Thimphu became the capital of Bhutan in 1961. The Tashichho Dzong is the seat of the government, it houses the throne room of His Majesty the King and the summer residence of Monastic body. In autumn the annual Thimphu Tshechu is held in the gallery outside the Dzong which attracts hundreds of international visitors along with the locals. With a population of approximately 100,000 people, Thimphu is the largest town in Bhutan. It is just an hour drive from Paro Airport and as you enter the valley, you drive on the new express highway which extends right into the heart of town. The golf course, the only one in Bhutan, a nine-hole circuit is situated near the dzong. The largest statue of Buddha in the world is also under construction just above the Thimphu valley.
Places of Interest in Thimphu: Monuments
Tashichho Dzong or the Fortress of the Glorious Religion built in 1641 is the administrative and religious centre. It houses the throne room of His Majesty the King, the office of the Prime Minister and Ministers. The Parliament hall is situated in the building just opposite the dzong across the Wangchu River.
The National Memorial Chorten was built in 1974 by the mother of Third King in memory of her son, Druk Gyalpo Jigme Dorji Wangchuck – The Father of modern Bhutan. There are numerous religious paintings and statues inside the monument. It is the place of worship and prayer for the residents of Thimphu. You can see hundreds of locals visiting the Chorten early in the morning and in the evening after school and office hours chanting prayers and worshiping.
Dupthop Lhakhang is one of the few surviving nunneries in Bhutan.
Changangkha Lhakhang was built in 12th century by Phajo Drugom Shipo’s son Nyima. It is built above the Thimphu valley and the new born babies are first taken to this Temple to be blessed by the spiritual high lamas.
Dechenphodrang is a monastic school. On visit you can see little lamas chanting prayers and studying the religious texts.
Tango Monastery is half an hour drive from Thimphu and an hour walk to the monastery from the nearby road. It was founded by Lama Gyalwa Lhanangpa in the 12th century and the present monastery was built by Lama Drukpa Kunley in 15th century. Presently it is the centre for Buddhist studies.
Cheri Monastery was built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1620. The silver Chorten inside the monastery holds the ashes of Zhabdrung’s father. It is a half an hour drive from Thimphu and an hour hike to the monastery from the end of the road. The trail starts from a traditional bridge built over the Thimphu River and then a steep climb until you reach the monastery.
Simtokha Dzong is the oldest dzong in Bhutan built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1629. It is 5 km drive south of Thimphu and although entry inside the dzong is restricted, you can visit from outside. It has now been converted into the Institute for Language & Cultural Studies.
Institutions to visit:
The Folk Heritage Museum is a three storied typical Bhutanese building. A tour of it show-cases the traditional Bhutanese lifestyle and the equipments used in the olden days and even today in the rural areas.
The National Institute for Zorig Chusum commonly known as the Painting School where, students undertake a six-year course on the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan. Students throughout Bhutan come and join this institute and you can actually see students at work while you make a visit.
National Library which houses the traditional books and texts is situated near the National Institute for Zorig Chusum. It has the collection of ancient and modern Buddhist texts and manuscripts of which some dates back to several hundred years. The world’s largest book titled BHUTAN is also placed in this library.
National Textile Museum show-cases a variety of beautiful Bhutanese textiles and a visit to it brings alive the living national art of weaving.
The Institute of Traditional Medicine is where traditional medicines are prepared and dispensed. It is also here the traditional medical doctors are trained. There are small rooms inside the complex which displays a variety of medicinal plants, minerals, precious metals and gems.
Other places to visit:
Takin Preserve Centre is a mini zoo where Takins the National Animal of Bhutan can be seen. This is a very rare animal found only in Bhutan, Nepal and China. The appearance is somewhat like the head of a goat and a body of a cow.
Sangaygang View Point is situated just 10 minutes drive from the mini zoo. This is a perfect view point which oversees the Thimphu valley. Hundreds of prayer flags are hosted in this area for the peace and prosperity of the valley.