Locals call Bhutan "The Land of the Thunder Dragon" or "The Eternal Throne of the Lotus." This is the last Himalayan state where the monarchical form of government has been preserved. The king’s residence is located in the Bhutanese capital and meetings of the National Assembly are held.
Thimphu is a small city that combines centuries-old traditions and modern, European-honed standards of living. Despite the fact that the Buddhists settled on the banks of Wang Chu in 1216, Thimphu became the official capital only in 1961.
The calm rhythm of life of Thimphu is clearly visible in the unhurried movement of public transport. There is not a single traffic light - they are successfully replaced by traffic controllers. Buddhist monks strolling through the streets, vibrant prayer drums, calm old men with rosaries and many other attractions attract many tourists to Thimphu. Travelers from all over the world seek to see the unusual medieval look that the city manages to maintain in the fast-moving 21st century.
Tsechu Festival in Thimphu
From year to year, the tourist flow to Thimphu is growing, so new hotels, bars, restaurants and shops began to appear in the capital of Bhutan, and tourism revenues make up a significant part of the mountainous country's budget. Especially many tourists come to Thimphu in the fall, during the days of the Tsechu religious festival. During this crowded holiday, you can see locals dressed in national costumes, look at the sacred dances of Tsam. During the festival days, a huge tapestry is unfolded in the city, which shows Guru Rinpoche, and the religious heart of Thimphu - Tashi-Chkho-Dzong Monastery becomes the center for the celebration.
Streets in Thimphu
Sights of the capital of Bhutan
Almost all guests of Thimphu try to visit the “Fortress of the Blessed Religion”. This is the name of the Tashi-Chho-Dzong Dzong, built 3.5 centuries ago. It was created for a Buddhist monastery, which continues to be valid today. For residents of the mountainous state, this monastery is a source of wisdom and an object of unconditional worship. They treat the Lamas living in Tashi-Chho-Dzong as the best Bhutanese.
In addition to the monks, on the territory of the dzong are the institutions of the Bhutanese government, the palace of the Supreme Lama Je Khempo and the residence of the current king Jigme Singh Wangchuk. Entering the territory of Tashi-Chkho-Dzong is not easy, and not all foreign guests of Thimphu manage to do this.
Many locals and tourists also come to the Memorial Stupa - Chorten, which is dedicated to the third monarch of Bhutan, Jigma Dorji Wangchuk, the father of the current ruler. It is located near the Tashi-Cho-Dzong Monastery. Chorten was built in 1974, and in 2008 it was well restored. Unlike similar religious buildings, inside the revered stupa there are no remains of the departed king. On the ground floor of the building you can see a photograph of the ruler, dressed in ceremonial clothes. Many Buddhist pilgrims come to the Memorial Stupa, since the Bhutanese believe that the third monarch of the country had a special holiness.
Buddha statue of Shakyamuni in Thimphu
In 2010, a statue of Buddha Shakyamuni appeared at Thimphu, having a height of 51.5 m. It is called Buddha Dordenma, which means “lightning strike”. A giant statue was built on top of Changri Kensel Pkhodrang, from the southwest of the Bhutanese capital.
Inside the seated Buddha figure is a temple where 125 thousand small-sized images of the Buddha are stored. All of them, like the unusual temple itself, are bronze and covered with gold. The manufacture of Buddha Dordenma cost the treasury of Bhutan $ 47 million, the total cost of a religious building exceeded $ 100 million.
The Royal School of Arts operates in Thimphu, which teaches various types of arts and crafts and religious art. Pupils of the school master the craftsmanship of traditional drawing and painting, the manufacture of fabrics, embroidery, molding and woodcarving.
In the city of Thimphu, the National Library is located, where ancient Buddhist manuscripts and books are stored. It was opened in 1967 and today is considered the best library of historical and religious literature of the Himalayas. Near the library building is an interesting Bhutan Textile Museum.
On weekends, a large bazaar or, as it is called here, a weekly market begins to work in the very center of the city. It enjoys no less attention from tourists than the historical and religious monuments of Thimphu. They rush to the bazaar to buy fresh food and souvenirs, see street performances and chat with local residents who came to the capital from distant places of the country.
Near the market is the Changlimit Thang Stadium, where archery competitions are regularly held. This is a favorite national sport of Bhutanese. Such competitions are held in national costumes and are accompanied by special religious rituals.
Local cuisine and restaurants
The capital of Bhutan has settled in with a growing flow of tourists and meets them with a large number of restaurants, eateries and cafes. However, in Thimphu, travel lovers will hardly find the usual coffee. The best that local establishments can offer is instant coffee. Bhutanese prefer another drink - tea, and coffee machines are installed in only a few restaurants in the city.
Chefs from the capital prepare good international cuisine and, of course, local Bhutanese delicacies. Arriving in Thimphu, it is worth tasting dishes with chili peppers - "ema-datsi", "shamu-datsi" and "keva-datsi". For their preparation, fragrant pods of pepper are stewed with various spices and additives - cheese sauce, potatoes and mushrooms. However, when ordering a dish, we recommend that cooks make it less spicy.
