Must see attractions in Thimphu

  • Top ChoiceSights in Thimphu

    Trashi Chho Dzong

    This splendid dzong, north of the city on the west bank of the Wang Chhu, dominates the valley, looking out over a cascade of terraced fields. It's Thimphu's grandest building by far, and served as the official seat of the Druk Desi, the head of the secular government that shared power with the religious authorities, from the 18th to the 19th centuries. The dzong was the site of the lavish formal coronation of the fifth king in 2008.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Thimphu

    Changangkha Lhakhang

    This traditional Bhutanese temple perched like a fortress on a ridge above central Thimphu hums with pilgrim activity. It was established in the 12th century on a site chosen by Lama Phajo Drukgom Shigpo, originally from Ralung in Tibet. Parents come here to get auspicious names for their newborns or blessings for their young children from the protector deity Tamdrin (to the left in the grilled inner sanctum). Children are blessed by a phurba (ritual dagger) and given a sacred thread.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Thimphu

    National Textile Museum

    Thimphu's best museum is part of the Royal Textile Academy. It features a stunning display of ancient and modern textiles, and explores the rich traditions of Bhutan's national arts of thagzo (weaving) and tshemzo (embroidery). The ground floor focuses on royal gho s, including the wedding clothes worn by the fourth king and his four wives. The upper floor introduces the major weaving techniques, styles of local dress and types of textiles made by women and men. No photography is allowed.

  • Top ChoiceSights in South of Thimphu

    Simtokha Dzong

    About 5km south of Thimphu on the old road to Paro and Phuentsholing, the handsomely proportioned Simtokha Dzong was built in 1629 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. The site is said to mark the spot where a demon vanished into a rocky outcrop, hence the name Simtokha, from simmo (demoness) and do (stone). The site was also a vitally strategic location from which to protect the Thimphu valley and the passage east to the Dochu La and eastern Bhutan.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Thimphu

    Weekend Market

    Thimphu's Weekend Market fills a maze-like pavilion on the west bank of the Wang Chhu, just north of Changlimithang Stadium. Vendors from throughout the region start arriving on Thursday and remain until Sunday night, filling the market halls and surrounding streets with produce. The incense area is one of the most interesting, full of deliciously aromatic raw ingredients and pink cubes of camphor and saffron that are used to flavour the holy water given to pilgrims in lhakhangs.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Thimphu

    National Memorial Chorten

    This large chorten is one of the most visible landmarks in Thimphu, and for many Bhutanese it is the focus of daily worship. The Tibetan-style stupa was built in 1974 as a memorial to the third king, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck (1928–72). Early morning is a great time to visit, as elderly people shuffle meditatively around the chorten, families light butter lamps, and kids dressed in their smartest gho s and kira s (traditional dress for men and women) rush out a quick kora (ritual circumambulation) on their way to school.

  • Top ChoiceSights in North of Thimphu

    Tango Goemba

    Tango is the residence of Gyalse Rinpoche, recognised as the seventh reincarnation of Gyalse Tenzin Rabgye, founder of Taktshang Goemba. The original monastery was founded in the 12th century but it was the 'divine madman', Lama Drukpa Kunley, who built the present building in the 15th century. Notable for its striking curved frontage, Tango is part of an important university of Buddhist studies – the main campus is down in the valley and monks trek back and forth between the two throughout the day.

  • Sights in Thimphu

    Buddha Dordenma

    The huge 51m-tall steel statue of Buddha Dordenma commands the entry to the Thimphu valley. The massive three-storey base houses a large chapel full of thousands of donated Buddha statuettes, while the body itself is filled with 125,000 smaller statues of Buddha. The chapel roof has some particularly fine mandalas. The Buddha looks amazing when illuminated at night. The area is called Changri Kuensel Phodrang after the former palace of the 13th Druk Desi that once stood here.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Thimphu

    National Institute for Zorig Chusum

    This institute, commonly known as 'the painting school', operates four- to six-year courses that provide instruction in Bhutan's 13 traditional arts. Students specialise in painting (of both furniture and thangka s – painted religious pictures, usually on canvas), woodcarving (masks, statues, bowls), embroidery (hangings, boots, clothes) or statue-making (clay). Students are well used to having visitors while they work and it's fine to take photos.

  • Sights in North of Thimphu

    Cheri Goemba

    From the river confluence at Dodina, a steep trail climbs for 45 minutes through a forest adorned with prayer flags to Cheri Goemba, established by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1620 as the home for Bhutan's first monk body. A richly decorated silver chorten inside the upper goemba enshrines the ashes of the Zhabdrung's father, whose body was smuggled here from Tibet. Cheri is an important place for meditation retreats, so try not to disturb anyone.

