This small city was established as the capital in 1961 and the juxtaposition of old and new is one of its appealing qualities: robed monks texting on their mobile phones; college students in traditional dress with the latest trainers and hairstyles; even the beautifully hand-painted petrol station! Famous for being the only capital in the world without traffic lights, 2008 saw many new structures built including the stadium which held the King’s coronation. Best explored on foot, the decorated shop fronts and intriguing 'grocery-cum-bar' signs reveal friendly shopkeepers and a surprising array of goods.
Here a a few of the city's highlights:
The Folk Heritage Museum
This is one of the oldest houses in Thimphu and as you look out of the windows from the top floor you can really imagine what Thimphu must have been like a century ago – just another rural valley with a small cluster of farmhouses. This traditionally built mud and timber farm house complete with its objects and implements from traditional Bhutanese life, provides an insight into how many rural Bhutanese still live today and give you a chance to have a proper look, before you visit a real family home.
The National Memorial Chorten
Bhutan's third king, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, wished to erect a monument to world peace and prosperity, but died before his plan came to fruition. However, the Royal Family and Cabinet resolved to fulfil his wishes and erect a memorial that would perpetuate his memory and also serve as a monument to peace.
The full name of this monastery is Cheri Dorji Dhen. The Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (first ruler of Bhutan) built the gompa in 1620 and established its first order of monks here. A silver chorten (shrine) inside the gompa is said to hold the ashes of the Zhabdrung’s father. It is usually possible to enter Cheri courtyard, but occasionally not the temples themselves.
Often known as a 'goat-antelope' the takin is found in the Eastern Himalayas above 2,000m. In Bhutan they can be found in the Jigme Dorji Wangchuk National Park, but you would be extremely lucky to see one in the wild. This unique animal is strongly associated with Bhutan's religious history and is the national animal of Bhutan. Visit the Mothithang Takin Reserve to learn about these mystical creatures and the legend of how they came to be.