Bhutan is famous with its beautiful architecture design in the world and Thimphu – a capital and largest city of kingdom Bhutan is no exception. Despite of being Capital, it is the only capital city in the world with No airport. The city is located in the valley of eastern Himalayas surrounded by the river Thimphu Chho. It is the third highest world capital located on high altitude. As you enter in the city, you can see the combination of both western and traditional Bhutanese culture, beautiful architecture of buildings, colorful wall paintings, clean and bustling streets with some traffic, warm welcoming of friendly local people everywhere. Thimphu is unique destination to explore in Bhutan. Here is my checklist for top places you must visit in the Thimphu:
#1. National Memorial Chorten
This chorten was built in 1974, by the queen Phuntsho Choden Wangchuk in the memory of her royal son the third Druk Gyalpo , King Jigme Wangchuk. It is the most visible religious landmark in Bhutan. It is the important place for worship for the people of thimphu as well as from the other parts of the country.
Throughout the day people circumambulate the chorten, whirl the large red prayer wheels and pray at a small shrine inside the gate. You can go inside the butter lamp room and can lighten some butter lamps.
#2. Big Buddha View point (Buddha Dordenma Statue)
This giant gigantic statue is located atop a hill of kuensel phodrong nature park overlooking to southern thimphu. It is one the most iconic landmark of Thimphu and measures height of 52 meters. It houses over one hundred thousand smaller Buddha statues, made of bronze and gilded in gold. It is the one of the largest Buddha Rupas in the world.
The statue is so big that it can be seen anywhere from Thimphu and on clear day you can have the panoramic view of entire Thimphu city from here.You can pay your obeisance and offer prayers to the Buddha.
Visiting Hours: Winter: 9 AM to 5 PM/ Summer: 8 AM to 6 PM/Lunch break: 12 PM to 1 PM
#3. Changangkha Lhakhang Monastery
It is the oldest temple in thimphu built in the 12th century located on the hill. It is popular temple attracting a regular procession of pilgrims and new parents seeking auspicious names for their newborn babies or blessings for their young children. You can meet so many cute and little children with their parents for blessings.
From the temple, you can have the bird eye view of the entire thimphu city.
#4. Motithang Takin Preserve
Takin is the national animal of Bhutan and looks like a cross between a cow and a goat. It is worthwhile taking the time to see this weird looking animal. 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.
Some years ago the fourth king decided that a zoo was not in keeping with Bhutan’s environmental and religious convictions, and it was disbanded. The animals were released into the wild but they wandered around the streets of Thimphu looking for food, and the only solution was to put them back into natural captivity. It is now one of the top tourist attractions.
The best time to see them is early morning, when they gather near the fence to feed.
Entry Fee: INR 100/Person
Visiting Hours: 9 AM to 6 PM daily
#5. BBS Tower View Point
You can see the beautiful view of Thimphu from Bhutan Broadcasting Service (BBS) Tower, high above the town located just few miles from the Takin reserve.
#6. The National Folk Heritage Museum
Founded by Her majesty the queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck established in 2001 ; the museum portrays the lifestyle of Bhutanese material culture and way of life in the olden days. The Folk Heritage Museum is set inside a three storied, 19th century traditional house.
The museum gives you a glimpse of the traditional Bhutanese lifestyle. It houses artifacts from rural households and displays collection of typical household objects, tools and equipment. You can also witness the demonstrations of the traditional way of extracting oil, brewing Ara (rice beer-loacal alcoholic drink), roasting rice and pounding rice within the museum premises.
The museum houses one restaurant also, where you can taste the best authentic Bhutanese dishes both for vegetarian and non-vegetarian.
Visiting Hours: 10:00 AM to 4:30 PM on weekdays [except Govt holidays],10:30 AM to 1:00 PM on Saturdays and 11:30 AM to 3:30 PM on Sundays.
Entry Fee: INR 50/Person
#7. School of Traditional Arts and Crafts (Zoring Chusum)
This institute commonly known as the painting school where students undergo a 6-year training course in Bhutan’s 13 traditional arts which is Bhutan’s culture heritage. Students specialize in painting (furniture, painted religious pictures usually on canvas), woodcarving (masks, statues, and bowls), embroidery (hangings, boots, clothes) and statue making (clay). The craft demonstrations are a photographers’ dream and I was so much impressed with the skill and discipline of the young students.
Visiting Hours: 10 AM to 12 AM, 2 Pm to 3.30 PM on weekdays, Saturday: 10 AM to 12 AM
Entry Fee: INR 100/Person
#8. Visit to National Library
It was established in 1967 for the purpose of preservation and promotion of ancient Dzongkha and Tibetan texts. It is located near the folk heritage museum and school of traditional arts and crafts.It houses an extensive collection of priceless Buddhist manuscripts.
For visitors, main attraction is only the traditional Bhutanese architecture of the building.
#9. Traditional Hand Made Paper Factory
This is not most visited sightseeing place in Thimphu and avoided by visitors mostly. It is also known as Jungshi (Natural) paper factory which uses traditional methods to produce the authentic Bhutanese paper. The factory uses the bark of two tree species, the Daphne tree and Dhekap tree in the manufacture of traditional paper. You can observe the entire process from soaking and boiling the bark to sorting, crushing, pulping, layering, pressing, drying.
