BHUTAN – Nestled in the pristine landscapes of the Himalayas, Bhutan is renowned not only for its breathtaking beauty but also for its exquisite Buddhist monasteries. Located far from crowded towns and tourist hotspots, these monasteries in Bhutan will take you on a serene journey.
From the stunning Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest) to the magnificent Punakha Dzong, Bhutan offers plenty to explore; visiting these monasteries during festivals is a marvelous experience for travelers.
Monasteries in Paro
Bhutan’s monasteries are celebrated for their splendid architecture and tranquil settings. Here are some of the most intriguing monasteries in Paro:
Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest), Paro Valley
Taktsang Monastery is one of Bhutan’s most famous monasteries. The white building with golden roofs, colorful prayer flags, prayer wheels, and an enchanting cave temple captivates all visitors and devotees.
Perched at an altitude of 3120 meters above Paro Valley, this peaceful abode of Guru Rinpoche was destroyed by a fire and rebuilt in 1998. You can hike to the monastery to enjoy the magnificent views of the surrounding valley or savor luxurious Bhutanese cuisine at the Taktsang café.
Location: Taktsang trail, Paro 11001, Bhutan.
Kyichu Lhakhang, Paro Valley
With its majestic sculptures by Guru Rinpoche and Red Kurukulla, the Guru Lhakhang shrine, and the stupa of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Kyichu Lhakhang Monastery is another popular religious architectural landmark in Paro after Taktsang.
Local residents, especially elderly pilgrims, can be seen turning prayer wheels around the stupas. Most of these monasteries resemble Buddhist monasteries in India.
Location: Lamgong Gewog, Paro 12001, Bhutan.
Rinpung Dzong, Paro Valley
Translated by the locals as the “fortress on a heap of jewels,” Rinpung Dzong stands proudly on a sturdy hillside. This Bhutanese monastery also serves as the administrative headquarters of Paro.
High, tapering walls, intricate wall paintings, 14 shrines, and prayer halls are some of the captivating elements here. Right outside this beautiful place, you can also spot another fortress called Ta Dzong, which houses the National Museum of Bhutan.
Location: Paro, Bhutan.
Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/27nHYnucDi4QSsn37
Monasteries in Thimphu
Prominent monasteries in Bhutan are found in the Thimphu region:
Cheri Monastery, Thimphu
Cheri Monastery can be reached by an hour-long hike up Dodena Hill. Built in 1620 by Ngawang Namgyal, this monastery now serves as a primary center for religious studies and monastic retreats for southern Drukpa monks.
The journey to Cheri Monastery is enchanting through lush pine and rhododendron forests. The monastery complex, surrounded by colorful prayer flags fluttering in the air, peaceful prayer rooms, and a temple adorned with Buddhist paintings, make it one of the renowned tourist destinations in Bhutan.
Location: Norzin Lam 2 21, Thimphu, Bhutan.
Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/qqMJH6UHpTnfrxdN8
Tango Monastery, Thimphu
Built on the meditation cave of Ngawang Namgyal, Tango Monastery is named after a horse head-shaped rock found inside the cave. Constructed in the 13th century, it is one of the main centers of Buddhist education in Bhutan.
Visit this monastery to see the six temples within the same premises: Trulku Lhakhang, Choeku Lhakhang, Guru Lhakhang, Longku Lhakhang, Gonkhang, and Namsey Lhakhang. Trulku Lhakhang is the main temple with a beautiful bronze and gold Buddha statue.
If you plan to visit Tango Monastery in August and September, mark the days of ‘Yarney,’ a grand summer monastic festival celebrated with much fanfare.
Location: Thimphu, Bhutan.
Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/GZMoQc4k3rimmxhu7
Memorial Chorten, Thimphu
Known as the Memorial Stupa and Thimphu Chorten, this shrine features golden spires, bells, an assembly hall, murals, and a famous painting of Druk Gyalpo in ceremonial attire.