Most cafes and restaurants are located in the area of Chasovaya Ploshchad and its streets. Almost all of them, including hotel establishments, close at 21.00-21.30.
Thimphu is a compact city that is easy to get around on foot. If necessary, travelers use vehicles of the host travel company.
Thimphu has a lot of taxis. They are easy to stop right on the street. A trip within the city costs 40-60 BTN.
The only public transport in the Bhutanese capital is buses. They connect the central parts of the city and its outskirts. The bus network is quite ramified, but buses are often late. The fare depends on the distance and ranges from 1 to 9 BTN.
What to bring from Thimphu
The Bhutanese government welcomes and supports local artisans in every way, so Thimphu souvenir shops can offer tourists a wide range of goods. Among the foreign travelers, the colorful yatra fabrics, which are valued for the quality of their wool and bright natural dyes, are popular. Travelers buy bamboo mats and baskets in Thimphu, wooden dishes, traditional Bhutanese paper and national clothes. Very interesting are the works of local artists who sell in the capital's art galleries.
Useful information for tourists
- According to local law, foreign travelers have the right to visit the country on a route that is agreed in advance by the local travel company.
- Thimphu has the most hotels in Bhutan. Tourists who come here can find different accommodation options - from economy guest houses to 5 * hotels. As a rule, hotel reservation is included in the package of compulsory services that Bhutanese tour operators provide.
- In the vicinity of Thimphu, there are several Buddhist monasteries where tourists are eager to receive tourists - Simtokha-Dzong, Phajoding, Sulukha-Dzong and Cheri.
How to get there
Paro's only international airport is 65 km from Thimphu. He accepts all aircraft arriving in Bhutan from other countries of the world. From Russia you can get here with a change in India, Thailand, Nepal or Singapore.
Most tourists get from the airport to the city via a transfer organized by tour operators. Traveling to Thimphu by bus or car takes about 1.5 hours, as the road passes through mountain serpentines.
Not far from the majestic capital of Bhutan is one of the oldest attractions in the country - Simtokha-dzong. Its architectural style, interesting history and folk legends make many travelers come to this significant place. An excursion to Simtokha Dzong will bring you many memories and discover the most impressive secrets.
The monastery was built by the great ruler Shabdrung in 1629. His goal was to protect himself from enemy external attacks, so he began the construction of many dzongs in the country. Simtokha Dzong was one of the first. Legend has it that this place was shrouded in demons, which the king expelled, but still they returned to the walls of the sights. That is why the locals began to call the Dzong the palace of the secret mantra.
Simtokha-dzong is currently the only ancient monastery in Bhutan, which has remained almost untouched to this day. Initially, he carried the role of an important military facility with which signals were given about the attack. Later it became a man’s monastery, and now, since 1961, it is a university. The main areas here are Buddhism, languages and cultural studies.
Inside the fortress, the most ancient objects are statues of the compassion of the Buddha and the God of Compassion. Near the entrance to the attraction, the Wheel of Prayer is located in a painted gazebo, which is more than two hundred years old. The building of Simtokha-dzong itself never knew any fundamental reconstruction, but suffered some emergency replacements (roofs, parts of walls, etc.). In general, the design and style of the attraction remains the original. Simtokha Dzong tours are provided once a week so as not to distract students. Visiting a sight without a guide is unacceptable.
The great Simptokha Dzong Temple is 5 km from Thimphu. You can get to it by private car, heading towards the city of Paro, but in Bhutan it is allowed only to local residents, tourists should only move around the country as part of tour groups.
Photo and description
About 5 km south of Thimphu is Simtokha Dzong, built in 1629 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. The place for the monastery was not chosen by chance; it is intended to guard the demon, which disappeared into the rock near here. According to the dialect, the name "simtokha" comes from the merger of the words "simmo" - a demon and "before" - an action or a stone. The construction at one time occupied a vital strategic place in the defense system of the Thimphu Valley and East Bhutan.
Officially known as Sangak Zabdhon Fodrang (Palace of the Deep Meanings of the Secret Mantra), Simtokha is considered the first dzong erected in Bhutan by Shabdrung. This is the first complex, which includes both monastery and administrative facilities, and the oldest dzong, fully preserved.
During construction, the monastery was attacked by an alliance of Tibetans and five Bhutanese lamas, rivals of Buddhist schools who opposed the rule of Shabdrung in the country. The attack was repelled, the leader of the conspirators Palden Lama died. In 1630, the Tibetan offensive was more successful; they took control of the dzong. In a retaliatory attack, the Bhutanese regained control of the structure, during the fighting in the main building the roof burned and collapsed, crushing the invaders. Dzong expansion and restoration was carried out by the third Druk Desi Mingyur Tenpa in the 1670s. Later, the fortress underwent numerous restructuring and expansion, more recently, a group of Japanese architects worked at the facility.
There are three floors in the utse (main tower), around which are typical prayer wheels, covered on the outside with a thin carving of ciphers depicting saints and philosophers. The great central figure in the main lakhang is Sakyamuni surrounded by eight Bodhisattvas. The dark murals inside this room are considered one of the oldest and most beautiful in Bhutan. In the Western chapel are enlightened statues of green and white, an early painting by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, it was cleaned and restored in 1995.
