Travel to Bhutan: attractions in the capital of Bhutan, Thimphu

Email

Western Bhutan is the perfect region to learn more about the beautiful kingdom for those who are visiting Bhutan for the first time.

Western Bhutan consists of six Dzongkhags (districts): Thimphu, Paro, Haa, Wangdue Phodrang, Punakha, and Gasa. It hosts the international airport, the capital city, most popular festivals, and Bhutan’s well-known tourist sites. 

Thimphu

Thimphu is the capital city of Bhutan, with a population of 98,676. It’s the country’s political and economic hub. This charming city is an excellent blend of modern and tradition, housing numerous cultural attractions, including temples, dzongs (fortresses) and traditional art centres. Aside from that, Thimphu also offers quaint cafes, restaurants, as well as bars and nightclubs. One of the most popular chillout spots for locals and tourists is the Mojo Park pub, where you can enjoy live music.

Even though Bhutan is not open for tourism yet, we can always put interesting places into our bucket list for post-pandemic travel. Below are some popular attraction sites in Thimphu. 

Buddha Dordenma

Buddha Dordenma is the giant gilded bronze statue of Shakyamuni Buddha constructed to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the fourth king of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck. At the height of 51.5 m, the statue sits atop a hill in Kuenselphodrang Nature Park. There is also a meditation hall where locals frequently visit to offer prayer. You can see the giant statue from most parts of Thimphu city. 

Tashichho Dzong

Tashichho Dzong is a magnificent fortress located close to the western banks of Wang Chu. It is the main secretariat building housing the offices of the King and the throne room, alongside the central monastic body and some government ministries. 

During the summer, the chief abbot will move to the dzong their winter residence in Punakha. Most visitors will be in awe of the impressive structure, well-maintained lawns and beautiful gardens.

There is a replica of the original Tashichho Dzong all the way in Japan

Simtokha Dzong

Simtokha Dzong was built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, the unifier of Bhutan in 1629. It is said that Simtokha Dzong is the first fortress in the kingdom. The dzong stands in a fabulous location overlooking the entire Thimphu valley. 

A myth associated with the dzong has it that the dzong was built to subdue a demon who eventually disappeared into a giant stone enclosed in the fortress. 

National Library

The National Library was established in 1967 to preserve ancient Dzongkha and Tibetan texts. The National Archives is responsible for collecting and preserving important past, present and future documents on Bhutan for future generations. The library has a collection of many sacred religious books and manuscripts. It also houses the world's largest published book, weighing 68 kilograms and over two meters tall.

Royal Textile Academy (RTA)

RTA is a non-profit organisation built to preserve and promote the art of weaving in Bhutan. Queen Mother Ashi Sangay Choden instituted RTA in May 2005. The organisation focuses on providing Bhutanese in-depth study and skills training for the unique Bhutanese textiles. Tourists can check out traditional regional garments and an invaluable collection of antique textile artefacts of Bhutan. 

Memorial Chorten

National Memorial Chorten was built in memory of the 3rd King of Bhutan, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. Throughout the day, locals circumambulate the chorten as a holy ritual. Built in 1974, it is an outstanding illustration of Buddhist culture and architecture in the kingdom. The chorten houses detailed Buddhist paintings and numerous Buddha statues.

Tango Buddhist Institute

Tango Monastery serves as a part of the Drukpa Kagyu School, an important university of Buddhist studies in Bhutan. The sacred institute is a 30-minute drive from the main Thimphu town. After reaching the Dodena area, an hour hike uphill is required. 

There are numerous legends associated with the monastery making it an interesting place to visit. The site is said to have been visited by Guru Rinpoche sometime in the 8th century. Many great masters have visited the site, including Zhabdrung who is said to have meditated in the cave in 1616. The old monastery was founded by Phajo Drugom Zhigpo in the 12th century and built in its present form by the Fourth Desi (secular ruler) Tenzin Rabgye in 1688. 

Weekend Market

The weekend market provides visitors with a glimpse into the routine of the Bhutanese. It's a lively place to get fresh produce from the farmers who brought them to the capital city from remote parts of the kingdom. There is also a handicraft bazaar across the streets where you can get souvenirs.

