Thimphu (alt. 2,320m / 7,610 ft)
The capital town
of Bhutan and the centre of government, religion and commerce, Thimphu
is a unique city with unusual mixture of modern development alongside
ancient traditions. Although not what one expects from a capital city,
Thimphu is still a fitting and lively place. Home to civil servants,
expatriates and monk body, Thimphu maintains a strong national character
in its architectural style.
Places of interest in and around Thimphu
One of the most prominent landmarks of Thimphu also known as Thimphu Chorten, this Tibetan style stupa was built in 1974 by Her Majesty the late Queen Ashi Phuntsho Choden Wangchuck in memory of her Royal son, the third Druk Gyalpo Jigme Dorji Wangchuck (1928 – 1972). It was the late King wish to build such a stupa to represent the mind of Buddha and dedicated to world peace. Unlike other chortens, the Memorial stupa does not enshrine human remains – only Druk Gyalpo’s photo in a ceremonial dress adorns a hall on the ground floor. Located in south-central part of the city, the stupa had extensive renovation in 2008 and remains one of the most visible religious monuments in Bhutan. Everyday from dawn till dusk Thimphu old people and young alike circumambulate the chorten turning the prayer wheels or chanting with their prayer beads or mani (prayer wheel). Chorten literally means ‘Seat of Faith’, and this whitewashed chorten with its golden spires and bells is an extraordinary example of Buddhist architecture and artwork with its gorgeous paintings, elaborate mandala and intricate sculptures.
Located 5km south of Thimphu, handsomely proportioned Simtokha Dzong was built in 1629 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and modelled on Gyal Gyad Tshel Institute of Ralung (Tibet). Officially known as Sangak Zabdhon Phodrang (Palace of the Profound Meaning of Secret Mantras), Simtokha is often said to be the first dzong built in Bhutan. It is in fact also the oldest dzong to have survived as a complete structure. Its utse (central tower) is three storeys high and prayer wheels around the courtyard are backed by more than 300 finely worked slate carvings. A large statue of Yeshay Gonpo (Mahakala), the chief protective deity of Bhutan, is housed inside the Utse. The dzong houses statues and paintings of various Buddhas, deities and religious figures including The Eight Manifestations of Guru Rinpoche, Jampelyang the Bodhisattava of Wisdom, Shakya Gyalpo the Buddha of Compassion and many more all carved and painted in exquisite detail.
In the cultural centre of Thimphu, the National Library is a major scriptural repository and research facility dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the rich literary, cultural and religious heritage of Bhutan. The scripture and document collection held in library are national treasure and a fundamental source of Bhutanese history, religion, medicine, art & culture. The library was established in 1967 and merged with National Commission for Cultural Affairs in 1985. The current library complex is dominated by a four-storied white stone main building designed in form of a Lhakhang (temple), in order to provide an appropriate environment for study of Buddhist scriptures and other religious texts. This imposing structure incorporates and integrates, in a typical Buddhist style, the three aspects of the Buddha and his teaching and therefore considered to be a sacred place. The physical aspect of Buddha is represented by statues and paintings, the speech aspect of Buddha is represented by several books and printing blocks displayed in the library while the mind aspect of Buddha is represented by eight stupas positioned on the altar, on the ground floor of the building.
Opening Hours: Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. (summer) & 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. (winter). Closed on Saturdays, Sundays & National Holidays
National Institute for Zorig Chusum
Established in 1971, it is the premier institute to preserve and promote thirteen traditional art and crafts of Bhutan. Commonly known as Arts & Crafts School or Painting School, the Institute offers 4-to-6-year courses in 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan. Zorig Chusum literally translates to ‘thirteen crafts’ and these are classified as Lhazo (painting), Jinzo (sculpturing), Shagzo (Wood Carving), Yigzo (Calligraphy), Dezo (Paper making), Lugzo (Bronze Casting), Tshemazo (Embroidery), Thangzo (Weaving), Parzo (Carpentry), Dozo (Masonry), Tshazo (Bamboo and cane weaving), Trozo (Gold & Silver Smithy) and Garzo (Black smithy). These arts were formally codified in 17th century during the reign of Gyalse Tenzin Rabgay, the fourth temporal ruler of Bhutan. Importantly, Zorig Chusum is manifested as a living tradition in various aspects of Bhutanese society and its preservation and promotion is accorded high priority. On a visit, one can see disciplined young students learning the impressive skills imparted at the institute and also procure impressive souvenirs from the showroom, produced by the young minds.