  • Sights in Thimphu

    Changlimithang Archery Ground

    Most days of the week you'll find arrows flying at the city's most important archery ground, just down from Changlimithang Stadium. Teams compete to hit targets over a distance of 145m, while their competitors pass comment on misses, and sing and dance to celebrate shots on target. Traditional bamboo or high-tech carbon-fibre compound bows are used, and a tournament is quite a spectacle, with lots of good-natured ribbing and camaraderie.

  • Sights in Thimphu

    Dechen Phodrang

    Beyond Trashi Chho Dzong at the north end of town, Dechen Phodrang stands on the site of Thimphu's original 12th-century dzong. Since 1971 it has housed the state lobra (monastic school), providing an education for more than 280 novice monks. If you visit during breaks between classes, expect lots of questions from the students!

  • Sights in Thimphu

    Motithang Takin Preserve

    Off the road leading to the BBS Tower, this preserve for Bhutan's curious national animal was originally established as a zoo, but the fourth king decided this was not in keeping with Bhutan's environmental and religious convictions, and the takin were released into the wild. Unfortunately the animals were so tame they took to wandering the streets of Thimphu looking for food, so this enclosed area was set aside to keep them safe.

  • Sights in North of Thimphu

    Pangri Zampa

    Founded in the early 16th century, this riverside monastery complex houses Bhutan's most important college for traditional astrology. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal stayed here after he arrived in Bhutan in 1616 because the temple appeared in the vision that directed him from Tibet. It's a photogenic stop even if none of the chapels are open, and the whitewashed buildings have colourful curtains on their eaves that ripple like the dress of a flamenco dancer in the breeze.

  • Sights in South of Thimphu

    Talakha Goemba

    Poised high above Simtokha Dzong at 3080m, this 15th-century goemba offers spectacular views over the peaks to the north and south of the capital and along the Thimphu valley. The interior is unusually well lit, so you can see the detail of the fine murals inside, depicting various protector deities. The goenkhang (protector chapel) is adorned with ancient weaponry and Kalashnikov rifles captured from Assamese separatists during Operation All Clear.

  • Sights in Thimphu

    Wangditse Goemba

    Perched high above Trashi Chho Dzong, this hillside goemba was founded in 1750 and is being painstakingly reconstructed by a team of traditional craftspeople and graduates from the National Institute for Zorig Chusum. It's a fine showcase for Bhutan's living arts and the interior, with a fine two-storey statue of Sakyamuni Buddha, was salvaged from the original monastery. Come here on foot via the peaceful footpath from the BBS Tower, and continue downhill to Zilukha Nunnery or Dechen Phodrang.

  • Sights in Thimphu

    Simply Bhutan

    Simply Bhutan is an interactive 'living' museum that gives a quick introduction to various aspects of traditional life in Bhutan. Visitors are greeted with a shot of local arra (rice spirit), before being guided through mocked-up village scenes. Along the way, you can dress up in traditional clothes, try out archery and hear songs sung by Bhutanese women as they build houses out of rammed earth. It's touristy, but a good family experience.

  • Sights in Thimphu

    Chhokhortse Goemba

    The views are spectacular on the approach to this peaceful monastery (3010m), reached via a prayer-flag-choked trail climbing above the BBS Tower. The path cuts straight up the ridge to reach a tidy new chapel, and further up the slope to the time-scarred original monastery, which dates from the 14th century and enshrines an impressive collection of ancient statues. The trail continues uphill for four more hours to reach Phajoding Goemba.

  • Sights in Thimphu

    Folk Heritage Museum

    Set in a small orchard, this restored rammed-earth and timber building is furnished as it would have been about a century ago, providing a glimpse into rural Bhutanese life. Details that jump out include the antique noodle press, leopardskin bags and Brokpa yak-hair 'spider' hats (available for sale for Nu 1200). There's a short-range archery ground for visitors and the restaurant here serves good Bhutanese meals.

  • Sights in Thimphu

    Goldsmiths Workshop

    This government workshop, behind Thimphu's long-distance bus station, is a good place to see metalworkers producing repoussé work (with designs hammered into metal panels set into resin blocks) in copper, silver and gold. Most workers are involved in the production of large monastery pieces like torana s (arches found over monastery statues), but craftsmen will come over and offer small jewellery pieces for sale.