Today, the Institute of Language and Cultural Studies of Bhutan has been opened in Simtokha, studying Buddhism and teaching the Dzong Ke language.
Thimphu - The largest city and capital of Bhutan. The city is located in the west of the central part of the country, on the banks of the Wang Chu River at an altitude of 230 m above sea level. The population is 79,185 (2005).
The city became the official capital of Bhutan in 1961 (although it was chosen as the capital of Bhutan back in 1952), before that it was a few settlements scattered across the valley. Previously, the capital of Bhutan was the city of Punakha.
This is perhaps the only capital in the world without traffic lights, and one of the few in which ultramodern buildings of glass and concrete are completely absent. The whole architecture of Thimphu is built on the centuries-old traditions of local architects, flooded with brightly decorated facades and spiers soaring into the sky, giving the city a charming medieval flavor. According to local laws, all new buildings must be built in the traditional architectural style.
The government, parliament and executive bodies are located in Thimphu, all political decisions in the country are made here.
Thimphu is also the main tourist center of Bhutan, it has the largest number of hotels in the country.
Up Last changes: 09/23/2011
Attractions Thimphu and surroundings
Tashichho Dzong - A Buddhist monastery and fortress in the northern part of Thimphu, on the western bank of the Wong Chu River. Here is the throne of the Dharma of Paradise and the summer capital of the country.
The fortress was built in the XIII century as a monastery, suffered from fire three times and was rebuilt three times, restored in the 1960s, since 1952 the country's government has been located here.
In summer, the religious leader of the country, Je Kenpo, is also located here.
King Jigme Singye Wangchuk also has a study here.
Memorial Chorten - A Buddhist monastery located in the south-central part of Thimphu. It is one of the main attractions of the city, popular with both local and tourists.
Built in 1974 in memory of the Third King of Bhutan Jigma Dorji Wangchuk (1928-1972). It is made in the Tibetan style, like a classic stupa, with a pyramidal column topped with a crescent and the Sun.
Inside the chorten there is a unique altar, in the center of which is Buddha Samantabhadra, a tantric deity in the form of yab-yum, symbolizing the Dharmakaya - the deep, hidden body of the Buddha.
Unlike other chortens, it does not contain the remains of the king, it contains a photograph of the departed king in ceremonial clothing in the hall on the ground floor.
Chorten is visited by pilgrims, as it is believed that the Third King of Bhutan had a special holiness and wonderful properties.
Bhutan Textile Museum or the National Textile Museum - a museum in Thimphu, located next to the Bhutan National Library. Since its inception in 2001, the museum has assembled a large collection of exclusive antique products from Bhutanese textiles.
The museum is divided into six zones, reflecting the achievements in the field of textile art, the role of textiles in religion, textile products from local fibers, the royal collection and fabric production.
On the ground floor of the museum, a demonstration of the skills of spinning, dyeing fibers, preparing a loom and working with two skeins of yarn is performed. On the second floor there is an exposition of decorative fabrics and products from them. The museum has an exhibition of traditional national clothing for men and women of Bhutanese, as well as clothing tailored specifically for religious holidays.
Bhutan National Library (National Library of Bhutan) - was founded in 1967 with the goal of preserving and spreading the rich cultural heritage of Bhutan.
The library is located on the eastern side of the river near the Bhutan Textile Museum.
Simtokha Dzong - a fortress located about 5 kilometers south of Thimphu. It was built by Shabdrung in 1629. This is the first dzong founded by Shabdrung in the process of strengthening and uniting the country.
Dzong was used as a monastery, and has recently been converted to a university where they study Buddhism and the language of Dzong.
Chagri MonasteryAlso known as Chari Monastery, a Buddhist monastery founded in 1620 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the founder of the Bhutan State.
The monastery, which is now the main center of hermitage and training for the southern branch of Drukpa Kagyu, is located in the north of the Thimphu Valley, about 15 kilometers from the capital. It stands on a steep hill above the road and it takes a lot of time to climb to the top and reach the monastery itself.
According to Bhutanese religious tradition, this place was first visited in the 8th century by Padmasambhava. In the 13th century, Phajo was a Friend of Shigpo, a Tibetan lama who founded the Drukpa Kagyu tradition in Bhutan.
Cherie was the first monastery founded in Bhutan by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1620 at the age of 27. Shabdrung spent three years in strict obedience in Cherie and often stayed here throughout his subsequent life. It was in this monastery in 1623 that he founded the first in Bhutan monastic order of Drukpa Kagyu.
Tango Monastery - A Buddhist monastery and fortress 14 km north of Thimphu, next to Mount Cheri. It was founded in the 13th century by Lama Gyalwa Lanampa and was built in its modern form in 1688 by Gyalce Tenzin Rabji, the fourth secular ruler of Bhutan.
The monastery belongs to the Drukpa Kagyu School.
In the language of dzong-ke, “tango” means “horse head”, the monastery is named after Hayagriva, an Indian deity with a horse head, the main deity worshiped here.