Haa is one of the smallest districts in the country, roughly an area of 1706 sq. kms. This small district is one of the most stunning and isolated areas in the country, which is opened to tourists only in 2002. It is festooned with perfect alpine forests and serene mountain peaks.
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 oneself in the traditions and unchanged lifestyles of nomadic Bhutanese herders.
Lhakhang Karpo and Nagpo (White & Black temple):
The two important temples in the Haa district, the Black Temple and the White Temple were built at the same time as Kyichu Temple in Paro (7th century AD).
Haa Gonpa temple:
It was built at further up the valley at the site where a lame pigeon, actually a bodhisattva in disguised form, was found by a local farmer who was drawn to the spot by a mysterious fire seen on several successive nights and by the unexplained sounds of oboes and trumpets (musical instruments closely associated with Bhutanese and Tibetan monasteries).
Three Brother Hills:
popularly known as Miri Punsum, the 3 sacred mountains in Haa.
Sacred oak and the upper house:
Near the Black Temple there are two houses near a sacred oak tree where the local deity once appeared as a winged creature, scaring the local people (the valley is divided into a number of areas, each under the influence of a particular local deity predating the arrival of Buddhism— see Bon religion). The residents of the two houses gave offerings to the local deity.
Wangchu Lo Dzong:
The Gongzim Uguen Dorji, grandfather of Royal Grandmother Ashi Kezang Choden Wangchuck commissioned the construction of what was formerly the district center – Wangchu Lo Dzong. It was built to replace the older Dumcho Dzong, which was destroyed by fire. The structure of the Dzong resembles the Wangdicholing palace in Bumthang, which was the seat of the 1st and 2nd Kings.
Chele-la pass over 13,000 ft to the west above the Paro Valley is the highest road pass in the country and has amazing views of the Himilaya and most significantly the magnificent Jhomolari and some more.
Paro is quite wide and the valley is very fertile agricultural land growing the principal crops of rice, wheat, apple and potatoes. It is the location of Bhutan’s international airport.
Most visitors spend most of their days in Paro to visit the Bhutan’s most iconic landmark Taktsang Monastery, the Tiger’s Nest. This awe-inspiring temple was constructed upon a sheer cliff face, hundreds of meters above valley floor. There are also ancient temples that back to 14th century.
Paro Rinpung Dzong
Rinpung Dzong, also known as “fortress of the heap of jewels “, was built during the time of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1646. It now houses the administrative offices of Paro Dzongkhag. The approach to the Dzong is through a traditional covered bridge called the Nemi Zam which offers a good view of the architectural wonder of the Dzong as well as life around it. It is also venue of the Paro Tshechu (religious dance festival), held once a year in spring.
Drugyal Dzong which means victorious fortress was built in 1646 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel to commemorate his victory over the Tibetan invaders, led by the Mongolian warlord, Gushri Khan in 1644. Strategically built over the only passage into Paro valley. The glory of Drukgyel Dzong remained even when it was destroyed by fire in 1951.
Ta Dzong built in 1951 was one time watch tower built to defend Rinpung Dzong during inter-valley wars of the 17th century. It was re-established as the National Museum in 1967 and has been rated among the best natural history museums in Asia. It holds fascinating collection of art, relics, religious thangkha paintings and Bhutan’s exquisite postage stamps.etc
Taktsang Monastery, popularly known as theTiger’s Nest temple is the Bhutan’s most famous monastery perched on the side of a cliff900m above the Paro valley.According to legend, Guru Padsambhava is said to have flown on the back of a tigress from Singye Dzong in Lhuntse to meditate in a cave where Taktsang Monastery now stands and hence it’s called the ‘Tigers Nest’,
Kyichu temple one of the most sacred and oldest temples in Bhutan. It was built in 7th Century by the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo, to subdue the demons that were terrorizing the Himalayan countries.
Thimphu is the capital of Bhutan. It has many modern and traditional buildings. The one of the most unusual capital city in the world, by keeping a strong national character in its architecture. One can also visit many sacred places here.Temperatures average between -2.6 to + 17 degrees Celsius during winter and 13 to 25 degrees Celsius during summer.
