Destinations in Western Bhutan

There are many interesting and places to visit in western Bhutan including tiger’s nest. There are also many other interesting sites in Thimphu and Punakha and Wangdi Phodrang districts.

1) Taktshang Monastery

“Tiger’s Nest” monastery, most famous of Bhutan’s monasteries, is spectacularly located on the side of a cliff 900m above the valley floor. It is said that in the 8th century Guru Rinpoche flew on the back of a tigress from eastern Bhutan to this place and meditated in a cave here for 3 months, hence its name, “Tiger’s Nest”. There have been shrines at this sacred place for many centuries. The principal lhakhang of the present monastic complex dates from 1692. The main structure was severely damaged by fire in 1998, but after many years of painstaking restoration work, the complex has now been fully restored to its former glory. Taktsang is a place of pilgrimage which Bhutanese try to visit at least once in a lifetime. An excursion to Taktsang involves a steep climb up through pine forest and takes about five hours round trip. Though the climb up through the pine forest is steep, the journey is most worthwhile on account of the superb views en route and especially from the cafeteria viewpoint itself.

2) Ta Dzong

On a ridge immediately above Rinpung Dzong is Ta Dzong, built as a watchtower to protect Rinpung Dzong. (“Ta” means “to see” in Dzongkha, so the watchtower of a dzong is always called a “Ta dzong”). On account of their function, watchtowers are always round in shape. In 1968 Paro’s Ta Dzong was inaugurated as the National Museum, and now holds a fascinating collection of art, relics, religious thangkha paintings, Bhutan’s exquisite postage stamps, coins and handicrafts, together with a small natural history collection.

3) Drugyal Dzong

To commemorate the victory over Tibetan invasion in 17th century, the Drukgyel dzong was built on the hill overlooking the village nestled below. It was built in 1649 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel. In 1951, after three day religious festival, the dzong was destroyed by fire. Since then, Royal Government of Bhutan didn’t rebuild it. Today, with the birth of our 6th heir to the Monarch on 5th February 2016, the restoration work had been started and still going on. The Mt. Jomolhari can be seen from road approaching the Dzong on a clear day.

4) Kyichu Lhakhang

This lhakhang, built in the 7th century, is one of the two oldest and most sacred shrines in Bhutan (the other being Jambey Lhakhang in Bumthang). Kyichu Lhakhang is composed of twin temples. The first temple was built by the Tibetan king, Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century. In 1968, H.M. Ashi Kesang, the Queen Mother of Bhutan, arranged for a second temple to be built alongside the first one, in same style.

5) National Memorial Chorten

The building of this chorten was originally the idea of Bhutan’s third king, H.M. Jigme Dorji Wangchuck (“the father of modern Bhutan”), who had wished to erect a monument to world peace and prosperity, but was unable to give shape to his idea in his lifetime due to pressures of state. After His Majesty’s untimely death in 1972, the Royal Family and Cabinet resolved to fulfill his wishes and erect a memorial that would perpetuate his memory and also serve as a monument to peace. The National Memorial Chorten was consecrated on July 28, 1974. The finely executed wall paintings and delicately fashioned statues within the monument provide a deep insight into Buddhist philosophy. Tashichhodzong The “fortress of the glorious religion” was initially erected in 1641 and rebuilt by King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck in the 1960s. Tashichhodzong houses some ministries, His Majesty’s secretariat, and the central monk body. It is open to visitors during the Thimphu Tsechu (held in autumn) and while the monk body is resident in its winter quarters at Punakha Dzong.

6) Institute for Zorig Chusum

Commonly known as the Painting School, the Institute offers a six-year course on the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan. On a visit one can see students learning the various skills taught at the school.

7) Tango and Cheri Monastery

This monastery was founded by Lama Gyalwa Lhanangpa in the 12th century. The present building was erected in the 15th century by the “Divine Madman”, Lama Drukpa Kuenley. In 1616 Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal visited Tango and meditated in a cave near the monastery. The picturesque three-storied tower and several surrounding buildings were built in the 18th century by the eighth temporal ruler of Bhutan, Druk Rabgye. The hike up the trail to Tango Gompa takes about an hour.

This monastery was built by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1620. A silver chorten inside the monastery holds the ashes of the Shabdrung’s father. This trek trail starts by crossing a lovely bridge that spans the Thimphu river, then climbs steeply to the monastery in aqua paradise. The journey takes about an hour.

8) Phajoding Monastery

The complex is situated high on the hills overlooking Thimphu valley. It was founded by Phajo Drugom Shigpo, who introduced the Drukpa Kagyupa school of Buddhism in Bhutan in the 13th century. Phajoding was in former times one of the richest monasteries in the country. It is a wonderful hike of about 4 hours from Thimphu to the monastery.

9) Weekend Market

Most of the Thimphu’s population and many valley dwellers converge on the bustling weekend market, held down by the river. A wide range of foodstuffs and local arts and crafts are sold at the market, which runs from Friday afternoon to Sunday. A visit to the market provides great photo opportunities, as well as the chance to mingle with local people and perhaps buy souvenirs.

10) Punakha Dzong

Placed strategically at the junction of the Pho Chu and Mo Chu rivers, the dzong was built in 1637 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to serve as the religious and administrative center of the region. Damaged over the centuries by four catastrophic fires and an earthquake, the dzong has been fully restored in recent years by the present monarch. The dzong is open for visitors during the Punakha festival (early spring) and in the summer months, after the monk body has returned to Thimphu.

11) Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten

This three storey chorten was built by Her Majesty the Queen Ashi Tsering Yangdon for the protection of the country. It has an impressive view of Punakha dzong especially when driving back to Punakha. The deities represented here belong to a teaching cycle of Dudjom Rinpoche, a great Nyingmapa master (1904-87). The functions of the deities are to subjugate enemies and harmful influences and also to spread peace and harmony. The chorten is a half hour walk from the main road.

12) Limbukha

Drive to Punakha Dzong, which can be visited from April to November while the Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot) and the central monk body are at their summer quarters in Thimphu. Stroll across the narrow suspension bridge (about 200m long) above the river and enjoy fresh breezes and a splendid view of this massive dzong. Follow the farmhouses gradually climbing towards the Dompala hills. Enjoy superb views of Punakha Dzong and surrounding villages as you climb upwards through the pine forests, to Limbukha, a journey of about two and a half hours. Limbukha farmers grow Bhutan’s famous red rice, which is well known for its health-giving properties. This particular rice needs clean mountain spring water so that the taste is good and nutritional value maintained. Limbukha is also known for its love of peace and tranquility. According to legend, during medieval wars the “Limpus” (people of Limbukha) always volunteered their services as negotiators for peace. Their traditional role is honored on the last day of Punakha’s annual religious festival, when Limbukha men taking part in the concluding procession out from the dzong carry flags of peace, rather than weapons of war.

13) Gangtey Gompa/Phobjikha

In the mountains east of Wangduephodrang lies the beautiful Phobjikha valley, on the slopes of which is situated the great monastery of Gangtey, established in the 17th century. The village of Phobjikha lies a few km. down from the monastery, on the valley floor. This quiet, remote valley is the winter home of black-necked cranes, which migrate from the arid plains of Tibet in the north, to pass the winter months in a milder climate. visit to learn how you can finance a trip to this or any other site you would be interested in.

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