Thimphu, located at 2300m above sea level, has been the capital of Bhutan since 1962. It is the largest city in Bhutan with a population of one hundred thousand people. All the government head offices are in Thimphu.
Thimphu is only capital city in the world with no traffic light or airport. This city is a growing commercial center buzzing with development activities.
The Tashichoe Dzong, “fortress of the Auspicious Religion,” is popularly known as the Thimphu Dzong. In 1216 AD Gyalwa Lhananpa, the famous Lama who founded Lhakpa School, built a Dzong and named it Do Hgon Dzong (Blue Stone fortress). In 1641 AD Shabdrung Rimpoche rebuilt the Dzong and named it Tashichoe Dzong.
In 1772 AD the Dzong was razed by a fire. Zhudar the temporal ruler and Younten Thaye the chief abbot decided to rebuild the Dzong at the same location. Bhutan’s 3rd king, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchu, enlarged the Dzong in 1962 AD.
Today it serves as the throne room and houses the office of Bhutan’s 5th king, His Majesty King Jigme Gasel Namgay Wangchuk. It also houses the central monks body and is the summer residence of the monks body and chief abbot.
Dechen Phodrang is the oldest Dzong in the country built by founder of Lhakpa School, Gyalwa Lhanapa, in 1216 AD. It was named Do Ngon Dzong (fortress of Blue Stone).
In 1630 AD, the Dzong became property of Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyel and he rebuilt a new Dzong on the same site in 1641 AD, naming it Tashi Choe Dzong (fortress of Auspicious Religion). It became the seat of Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyel and the state monks body
The Dzong was seriously damaged by fire in 1772 AD, and was hence shifted to the bottom of the valley. This Dzong was later reconstructed and named Dechen Phodrang (Palace of Great Bliss). It is a 2-storey temple : on the ground floor is main statues of Buddha and secret temple; and on the first floor a large figure of Zhadrung Nawang Namgyel.
Today this monastery serves more than 300 young monks.
This is the oldest Dzong built by Zhadrung Nawang Namgyel in 1629 AD. In the olden days it was considered a strategic position to control all entries and exits to Thimphu.
The name “Simtokha” came about as legend has it that a demon vanished into a rock nearby – as SinmoDo means ‘Demon Stone.’ In 1630 AD the Tibetans attacked and gained control of the Dzong but the main building caught fire and killed all the Tibetan invaders. In the center tower is the huge statue of Lord Buddha, and a very old painting on the wall. The Dzong is presently the abode of 100 monks.
This is the oldest temple in the Thimphu valley. It was built by Lama Nima, the son of Phajo Drugom Shipo and was the founder of the Drukpa Kague Schol in the 12th century.
The temple is a 1-storey building housing the main statues of the 11-headed God of Compassion. This statue is quite unique as legend has it that Phajo Drugom Shipo manifested himself in this sitting form. Bhutanese bring newborns here for blessings.
This nunnery is located above the Thimphu Dzong. The nuns, about 50 of them, lead a very cleric life of prayers and mediations. Their days start at 5 in the morning till late at night with prayers and studies. Drubthob Goenpa was built by His Holiness the 16th Thangthong Gyalpo in 1976.
National Memorial Chorten
The Chorten was built in 1974 in memory of the late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk following his death in 1972. There are no mortal remains of the king inside but photographs of him are kept on the ground floor.
The late king wished to form the three pillars of Buddhism – the Word, Body and Mind of Buddha. He had the Commentaries of Buddha, the Tanjur transcribed in letters of gold to represent the Words of Buddha and 1000 brass statues made to represent the body of Buddha. He passed away before completing the mind of Buddha in the form of Chorten. His mother, the Royal Grandmother Ashi Phuntsho Choden, completed building this Chorten to fulfill his wishes.
It has 3 storeys and each floor is dedicated to different Ningma deities. On the ground floor is the consecrated cycle of teaching of Phurpa (Magic Dagger). The first floor is dedicated to the cycle of Kagay, which is the teaching for subduing eight kinds of harmful sprits. The top floor is dedicated to the Lam Gondu.
Zangthopelri is the celestial abode of Guru Rimpoche and this temple is a replica of it. It is a private temple built by Dasho Aku Tongmey in the 1990s. The temple houses an impressive giant image of Guru Rimpoche, together with Sampa Lhandup (13 manifesto of Guru Rimpoche). This temple located near by the weekend market in Thimphu.
This temple was founded by Lama Nawang Chogyel, the great grandfather of Zhabdrung Rimpoche, in 1530 AD. Before Zhabdrung came to Bhutan, he saw this place in his vision. He also used this temple as his residence when he first came to Bhutan. He later added another new temple nearby. The huge cypress tree, Bhutan’s national tree, was there before Zhabdrung Rimpoche came to Bhutan. The temple is now used as the astrology’s learning center for monks. There are around 150 monks from all over Bhutan in this temple.
