Things To Do In Thimpu
Thimpu in Bhutan is the biggest city of the country and also its capital. Surrounded by the valley of the Thimpu District in the western part of Bhutan this city holds some terrific sites worth sightseeing and some lovely spots to relax. You will find the culture of Bhutan in this city through the literature, customs, religion and traditions scattered around Thimpu.
When To Go:
Spring and autumn are considered to be the best times to visit Thimpu. In spring the flowers are in full bloom and the city looks lovely with colors all around. The season of spring lasts from the month of March till May. The festival of Paro Tshechu also falls under this season where you have the chance of seeing the king of Bhutan. This means that the city will be filled with travelers due to the 5 day festivities of the city. Autumn lasts from September till November and the festival of Thimpu Tshechu takes place during this season, which means that the city will be full of people again and hotels will be expensive, but the fun will amazing and you will get a firsthand experience of the culture in Bhutan.
These are the things to do in Thimpu:
The Dochula Pass is very famous amongst tourists because it provides a 360 degree view of the Himalaya mountain range from Bhutan. The best scene of the pass is when the background consists of snow covered mountains which is scenic and breathtaking for any person viewing it. There are chortens scattered around the pass for families to rest and spend their time. These chortens were made under the order of the queen because there is a temple located on the pass which is sacred to the people and these chortens were made for the people to rest while coming and going from the temple.
The pass is almost a 30 kilometers drive from the main city. There is a Dochula Cafeteria located just above the pass which serves hot coffee which you will need when visiting the place. Don’t miss out on this adventure and try to hike till the top because that adds to the adrenaline rush and makes your trip more fun. Take your camera along and try to capture as many pictures as you can!
Tashichho Dzong (Thimpu Dzong)
It was originally built in 1641 but the king at that time found it too small, so he built another building which was the lower Dzong. When the original Dzong caught fire in 1771 everything shifted to the second building. With time the Dzong kept on expanding until it became the government’s headquarters with the king’s office and the secretariat in it along with ministries of finance and home affairs.
It was damaged in an earthquake in 18897 and was rebuilt in 1902. It is an impressively large structure that stands on the right of the Wangchu River and is surrounded by beautiful gardens and lawns. Going to this place means exploring the architecture of Bhutan and getting to know the culture it holds. So take a trip down to the official castle of the country and find some amazing knowledge regarding the city and building.
Choki Traditional Art School
This school was established in 1999 to fulfill two goals at the same time. Firstly, to provide education to those kids of the country who could not get education due to financial and social reasons of their family. Secondly, to keep the culture and heritage of Bhutan intact and keep it going through the coming generations. This institution is a non-profit organization run privately to sustain the culture while providing the underprivileged children of Bhutan art and craftsman skills. During a tour of the school an exhibition of the works by the children is put up for the tourists to see.
The children usually take their work to markets and their villages so they can be sold. The Choki Traditional Art School doesn’t teach creativity to the kids but teaches them the replication of the original ideas found in the country and the imagery used can become repetitive but it keeps it enchantment maintained. Most of all they teach the students wisdom with art which is one of the best things a school can provide. Take a trip to this amazing school and find traditions of the country hidden within it.
The Buddha Dordenma is located on top of a hill in Kuenselphodrang Nature Park. It overlooks the entrance on the south of the Thimpu Valley. The Buddha statue is known to be one of the largest statues in the world. The statue stands tall at 51.5 meters and is made of bronze and is gilded with gold. Along with this statue stand 125000 smaller statues of Buddha with 100000 of 8 inches while the rest 25000 of 12 inches in height. These statues are also made from bronze and gilded with gold. The throne of the Buddha Dordenma is actually a meditation hall.
There are 17 storey’s each with different things to explore for those who wish to do so. Separate rooms for the smaller statues have been made and special boards of copper have been placed with the names of the sponsors engraved on them. These stories are to be constructed inside the Dordenma making it a much more unique place to visit. The large statute sitting on top of the hill is a lovely sight, especially when the sun shines down on the golden structure. Take pictures and explore around the Buddha Dordenma.
Thimpu Chorten (Memorial Chorten)
This memorial chorten was built in 1974 for the third king. This Tibetan style large building is a famous tourist attraction and a very religious sacred site for the locals and visitors alike. The Thimpu Chorten is whitewashed with a golden finial and the annexes are painted richly with vibrant colors with very elaborate mandalas, statues and a shrine fully dedicated to the famous king. The day at the chorten means that the people walk around the chorten fulfilling the rituals and praying in a small shrine right inside the gate.
The rituals include spinning the large red wheels which is an act of worship and respect. Early morning inside the chorten is very tranquil as old men come in and worship with some youngsters dropping in to pay their homage while running off to schools or universities. The true religious spirit of the people, especially the elderly is shown through their devout prayers and circumambulating around the shrine swiftly speaking some praying words in their mouths. Tourists who aren’t Buddhists feel the silent prayers and even though they don’t keep the faith they become a part of these acts too.
Tango Buddhist Institute
The Tango Buddhist monastery is located about 14 kilometers to the north of Thimpu and people usually hike to reach the institution. It was founded in the 13th century and was built in 1688 by the 4th temporal ruler of Bhutan. The word Tango in Bhutanese means horse head which is the term used for referring to the main deity Hayagriva which is deified in the monastery. Built like a Dzong, it has a curved outside wall and a main tower which recesses from view slowly.