This Dzong was built in 1641 by the Shabdrung. it serve as the administrative headquarters for the government and the religious order. Today it houses the seat of Bhutan’s government and houses the office of the King and the chief Abbot. Its courtyard is open to the visitors during the Thimphu Tshechu (festival).
Built in 1627, the oldest fortress built in 17th century in Bhutan. It also serves as an Institute for Language & Culture.Its about 4 miles drive from Thimphu.
Tango and Cheri Gompa
This monastery was built in 1620 by Shabdrung Nagwang Namgyel, who was the first ruler of unified Bhutan. Indeed, the first order of monks from the Tibetan School of the Drukpa Kagyu version of Buddhism was established in Bhutan at this Monastery. Today, the monastery is an important seat of religious teaching that attracts monks from around the country who come for refresher courses and spiritual retreats.
Built in 1974 in memory of the Third King, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, who is popularly considered as the Father of Modern Bhutan. It is one of the most visible religious stupas in Thimphu and for many Thimphu residents it is the place where they come to circumambulate the stupa and pay their daily worship
The Institute for Zorig Chusum
(13 traditional arts & crafts): Centre where children learn traditional drawing and painting, wood carving, sculpture and other forms of traditional arts. On a visit, one can view the students at work.
It houses a vast collection of ancient Buddhist manuscripts and texts including the imprinted and archaic text of Bhutanese history. The library also has research documents and printing blocks for prayer flags.
The Institute of Traditional Medicine
Here one can receive indigenous treatment. It produces it own herbal medicine.The rich herbal medicine found abundant in Bhutan are prepared and dispensed from here. The institute also researches the use of medicinal herbs and plants and operates a trial experiment on the premises.
The Folk Heritage Museum
Founded by Her Majesty the Queen Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck. This museum gives you a sense of what a traditional Bhutanese home looked like in the medieval days. Many houses in the villages more or less still look like this one.
This is one interesting place for a tourist to visit. Here villagers come to sell their agriculture products from all over the village.
Excursion and Hikes around Thimphu
Tango Temple: Initially built by Gyalwa Lhanampa in 12th century and later built into its present form by “Divine Madman” Lama Drukpa Kuenley in 15th century. In the 18th century, the eighth Desi Tenzin Rabgye built a three storey tower and several other surrounding buildings. Presently, it serves as a monastic school for Buddhist studies. It is about 12 km drive from Thimphu and takes about an hour’s hike to reach the temple from the road end.
Punakha has an altitude of 4420 feet. Until 1955, Punakha served as the capital of Bhutan. It is also the winter seat of the Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot) and the monk body. It is fed by Pho Chu (male) and Mo Chu (female) rivers.
Drukwangyal Chortens at Dochula
A few hours drive from Thimphu to Punakha, you will come across 108 stupas at Dochula. It is built by the eldest Queen, Her Majesty Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck. Depending on the weather one can get a beautiful view of the snow-capped ranges of the Himalayas from Dochula, the highest point on this road.
It is dedicated to Lama Drukpa Kuenley( Divine Madman ), who in the late 15th century used humour, songs and outrageous behaviour to dramatize his teachings . This temple is also known as the temple of fertility. It is widely believed that couples who do not have children and wanting one, if they pray at this temple, they are usually blessed with a child very soon.
Nalanda Buddhist Institute:
Called Dalayna or Daley Gompa by the locals, the Nalanda Buddhist Institute is a Buddhist Monastic school. It was founded in 1757 by the 9th Je Khenpo (spiritual leader of Bhutan) the Gyelwa Shakya Rinchen Rinpoche who also established Phajoding Monastery in Thimphu. Maha Mind Bhutan will be able to arrange guests to have tea and a talk with Rinpoche during his free time if requested.
Talo Sanga Choling Monastery:
This Monastery is located above Nalanda Buddhist Institute and is a beautiful monastery located amongst a pine grove.