Folk Heritage Museum

Folk Heritage Museum offers visitors a glimpse of traditional Bhutanese lifestyle, values and heritage. The museum was established in 2001 and is set in a three-storied timber and rammed earth building, mimicking the authentic traditional Bhutanese structure. The ground floor is the cattle shed, the second floor is a storage area, and the top floor is the living quarters.

You can learn more about Bhutanese cuisine, traditional plants, animals, traditional hot stone baths, farming tools, household objects, and many more in the museum. 

Clock Tower Square

The Clock Tower Square refers to a tower with four clock faces traditionally built with beautiful and colourful carvings and paintings. The tower stands in the open ground, and the area serves as a venue for various events like trade fairs, musical events and other activities. The centrally located square — surrounded by hotels, restaurants, cafes — remains a popular gathering spot for locals and offers a chance to rest from sightseeing.

National Institute for Zorig Chusum

The Government of Bhutan established the national Institute for Zorig Chusum to preserve and promote the traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan. The students are taught the thirteen traditional Bhutanese arts and crafts: Painting, Sculpturing, Wood Carving, Calligraphy, Paper-making, Bronze-Casting, Embroidery, Weaving, Carpentry, Masonry, Bamboo and cane weaving, Ornament-Making, Blacksmithing. 

You can see students working on their crafts and explore the gallery in the institute. It's an interesting site for travellers who enjoy learning about the local cultures.

Motithang Takin Preserve

Takin Preserve is located at Motithang, a 15-minute drive from Thimphu Town. It is the wildlife reserve to preserve takin in a protected environment, alongside other rare animals such as Muntjac deer, Sambar, and Serow. Takin, the national animal of Bhutan, is a curious combination of goat and cow. They were once released into the wild from zoo enclosure, following the fourth King of Bhutan order. However, after being domesticated for so long, the takin didn't leave the area and ended up roaming the streets of Thimphu. Thus, an 8.4-acre wildlife reserve was set up for the takin to roam freely and safely.

Thimphu Tshechu

One of the biggest festivals in Bhutan is the Thimphu Tshechu. This festival is held in the capital city for three days beginning on the 10th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar — usually in September or October. Thimphu Tshechu was initiated by the 4th Druk Desi, Gyalse Tenzin Rabgay in the 17th century. In the 1950s, some changes were introduced in Thimphu Tshechu by the 3rd King of Bhutan, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. The Tshechu is preceded by several days and nights of prayer and rituals to invoke the gods. It even has its own pre-festival, Thimphu Drupchen, which takes place three days before Thimphu Tschechu. You can enjoy mask dances like the Guru Tshengye (Eight Manifestations of Guru Rinpoche), Shaw Shachi (Dance of the Stags), and many more at the festival. Tshechu is a sacred religious festival, and locals believe that one can cleanse their sins and accumulate merits by attending it.

Dochula Druk Wangyel Festival

Dochula Druk Wangyel Festival was established in 2011 in commemoration of the fourth King and the Armed Forces’ victory over Indian insurgent forces residing in southern Bhutan in 2003. The festival is celebrated every 13th December at the Druk Wangyel Lhakhang located at the Dochula pass (3140m) en route from Thimphu to Punakha. The Druk Wangyel Tshechu is a unique festival performed by the Royal Bhutan Army rather than monks or laypeople. It also celebrates the continuous efforts of the Royal Bhutan Army in protecting the sovereignty and the stability of the country.

Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck is the founder and patron of the Druk Wangyal Festival. Her Majesty also built Druk Wangyal Lhakhang over four years (2004-2008) to honour the courageous service of the fourth king, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, for all the sacrifices he made to protect the kingdom's sovereignty.

Dochula Pass

Dochula Pass is a 3100m (10171ft) high mountain pass from Thimphu to Punakha. It is famous for the 108 memorial stupas built by the eldest Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck to honour the Bhutanese soldiers, perished in combat while fighting insurgents from the state of Assam in northeast India. It is also the venue for the annual Dochula Druk Wangyel Festival. The pass offers a fantastic 360-degree panoramic view of the Himalayas on a clear day.

