Bhutan is a culturally and ecologically distinct country. It is the planet’s last remaining Buddhist kingdom, perched high in the Himalayas. It has established the Gross National Happiness ideology, in which development is assessed using a comprehensive approach to well-being rather than merely GDP. Tourism, hydroelectric power, and agriculture are the kingdom’s main sources of revenue. Well, there are many places to visit in Bhutan, but if you are on a budget trip and have just a few days to spare then here are the top 10 places to visit in Bhutan.
To start your journey, you may directly fly to Paro which might be expensive, or fly to Bagdogra in India and drive to Bhutan. The drive here is scenic as you cross the tea gardens and mountains all around. In the north of West Bengal, there is a diversion to the right which will take you to Bhutan where you need to cross the Teesta river.
The other route will take you to Gangtok, Sikkim which is another beautiful place. Stay overnight once you cross the border at Phuentsholing. On the next day get a visa on arrival and pay the fees to proceed further. You may find the latest updated details here.
By the way, you might want to check the best camera travel gear that I use to travel light and be safe. Also, you might want to get this complete guide with in-depth details on everything you need to know and cover all the places when you plan to travel to Bhutan.
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Here goes the list of top 10 places to visit in Bhutan
? Phuentsholing, the doorway to the country of thunder dragons, is frequently referred to be the Himalayan Kingdom’s residence of kings and queens. Moreover, time flows slowly here, and the residents’ simplicity fits the natural tranquility. In addition, at barely 300 meters above sea level, this Bhutanese commercial hub is located next to the Indian town of Jaigaon in the foothills of the Himalayas. In Phuentsholing, there are several sites to visit where you can see the richness of Bhutanese, Nepalese, and Indian cultures. After that, the next stop from Phuentsholing is Paro.
?The Paro Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest Monastery), nestled high in the Himalaya Mountains, is one of Bhutan’s most prominent cultural and religious landmarks. This video provides a summary of the hiking trail, what to expect, as well as architectural details of the monastery. It is a 2 to 3 hours of a hike uphill with some beautiful views. This hike is ideal for those who don’t want to go for a week-long hike but interested in a short day hike. If you are considering any hike then this is one of the best places to visit in Bhutan, to start with.
National Memorial Chorten
☮️ This huge chorten is one of Thimphu’s most obvious monuments, and it is the center of daily devotion for many Bhutanese. The whitewashed chorten, with its sun-catching golden finial, has complex mandalas, sculptures, and a shrine dedicated to the popular king, as well as elaborately painted annexes facing the cardinal directions.
Places to visit in Bhutan should include the National Memorial Chorten as the approach to this is in the middle of Thimphu town. The action lasts from early morning until late at night, although visitors are forbidden from attending at night to give devotees a break. Keep an eye on the devoted group of elderly timers who are churning away at room-size enormous prayer wheels beside the main entrance.
Thangka Painting and Art Gallery
?The traditional art of painting the life of Buddha on fabric or silk appliqué is known as Thangka. The origins of the Thangka painting may be traced back to Tibetan Buddhist art. These works were created in Bhutan, Nepal, Tibet, and India. The ‘mandala’ is seen in Thangka paintings composed of cotton, silk, and human skin (Mandala in Sanskrit means is a spiritual and ritual symbol representing the universe). The life of Buddha is commonly depicted in Thangka paintings. This gallery is not just one of the places to visit in Bhutan but an ideal place to purchase authentic artwork.
A person must train for years to become a thangka artist, and the paintings are extremely uncommon and costly, with prices reaching into the thousands of dollars – sample painting and my complete collection mainly used for home decor. These thangkas are composed of natural color stone crushed plant leaves and roots, as well as 24k gold dust. Your places to visit in Bhutan bucket list must include a visit to this art gallery which is located in Thimphu.
? World’s largest mountaintop statue of Buddha Dordenma is located in the western parts of Bhutan, Thimphu. A must-visit place if you are in Thimphu. The huge structure of Buddha (Shakyamuni) is made of bronze and is gilded in gold. The view from here is breathtaking as it overlooks the southern entrance to Thimphu valley. This huge structure of Buddha is a new addition to this historical place and is now one of the top places to visit in Bhutan.
