(A)-Western Bhutan Zone
Thimphu: Elevation 2,320m
This is capital city of Bhutan with population of approximately 100,000 people with the elevation of 2320m. Thimphu became the capital in 1961 and is the largest in Bhutan. It is about an hour car drive from Paro international Airport. As you enter the valley you drive on Bhutan’s first four – lane expressway which takes you right into the heart of town, over two dramatic flyover bridges.
Placec to visit in Thimphu include the textile museum, the folk heritage Museum, the Trashichho Dzong, the National Memorial Chorten ( a stupa dedicated to the third king of Bhutan), and the vegetable market, a colourful market full of local produce and handicrafts. Buddhists can visit numerous monasteries around the valley as well as a vibrant nunnery.
The district of Thimphu, however, stretches beyond the town and goes past Dochu-la the first mountain pass in the western part of Bhutan. The 108 Druk Wangyal Chortens on the top of the pass where the ridges are draped in colourful prayer flags provide a scenic view. On a clear day, you can see a panorama of the Himalayan mountain range.
Detail places to visit in Thimphu are given below.
2. Paro Town: Elevation 2,280m
The broad Paro valley with elevation of 2280m is the entry and exit point for all the visitors flying into Bhutan on the only airline in Bhutan i.e. Druk Air. As the plane takes a dramatic sweep into Paro, the flight captain usually warns relieved passengers not to worry if the aircraft’s wings appear to be almost touching the mountainsides. Bhutan considers Bhutanese pilots as best pilot in the world.
Places to visit in Paro Dzongkhag are as follows Paro Dzong, the national museum housed in a round fortress called the Ta Dzong, and the ruins of the Drugyal Dzong, a 17th century fortress that used to keep invading Tibetan forces at bay, destroyed in fire in 1951.
The tiger’s nest or the Taktshang is one of the most popular spiritual heritage sites, perched precariously on the rock cliff measuring 900m above the Paro Valley. It is a short climb of 1.5 hours to 2 hours to the top.
For those less inclined to climbing, you can catch a good bird’s eye view from the bottom of the monastery.
Detail places to visit in Paro are given below.
3. Punakha: Elevation 1,300m
Punakha is the ancient capital of Bhutan, about 2 ½ hour’s drive from Thimphu across Dochu-la pass with elevation of 3100m. Once you cross the pass, you wind down into a warm fertile valley and meander along a gently flowing aquamarine river that leads you to the Punakha Dzong, the second Dzong to be built in Bhutan.
Built in 1637, the Dzong continues to be the winter home for the clergy, headed by the Chief Abbott, the Je Khenpo. It is a stunning example of Bhutanese architecture, sitting at the fork of two rivers, portraying the image of a medieval city from a distance. The Dzong was destroyed by fire and glacial floods over the years but has been carefully restored and is, today, a fine example of Bhutanese craftsmanship.
Punakha is a sub- tropical valley where food grains, vegetables and fruits grow in abundance.
A short drive up the valley is khamsum Yulley Chorten (stupa), constructed in 1992, as one of three such chortens in the world, one being the National Memorial Chorten in Thimphu.
Detail places to visit in Punakha are given below.
4. Wangduephodrang: Elevation 1,350m
Another place to visit of western zone is Wangduephodrang. It lies to the south of Punakha is the valley of Wangduephodrang as the national highway heads towards central Bhutan. The old town, Narrow Street with single storied shops was been replaced by a brand new town carved out of terraced rice fields called Bajothang.
Wangduephordang Dzong sits majestically on a steep ridge on mountain overlooking the highway and led road towards two districts of Tsirang and Trongsa.
As the road heads towards Trongsa in central Bhutan, a turn-off below Pelela pass takes you into the magical valley of Phobijikha, home to the rare Black-Necked Crane that has made Phobijikha its winter home for centuries. The birds fly in from Tibet in October and November and leaves just before spring.
Another significant landmark in Phobijikha is the famous Gangtey Gompa Monastery, built in the 17th century.
Detail places to visit in Wangdue are given below.