Places to visit in Thimphu Bhutan
The capital city of Bhutan, Thimphu is the largest in the whole of the kingdom. It is a beautiful and peaceful place to visit while on a holiday in Bhutan. It is the modern city in Bhutan wherein you can find a large number of restaurants, internet cafes, nightclubs and shopping centers. The city retains its cultural identity and values amidst the signs of modernization. It is one of the few towns in Bhutan that have been equipped with ATM banking facilities and is a good place to stock up some currency notes.
One of the most salient features of Thimphu is that it is the only capital in the world that does not use traffic lights. The juxtaposition of ancient tradition and modernity make Thimphu an ideal location for tourists to break away from the hustle bustle of the daily life.
City at a Glance
Total Population– 79,185
Religion: Mahayana Buddhism
Latitude: 27 Degrees North
Longitude: 89 Degrees East
History of Thimphu
There is not much documentation about the history of Bhutan because of its long isolation from the rest of the world. New explorations have suggested about the presence of men around this region in 2000 BC, but written history dates back to the 2nd century AD. Buddhism was introduced in Bhutan in the 8th century when Buddhist monk Guru Padmasambhava came to Bhutan and established many monasteries. The Drupka sub-sect of Kagyud school of Mahayana Buddhism was established by scholar Padmalingpa in the 15th & 16th century. The growth of Drupka sect also led to the establishment of the theocracy of Druk-yul by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1616.
Shabdrung is regarded as the person who unified the kingdom of Bhutan and built some remarkable temples & forts known as Dzongs. He also started the dual system of secular and spiritual leaders that was ended by Sir Ugyen Wangchuk in the late 19th century. He became the first hereditary king of the country.
Attractions of Thimphu
Built by Lama Gyalwa Lhanangpa in 1216 AD, Tashichho Dzong was acquired by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1641. The original Dzong was destroyed by fire in 1771 and everything was moved to the lower Dzong. The new building was later expanded several times during an earthquake in 1897 and rebuilt in 1902.
National Memorial Chorten
Tourists will find the elderly Bhutanese people circumambulating the Chorten throughout the day. Chorten literally means ‘Seat of Faith’ and Buddhists often call such monuments, the ‘Mind of Buddha’. The Chorten is an extraordinary example of Buddhist architecture and artwork with its gorgeous paintings and sculptures. It is a large white sculpture crowned with a golden spire.
Buddha Dordenma Statue
Located at a height of 51.5 meters, Buddha Dordenma Statue is one of the largest statues of Buddha in the world. The statue is made up of bronze and is glided in gold. 1 lakh 25 thousand smaller Buddha statues have been placed within the Buddha Dordenma statue, 1 lakh 8 inch tall statues and 25 thousand 12 inch tall statues respectively. Each of these thousands of Buddhas has also been cast in bronze and gold. The throne that the Buddha Dordenma sits upon is a large meditation hall.
Folk Heritage Museum
Established in 2001, the Folk Heritage Museum is located in the capital city of Thimphu and provides visitors and tourists with fascinating insights into the Bhutanese material culture and way of life. It also exhibits an impressive collection of typical household tools, objects and equipments. The museum also organizes regular demonstrations of rural traditions, customs, skills, habits as well as hosting educational programs for children.
The literary meaning of Simtokha is ‘Atop of Demon’ and the Dzong was built by the Gyal Gyad Tshel Institute of Ralung (Tibet). The Dzong looks quite distinctive as its central tower has 12 sides. It houses a large statue of Yeshay Gonpo, the main protective deity of Bhutan. It contains the bed chambers of both Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and Jigme Namgyal, two most important figures in Bhutanese history.
Thimphu Tshechu is one of the biggest festivals in the country. It is held for three days, beginning on the 10th day of the 8th month of lunar calendar. This Tshechu is witnessed by thousands of people, most of which travel from neighboring Dzongkhags to attend the festival. The Thimphu Tshechu experienced a severe change in the 1950’s, during the reign of King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, introduced several Boed Chhams (mask dances performed by lay monks). This Tshechu is also seen as a break from farm life and an occasion to celebrate, receive blessings and pray for health & happiness.
Festivals of Thimphu
Most of the festivals celebrated in Thimphu have a connection with Buddhism. These festivals are celebrated with music, dance and religious allegorical plays. Some of the important festivals include Bhutanese New Year in January/February, Buddha Parinirvana and the birthday of Guru Padmasambhava in May/June.
Shopping in Thimphu
There are many shops in Thimphu that sell typical Bhutanese handicrafts and products. The
products sold here include masks, carpets, jewelry, stamps and women products. The store is one of the few to accept the American Express Cards. It is a good place to buy religious Thangka paintings where young students spent days to learn a craft.
Accommodation in Thimphu
There are not many hotels in Thimphu, unlike other capital cities of the world, but accommodation is certainly not a problem. Since Bhutan does not receive a huge influx of tourists, there is not much of accommodation problem, except in the high season. Most of the hotels are good and come equipped with the best of modern amenities.
Eateries in Thimphu
Dining in Thimphu is not too heavy on the pocket since establishments patronize local produce. This isolated city has a lot of Asian and Western eateries that are quite affordable and very satisfying. The Bhutan Kitchen, The Zone and MK Restaurant are some popular restaurants in Thimphu. Datsi (cow’s milk cheese) and Ema Datsi (red chilies cooked in melted cheese) are two popular dishes served in Thimphu.
Adventure in Thimphu
The entire region around Thimphu has excellent trekking route of different levels and provides ample opportunities for trekking, hiking, river rafting and wildlife excursions.
How to reach Thimphu
By Air: Paro is the nearest airport in Bhutan.
By Road: From Bagdogra in India, you have to travel 175 kilometers via road to reach Phuentsholing, the entry point in Bhutan. From Phuentsholing, there is a tiring 179 kilometers journey to Thimphu and gives you a great chance to appreciate the natural beauty of the country. Thimphu can be easily reached from Paro, Trongsa and Punakha.
One of our friend from Bhutan had contributed with the write up and images. A nice person and professional tour guide.
Author & Content Source :T. Tshering Lepcha & Mrinal Kanti Choudhury