Thimpu (2,350m), the capital of Bhutan, is the centre of government, religion and commerce. The open valley has an interesting combination of tradition and modernity, and includes some of the most advanced and remotest parts of the kingdom. It is home to the Kings and the Royal family members, civil servants, politicians, business persons and monks. The clean and small hill town is encircled by high mountains.
If you are planning for Bhutan Tour then definitively capture the top travel sites of Thimpu. While making Bhutan Cultural Tour you can even encounter different temples, Dzong’s, chortens, museums, handicraft stores, parks and many more in Thimpu. The top 15 travel attractions in Thimphu are included here.
- The Memorial Chorten, a must see travel site in Thimpu, was built in 1974 in the memory of Bhutan’s third King, His Late Majesty, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk. The stupa-styled monument is dedicated to the late King Jigme Wangchuck considered as the father of modern Bhutan. The structure houses statues and paintings which provide insight into the Buddhist way of life.
- Simtokha Dzong, one of the top travel sites in Thimpu, was built in 1627 by Shabdrung Namgyal. It is situated on a low ridge 8 km down the Thimphu valley and houses the Institute for Language and Cultural Studies. This dzong is the oldest Dzong in Thimphu and gateway to the Thimphu valley. The dzong still enjoys the strategic importance as it did in 1627. Unique features found here include hundreds of finely made slate carvings and beautiful frescos placed behind wheels used for prayers in the courtyard.
- Tashichho Dzong, a must see landmark of Thimpu, is Bhutan’s arguably the most impressive building. It houses the throne room of His Majesty the King of Bhutan and is the summer residence of the venerated monastic community. The current dzong is the impressive result of a redesign of the original medieval structure sanctioned by the third King, His Majesty King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, when he moved the capital to Thimpu from Punakha. Furthermore, The Fortress of the glorious religion houses the main secretariat building and the central monk body. Its courtyard is open to visitors during the Thimphu Tshechu.
- Traditional Medicine Institute, a must visit site in Thimpu, is a training school for traditional medicine practitioners. Bhutan places a lot of emphasis on both traditional and allopathic medicines. Here you can see most of the herbal medicines prepared from medicinal plants that abound in this kingdom. The rich herbal medicines made up from medicinal plants abundant in the kingdom are prepared and dispensed at this institute. The medicinal complex is closed to visitors due to considerations of hygiene, but one can still walk around and view it from outside.
- National Library, one of the top visitors’ sites in Thimpu established in 1967, houses archaic texts about Bhutan history. Apart from thousands of ancient texts and manuscripts the library also contains modern academic books as well as blocks for printing prayer flags. For tourists it is of interest mainly as a fine example of traditional Bhutanese architecture, but it is also a good resource for books about Bhutan. Traditional books and historic manuscripts are kept on the top floor and include texts from the famous Tibetan printing presses of Derge and Narthang. Scriptures from all religious schools are represented, including the Bön tradition. Most of the books are Tibetan-style, printed or written on long strips of handmade paper stacked between pieces of wood and wrapped in silken cloth.
- Thimphu Street Life, one of the top avenues of Thimpu tour, provides you vibrant experience of inner Thimpu. The most enjoyable experience of being in Thimphu is to taking strolls around the streets here. Weekend markets of Thimphu sell everything under the sun that is being created in Bhutan. Hordes of villagers sell vegetables, newspapers, red chilies, traditional Bhutanese masks, and carpets. Norzim Lam is the main street and contains several small hotels and shops. Other major structures include the National Library, the Bhuttan Textile Museum, the Wangchuck hotel and the Swiss Bakery. The square comprises of an open-air theatre, Tashi supermarket as well as art and craft stores. Likewise, the Drentoen Lam Street and Doebum Lam road are also must see streets in Thimpu.
- Zorig Chusum Institute, another attraction of Bhutan Tour, is also known as the painting or art and crafts school of Thimpu. The institute has students learning the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan. The institute offers an eight-year course in the techniques of traditional art in 13 traditional arts such as painting, woodcarving, clay sculpture, mask making and so on. The institute also teaches traditional Thangkha painting and a few foreigners come to Bhutan to learn the art. It has a showroom where works of students are sold at reasonable price.
