Thimphu: Elevation 2,320m
This is the capital of Bhutan with a population of approximately 100,000 people. Thimphu became the capital in 1961 and the town is the largest in Bhutan. It is about 1.5 hours from the airport in Paro. As you enter the valley you drive on Bhutan’s first four-lane expressway which takes you right into the heat of town, over two dramatic flyover bridges. The district of Thimphu, however, stretches beyond the town and goes past Dochu la, the first mountain pass in the western part of Bhutan. The 108 Druk Wangyal chortens on the top of the pass where the ridges are draped in colorful prayer flags provide a scenic view. On a clear day, you can see a panorama of the Himalayan mountain range.
WHAT TO SEE IN THIMPHU
MEMORIAL CHORTEN: This stupa was built in 1974 in the memory of Bhutan’s third King. His Late Majesty, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, who is popularly regarded as Father of Modern of Bhutan. The paintings and statues inside the monument provide a deep insight into Buddhist philosophy.
TASHICHHODZONG: meaning “fortress of the glorious religion”, was initially erected in the year 1641 and later in 1965 the Third King rebuilt it into the present form. The fortress serves as the office of the King, ministers and various government organizations and also headquarters for monastic body of Bhutan. Bhutan’s spiritual leader Je Khenpo and the monks of both Thimphu and Punakha reside here during summer. It is also the venue for Thimphu Festival in the autumn.
SIMTOKHA DZONG: Five miles from Thimphu, on a lofty ridge stands Simtokha Dzong, built in 1627 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. The oldest fortress of the Kingdom, it now houses the School for Buddhist studies.
NATIONAL LIBRARY: The history of Bhutan lies imprinted in archaic texts, which are preserved at the National Library. Besides thousands of manuscripts and ancient texts, the library also has modern academic books and printing blocks for prayer flags.
PAINTING SCHOOL: This School teaches the techniques of traditional paintings. On a visit one can actually see, students at work, producing intricate design on cloth.
TRADITIONAL MEDICINE INSTITUTE: In Bhutan, equal emphasis is given to both allopathic and traditional medicines. The rich herbal medicines abundant in Kingdom are prepared here. The Institute also imparts the art of herbal medicines to would be practioners.
HANDICRAFTS EMPORIUM: There are various Handicrafts Emporium in town such as Government owned Emporium and local Handicrafts, displaying wide assortment of beautifully hand-woven and crafted products.
Folk Heritage Museum: this heritage museum, housed in a 19th century farmhouse displays the living style of the 19th century Bhutanese family.
Textile Museum: a recent addition in the capital city, this museum displays the colorful and intricately hand woven archaic textiles of Bhutan.
WEEKEND MARKET: if you are in Thimphu during weekends you should not miss a visit to the weekend market. Vendors from throughout the region arrive on Friday afternoon and remain selling their goods until Sunday night. It’s an interesting place to visit, where village people bring their products of vegetables, foodstuffs and handicrafts to sell. At the northern end of the market is a collection of stalls where they sell indigenous goods and handicrafts products. Here you will find locally produced goods, including religious objects, baskets, fabrics and different hats from various minority groups.
PHAJODING TEMPLE: A saint Shacha Rinchen built the temple in 15th century and is located at an altitude of 3,700 metres, overlooking the Thimphu Valley. Surrounding the temple are many retreat houses for the people who come here and spend about 3 years in retreat. The hike is uphill north of Thimphu through mixed conifer forest with great views of Thimphu valley behind. You could still hike higher up to the mountain to witness the enchanting Thujedra and Jimilangtso lakes. This is the last day of the Drukpath Trek in reverse.
THANDRA GOENPA: At an altitude of 3270 metres can be reached after two hours of strenuous uphill hike from the RBA head quarters in Lungtenphu.
TANGO GOENPA MONAsTERY: With about 12 kilometers of drive you arrive at the starting point of Tango hike. It takes about an hour to arrive at the temple and is about 900 feet climb. Built in 12th century by Gyalwa Lhanampa, it serves as the monastic school for study of Buddhist Philosophy, metaphysics, mathematics, poets and many other Buddhist studies. On the same day you can hike to Cheri monastery, return back to the road, your car will drive you to the traditional bridge over the Thimphu River. From here you hike for about an hour and half. Crossing the lovely traditional bridge you climb steeply to the monastery. Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal founded the temple in 1620.
TALAKHA MONASTERY: A walk of one and half hour above Simtokha Dzong will take you to the mountaintop where Talakha Monastery is situated at 3050m. The 34th Je Khenpo Sheldrup Yoedzer built the monastery during the 19th century. On a clear day there is a wonderful view over the mountains north of Thimphu.
TRASHIGANG NUNNERY: Another very beautiful day walk leads to the Trashigang Nunnery, which is situated at 3200m. Starting at the village Yeosepang, above 15 kilometers from Thimphu on the road to Punakha, the path goes down to the valley, crosses the river, and then climbs for about one and half hours up to the monastery. Built in 1768 by the 12th Desi Kuenga Gyatsho, it is made up of little houses inhabitant by Drukpa nuns.