Thimphu is the capital and largest city of Bhutan.
It is situated in the western central part of Bhutan, in the Himalaya Mountains on the Raidak (also called Thimphu, or Wong) River.
As of November 2020, the population of Thimphu is about 120,000 people.
The city covers a total area of 26 square kilometers (10 square miles).
Thimphu is the 5th highest capital in the world by altitude. The average altitude is 2,320 metres (7,656 feet) above sea level.
Although the Thimphu Valley has supported small settlements for many centuries and a dzong has existed there since 1216, the city didn’t really develop until the king declared Thimphu the new capital in 1961.
Vehicles first appeared on the streets a year later, and slowly the city began to adapt to its role as the nation’s capital.
Unusually for a capital city, Thimphu does not have its own airport, but relies on the Paro Airport connected by road some 54 kilometres (34 miles) away.
Clock Tower Square is a square in Thimphu and is the site of the famous tower with four clock faces. The Clock-tower has a typical Bhutanese architectural outlook with rich Bhutanese carvings and paintings. There are traditional hand crafted dragon with golden painting on all the four faces of the tower which symbolizes the county as an independent dragon kingdom. The tower has beautiful paintings and carvings of flowers which add more magnificence to the tower. The shops, restaurants and hotels in the clock tower square have a blend of fine traditional and modern architectural Bhutanese design with multi-coloured wood frontages, small arched windows, and sloping roofs. The buildings around the square are all small three storied structures.
Tashichho Dzong is a Buddhist monastery and fortress on the northern edge of the city of Thimphu. It has traditionally been the seat of the Druk Desi, the head of Bhutan’s civil government, an office which has been combined with the kingship since the creation of the monarchy in 1907, and summer capital of the country. In old British documents, it is known as Tassisudon.
The Memorial Stupa, Thimphu, also known as the Thimphu Chorten, is a stupa located in the southern-central part of the city near the main roundabout and Indian military hospital. The stupa, built in 1974 to honor the third Druk Gyalpo, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck (1928–1972), is a prominent landmark in the city with its golden spires and bells. In 2008, it underwent extensive renovation. It is popularly known as “the most visible religious landmark in Bhutan”. It was consecrated by Dudjom Jigdral Yeshe Dorje.
Dechen Phrodrang meaning “Palace of Great Bliss” is a Buddhist monastery in Thimphu. In 1971 it became a monastic school and currently it has 450 student monks enrolled in eight-year courses with a staff of 15. The monastery contains a number of important historical Bhutanese artifacts including 12th century paintings monitored by UNESCO and a noted statue of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal on the upper floor. In the downstairs chapel, there is a central Sakyamuni Buddha.
The Folk Heritage Museum or Phelchey Toenkhyim is a museum in Thimphu. The museum was opened on 28 July 2001 from the initiative of founder Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck. The museum is housed in a 3-story 19th century traditional rammed mud and timber house aged more than 150 years. It includes paddy, wheat and millet fields, watermill, kitchen gardens, hot stone bath etc. The ground floor resembles barn, the upper floor resembles safe store and the top most floor resembles living and dining area.
Simply Bhutan is an interactive ‘living’ museum that gives a quick introduction to various aspects of traditional life in Bhutan. Visitors are greeted with a shot of local arra (rice spirit), before being guided through mocked-up village scenes. Along the way, you can dress up in traditional clothes, try out archery and hear songs sung by Bhutanese women as they build houses out of rammed earth.
Motithang Takin Preserve, located in the Motithang district of Thimphu, is a wildlife reserve area for takin, the national animal of Bhutan. Originally a mini-zoo, it was converted into a preserve when it was discovered that the animals refrained from inhabiting the surrounding forest even when set free. The reason for declaring takin as a national animal of Bhutan on 25 November 2005 (Budorcas taxicolor) is attributed to a legend of the animal’s creation in Bhutan in the 15th century by Lama Drukpa Kunley.
Thimphu, as the political and economic center of Bhutan, has a dominant agricultural and livestock base, which contributes 45% of the country’s GNP.
Tourism, though a contributor to the economy, is strictly regulated, maintaining a balance between the traditional, development and modernization.
Tshechu is an important festival when mask dances, popularly known as Cham dances, are performed in the courtyards of the Tashichho Dzong in Thimphu. It is a four-day festival held every year in September or October, on dates corresponding to the Bhutanese calendar.