The article will share some of the most overlooked attractions, probably never even heard of but is worth a visit. Moving away from the more obvious sights like the Paro Taktshang popularly known as the Tiger's nest monastery, the tallest sitting statue of Buddha Dordenma, the Takin zoo or the mesmerizing Punakha Dzong, We are introducing you to a whole different side of Bhutan.
Check out our 21 unique and unusual Gems you won't find in a guide book:
1.Cheri Monastery Hike
The Cheri monastery is the first monastery that was built in Bhutan. After driving for 30 minute towards north of Thimphu city the road will lead to the base of Cheri Monastery. A traditional cantilever bridge will take the hikers to the opposite side from where the hikers will begin their climb. An hour hike upwards leads the hikers through scenic landscapes. As you keep ascending the view just keeps getting better. The monastery was built by ZhabdrungNgawangNamgyel. The monastery is built on a rocky hill where monks commit to a three years of meditation without contacting the outside world. The hike is rewarding in terms of its exquisiteness and its scenery.
2.Talo traditional trail-Hike
Talo village is situated on an altitude of 2,800m. The village is surrounded with two-storey traditional houses dotted along the ridge are a mesmerizing sight. Each and every house in Talo region has a well tended flower garden of their own which adds to the exquisiteness of the village. Apart from spotlessness and hygiene of the village, Talo village is also known for their gorgeous women. The four Royal queens to His Majesty the fourth Druk Gyalpo, fourth king of Bhutan hails from Talo village.
To admire to beauty of the village and also the beautiful women of this village one must hike up the natural traditional trail through enthralling valley enclosed by rich alpine trees and ascend upwards to the scenic Talo village. History dictates that Talo Dzong was used as the summer residence for the monk body earlier in 1616. In summer the monks climb up to Talo and in cold winter they descend back to Punakha Dzong. Hikers will follow the prehistoric dirt trail used by the monks to get to the Dzong. On a clear weather day hikers can take in the panoramic view of the Punakha valley and surrounding villages.
3.Zuri Dzong Hike
The Zuri Dzong or Zuri Lhakhang is located on the hilltop above the National Museum of Paro. It is about 45 minutes of a hike from the Ta Dzong. It houses one of the protectors of Paro Dzongkhag known as Rahula. Within it has a cave that locals believe Buddha once mediated in there. It is a five-story building surrounded double walls, unveiling the true Bhutanese architecture. The hike starts from the Rinpung Dzong and ends at the Paro Uma resort or the hike can be done from the opposite direction; start from Uma resort and end at the National Museum. The hike from National Museum to the Zuri Dzong is little strenuous along the steep slope on the narrow path but whereas the hike from Paro Uma resort to the Zuri Dzong is much gentle.Once at the top, it offers one peerless views of stunning Paro valley. One can capture the whole Paro valley in a single frame.
The hike to Jele Dzong is about 2 to 3 hours through pristine forests and valleys traversed by yak herders during olden times. The Dzong is located on a ridge and offers a mesmerizing view of the scenery. The small fortress was built several hundred years ago to cater to travelers between Paro and Thimphu. Take a moment to hang your own prayer flags and enjoy the serene landscape.
Dobji Dzong is located at an altitude of 6,600 feet on the way to Haa valley. The Dzong is credited to Lam Ngawang Chogyal (brother to Lam Drukpa Kunley, the divine mad man) who followed the spring originating from the throne of Jetsun Milarepa in Druk Ralung, Tibet in order to select the perfect site to establish a Drukpa Kagyud centre in Bhutan. The dzong houses relics such as the statue of Jetsun Milarepa, Guru Langdarchen, Dungsay Dewa Zangpo, and Ngawang Chogyal while the Goenkhang houses the Goem-Chamdal Sum: Mahakala, Mahakali and the Raven Crown.
Tamdrin Nye in Thimphu, popularly known to the locals as Tandin Nye is located at an elevation of about 2600 meters. The temple is one sacred site where locals are often visiting as a pilgrimage. It takes about 20 minutes to the temple by road from the heart of the city and about 50 minutes if one decides to hike and take the traditional path from the Yangchenphu High School. Historically it is one of the most sacred sites discovered by Khandro Yeshe Tsogyal (consort to Guru Padmasambhava) as per the prophetic instruction of Guru Padmasambhava himself. Built on slanting landscape, one can’t help but draw resemblance to Taktshang monastery in Paro. The Serenity of the site is very calming, and is often found to be perfect for meditation.