Opening Hours: Monday – Friday, 2 p.m. – 4 p.m. & Saturday: 9 a.m. to 12 a.m.
Closed on Sundays, National Holidays and winter Holidays (20 December – 10 March)
National Institute of Traditional Medicine
In historical records, Bhutan is also referred as Lhomenjong or the ‘valley of medicinal herbs’ and the name still applies to this day. Traditional medicines believed to be introduced in the country during beginning of 17th century and today traditional medicine services are integrated with modern medicines and available in all District Hospitals and Basic Health Units in the country. Initially established as Indigenous Training Centre in 1971, the institute was upgraded as National Institute of Traditional Medicine in 1992. The rich herbal medicines made up from medicinal plants abundant in the Kingdom are prepared and dispensed here. The Institute is also a training school for traditional medicine practitioners. Recognizing the benefits and importance of traditional medicine, the Royal Government of Bhutan has accorded high priority for the development of traditional medicines as an alternative choice of treatment for the people of Bhutan.
Opening Hours: Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. (summer) & 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (winter) & Saturday: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Closed on Sundays, National Holidays
The Folk Heritage Museum (Phelchey Toenkhyim)
It is dedicated to connect people to the Bhutanese rural past through
exhibits, demonstrations, educational programmes and documentation of
rural life. The principal exhibit in the museum is a restored three
storey traditional rammed mud and timber house, which dates back to the
mid 19th century. The design and form of house is that of an average
household in the Wang area during that era. The age of structure
demonstrates the durability and performance of the building materials.
From ground to top floor, household objects, typical domestic tools and
equipments that would have been used by a family during that period are
put on display. The museum is also developing some of the native trees
and plants that were used for various domestic purposes in the rural
Opening Hours: Monday – Friday, 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Saturdays, 10:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. Sundays, 11:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Closed on National Holidays
National Textile Museum
With the opening of Textile Museum, under the patronage of Her Majesty
the Queen Ashi Sangay Choden, Bhutanese textile have reached new heights
as one of the most visible distinct art form. The textile museum has
opened its exhibition on six major themes - warp pattern weaves, weft
pattern weaves, role of textiles in religion, achievements in textile
arts, textiles from indigenous fibers and the royal collection. The
crowns of Bhutan's Kings, namzas (dresses), the first version
of Royal Crown and other accessories used by members of Royal family can
be found in the museum. The goal of the museum is to gradually become a
center for textile studies that will carry out documentation, research
and studies on Bhutanese textiles.
Opening Hours: Monday – Saturday, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Closed on Sundays & National Holidays
Also know as "fortress of the glorious religion",
was initially built in 1641 and later rebuilt in its present form by
King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk in 1965. The Dzong houses, main secretariat
building which houses the throne room of His Majesty, the King of
Bhutan. The National Assembly Hall is housed in a modern building on the
other side of the river from the Dzong. During the warmer summer months,
the monk body headed by His Holiness, the Je Khenpo, makes its home in
Opening Hours: Monday – Friday, 4:30 p.m. onwards, Saturdays & Sundays – 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Centenary Farmers Market
Popularly known as Weekend market, this bustling, colourful market centre is the biggest where farmers from different part of the country gather to sell their farm products. Thimphu residents throng this market on the weekends to procure their weekly stock of fresh local produces, vegetables and fruits. With its wide assortment of products and its picturesque and colourful setting, the Farmer’s Market has become a favourite spot for tourists too. Located below the main town, near Wang Chu river, this largest domestic market for farmers in Bhutan operates from two-storey concrete structure, inaugurated in 2008 and renamed as Centenary Farmers market.
