Places of interest
The Paro region is one of the widest valleys in the kingdom and is covered in fertile rice and has beautiful, crystalline river meandering down the valley. The region is, without a doubt, one of the loveliest in Bhutan. Willow trees and apple orchards line many of the roads, whitewashed farmhouses and temples complement the green terraced fields, and forested hills rise on either side to create a beautiful, organic and peaceful whole.
There are over 155 temples and monasteries in the area and the country’s first and only international airport is also located in the region. Several treks begin in or near Paro. The Druk Path Trek climbs east over a 4200m pass before descending to Thimphu. The Jhomolhari, Laya–Gasa and Snowman treks all lead west from Drukgyel Dzong on to Jhomolhari base camp and the spectacular alpine regions of Gasa and Laya. These attractive tour itinerary has resulted in the development of an array of luxurious, high-end tourist resorts making Paro one of the main destination for visitors.
Thimphu the capital city of Bhutan, perhaps the most unusual capital city in the world, is the seat of government. This bustling town is home to Bhutan’s Royal family, the civil servants, and foreign missions with representation in Bhutan. It is also the headquarters for a number of internationally funded development projects.
Unlike other regions, in Thimphu you do not have to travel much by car to visit monasteries, temples and handicrafts, these can be mostly reached on foot, plus you will get to enjoy a walk and see around Thimphu. You may spend few days in Thimphu to visit all the following sightseeing and can mingle with local people, which will be the good way to find the difference between people living in rural areas and urban interns of culture, traditions, lifestyle, etc. Thimphu will offer you the best opportunity to briefly break away from the tour itinerary. In addition to its traditional Buddhist sights and attractions, it offers cafes, bars, nightclubs and restaurants. Finding a balance between the esoteric and espresso – the old and the new – is the key to getting the most out of this charming city.
Punakha region was serving as the capital of Bhutan and the seat of government until 1955 when the capital was moved to Thimphu. It is about 72 km away from Thimphu and it takes about 3 hours by car from the capital Thimphu. Unlike Thimphu, it is quite warm in winter and hot in summer. It is located at an elevation of 1,200 metres above sea level. Dzongkha language is widely spoken in this district. Punakha valley is famous in Bhutan for rice farming. Both red and white rice are grown along the river valley of Pho and Mo Chu, two of the most prominent rivers in Bhutan. One can take chance to stop for a photo shooting at Dochula Pass. Dochula pass is a popular location among tourists as it offers a stunning 360-degree panoramic view of the Himalayan mountain range. The view is especially scenic on clear, winter days with snowcapped mountains forming a majestic backdrop to the tranquillity of the 108 chortens gracing the mountain pass.
Bhutanese families enjoy visiting the pass during holidays and weekends to picnic and simply enjoy the scenery. It is common to see families and groups of friends seated amongst the chortens, enjoying a packed lunch and hot tea. For tourists, this is an ideal location to capture beautiful pictures of the Himalayan mountain range during clear, warm days. Punakha valley has a pleasant climate with warm winters and hot summers. It is located at an average elevation of 1200 m above sea level. Owing to the favourable climatic conditions, rice has become the main cash crop cultivated in the region.
Wangdue Phodrang Region
Wangdue Phodrang Region is one of the largest dzongkhags in the country. As the district covers 4,308 sq. km and ranges from 800-5800 meters in altitude, it has extremely varied climatic conditions ranging from subtropical forests in the south to cool and snowy regions in the north. Most of Wangdue Phodrang District is environmentally protected. The northern half of the district falls within the Wangchuck Centennial Park, with northwestern pockets belonging to Jigme Dorji National Park. Southeastern Wangdue is part of Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park. Also protected are the biological corridors crisscrossing the district that connect Bhutan’s extensive national park system. The dominant language in the region is Dzongkha, spoken in the western two-thirds of the district. Communities along the border with Bumthang District in the northeast speak Lakha. Along the same border, in central Wangdue Phodrang, inhabitants speak Nyenkha. In the southeast region, remnants of the autochthonous ‘Olekha (Black Mountain Monpa) speaking community barely survive.
