Places to visit in Thimphu and Day Hikes

Thimphu is the capital of Bhutan and lies at an altitude of 2300 meters. This is a small vibrant city with approximately one hundred and fifty thousand people. It is the only capital city in the world with no traffic lights. The Tashichho Dzong is the administrative center and houses the Government offices including the office of His Majesty the King. The other significant structure is the SAARC Secretariat which houses National Assembly of Bhutan. The Important Government offices, Embassies and other non government offices are located in Thimphu.  It has the highest golf course in the world at 2320 meters with approximately 150 members

National-Memorial-Chorten-in-Thimphu1. Memorial Chorten:

The Memorial chorten is a five-minute walk from the heart of city. This temple was built in 1974 in the memory of the third king of Bhutan, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. The temple is adorned with the Thankas, elaborate mandalas and splendid statues. The main shrine of the temple is dedicated to the Late His Majesty, third King of Bhutan.

2. National Library:

The National library was established in 1976 in order to preserve ancient texts both in Dzongkha and Tibetan. The Library also serves as a good resource for books about Bhutan.

The Scriptures from all religious schools are represented here including that from Bon tradition. Most of the books are printed on handmade paper stacked between pieces of wood and wrapped in silk cloth. Also on display are ancient photographs. A copy of the 1783 letter sent by the Desi to Samuel Turner, a British army officer is displayed here.

3. National Institute of Traditional Medicine:

Bhutan was once known as the “southern country of medicinal herbs” as Bhutan has an abundance of medicinal herbs. An indigenous dispensary was started on 28th June 1968 in Dechencholing to preserve the rich culture and tradition. It was then upgraded to the National Indigenous Hospital and was shifted to Kawajangsa in 1979. Since then, it came to be known as the Institute of Traditional Medicine Services. The institute treats patients using the various traditional medicines and age-old methods. The Institute also imparts the art of herbal medicines to students.

4. Institute for Zorig Chusum:

The Painting School imparts courses on Bhutan’s thirteen traditional Arts and Crafts called Zorig Chusum. The students learn various forms of art and paintings, wood carving, embroidery and statue making. Nearby, in the vicinity are several handicraft shops.

National-Textile-Museum5. National Textile Museum:

To learn firsthand about this tiny Himalayan Kingdom’s art of weaving, the National Textile Museum is worth a trip. A visit will introduce you to the major weaving techniques, styles and the type of textiles made by both women and men. If you are lucky, you may even come across a group of weavers operating their looms inside the museum.

6. The Folk Heritage Museum:

This renovated typical Bhutanese farm house building was built more than century ago. This folk heritage museum provides a glimpse of rural Bhutanese way of life. After the end of the tour, you can enjoy an authentic Bhutanese lunch, with butter tea, chilies, dried meat and many more at the restaurant there for only Nu 600.

7. Trashichhoe Dzong:

The Dzong (fortress) along the bank of the Wang Chhu, is an architectural delight. It houses the throne room, offices of His Majesty the King, the Ministries of Home Affairs and Finance. It also is the summer residence of the Chief Abbot of Bhutan, the Je Khenpo.

Destroyed by fires in the 1700s and by an earthquake in 1897, it was rebuilt in 1902. Today, surrounded by well-kept lawns and beautiful gardens, the massive structure provides a majestic grandeur to the city. Visitors can marvel at Bhutanese architecture and craftsmanship at its finest, where the entire fortress was built without the use of any nails. Its courtyards are a place of gathering for the locals, dressed in their best attires during the festivals.

8. The Centenary Farmers’ Market:

The Centenary Farmers’ Market or the Weekend Market, north of Changlimithang Stadium, is situated along the bank of Wang Chhu. This double storey structure is dedicated to 100 years of monarchy. Come Thursday, and vendors from all over the country start pouring in and remain until Sunday night to sell their wares.

As you walk around, air go from pungent to sweet to aromatic depending on the produce that is on display. From dried-fish to cheese balls, seasonal vegetables and fruits and spices, you get all. Across the market and the footbridge, one can find a collection of clothing and handicraft stalls. While there are wooden bowls, prayer beads, amulets, prayer wheels and the lot on offer, if you look carefully you could find some treasure amid the heap.