A massive structure at the junction of two rivers built in1637 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, .It was in Punakha, the first hereditary Monarch, King Ugyen Wangchuck was enthroned on 17 December 1907 and served as the winter capital till 1955,Today It serves as winter capital for the monk body that moves their headquarters from Thimphu
Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chhorten
It was built to remove negative forces and promote peace, stability and harmony in the changing world. The Chorten dominates the upper Punakha Valley with commanding views across the Mo Chhu and up towards the mountainous peaks of Gasa and beyond
The last western town before heading towards central Bhutan, Located towards the south of Punakha, This district is also famous for its fine bamboo work and its slate, stone carvings etc. There are however many unique sites in and around this area.
Wangdue Phodrang Dzong overlooks the convergence of the Dangchhu and Punatsangchhu.
When Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel was in Chimi Lhakhang at Punakha, an old cripple approached him and told him that if he built a dzong in Wangdue Phodrang on a ridge that resembled a sleeping elephant, he would unite the country. Zhabdrung concluded that the old man was Yeshey Goenpo (Mahakala) and sent a noble to study the location. The noble reported that he saw four ravens circling the ridge, which flew away in four different directions when he approached. Taking this to be a good omen, Zhabdrung constructed the dzong in 1638.
Just below Gantey Gompa lies the beautiful glacial valley of Phobjika. Nestled in the inner Himalayas at about 3000 metres above sea level, Phobjikha is a wide alpine marshland valley that is considered the largest and the most significant wetland in the country. The valley is the most significant wintering ground of the rare and endangered Black‐necked cranes in Bhutan and has been protected since time immemorial by the local people’s traditional respect for all living beings. Every year, over 300 of the estimated 500 cranes that migrate to Bhutan spend their winter months in this valley.
The annual black-necked crane festival is performed in the grounds of Gantey Gompa.
Gangtey Goemba ia an old 16th Century monastery that belongs to a reincarnate (Gangtey Trulku). Inside the monastry are ancient artifacts of Tantric Buddhism (like the mummified body)
The Phobjikha valley is the roosting grounds of the black-necked cranes (grus nigricollis). There are myths, legends and songs about them; a clear indication of longlasting familiarity with and affection for the cranes.
Trongsa has an altitude of 7,600 feet. It forms the central hub of the kingdom and is historically the place from where attempts at unifying the country were launched. The First King Ugyen Wangchuck, the Trongsa Penlop and his successor, Second King Jigme Wangchuck, ruled the country from Trongsa’s Dzong
Trongsa also boasts an impressive museum. The watchtower of Trongsa has been converted into a museum dedicated to the Wangchuck dynasty and is a good place to learn about the history of the kingdom.
The Dzong was originally built in 1648 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, which was later extended by its powerful Penlops, and the sixteenth Desi Sonam Lhundub., Trongsa Dzong is the ancestral home of the Royal family. All Kings hold the post of Trongsa Penlop prior to being crowned as King.It is the largest Dzong in Bhutan at an altitude of 7,500 feet is a labyrinth of temples, corridors and office holding court over the local community.
This watchtower, which once guarded Trongsa Dzong from internal rebellion, stands on a promontory above the town. It was built by Chogyal Minjur Tempa, the 1st Governor of Trongsa in 1652. It has four observation points resembling Tiger, Lion, Garuda, and Dragon. Climb up the path to visit Ta Dzong which now houses a shrine dedicated to the epic hero, King Gesar of Ling. A visit to this former watchtower provides visitors with an insight into the significance of Trongsa in Bhutan’s history. To date the Ta Dzong of Trongsa is the most fascinating museum of the nation.
The palace was built by the second king and was the birth place of the third. Currently it used by reigning monarchs when on official visits to Trongsa. The building is closed to the public and like many of the early palaces is unimposing, but from an architectural and historical point of view it is still worth viewing.
It has an altitude of 8,530 – 13,125 feet. This is one of the most beautiful valleys in Bhutan. There are many old and beautiful Buddhist temples and monasteries. It has been coined the Switzerland of Bhutan due to it’s striking similarities. Many legendary tales of Guru Padmasambhava (the second Buddha in Bhutan) and the tertons (treasure finders) still exist in this district.
Kurjey Lhakhang (temple) which is located above Jambey Lhakhang, consists of three temples. The one on the right was built in 1652 on the rock face where Guru meditated in the 8th century. Second temple is built on the site of a cave containing a rock with the imprint of Guru’s body and is therefore considered the most holy. The third temple was recently built by the present Royal Queen Mother.
