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Thimphu is the capital of Bhutan and the largest town in Bhutan. It lies at an altitude of 2400 metres . All Government headquarters and centre for trade are located here. The following are the places of tourist attraction in Thimphu:
1. Tashichho Dzong: Meaning “fortress of the glorious religion”. was initially erected in 1641 and rebuilt by King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck in the 1960s. It is one of the largest dzongs in Bhutan. The Dzong houses the throne room and office of His Majesty and is the seat of government and religious affairs in the kingdom. The northern portion of the dzong has the summer residence of the central monastic body and His Holiness the Je Khenpo (chief abot). It is open to visitors only during the Thimphu Tsechu (held in autumn) and during winter when the monk body moves to Punakha.
2. National Memorial Chorten: This monument was built in 1974 in the memory of the late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. It was originally the idea of Bhutan’s third king, H.M. Jigme Dorji Wangchuck to erect a monument for world peace and prosperity, but could not be done due to his untimely death. So after his death, it was built to in his memory and to serve as a monument for world peace.
3. Simtokha Dzong: Built in 1627, it is the oldest Dzong in the country. The most noteworthy artistic feature of this dzong is the series of over 300 finely worked slate carvings behind the prayer wheels in the courtyard which are centuries old. The paintings inside this dzong are believed to be some of the oldest and the most beautiful in the country.
4. National Library: The National Library was established in the late 1960s and it houses an extensive collection of Buddhist literature mostly in block-printed format and some works are several hundred years old. There is also a small collection of books in English on the ground floor mainly on Buddhism, Bhutan, the Himalayan region and neighboring countries
5. Institute for Zorig Chusum: Commonly known as the Painting School is an institute established primarily to preserve and promote Bhutan’s unique artistic tradition which played a vital role in moulding its distinct heritage. The Institute offers a six-year course on the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan and on a visit one can see students learning the various skills taught at the school.
6. National Institute of Traditional Medicine: The Institute was established in 1967 as a center for indigenous medicines and practice. In olden times, people primarily relied on the indigenous medicines to cure their illness. The Institute also serves as a training school for traditional medicine practitioners.
The complex is closed to visitors due to considerations of hygiene, but one can still walk around and view it from the outside.
7.Changangkha Lhakhang: This temple is one of the oldest in the Thimphu and was built in the 12th century by Nyima the son of Phajo Drugom, the founder of Drukpa school of Buddhism in Bhutan. The temple is highly revered by the Bhutanese especially because new born babies are normally brought here to seek blessings from the deity.
8. Dechen-phodrang : This is the site of Thimphu’s original Tashicho Dzong until 1772 and was named “Do Ngon Dzong” meaning the fortress of the Blue Stone. Today, it houses the monastic school where novices are taught before they go for higher Buddhist studies. The monastery contains paintings of the 12th century which are being restored for preservation.
9. Wangdi-tse Monastery: This monastery is located further uphill towards the west of Dechenphodrang. It was founded in 1750 by 8th Desi Tenzin Rabgye and houses some ancient stupas made of sandal wood. One can take the natural trail walk from the BBS tower at the hill overlooking Thimphu valley to this monastery.
10. Folk Heritage Museum & the Textile Museum: These museums, both of which opened in 2001, provide fascinating insights into Bhutanesematerial culture and way of life and is a ‘must see’ when in Thimphu.
It lies in Western Bhutan at an elevation of 2280 m. As the only airport is located here, it is the gateway into this mystical kingdom. The maintourist attractions in Paro are:
1. Taktshang: or “Tiger’s Nest” is one of the most famous places to visit in Bhutan and one of the holiest sites in Bhutan. It is perched on a steep granite cliff at 2950 metres overlooking northern paro valley. The place is especially venerated because of its association with Guru Rimpoche and is believed that more merit is gained if we meditate even for a minute in Tasktshang than many months in other places. The main temple was built in 1692 and the temple was badly damaged by fire several times with the most recent one being in 1998.
2. Rinpung Dzong: or “the fortress of the heap of jewels” was built in 1646 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to defend the Paro valley from Tibetan invasion and presently it serves as central monastic and administrative seat of the district of Paro. It is one of Bhutan’s most impressive and finest examples of Bhutanese architecture. It is different for other Dzongs in Bhutan as it is in a square and the “utse” (central tower) is surrounded by the outer structure. The dzong houses one of the most sacred
“Thongdrol” (meaning religious banner) about 20 sq. metres and is displayed only once a year during the Paro Tshechu (annual festival). The third king of Bhutan was crowned in this dzong.
3. Nya-mey Zam: or “the bridge with no fish” is the bridge that connects Paro town to the dzong. It is one of the finest specimens inBhutan and locals believe that if one sees a fish in the river, it is an ill omen. The earlier bridge which could be folded during war was washed away by flood in 1969.
