Thimphu

Travel Guide Asia Bhutan Thimphu

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Introduction

Thimphu Dzong: The admistrative and religious center of the capital city of Bhutan

Thimphu Dzong: The admistrative and religious center of the capital city of Bhutan

© jphuntsho

Thimphu (Tibetan script: ཐིམ་ཕུག།) is the capital and largest urban centre in Bhutan and has about 100,000 inhabitants. It is located in a valley along the Wang Chhu river on an altitude of 2,320 metres above sea level. The government of Bhutan has been located here since 1952 and uses the Tashichoedzong building just outside the city as its main residence. Surrounded by green forests and the snowcapped peaks of the eastern Himalaya on the background, the city has an extremely pleasant charm and the local culture only adds to the imagination. Thimphu is the only capital in the world that has no traffic lights, one was installed in the 90s but it was thought to lower happiness so it was removed. The city has a lot to offer for travellers, including good accommodation and 'tsechhus', the colourful dance festivals.

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Sights and Activities

  • Tashichoedzong - Thimphu Tashichoedzong also known as the Fortress of Glorious Religion is located near the bank of the Wangchu river. The fortress is perhaps the most guarded building in the country as it houses the office of His Majesty the King of Bhutan. The Dzong also serves as the summer residence of the central monk body led by the Chief Abbot. The last major renovation was carried out in 1962 by His Majesty the Third King of Bhutan. The reconstruction was carried out preserving the traditional architectural designs and it is worth noting that the construction was carried out without any blueprints or use of nails.
  • National Library
  • The Buddha Dordenma statue - the largest Buddha statue in the world. Sitting on top of Kuensel Phodrang hill is a 51.5 metre bronze statue of the founder of Buddhism. The site also offers unobstructed views over the Thimphu Valley - especially stunning at sunset.
  • Centenary Farmer's Market - The centenary famers market is an interesting sight to visit during the weekends. All the residence of Thimphu fill the market rushing to buy fresh local produces and the amazing colors and aromas infused with the energy of the Thimphu residence is just amazing.
  • Bhutan Postal Museum - The postal museum is located on the ground floor of the Bhutan Post office almost in the middle of the Thimphu town. The museum flaunts artifacts from the pre-postal era. A whole pictorial documentation of the development of post can be witnessed at the museum. Also a plethora of stamps can be seen at the museum. The visitors can also print their own customized stamps as souvenirs for an amount as less as $5.
  • Folk Heritage Museum - The Folk Heritage Museum is a 150 years old restored medieval traditional house. The main structure is a 3 storied mud rammed house roofed with wooden shingles. The museum compound is enclosed with mud rammed walls and a main entrance gate adorned with traditional paintings and wood carvings. The objective of the museum is to preserve and promote the Bhutanese tradition and culture of the medieval era. The interior of the house is decorated with ancient artifacts and tools which simulates the interior settings of the medieval era. Exploring the museum gives an understanding to the way of life of the Bhutanese people during the medieval era. The museum also runs a restaurant that serves authentic Bhutanese dishes and is very popular among the tourists.
  • VAST art studio - Voluntary Artist Studio is a non profit organization set up by a group of local artists to provide a platform for the Bhutanese youth to pursue their passion in contemporary art and nurture their talent. The organization also initiates and participates in various community service to raise social awareness on various issues in the community.
  • Painting School - Also Known as the Institute of Traditional Arts and Crafts enrolls local students who are passionate with the traditional arts and crafts. The crafts are categorized into 13 arts and crafts. Some of the popular ones are the art of painting, art of calligraphy, art of sculpting, art and others. Students pick a major and undergoes a rigorous training up to 6 years. Visit to institute gives travelers an opportunity to catch students work on their craft and the institute also has a gallery with display of the art work by the students.
  • Authentic Craft Bazaar - A series of make shift bamboo stalls are lined up along the norzin road in Thimphu city. The market deals in authentic traditional craft products sourced from rural areas in Bhutan. The initiative aims to provide a platform for the talented locals to showcase their product in the capital city and thereby improving their socio economic conditions. The place is ideal for travelers looking to buy souvenirs. Some of the product includes Thangka paintings, miniature wooden mask, T shirts, weaved bamboo products, and traditional dresses.
  • Phajoding Monastery - The ancient 13th century monastery is located at an altitude of over 3600 meters. It takes roughly a 3 hour hike from the base in Motithang Thimphu to reach the monastery. The hiking trail navigates through a dense pine forests. Closer to the monastery, hikers will clear the tree line and the view of the valley below is spectacular. The monastery accommodates mostly young monks undergoing monastic education guided by senior monks. The monastery compound also has many meditation centers and guest houses for hikers and trekkers. Another hour climb from the monastery will take the hikers to the top of the ridge past which a vast expansive plateau greets the hikers. The trail leads to many highland lakes from the ridge.
  • Dochula Pass - A 30 minutes ride from Thimphu town towards Punakha is the Dochula Pass. The pass has an elevation of over 3200 meters above sea level. If the weather permits, travelers can enjoy a panoramic view of the entire eastern Himalayan range including Bhutan's Highest Mountain Gangkhar Puensum at 7570 meters. The 108 Druk Wangyel Chorten built in the honor of the Fourth King of Bhutan adds to the tranquility of the mountain pass. With the rising popularity among the tourists, the mountain pass has cafe and a restaurant serving multi cuisine dishes.
  • Memorial Chorten - The Memorial Chorten is a Tibetan style stupa built by Late Queen Mother in the honor of his son, Late His Majesty the Third King of Bhutan. The chorten is centrally located and attracts many tourists. The place is also popular among the elderly population in Bhutan. The memorial chorten offers them a place where they can circumambulate and offer prayers to gain good merits but also meet their friends which keeps them occupied and happy. Young adults and students also join the elderly on their way to work or on their way back home for a quick round of prayers. The chorten has a beautiful paintings of mandala and a circular stairs leads travelers upstairs.

