Bhutan On a Budget
Top Tourist AttractionsThere are numerous sights and attractions to be seen in Bhutan, whether your interests are natural beauty, historic sights, or cultural wonders. Hundreds of monasteries dot the landscape in some of the most pristine and remote areas. Dzongs also dot the countryside and were built without the use of cement, nails or plans. The dzongs are ancient fortresses that now serve as the civil and monastic administration headquarters of each district. Apart from the architecture, which in itself makes a dzong worth visiting, they also hold many art treasures.
Chendebji Chorten: An interesting and visually striking religious building with eyes painted towards the four cardinal directions. Legend states that it was constructed to subdue the remains of an evil spirit that manifested as a gigantic serpent.
Taktsang Monastery (Tiger's Nest), Paro: This is one of the most important Buddhist sites in the world, and Guru Rinpoche visited here in the 8th century on his second visit to Bhutan. It is the most recognized and visited monument in Bhutan. It is believed that he arrived on the back of a winged tigress, hence the name, Tigers Nest. The temple is built on a 1,200 meter cliff and was built in 1692.
Kurje Lhakhang, Jakar: A temple built around a cave with a body print of Guru Rinpoche embedded in the wall. Guru Rinpoche practiced meditation here on his first visit to Bhutan and as such it is the earliest Buddhist relic in the country.
Tashichho Dzong: a Buddhist monastery and fortress on the northern edge of the city of Thimpu in Bhutan, on the western bank of the Wang Chu. The main structure of the whitewashed building is two-storied with three-storied towers at each of the four corners topped by triple-tiered golden roofs. There is also a large central tower or utse. Built in 1216, Semtokha Dzong in the Thimphu Valley was the first dzong built in the country.
The western area includes Thimphu, Paro, Haa, Wangdue Phodrang, Punakha and Gasa. What makes this area special is that the Tourism Council of Bhutan has categorized new ways of exploring the existing great sights. In the western part of the country, you can attend the summer festival of Haa and delve into the wonders of the ancient living culture of the Haaps (People from Haa). You can also visit temples, dzongs and museums or attend a textile festival that brings to life the rich culture of Bhutanese weaving. Western Bhutan is home to some of the country's finest museums, and you'll not want to miss the opportunity to learn about our storied history and traditional culture. Paro museum (Tadzong), displays hundreds of artifacts revealing the history and culture of Bhutan, In Thimphu, let the Folk Heritage museum enthuse you with an in-depth look into a typical farmers' livelihood.
Central Bhutan is an exciting destination for all visitors. It includes some of the most significant historical and religious sites in the country. The district of Trongsa has always been of great political importance to the leaders of Bhutan due to its commanding location in the center of the nation while Bumthang district has some of the most ancient and important temples and monasteries in Bhutan.
Some of the important landmarks in central Bhutan are: Kurje Lhakhang built in 1652 at the site where the great Buddhist saint Guru Rimpoche meditated. Tamshing Lhakhang, the great religious treasure revealer Terton Pema Lingpa built dating back to 1501. Mebar Tsho: A sacred lake from which Terton Pema Lingpa discovered religious treasures hidden by Guru Rimpoche. Central Bhutan is a region blessed with great natural beauty and there are miles of pristine alpine and sub-tropical forests teeming with all manner of flora and fauna. The Thrumshingla National Park is located in this region and is famous for the many rare and endangered birds that inhabit it.
Eastern Bhutan is one of the least explored regions of the kingdom and offers one of most authentic experiences for adventure-oriented tourists. The entire region is awash in unspoiled natural beauty, towering cliffs and pristine forests with great variations in altitude and climatic conditions. In addition to the regular Buddhist festivals, travelers to Eastern Bhutan will be able to experience some of the country's most ancient spiritual practices while observing Animistic and Bon religious rituals. The lush, breathtaking environments of the eastern region make it a perfect location for day hikes or longer treks.
ActivitiesTrekking: Bhutan is a popular place for trekking, though the walks are generally quite tough as there are no places to stay or eat in the higher regions, and so all food and camping equipment must be carried in. The autumn and spring are the best seasons for undertaking a trek. In the summer, the paths are muddy, while in winter they are snow covered. However, despite the difficulties of the treks, all efforts and discomforts are more than compensated for by the stunning scenery.
Festivals: Tshechu is the largest religious festival in Bhutan and is celebrated in the late Summer and Fall throughout the country, though Thimphu Tshechu is the most famous and attracts around 30,000 people. The highlight of the tshechu ceremonies is the masked dances by monks, which were developed according to precise instructions given by past Buddhist masters. In addition to the traditional annual religious festivals (Tshechus) there are also many newer festivals showcasing the rich traditions of the region like the annual Nomad's Festival and the Matsutake Mushroom Festival in Ura, Bumthang. The Haa festival highlights Shamanic rituals and other folk dances. You may also enjoy the beauty of rare Himalayan flowers in bloom or take a daring trek to Nob Tsonapatra, immersing you in the interesting legends of the area. In Thimphu you can witness the newly introduced Takin Festival, MICE & GNH conferences, meditation and wellness facilities.
Archery: This is the national sport of Bhutan and competitions are held throughout the country at most weekends. Visitors are very welcome to watch and also to add voice to the boisterous cheering that accompanies these events.
Biking: There is no better way to experience a place than by bike. Bhutan's expansive wilderness, small sleepy cities, rural farmland, tiny roads, majestic views, and everything else is that much sweeter on a bike.
Hot Stone Bath: The hot stone bath is a ritual in itself, riverside rocks are heated till red hot and gradually dropped into a wooden tub filled with water and scattered with Artemisia leaves. The burning rocks heats the water gradually and thus release minerals in to the water. Traditionally these bath are done near a river bed with plenty supplies of stones and water and preferably after dark in the open air.