Thimphu was established in the 1950’s to replace the former capital of Punakha. Situated in western Bhutan at an altitude of 2400m (7874ft) on the bank of the Wang Chu it is the country’s largest town but its population is still little more than 100 000. There’s not a traffic light in sight, (instead, white-gloved policemen stand directing traffice from traditionally painted and decorated booths), the atmosphere is relaxed and friendly and most of the places of interest can be enjoyed in just a day or two. The capital is also the start or end point of several multi-day treks, including the Druk Path Trek as well as one of the biggest festivals in Bhutan.
Dominating the town is the impressive Trashi Chhoe Dzong which houses the Central Secretariat, summer residence of the central monk body and the meeting place of the National Assembly. There is also the throne room and King’s headquarters. Nearby lies the world’s highest golf course.
Other places of interest that we recommend visiting with your private guide include the Buddhist Painting School to see novices learning the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan, National Library housing an extensive collection of Buddhist literature mostly in block-printed format and the superb National Textile Museums. Leave time to wander the local streets to discover small shops bursting at the seams with imported goods from India and China and religious paraphernalia.
The weekend the market is not to be missed for its sales of local delicacies such as jellied cow skin and fried fern, dried chillies and yak butter as well as gorgeous hand-woven textiles.
If capital cities, no matter how small, are not your thing, Thimphu remains a good base for exploring several little-visited temples in the surrounding hills on foot.