Often branded as the Taktshang of the east, this site is also built on a cliff. It is located in eastern Bhutan in the district of Trashiyangtse. The holy pilgrim site has letter OM on the rock face, which the locals proclaim it to have naturally appeared. It is the first of the three sacred sites linked to Guru Rimpoche, the second being Aja and Hungrel where the letters Aa and HUM can be seen, together creating the 3 holy syllables of OM Aa HUM. The hike to the site takes about 3 hrs from Nangkhar Gonpa. The hike starts off with a steep descent of 330 m, followed by a steady climb of 125 m. The site consists of temples, caves and various sites of religious significance all around.
The second sacred site is located in Mongar District, a little closer to central Bhutan, Aja Ney. Pilgrims from all over of Bhutan travel here to receive blessings and wash away their sins. A rock that bears 100 renditions of the sacred syllable “Aa,” is said to have been discovered by Guru Padmasambhava. It is located at an altitude of more than 3,500 meters and falls under Ngatsang geog. It is approximately a two-day trek from Serzhong village. One is said to have been relieved off of its sins from past, present and future if they visit all the three sacred sites.
The third sacred site is the closest as it is located in western Bhutan in Paro district. History dictates that in the 15th century locals of Paro valley offered the peak of Hungrel at Paro to Lama Drung Drung Gyal, a descendant of Pajo Drugom Zhigpo. Drung Drung Gyal built a small temple there and later a five storied fortress which was known as Hungrel Dzong. In the 17th century, his descendants, the lords of Hungrel, offered this fortress to the Drukpa hierarch, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in recognition of his religious and temporal authority. In 1644 Zhabdrung dismantled the existing Dzong and built a new Dzong. In 1646 the Dzong was established as the administrative and monastic centre of the western region and it became to be known as "Rinpung Dzong". Some scenes in the 1993 Hollywood film Little Buddha starring Keanu Reeves were filmed in this Dzong.
Singye Dzong is located in Lhuentse district near the Tibetan border. The founding of the site is credited to Khando Yeshi Tsogyal (consort to Guru Rinpoche). Guru Rinpoche visited the region on his second visit to Bhutan and blessed the site. The site is where Guru Padmasambhava rode a flying tigress to Taktshang in Paro. One will need to trek for 3 days to reach the site.
Gasa Hot Spring is popular among locals and tourists. Due to its rising popularity and increasing number of visitors, the facility has been well maintained.The high essential mineral contents in Hot Spring are great for our body and it also known to improve our blood circulation. Gasa Hot Spring is popular among locals and tourists. Due to its rising popularity and increasing number of visitors, the facility has been well maintained. There are multiple tubs with overhead roofs and surrounding walls. It also has a shower and restroom to maintain cleanliness of the facility. There are three bath houses at the Gasa Tshachu. One of the bath houses contains a large bathing pool and the remaining two each have two smaller pools. The water temperature varies in each of the pool so visitors can choose the one that they like best. Bathing facilities have also been provided to ensure that the Hot Springs remain clean and hygienic. There is also an outdoor pool close to the facilities that are frequently used by both domestic and wild animals such as Takins.
The trek will take 2 days and 1 night. on the first day, you will walk uphill to reach Phajoding monastery located at an elevation of 3640m from Sangay Gang located above the capital city of Bhutan. The hike to Phajoding monastery takes about 4 hours. The monastery was founded in the 13th century by Phajo Drugom Zhigpo, a yogi from Tibet. The monastery was watch-listed in 2010 by the World Monuments Fund as one of five endangered cultural monuments that need preservation in the world. You will spend your night in Phagoding, either at the monastery's guest house or in a tent if you prefer to camp. Next day, you will start early to trek to Dungtsho Lake which is at an elevation of 4000m above the sea level. After trekking for 7 to 8 hours through pristine landscape of rhododendron shrubs and magnificent mountains you will reach the lake. Traditionally locals burn incense and prostrate to the lake. Legend has it that one must trek quietly through these mountains to not disrupt the peace of nature. Locals warn that if the trekkers disrupt the nature in any way, they will be met by heavy storms and hailstones hindering their path to the lake.