Opening Hours: Monday – Sunday, 6 a.m. – 8 p.m. (Closed on Tuesday)
It is a fortress like temple and monastic school perched on a ridge
above Thimphu, south of Motithang. The temple was established in 12th
century on a site chosen by Lama Phajo Drugom Shigpo, who came from
Tibet. The central statue here is Chenrezig in a manifestation with 11
heads. From temple courtyard, there is fascinating view of Thimphu
Authentic Bhutanese Craft Bazaar
Located at the centre of Thimphu town below Norzin Lam, this handicrafts market of Thimphu consists of about hundred shops crafted from eco-friendly bamboo and lined neatly in a row, selling colourful and beautiful authentic handicrafts of Bhutan. With aim to preserve the Bhutanese culture and promote local traditions and handicrafts, the shops in the market possess wide assortment of authentic souvenirs. While strolling through the market, one can simply not ignore warm smile of shopkeepers and their precious collection of beautiful attire with embroidery, souvenirs like carved wood items, scroll paintings, decorative items woven from bamboo, jewellery made of silver and precious stones & miniatures of symbolic statues and all these products are procured from local villages.
Opening Hours: Monday – Sunday, 9 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Junghi Handmade Paper Factory
Junghi Paper factory comprises of two enterprises ; the unit in Thimphu produces traditional handmade paper from natural plants mainly from ‘Daphne’ plant species which is insect-resistant. The other unit in Jimina, 22 km from the centre Thimphu town, recycles waster papers. The traditional handmade papers are widely used for religious scripts, packing materials, hand-carry bags, lampshades, envelopes, calendars . The paper looks a lot like Japanese washi, and in fact a lot of Bhutanese paper is exported to Japan also.
Opening Hours: Monday – Saturday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Closed on Sundays & National Holidays
The present structure was built in 1960s and although lacking the charm of many of the older temples, Zangthoo pelri still possesses some impressive murals and art treasures and is worthy of a visit. The site of the temple was a former battle ground, and the temple was constructed there in order to pacify energies.
Situated on a mountain top in Kuenselphodrang Nature Park overlooking Thimphu valley, this gigantic statue of Shakyamuni Buddha measuring 51.5m, considered one of the largest statues of Buddha in the world. The statue is made of bronze with a cover of gold which symbolizes indestructability. 125,000 smaller Buddha statues have been placed within the Buddha Dordenma statue; 100,000 statues of which are 8-inches-tall and 25,000 statues of which are 12 inches tall. Each of these thousands of Buddhas have also been cast in bronze and gilded. The throne that the Buddha Dordenma sits upon is a large meditation hall where hundreds of devotees meditate every day.
Shakyamuni Statue is an insight of two predications; the first one where a yogi Sonam Zangpo forecasted a large statue of Buddha to be built in the region, and at a point from where it can bestow blessings and happiness on the world. The other one discovered by Terton Pema Lingpa in the 8th century A.D, to emanate an aura of peace and happiness to the entire world.
Opening Hours: Monday – Sunday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Simply Bhutan Museum
Simply Bhutan is an exclusive project under the Bhutan Youth Development Fund (YDF), built to offer a unique experience to its visitors. It is a living museum and studio encapsulating the cultural heritage of the Bhutanese people. A distinctive feature of Simply Bhutan is that it fully operated by young people and job seekers, who receive here on the job training in basic business & management skills, customer care and other spheres of life. The fund generated through Simply Bhutan is utilized to run many of the youth development programmes for vulnerable and disadvantaged youth under YDF. Hence as a visitor, while you get to experience and enjoy this special place, you are also helping to ‘make a better today’, ‘a brighter tomorrow’, for the youth of Bhutan.