The Tango Monastery was founded in the 12th century by Lama Gyalwa Lhananpa. Phajo Drukgom Shipo also meditated and saw the vision of God Tandin (God with Horse Head), hence the name “Tango” which means horse head.
In the 15th century Lama Drukpa Kinley built the present temple. Later in 17th century the temple was presented to Zhabdrung Rimpoche.
Gaysey Tenzin Rabgay built the 3-storey temple in 1689 AD. On the ground floor, the main statues are three manifestation of Buddha – the past, present and future Buddha. The statues were sculpted by the famous Nepalese sculptor Pentsan Dewa. In 1966, 64th chief abbot and Ashi Phuntsho Choden started Monastic institute to propagate Drukpa Kagyud teachings.
The temple is reached after about 40 minutes drive to the end of road and a steep 30 minutes climb to the monastery.
This monastery was built by Zhabdrung Rimpoche in 1620 AD, with the aim to preserve his father’s ashes. It later became his permanent residence.
Zhabdrung Rimpoche established the first monastery in Bhutan at Chari Monastery with 30 monks. It lies to the north of the Tango Monastery. It is reached after a 30-minute walk from the road point, starting by crossing a beautiful bridge that spans Wangchu and after a steep climb up to the monastery.
It is located on the west side of Thimphu city and overlooks the whole Thimphu city. It is reached after a 3-hour walk from Motithang.
The temple was founded by Phajo Drukgom Shipo in the 13th century and it was built on the Thuji Dra. 2 more temples were built below this temple by the 9th and 16th chief abbot. There are now ten temples and one meditation center.
Bhutan National Library
The library is to the west of the Thimphu Dzong. It was established in 1967 to prevent religious and culture degradation resulting from modern development. The library is housed in 2 buildings. The old one was built in 1984 and is a 4-storey building where religious book are kept. The library has 10,000 volumes of religious texts in Choki, on various subjects inlcuding philosophy, history, mythology, painting, astrology and culture. There are 40 volumes of Tipitaka in Pali (three baskets of Buddha’s Teachings) in Burmese script and 50 volumes of Pali Tipitaka. The new building holds collection of foreign books.
Meaning ‘Thirteen Arts and Crafts’, it is also popularly called the painting school. This school was established in 1971 to preserve and promote culture, as well as contribute to Bhutan’s economy with its quality products and services.
Students can learn 8 out of 13 types of arts, including : Shingzo (wood work / carpentery), Dozo (stone work), Parzo (wood carving), Lhazo (painting), Jinzo (clay craft), Lugzo (statues made with metal), Shagzo (bowl carved out of wood), Garzo (black smith), Troko (gold and silver smith), Tshazo (cane products), Dezo (paper making arts), Tsmzo (embroidery) and Thagzo (craft of weaving).
Flock Heritage Museum
This museum was founded by Her Royal Queen Mother in 2001 and showcases past and current traditional artifacts. The museum is a 3-storey traditional building and houses household objects, typical domestic tools and equipment used by rural households.
Living weaving crafts are housed in the textile museum located in the main street of the city. It was founded in 2000 by Her Royal Highness Ashi Sangay Choden. This 2-storey building is divided into five sections: indigenous fiber, royal collection, achievement in the textile and religious items.
Institute of Traditional Medical Services
Tenzin Drugyel, the personal physician to Zhabdrung Rimpoche in the 17th century, established the traditional medical system in Bhutan. This ancient principal and practice of healing was passed on through oral history to the younger generations until the system was formalized under Bhutan’s health system in 1967. Bhutanese medicinal practice is similar to Tibetan’s traditional medicinal practice.
Traditional Hand Made Paper
Hand made paper is one of oldest art form from the 8th century. It began as a domestic art in and has lately taken on the form of commercial industry. Raw materials used for making traditional papers include Daphne Papyrifera grown in high altitude and Edge Worthia Papyrifera grown in elevation of between 1000m and 2000m. Bhutanese handmade paper is purely natural with no added chemical though soda ash is added to speed up the process.
The country’s only zoo is located in the western part of Thimphu and is 15-minute drive from the city. Many wild animals were kept in the zoo in the early 1990s, but the king ordered for them to be released back to nature. Only 3 types of animals remain in the zoo.
The only animal now still kept in the zoo is the Takin, Bhutan’s national animals, as it was reluctant to return to the wild. It had become very used to humans and can be found wandering around people in town.
The other animals found in the zoo are the Somber and the barking deer.
One reaches the BBS Tower after 5 minutes drive from the zoo. It is the base of the Bhutan Board Service and is the receiving station for radio and TV programs. The tower provides one of the best spots for bird’s eye view of the Thimphu city.
The Dochula road passes between Thimphu and Punakha. It is reached after 50 minutes drive from Thimphu. On a clear day, one gets a breathtaking view of all the eastern Himalayas mountain ranges and Gasa Dzong from here.
In 2004 the Royal Queen mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo built 108 Chortens in honor of the battle fought in 2003 between Indian terrorists and the Bhutanese Army in southern Bhutan. She also built Druk Wangyel Temple above the Dochula car park.