6 OF BHUTAN'S MOST PHOTOGENIC TRAVEL HOTSPOTS
Boasting breathtaking landscapes, magnificent monasteries and a rich artistic heritage, the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan is high on many adventurous travelers’ lists. The country famously measures its progress in “Gross National Happiness” and celebrates its strong cultural traditions through vibrant festivals throughout the year.
While it’s not the easiest country to visit as an independent traveler, those who do venture here are rewarded with some unforgettable experiences. If you’re after some inspiration, here’s just a taste of what Bhutan offers.
Tiger’s Nest Monastery
Known as Paro Taktsang or “Tiger’s Nest”, this 8th-century monastery is perhaps the most famous landmark in Bhutan. It perches precariously on a cliffside overlooking the Paro Valley, with Buddhist prayer flags fluttering in the wind. It’s dedicated to Guru Padmasambhava (who is said to have introduced Buddhism to Bhutan), making it one of the most sacred destinations to discover.
Dotted with ancient temples and monasteries, the Bumthang Valley is considered the religious heartland of Bhutan. It actually consists of four gently curved valleys that are backed by the world’s highest unclimbed peak, Mount Gangkar, and is home to the richly ornamented Kurje Lhakhang Monastery. Shop for handicrafts in the one-street town of Jakar Dzong or enjoy the scenic beauty while hiking through the rice fields, orchards and dairy farms.
Fusing ancient architecture with modern development, the lively capital of Thimpu is the beating heart of Bhutan. It’s home to outstanding museums like the National Folk Heritage Museum and the Royal Textile Academy, not to mention bustling markets that are a feast for the senses. Soak up the views from the gilded Sakyamuni Buddha statue that watches of the city and visit the 17th-century Fortress of Glorious Religion, which is the seat of the Royal Bhutanese Government.
Famed for the annual winter migration of the black-necked crane, the Phobjikha Valley is a spectacular, glacial-carved landscape in the center of Bhutan. It’s watched over by the small village and monastery of Gangtey while being home to barking deer, red fox and Himalayan black bear. Embark on a trek to experience its exceptional wildlife viewing or coincide your visit with the arrival of the black-necked cranes from the Tibetan Plateau.
Dochu La Pass
Situated on the road between Thimphu and Punakha, the Dochu La Pass lies at 3,100 meters in elevation and offers 360-degree panoramic views across the Himalaya Mountains. It’s home to the sacred Druk Wangyal Lhakhang temple, which was built for the fourth Druk Gyalpo, and is adorned with 108 memorial chortens. Take advantage of the photogenic views and the sea of colorful Buddhist prayer flags fluttering in the wind.
One of Bhutan's least-visited regions, the steep Haa Valley nestles in the far west of the country near the border with China and India. It’s accessed from Paro along the spectacular Chele La Pass, which affords magnificent views across to sacred Mount Jhomolhari. Coincide your visit with the festival that ignites the Haa Valley each summer, celebrating the life of its nomadic herders through yak riding, ancient songs and traditional cuisine.