According to mathgeneral, Bhutan means something like “land of the dragon”. The kingdom is located in Asia and is a landlocked country. In the south the country borders on India and in the north on Tibet (China). Bhutan is roughly the size of Switzerland and its landscape is shaped by the Himalayas. 80% of the country is over 2000m above sea level and more than two thirds are heavily forested. The climate of Bhutan is very different in the individual parts of the country. This ranges from tropical areas to very severe winters and hot summers. Approx. 0.8 million people live in Bhutan, of which approx. 35% are settled in the cities and approx. 60% still live from agriculture. The state religion of Bhutan is Mahayana Buddhism, to which approximately 72% of the population belong. Since 2008 and with the signing of the constitution by the king, Bhutan is formally a constitutional monarchy. Contrary to some claims, tourism is not limited in Bhutan. However, the trip must be planned in advance and the range of hotel rooms and flight tickets is limited, which is why the number of tourists depends on it. However, the tourism industry is growing rapidly and more and more tourists visit the Asian country every year.
The Paro Valley is not only home to the only international airport, it is also where the oldest palaces and monasteries can be found. The Paro River (Pa-Chu) is nourished by the glacial water of Mount Jhomolhari and makes the valley one of the most fertile. Here, mainly red rice is grown on the terraced fields – a real highlight for all lovers of nature travel.
Drukgyel Dzong Castle is located on the only path that leads into the Paro Valley. The castle is a symbol of the victory against the Tibetan invaders in 1644. The dzong was able to prevent many invasions in history and particularly impressed the foreign visitors. Unfortunately the castle burned down in 1951 and only the ruins are left. However, the best view of Jhomolhari is on a clear day.
Another spectacular building in a wonderful location is the Taktsang Gompa. Tiger’s Nest Monastery is one of the holiest places in Bhutan and cannot be reached by road. The way to the monastery can be covered up to the middle with mules or horses, then it is only possible to continue on foot on a narrow path. But the wonderful view and the monastery make up for the climb. Legend has it that the Indian guru Padmasanbhava flew to the current location on a tigress.
Other tourist attractions in the Paro Valley include the Rimpung Dzong, which is said to have been built on jewels, and the Ta Dzong, which is reminiscent of a European castle. Every visitor to Bhutan should also visit one of the colorful, simple farmhouses. The lowest floor is for the animals, hay is stored on the third floor and the family lives in the middle area.
The capital Thimphu is a mix of modernity and yet exudes traditional charm. The Thimphu River (Wang Chu) flows through the valley. One of the most important buildings Tashicho Dzong not only houses the king’s throne room but is also the summer residence of the spiritual leader. The Memorial Chorten Monument was built in memory of the third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk. The tantric pictures and paintings give an interesting insight into the philosophy of Buddhism. The Simthoka Dzong is currently used as a monastery school and stands on a wonderful vantage point.
The Changangkha Lhakhang is one of the oldest Drukpa Kagyu temples. The ceremonies of the Bhutanese families are particularly interesting to watch. Another interesting temple with tall statues and impressive paintings is in the Zelukha Nunnery.
Those interested in traditional medicine and allopathy should pay a visit to the Traditional Herbal Medical School, where they will learn about plants, minerals and healing methods. Another cultural highlight is the Zorig Chusum Lobdrak, an art school where students learn the 13 traditional arts and crafts. Other worthwhile facilities are the National Library, the Textile Museum and the Cultural Heritage Museum. To get hold of a souvenir, the art and weekly market or a textile weaving mill, where colorful, high-quality fabrics are made, are particularly suitable.
The former capital of Bhutan is located in a picturesque landscape and is spoiled by the temperate climate. The city’s main attraction is the Punakha Dzong, one of the best-preserved dzongs in the country. This is also the administrative center, home to 300 monks and the building of the court. The confluence of the two rivers Pho-Chu (male river) and Mo-Chu (female river) forms a spectacular picture. Outdoor activities such as river rafting are also offered in the valley, so adventure tourists get their money’s worth. Nature and bird lovers will also feel at home in the valley, as many birds have their habitat here and overwinter.
Two temples worth seeing are the Chimi-Lhakhang and Khamsum Yuele Chorten. A special highlight for tourists is the Punakha Festival that takes place in February / March.
No trip to Bhutan is complete without a visit to Drukwangyal Lhakhang with its impressive location in front of the Himalayas on the Dochu La Pass in the Bumthang region. This view is best enjoyed from the quiet hill behind the temple complex, adorned with prayer flags.
Kurje Lhakhang Monastery
The first three kings are buried here and the monastery is a unique place to take a break and indulge in meditation. The eminent Guru Rinponche also counted the monastery as one of his favorite places for meditation.
The Himalayas offer other impressive landscapes such as the Haa Valley and the Phobjikha Valley. This is a highlight for hikers and trekking fans and on the numerous discovery tours you can also experience the diverse flora and fauna.
There is no scheduled flight within Bhutan, but Druk Air offers a real spectacle from March to October. A one-hour scenic flight over the mountains with breathtaking views of the mountains, lakes and waterfalls of Bhutan. About half of the roads are paved, although the location in the Himalayas should not be underestimated when traveling by rental car. There are also several minibus connections between the cities every day. Those who prefer to join an organized small group tour can get to know Bhutan, which has not yet been developed, together with fellow travelers. Individual trips are also possible in the South Asian country and are an absolute highlight for everyone who likes to go off the beaten track.