Exploring Thimphu, Bhutan: Things to do in Thimphu

The Bhutanese capital city of Thimphu is beautiful and picturesque – the red roofed, white washed walls of the houses and stores here have been built in traditional Bhutanese style and the city is located in the midst of idyllic landscape, surrounded by rolling green hills, lush dense forests and rice paddies.

 

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The population of the whole of Bhutan is less than 700,000 people across the entire country. However over 100,000 of those are concentrated around the Thimphu area. It is likely that you will spend a few days in Thimphu as part of your Bhutan itinerary and so this article provides a little food for thought on things to do in Thimphu and its surroundings.

The Best Things to Do in Thimphu, Bhutan

Pay Your Respects at the National Memorial Chorten

 

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The beautiful white washed national memorial chorten is an important stupa for Buddhists in Thimphu. Many Bhutanese people visit the site daily to pray, chanting mantras and spinning the large prayer wheels as they go. Praying here is supposed to promote good karma and ensure that the person will have good luck in the next life. A lot of the people at the site are elderly. They do not pray for themselves but for the younger generations, in order to wish them luck in their life and journey.

 

Marvel at the Buddha Dordenma

 

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The Buddha Dordenma statue is a phenomenal 51.5m bronze Buddha that stands guard over the valleys of Thimphu from atop a hill. It is visible from several points around the region and is one of the largest Buddha statues in the world. Its frescoes and interiors are still under construction but many Bhutanese hope and believe that once it is completed it will be considered as the eighth wonder of the world.

 

Visit the Simply Bhutan Museum

 

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Stop by the Simply Bhutan museum for an interesting insight into Bhutanese history and culture through the years. The site is relatively small, and you can work your way through all of the exhibitions in less than an hour but there are some interesting artefacts and exhibits to see. While I was here I was also excited to meet Pema Tshering who owns a workshop here and Β is something of a national celebrity in Bhutan. I first saw Pema on a travel documentary a few years ago and it was a pleasure to meet him in real life.

Pema was born with cerebral palsy and has deformities in his spine which mean he cannot use his arms, has limited use of his legs, and cannot walk. Pema’s parents didn’t want him, and his future looked bleak. Pema wanted to become a sculptor and instead of feeling disheartened by his condition, he trained himself to sculpt using his feet. His skills have earned him an audience with Bhutanese royalty as well as plenty of international media. Despite everything, Pema considers himself blessed to have his own workshop here in Thimphu, and to make enough money to support his grandparents. He is an inspiration to all of us!

Complete the Wangditse Day Hike and Visit Cheri Monastery

My guide Tschering and I hiked to Wangditse Goemba, a monastery located high above the hills of Bhutan that offers breathtaking views of the valley down below.

I completely fell in love with the sights of the Bhutanese prayer flags which fluttered and danced in the winds and extended over virtually every single tree branch that we passed.

Pay your respects at Wangditse Goemba and then head over to Cheri Monastery. The unique thing about the latter is that it is actually more of an academy for young monks. As per Bhutanese traditions, almost every family in the country will send one of their sons off to become a Monk at a young age. Cheri Monastery was filled with adorable young monks that were prancing around and learning the steps for a traditional masked dance.

Stop By the Takin Reserve

On our way back to Thimphu, we tried to stop by the Takin Reserve but unfortunately it was closed and so we could only peek through the fences. The Takin is the national animal of Bhutan and something I had never even heard of before! It has the head of the goat, and the body of a cow and is said to have been created by the mystical Divine Madman of Bhutan.

See Thimphu Like a Local

It is surprising to see how regular the local life seems in Thimphu as compared to other towns and cities around the globe. The city is centered around a central plaza with a clock tower where musical performances are common.Β 

If your Thimphu trip coincides with a Friday, Saturday or Sunday, you can pay a visit to the Centenary Farmers Market, where farmers from across the country come to sell their products. The stalls here sell everything from fresh vegetables, to more unique Bhutanese delicacies such as the hardened yak cheese that you will get used to seeing hanging from the doorways of all of the general stores.

Participate in an Archery Tournament

Archery is the national sport of Bhutan and I was lucky in that there were tournaments going on during the time of my visit. Even if your trip doesn’t coincide with a tournament, you may be lucky enough to see locals practicing or enjoying a leisurely game at one of the Thimphu archery fields. When someone hits the bullseye, the team does a little song and dance! I had a turn myself and somehow managed to hit it. I mean, I was standing just 100m from the target but it still counts, right? Step aside Katniss Everdeen!

A visit to Thimphu is best enjoyed as part of a wider Bhutan itinerary.

Have any questions about Thimphu or travelling in Bhutan in general? Feel free to reach out and let me know.

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