One of the most notable sites in the district is Phobjikha Valley. This valley is the habitat of the rare and endangered Black Necked Cranes that roost there during their annual migrations. The residents of the valley have garnered much acclaim for their conservation efforts to preserve the habitat of these beautiful birds. Every year the Black Necked Crane Festival is held in Phobjikha in order to protect and spread awareness of the cranes. The festival includes songs, masked dances and plays by the local school children. This event is one of the most unique and popular festivals in the country.
With its diverse climates and rich natural resources, Wangdue Phodrang Dzongkhag is home to many rare and exotic animals like Red Pandas, Tigers and Leopards. There are also large numbers of rare birds such as the Black Necked Crane, White-Bellied Heron and the Spotted Eagle.
This region that spans from 2,600-4,500 m is the religious heartland of the nation and home to some of its oldest Buddhist temples and monasteries. Tales of Guru Padmasambhava and the Tertons (“religious treasure-discoverers”) still linger in this sacred region.
The wide and scenic valleys draw a large number of tourists each year. Bumthang is an untouched cultural highlight and pure beauty of Bhutan. The main highlight of Bhutan Bumthang tour is the amazing Bumthang heritage, traditional stone houses, the old market, Chortens and monasteries.
The fertile valleys of Bumthang are covered in fields of buckwheat, rice and potatoes. Apple orchards and dairy farms are also common sights here. This serene region is one of the most peaceful places in the kingdom. Bumthang can be called as countryside, or some people may go further than this by calling as little Switzerland. Its composed of four beautiful valleys, the deeply spiritual region of Bumthang is shrouded in religious fable. Bumthang is the traditional home to the great Buddhist teacher Pema Lingpa to whom, the present monarchy traces its ancestral lineage. There are lots and lots of festivals celebrated in Bumthang which you can’t be missing one.
Even though if you spend your entire trip days here, you can’t be finished with exploring all the areas because it’s so wide and so spectacular of every place you visit. The Bumthang Chamkhar town is a bustling little one-street town in Bumthang with an abundance of restaurants and handicrafts stores. They sell a good amount of dairy products; butter, honey, chewy dried cheese snack popular among Bhutanese. Bumthang is also famous for Yathra which is a unique material woven from sheep wool, intricately designed and coloured to form wonderful patterns, which you can able to purchase from a beautiful little town. Internet cafés and espresso bars have also started to make an appearance here.
It is the most central district of Bhutan and was considered crucial in controlling the kingdom in earlier years due to its strategic position. This town is situated on a steep ridge and offers spectacular views of the deep valleys surrounding it. There are good numbers of hotels, guesthouses and restaurants that all offer stunning views from their balconies. There are also a few popular short-easy and long-hard hike trail.
There is a historical culture that Bhutanese believe the guest of one night is like a god. Bhutanese saying If you decide to stay in one of our homes you will get more than just a glimpse into traditional hospitality. For instance, you will get an idea of the traditional gift exchange practice in rural Bhutan because your guide will take you along when buying the Chhom (the gift one brings to the host). We will brief you properly prior to your arrival and your guide will always be there to interpret and translate for you. You are in good hands!
Bhutanese are wonderful hosts. Traditional hospitality and etiquette can be extremely refined and vary across the country. As foreign guests, your host will probably want to welcome you in the prayer room (choesham) of the house, or if available, in a separate room intended for such occasions, similar to the reception of special Bhutanese guests. However, we want you to experience a cordial, less formal reception typical of everyday local village hospitality. The kitchen is the central room in the Bhutanese household and it is here where the family naturally gather. In the winter it is also the warmest place because of the heat of the “Bukhari” (small wood stove) and the cooking stove. The cuisine is a real highlight when visiting our homes as it differs greatly from what is served in guesthouses and hotels. There is nothing better than a home cooked meal especially when you have the chance to watch the family preparing it. You can even participate in the preparations and learn some new cooking skills. Food and the act of sharing food with each other are very important in Bhutanese society and creates a bond between those who participate. Don’t be surprised if your host wants to overfeed you. A reputable Bhutanese host will always have prepared too much food and expects you to take re-fills. Especially when you accept the local moonshine, ara, you will have to take a second and most probably third re-fill! Make sure you are hungry when you enter a Bhutanese village house. Music and dance are another Bhutanese must culture, so depending upon your mood, the host family will entertain you with their singing and dancing skills and they invite you to join in their local dance. Not to worry for it’s not the jam session, but just a slow and steady movement of your feet and arms.
