also walk past paddy fields, observe traditional wooden houses and transverse through Bhutanese villages. The main crops planted in Haa valley are rice, barley and wheat. You can also mingle with the friendly locals who are sure to greet you with a warm smile.

Haa valley is also a paradise for hikers and trekkers as some of the best trekking and mountain biking routes are organised around this area. One of the most popular festivals for the Haa tribes, nomads and locals is the Haa Summer Festival that is usually held in July.

Gangtey / Phobjikha valley

Gangtey also known as Phobjikha valley is a U-shaped valley with breathtaking views and abundant yaks that arrive from higher altitude to seek some warmth from the freezing weather. Winter is the best time to be in Gangtey with the crisp blue skies and chilly weather. Sometimes, the weather can be really strong too. Do ensure that you bring along some thick winter clothes to keep you warm. Aside from winter, Gangtey is also an ideal place to visit during Spring (March - May) due to the ideal weather conditions and beautiful blooms in the valley.

25. Experience Black-necked Cranes Festival

The black-necked cranes festival is celebrated annually on November 11, coinciding with the birthday of the fourth king, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck. It is a special occasion held at the courtyard of Gangtey Goemba (Monastery) where locals celebrate the arrival of the endangered and majestic bird from the Tibetan Plateau. The black-necked cranes are amongst the rarest cranes in the world and they migrate to Phobjikha valley during the winter months between October to February. The black-necked cranes are revered as a symbol of longevity and are honoured and protected by the local communities. The black-necked crane festival is one of Bhutan’s most famous festivals that showcases Bhutanese cultural heritage through masked folk dances and songs, and also raises awareness about conservation issues.

26. Gangtey Goemba

 

 

Gangtey Goemba or Gangtey Monastery is a beautiful temple located on the hilltop, overlooking the stunning views of Phobjikha Valley. The temple was founded by one of Bhutan’s famous treasure revealers, Pema Lingpa in 1963. It is not just the locals who visit this humble and simple temple but even the black-necked cranes can be seen circling around the temple clockwise three times each year when they arrive and before they depart from their winter home. How sacred and mystical!

 

 

27. Gangtey Nature Trail

Gangtey Nature trail is a relatively easy 4km hike as compared to Tiger’s Nest. It takes about 1.5 hours to 2 hours to complete and it is one of the most popular choices for travellers who enjoy some leisurely walks in nature. It’s also one of the shortest nature trails in Bhutan that begins from just below the Gangtey monastery. The hike will take you downhill through the pine forest to a traditional village known as Semchubara. The path will continue through the primary marshland of the valley and ends in Khewa Lhakhang. You will be passing through some spectacular sceneries of the valley. If you visit during the winter season, you will also be able to watch the majestic black-necked cranes flying through the valleys.

28. Tenkhor Yuetshe Trek

This is a leisurely and enjoyable walk through a cluster of charming traditional villages. You will be able to observe the traditional Bhutanese village life as you transverse through the beautiful valleys and vast open plains. This route is just slightly longer than Gangtey Nature Trail and will take approximately 2-3 hours to complete. Instead of following the path leading down the valley, this trail continues on a dirt road upwards into the first left side valley, where it will lead you into Jangchu Kemba Village. From there, you will continue on a path that leads you to the quaint villages and descend through the marsh land near Khewa Lhakhang.

Bumthang

Bumthang literally translated as ‘beautiful field’ is one of the most historic districts in Bhutan where some of the oldest and most venerated Buddhist temples are founded including Jambay Lhakhang. Bumthang, also known as Jakar is located in central Bhutan. It was here that Buddhism was first introduced to Bhutan. The district comprises four valleys: Chokhor, Tang, Chhume and Ura. Bumthang is also famous for the production of wheat, buckwheat, dairy products and potatoes. Beautiful apple orchards and dairy farms are also commonly seen in Bumthang.

29. Kurjey Lhakhang

 

 

Nestled on the side of a hill, surrounded by 108 chorten walls, the complex houses three revered temples, namely: Guru Lhakhang, Sampa Lhundrup Lhakhang and Ka Gon Phor Sum Lhakhang. This large temple complex is filled with great religious significance. The main attraction of Kurjey Lhakhang is the upper floor of the temple where it houses 1000 small statues of Guru Rinpoche. It is also said that behind a wall on the floor leads to a meditative cave that is prohibited for public access where Guru Rinpoche meditated for three months in the 8th century. There is also a huge cypress tree near the entrance of the temple which is believed to have sprouted from Guru Rinpoche’s walking stick.

