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1.Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest) Monastery

The Tiger’s Nest is without a doubt the most visited and the most photographed of all the monuments in Bhutan. Nestled on the edge of a 3,120m-tall cliff, above a beautiful forest of blue pine and rhododendrons, overlooking the Paro valley, the monastery is of tremendous religious significance to the Bhutanese. Legend has it that Guru Rinpoche flew to this site on the back of a tigress to subdue a local demon. Thereafter, he meditated here for three years, three months and three hours. It was here that Buddhism took roots in Bhutan. The monastery was built in 1692 to honor and worship the Guru. The hike up to the Tiger’s Nest is give-or-take a two-hour ascent and, the view from the top, is well worth the climb.

2.Punakha Dzong (via Dochula Pass)

Standing majestically at the confluence of the Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu rivers, the dzong (fortress) was constructed in 1637-38 and is the second oldest dzong in the Kingdom. The dzong houses the sacred relics of the southern Drukpa Lineage of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism, including the Rangjung Kasarpani and the sacred remains of Ngawang Namgyal and the terton Pema Lingpa. It was the administrative centre and the seat of the Bhutanese government until 1955, when the capital was moved to Thimphu. Today, it is still the winter residence of the Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot) and the monastic body of Bhutan.  Set against a spectacular backdrop, the architecture of the dzong is simply awe inspiring. It was in Punakha dzong that the wedding of His Majesty King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and Her Majesty Queen Jetsun Pema was held on October 13, 2011.

3.Gangtey/Phobjikha Valley

The Gangtey Gonpa or Gangtey Monastery is bounded on the west side by the Black Mountains (above 5,000 meters). This monastery in Wangdue Phodrang district in central Bhutan is located on a spur amidst the Gangtey village, overlooking the vast Phobjika Valley. The monastery commands striking views of the Valley where the Black Mountain region is inhabited by nomadic shepherds and yak-herders. Gangtey Gonpa is an important monastery of the Nyingmapa school of Buddhism, the main seat of the Pema Lingpa tradition.

During the winter months, the Crane Festival marks the arrival of Black-necked Cranes from the Tibetan plateau. The sacred birds that migrate here are held as a religious blessing by the people, and their arrival is a big event not only in the Valley but also in this monastery. The Black-Necked Crane Festival is held on November 12, every year.

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