As the capital city of one of the world’s most intriguing destinations, Thimphu is buzzing with culture and commerce. Nestled in a valley surrounded by the Himalayan Mountains at an altitude of 2320m, this captivating city is home to spectacular monasteries, centuries-old street festivals, unspoiled wilderness and scenic mountain passes.
Although the most modern city in Bhutan, Thimphu still retains its cultural identity and values. Amongst the signs of modernisation, monks, labourers and government ministers in their traditional dress, continue to roam the streets of this small but bustling city. Thimphu is also famous for being the only capital city in the world that does not use traffic lights (they gave it a go but it wasn’t for them!). The streets are lined with traditional Buddhist sites and attractions, as well as being the ideal base from which to explore the vast valley, trekking along winding mountain paths and taking in the phenomenal views and the enchanting surroundings.
A trip to Thimphu isn’t complete without a visit to Tashichho Dzong, situated on the banks of Wangchhu and arguably Bhutan’s most impressive building. Also known as “fortress of the glorious religion”, the dzong was the site of the lavish formal coronation of the fifth king in 2008, and also hosts the city’s biggest annual celebration – the colourful tsechu festivities. North east of the dzong lies an exceptional example of a traditional cantilever bridge, and nearby the large open-air courtyard hosts the dances of the tsechu festival in September.
Located below the main town near the Wangchhu River, Thimphu’s Weekend Market is by far the largest domestic market in Bhutan. With stalls occupying both sides of the riverbank, farmers come from all over the country to sell their produce. With the market offering a huge array of products, including mountains of chillies, local trinkets and even a leg of yak, it has become a favourite spot for tourists and people from all over the area. Wandering around the market you will be bombarded with the heady aromas of fried fatty meats, dried fish and datse, the homemade balls of cheese. The incense area then oozes smells from the bags of mixed grains & grasses, which are used to throw in the air during religious rituals. A real Bhutanese highlight! Bargaining at the market is appropriate, so make sure you come prepared!