? The National Memorial, Dochu La, or Dochu Pass, is at the pass’s center peak with 108 stupas or Chortens. It’s midway between Thimphu and Punakha, Bhutan, and offers breathtaking views of the Himalayan mountain range. Dochula Pass is around 3100 meters high, and the area is still hazy. The weather at Dochula Pass is beautiful and clear around December, allowing you to see the Himalayan mountain range.
Chimi Lhakhang – Fertility Temple
⛩️ There is one less known and unique monastery by the name Chimi Lhakhang, with a lot of ‘penises’ around. Yeah, you heard that right. Chimi Lhakhang, located in the Punakha requires district-level permission. In addition, Chimi Lhakhang is on the way to Punakha Dzong. It is just over 100 kilometers from Paro and 65 kilometers from Thimphu. Meanwhile, reaching the Chimi Lhakhang monastery from the highway is an approx one-kilometer hike. Above all, the hike is scenic, crossing the paddy fields, via the Yowakha village full of handicraft stores, paintings, and prayer flags. Also, the hike can be even more picturesque if you take the back entrance, next to the Puna Tsang Chu river.
? Punakha Dzong – meaning ‘great pleasure’ or ‘joy castle’, is the administrative headquarters of Punakha. Also, it is the second oldest and second-largest dzong in Bhutan, and one of its most beautiful buildings. Moreover, Punakha Dzong served as the administrative headquarters until 1955. Above all, the Punakha valley, the location of Dzong is in between the Pho Chhu (male) and Mo Chhu (female) rivers. Punakha is Bhutan’s winter capital. Punakha Dzong tops the places to visit in Bhutan.
In addition to Punakha Dzong, there are many Dzongs at different places to visit in Bhutan. The one in Thimphu is spectacular, especially late in the evening when all the lamps are illuminated one by one. Most of the Dzongs are lit up and look amazing and a perfect place for nighttime architecture photography.
Punakha Suspension Bridge
? Suspension bridges are ideal for Bhutan’s high mountains and deep valleys. Punakha Suspension Bridge is a wonderful illustration of this, for the decoration of colorful prayer flags. This is one of Bhutan’s longest suspension bridges. In addition, it connects Punakha Dzong to Shengana, Samdingkha, and Wangkha villages across the Po Chu river, which is usually not listed in the places to visit in Bhutan. It is, nevertheless, astonishingly stable for a 520-foot-long suspension bridge. Moreover, the east side of the river is an excellent starting place for multi-day hikes in the surrounding mountains. Also, the bridge provides a beautiful view of the river and valley.
⛺ Camping in Punakha along the banks of the Mo Chu River is a dream come true. Firstly, the golden dunes and flowing water create such a stunning scene that will make you speechless. Secondly, around the river are tiny establishments where you may spend time with the locals. You may also witness the perfect Bhutanese architecture at Punakha Dzong in the twilight. The campsite at Punakha is one of the top places to visit in Bhutan known for its beautiful misty mornings that appears truly magical, next to the river.
Places other than these top 10 places to visit in Bhutan
So, these are the top 10 places to visit in Bhutan. Other places include the Ha valley that stretches along the Haachu river in west Bhutan. In addition, you may want to cover the Dzong present in Paro and Thimphu, and do not forget to see the lighting late in the evening. Also, visit the old traditional paper mill which is right next to Thangka Painting and Art Gallery.
When visiting some of the locations, please be considerate. Unbeknownst to them, outsiders may pay a visit. For example, the clothing code for entering the monastery, the use of a camera. It is important to consult while visiting places in Bhutan with your local guide.
In conclusion, for those who want to experience the true Buddhist culture and heritage then this is the place to visit. For more info and places to visit in Bhutan, you may want to buy this book by Lonely Planet Bhutan where you will find the details on the local festivals, hotels, restaurants, and many more. Also, it has more details on For those who have time these if you are on a budget trip and have just a few days to spare then here are the top 10 places to visit in Bhutan is just the tip of the iceberg. And finally, support my work by Subscribing to my YouTube channel and joining my FriendZone for more.