Travel

Bhutan Diaries : Thimphu

The Thimphu Valley in Bhutan
The gorgeous Thimphu Valley
The capital of Bhutan is Thimphu, about an hour’s drive from Paro. Although it’s a lot more urban than the rest of the country, it’s very much a quaint and charming Bhutanese town. Here are a few of my favourite things from Thimphu šŸ™‚
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The Tachog Lhakhang on the Paro-Thimphu highway. After landing in Paro, we drove down to Thimpu where we spent the first two days of our journey in Bhutan. On the way, we stopped at this historic temple built by Bhutan’s famous iron bridge builder back in the 15th century. He also built an iron link bridge leading to it. It was washed away however, and what you see now is a replica. A less shaky and more photogenic (IMO) bridge runs parallel to it, for cattle to cross without getting their feet stuck in the iron links:
A wooden bridge in the Tachog Lhakhang on the Paro-Thimphu highway, Bhutan
A bridge to help cattle cross the river, lined with prayer flags
The Wang Chhu river in front of Tachog Lhakhang on the Paro-Thimphu highway, Bhutan
The Wang Chhu river under the bridge
Thimphu’s main river is Wang Chhu, and you can see it in the above picture. This little river is no little river, actually – it flows through three countries (Bhutan, India, Bangladesh), and becomes a part of the mighty Brahmaputra in Bangladesh.
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Thimphu has two dzongs, both of them are magnificent in their own ways. The Tashichho Dzong is the seat of the Bhutanese government, and the Simtokha Dzong is Bhutan’s oldest surviving dzong. As I mentioned earlier in my Paro post,, dzongs are like fortresses, but they also house a monastic section and the local district administration. Ngawang Namgyel, known as the Shabdrung or the unifier of Bhutan, brought the whole country under one rule for the first time, back in the 17th century. He is worshipped as a deity all over Bhutan and all of the dzongs that you see in Bhutan today, were built by him.
The Tashichho Dzong or Fortress in Thimphu, Bhutan
Tashichho Dzong
The Tashichho Dzong or Fortress in Thimphu, Bhutan
Tashichho Dzong
Murals in the Tashichho Dzong / Fortress in Thimphu, Bhutan
Murals in the Tashichho Dzong
Murals in the Tashichho Dzong / Fortress in Thimphu, Bhutan
Murals in the Tashichho Dzong
The Simtokha Dzong / Fortress in Thimphu, Bhutan
Simtokha Dzong

The Buddha Dordenma or Buddha Point is probably Thimphu’s highlight – it is a colossal statue of Lord Buddha that appears to magically rise out of the mountains! The statue is 51 meters tall, and you can see it from almost everywhere in Thimphu.

Buddha Dordenma or Buddha Point, Thimphu, Bhutan
Buddha Dordenma
Buddha Dordenma or Buddha Point, Thimphu, Bhutan
Buddha Dordenma
We did a bit of window shopping at a small handicrafts bazaar on the river bank, The prices vary wildly from stall to stall, so it’s hard to know if you’re getting a good deal!
Shopping for Bhutanese handicrafts in Thimphu
Shopping for handicrafts in Thimphu
Shopping for Bhutanese handicrafts in Thimphu
Shopping for handicrafts in Thimphu
People come to the old Changangkha Lhakhang (Temple) to get their little children blessed, and also to get lucky names picked out for their newborns. Or if they are like me, to check out the incredible view from the back of the temple.
The Changangkha Lhakhang in Thimphu, Bhutan
Changangkha Lhakhang
We went to the National Institute of Zorig Chusum to watch students learning Bhutan’s traditional arts and crafts. There are 13 specific arts that the Bhutanese consider very important – together they are called Zorig Chusum. Below, is a painting class in progress:
National Institute of Zorig Chusum, a school for traditional arts and crafts in Thimphu, Bhutan
School of arts and crafts
National Institute of Zorig Chusum, a school for traditional arts and crafts in Thimphu, Bhutan
School of arts and Crafts
Thimphu has some really nice cafes and bars. If you drink beer, try the Druk and Red Panda beers – both are brewed locally in Bhutan.
Druk Beer, brewed locally in Bhutan. At a cafe in Thimphu.
Druk Beer
The Zone, a cozy cafe in Thimphu, Bhutan
A cozy cafe called The Zone
These were just my favourites – there’s a lot more to do in Thimphu, like the National Memorial Chorten, a cluster of lovely museums, the post office where you can get custom stamps printed with your face on them and the Takin zoo. After getting our fill of Thimphu, we drove eastwards past the picturesque Dochula Pass to remote Phobjikha. A three hour drive from there took us to historic Trongsa, from where we squeezed in a day trip to Bumthang. We then turned around, and headed westwards to warm Punakha. Finally, we returned to Paro, where we began our trip. This wraps up my series of posts about the towns that I visited, but I’m not done with Bhutan – there’s more coming up šŸ™‚
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10 Comments

  • Reply Debosmit Banerjee June 10, 2016 at 1:24 PM

    Hello..Where did you stay in Thimphu. We are planning to stay closer to the main city to explore. Can you suggest some budget places near the main Thimphu.

    • Reply madhugopalan June 20, 2016 at 5:37 PM

      Hello Debosmit – We stayed in Dorji Elements, which is very conveniently located. Excellent and affordable hotel – I totally recommend it.

  • Reply Tenzin Rai September 15, 2015 at 1:17 PM

    Nice information about Bhutan tours. Recently my friends Visited there with their help of a good travel agency. You can go through Bhutan Mahayana Tours best Bhutan tour operator & guide to find out how the objectives and the essence of the mediation tour differs from the luxuriantly oriented festival tours. Thank you for sharing with us.

  • Reply vijay rohit September 14, 2015 at 1:01 PM

    Your article & photographs are so beautiful that entice me to visit this place asap. Thx for sharing. Simply awesome. kudos.

  • Reply Madhu Gopalan August 24, 2015 at 10:48 PM

    Thank you so much RK šŸ™‚

  • Reply Radhakrishna August 23, 2015 at 1:28 PM

    Radiant colors. A proper travel blog post, this one. Kudos šŸ™‚

  • Reply Madhu Gopalan August 17, 2015 at 3:33 PM

    Thank you so much! You're so right – Thimphu is a lot more urban than the rest of Bhutan, but even there, the spirituality is all-pervasive – I think that's one of the most beautiful things about the kingdom. I hope you get to go soon – I bet you'll love it šŸ™‚

  • Reply Madhu Gopalan August 17, 2015 at 3:30 PM

    Thank you Niranjan!

  • Reply Sensuous2Spiritual August 17, 2015 at 1:35 PM

    Makes me want to go to Bhutan this very moment.
    Its amazing how such places are a mix of spiritual pursuits of all kinds. Prayer flags lining the wooden bridge, such an epic shot from such terrains. Loved the Druk amongst all this and ufff….the colors! Beautiful expressions yet again. Loved the read. šŸ™‚

  • Reply R Niranjan Das August 17, 2015 at 1:30 PM

    Thimphu looks beautiful through your article.

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