4. Ta Dzong: Strategically located on a hill above the dzong and built in 1649 is the Ta Dzong. “Ta”means to see/watch and “dzong” means fortress. This monument served as a watch tower to the Paro Dzong. There is said to be an underground tunnel that leads to the water supply below. The structure was converted to the National Musuem in 1968. Ta Dzong holds a fascinating collection of art, relics, religious thangkha paintings, exquisite postage stamps, coins and handicrafts and a small natural history collection.
5. Dungtse Lhankhang: This temple was built by a famous Tibetan saint popularly known as Changzampa or the iron bridge builder in 1421. It is the only temple of this kind in Bhutan. It is in the form of a stupa and it contains some of the rarest and unique frescoes paintings in the region. The paintings are unique also because they depict the progressive stages of tantric Buddhist philosophy as well as the most important deities and figures of Drukpa Kagyu School of Buddhism.
6. Drukgyel Dzong: “fortress of the victorious Drukpas” was built in 1649 to celebrate Bhutanese victory over the Tibetan invasions . What stands a mere tourist spot today was once western Bhutan’s most strategic fort from which many Tibetan invasions were repulsed. Under the leadership of Zhabdrung, Bhutanese fought 12 battles with the Tibetans in different places with one being in this particular place. It was destroyed by fire in 1951, and the towering outer walls and central tower still remains an imposing sight. On a clear day, there is a splendid view of Mt. Chomolhari from the approach road to this place.
7. Kyichu Lhakhang: Consists of twin temples and the older one is one of the 108 temples built by King Songtsen Gampo of Tibet in 659 AD. This temple is deeply venerated for its antiquity and the role it plays in BhutanHistory. The construction of this temple and Jampa Lhakhang in Bumthang marked Bhutan for the first time on Buddhist map. The temple contains one of the most sacred statues of the country – the jowo which is the image of Buddha at 8years and is similar to the one which is present in the Jokhang temple in the Potola Palace in Lhasa, Tibet.
8. Kila Gompa: It is a nunnery about an hour’s walk from Chele-la, down a path through pine forest.. The gompa is nestled in a craggy patch of rock on the mountainside below Chele-la pass. Buddhist nuns spend their days in religious studies, prayer and meditation.
9. Druk Choeding: This is an ancient temple located right in Paro town. It was built in 1525 by Ngawang Chhogyel, one of the prince-abbots of Ralung in Tibet, and an ancestor of the Shabdrung, Ngawang Namgyal.
Punakha is located at an alleviation of 1250m and played a very important role in history. It had been the capital for over 300 years. The places to visit in Punakha are:
1. Punakha Dzong: is the second oldest dzong in Bhutan and was built in 1637. It is strategically located at the junction of the Pho Chu (Male River) and Mo Chu River (Female River). The dzong is still the winter residence for the central monk body and every year His Holiness the Je Khenpo and the central monastic body move to Punakha in winter and Thimphu in summer. The dzong houses some very sacred religious objects such as the “Ranjung Kharsapani” which is considered one of the most sacred relics in Bhutan. It was brought to Bhutan by Zhabdrung and caused many invasions by the Tibetans in olden times. The dzong also has the embalmed body of Zhabdrung preserved in the Machen Lhakhang and is closed to all people except His Majesty and His holiness the Je Khenpo. There is also a set of 108 volumes of the Kanjur (words of Lord Buddha) written fully in gold. Historically, this dzong is important because it is the place from where monarchy started in Bhutan. The first king was coronated in this dzong
2. Khamsum Yulley Namgyel Chorten: This Chorten (stupa) lies to the west of the Mo chu river and is perched high on a strategic ridge 7 kms from Punakha. This Chorten is unique and the only one of its kind in the world. It is an splendid example of Bhutan’s fine architecture and artistic tradition. Her Majesty the Queen (Mother of the present king) was the patron of this monument. This stupa was built to help remove negative forces and promote peace, stability and harmony in the world and for the well being of our king and the people.
Located south of Punakha is Wangduephodrang and lies at an altitude of 1350m. The higher reaches of the Wangduephodrang valley provide rich pasture land for cattle and this valley is famous for its fine bamboo work, stone carvings, and slates. Places of interests in Wangdue are:
1. Wangduephodrang Dzong: It is the highlight of the last town of western Bhutan. It was built in 1638 and is perched on a spur above the confluence of the Punakha Chu and Dang Chu rivers. It played an important role in our history because the location of this Dzong commends an impressive view over both north-south and east-west highway. The Dzongpon (governor of the region) was the third most powerful in Bhutanese history after the Tongs and Paro Penlop.e