13.Dra Karpo Kora
One of the many sacred monasteries in Paro is Dra Karpo which means splitting of rock. Guru Rinpoche is said to have meditated at this temple, where you'd find a huge stone which has been shifted from the mountainside to the altar room. One of the highlights of the place is the footprints imprinted on the rocks. Legend has it that Guru Rinpoche split a rock into pieces, revealing an evil spirit hiding in it. It is believed that making 108 rounds(koras) around the monastery in a clockwise direction will cleanse one off its sins. Apart from its religious significance, it offers a great view of the surrounding valleys. It takes around 2 hours of hike to reach the temple top.
Chumphu ney is located in Paro, an hour drive from the capital city. The sacred site is popularly known for the floating statue of Dorji Phamo (Vajravarahi). This statue is inexplicably floating in the air which the visitors can witness upon reaching the monastery. Legend has it that when the statue was discovered from the lake, the statue was only about a foot tall. It is said that the statue magically grew to the present height and was placed in the Lhakang as the main statue. The lake from where the statue was discovered is above the monastery.The most enchanting thing about the statue is that it is not a man-made statue but Dorji Phamo herself who turned into this statue. It is believed that prayers and wishes made to the statue are bound to come true. Hike to this Monastery is not an arduous one; in fact, the trail runs through a forest with tall trees and lush green environment providing the hikers with shade and a relaxed ambiance. The hikers can enjoy the cool breeze and the sound of gushing rivers.
A three nights trek further north of Gasa town leads to Laya village at an elevation of 3800 meters. Adapting to the harsh climatic conditions and limited resources available at the highland, a unique culture and tradition has evolved and thrived. The village has its own dialect, customs and distinct dress. Lunana is the most remote village in Gasa. It is seven nights trek away from Laya village. Tourists can experience the culture of nomads living amongst the glaciers. Locals make their living from yak and sheep. Nomads also harvest and sell cordyceps.
16.Hokatsho Lake excursion
The hike starts on a red mud path sloping uphill through small villages before reaching the 15th-century temple Chorten Nyibu. After passing the Chorten and walking further for a while you will be crossing a huge farm house. after crossing the house, you will need to follow a creek probably made for irrigation through dense jungle and seren landscape till you reach the lake. Once at the lake one can enjoy the peaceful surrounding of Hokatsho. Locals usually string prayer flags near the lake and enjoy picnic lunch after wards.
The chorten is believed to be constructed at a point where the three ridges and the three edges of the sky meet. The chorten architectural style resembles the Bodhanath stupa in Nepal. The chorten was constructed to bring peace to the valley
The Buddhist College is located on a hilltop on the north side of the valley. The shedra or Buddhist College is home to about 150 monks, studying for six years before they graduate and move to Tango Buddhist College for higher studies. One cannot deny the great views from the temple. You must look for the stuffed black bear to the side of the main entryway and perhaps take a picture or two.
Duenmang hot spring is located at the bottom of a valley about an hour walk downhill from the road at about 75 Kilometers from Zhemgang. The hot spring is famous for curing ailments like tuberculosis, gastritis, and rheumatism. Other than curing ailments, a soak in the hot spring can be a great way to unwind the day and a mineral treat for the body and mind.
20.Trong village excursion
The Trong village is beautifully set in the vicinity of Zhemgang Dzong. Clustered traditional two-storied stone houses with wooden windows make up the Trong village. The village emanates the true essence of traditional Bhutanese settlement and preserves Bhutan’s cultural identity. Due to this aspect of the village, it was declared a heritage village.
21.Lampelri Botanical Park
The Lampelri Botanical Park is located at about 45-minute drive (22-km) from the capital city of Thimphu. Visitors can take a tour in and around the park. The Park is at an altitude range of 2,100m to 3,800m between the Thimphu and Punakha districts covering an area of 47 sq. km consisting of rich biodiversity of high conservation value. It is a great exploration for the students, researchers and nature lovers. The park features a variety of forest types: alpine, cool temperate broadleaf forest, old growth of broadleaf and conifer forests, etc. About 300 species of plants are found in the park including endangered species. The park allows visitors to camp in the park if one wishes to.
There it was our top 21 attractions that you’d never expect to see but will hopefully love to explore, no guidebook will tell you, but is worth all your visit.