Thimphu is the capital city of Bhutan. It is home to some 100,000 local residents including the Royal Family of Bhutan. Majority of the residents are middle class citizens working for the government, corporations and private business sectors. Thimphu is the political and economic center for the country thus it also the most urbanized district in Bhutan. Thimphu city is an hour drive away from the Paro International Airport.
The settlement has mostly grown along the western bank of the Thimphu River gradually expanding over the last two decades. The city center along the Norzin Road stretch has undergone a major overhaul with the traditional Bhutanese houses being replaced by modern commercial buildings buzzing with shops, restaurants and cafes. However the ancient cultural monuments and religious sites are well preserved that offer reminiscence of the city’s roots.
TOP ATTRACTIONS IN THIMPHU
Tashichhodzong was originally built in 1641 by Zhabdrung. He was a spiritual leader who unified Bhutan. The fortress was destroyed by fire in 1771 and damaged by an earthquake in 1897. The present structure of the Dzong was enlarged and renovated during the reign of the Third King in 1952 after moving the capital to Thimphu. The colossal structure spreads over acres of land on the western bank of the Thimphu River. The Dzong houses the Throne room and the Office of His Majesty the King. Continuing the medieval tradition, the Dzong serves as the summer residence for the central monk body. There are also numerous sacred Buddhist shrines and open courtyard where the popular Thimphu mask dances festival is celebrated.
The Memorial Chorten was built in the honor of the Third King in 1974. The Tibetan style stupa is situated ten minute walk away from the city center. The improved landscaping around the stupa with lush green lawns and the enclosure of the monument from the busy traffic road offers visitors a sense of calm and tranquility soon as you enter the premise. Memorial Chorten offers the elders a place of worship and companionship thus they love to spend the entire day at the monument. Locals arrive at the monument as early as 5 AM in the morning to circumambulate. The stupa has beautiful paintings of mandalas. As you enter the stupa, an interesting circular stairs leads up the structure where visitors can step out to the balcony which goes around the structure.
A 51 meters Buddha statue graces the Thimphu city from above a hill overlooking the valley. The gigantic Buddha statue is casted out of bronze and gilded in gold. The statue sits on a throne that houses a three storied structure. The interior is curated with miniature 125,000 Buddha statues. It also has vast prayer halls sanctified with shrines. The monumental complex expands with neatly laid cobblestone flooring around the statue. To preserve its sanctity, the area around the monumental complex has been turned into a nature park. The park has multiple nature trails ideal for hiking and cycling.
MOTITHANG TAKIN PRESERVE
The zoo in the outskirts of Thimphu city houses Takin, the national animal of Bhutan. The zoo spreads over a large area of dense pine forests. Visitors can take a peaceful walk around the enclosed area. Initially established as a zoo, the idea of putting the animals in captivity did not align with national belief and therefore as per the executive command the animals were freed. The animals however failed to move on and thus for their own safety were put back into captivity where they are fed and protected.
FOLK HERITAGE MUSEUM
The folk heritage museum is a renovated and restored 150 years old traditional Bhutanese house. The objective of the museum is to preserve and promote medieval culture and heritage and also offer visitors an insight to the ancient ways of life during the medieval period. The main structure is a three storied mud rammed house sheltered with wooden shingles as its roof. The interior of the house is curated with ancient tools and artifacts. The museum also has a restaurant that serves authentic Bhutanese dishes.
Visitors look for the perfect souvenir must visit the authentic craft bazaar in Thimphu. The shops stretch along the Norzin road opposite to the Royal Textile Academy. The shops are curated with hand crafted products sourced from across the rural community. The shop offers talented rural artists a platform to showcase their products and improve their socioeconomic conditions individually and collectively as a community. The market has an interesting collection of religion inspired masks, paintings, T shirts and weaved bamboo products. It is worth taking a stroll at the craft bazaar.
THE CENTENARY FARMERS MARKET
The centenary famers market is the busiest place in Thimphu during the weekends. Farmers from across the country bring their produce at the market to cater to 100,000 local residents working and living in Thimphu. Locals relish the range of organic local produce and the farmers are rewarded for their hard work. It is an unsaid tradition of making a weekend trip to the market, while some are quick to buy what they need and leave the complex; others enjoy and take their time strolling around the market, catching up with their favorite vendors.