 

 

30. Jambay Lhakhang

According to legend, this temple is said to be one of the 108 temples built by the Tibetan King Songtsen Goenpo in 659 AD on a single day to pin down the body of a demoness. The tale states that the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo built a series of temples throughout the Himalayas, each one to help pin down the different parts of the ogress. Four were built to pin down her shoulders and hips; four more on the elbows and knees; and four to hold down her hands and feet. It was believed that Jambay Lhakhang was built to pin down the left knee of the ogress. The one storey complex is famous for its annual festival Jambay Lhakhang Drup as much as for its legends. The festival was held to honour Guru Rinpoche who consecrated the Jambay Lhakhang temple.

31. Jakar Dzong

 

 

Jakar Dzong or Jakar Yugyal Dzong is the dzong or fortress of the Bumthang district. It is located on a ridge above Jakar town in the Chamkhar (Chokhor) valley of Bumthang. Jakar means ‘white bird’ and Jakar Dzong is known as the Fortress of White Bird. It is said that a white bird flew and perched on the ridge of where Jakar Dzong is situated. A lama took this as a good omen. Traditionally, the Dzong played an important role as the fortress of defence of the eastern districts. It was also the seat of the first king of Bhutan.

There are two unique features of the fortress compared to the other fortresses in the country. Firstly, the Utse (central tower) is 50 meters high and secondly, the fortress has two parallel walls, interconnected by fortified towers, which provide the population access with water in the case of a siege.

 

 

32. Burning Lake Mebar Tsho

 

 

This beautiful freshwater lake is also a popular attraction in Bumthang. This picturesque lake is surrounded by colourful prayers flags and there is a small altar dedicated to Pema Lingpa, the famous treasure revealer. It is said that Pema Lingpa jumped into the lake and re-emerged with a chest and a scroll of paper with butterlamp on his hand. The locals also offer butter lamps at the lake during special occasions. There are also stacks of tsa tsa (small conical clay moulds) that can be found around the lake area. Tsa tsas are believed to carry spiritual power and are often engraved with Buddhist symbols and sometimes contain human ash or bone. Each tsa-tsa is an ancient prayer for the well-being of a beloved human - living or departed. The locals believe that these miniature stupas evoke the same powers as the largest stupas. You can also see tsa tsas outside the fortresses, chorten or temples.

 

 

33. Bumthang brewery and cheese factory

The micro-brewery and Swiss Farm in Bumthang was founded by a Swiss national, Fritz Maurer in 1996. Fritz married a Bhutanese and went on to set up the first of its kind brewery in Bhutan, producing draught beer, apple cider, wine, apple brandy and juice. This is also the brewery that produces the famous Bhutan beer “Red Panda Beer”, an unfiltered, preservative free brew. The beers are prepared in an old school manner. Aside from the brewery, there is also a swiss farm that produces a variety of swiss cheese and is the only commercial cheese factory in Bhutan. Fritz Maurer is also credited for the introduction of the use of modern farm equipment, green technology that is fuel efficient and smokeless wood stoves that are widely used in Bumthang and Bhutan today. Both the brewery and cheese factory are located next to each other, so feel free to pop over for some beer and cheese when you are in Bumthang.

34. Yathra weaving centre

Yathra is a colourful wool weaving with intricate patterns native to Chumey valley in Bumthang. Traditionally, every household in Chumey owned a backstrap loom and young girls were taught how to weave. Yak and sheep wool were used for the weaving due to the thick fabric that is ideal for the cold weather in Bumthang. You can see women skillfully weaving the intricate designs on their backstrap loom at the Yathra Weaving Centre in Zugney and witness the dyeing of wool using natural dyes. The women in communities weave throughout the year as it is their main source of income. Thus, yathra products are uniquely souvenirs from Bumthang.

Trongsa

Trongsa, formerly known as Tongsa, is the capital of Trongsa district located in central Bhutan. Historically, Trongsa district is one of the most important districts as it was the headquarter for the eastern region and the seat of the Trongsa governor.

35. Trongsa Dzong

 

 

The magnificent trongsa dzong is easily noticeable from anywhere in town. This ancient fortress was built in 1644 and used to be the seat of the Wangchuck Dynasty before they became the rulers of Bhutan in 1907. Historically, the King of Bhutan first became the Trongsa Penlop (governor) before becoming the Crown Prince and eventually the King. This massive dzong is the largest fortress in Bhutan located on a spur overlooking the gorge of the Mangdi Chuu river. The size, strategic location and grand architecture of the dzong renders it one of the most impressive dzongs in the country.

 

 

Other things to do in Bhutan

36. Trying out Bhutanese traditional costume, Kira and Gho

You are sure to spot locals proudly wearing their traditional costumes everywhere you go throughout the country. It is no surprise that many visitors also want to purchase a set of Kira or Gho as a memento when they visit Bhutan. During your trip, you can learn to wear the traditional costumes, Gho and Kira and find the best spot for a photoshoot session. Though, they say that it is hard to get a bad shot in Bhutan! No matter where you point your camera at, it is bound to be postcard perfect.

