Thimphu is the capital of the Kingdom of Bhutan, and with a population of around 80,000 is the nation's largest city.
Thimphu Valley has supported small settlements for many centuries and a dzong has existed there since 1216, the city didn't really develop until the king declared Thimphu the new capital in 1961. Vehicles first appeared on the streets a year later, and slowly the city began to adapt to its role as the nation's capital. Currently the town is undergoing massive development. New tree-lined streets are being laid and the clock tower area in the center of the city has been transformed into a park-cum-open air theater where live cultural performances take place. In 2008, the national stadium was completed together with a new river-side park. The area around the dzong and government buildings is a particularly green and an attractive district.
Norzin Lam is the city's main thoroughfare and is lined with hotels, shopping complexes and hotels.
What to see?
Trashi Chhoe Dzong. The present dzong was built in the 18th century by Shabdrung Rinpoche to house government officials. Later it was enlarged to accommodate both the monastic and civil bodies. Three times suffering severe damage from fire and once from an earthquake in 1897, much of the historic building dates from the rebuilding in 1902. To accommodate the national government and the central monastic body, the dzong was totally refurbished and enlarged in 1962, a year after Thimphu was designated the nation's capital.
Simtokha Dzong. Built in 1629 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, Simtokha was the first dzong to be built in a unified Bhutan. Currently, it houses the country's main Dzongkha language learning institute. Simtokha is about 5km south of Thimphu.
The National Folk Heritage Museum, located behind the National Library. A traditional house that showcases rural life. Exhibits and cultural shows are held in the museum compound. Open: Mon-Fri 10:30AM to 4:30PM, Sa 10:30Am to 1PM and Su 11:30AM to 3:30PM.
Changangkha Lhakhang. Constructed in the 15th century, this is one of the oldest temples in the Thimphu Valley, and is dedicated to Avalokiteshvara, the Buddhist emanation of compassion. The temple affords wonderful views over the entire valley.
The National Memorial Chorten, located off Jangchhub Lam. A good place to visit in the evening when the locals are doing their evening prayers. The stupa was built in 1974 in memory of the third king.
Zangthoperi Lhakhang, lower Thimphu (follow the path down from below the GPO). The present structure was built in 1960s and although lacking the charm of many of the older temples, Zangdopelri still possesses some impressive murals and art treasures and is worthy of a visit. The site of the temple was a former battle ground, and the temple was constructed there in order to pacify energies.
Statue of Sakyamuni Buddha, sitting on top of Kuensel Phodrang hill is a 51.5mt bronze statue of the founder of Buddhism. The site also offers unobstructed views over the Thimphu Valley - especially stunning at sunset.
Takin Preserve, Motithang. The Takin is the national animal of Bhutan, and looks like a cross between a cow and a goat. 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. Taxonomists place the animal in a category of its own as it is not similar enough to any other animal to fit established categories.
Zorig Chusum School of Traditional Arts, near National Library. Zorig Chusum was established in 1971 to preserve the thirteen traditional arts of Bhutan, and visitors are able to observe students honing their skills. There is also a small gift shop selling work created at the school.