- Buddha Viewpoint also recognized as The Giant Buddha, one of the largest statues of the Buddha in the world, attracts visitors to Thimpu towards it. The Buddha Dordenma statue (50m tall steel) commands the entry to the Thimphu valley. The huge three storey throne holds several chapels, while the body itself is filled with 125,000 smaller statues of Buddha. The statue was made in China (of course), cut into pieces and then shipped and trucked in from Phuentsholing. The impressive construction will be great view for travelers in Thimpu alone.
- National Textile Museum in Thimphu showcases Bhutanese textile which has become recognized as one of the most distinct art forms. The museum has six major themes that include weft pattern weaves, warp weaves, role of textile in religion, textile on indigenous fibers, achievement in textiles arts and royal collections. Here you will find the crowns of Bhutan’s Kings, the first replica of the royal crown as well as other accessories that belonged to the royal family. The museum seeks to gradually become a centre for textile studies. The textile museum is getting popular for carrying out research studies and documentation on Bhutanese textiles.
- Changangkha Lhakhang, a big experience of Thimpu travel, is situated on a small hill overlooking the Thimphu valley. The monastery was built in the 13th century by Lam Phajo Dugom Zhigpo. Children born in Thimphu are taken to this temple because it is considered the spiritual home of the children born in Chang valley. Names such as Tandin and Sonam are given from this temple to new born babies taken for blessings from the protector deity Tamdrin. Besides, the central statue in the temple is Avaloketesvara, Buddha of compassion, in his manifestation with 11 heads, a thousand hands and eyes.
- Takin Preserve, an unavoidable site in Thimpu, houses the Takin – a unique, endangered species found only in Bhutan, Nepal, China and Burma. Bhutan has chosen it as the national animal due to its significance in the country’s religious and cultural history. Legend has it that the animal was created by the great Buddhist yogi, Drupa Kunley, and it can be found only in Bhutan and nearby areas.
- The Folk Heritage Museum, a window into traditional Bhutanese life, is dedicated to connect people to the Bhutanese rural past through exhibitions, demonstrations, and documentation of rural life. The principal exhibition in the museum is a restored three storey traditional rammed mud and timber house, which dates back to the mid 19th century. The design and form of house is that of an average household in the Wang area during that era. From ground to top floor, household objects, typical domestic tools and equipments that would have been used by a family during that period are put on display.
- Craft Bazaar, one of the interesting sites in Thimpu, usually comes alive on Tuesdays and Wednesdays in centenary Farmer’s market. It is held under the patronage of department of cottage and small industries collaborating with department of culture. The market also assists in promotion and protection of traditional arts. A wide assortment of colorful, hand woven textiles and other craft products is available for purchase at the government-run Handicrafts Emporium and many smaller crafts shops around the town.
- Changlimithang Stadium and Archery Ground are two must visit sites in Thimpu. The national stadium occupies the site of the 1885 battle that helped establish the political supremacy of Ugyen Wangchuck, Bhutan’s first King. It was also the location of the 2008 coronation celebrations. Besides, the archery ground here is much more fun. It is worth checking to see if there is an archery tournament going on: whether it’s traditional bamboo or high-tech carbon-fiber bows, the skill, camaraderie and good-humoured ribbing are always entertaining. Traditional songs and victory dances are all part of the fun.
- Weekend Market, the best way to intermingle with local community in Thimpu, is crammed into a set of stalls on both banks of the Wang Chhu, just north of Changlimithang Stadium. Vendors from throughout the region arrive on Thursday and Friday, setting up evening stalls in Norzin Lam, and remain until Sunday night. The most interesting selection is upstairs. Across the newly constructed cantilever footbridge, known as the Kundeyling Baazam, on the west bank, is a collection of clothing stalls as well as a handicraft market. Products include wooden bowls, mala beads, printing blocks, amulets, yak tails and prayer wheels, some of which are made in Nepal. There are some gems amid the junk. Overall, it is an interesting place to visit and provides opportunity to mingle with the local people.