Local-Handicraft-Shops-in-Thimphu9. Local Handicraft Shops:

There are several handicraft shops in Thimphu offering various selections of hand-woven and crafted products. Visitors will find beautiful weaves in wool, silk, cotton and basketwork. Thangkas and other traditional crafts are also available, including Bhutanese antiques and various souvenirs. There are also special selection of books on Buddhism and modern English writings by Bhutanese authors.

10. Craft Bazaar:

Craft Bazaar operates under patronage of the Department of Cottage and Small Industries. This is also in collaboration with the Department of Culture and the Tourism Council of Bhutan. The Department of Agriculture marketing and Co-operatives help to market the products. This market offers genuine Bhutanese arts & crafts thus contributing in promotion, protection and preservation of traditional arts.

11. Changangkha Lhakhang:

This 12th century temple is perched on a hilltop and was established by Tibetan lama, Phajo Drukgom Shigpo. The temple constantly buzzes with pilgrim activity. The protective deity of the temple, Tamdrin is supposed to bless newborns. Hence, the parents from near and far come here to bless their children and get auspicious names for them.

A few minutes walk up from the road, the monastery offers a magnificent view of the valley below. The main chamber of the monastery houses the graven image of the “Buddha of Compassion”.

12. Buddha Point (Kuensel Phodrang):

The drive up to Kuensel Phodrang is worth it not only for the view of Thimphu valley from up there but also to simply marvel at the immense size of the Buddha statue that sits majestically on the hilltop. The statue was made in China and shipped and trucked into Bhutan after it was cut into pieces. At a height of 169 feet, it is one of the biggest Buddha Dordenma statues in the world. The massive three-storey throne holds several chapels and the Buddha’s body itself is filled with 125,000 smaller statues.

This massive statue of Shakyamuni measures in at a height of 51.5 m, making it one of the largest statues of Buddha in the world. The statue is made of bronze and is gilded in gold. Each of these thousands of Buddhas have also been cast in bronze and gilded. The throne that the Buddha Dordenma sits upon is a large meditation hall.

Jungshi-Handmade-Paper-Factory13. Jungshi Handmade Paper Factory:

Junghi Paper factory comprises of two enterprises. The unit in Thimphu produces traditional handmade paper from natural plants mainly from ‘Daphne’ plant species which is insect-resistant. The other unit is in Jimina, 22 km from the centre Thimphu town, recycles waster papers. The traditional handmade papers are mainly used for writing religious scripts. They are also widely used for packing materials, hand carry bags, lampshades, envelopes and calendars . The paper looks a lot like Japanese washi and in fact a lot of Bhutanese paper is exported to Japan also.

14. Zangthopelri Lhakhang:

Zangtopelri temple is located next to the Stadium. It is thought of as one of the sacred passes to heaven according to the sacred books of Guru Rinpoche. Renovated in 1960s, the temple possesses some impressive murals and art treasures. The site was a former battle ground in 1885 that was crucial in proving the political supremacy of Sir Ugyen Wangchuck. Therefore, the temple was built to appease all kinds of evil.

15. Drubthob Goema / Zilukha Nunnery:

It is one of the few nunneries in Bhutan. Located in Zilukha on a high hill above Tashichhodzong, it houses over 70 nuns. The name Drubthob is of Thangthong Gyalpo, popularly known for building iron bridges during the 15th century. One of his later reincarnations founded the nunnery.

16. Simply Bhutan Museum:

The Simply Bhutan Museum is a project under the Bhutan Youth Development Fund. It was built to offer a unique experience to its visitors. It is a living museum and studio to sum up the cultural heritage of the Bhutanese people. A main feature of Simply Bhutan Museum is that it fully is operated by young people and job seekers. They receive on the job training in basic business, management skills and customer care. The fund generated from this museum is used to run many of the youth development programs for vulnerable and disadvantaged youth. So as a visitor, you get to experience and enjoy this special place. You are also helping to make a better today and a brighter tomorrow for the youth of Bhutan.

Archery-Ground-in-Thimphu17. Changlimithang Stadium & the Archery Range:

In the year 1885, the national stadium was the site of the famous battle field. This battle has helped establish Sir Ugyen Wangchuck, Bhutan’s first King as the nation’s political head. Today, it houses a football field and all major sports and national events are held here. But what is equally fun and exciting is the archery ground nearby. Traditional bamboo or carbon-fibre bows really don’t matter. The archers show off their skills and companionship with jabs and jibes thrown at the opponent. The Songs, alcohol and victory dances are all part of the game.