Opening Hours: Monday – Sunday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Drubthob Goema / Zilukha Nunnery
Perched on a promontory, overlooking picturesque Trashichhoedzong and Golf course, it is the only nunnery in capital known as Zilukha Anim Dratsang, once belonged to the Drubthob (Realized one) Thang Thong Gyalpo often referred to as The King of the open field (In the early 15th century with his multiple talents he popularly became the Leonardo da Vinci of the Great Himalayas). You may interact here with some of the nuns who have devoted their life to spirituality and Buddhism.
Kuenselphodrang Nature Park
The park is located beneath Buddha Dordenma, the tallest Buddha statue in Bhutan. Covering an area of 493.4 acres, it was initially declared as a recreational park back in 2006. The idea behind the park is to protect the forest area surrounding the mega Bronze Buddha statue while at the same time offer recreational facilities for Thimphu population. It is an important and interesting site in spheres of culture & religion, biodiversity, tourism and recreational facilities.
Bhutan Postal Museum
The Bhutan Postal Museum was opened on 7th November 2015 at General Post Office building in capital city Thimphu to commemorate 60th birth anniversary of His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck. The museum showcases the progress of postal services and also to some extent communication system in Bhutan & country’s rare and unique stamps issued over the years. Visitors can also visit the Postal office located next door to get their own personalised stamps and check out various souvenirs.
The Postal museum consists of five galleries: Gallery I - is the repositionable gallery and its exhibits changes as per special occasion in the country and release of new stamps. It currently pays tribute to His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo. Gallery – II showcases the pre-postal era. Gallery – III focuses on advent of postal system in the country and how it evolved over time. Gallery – IV exhibits Bhutan’s rich assortment of rare and unique postal stamps and its role in promoting country’s rich culture, tradition and heritage. Gallery – V is the interactive area designed to educate visitors.
Opening Hours: Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. (summer) & 9.am. – 4 p.m. (winter), Closed on Saturdays, Sundays & National Holidays
Royal Botanical Garden, Serbithang
The Royal Botanical Garden, Serbithang was established in 1999 under National Biodiversity Centre, Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, Serbitang as an ex-situ plant conservation area and to commemorate the Silver Jubilee Celebration of the 4th King of Bhutan, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck. The primary functions of the Royal Botanical Garden are to: to serve as the living repository of plant genetic diversity for ex situ conservation and research, to serve as a rescue centre for rare and threatened native floral species, to promote propagation of prioritized native plants species and to provide technical services and training in plant propagation techniques to community-based groups and other interested stakeholders. It is one of the favourite places for botanical enthusiasts travelling in capital city, Thimphu.
Founded in the early 16th century, this riverside monastery complex houses an educational institute of the central monastic body for learning traditional astrology of Bhutan. The founder of Pangri Zampa had initially named monastery as Druk Phodrang meaning ‘Castle of Dragon’ and it was also visited by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (Unifier of Bhutan) in 1616 AD.
Every year, the institute releases official Bhutanese calendar and thus decides dates for important national events in the country. Locals visit the monastery to know about their yearly predictions about their luck, money, health, career and many more. A nine-day ritual is performed here every year for the wellbeing of all sentient beings and for the peace and prosperity in the country. Tourists interested to learn their future predictions as per Buddhist believes also visit the monastery and most of the times get amazed by accuracy of astrologers.
Coronation Park, also known as Centenary Park, is located at the entrance of Thimphu on the banks of Wang Chhu river. This 5.6-acre parkland, adorned by a statue of Buddha which is placed at the centre of the park, offers a popular picnic spot and a pleasant & relaxing environment to stroll or to sit around and watch the river flow by. With beautiful species of plants and flowers, the view of river and the magnificent Buddha, the view here is picturesque and sublime.
Takin Preserve, Motithang
The Takin is the national animal of Bhutan, and looks like a cross between a cow and a goat. Legend has it that the animal was created by the great Buddhist yogi, Drupa Kunley, and it can be found only in Bhutan and nearby areas. Taxonomists place the animal in a category of its own as it is not similar enough to any other animal to fit established categories.