*If you are travelling with Druk Asia, you will be given a set of traditional costumes upon your arrival. The costume is to be returned to your guide at the end of the trip.

37. Have a game of archery

 

 

Archery was made the national sport in Bhutan 1971 when Bhutan became a member of the United Nations. Archery is an integral part of Bhutanese life and you can always see men hanging out with their buddies for a game of archery throughout the country. If you would like to try your hand at archery, just let your guide know and they will be able to arrange your itinerary for you. There are many places where you can experience archery in Bhutan.

 

 

38. Indulge yourself in Bhutanese Food

 

 

You should prepare your stomach to dig into the yummy Bhutanese cuisine when you are in the country. The Bhutanese love chillies, so if you’re a spicy lover, rejoice! You will be served with ema datshi (chilli cheese) almost everyday because Bhutanese really do take their chillies seriously. Ema datshi is also the national dish of Bhutan. Even if you’re not a spicy lover, you should definitely try it at least once! Maybe, hydrate yourself with some butter tea after that. There are also other variations of cheese dishes such as kewa datshi (potato cheese) and shamu datshi (mushroom cheese). Other authentic Bhutanese food includes shakam (dried beef), phaksaa paa (sliced pork), ezay (chilli condiment), and vegetables such as ferns, turnip, spinach, pumpkin and radish. Vegetarian food is also easily available throughout the country.

 

 

39. Attending a Tsechu (masked dance festival)

One of the peak seasons in Bhutan is definitely during the festival season. Tshechu or the Mask Dance Festival is the most important religious festival in Bhutan. It is held annually in the monasteries and dzongs from all the 20 districts in the different months of the year to honour Guru Rinpoche who brought Buddhism to Bhutan in the 8th century. A Tshechu typically lasts for four or five days. It is celebrated on the tenth day of Tibetan lunar calendar corresponding to the birthday of Guru Rinpoche. Hence, the exact dates of the Tshechu in the different districts varies from year to year. The most popular Tshechus for tourists are in Paro during spring (Feb - May), as well as in Thimphu and Bumthang during autumn (Sep - Nov). You will see thousands of locals decked out in their finest clothes for the celebration.

40. Trekking in Bhutan

Bhutan is undoubtedly a paradise for hikers and trekkers as it is home to many breathtaking mountains. Spring is the favourite season for trekkers to visit Bhutan due to the ideal climate. You can also consider trekking during the winter season if you prefer to experience trekking with lesser crowds and have a more exclusive experience. Some of the renowned Himalayan mountains in Bhutan are Jitchu Drake, Jomolhari, Kangphu Kang, and the highest unclimbed mountain in the world, Gangkhar Phuesum. Below are some of the popular trekking routes in Bhutan.

  • Bumdra Trek (7 DAYS)
  • Jomolhari Trek (7 OR 11 DAYS)
  • Dagala Thousand Trek (9 DAYS)
  • Snowman Trek (28 DAYS)

For more information on the popular trekking packages in Bhutan, check out here.

Other customised tours to Bhutan

Aside from cultural and trekking tours, you are also able to embark on a customised meditation and spiritual journey as well as other special interest tours with Druk Asia such as Neykor Spiritual Tour, Photography Tour or Art Sketching Tour. Druk Asia also organises pre-wedding shoots and corporate events and meetings.

If you would like to find out more information about Bhutan, just speak to the friendly Bhutan travel specialists at Druk Asia. We will be more than happy to assist you in preparing you for the most memorable trip in Bhutan! A tourist SIM card will also be ready for you upon your arrival as Druk Asia is committed to provide you a hassle free and best travel experience in Bhutan.
 


Druk Asia Tours & Treks is an inbound Bhutan Travel Specialist based in the Kingdom of Bhutan and managed by a team of committed and dedicated professionals who are passionate about their jobs and love nothing more than sharing the charm of Bhutan with the world. As a team united by our love of Bhutan and common goal of customer satisfaction, we’re proud to say we’ve been in operation for more than a decade, with a growing team of 30 full time guides and 15 freelance guides that have brought smiles and created memories with tourists from all over the world. Check out what the travellers say about us here.

 

Planning to travel to Bhutan during a festival?

On popular dates of travel such as during festival time, flight tickets tend to get fully reserved 5 months prior. Due to limited flight and seats available, we recommend you to reserve your ticket as early as possible. You can reserve your ticket for free with us and plan your trip to Bhutan with a peace of mind knowing that you will have a spot on your flight to Bhutan.


 

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