18. Coronation Park:

The Coronation Park is located below the stadium, on the bank of Thimphu River. With the area covering over five acres, the park offers a quiet and relaxing environment. Visitors can either stroll through the park or sit and watch the river flow. One section of the park is devoted as a fun area for kids.

19. Takin Preserve:

This unique animal, with an appearance between a cow and a goat, is the national animal of Bhutan. There are a number of Takins in the zoo, which is located in a serene, natural environment in Upper Motithang. The walking pavement all around the area offers a tranquil leisurely walk. Legend has it that the great Buddhist yogi, Drukpa Kinley created the animal.

20. Thimphu Golf Course:

Stretching about 2,800 yards, a par 33 golf course is deemed very challenging by golf enthusiasts. The course is well set up with many obstacles like trees, uneven grass and man-made water pools. Along with the game, players can also enjoy beautiful views of the surrounding valleys with Tashichhodzong right beside the course. There is a clean and homely restaurant where visitors can take a break and also savor some varied local dishes.

21. Botanical Garden:

The Botanical Garden is located in Serbithang, about a 10 km drive south of the city. The lush garden covers the hillside offering a peaceful and relaxing environment. It is a paradise for plant enthusiasts as there are wide varieties of indigenous trees, flowers and herbs. The garden also serves as a terrific picnic spot.

Day hikes in Thimphu:

Cheri-Monastery-in-Thimphu1. Cheri Monastery:

It is the first Drukpa Kagyu Monastery in Bhutan. A steep climb of about 40 minutes, the monastery is located on the hill opposite Tango monastery. It is also the place where Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal is said to have gained enlightenment.

The trail starts by crossing a traditional wooden bridge across a river before the steep climb to the monastery begins. This is the place where Shabdrung has spent many years in meditation. Cheri Monastery, today has numerous hermitages and small temples located on its slopes. You can enjoy the spectacular views of the valleys below. The one way walk to the monastery is approximately 1.5 km and takes about one hour.

2. Tango Monastery (Goemba):

It was in the 12th century that Lama Gyalwa Lhanangpa founded the Tango Goemba. The Goemba is one of Bhutan’s historical monasteries in the Kagyu tradition. It is a 40-minute drive from Thimphu towards Begana, followed by a one-hour hike up the hill. It houses some important relics related to the Kagyu tradition. The visitor can also enjoy spectacular views from the monastery.

In 1616 Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal visited Tango and meditated in a cave near the monastery. His meditation helped ensure the defeat of an invading Tibetan army.

3. Phajoding Monastery (Goemba):

Founded in the 13th century by Phajo Drugom Zhigpo, a yogi from Tibet, this monastic complex is about a four-hour hike from Motithang or the BBS Tower. The area is famous for its sacred spring water. There are also several sacred lakes, which is a full day’s circular hike. Located at a height of over 3,600 meters, the view of the Thimphu city is spectacular. There are also beautiful locations ideal for camping.

Lungchutshe-Goemba4. Lungchutshe Goemba:

By far, this is the most fascinating three to four hours round trip walk around Dochula pass that offers a spectacular view of the snowcapped Himalayan mountain ranges. From the 108 Chortens and mani wall at Dochula pass, the road ascends gradually into white, red and pink rhododendron forests for about one and a half hours with some steep sections before branching left to Lungchuzekha Goemba.

5. Tandin Nye:

This sacred temple is about 1 Kilometer from the main town, built on a cliff, just like the Tiger’s Nest in Paro. The visit to the temples provides an opportunity to feel and see the great work of ancient Buddhist legends. This temple is also a famous pilgrimage site.

6. Sangaygang – Wangditse loop:

The Sangaygang viewpoint is situated at an elevation of 2685 m and presents a wonderful view of Thimphu valley. A two hour walk from the viewpoint leads one to the Wangditse loop. The trail leads through the prayer flags, oak, blue pine and rhododendron forests until you reach Wangditse monastery. This monastery was founded in 1750 and the inner chapel houses a two-storey statue of Buddha. The trail also provides excellent views of the Samtenling Palace, home to the fourth King. The walking trail ends back at Sangaygang viewpoint.