Along with this it covers the caves where saints in the 12th century used to meditate and perform their miracles. In the courtyard you will find a gallery which illustrates the generations and lineage of the Drukpa Kagyupa leaders. There is a series of engraved slates behind the prayer wheels found in the monastery. Once you reach the top the view is absolutely magnificent and the temple with its peace and serenity is an invitation for the visitor to join in for prayers. The Tango Buddhist Institute is the best place to interact with the religion of the people and the monks there are very helpful. Enjoy the hike and gain knowledge!
Royal Textile Academy of Bhutan
This institute was established in May of 2005 under the queen of Bhutan and the basic reason was to preserve the tradition and weaving culture of the country. The Royal Textile Academy of Bhutan is a non-government and non-profit organization whose motif is to provide education to the young individuals of the country while keeping the culture of Bhutanese weaving intact. The building is very simple and traditional which symbolizes the aim to keep the traditions of Bhutan alive. Exhibitions of the finest cloth and yarn are put up from national, regional and even global places.
Students are taught to dye their own cloth with sheer perfection and to spin their own yarn along with many other contemporary skills which are related to designing cloth and textiles. The institute is fully equipped for its purpose and the students are able to sell their merchandise successfully. Take a tour of this exquisite place to learn more about Bhutanese fabrics and its making. Try interacting with the students there to become more comfortable and to gain more knowledge.
Located in central Thimpu this fortress style temple sits atop a ridge and is a regular hubbub of pilgrims from across the country to pay their tributes and homage. The Changangkha Lhakhang was built in the 12th century by a Tibetan man. After his and his son’s death their descendants took care of the temple and kept it running. This monastery is one of the landmarks of Thimpu and due to its high location it can be seen from quite some distance. The monastery is the house of the 11 headed armed statue which is significant to the Buddhists of the country.
The prayer books are larger than the usual Buddhist prayer books. This temple is famous for people coming to choose auspicious and blessed names for their newly born children. They seek blessings and prayer from the deity for their little ones. Tourists are not very welcome inside, but if you get a permit you can enter and pay your respects. Moreover, from the courtyard the view is splendid with the black and golden prayer wheels of the temple. Go and enjoy the beauty the temple holds.
National Institute for Zorig Chusum
Commonly called as the ‘painting school’, this institute has courses ranging from 4 to 6 years which provides instructions for students of Bhutan’s traditional art. It was established in 1971 under the government of Bhutan who realized that preserving the patronage of painting which was a part of the invaluable heritage was highly important. New artists of the country are trained at the National Institute for Zorig Chusum and learn the basic 13 traditional arts of Bhutan which include painting, woodcarving, embroidery and statue making.
Facilities have been given to the institution which has led to the addition of metal work, weaving, gold grinding and making of the religious drums a part of the curriculum in the school. The school increases the chances of self employment in the students. Also the school is involved in conserving some of the art treasures of Bhutan with many students under training for mural painting and conservation. Going to this place you will be amazed by the talent the young students of Bhutan hold and the work shown there is bound to impress you indeed!
This monastery is almost a 3 hour hike from the main city of Thimpu and is located right above it. It was one of the richest and most elaborately decorated monasteries found in Bhutan and is the home of some very sacred Buddhist artifacts. It was founded in the 13th century by a Tibetan lama and spread the ‘current of compassion’ being one of the most visited meditational site. The monastery is an open complex which consists of holy buildings and relics along with a State monastic school which holds about 50 monks and is financed by the State and other Bhutanese monasteries across Bhutan.
The monks take in the impoverished kids of the country to raise them and also teach them the religion of Buddhism. The hike to the Phajoding Monastery is fabulous with many rare sights and sceneries to be seen on the way. The location of the monastery is such that when you reach the top you see a classic background of the Himalayan mountains and the temple nestled in the greenery of the forest. Going to this site is a must if in Thimpu.
National Folk Heritage Museum
The National Folk Heritage Museum was established in 2001 inside a 3 storey 19th century traditional house of Bhutan. It was made to make the tourists and locals have an insight into the Bhutanese material culture and their way of living. It shows you the traditional Bhutanese lifestyle as well as some works from the rural parts of the country. You will find impressive household equipment, tools and objects on display here.
The museum is known for setting up regular demonstrations of the arts and skills used in the country along with many other customs and habits of the local people. Also, they hold educational programs for young children. The museum offers you something new to see every time you tend to visit it. It sets up a typical rural setting and shows the culture and lifestyle of the people. Tourists can see many other parts of the customs of Bhutan like brewing tea or pounding rice. Visit this enthusiastic museum to learn more about the traditions and customs of the country.
The Simtokha Dzong is another one of the ancient dzongs of Bhutan built in 1629 and located 3 to 4 miles south of the city of Thimpu. It was first one of its kind to be built in the country by a man who unified all of Bhutan. The location of the building is important as it was an intersection of 3 western regions of the country. These were marked by 3 stones and in between these stones was a land called Sem and Dokha was the temple built on it. Legend says that the dzong was built to capture an evil force that lived within the dzong and that evil was captured in a rock on the hill by a lama. The architecture of the dzong is typically Bhutanese and very simple. Now this monastery is the home of monks who also teach Dzongkha language within this monastery. Trek to the Simtokha Dzong to find history and architecture of true Bhutan and to learn more about the Buddhist religion.
Bhutan is a country known for its strong culture that runs through the cities and is open for the tourists and visitors to look at deeply. Thimpu being the capital city of Bhutan has major attractions which keep the traditions of the people alive while providing entertainment to the people watching it. Visiting the monasteries and dzongs is a must to gain insight into the religion while also trekking to enjoy the scenery around the valley of Thimpu. Visit the special art schools made for teaching impoverished children of the society and most of all go to the Dochula pass to view the Himalayan range set in its beauty. Experience the life in Bhutan and make your trip memorable.