It wasn’t until 1961 when the king announced that Thimphu would become Bhutan's capital that the city really developed. As Bhutan’s political and economic centre it is an intriguing place, the gateway to one of the world’s most mysterious countries and an introduction to its rich and perfectly preserved heritage. In recent years the city has seen the introduction of cafes, bars and nightclubs, but you’ll still see plenty of monks and locals in traditional dress as you wander the streets.
Located to the north of the city Tashi Chhoe Dzong sits on the banks of the Wang Chhu, its golden roofs glinting regally. Although damaged and rebuilt and renovated many times, the design of the dzong is traditional and was constructed without nails. Used to house both monks and civil officials there are 30 temples, chapels and shrines here – the current king even had his coronation here in 2008. Sat on a ridge above Thimphu’s centre Changangkha Lhakhang is another popular temple to visit – join the pilgrims to enjoy the vibrant atmosphere.
Set up by Bhutan’s government as a means of preserving culture and traditions, the National Institute for Zorig Chusum, or ‘the painting school’ instructs its pupils, for four to six years, in Bhutan’s 13 traditional arts, which includes forms of painting, woodcarving, embroidery and statue-making. Visitors can watch classes and enjoy craft demonstrations at the institute – the perfect way to gain some insight into Bhutan’s rich heritage – the National Textile Museum and National Library are good for this too. You’ll also find some handicraft shops nearby if anything takes your fancy as a souvenir.
Bhutan’s largest domestic market, running down both banks of the Wang Chuu River, farmers from across the region come to Thimphu every week to sell their produce. A colourful and sensory experience you’ll find seasonal produce, traditional foods such a dried fish and homemade soft cheese, Yak butter and an aromatic area dedicated to incense. Across the river there are stalls selling textiles and handicrafts.
In keeping with the enchanting surroundings, the hotel is a blend of Bhutan’s Dzong architecture and modern design. Adorned with classical hand-drawn Buddhist murals, its 66 elegant guestrooms afford guests striking highlights of the region’s art and colour. The hotel features the serene atmosphere of Jiva Spa for exclusive signature treatments.
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The world’s largest and most populous continent, Asia is a vibrant and rambunctious fusion of ethnicities, cultures and customs; an incomparably rich and turbulent history showcased by mindboggling feats of architecture and engineering; a geography that encompasses towering peaks, unfathomable gorges and paradisiacal beaches; and a biodiversity that is so abundant that you’ll be reaching for your wildlife guide.