There are two ways to reach Thimpu. You can travel by road from Phuentsoling and the journey takes about 5-6 hours winding through some picturesque valleys. The other option is to fly to Paro International airport and then drive to Thimpu which is about an hour and half away. Thimpu is the capital and the administrative center of Bhutan. Although it has been around since the 13 th century Thimpu rose to prominence when the King declared it the capital in 1961. One can easily plan for 2-3 days in Thimpu exploring its myriad attractions.
The main Dzong in Thimpu is the Taschichho Dzong. It is the present seat of government and houses important offices of the Ministry of Home affairs and Finance. One can visit it only after 5 pm once the offices close or on Sundays which is a holiday. You need to buy tickets for entry. The Dzong is laid out in a well manicured garden and is an imposing structure. From the grounds you can catch a glimpse of the simple and unassuming residence of the King. Visitors are prohibited from clicking any pics that focus on the royal residence. A little further away you can catch a glimpse of the spires of the Parliament building. As you enter the Dzong you can see beautiful murals and Thangkas adorning the walls. The huge inner courtyard hosts the annual Tsechu festival in September. We could only walk around in awe looking at the magnificent structure.
National Memorial Chorten
Chorten means “Seat of faith” and is a place of worship. The National memorial Chorten was built in 1974 in memory of the third king Jigme Dorji Wangchuk. Located in the city itself this four storey white and golden structure houses numerous religious paintings and tantric statues. At any given time you will find many elderly people making circumambulations and paying obeisance.
With a height of more than 50 metres the statue of Shakyamnai Buddha is considered one of the largest in the world. It is located on top of a hill in the Kuenselphodrang Nature Park and is visible from miles away. At night the well lit Buddha statue seems like a beacon of hope and faith. As you walk to the base of the statue you can see the Thimpu valley spread out in front of you. The immense courtyard in front of the statue can hold hundreds of people. 125,000 small Buddha statues have been placed inside the massive one. The base of the statue is a meditation hall. It is a truly beautiful sight.
This is the oldest temple in Thimpu and has an important place because it houses a statue of Chenrizing who is a manifestatiton of Avalokeshwara and is depicted with eleven heads and thousand arms. Perched on top of a ridge it gives a bird’s eye view of the city. It is also considered auspicious for new born babies. Parents bring their new borns to be blessed by the protector deity Tamdrin.
The Simtokha Dzong is one of the oldest Dzongs in Bhutan. It is also known as Sangak Zabdhon Phodrang which means the Palace of Profound Meaning of Secret mantras. It houses the School for Language and Culture studies. It trains students to become Dzongkha teachers. Dod visit the Dzong to see beautiful murals and carvings. The central idol is of Sakyamani Buddha flanked by eight Bodhisattvas.
Folk Heritage Museum
If you want a glimpse into the life of a typical Bhutanese household then you must visit The Folk Heritage Museum. It is a three storey farm house which houses the traditional tools, implements, utensils etc. a guide will take you around the farm house right from the lowermost floor which acts as a cattle shed and grain storage area to the upper floors where the families live. You can sample some rice wine and dry roasted rice. See how people used to live, cook, sew, knit, care for their cattle etc. a good experience into the country’s culture. There is a restaurant in the same complex which offers some authentic Bhutanese cuisine.
Jungshi Handmade Paper Factory
You can observe the complete process of making paper by hand right from soaking the Daphne tree and Dhekap tree parts to extract pulp, process it and make hand made paper. The souvenir shop has various things made from this paper such as diaries, lamp shades, cards, book covers, wrapping papers and more.
Thimpu Institute of Zorig Chusum
This is a school of arts and crafts. Zorig Chusum means 13 crafts and students learn various things like paintings thangkas, carving and painting furniture, sewing colourful hangings, carving masks, statues, clay modelling to make various Buddha statues, embroidery, metallurgy etc. it is delight to see the students hard at work. Some of the senior students are immensely talented and their creations are amazingly beautiful.
The Wang Chu flows gently in Thimpu and on the banks of the river the weekend market is held. It is held in an immense covered structure. Roam around to see all kinds of vegetables, fruits, dry snacks etc. Across the river is another small structure where you can shop for local souvenirs. A good way to spend a lazy Sunday.
The Takin preserve is dedicated to the mountain animal Takin which has the head of a goat and the body of a cow. It started off as a zoo but the concept of a zoo is against the Bhutan’s environmental convictions and so the king declared it an open nature preserve. The Takin is the national animal of Bhutan and it has an interesting mythology associated with it. It is said that Drupka Kunley , a holy man, had created this animal.