Also known as Palace of great Bliss, since 1971 Dechen Phodrang has been a monastic school, providing an eight-year course to about 500 monks. Located at the northern end of the town, Dechen Phodrang stands on the site of Thimphu’s original 12th century Dzong and offers mesmerising view of the valley. The two-storey splendid Dzong houses many splendid paintings and its upper floor features a large figure of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and Goenkhang (chapel devoted to protective and terrifying deities). The central figure in the downstairs chapel is of Buddha Sakyamuni.
Choki Traditional Art School
This school was founded by Thrimdep Choki Dorji, a veteran artist who established the Zorig Chusum Institute in Kawangjangsa in early 1970s. Choki Traditional Art School was established in 1999, commemorating the silver jubilee coronation celebration of His Majesty the Fourth King. During visit, one can see young students learning traditional art such as thangkha paintings, wood carving, weaving, embroidery and clay art. The school also is recognized as a formal private training institute by the Ministry of Labour and Human Resources, Royal Government of Bhutan and won several accolades for promotion of traditional arts & crafts in the country.
Opening Hours: Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. (summer) & 9a.m. – 4 p.m. (winter), Saturdays, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. Closed on Sundays & National Holidays
Gagyel Lhundrup Weaving Centre
Located in Changzamtog, at the south end of Thimphu, the privately owned Gagyel Lhundrup Weaving centre produces finest traditional hand-woven textiles of the region. Promoting the traditional Bhutanese art of weaving, the Centre makes sincere efforts to keep roots of the country alive through dedication and undivided attention of its weavers and handloom workers. It is a storehouse of information about traditional weaving and also famous for producing ceremonial textiles. Apart from seeing the weavers at work, the Gagyel Weaving Centre is the right place to buy fabric souvenirs.
Nado Poizokhang Incense Factory
Nado Poizokhang is the oldest and the largest hand-made incense sticks manufacturer in Bhutan, producing nine varieties of incense sticks and two types of incense powder using natural herbs and medicinal plants from mighty Himalayas. The products from this unit are highly acclaimed within and outside Bhutan. Importantly, the factory works closely with the community based Sustainable Management of Medicinal Plants Project that educates collectors in the sustainable collection and cultivation of the natural products used. Visitors can see here the entire process like grinding, extruding and drying that goes into making incense sticks and also buy few from souvenir shop.
Opening Hours: Monday – Saturday, 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. Closed on Sundays & National Holidays
For people interested in jewellery and metal, this is one of the interesting places to visit.
This workshop is managed by Royal Government of Bhutan and on visit, one can see entire process of production of traditional Bhutanese jewellery, from melting to moulding and hardening. Along with making of ornaments in gold, copper and silver, you can also see here the production of monasteries’ toranas (arches found over monastery statues).
Opening Hours: Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Saturdays, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. Closed on Sundays & National Holidays
Voluntary Artist Studio
Voluntary Artists Studio, Thimphu, popularly known as VAST was established in 1998 by a group of professional artists as a non-profit organisation with aim to provide opportunity for Bhutanese youth to participate and develop their artistic potential especially in contemporary art, develop sense of social responsibilities through community services and also to explore art as a vocation. Through variety of philanthropic activities, VAST strives to make art as a tool to develop right values – enriching the society.
Opening Hours: Monday – Sunday, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Excursions around Thimphu Valley
This monastery with rich historic & cultural significance, was founded by Lama Gyalwa Lhanangpa in the 12th century while the present building was constructed in the 15th century by the Lama Drukpa Kunley popularly known as ‘Divine Madman’. In 1616 Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal visited Tango and meditated in a cave near the monastery. His meditation helped ensure the defeat of an invading Tibetan army. The head Lama, a descendent of Lama Drukpa Kunley presented the goemba to Zhabdrung, who carved a sandalwood statue of Chenrezig which he installed in the monastery. The picturesque three-storey tower and several surrounding buildings were built in the 18th century by the eighth Desi, Druk Rabgye and Shabdrung Jigme Chhogyel added the golden roof in the 19th century.
