A Complete Guide: Top Places to Explore in Thimphu

Unlike other cities of the world, the capital city of Bhutan draws your attention at the gateway itself with its unique yet impressive architectural designs of their houses. The intricate details and colourful paintings on the walls make it one of the most colourful cities in the world. The combination of both modern cosmopolitan and yet charmingly traditional outlook gives Thimphu a unique identity. Nestled in the Eastern Himalayas, Thimphu will surprise you with its cultural magnetism, social fabrics, contrasting lifestyle and welcoming nature of the humble Bhutanese people. A city which has the only traffic light in the country, where everyone wear their national dress, and the only capital in the world, which does not have an airport, Thimphu is surely one intriguing destination to explore in the kingdom of happiness. Here are some of the top places that one should not miss visiting in Thimphu.

Buddha Dordenma Statue

One of the iconic landmarks in Thimphu is the Buddha Dordenma Statue. This gigantic status is located atop a hill in the Kuenselphodrang Nature Park and it measures in at a height of 51.5 metres. The statue is the largest Buddha statue in the world. It houses thousands of small Buddha statues and they are also being made of bronze and gilded in gold. The throne where this massive Buddha Statue Dordenma sits upon, is a large meditation hall.

It has become the most prominent tourist spot in the capital, which also offers an uninterrupted view of the entire city.

Tashichhoe Dzong

Visit to Tashichhoe Dzongis is a must in Thimphu. Located on the bank of the Wangchhu River, surrounded by manicured lawns and gardens, this impressive structure houses the throne room and offices of the King, the Secretariat, the Ministries of Home Affairs and Finance. Known as “Fortress of the glorious religion”, Tashichhoe Dzong is also the headquarters for the central monastic body of Bhutan.

The Dzong is open only for an hour, i.e., from 5.30 to 6.30 pm for visitors. Since it is a high security zone, visitors are required to go through scanning before entering the premises. It is advisable to dress appropriately and pay respect to the religious and cultural sentiments of the country.

National Memorial Chorten

Another must visit place in Thimphu is the National Memorial Chorten. This impressive Chorten was built in 1974 to honor the memory of the third King, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. Chorten means ‘Seat of Faith’. Mostly elderly people visit the Chorten to pray, meditate and meet each other.

The memorial Chorten is the most visible religious structure in Thimphu. It is also a place of daily worship for many. While visiting this Chorten, one should be extra cautious as not to disturb the locals who are meditating.

Authentic Handicraft Market

One of the most colourful alleys in Thimphu is certainly the authentic handicraft market. This is a must visit place for shopaholics. The traditional bamboo huts aligned neatly, below Norzin Lam, offer a wide range of Bhutanese art and craft products. Women are also found weaving in their looms in the shops itself.

From handmade papers, bags, paintings, traditional attires, products made of bamboo, Bhutanese currency to the famous traditional masks, it offers almost everything. It’s a great place to buy souvenirs.

Motithang Takin Preserve

Takin is the national animal of Bhutan. This wired looking animal looks like as if the head of a goat has been fixed on the body of a cow.  As the folklore says that once in the 15th century, the maverick monk Lama Drukpa Kunley, also known as the Divine Madman went to Bhutan to attend a large congregation of devotees, assembled there to have the blessings of a saint. During the event, Lama Drukpa Kunley became a matter of mockery due to his unorthodox and outrageous attitude. And that led him to prove his supreme power. During lunchtime, he ordered a whole cow and a goat which he devoured, leaving the head of the goat on the skeleton of the cow. He then hastily put the goat’s head with the cow’s bones and snapped his fingers to create this strange animal, whom he then commanded to gaze in the mountain slopes. And that’s how he created Takin and impressed the people with his miraculous powers. Motithang Takin Preserve, located in the Motithang district of Thimphu, is now one of the tourist attractions in the capital.

The National Folk Heritage Museum

Established in 2001, the National Folk Heritage Museum gives you a glimpse of traditional Bhutanese lifestyle. It houses the traditional rural household artifacts, tools, and a good collection of typical household objects. It has successfully introduced to its visitors the Bhutanese way of life by creating a rural set up inside. It has a restaurant, where you will get the best authentic Bhutanese cuisines.

They have a set menu for both vegetarian and non-vegetarian tourists that mainly includes Red rice, Butter Tea (Suja), Buckwheat pancake (khulee), Emma Datshi (The national Dish of Bhutan), Meat dishes, and spicy salad. Don’t forget to have Ara- the traditional alcoholic drink.

Pubs in Thimphu

If you wish to experience the night life of the capital city of Bhutan, you must pay a visit to a few pubs in Thimphu. I visited two of them during my stay. Unlike other metropolitan cities in the world, the scene inside the pub is pretty decent. Youngsters are found enjoying their drinks with the live band music. The craze for Bollywood music was evident in the music chart. Otherwise clad in their traditional attire, the Bhutanese youth come to Pub in their western clothing. Interestingly, everyone seemed to be known to everyone there.

The overwhelming response of the locals was something I still cherish from that night, especially when a few of them willingly joined us capturing a few happy moments that night.  I had a blast dancing with my friends and locals in the pub.

My Trip to Bhutan was planned and sponsored by Bhutan Bookings.

Reproduction of any of the contents, including the photographs without prior consent/permission of the Writer is strictly prohibited and a violation of the same will attract legal action.