Ever since Bhutan open its doors to tourism in 1974 an increasing number of travellers have visited the Kingdom of Bhutan. Most though have been herded from one attraction to another, a glimpse here and there with barely enough time to linger in one place. While there are many tourists who enjoy such trips there are some who might feel “dzonged out” after a while. Furthermore travelling with children demands flexibility and following such tight itineraries is difficult. We aim at showing our visitors the Bhutanese way of life in its natural environment, up close and as informal as possible. We are committed to offering our clients an intimate, and once in a lifetime encounter with Bhutanese villagers in their homes whilst alternating with comfortable hotels. By choosing Homestay, you are supporting villagers in terms of economic development. The government doesn’t impose a tax on their local business while Government set the price that travel agent has to pay to localhost, which is mainly intended for community development and encourages host to render profound services to their clients.
Mongar district covers an area of 1,954 sq. km with elevations ranging from 400m to 4,000m and has a population of about 38,000. The landscape is spectacular with stark cliffs and deep gorges set amidst dense conifer forests. The region is known forits weavers and textiles, and fabrics produced here are considered some of the best in the country. Mongar is the fastest-developing dzongkhag in eastern Bhutan. A regional hospital has been constructed and the region is bustling with many economic activities. Mongar is noted for its lemon grass, a plant that can be used to produce an essential oil. It also has a hydropower plant on the Kuri Chhu river. 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 (the gewog of Sharmung). In the past, this region was known as the bastion of the Zhongarps as it produced some of the finest administrators in the country whose descendants still continue to play an active part in the political scene of Bhutan.
“The Jewel of the East”, spans the easternmost corners of the kingdom, skirting up to the edge of the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. It is the country’s largest district, with an altitude ranging from 600 m to over 4000 m.
Bhutan’s largest river, Dangme Chhu, flows through this district. Trashigang town is set on a scenic hillside and was once a bustling trade centre for merchants looking to barter their goods in Tibet. Today, it is the junction of the East-West highway with road connections to Samdrup Jongkhar and the Indian state of Assam. Trashigang town is also the principle market place for the semi-nomadic people of Merak and Sakteng, whose unique way of dressing stands out from the ordinary Bhutanese Gho and Kira.
Trashigang is home to the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary. The Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary, one of ten protected areas of Bhutan, was created in part to protect the migoi, a type of yeti, in whose existence most Bhutanese believe. The sanctuary covers the eastern third of the district (the gewogs of Merak and Sakteng), and is connected via biological corridor to Khaling Wildlife Sanctuary in Samdrup Jongkhar District to the south.
Trashigang contains one of the most reputed colleges in the country, the Sherubtse College. Sherubtse College was the first accredited college in Bhutan, founded in 1966 by a group of Jesuits under the leadership of William Mackey. As of 2003 it became part of the newly created Royal University of Bhutan system that comprises all public post-secondary schools in Bhutan. The college is located below the Yonphula domestic airport.
One of the newest dzongkhags (district) in the country, Trashi yangtse was established as a distinct district in 1992 and spans 1,437 sq. km of subtropical and alpine forests. With its wealth of natural, historical and cultural resources Trashi yangtse is a destination that visitors to Bhutan will never forget.
At an elevation of 1750-1880 m, Trashi yangtse is an ethnically and culturally diverse district and the inhabitants include Yangtseps, the regions indigenous dwellers, Tshanglas, Bramis from Tawang, Khengpas from Zhemgang and Kurtoeps from Lhuentse. This rich cultural tapestry has resulted in an interesting mix of languages and cultural practices in the region. Three major languages are spoken in Trashiyangtse. In the north, including Bumdeling and Toetsho Gewogs, inhabitants speak Dzala. In the south, Tshangla (Sharchopkha), the lingua franca of eastern Bhutan, is spoken in Jamkhar, Khamdang, and Ramjar Gewogs. In Tomzhangtshen Gewog, residents speak Chocangacakha.