Notable for its striking curved frontage, Tango is part of an important university of Buddhist studies. Once you reach the main three-storey goemba there are several chapels to visit, including the 3rd-floor zimchung (living quarters) of the fourth Druk Desi, where you can receive a blessing from his walking stick.
To reach Tango, one needs to drive for 14km (30 min) towards northern end of Thimphu valley up to Dodena (2600m), followed by approx. one hour of picturesque walk through time trodden nature trail on a nicely stone laid path. All along the trail which hikes up to 280m, signposts of enlightening Buddhist proverbs are erected at the corners to inspire you on spiritual path and also resting benches placed for walkers at vantage points to relax on the way and enjoy the spectacular views.
Difficulty Level: Moderate
Season: Jan to Dec
Maximum elevation: 2600m
Elevation gain: 280m
Walking distance: 6km (round trip)
Walking time: 2 hours (round trip)
Cheri monastery which is now an important centre for meditational retreats was established in 1620 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal as the home for Bhutan’s first monk body. An elaborated decorated silver chorten inside the upper monastery enshrines the ashes of the Zhabdrung's father. It is believed that Guru Rinpoche meditated in a cave above the monastery when he came to Bhutan in 8th century.
To reach Cheri, one needs to drive for 14km (30 min) towards northern end of Thimphu valley up to Dodena (2600m) from where the hike starts. The trail commences by crossing a nicely covered traditional wooden bridge that spans the Thimphu Chhu (river) and then heads upto steadily to the monastery. The steep nature trail is serene, tranquil on which you get chance to breath through cool, breezy fresh area under the magnificent, wooded area while the view from top is stunning.
Being the place where the Zhabdrung spent many years in meditation, Cheri today has number of hermitages and small temples located on its slopes, commanding spectacular views.
Difficulty Level: Moderate
Season: Jan to Dec
Maximum elevation: 2650m
Elevation gain: 330m
Walking distance: 6.5 km (round trip)
Walking time: 2.5 hour (round trip)
One time, one of the richest and decorated monasteries in the country, Phajoding is much more than a monastery now and in fact it’s a place of refuge, compassion, belongingness and hope. Phajoding takes its name from saint Phajo Drugom Zhingpo, who mediated here in 13th century and is considered as one of the most sacred meditational sites in Bhutan. The monastery itself is an open complex comprising of 10 lhakhangs (temples), meditation retreats and a state monastic school that also houses number of monks from age group 7 to 25 years who are scholared in Buddhist philosophy and mindfulness within a supportive and compassionate environment.
The day hike to the monastery which is of 5.1/2km distance is moderately strenuous for many visitors and takes about 3.1/2 hours while round trip walking excursion to the monastery involves around 6 hours, excluding the time spent at temple complex. The hike commences from upper Motithang in capital city Thimphu, above Takin Preserve with gentle climbs through the forests of blue pine, rhododendron, oak and several other high-altitude plant species. The snake trail curve takes about 2.1/2 hours uphill walk before one takes final left inclined to small stupa from where there is magnificent view of Thimphu valley and also Phajoding monastery can be seen from here. This is also a point to take a short break. From here it’s another one-hour hike to Phajoding monastery complex.
The highlights of Phajoding monastery hiking explorations are:
- Breath-taking environment & natural beauty and trekking through rhododendron forests, magnificent mountains, pine forests
- Discovering ancient Buddhist culture
- Immerse in monastic life and attend a prayer session
- Experience a guided meditation session
- In season, mushroom picking in Phajoding forests
- Explore the hills covered with medicinal plants. Bhutan is known as land of medicinal plants and Phajoding hike provides opportunity to inhale the aroma of these healing plants
- Taste the famous holy water. At Phajoding water sprouts from a rock which has no water source, and this water is famous throughout Bhutan for containing 8 holy properties.