Unlike other monasteries in Bhutan, the Memorial Chorten does not house human relics. The beautiful garden surrounding the stupa, intricately carved stone gates, statues, and wall paintings captivate all visitors.
Location: Choten Lam, Thimphu, Bhutan.
Monasteries in Bumthang
Bhutan’s Buddhist monasteries are both serene and spiritually resonant. These places are not just serene but also evoke positive vibes. Here are some monasteries in Bumthang:
Kurjey Lhakhang, Bumthang
Kurjey Lhakhang is one of the most ancient monasteries in Bhutan. It is believed that Guru Rinpoche left imprints of his body in the cave temples of the monastery.
This is also the resting place of the first three kings of Bhutan. A tall cypress tree next to the main temple is said to be Guru Rinpoche’s walking stick.
Location: Jakar, Bhutan.
Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/dpGWv1utewxJxrVe9
Tamshing Lhakhang, Bumthang
This monastery is where sacred mask dances of Buddhism and the Tsechu festival take place. Tamshing Lhakhang is another monastery in Bhutan that many locals and devotees visit for religious rituals and prayers. It’s one of the few monasteries in Bhutan that upholds the teachings of Pema Lingpa.
Location: Jakar, Bhutan.
Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/wP3cGppPeqoV2Dia7
Monasteries in Other Bhutanese Towns
Apart from these towns, there are several other monasteries worth visiting in Bhutan:
Punakha Dzong, Punakha
Punakha Dzong, the second-largest Buddhist monastery in Bhutan, is the current winter residence of Dratshang – the chief abbot of Bhutan. The monastery boasts consecrated relics of Drukpa, Ngawang Namgyal, and Terton Pema Lingpa.
Glistening white stupas, bodhi trees, the queen’s prayer hall, and a large assembly hall with hundreds of columns add to the monastery’s charm.
Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/4Erwhzv8YwDfbNqPA
Lhuentse Dzong, Lhuntse
Immerse yourself in the breathtaking spiritual ambiance of Lhuentse Dzong – a vast fortress overlooking the picturesque Kirichu River. This Bhutanese Buddhist monastery was initially built by Kuenga Wangpo but was renovated by Mingyur Tenpa in 1654.
The main temple venerates the Buddha of Infinite Life. It’s about an hour’s walk from the monastery to the village of Khoma, renowned for its Kishu Thara textile weaving.
Location: Lhuntse, Bhutan.
Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/Sh4XPRXmDcvAnjMY8
Jambay Lhakhang, Jakar
One of the 108 temples built by Songtsen Gampo, a powerful Tibetan king, Jambay Lhakhang attracts thousands of tourists during its grand annual festival featuring sacred masked dances in the middle of the night. Situated near the Tibet border, Jambay Lhakhang is a classic Bhutanese monastery, including wall paintings, hanging thangkas, and small shrines.
Location: Jakar, Bhutan.
Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/VmNgzCAMPc8NSDVZ8
Gangteng Monastery, Phodrang
As an important branch of Pema Lingpa’s tradition, Gangteng Monastery belongs to the Nyingma school of Buddhism. This monastery is a must-visit destination in Bhutan, featuring colorful temples, the 11-faced Avalokitesvara Lhakhang, Shedra Assembly Hall, and a unique collection of weapons and armory.
Location: Nubding, Bhutan.
Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/tyW8BMeE6c9Ch7Rt5
You can explore the rich history of Thimphu and the stunning Paro Valley and then traverse the winding trails that lead to ancient monasteries for a truly blissful experience.
Frequently Asked Questions About Bhutan’s Monasteries:
How high is Tiger's Nest in Bhutan?
Tiger's Nest is situated at an altitude of approximately 10,240 feet.
Can we stay in monasteries in Bhutan?
Staying in a Bhutanese monastery is not an option for tourists. Monasteries are reserved for Buddhist monks and nuns engaged in religious practice rather than as accommodations for travelers. However, you can extend your visit to a monastery to observe their way of life.
Learn more: Traveling Experience in Bhutan.