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Dochula Pass

Spot exotic wildlife on this spiritual trek

The Dochula Pass soars to 3,100 m above sea level on the road between Thimphu and Punakha. On the map, it seems to be an unremarkable mountain highway, but in person its fog-dotted bends lend it a rather more mystical appeal.

The most obvious attraction is the 108 chortens, small Buddhist stupas of ritual importance. Erected by the Queen Mother, each chorten is filled with bronze utensils, Buddhist idols, and papers inscribed with prayers, and it is topped with a painted pole made of juniper wood. A new memorial temple, which celebrates 100 years of the monarchy in Bhutan, has been built next door. The murals are a curious mix: look out for the Druk Air plane and the monk working on a laptop!
 
The Royal Botanical Park forms the backdrop to the pass. It is planted with 46 species of rhododendron, 18 of which are native to the park. Bird watchers should look out for the monal and blood pheasants which roam beneath the trees, and there’s also a chance to spot red panda, leopard cat, and musk deer, all of which are well established in the park.