- See the colourful wildlife
Difficulty level: moderately strenuous
Best season: Mar, Apr, May, June, Sept, Oct, Nov
Maximum elevation: 3600m
Elevation gain: 1300m
Walking distance: 11km (roundtrip)
Walking time: 6 hours (round trip)
It is a magnificent about 3.1/2 hour round trip walk covering a distance of about 7km, from Dochula pass encompassing spectacular view of Bhutan Himalayas, beautiful forests of hemlock, rhododendrons and junipers. From 108 chortens and mani wall at Dochula pass, the trail ascends gradually into white, red and pink rhododendron forests for about one and a half hour with some steep sections before branching left to Lungchuzekha Goemba. On a clear day, the views from goemba are stunning and all major peaks of Bhutan Himalayas can be seen: Jhomolhari (7,314 m), Kang Bum (6,500 m), Gangchhenta (6,840m) Masang Gang (7,165 m) Tsenda Kang (7,100 m), Teri Kang (7,300 m), Jejekangphu Gang (7,300 m), Kangphu Gang (7,212 m), Zongphu Gang (Table Mountain, 7,100 m) and Gangkar Puensum (7,570m), the highest unclimbed peak in the world. Behind these mountains lie the plains of Tibet.
The highlights of this excursion are beautiful forest, spectacular mountain views and the monastery. This hike can be further extended to Trashigang Goemba and Hongtsho which will make it a distance of 10km, with 5 hours walk.
Difficulty level: moderately strenuous
Best season: Mar, Apr, May, June, Sept, Oct, Nov
Maximum elevation: 3600m
Elevation gain: 500m
Walking distance: 7km (roundtrip)
Walking time: 3.1/2 hours
This sacred temple is about 30 minutes’ drive from the main town or about one hour walk if one opts to hike through the traditional path which starts from Yangchenphu High School. Built on a cliff just like the Tiger’s Nest in Paro, it’s one of the most sacred sites discovered by Khandro Yeshey Tsogyal, consort to Guru Padmasambhava. An important pilgrimage site for locals and perfect place of meditation, its visit also provides opportunity to feel and see the great work of ancient Buddhist legends. It is believed that there use to a lake below the lhakhang but now one can found only a marshy area.
Sangaygang - Wangditse loop
Drive to Sangaygang viewpoint, situated at an elevation of 2685m and presenting wonderful view of Thimphu valley from the hillside below the telecommunications tower. From here commences approx. two hours round trip walk to Sangayang – Wangditse loop. The trail leads through ubiquitous prayer flags amidst beautiful view of Thimphu valley. After a short and abrupt hike, take the side footpath to right and thereon the trail gets gentler and easier. Above the trail, you’ll also find apple orchard and few farmhouses. There after the trail drops down gently through oak, blue pine and rhododendron forests until you reach to Wangditse monastery. This monastery was founded in 1750 by the attendants of Bhutan’s eight Desi (secular rulers of Bhutan earlier under dual system of Government), Druk Rabgye and later renovated in 2001. The inner chapel houses the statues of the guardian deities Yeshey Goenpo (Mahakala), Palden Lhamo (Mahakali) and Tsheringma (the goddess of longevity). En route, there are excellent views north towards the Samteling Palace, home to the fourth King. The walking tail ends back at Sangaygang viewpoint.
Difficulty Level: Easy
Season: Jan – Dec
Maximum elevation: 2685m
Walking time: 2 hours
Located on one of the popular hiking trails in Thimphu, this 17th century monastery is about two-and-a-half-hour uphill hike from Yangchenphug High School. Positioned at an altitude of 3,270m, the monastery was founded by Lama Sangay Jamtsho after he was ushered by Guru Rinpoche in his vision. The views en route to the monastery is superb with sense of peace and tranquillity.
