Bhutan is one of the most unique countries in the world due to its culture heritage, natural environment, and the government's policies. And that’s why travelling to Bhutan is considered a once in a lifetime experience by many. Aside from the must visit places in Paro, there are also many exciting places to visit in the capital city of Thimphu.
What’s Unique About Thimphu?
Thimphu is the bustling capital of Bhutan and it is only one hour drive from Paro International Airport. The capital city has a perfect blend of modernisation and traditional. Inspite of globalization, Bhutan has managed to retain its unique culture and identity. These strong cultures can be seen through some exploration and strolling in Thimphu town. Buildings are built with traditional architecture and locals are seen wearing the traditional costumes on a daily basis.
Thimphu is located 8,688 ft. above sea level with population of approximately 100,000 people in a Kingdom of approximately 760,000 population. This makes Thimphu the most populous district in Bhutan.
One of the most remarkable fact about this city is that there is not a single traffic light to be found. Yet, locals are operating and functioning in an orderly manner. There are a lot more things that you will discover when you visit this city which is why it’s also a sought-after tourist destination in the world.
Best Places To Visit In Thimphu
If you want to make your tour unforgettable, then you should visit these top places in Thimphu. Below are the places you can explore when you are in the capital of Bhutan.
1) Buddha Dordenma
Buddha Dordenma also known as Buddha Point is definitely a popular attraction in Bhutan. This sitting Buddha statue measuring 51.5m in height is one of the largest sitting Buddha statues in the world. The Buddha Dordenma statue is made of solid bronze and gilded with gold paint, including all of the 125,000 smaller Buddha statues that have been placed within the large statue; 100,000 statues of which are 8-inches-tall and 25,000 statues of which are 12 inches tall. Visitors can enter into a majestic meditation hall with beautifully carved pillars painted in gold, and a gold statue of the four-faced Buddha. While walls are elegantly painted with murals of Buddhism. From Buddha Point, you can also have an overview of the Thimphu city.
2) Tashichho Dzong
Tashichho Dzong (fortress), or commonly known as Thimphu Dzong, is an impressive structure situated in the northern part of Thimphu city. Tashichho Dzong has been the seat of the government since 1952 and currently houses the throne room and offices of the king, the secretariat and the ministries of home affairs and finance. As a tourist, you will not be allowed to visit the Royal and government offices, but you can certainly visit the monastery and admire the marvellous architecture and surroundings of the dzong. One of the most prominent things you will notice upon arriving at the dzong would be the Bhutan national flag flying splendidly outside the building. If you visit Bhutan from April to July, you will see a stretch of colourful rhododendron flowers greeting you along the pathway. Or if you visit in March, you may also be in luck to see the blooming cherry trees!
3) Jungshi Handmade Paper Factory
Pay a visit to Jungshi Handmade Paper Factory to witness the making of authentic Bhutanese paper known as deh-soh. These sehsoh are produced using the traditional method that has been practiced for many generations. This ancient craft is one of the thirteen traditional arts of Bhutan that is still being preserved. The barks of daphne tree and dekap tree are used to manufacture the papers. Deh-sho papers were originally used in monasteries for woodblock, manuscripts, and writing of prayer books.
You can try your hand at this ancient craft. You can also find other products like stationeries and greeting cards that will make unique souvenirs.
4) Royal Textile Academy
Weaving is an integral part of the Bhutanese culture and tradition. Through the Royal Textile Academy, you will be able to learn about the textile heritage, different weaving styles and the intricacies of the Bhutanese textile. You will get to see the different intricate patterns of the Bhutanese textiles learn about the patterns that originated from the different districts. Upon visiting the centre, you will be able to better appreciate the beautiful traditional costumes, Kira and Gho that you see the locals wear on the street.
5) Simply Bhutan
Simply Bhutan is an interactive museum that offers you an excellent guided introduction to different aspects of the traditional Bhutanese life. This place is a great place for your induction to Bhutan. For instance, you will get to understand how to dress up in Bhutanese traditional clothes, how to distill ara (rice wine), and you will even get to enjoy some local butter tea, watch the local dance performance as well as learn how they construct their beautiful homes out of rammed earth. The infrastructure in this museum primarily portrays the ancient Bhutanese architecture. The structure of the museum itself is built reusing old timber, door and window frames and numerous other materials from demolished houses. Unlike most museums where you aren’t allowed to touch the artifacts or take photographs, you are free to snap away freely here. You can also try a hand at the archery and the local dart game known as Khuru.
You will also get to meet Pema Tshering, a talented foot artist who is diagnosed with cerebral palsy. There is a little shop inside Simply Bhutan where Pema does his wood carving and painting using his foot. If you see him, don’t hesitate to say hello and support his artwork, he will be greeting you with his dazzling smile for sure!
6) Folk Heritage Museum
Folk heritage museum is set inside a three storeyed 19th century traditional house. The museum provides visitors with a glimpse of traditional Bhutanese lifestyles and artifacts in a traditional household. You will see a collection of household objects, tools and equipment in a typical Bhutanese home. The museum perfectly recaptures the rural setting and ambience of a traditional household as you get to witness the paddy, wheat and millet fields set up, a traditional water-mill with mill stones that is more than 150 years old, as well as traditional kitchen gardens and hot stone baths that are famous throughout the country. Visiting the museum will definitely allow you to learn more about the local culture, customs and traditions.