For more attractions in Bhutan, pre-order your copy of Bhutan Travelog by 15th July. Here are 6 reasons why



Related Posts

6 reasons to get your very own 'Bhutan: Travelog'

A book that will tell you everything you need to know, see, taste, do, and enjoy in Bhutan? Take my money!

Jun 16, 2021 12:37

15 reasons why Bhutan should be in your travel bucket list...

Bhutan, a small Himalayan nation tucked away in the South Asian region makes a perfect travel destination post-COVID-19.

Mar 04, 2021 13:11

Travel to Bhutan: experience the beauty of Punakha

Punakha district is easily one of the tourists' favourite valleys.

Sep 07, 2021 15:44

How should I dress in Bhutan?

About to head to Bhutan for the adventure of your lifetime but don’t know what to pack? Fret not. Here’s a guide of...

Sep 06, 2021 11:49

Travel to Bhutan: experience the charm of Paro district

Paro district receives the highest volume of travellers annually. It's also easily one of tourists favourite places in...

Jul 14, 2021 11:20

Bhutan is the perfect destination for luxury travel

The definition of 'luxury travel' has changed because of COVID-19.

Jun 01, 2021 18:32

Latest

News

Visitors can look forward to a brand new experience at Paro International Airport

Bhutan's Paro International Airport was given a major facelift.

Oct 18, 2021 16:35

Bhutan is tapping into solar energy with its first grid-tied solar power plant

Electricity in Bhutan is mostly generated from hydropower, a renewable energy source, unlike fossil-fuel driven power plants that are major...

Oct 05, 2021 16:17

Features

There is a yeti preserve in Bhutan that is bigger than the size of Singapore

Wondering whether there are yetis in Bhutan? There is even a corpse!

Oct 21, 2021 11:22

Bhutan is home to one of the most expensive mushrooms in the world

There is even a festival for it, known as the Matsutake Mushroom Festival. There, you’ll get to sample various dishes prepared with this...

Sep 24, 2021 16:10

Business

Yathra weaving, the uniquely Bumthang culture

Unlike other places in Bhutan, the people of Bumthang don’t do agricultural work. Instead, they weave yathra products. Traditionally, every...

Sep 13, 2021 17:06

What are the entrepreneurship programmes and initiatives available in Bhutan?

The Bhutanese government has introduced all kinds of initiatives to promote entrepreneurship. Even school kids are groomed to innovate,...

Jun 22, 2021 16:37

Sports

Paro FC reclaimed its champion title for BoB Bhutan Premier League 2021

Bank of Bhutan (BoB) Bhutan Premier League 2021, previously known as Bhutan Premier League (BPL), the top football tournament in Bhutan...

Oct 02, 2021 19:57

Bhutan makes its debut appearance at the Paralympic Games

There is much to celebrate in the sporting history of Bhutan.

Aug 16, 2021 11:50

Travel

Travel to Bhutan: experience the beauty of Punakha

Punakha district is easily one of the tourists' favourite valleys.

Sep 07, 2021 15:44

How should I dress in Bhutan?

About to head to Bhutan for the adventure of your lifetime but don’t know what to pack? Fret not. Here’s a guide of useful clothing items to...

Sep 06, 2021 11:49

Lifestyle

Things to avoid based on the day of the twelve Buddhist zodiac animals

“La Za” “Sog Za” and “She’ Za” are Good Day, Soul Day and Bad Day respectively.

Oct 26, 2021 12:07

How to make your own ema datshi (chilli cheese) in 10 minutes

You can make your chilli cheese as spicy as you wish.

Oct 25, 2021 11:26

COVID-19

Bhutan is leading in the vaccination race

“Bhutan is now a beacon of hope for the region, at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has upended lives and devastated families." - Dr Will...

Jul 28, 2021 12:01

Bhutan, with a leading vaccination rate in the region, commenced its second vaccination drive

Bhutan's second nationwide vaccination campaign will be held from July 20 - July 26, 2021.

Jul 21, 2021 11:05

Subscribe to our newsletter

Never miss out on new happenings and news stories!

Download Daily Bhutan Mobile App

Connecting with us just got easier!