Bhutan is often referred to as the last Shangri La. Rooted deeply in religion and medieval tradition; it’s a place that steadfastly holds onto its unique culture and refuses to submit to the modern world.
It’s hard to go wrong with sightseeing in Bhutan—if the amazing architecture doesn’t do you in, then the views certainly will. Here are five gems to see during your time here:
Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest)
Perched on a cliff, this monastery is considered one of the most important pilgrimages in the Buddhism world and definitely the most famous site in Bhutan. It is believed that Guru Rinpoche, who brought Buddhism to Bhutan, apparently flew to Taktsang on the back of a tigeress to defeat five demons. If you can’t make the somewhat strenuous hike, you can rent a mule to bring you up. When you’re up to the top, there are prayer flags absolutely everywhere and the area is shrouded by mist. Magical.
Rinpung Dzong (Paro Dzong)
Known as the “fortress that sits on a heap of jewels, ” it one of the first stops I made while with my guide from the best tour company in Bhutan, Bhutan Life Exposure, as it’s on the way to Tiger’s Nest. The dzong was built in the 16th century on the foundation of a monastery built by Guru Rinpoche. It’s considered a great example of Bhutanese architecture, with its almost unimaginably tall inward sloping walls and intricately designed courtyards. What makes this place is the setting—it’s perched in the hills and offers lovely views of the mountains, river, and Paro Valley.
I know, at this point you begin to think, not another dzong! But don’t miss this one. The largest dzong in Bhutan, it’s one of the most impressive and feels the most classic. It has many interesting architectural details and general old-world charm. It sits on a wild rocky area overlooking a vast gorge. The dzong is sprawling, full of winding corridors and passageways. There are apparently 25 temples scattered around the complex. Like many dzongs, it’s half used for government administrative purposes and the other half is a monastery.
The most famous pass in Bhutan, Dochula Pass connects Thimphu to central Bhutan. It’s an easy trek up to the summit where 108 stupas (dome-shaped Buddhist monuments) sit at the top of the pass to commemorate the Bhutanese soldiers who were killed battling the Indian rebels in 2003. When the skies are clear and blue, it offers amazing views of the snow-capped Himalayan Mountains. A café nearby serves up great Bhutanese food, too!
Although it’s under construction, the Buddha Dordenma is still a must-see. Built in bronze and gilded in gold, this will be the largest seated Buddha in the world. Inside the Buddha will be 100, 000 smaller Buddha statues. Like many other attractions in Bhutan, the Buddha Dordenma offers great views, this time being of the entire Thimphu Valley.