Jambey Lhakhang was built in 7th century by Tibetan King, Songtsen Gembo, It is one of the 108 monasteries built by him to subdue evil spirits in the Himalayan region.
It was built in 1501 by Terton Pema Lingpa (a re-incarnation of Guru Padmasambhava) and located opposite Kurje Lhakhang on the other side of the river was founded in 1501 by Terton Pema Lingpa, ]. The Lhakhang has very ancient religious paintings like 1,000 Buddhas and 21 Taras (female form of Bodhisattva). The temple was restored at the end of the 19th century.
It is the administrative center for the Bumthang district. The most popular Tshechu (festival) which is performed mostly at night is held in this Dzong.
Kenchog Sum Lhakhang:
Located in the Chumey valley, the temple was built in 8th century & later restored by Terton Pema Lingpa in 15th century. Legend has it that it is built on a large lake from where he had discovered several treasures.
This Lhakhang is a few hours walk from Tangbi Goenpa and was built in the 15th century by Lama Namkha Samdrup. It used to be the residence of the Choekhor Penlop (ruler of the area).
Tangbi Goenpa lies 30 minutes walk on a wide fertile flat terrain overlooking the Chamkhar river. Shamar Rinpoche of the Kagyu religious sect founded it in 1470. It is a two-storied temple, which contains the statues of the past, present and future Buddhas. The entrance hall contains extraordinary paintings of Guru Rinpoche and the Buddha Amitabha’s paradise.
It is one of the sacred pilgrimage sites of Bhutan where Pema Lingpa discover the treasures hidden by Guru Padsambhava.
The Ura valley is about 50 km from Jakar and takes around 90 minutes to drive through open countryside, running into deep forest and green meadows on the hillside. It is a very unique and picturesque village. Time permitting; a visit to the village of Ura will not disappoint.
It has an altitude of 3,775 feet. This is the largest district in Bhutan and it lies in the far east.Today it is the junction of the east west highway with road connecting to Samdrupjongkhar and then to the Indian state of Assam. The nomadic people from Merak and Sakten who are remarkable for their exceptional features and costumes use this town as their market place mostly during winter..
Located on a mountain ledge overlooking the Dangmechhu, Trashigang Dzong is one of the most strategically placed dzongs in the country because it is accessible only from the north.
It was founded by Trongsa Penlop Chhogyal Minjur Tempa when the eastern region of the country was brought under Drukpa rule according to the prophecies of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal.
The Dzong has an inner sanctum of a guardian deity (gongkhang) and several other temples like the Lam Lhakhang, Guru Lhakhang, Tshogshing Lhakhang, etc
Away from Trashigang, driving towards north will lead to the Rangjung town. Today people from five different gewogs assemble in this town & carry out trade businesses. The temple is located on a small hillock overlooking the town.
Is set on a small alluvial plateau, 24 kms away from Trashigang. Guru Rinpoche once mediated at this place in order to restrain a demon that dwelt inside a huge black rock.
Namdru Choling Lhakhang:
Away from Rangjung town will lead to a village through the rice fields. The temple is located at the end of the wide road. It is also known as Phongmey Lhakhang. It was built in the late 1890’s. It serves the spiritual needs of the village.
Dangling Tsho which is a lake dedicated to Dangling a powerful local deities that protects Khaling and surrounding areas. In this region you will also come across the “Brokpa” the nomads from Merak and Sakten who lives further north of the country
Through the feeder road, Chador lhakhang is located an hour & half away from Trashigang town. It is well known for fascinating tales revolving around its famous thumb size replica of Chador.
Located 22 kilometers away from Trashigang the Lhakhang was built by the late Tamzhing Jagar in early 1970’s. One can see the most intricately designed statues as well as the monastic school.
This is the oldest temple in Trashigang and possesses several sacred relics. Twice in a year a religious festival is conducted to venerate the feats of religious luminaries like Guru Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche)
The Kupijigtsam Lhakhang or the temple of cuckoo is situated on the other side of the valley, in the valley of Yangneer. It is a sacred monument built in 15th century.