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Thimphu, Bhutan

National Memorial Chorten, Thimphu, Bhutan
Archery tornament, Thimphu, Bhutan Market stall, Thimphu, Bhutan Craft market, Thimphu, Bhutan Student at Thimphu School of Arts & Crafts, Bhutan
Above: National Memorial Chorten, Thimphu, Bhutan
  • National Memorial Chorten, Thimphu, Bhutan
  • Archery tornament, Thimphu, Bhutan
  • Market stall, Thimphu, Bhutan
  • Craft market, Thimphu, Bhutan
  • Student at Thimphu School of Arts & Crafts, Bhutan
Thimphu sits in a valley about 2 hours drive from Paro, and 3 hours drive from the Punakha Valley, and is the capital city of Bhutan. Compared to the sleepy nature of much of the rest of Bhutan, it has an energetic feel and a busy main street with shops, hotels, restaurants and bars.

Thimphu is also perhaps the only capital city in the world with no traffic lights - the set that were installed several years ago were removed due to unpopularity, and replaced with the previously stationed white gloved traffic policeman!

The National Stadium lies just off the main town centre, and holds regular archery tournaments which are free to enter and spectate – bring binoculars to be able to see the small target at 140 meters from the archers!

In and around Thimphu are various museums and places of interest which you can visit during your stay. Your guide will discuss these with you and you can select which you would like to visit based on your available time and your own personal interests.

Thimphu Dzong (Trashichhodzong) is a beautiful medieval fortress/monastery located just outside the city and houses most of the government offices and the King's Throne room. It is also the summer residence of Je Khenpo, the Chief Abbot. This Dzong was rebuilt in 1902 following earthquake damage in 1897 to the modified original.

The National Memorial Chorten is a Tibetan style stupa standing in the city centre, built in memorial of the third king. It is a popular place and many local people visit every day to pray and meditate, with large crowds on particularly auspicious days. Like all stupas and Buddhist temples, please remember to walk around in a clockwise direction.

The Takin Preserve is located on a wooded hillside just outside Thimphu town and offers visitors a glimpse of the rare and bizarre national animal of Bhutan. A ‘goat-antelope’, the Takin is a native of Tibet and Bhutan. The reserve also houses several deer. The loop walk is a comfortable 40 minute circuit (including stopping time), on a slightly hilly path through open pine forest. There are excellent views over Thimphu and the surrounding valley from the road.

Thimphu’s weekend market runs from Friday evenings until Sunday afternoons and is well worth adjusting your itinerary to visit. On one side of the river the food market is packed with hundreds of stalls selling numerous intriguing fruits, vegetables and spices, many of which are unfamiliar to the western eye. Across a striking bridge covered in prayer flags is the handicraft and fabric section which will demand significant self control for any souvenir shoppers.

The National Institute of Traditional Medicine has a small museum featuring a wide range of traditional herbal medicine ingredients. Unfortunately it doesn't feature good explanations or labels in English. Of more interest to some, will be the opportunity for a consultation, which can be arranged through your guide.

A traditional hand-made paper factory shows how paper is still made by ancient methods today, with an attached shop selling attractive and interesting souvenirs.

The Textile Museum has displays of local weaving and normally some weavers you can watch at work

The School of Arts & Crafts is a traditional arts and handicrafts training college for young people. Visitors can wander in and out of different class rooms with students practising sculpture, weaving, painting thankas and wood carving. There is an opportunity to purchase gifts in an attached store.

The Folk Heritage Museum is a traditional house which one can walk through to see how larger rural and more wealthy Bhutanese households were organised historically, (and indeed as many are today) with animal stalls at ground level, and living and sleeping rooms on higher floors.

The National Library accommodates many holy and historical texts, some of which are available to the visiting tourist. The building also contains a shrine on each floor. The National Archives are housed on the same site and special permission may be sought for their viewing. The library has on display the largest book in the world, and many traditional Tibetan style books, written on long strips of handmade paper.

For more information about Bhutan, please check our Bhutan country guide.

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