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Top 10 tourist attractions in Bhutan

Step into the ‘Land of the Thunder Dragon’ and explore the best tourist places in Bhutan. Hidden between China and India, Bhutan is often overlooked as a tourist destination. With the eastern ridges of the Himalaya as a backdrop, the country’s vast, green landscapes surround awe-inspiring sightseeing places. Buddhist tradition is apparent wherever you look, from the colourful murals to the traditional clothing.

There is much to see and do in Bhutan, whether it’s visiting the Tiger’s Nest monastery, set on the side of a cliff overlooking the Paro valley, or exploring nature in Phobjikha Valley, where the black-necked crane makes its winter home. Read on for more of the top tourist places in Bhutan.

Ta Dzong

Home to the only international airport in the country, Paro is typically the first of Bhutan’s tourist attractions visitors will experience. Located 40 kilometres away from the capital, Thimphu, Paro boasts quaint farmhouses scattered throughout the valley and terraced paddy fields. Here you can find the National Museum of Bhutan in the conical fortress of Ta Dzong. The seven-storey watchtower holds statues, paintings, sacred masks, and costumes dating from 1500 years ago. Here you can find contemporary Buddhist paintings called thangkas, idols depicting Bhutan’s spiritual heads and other items that defined Bhutanese culture over the years. Enjoy views of the Paro valley and Paro Chhu River.

Taktsang monastery

Perched 3,120 metres up on a cliffside in the Paro Valley, Taktsang monastery – commonly called Tiger’s Nest – is one of Bhutan’s main tourist attractions. Considered one of the most sacred sites in Buddhism, Taktsang was built in 1692 by Gyalse Tenzin Rabgye, Bhutan’s leader at the time.
Located around 10 kilometres from Paro, the monastery boasts traditional Bhutanese architecture, with solid white walls and slanted square roofs. It is divided into four main temples and residential shelters. Each building has a balcony, allowing you to enjoy views of the valley below. The buildings are interconnected through rock stairways and wooden bridges. The interior of the complex features a gilded dome with flickering lights illuminating golden idols. Paintings can be found on the walls of the monastery and sacred scripture is kept in an adjoining area. Embark on a three-hour trek through pine forests to the monastery and take in the awe-inspiring views of the Paro Valley and the Himalaya.

National Memorial Chorten

Located in a valley on the western part of Bhutan, Thimphu welcomes visitors with a display of culture and tradition. In the centre of the city, you will find the most visible religious landmark in Bhutan – the National Memorial Chorten. Built in 1974 and influenced by the Tibetan architectural style, this is a must-see tourist spot when sightseeing in Thimphu. It serves as a memorial for king Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, and it is an essential part of Bhutanese daily worship. The white building with golden finials has decorated annexes featuring intricate mandalas, statues and a shrine dedicated to the king. From morning until evening, worshippers of all ages are seen around the chorten and the prayer wheels in the nearby annexes.

National Textile Museum

Close to Thimphu’s handicraft market, the National Textile Museum invites you to explore Bhutan’s textile heritage. Under the royal patronage of queen Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck, the museum was established in 2001 and has earned its place amongst Thimphu’s tourist attractions. It has won awards and accolades for the quality textile artifacts on display. Through showcasing and preserving traditional wearing techniques and attires worn by the royal family, the museum gives visitors insight into Bhutanese culture. Here you can see the Royal Collection displaying royal artifacts that have remained private until recently. The collection include the first Bhutanese raven crowns and the wedding clothes worn by the fourth king and his four wives.

Tashichho Dzong

Further north, two kilometres away from the centre of Thimphu, you can find the ‘Fortress of the Glorious Religion’. The Tashichho Dzong stands as a symbol of traditional Bhutanese architecture alongside the Wang Chhu River. The white façade with red and gold triple-tiered roofs commands the valley, making it a favourite tourist spot in Bhutan. Surrounded by landscaped gardens, the fortified monastery houses the throne room and the king’s offices. Governmental departments including the cabinet secretariat and ministries of home affairs and finance are also found here.

Sangaygang – Wangditse Hike

Among Thimphu’s tourist attractions is Sangaygang, just a half-hour drive from the city. The Bhutan Broadcasting Service Tower, as it is also known, soars to a height of 2,685 metres and overlooks the Thimphu valley. You can start a leisurely hike from the tower, or park at the base and walk uphill. Surrounded by nature, witness the blue pine and oak trees, and colourful prayer flags. These prayer flags, called lung dhar, can be seen in five assorted colours representing five elements – water, air, earth, fire, and sky. If visiting during spring or summer, see the rhododendron flowers in bloom while enjoying a picnic and hot tea. Follow the trail until you see the Wangditse Dzong. The 300-year-old fortress was restored in 2020. Here you can enjoy views of the Samteling Palace, home of the fourth king, and the whole of Thimphu Valley.

Dochula Pass

Situated between Thimphu and Punakha is the Dochula Pass. This mountain pass offers astonishing views of the snow-capped Himalaya only a 50-minute drive from Thimphu. At an altitude of 3,100 metres, this tourist spot features 108 white and red memorial stupas in a verdant hillside. They were built in honour of 108 soldiers that passed away in 2003 and each has imprints of Buddha with religious texts inscribed on the surface. Here you can enjoy panoramic views of mountain peaks including the Masaganang, Kangphugang, Tsendagang, Jejegangphugang and Terigang, on a cloudless day. Explore the surrounding forests with mountain biking and trekking or simply take in the views with a family picnic.

Punakha Dzong

Located in the west, Punakha is known as the winter capital of Bhutan. The head of the Bhutanese clergy splits their time between the Tashichho and the Punakha Dzongs, the latter being their winter residence. Set alongside the Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu rivers, the Punakha Dzong is among the favourite tourist attractions of Bhutan. Surrounded by the purple bloom of jacarandas in the spring, ‘the palace of great happiness’, as it is also known, is deeply linked with Bhutanese history. With the Himalaya as a backdrop, the first national assembly was held here in 1953 and most of the national treasures are kept within the walls of the dzong. This was also the chosen location for the wedding of the current king to Queen Jetsun Pema in 2011.

Chimi Lhakhang

The Chimi Lhakhang, known as ‘the Fertility Temple’, stands on a round hillock, 10 kilometres away from Punakha. This temple became one of the famous places to see in Bhutan due to its historical significance. Blessed by the eccentric Drukpa Kunley -- one of the monks who brought Buddhism into Bhutan – this monastery is said to be a place of fertility and blessings. The white walls adorned with gold medallions are complemented with a brown and gold roof. Here you can find golden prayer wheels traditionally adorned with flowers and frescoes on the walls illustrating Drukpa Kunley’s life.

Phobjikha Valley

Located 78 kilometres from Punakha, Phobjikha valley is one of the lesser-known tourist attractions of Bhutan. The U-shaped glacial valley in central Bhutan affords privileged views of the Black Mountain Range. Between the months of October and December you can find the black-necked crane that migrates from the Tibetan plateau. This makes the valley one of the most important wildlife preserves in Bhutan and a good tourist stop for nature enthusiasts. The crane is such an important animal for Bhutanese culture that in November, the crane festival is held in the nearby Gangteng Monastery. Wild boars, leopards and red foxes can be seen in the surrounding hills.

Feeling inspired to see Bhutan’s tourist attractions for yourself? Cox & Kings arranges dedicated group tours to Bhutan, such as the 12-day Bhutan: The Dragon Kingdom tour.

You can also explore Bhutan on a private tour or tailor-made holiday. Enquire online or call one of our travel specialists to begin planning your journey.