The capital of one of the world's most intriguing destinations, Thimphu combines a natural small-town feel with a new commercial exuberance that constantly challenges the country's natural conservatism and Shangri La image. Vehicle traffic, unheard of a handful of years ago, now crawls through the centre of town during an equally new phenomenon – rush hour. However, the juxtapositions of old and new remain part of Thimpu's charm. Crimson-robed monks, government ministers clad in traditional dress and camera-wielding tourists all share pavements lined with shops selling SIM cards and Buddhist accessories.
For the visitor, Thimphu offers the best opportunity to briefly break away from the tour itinerary. In addition to its traditional Buddhist sights and attractions, it offers cafes, bars, nightclubs and restaurants. Finding a balance between the esoteric and espresso – the old and the new – is the key to getting the most out of this charming city.