Visitors approach Thimphu from a single-lane road that winds around bending curves, each one delivering a glimpse of the capital. The surrounding hillsides are speckled with houses and white-washed temples, then the road suddenly turns into a modern expressway cutting through the valley, whisking you past the paddy fields to one of the most intriguing capitals in the world.
The youthful exuberance of Thimphu is one of the city’s many appealing qualities. Old and new sit side by side, no one seems in a hurry and it is the only capital city in the world without traffic lights. It is a great place to simply do your own thing, and the informal, relaxed and friendly atmosphere is endlessly rewarding.
Although generally laid-back, Thimphu buzzes on the weekends, when a market springs up on the banks of the Wang Chhu. Vendors arrive on Thursday and stay through Sunday night, creating a bustling center of commerce where locals bargain for the freshest and cheapest produce. Depending on the season, the stalls may be filled with peas, lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower, garlic, plums, peaches, bananas, mangoes and a huge array of mouthwatering mushrooms and chillies. In one corner of the market is an odoriferous collection of soft cheeses, beef, pork and dried fish caught just days before. One the river’s west bank is a cacophony of stalls selling fabrics, handicrafts and traditional clothing in addition to baskets, prayer wheels, horns, hats and cymbals.
More subtly magnificent is the Trashi Chhoe Dzong, a whitewashed fortress nestled in the valley north of the Wang Chhu. Topped by red and gold roofs, the fortress and its towers are splendidly proportioned and built of neatly-fitted granite blocks. Entering through the eastern side, visitors are greeted by whimsical statues of the Guardians of the Four Directions. Chana Dorje and Hayagriva act as wrathful gatekeepers, and Drukpa Kunley shines as the popular “Divine Madman.” A mural of the fable of the Four Friends completes the lively picture in the vast courtyard, where the only sounds are the whirr of prayer wheels and the gentle coo of pigeons.
Across the river from Trashi Chhoe Dzong is the headquarters of the South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). The impressive structure is one of the greatest examples of traditional Bhutanese architecture and today houses foreign ministries.
Dechen Phodrang now stands at the site of the original Trashi Chhoe Dzong. Now home to the state’s monastic school, the grounds often hum with the sounds of 450 students reciting prayers. A statue of the Buddha Shakyamuni sits in the downstairs chapel, and the upper floors highlight 12th-century paintings.
Takins are the national animal of Bhutan, and the tame animals once wandered the streets of Thimphu before being taken into captivity at the Motithang Takin Preserve. The large fenced area is brimming with the oddball animals, who are best seen during the early morning feeding time.
There are a number of notable museums in Thimphu. One of the most interesting is the National Textile Museum, focused on the living national art of weaving. The fascinating exhibits detail local dress, major weaving techniques and textiles, and visitors can awe over the resident group of weavers concentrating deeply on their looms inside the shop.
At the Folk Heritage Museum, visitors can step back in time to the Bhutan of a century ago. The traditional farmhouse is like a living museum highlighting the country’s rich traditions and providing a glimpse into country life.
Other sights worth exploring in Thimphu include the National Library, the private chapel of Zangto Pelri Lhakhang, the National Institute of Traditional Medicine, the large Changlimithang Stadium and Archery Ground, the National Memorial Chorten and the Telecom Tower, which offers wonderful views of the city from over 2,000 meters.
Thimphu Geographical Location
Thimphu is located in the western central of Bhutan on the Wang Chuu River. It is the largest city in Bhutan with a population of approximately 80,000.
Dzongkha is the official language of Bhutan but Sharchhopka and Lhotshamkha are equally as common.
Thimphu Predominant Religion
- 75% Lamaistic Buddhist
- 25% Hinduism
Although Bhutan law provides for freedom of religion, all but Buddhist missionaries are banned from the country.
The official currency of Bhutan is the Ngultrum.
Thimphu experiences warm summers and mild winters with a wet season lasting from May through September. Rain can continue for several days during the second half of the wet season creating landslides and flooding.
Thimphu Main Attractions
- Buddha Point
- National Textile Museum
- Motithang Takin Preserve
Other Attraction in Thimphu
- Memorial Chorten
- Jigme Dorji National Park
- Phajoding Monastery