Difficulty Level: Moderately strenuous
Season: Jan to Dec
Maximum elevation: 3,270m
Elevation gain: 950m
Walking distance: 6km (round trip)
Walking time: 4 hours (round trip)
Druk Wangyal Chortens
Druk Wangyal Chorten are the cluster of 108 red-band stupas built in central hillock of Dochula pass (3,088m), located 24km from capital city Thimphu on west-east highways. The chorten were built under patronage of Queen Mother, Her Majesty Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck to mark the victory of the Fourth King, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck where he led Bhutanese army against insurgents in the south, during 2003. The construction of the stupas completed in mid-June and they were consecrated and sanctified with religious rites on 19-20 June 2004. The chortens are built in three layers, the first lowest layer has forty-five chortens, the second has thirty-six and the top layer has twenty-seven, built around the main chorten. Druk Wangyal Tshechu (festival) conceptualised in 2011, is held here annually on 13th December to commemorate the victory of the Fourth Druk Gyalpo and the Armed Forces in 2003.
Magnificently located at 3,080m, above Simtokha Dzong, the ancient most fortress of the country, the 15th century Talakha monastery offers stunning views over the peaks to the north and south of Thimphu valley. The monastery possesses several interesting murals, depicting various protective deities. The monastery is about an hour walk from high-end Six Senses Hotel and also offers opportunity to interact with monks and get an insight into monastic lifestyle.
Dodey Drak Monastery
12th Century Dodey Drak Buddhist Monastery offers a wonderful off-beat soft hiking adventure from Thimphu. A two-and-half-hour hike from Thimphu through the mix of coniferous forest along a scenic hiking trail brings you to the spectacular and charming Dodey Drak Monastery. Trail climbs gradually from trailhead point near Thimphu at 7500 ft to close to 10,000 ft. If you are lucky you can also see white languor along the trail. Forested trail is also teeming with various species of birds and butterflies if you are flora and fauna enthusiasts.
Dodey Drak Monastery was founded by Chief Abbot Jamyang Gyeltshen and later restored by His Majesty the Fourth King Jigme Singye Wangchuck in 1980. The Monastery houses a monastic school with a few small quarters for resident monks. A small museum at the monastery complex showcases religious artifacts mostly attributed to the founder of the monastery Jamyang Gyeltshen.
If you walk a little further up the monastery you will find a 1000-year old meditation hermitage where hermits were believed to have mediated here for over 12 years. Here you can also find spring water dripping from above the roof, it is believed that drinking this holy water washes away sins and blesses you with good health and prosperity.
If you are looking for a spiritually fulfilling soft adventure trip to an off-beat non-touristy destination with close encounters with nature day hike to Dodey Drak Monastery is highly recommended.
Royal Botanical Park, Lampelri
Established in 2004 to preserve the rich natural biodiversity of the region, The Royal Botanical Park is Bhutan first nature recreational park and form the backdrop of Dochula pass. This area of 47sq. km in the Dochula Conservation area has been delineated for protection and development into a site for ecotourism and nature education.
The park forms a biological corridor between the Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park and the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Park and houses a wide assortment of wild flora and fauna. A unique attraction of the Park are the rhododendrons. Of the total 46 species that grow in Bhutan, 40 species are found here. This includes the 29 species that grow naturally in the area and another 11 that have been planted in the park Garden. The Park also has 114 species of ferns, as well as numerous wild orchids.
The Park also hosts rich animal life including the magnificent Bengal tiger, the elusive red panda, leopard, leopard cat, musk deer, sambar deer, Himalayan black bear, Monal pheasant and Satyr tragopan. It is a heaven for bird watching with more than 220 species being recorded here.
Historically, Pumola trail was an old trade route between the valleys of Thimphu and Paro, used by royal messengers in olden days. The hike starts from Thimphu’s Motithang area just above Takin Preserve and ends at Kuenselphodrang, the hill that holds the massive Buddha statue (51.5m). It’s a round-trip journey of about 18km, taking approx. 9 hours with elevation gain of approx. 1300m thus a demanding day’s hike but proportionally rewarding amidst blue pine forests, picturesque meadows and enchanting views. The hiking trail passes through sparse vegetation of mostly blue pine with few rhododendrons and other broad-leaved trees till one reaches a saddle. The surrounding view from this point is breath-taking. From here onward the climb is relatively easier amidst dense forest passing through lovely meadows.