Bhutan is one of the most natural settings of the world. Tucked in between the powerhouses of India and China, Bhutan has its own quaint charm. Little known to those outside the radar, Bhutan is the last standing Buddhist Kingdom. It is a mystic land where success is measured by Gross National Happiness instead of Gross National Product. Bhutan truly lives by its rich traditional lifestyle where men and women still wear their national attires called Gho & Kira respectively. Dzongkha is the official language of Bhutan.

Engulfed amidst the numerous Dzongs (fortresses) and Lhakhangs (monastries) and straddling the Majestic Himalayas, this kingdom is rightly known as the Land of the Thunder Dragon. However,a vast swath of Bhutan is still not raided by the travel enthusiasts. While this is primely to ensure the retention of the Kingdom’s cultural heritage and environment, Bhutan has now been welcoming tourists to a significant extent.
A visit to the following supreme locales of the kingdom would certainly fascinate any travel fanatic.

This is a small town located in the verdant Paro Valley. Away from the humdrum of urbanization, the tourists may soak into the breathtaking sceneries of the beautiful valley. It is a historic town with many sacred sites and historical buildings scattered throughout the area. The largest airport of Bhutan is located in Paro. Over the years, the town of Paro has been transformed into one of the major tourist destinations of the country. One of the magnificent structures of the country is the five-storey Rinpung Dzong overlooking the Paro Valley. It served as an effective defense against the numerous Tibetan invasion attempts. Almost all its treasures were destroyed by a fire in 1907. However, the Paro Dzong was rebuilt by the penlop (Governor) dawa Penjor after the fire. On the hill above the Dzong stands an ancient watchtower called Ta Dzong. In 1967 it was converted to National Museum of Bhutan.
Glancing through the Bhutanese lifestyle with the traditional style buildings and the monastries tourists can also hike up to the Tiger’s Nest also known as Paro Taksang or Taksang Palphug Monastry. It is an iconic Himalayan Buddhist sacred site perched 900 metres above the Paro Valley. The monastery was built in 1692, under the command of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal by Druk Desi Tenzin Rabgyal around the Taktsang Senge Samdup cave,where Guru Padmasambhava is said to have meditated for three years, three months, three weeks, three days and three hours in 8th century.
Thimphu is the capital city of Bhutan. Home to the royal family, monk body and bureaucrats, this city sees an unique blend of modern development and ancient traditions. Being the political and economic centre of Bhutan, Thimphu has the highest population of the country. The culture of Bhutan is fully reflected in Thimphu in respect of literature, religion, customs, and national dress code, the monastic practices of the monasteries, music, dance, literature and in the media.
When in Thimphu, do visit the National Memorial Chorten which was built in 1974 to honor the third King of Bhutan, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. It is a prominent landmark in the city with its golden spires and bells and popularly known as “the most visible religious landmark in Bhutan. Also fixate your eyes at the Buddha Dordenma,one of the largest sitting Buddhas in the world with a height of 169 feet(52m) . This statue houses over one hundred thousand smaller Buddha statues, each of which, like the Great Buddha Dordenma itself, are made of bronze and gilded in gold. The other important structures include Sentokha Dzong,Tashichho Dzong and the National Library.
Dochula Pass: On the way from Thimphu to Punakha, get mesmerized by the beautiful Dochula Pass. It is a high mountain passage in the snow clad Himalayas which features 108 chortens(memorial stupas). It is one of the prime tourist attractions of the country that offers panoramic views of the scenic Himalayan mountain range.
Punakha once upon a time served as the capital city of Bhutan. It is located at an elevation of 1,200 meters above sea level and rice is grown as the main crop along the river valleys of two main rivers of Bhutan, the Pho Chu and Mo Chu. Dzongkha is widely spoken in this region.

This city features the notable Punakha Dzong which is considered as the most beautiful Dzong of Bhutan.This majestic structure was built upon the junction of the Pho Chhu & the Mo Chhu Rivers. It is also the winter residence of the Bhutan’s Central Monastic body. In 1907, Punakha Dzong was the site of the coronation of Ugyen Wangchuck as the first King of Bhutan. In 1987, the dzong was partially destroyed by fire.

Other places of interest mark the Chimi Lhakhang also known as The Fertility Temple or Madam’s Temple, Khamsum Yueling Monastry and the Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang.

Home to some of the oldest Buddhist temples, Bumthang is considered as the rich religious and historic districts. This historic province consists of four major valleys of Ura, Chumey, Tang and Choekhor. The valley is also famously known as the land of beautiful girls. Bumthang is rich in producing wheat and buck wheat. Another major highlight of Bumthang is Jambay Lhakhang Drub Festival also known as the Naked Dance Festival. Tamshing Lhakhang is a beautiful temple built in 1501 by Terton Pema Lingpa; reincarnation of Guru Padmasambhava. It holds a collection of unique paintings of 1000 Buddhas and 21 Taras (female Buddha). Another major attraction of Bumthang is the Jakar Dzong or the Castle of White Bhutan which helped in defense against Dzongkhags of eastern side of Bhutan. The serene region of Bumthang valley is one of the most peaceful places in the country.
The spectacular journey from Bumthang to Mongar passes through steep cliffs, lush greenery and gushing waterfalls. Best known for its fabrics,weavers and textiles, Mongar is one the fastest developing dzonkhang in Eastern Bhutan. The western part of Mongar district contains part of the Thrumshingla National Park, and northeastern part of Mongar district contains part of the Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary. Also visit the beautiful Mongar Dzong was built as a substitute to the beautiful Shongar Dzong that was tragically destroyed by a fire in 1929.Other sites of visit in and around Mongar include Drametse Lhakhang,a UNESCO world Heritage and the Yagang Lhakhang which is revered by the local people for its power of warding away evil. A day in the verdant green forested valleys of Yongkhala is a great option for nature lovers. Lhuntse, the ancestral home to the royal dynasty is a 3 hours drive from Mongar. This isolated district offers spectacular views of the most beautiful landscapes of Bhutan.
Trashigang, the largest district of the Kingdom is named as “The Jewel of the East”. Set on a scenic hillside, it flows through it the largest river of the country, Dangme Chhu. Spanning the easternmost corners of the kingdom, Trashigang is the largest district of Bhutan. The ton is a principle market place for the semi-nomadic people of Merak and Sakteng, whose unique dressing stands out from the usual Bhutanese Gho and Kira.
The Trashigang Dzong also known as the ‘fortress of auspicious hill’ stands on a picturesque landscape. It has religious as well as administrative importance because in the 17th century, the entire Trashigang was governed from the Dzong itself. The Sakteng Wildlife Santuary is also situated in Trashigang.

Festivals of Bhutan

Another spectacular attraction of Bhutan is its annual religious festival “Tsechu meaning “tenth day” held annually in various temples, monasteries and dzongs throughout the country.
The Tshechu is a religious event celebrated on tenth day of a month of the lunar calendar corresponding to the birthday of Guru Rimpoche (Guru Padmasambhava), who brought Buddhism to Bhutan.. However the exact month of the Tshechu varies from place to place and temple to temple.

Tourists can witness a large number of devotees and common people performing the traditional dance forms and making merry. It is believed that everyone must attend a Tshechu and witness the mask dances at least once to in order to receive blessings and wash away their sins. Every mask dance performed during a Tshechu has a special meaning or a story behind it and many are based on stories and incidents from as long ago as the 8th century, during the life of Guru Padmasambhava. In monasteries, the mask dances are performed by monks and in remote villages, they are performed jointly by monks and village men.

Two of the most popular Tsechus in terms of participation and audience are the Thimpu Tshechu and Paro Tsechu.