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30 Replies to “A Complete Guide: Top Places to Explore in Thimphu”

  1. This reminds me of all the fun we had in Thimphu. The architecture in Bhutan and the night life of Thimphu definitely surprised me.
    The last picture sums it all.

    1. Thanks Manjulika. Yeah it brings back all those lovely memories.

  2. Oh wow! This is wonderful! I’ve never been to this part of Bhutan before but now I think I’m gonna start planning a trip there. Don’t know when I’ll be able to make it but who knows, at least I’ll be ready when the opportunity to go there presents itself.

    1. Thanks a lot Alice. You must visit this Himalayan Kingdom. Its simply breathtaking.

  3. You’re pictures are beautiful! Bhutan has been on my wish list for a very long time, here’s hoping I make the trip soon!
    Roxanne Bamboat recently posted…Exploring Tel Aviv In IsraelMy Profile

    1. You must visit Bhutan. Its simply breathtaking.

  4. What an interesting sight! I love how the Dordenma Statue stands atop of the hill, you must have such a spectacular view from there! I’d love to go myself.

  5. Bhutan looks amazing! I’d love to explore there. The colors and statues, the history… it all looks so interesting. So underrated!
    Karla at GlobalETA recently posted…Sleep Under the Stars at Namib Dune Star CampMy Profile

    1. Bhutan is very strict with their Tourism policy which is good. Its also expensive. But everyone should visit Bhutan once for sure.

  6. The city with the only traffic lights in the country? Really?! Wow! Bhutan is on my bucket list, so much so that I’m pinning this to Pinterest for later so when I go I’ll be able to look back.

    Thanks for sharing!


    1. There are many unique things in Bhutan that will amaze you. Go and explore this Himalayan Kingdom at least once.

  7. Thanks For Your Blog.

  8. Thanks for this useful guide. This will come handy when I do it myself. Great photographs, especially of the monastery and the statues. You must have had a great time with the fellow bloggers.
    Jitaditya Narzary recently posted…Hues of Ramganga: Beating Around the Bushes in CorbettMy Profile

  9. That buddha statue reminds me of the one in HK! Only, this one is more golden. Bhutanese cuisines looks like something I would really like!

  10. I know about Bhutan only because of my yoga teacher in India who organizes yoga retreats in Bhutan. The more I read about this place, the more I want to visit it! It looks truly beautiful in your photos and also the suggestions are great! Did you visit mountains as well?

  11. Buthan looks so different than everywhere, it is a place to go for sure. The food looks delicious, you ate everything on that picture? Or just the veg or nonveg?? The bread is the same than in India??
    I never saw any Takin in my life, to be honest, didn’t know about them, they look awful and beautiful at the same time ahaha!

  12. Didn’t heard much about Bhutan but the pictures that you have featured are totally enticing! A mixture of nature and the cosmopolitan is truly heartmelting. Are there mountains in the area that are safe to hike? 😀 😀 😀

  13. What an amazing experience, to visit Bhutan! I never knew that it was the only capital worldwide without an airport – I guess that is why its traditions are so well preserved. Did you get any souvenirs at the market?

  14. I had never considered visiting Bhutan, but your insights and way of presentation make the destination very much appealing. I’ve learned interesting facts from your post and I think that the most amazing places to visit are the ones which are still preserved, and most certainly Bhutan is still untouched.


  15. Tony (tonyandkimoutdooradventures) says:

    Thanks for your story. I was interested with the markets and loved the pub. Would love to check out a pub with bollywood music going in the background.

  16. Bhutan is so high in our list. Your insights and attractions list are very helpful. How was the food though, was it spicy or mild?

  17. Holy! Buddha Dordenma Statue is huge!! I never realised it. I would love to visit there one day. The markets also look like they would be a lot of fun to explore. Looks like you had a wonderful time.

  18. Thimpu is a happy land. I am planning to visit here soon. I will keep these places in mind. The buddha monastery is so colorful and beautiful, unlike any other that I have seen elsewhere. And the national folk heritage museum also looks interesting!!

  19. Bhutan is such a colorful, happy and picturesque Land of God. The Lord buddha statue and monastery both look so huge. I will love to treat myself with some of these colorful souvenirs too. It is an amazing and wonderful written post.

  20. This is what I love about traveling discovering the culture of the country, how much did you spend coming here?

  21. Gosh the colors of this place are just outstanding. The gold statues in particular! I love how vibrant everything is, in both appearance and in history! The monastery is a place I would love to really explore. Thanks for introducing me to Thimphu!

  22. What a great trip! Bhutan is definitely on my bucket list. I want to visit the country in a near future and your tips will definitely come in hand. How long were you there? Would you suggest any special time of the year to visit it?

  23. Ah, Bhutan. Such a small yet beautiful country. I would love to visit it soon! Well, I didn’t know that the largest Buddha statue in the world could be found in Thimpu. That is surprising! I have been to several east and southeast Asian countries with gigantic statues of Buddha and I have already been amazed by its sizes. It must be a wonderful thing to see the largest one in Thimpu!

  24. Bhutan looks like such an exotic destination to me and I love how colorful and spiritual Thimphu is. The temples are simply amazing, with such beautiful details. I would like to visit the Chorten, I can imagine that it’s a unique experience meeting the monks.

  25. Sounds like a very interesting place to visit! Thank you for sharing! The takin sure looks like an interesting animal! The temples are beautiful, and see like a very spiritual part of Bhutan.

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