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Events and Festivals

Thimphu Tshechu

One of the largest events in Bhutan, the three-day Thimphu Festival begins on the 10th day of the eighth lunar month. Costumed dances include the Dance of the Black Hats and masked movements performed by monks. Rituals and prayers continue for a full three days, concluding with the display of a giant, holy thangka.

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Weather

Despite its elevation, Thimphu has a warm, mostly mild climate. The summer lasts from June to September with generally warm weather but this is also the rainy season. Average temperatures in summer are almost 25 °C during the day. Winter night temperatures average below 0 °C however and snow is possible from December to March. The best times to visit are spring (March-May) and autumn (late September - November) when mostly warm, dry and sunny conditions are the norm. Temperatures are usually around 20 °C or a bit more while nights can be relatively cool, so bring some extra warm clothes.

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Getting There

By Plane

Nearly all visitors arrive via plane from Paro Airport (PBH) in Paro. It is currently the country's sole International airport and a 45 minute to 1 hour drive from the capital. An International airport is nearly completed in the south central district of Gelephu and there are three domestic airports and two domestic carriers.

By Bus

All inter-district buses arrive and depart from the city's bus station, located across the river from the city centre. It is a six to seven hour drive (mostly through Chukha district) from the border town of Phuentsholing.

Various private operators like Dhug, Meto and Sernya run Toyota Coaster services from Phuentsholing to Thimphu. These buses can seat 22 and are very comfortable. Advance reservation can be made at Phuentsholing bus station.

Once in Thimphu one can find various buses plying to other parts of the country.

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Getting Around

By Car

There is a set rate for taxis plying city routes. Maximum is around 60nu. There are taxi ranks on Norzin Lam (across from the cinema hall) and at the inter-district bus station. Taxis also cruise and can be hailed at any point.

By Public Transport

The city operates an efficient, albeit infrequent, public bus service connecting the downtown with outer suburbs. The station for local buses is located just east of the stadium on Chang Lam.

By Foot

The city centre is small enough to negotiate on foot.

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Eat

Most restaurants (including those in 2 or 3 star hotels) in Thimphu stop serving food between 8:30pm and 9:30pm.

  • Rythm Dining (On the way to the National library from the folk heritage museum). Nice place to sit, hangout and rest yourself over a bowl of very good kuka. US$2.
  • Zombala restaurant. One of the best Momos in town. Kuka and Pakoras are really good, Thupka is a bit bland though.
  • Bhutan Kitchen, 2F, Gatoen Lam (located above the Benez restaurant), ☎ +975 2 331-919. A restaurant that tries to give you a real authentic and traditional Bhutanese food experience, with traditional music and Bhutanese food, with chilis on the side so only as spicy as you want. Beautiful views and traditional kitchen display. A little expensive but worth it. Nu 350 (dinner).
  • Big Bakery, Kawajangsa (in front of the Ministry of Health). A little Japanese bakery run by physically or intellectually challenged Bhutanese. Prices are high but the quality is the best in town as of March 2010. Nu 45 (sandwich), Nu 100 (loaf of bread).
  • Cafe Italia, Dewa Khangzang, Drentoen Lam (Opposite the main post office). Closed Mondays. Good pizzas and selection of freshly brewed coffee. Relaxing atmosphere with great views from panoramic windows.
  • Chopstick, ☎ +975 2 333-601. 2nd floor, Centre Mall, Norzin Lam. A small restaurant specializing in Chinese dishes. (updated Jun 2018 | edit)
  • Druk Pizza (behind Bhutan Observer Building (also known as KMT Building) at the top end of Norzin Lam), ☎ +975 2 334-543, +975 17636589. Closed on Mondays. Good quality pizzas on Italian style base with Bhutanese toppings plus a small selection of milk shakes and hot beverages. Free coke and a free pizza after your 10th is a bonus.
  • Lemon Grass, Jangchhub Lam (across from Le Meridien Hotel), ☎ + 2 339 528. Traditional Thai food in pleasant setting.

