Top 15 Attractions in Bhutan You Should Not Miss

Top 15 Attractions in Bhutan You Should Not Miss

Planning a trip to Bhutan? Here are 15 wonderful attractions to visit – such as temples, monasteries, fortresses and passes.

Bhutan is one of those countries that, once it has a hold on your heart and mind, will never let you go. To see this beautiful country is to fall in love with its spectacular landscape, spirituality and ancient vibrancy. If you are planning a visit to Bhutan, here are 15 attractions that should not be missed.

1. Paro Taktsang

Image credit: Arian Zwegers

The prominent Buddhist sacred site and temple complex is situated on the cliffside of the upper Paro valley.  This beautiful site in its dramatic location is also known as ‘Tiger’s Nest’. The temple complex, properly known as Taktsang Palphug Monastery, was built in 1692 around the cave Paro Taktsang, where the man credited with bringing Buddhism to Bhutan, Padmasambhava, spent three years, three months, three weeks, three days and three hours meditating in the 8th century.

2. Rinpung Dzong

Image credit: Arian Zwegers

A Dzong is a Buddhist monastery and fortress. This large dzong is also located in the Par district. This is an administrative centre and houses the district monastic body. There are fourteen shrines and chapels located within this complex and the great festival of tshechu is held here in March or April each year.

3. National Museum of Bhutan

Image credit: Arian Zwegers

On the hill above Rinpung Dzong lies Ta Dzong, a watchtower fortress with seven stories that has housed the National museum of Bhutan since 1964. This unusual building is said to be in the shape of a conch shell. It was built in 1656 and is undergoing a process of restoration, following earthquakes in the last decade, that is due to be completed this year.

4. Tashichho Dzong

Image credit: Christopher J. Fynn

Another large monastery and fortress, this one is located on the outskirts of the country’s summer capital Thimpu, on the western bank of the Wan Chu River. This is traditionally the seat of the Dhama Raja, head of Bhutan’s civil government, an office held by the king since the monarchy was established in 1907.

5. Kiku Lhakang

Image credit: Stephen Shephard

Image credit: Olivia Lejade

This is one of Bhutan’s oldest and most beautiful temples. It is located in Lamgong Gewog in the Paro District and is one of the most important religious sites in the country. The Jowo temple which is within this complex was built in the 7th century. In the 8th century, it is believed that Padmasambhava visited here and kept many secret religious treasures.

6. Drukgyal Dzong

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This dzong is now merely a picturesque ruin sitting on the hillside in the upper part of the Paro District. It is thought that this monastic fortress was probably built in 1649 to commemorate and celebrate victory over an invading force from Tibet. Sadly, the structure was decimated by a fire in the 1950s.

7. Punakha Dzong

Image credit: Steve Evans

This dzong is sometimes also called the ‘palace of great happiness and bliss’. It is the administrative centre of the Punakha District. This is the second oldest and second largest dzong in Bhutan and is a famous grand and majestic structure. This was the seat of government for Bhutan until the capital moved to Thimpu in 1955.

8. Gangteng Monastery

Image credit: Khaled Monsoor

Image credit: Nagarjun Kandukuru

This is a very important temple in the Nyingmapa school of Buddhism. Black-necked cranes swoop around the building on their way to and from Tibet, and behind the temple, the Black Mountains rear into the heavens. Dating from the early 17th century, the temple stands in the village, looking down over the beautiful Phobjika Valley far down below.

9. Dechen Phodrang Monastery

Image credit: Birger Hoppe

Image credit: My Dot Press

This dzong is situated in the north of the city of Thimpu. It serves as a school for monks, housing 450 students all enrolled in 8-year courses and a staff of 15. A number of fascinating and important Bhutanese artefacts are found here including some UNESCO monitored 12th-century paintings, a notable statue and a central Sakyamuni Buddha.

10. Dochula Pass

Image credit: Kartlasarn

Image credit: Birger Hoppe

This pass is popular with holidaymakers as it offers 360-degree panoramic views of the Himalayas. 108 chortens line the mountain road, which takes travellers between Thimpu and Punakha. At the top of the pass, there are not only spectacular views, there is also spiritual solace to be found for tourists and locals alike in the Druk Wangyal Lhakhang Temple.

11. Trongsa Dzong

Image credit: Eric Wilson

Image credit: Thomas Wanhoff

Trongsa Dzong is the biggest fortress and monastery in Bhutan. It is found in the Trongsa District at the heart of the country and overlooks the gorge of the stunning Mangde River. The dzong is the centre of the administrative district, and the monastic complex houses around 200 monks. Also found here is a printing press which publishes many of Bhutan’s religious texts.

12. Tower of Trongsa Museum

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This museum of the Trongsa region is located in the tower above the dzong. On five storeys, the tower houses a brilliant collection of Buddhist art, royal memorabilia and other items. You can drive up here or walk up from the town up one of the curving staircases of the two charming chapel towers. There are amazing, wide, sweeping views to be enjoyed from the rooftop of the tower.

13. Trashigang Dzong

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Image credit: Christopher J Fynn

This dzong was built in 1667 and it ruled over much of this eastern region from the 17th century to the beginning of the 20th. The dzong is still in use today and has been the subject of restoration efforts but sadly this historic building remains in a rather precarious state, with unsure foundations and crumbling walls.

14. Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten

Image credit: Jamphel Tours and Treks

This beautiful ornate chorten high in the mountains gives you a chance to pay your respects to the deities who keep Bhutan safe. Be prepared to have your breath stolen away from you by the awe-inspiring majesty of the views from the top and yet your soul calmed by a connection to the spiritual world. The walk up through the valley to get here is almost an equally wonderful part of the adventure.

15. Chele La Pass

Image credit: Meghla

Situated between Haa Valley and Paro Valley, this amazing pass is the highest pass that is crossed by a Bhutanese highway. It reaches a height of 3,780 metres and gives stunning views to those who take it.

Also read: 10 Reasons Bhutan is the Most Underrated Destination in this World

About Author

Elizabeth Waddington
Elizabeth Waddington

Elizabeth Waddington lives in rural Scotland with her husband and her dog. She is part of a small community who are trying to live as sustainably as possible. A professional freelance writer who works from home full time, she has over ten years of writing experience and an MA in English and Philosophy. She mostly writes about travel, sustainability and permaculture and has a particular interest in adventure holidays, camping, walking and sustainable travel. She travels whenever she can.


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