7) Motithang Takin Preserve
The Takin Preserve is a wildlife reserve area for Takin, the national animal of Bhutan. It’s also commonly known as the Takin Enclosure of Takin Zoo. The mini zoo was converted into a preserve when it was found that the Takin refrained from inhabiting the surrounding forest even when set free. The declaration of Takin as the national animal was related to the local myth from 15th century. The famous Tibetan saint, Drukpa Kunley, popularly known as the “Divine Madman” is said to be responsible for the creation of this unique creature called Takin, a gnu goat that resembles an ox but more closely related to a sheep. Some has claimed that Takin is one of the most queer looking animals that they have ever seen!
Tips: After visiting the Takin Preserve, request for your guide to bring you to the BBS Tower. Just a 5 to 10 minutes drive to the upper part of the road will lead to Sangaygang BBS (Bhutan Broadcasting Station) Tower at 2,685 meters. The bird’s eye view of the entire Thimphu city will be your splendid photo background. You will get to see a lot of colourful prayer flags surrounding the BBS tower.
8) Bhutan Postal Museum
The Bhutan Postal Museum is home to the world’s largest photo book and most bizarre collection of Bhutanese stamps that will intrigue any philatelist. There are five galleries in the museum that trace the development of the Bhutanese postal system, from the earliest mail runners to Bhutan's often unusual and highly collectable stamps.
One of the most interesting things that you can do in Bhutan is to get your own personalized legitimate stamps at the General Post Office for 500 Ngultrum (around USD7). It contains 12 stamps with a mix value of 30 Ngultrum, 45 Ngultrum and 50 Ngultrum. Go ahead to pick up some postcards and start sending some greetings and share some Bhutan love with your family and friends! Imagine the pleasant surprise of your family and friends when you send them a postcard with your face on the stamp!
9) National Memorial Chorten
National Memorial Chorten is a prominent stupa erected in 1974 in honor of the father of modern Bhutan, the third king of the country, His Majesty Jiqme Dorji Wangchuck. The stupa is a prominent landmark located in the heart of Thimphu city with its golden spires and bells. The Memorial Chorten is designed as a Tibetan style chorten, also called the Jangchup Chorten, has the design of a classical stupa pattern, with a pyramidal pillar crowned by a crescent moon and sun. The distinctive feature of the chorten is the outward flaring of the rounded part giving it a pyramidal shape of a vase. Do always remember to circumambulate in a clockwise direction while you are there as with any religious structures in Bhutan. You can see many elderly Bhutanese hanging out near the large prayer wheels, catching up with one another or offering prayers with the prayer beads clutched on their hands.
10) Simtokha Dzong
Simtokha Dzong is the first ancient fortress to be built in the Kingdom and the first building to incorporate both monastic and administrative centres. The central tower is three storeys high with prayer wheels surrounding the courtyard. One of the interesting features of the dzong is that there are more than 300 slate carvings depicting Buddhist figures. Today, it also houses one of the top-ranking Dzongkha language institutes aside from being an important Bhutan’s historical monument. Visiting Simtokha Dzong will allow you to gain insights into Bhutan’s early days.
11) Clock tower square
The clock tower in Bhutan is a beautiful structure with really nice Bhutanese carvings and paintings. There are traditional hand-crafted dragon with golden painting on all the four faces of the tower which symbolizes the country as an independent dragon kingdom. There are various shops, cafes and restaurants around the clock tower square that you can explore. Occasionally, there will also be public events and performances held at the clock tower square.
12) Coronation Park
The Coronation and Centenary Park was built to honour our new king. Ashi Chimi Yangzom Wangchuck inaugurated the Centenary and Coronation Park on 26 September 2006. It is positioned in the middle of Changlimithang ground and Wangchu River. It is built on an area of 5.6 acre of land running along the banks of river Wangchu. It is a nice place for a picnic.
13) Changangkha Lhakhang
Changangkha Lhakhang is one of the oldest and beautiful temples in the capital city. If you are a spiritual person who wants to seek blessings, you should check out Changangkha Lhakhang. It is famously known as 'name giving temple' as newborns are brought here by their parents and the resident astrologers will give an appropriate name to the child based on its date and time of birth and astrology. The temple sanctum sanctorum has a beautiful 11-headed statue of Lord Avalokiteswara. The temple is located on a small hillock, about 50 steps above ground and provides a stunning view of Thimphu town.
14) Tango Monastery
On the northward side of the capital is the magnificent Tango monastery. It is at least 30 minutes drive from the main Thimphu town and after reaching the Dodena area, you will need to hike for an hour to reach the monastery. This ancient monastery was founded by Phajo Drugom Zhigpo in the 12th century but was constructed in the 18th century by the 4th temporal ruler Druk Rabgye in 1688. There are many superb wall paintings from the 17th century and you can see monks studying Buddhism in the building. This is one of the few monasteries in Bhutan that still stand in its original condition.
15) Phajoding Monastery
Just a three-hour hike away, you will be able to traverse through blue pine forest and explore the 13th-century monastery. Journey towards the monastery is a 5km arduous uphill hike from the youth center in Motithang. But the hike is extremely rewarding with amazing views of the Thimphu city. Along the way you will be able to see a variety of flowers and plants including the golden mushroom. On a clear day, you will also be able to get a breathtaking view of the eastern Himalayas.
Are you ready to discover one of the most unique capital city in the world?
If you want to check out those awesome places in Thimphu, you should consider taking a 7 Day Essential Bhutan Travel Plan, or spend 10 day to discover Bhutan. You may also check the best time to visit Bhutan. Check out our tips when you’re planning a trip to Bhutan.
Also, remember to read the dos and don’ts when travelling in Bhutan. Sign-up to our regular newsletter at drukasia.com. If you have any enquiries, drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.