Rabten Restaurant (above the Chubachu roundabout, towards Motithang), ☎ +975 2 323-587. Cooks only on advance reservation, ideally at least 1 day in advance.

  • Siena Pizzeria (1F, Jattu Commercial Complex, Changlam - 1F of City Hotel). Open every day 10:00am-10:00pm. Offers over 40 varieties of freshly prepared pizza in a cool and chic environment. Filter coffee and a number of fresh cold drinks available.
  • Sinchula Restaurant, Phendey Lam, Hong Kong Market (upper Hong Kong Market (below Sangay Enterprise)), ☎ +975 17839240. 9AM-10PM. Great food in a calm, relaxing environment.
  • Swiss Bakery, PO Box 943, Dondrub Lam (west (uphill) from the Traffic Circle on Chorten Lam, up steps to Dondrub Lam), ☎ +975 2 322-259, fax: +975 2 323-523. Sells tasty sandwiches, pies, omelets, jelly doughnuts, and excellent potato chips, among other baked goods and lunch treats. If you want a Swiss cake roll, the ones here are the best in town.
  • The Seasons Restaurant Pizzeria, Namsay Shopping Complex, Phenday Lam, ☎ +975 2 327-413. closed Tuesdays. One of the few places in town that serves authentic pizza and Italian salads. Pizzeria also offers a good selection of filter coffees and has an outdoor patio.
  • Sanmaru Korean Restaurant - Sanmaru is the only Korean restaurant in town serving exclusive Korean cuisine. It is owned and operated by a couple. The couple strives to provide authentic Korean dining experience. They serve popular Korean dishes like bibimbap. Kimbap and many more which will have you coming back for more. The ambience is really warm and the staffs are efficient with really fast services. ☎77 33 24 47.
  • Chula Restaurant - Chula restaurant exclusively serves Indian cuisine. They managed to provide the Indian feel while dining by also placing a huge statue of lord Ganesha in the restaurant. The food is nice and the staff wonderful. It is located on Norzin Lam, opposite to Taj Tashi Hotel. ☎17 44 55 33.
  • Dorji Trozey - This restaurant serves exclusively Bhutanese dishes with really fast services attracting a lot of Bhutanese and tourists during lunch time.
  • Hayate Ramen - prepared by a Japanese chef, they serve authentic Ramen and delicious too. The place is located on Chang Lam, near City Hotel. ☎02 330 240.
  • Ambient Café - The café is located in the center of town on Nordzin Lam. It offers a wide range on coffee and they also roast their own coffee beans along with some really nice pastries. The place also serves various other dishes. Their tofu rice with fried egg sunny side up is a really healthy and delicious breakfast. ☎17 11 77 71.
  • Musk Restaurant - The restaurant is located on the famous clock tower square. They serve a mix of dishes like Indian, Chinese and Bhutanese. The ambience is a really nice.
  • The Zone - This restaurant is located on Chang Lam opposite to the Changlimithang Stadium. It serves really good food including their famous burgers. ☎ 2 331 441.
  • Ama Restaurant - Ama restaurant serves exclusive Chinese dishes. The restaurant is located in the heart of the town on the ground floor of Karma Khangzang building. Their ambience is really nice with super fast service. ☎2 335 817
  • Burger point - This restaurant exclusively serves Burgers with a wide variety of choices on toppings. And their Potato dumplings are to die for. ☎17 54 40 44.
  • Upstairs - This restaurant is located upstairs of the ‘my mart’ supermarket. It has good and fast service. The ambience is really nice and spacious and has pleasant outdoor seating facilities. ☎77 60 91 40.
  • Kelden Restaurant - If you wish to eat among the locals and experience the taste of true Bhutanese cuisine, Kelden Restaurant is the perfect place to visit. The small restaurant is usually packed with locals during the lunch (1:00pm - 2:00pm) and dinner hours (7:00pm - 8:30pm). So if you wish to eat in peace, avoid the rush hour period.The place offers almost every popular vegetarian and non vegetarian dishes that would otherwise only be prepared during the special occasions such as festivals and new year celebration.

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Drink

  • Latitude 27 at Le Meridien - A classy bar at the Le Meridien Thimphu hotel offers exciting and fresh range of cocktails and mock tails at an affordable rate. Their menu at the bar also serves finger foods that go well with the alcohol. The hotel regularly offer happy hour promotions and live band performances during the weekends.

