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.

What to see

Tashi Chhose Dzong

Tashi Chhose Dzong

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.

National Institute for Zorig Chusum

National Institute for Zorig Chusum

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.

Weekend market

Weekend market

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.

Where to stay

Taj Tashi Thimphu

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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