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Published On: Wed, Dec 12th, 2018

A visit to the Buddhist Kingdom of Bhutan

Bhutan is a Buddhist kingdom hugging the eastern edge of the Himalayas. The country is famous for its historic fortresses (dzongs), monasteries, temples and golden Buddha statues, as well as stark and varied landscapes, with steep mountains, green valleys and subtropical plains.

photo/ VASUKI BELAVADI

With cities located in the valleys and mountains, and temples and fortresses perched on cliffs, the following are four top attractions to see on a visit to the Kingdom of Bhutan.

  1. Thimphu – The capital of Bhutan

The capital of Bhutan nestles in a green valley, surrounded by mountainous scenery. Thimphu is renowned for its Buddhist sites, including the huge Tashichho Dzong, a government palace and fortified monastery with its roofs plated with gold-leaf. The beautiful Buddha Dordenma statue stands on a hill above the city and is 51.5 meters (169 feet) in height.

photo/Suket Dedhia

Also of interest is the Centenary Farmer’s Market, selling handicrafts and food at the weekends and ideal for picking up souvenirs to take home. Set in a 19th-century timber house, the Folk Heritage Museum has exhibits relating to Bhutanese customs and history. Another fascinating museum is the Royal Textile Academy, exhibiting textiles from the various regions of the country, dating from the 17th century to now. Also included are costumes worn in the beautiful and colorful Buddhist dancing celebrations.

  1. Paro – A valley town in Bhutan

Located to the west of Triumphu, Paro is nestled in a valley and is home to Bhutan’s only international airport. It is also renowned for many sacred sites including the Taktsang Palphug (or Tiger’s Nest) Monastery, which clings to the cliffs above Paro Valley.

photo/ Vikramjit Kakati

The imposing fortress of Rinpung Dzong is closer to Paro and can be reached by crossing a covered bridge on the Paro Chhu River. The National Museum of Bhutan is located in a former watchtower in Paro and displays Buddhist paintings, armor and traditional jewelry and clothing.

  1. Punakha – A Himalayan city in Bhutan

While the previous cities were nestled in valleys, Punakha is set in the Himalayas with stunning landscapes all around. The city is famous for the Punakha Dzong, a fortress which dates from the 17th century and sits at the point where the Pho and Mo Chhu rivers meet.

photo/ Ying Chu Chen

Of interest to view is the Punakha Tshechu religious festival, which features costumed dancers wearing masks and traditional Bhutan music. Temples worth visiting include Khamsum Yulley Namgyai Chorten, nestled on a hilltop with mountain and river views, and the Chimi Lhakhang temple, which focuses on fertility.

  1. Phuntsholing – Border town in southern Bhutan

Located on the border between India and Bhutan, Phuntsholing has thrived due to cross-border trade and features the historic Bhutan Gate.

Just 0.8 km (0.5 mi) from the Bhutan Gate is the renowned Crocodile Zoo. Located on the river bank, this mini zoo is a crocodile breeding center and features 22 crocodiles and four gharials, the latter of which are considered an endangered species and can only be seen in captivity. As the crocodiles reach adulthood, they are released into the wild at the Manas wildlife sanctuary where they help to keep the eco-system in proper balance.

Enjoy the color, history and splendor of Bhutan while exploring the monasteries, museums and other attractions. This is a vacation experience like no other.

Author: Anne Sewell

On the DISPATCH: Headlines  Local  Opinion

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