The people of the region have developed incredible skill at woodworking and paper making. The items they produce such as traditional wooden bowls are prized throughout the country. It contains a major art school, the School of Traditional Arts, which is a sister school of the School of Traditional Arts in Thimphu and teaches six forms of art; painting, pottery, wood sculpture, wood-turning, lacquer-work and embroidery.
Trashi yangtse district is home to some of the country’s important protected areas. It contains the Kulong Chhu Wildlife Sanctuary, established in 1993, which itself is part of the larger Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary. Bumdeling Sanctuary currently covers the northern half of Trashi yangtse (the gewogs of Bumdeling and Yangste), as well as substantial portions of neighbouring districts.
HAA Valley Region
Haa is located in South West of Paro and its one of the most beautiful and isolated areas in the kingdom adorned with pristine alpine forests and tranquil mountain peaks. The forested hills of Haa provide an ideal location for hiking and mountain biking. Biking around the valley to visit the dozen or so local temples is an enjoyable way to spend the day when visiting. Haa is home to a number of nomadic herders and hosts an annual Summer Festival that showcases their unique lifestyle and culture. The festival is an ideal occasion to immerse yourself in the traditions and unchanged lifestyles of nomadic Bhutanese herders, as well as to sample some delectable Haapi cuisine. Haa’s major feature is the Haa Valley, a steep north-south valley with a narrow floor. You may also experience Home-stay with the Bhutanese locals and enjoy the local hospitality of the families with homemade foods, and long period preserved wine.
Phuentsholing is a frontier and thriving commercial centre on the northern edge of the Indian plains and five-six hours drive south of Thimphu and Paro International airport. Situated at the foothills of Himalaya, it serves as the main trading zone for Bhutanese with other neighbouring countries of South Asia. Visitors can reach Phuentsholing by road from Sikkim, Darjeeling and Bagdogra airport in West Bengal. It takes 3 – 6 hours by drive from these places.
Unlike other cities in Bhutan that offer unexplored terrain and natural scenic beauty, Phuentsholing is the perfect mix of traditions, beautiful landscapes, modern life and culture. There is a lot more to Phuentsholing than meets the eye. The city is a hub for different ethnic groups living in perfect harmony, be it Bhutanese, Nepalese or Indians. For this very reason, Phuentsholing is a must-visit.
Tsirang District is located in the southwestern part of Bhutan on the Wangdue-Gelephu highway. Tsirang is noted for its gentle slopes and mild climates. The dzongkhag is also noted for its rich biodiversity, however, it is one of the few dzongkhags without a protected area. One of Bhutan’s longest rivers, the Punatsang Chhu or Sankosh river flows through the district. It is the main district where the Lhotshampas (Nepali-speaking Bhutanese) reside. The dominant language in Tsirang is Nepali, spoken by the heterogeneous Lhotshampa. In the north of Tsirang, Dzongkha is also spoken. Damphu is the administrative headquarters and capital of Tsirang District. It is located on the north-south highway running from Wangdue Phodrang to Sarpang and Gelephu on the border with India. It is also where the Tsirang Dzong is located. The route from Wangdue Phodrang to Tsirang is quite scenic; one will see one of the largest hydro power projects in the country being constructed. The project is powered by the Puna Tsang Chhu, the river that flows from Punakha.
Gelephu Region is a region of the Dzongkhag of Sarpang. It is located in Southern Bhutan on the border with India and this makes it a hub for cross-border trade. Gelephu is a warm, fertile region with plenty of rainfall. Gelephu is one of the areas through which visitors can enter Bhutan overland through the Indian state of Assam and it is also a gateway to the Royal Manas National Park, the oldest nature preserve in the Kingdom of Bhutan. It’s incredible biodiversity includes hundreds of rare animal and plant species that cannot be seen anywhere else in the world such as Golden Langurs, Gangetic Dolphins and the Asian One-horned Rhinoceros. The park is the most biologically diverse protected area in the kingdom as well as one of the most outstanding nature preserves worldwide.