You can buy the handmade papers, greeting cards, notebooks, painted papers and other items from the show room of paper factory as souvenirs.
#10. Tashi Chho Dzong
Tashi Chho Dzong is must visit place in the thimphu city. It is a Buddhist Monastery and fortress located on the west bank of Wang chhu river, surrounded by gardens and well kept lawns.
Tashichho Dzong has been the seat of the government since 1952 and presently houses the throne room and offices of the king, the secretariat and the ministries of home affairs and finance. Other government departments are housed in buildings nearby.
Since the Dzong is high security zone area, is daily open only between 5 PM to 6 PM [Mon-Fri] and 8 AM-6 PM [sat & Sun] for visitors. You can witness the flag lowering ceremony in the evening.
#11. Simtokha Dzong
It is located 5 km from thimphu city, on the way to Do Chula pass built in 1629 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. The name “Simtokha” means “atop a Demon” and the legend associated with it tells that it was built in order to subdue an evil spirit that was harassing travellers in the region. It is the oldest fortress of Bhutan.
The dzong houses countless statues and paintings of various Buddha’s, deities and religious figures, all carved and painted in exquisite detail. It houses the institute for Language and Cultural Studies.
#12. Visit to Handicraft Bazar
If you are shopaholic, you can visit the authentic handicraft bazaar in thimphu, located below the Norzim lam area. The traditional bamboo hut styled shops sells the Bhutanese art and craft products at reasonable price.
You can buy paintings, bags, handmade papers, masks, traditional attires and so on. It is a great place to buy souvenirs also.
#13. Roam on the streets of Norzim Lam area
This is the most happening and vibrant area of Thimphu city. Walk on streets, visit to pubs, eat at fancy restaurants and spend good time by sitting near clock tower (When I was there, live Karaoke happened at clock tower).
I always enjoy people watching and an early morning walk; it is the great place for it. Norzim Lam seems lively during weekends.
Other Points of Attractions:
- Centenary Farmer’s Market: Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday the weekend market is held in the capital Thimphu. Here villagers from the valley and other nearby places come to sell their agriculture products. It is the largest domestic market in Bhutan.
- Visit the local post office. The local post office has a large collection of stamps which are kept for sale. The special feature of the post office is that you can get a postage stamp made with your own photo inscribed on it and these stamps can be used for postage purposes as well.
- Zilukha Nunnery: It is the biggest nunnery in Bhutan.You can see many nuns chanting prayers and turning prayer wheels in nunnery.From here they get the education and dedicate their lives to serve the society.
How to Reach:
Paro airport is the nearest airport. Thimphu is 50 km away from Paro town.
Other option is to fly to Bagdogara airport, West Bengal,India, then take a roadtrip via Pheuntsholing.
Where to Stay:
There are so many hotels available in the budget of INR 1500-2000/night. I had stayed at Hotel Tandin for INR 2200/night for 3 people at the Norzim Lam area. You can directly book the hotels from Bhutan hotels and Tourism Bhutan.Also almost all the Hotels provide free Wi-Fi connectivity in all over Bhutan.
Local taxis for sightseeing are available at INR 1500-2000 per day.
Currency: Bhutanese Ngultrum (Nu). 1 INR = 1 Nu. Indian denominations up to INR 500 are accepted in transactions throughout the Bhutan.
Travel Tips and Etiquette:
- Bhutan is Buddhist country; littering, smoking, playing games are strictly prohibited inside the Dzongs/monasteries.
- Photography inside Lhakhang and Dzong is prohibited.It is permitted in the courtyards and outside temple.
- Always wear appropriate clothes. Avoid the shorts and sleeveless.
- Don’t cover your head with the Cap/dupatta/scarf inside the Dzongs/Lhakhang.
- When pass by chortens,mani walls or prayer flag, pass by to the left or clockwise.
- Apply lot of Sunscreen lotion if you are visiting Bhutan in summer, as it may give you sunburn.
- Always carry water bottles with you; you might walk a lot at every sightseeing place.
- Ask permission before taking a person’s photo and respect their decision if they decline.
- If you enjoy the city vibes, I recommend staying in this beautiful city for 2-3 Nights to explore it completely.
- If you are backpacker, suggest to travel in Group on sharing basis as it is one of the expensive country to travel.
- Always check the festival dates while planning your travel to Bhutan. Festivals shows unique,colorful and exciting displays of traditional culture.Two of the most popular Tshechus in the country are the Paro and Thimphu Tshechus in terms of participation and audience.check the dates from Tourism Bhutan.
Day-1: Reach to Thimphu and rest if you reach via pheuntsholing.
Day-2: Thimphu local Sightseeing for whole day.
Day-3: Hike to Tango/Cherry Monastery and evening free for leisure.
Day-4: Visit any remaining sightseeing attractions and Transfer to Punakha/Paro.
P.S The Prices mentioned above as on April-2017 during my travel to Bhutan.