Thimphu (2,400m / 7,875ft)
Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan, and the center of government, religious and commerce is completely different from other capitals of the world in terms of size and modernity. Lying in a wooded valley, sprawling up a hillside on the West Bank of the Thimphu Chhu [Chhu means River]. Thimphu is considered as the only world capital without traffic lights.
Thimphu's development is strictly monitored and buildings cannot exceed a certain height, nor can they be designed in anything but the traditional Bhutanese style. The people of Bhutan are trying to develop their country to a considerable height by their hard work while keeping their ancient culture and traditions alive.
Places to visit around Thimphu :
National Assembly : Tashicchodzong, the most remarkable building of the country, is the home of the National Assembly. It is also the summer residence of the capital's venerated monastic community. Foreign visitors are only allowed to enter the building during the annual festival. The Third King, Jigme Dorje Wangchuck, sanctioned the design of this spectacle building when Bhutan's permanent capital was moved to Thimphu.
National Memorial Chorten of Thimphu: This is not only a building but also the dream of the father of modern Bhutan, the third king Jigme Dorji Wangchuk. It was his will to establish a monument to world peace and prosperity. But due to his untimely death the Royal Family and the Cabinet completed the work in 1974. Well designed paintings and statues here speaks a lot about the deepness of the Buddhist Philosophy.
Tashichhodzong: This is the place of the Central Monk Body, His Majesty's Secretariat and some ministries. King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk rebuilt it in the 60's after the initial erection in 1641. Visitors to Thimphu are allowed inside only during the winter when the Monk Body goes to its winter quarters in Punakha and during the Thimphu Tshechu (a festival honouring Guru Padmasambhava).
Simtokha Dzong: Shabdrung Ngwang Namdayal built it in 1627 on a low ridge down the valley from Thimphu. The Institute of Language and Culture Studies is located here and can be visited easily. The institute has an extensive collection of over 300 finely worked slate carvings behind the prayer wheels in the courtyard.
National Library: This is the places where the culture of the entire country can be seen under one roof. It was established in the year 1960 with an intention to conserve the literary culture and heritage of Bhutan. It comprises of Buddhist literature written in Choekey and Tibetan literature in Dzongkha in block format some of which are several years old, along with some Bhutan related foreign literary collections including subjects of Himalayas and neighboring countries.
Institute for Zorig Chusum: This is an institute in Thimphu where a six-year course on the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan is conducted
National Institute of Traditional Medicine: This institute was established with the concept to merge the allopathic and traditional systems of healing. The work of producing the herbal medicines are undertaken with the help of different medicinal plants found in Bhutan. There is also a training school for traditional medicine practitioners. After the closing of the Institute the visitors can walk along the compound to view it from the outside.
Folk Heritage and National Textile Museums: Started in 2001 these are the centers to exhibit the Bhutanese Material culture and way of life.
Handicrafts shops: A wide collection of handloom products and other crafts are available in the government run Handicrafts Emporium and other shops around also.
Weekend Market: The easiest way to come together with the local people and for getting photos is to go through the local weekend market, running from Friday afternoon to Sunday, held down by the river. The main selling items of this market are paintings, foodstuffs and other local woodcrafts.