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Bhutan

The Kingdom of Bhutan is known for its culture, architecture and archery, but in many ways, it has remained a mystery until half a century ago.

The serene country, which is about half the size of Indiana, is cradled between its husky neighbors China to the north and India to the south. Its lands include subtropical savannahs to forests to the unforgiving Himalayas that guard the country’s eastern border.

Its isolation, domestic policies and decision to limit tourism have helped to protect its culture and its natural beauty.  These are among the reasons it is referred to as the Last Shangri-la and the crown jewel of the Himalayas

Area: 38,816 sq km

Capital City: Thimpu

Major Language: Dzongkha

Monetary Unit: Ngultrum

Places to visit in Bhutan

Phuentsholing (alt. 300m / 985 ft) – The frontier town, it is a thriving commercial centre, situated directly at the base of Himalayan foothills. It is a fascinating place where different ethnic groups mingle prominently Indian, Bhutanese and Nepalese. Being the border town, Phuentsholing serves as the convenient entry/exit point for Bhutan and also the important link to visit the Indian state of West Bengal, Sikkim and Assam.

Thimpu (alt. 2400m/7875ft) – The capital town of Bhutan and the centre of government, religion and commerce, Thimpu is a unique city with unusual mixture of modern development alongside ancient traditions. Although not what one expects from a capital city, Thimpu is still a fitting and lively place. Home to civil servants, expatriates and monk body, Thimpu maintains a strong national character in its architectural style.

Paro (alt. 2200m/7218ft) – The beautiful valley of Paro encapsulates within itself a rich culture, scenic beauty and hundreds of myths and legends. It is home to many of Bhutan’s oldest temples and monasteries, National Museum and country’s only airport. Mount. Chomolhari (7,314m) reigns in white glory at the northern end of the valley and its glacial water plunge through deep gorges to form Pa Chhu (Paro River). Paro is also one of the most fertile valleys in the Kingdom producing a bulk of the locally famous red rice from its terraced fields.

Punakha (alt. 1300m/4265ft) – Punakha served as the capital of Bhutan until and still it is the winter seat of Je Khenpo (the chief abbot). Blessed with temperate climate and owing to its natural drainage from Pho Chhu (male) and Mo Chhu (female) rivers, the Punakha valley produces abundant crops and fruits. There are splendid views of the distant Himalayas at Dochula pas (alt. 3,050m) on Thimpu – Punakha road.

Wangduephodrang (alt. 1300m /4265ft) – Wangduephodrang is the last town on the central highway before central Bhutan. The town is not more than an enlarged village with a few well-provided shops. Located in the south of Punakha, the higher reaches of the Wangduephodrang valley provide rich pastureland for cattle. This district is also famous for its fine bamboo products, slate and stone carvings.

Haa Valley – Adjoining the districts of Paro, Chhukha and Samtse, Haa valley is one of the most picturesque places in the Kingdom, spread over an area of 1706 sq. km. During pre-Buddhist era, Haa valley was known for its animist tradition. Inhabitants then were enthused in offering animal blood to their local deities. Such animist belief however was transformed into peaceful Buddhist tradition in 8th century by Guru Padmasambhava. The tantric master, Guru Padmasambhava, subdued the local deities like AP Chundu and made the guardians of the Buddhist tradition. However, the traces of this belief system are still noticed in the form of festivals and rituals.

Trongsa (alt. 2300m/7545ft.):Trongsa forms the central hub of the nation and is historically the place from where attempts at unifying the country were launched. Both His Majesty King Ugyen Wangchuck, the Penlop of Trongsa, who was elected the country’s first hereditary monarch and his successor, King Jigme Wangchuck, ruled the country from Trongsa ancient seat. The Crown Prince of Bhutan normally holds the position of the Trongsa Penlop prior to ascending the throne. Including the present King the entire landscape around Trongsa is spectacular.

Mongar (alt. 1600m/5250ft) & Lhuntse (alt. 2323m/7621ft): The journey from Bumthang to Mongar is one of the most beautiful in the Himalayas crossing 4,000m high Thrumshing la (pass). Gushing waterfalls, steep cliffs with even steeper drops, blazing flowers and constantly changing vegetation combine to make this journey as varied as it is beautiful. Mongar marks the beginning of Eastern Bhutan. The second largest town in the sub-tropical east, Mongar like Trashigang further east, is situated on the side of a hill in the contrasts to other towns of Western Bhutan which was built on the valley floor. 

Trashigang (alt. 1100m/3610ft) – In the far east of Bhutan, on the bank of Gamri Chhu river lies Trashigang, the country’s largest district. Trashigang, once the centre of a busy trade route with Tibet, is today the junction of east-west highway with road connecting to Samdrup Jongkhar and then to the Indian States of Assam. This town is also used as the market place for the semi nomadic people from Merak and Sakteng whose costumes are unique in Bhutan. 

 

 

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