There are a handful of cafes that serve quality coffee, which are listed below. Only Ambient (which roasts their own beans), Central, Coffee Culture and Karma's have professional espresso machines; other places either sell only filter coffee or use an automatic coffee machine. Outside of these cafes, coffee in Bhutan is mostly the instant variety, particularly Nescafe.

Thimphu has few scintillating night clubs. Once inside any of these night clubs, it's a complete glamorous affair. The cost of the entry is quite low too (approximately Nu 250 per person). Some clubs allow stag entry as well. The drinks are generally inexpensive and the staff friendly. However, the local youths can create problems on small or no issues and might enter into a scuffle with people from neighbouring countries.

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Sleep

  • Hotel Ghasel, Norzin Lam (opposite the clock tower), ☎ +975 2 323-341 (mobile: 17117100). Rooms with attached bathroom and hot water facility, cable TV. There are also restaurant, bar and fast food facilities — for those pining that backstreet Indian vibe, the hotel's vegetarian restaurant is the place to come. Under the sound of Hindi songs blasting from a TV, Ghasel produces delicious dosa and thali and a range of other Indian and Bhutanese specialties.
  • Hotel Norling, PO Box 327 Norzin Lam, ☎ +975 2 322-997, +975 2 323-997, e-mail: norlinghotel@druknet.bt. A clean and pleasant facility located on the city's main street (Norzin Lam). All rooms with attached bathroom and TV. Very friendly and helpful service. Single Nu 490, Twin Nu 650.
  • Hotel Tandin (Norzin Lam, just past the first traffic circle — restaurant on the first floor). Cheap Indian and Bhutanese dishes.
  • City Hotel, Jattu Commercial Complex, Changlam, ☎ + 2 338812. A chic hotel in the heart of the city.
  • Hotel Jumolhari, ☎ + 975 2 322-747, +975 2 325506. Standard single - Nu 2,000, standard double - Nu 2,500.
  • Hotel Druk, ☎ +975 2 322-966, +975 2 322977, e-mail: drukhotel@druknet.bt. A large city center hotel located adjacent to the Clock Tower. Health club with massage, sauna, steam facilities. Standard single - Nu 2,000, standard double - Nu 2,500.
  • Hotel Motithang, ☎ +975 2 322-435. A pleasant hotel located on the mountain side above Thimphu. Wonderful views over the valley. A great place for people looking for peace and quiet or some inspiration.
  • Zhiwa Ling Ascent, Kawang Dajo, Upper Mothitang,, ☎ + 2 336486, e-mail: info@zhiwalingascent.com. A chic and minimalist hotel located among a forest.
  • Amankora Thimphu, ☎ +975 2 331-333. Near Kuenga Chhoeling Palace, Upper Motithang. Part of the Aman super-luxury hotel chain. A 16-room lodge offering five-star facilities. From US$1,500 per night.
  • Le Meridien, Chorten Lam, ☎ +975 2 337788. Large and centrally located. Contemporary decor.
  • Taj Tashi, ☎ +975 2 236-699. Samten Lam. Opened in 2008, a large and centrally located hotel offering full amenities. Nightly rates start from US$275 (off season), US$350 (peak season).

You can use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

Booking.com

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Keep Connected

Internet

WiFi is readily available in the majority of hotels throughout the country. Many of the internet cafes offer WiFi also. Most population centres have internet cafes, although they are relatively expensive, and the connection is slow. Please make sure your travel agent find an appropriate internet cafe in advance if you need a connection for work.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The country calling code to Bhutan is: 975. To make an international call from Bhutan, the code is: 00

Telephone call booths are existent in major towns in Bhutan. Most of Bhutan has mobile phone coverage, which is smart phone capable. B-Mobile has agreements with North American, some Asian and European countries on mobile roaming. Tashi Cell is another mobile company based in country.

Tourists can now quickly and easily register for a B-Mobile SIM that is valid for 1 month. Simply take your passport to a B-Mobile office. The SIM card costs 50Nu, and comes with 50Nu credit. Ask them to activate 3G/4G and data access while you are there, and test it works before leaving. There are no data plans per say, but the rate is affordable by international standards (0.0003Nu/KB). SIM Cards are available in all sizes (Standard, Micro and Nano). Recharge cards are available at most stores and small shops.

B-Mobile and TashiCell have different frequencies for their data network. Check your phone's supported frequency before getting a SIM card.

B-Mobile: 850Mhz (3G) and 1800Mhz (LTE band 3)
TashiCell: 850Mhz (3G) and 700Mhz (LTE band 28)

Post

Bhutan Post offers services throughout the country. It's reliable but it takes quite some time for your postcard or letter to arrive in other countries.

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Accommodation in Thimphu

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Thimphu searchable right here on Travellerspoint.

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This is version 23. Last edited at 10:41 on Aug 10, 18 by Utrecht. 5 articles link to this page.

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