Thimphu Travel Guide

Thimphu is the capital city of Bhutan but just unlike any other capital cities. This valley city is filled with younger generation as its also one of the major hub for institutes of the country.

SEE

1. Tashichho Dzong is the Thimphu Dzong located north of the city on the west bank of Wang Chhu river that hosts the city’s biggest annual bash, the colorful Tshechu festival. (This festival is held for 3 days beginning on 10th day of 8th month of lunar calendar.) This Dzong has two claims to fame as it was built without nails and also the first Dzong to be built in the country. The Dzong, itself, is much the same as many others in the country and therefore nothing special about thus, nonetheless, it is still a nice place to visit. The 3D art on the wall makes the visit worthwhile and leaves one with beautiful experience of art and ancient stories. They do have a flag hoisting/ change of guard performed every evening at about 5pm.

2. Changangkha Lhakhang is a popular temple, perched like a fortress on a ridge above central Thimphu. It was built in 12th century and one of the oldest temple (800 years old) that stands still. The design of the walls of the temple have a unique shape and feel to it. The view from the temple is simply beautiful and serene.

3. Buddha Dordenma has a huge 51 meter tall Buddha statue  that commands the entry to the Thimphu valley. The massive 3 storey base houses a large temple while the statue is said to be filled with 125000 smaller statues of Buddha. The best time to visit this statue is morning light while the evening illuminated statue has a lovely charm too. While we were visiting this place, there were about 1000 monks sitting at the feet of the Buddha chanting prayers for day long which was part of a 3 month religious ritual. This Buddha point is also popular biking route with a 3.5km mountain bike trail branching off from Buddha point to Depsi, near Babesa.

4. National Textile Museum gives a peek into the traditional woven art, Thagzo. There are royal garments on display spilling the splendid royalty for the world to see. They have a gallary with details of their weaving techniques and various pieces of their attire. This was a rather fulfilling experience for a clothing lover like me. Their clothing just talks how the people have brought versatility in their garment making them unique piece which definitely made me feel like buying one for me.

5. Weekend market is every photographers dream. There are some souvenir shops to pick from else this place to good to stroll about and get a feel on the local life.

6. Hikes around the city Being a valley city, this place has lots of hiking option to offer lasting from short few hours to few days. Here are some options to explore from.

EAT

1. Zombala (original) is a highly recommended place for Bhutanese cuisine enthusiast. Almost everything is good here though I highly recommend the thukpa & momos. Any local will tell you the best momos in town can be eaten here. Its a cheap & local joint near Hong Kong market and expect a queue. We happened to share our table with a group of monks and I could see the same satisfaction on their face. Slurrrrp!

2. Babesa Village Restaurant is another lovely joint frequented by local in Babesa, which is bit in the outskirts of Thimphu city. This charming restaurant offers traditional Bhutanese cuisine in a lovely century-old building, one of four still standing incongruously right next to the Paro–Thimphu highway. The building is decorated with antiques and the food includes such local dishes as tasty ribs, lom(dried turnip leaf) and mengay, optimistically described as ‘Bhutanese pizza’.

3. Bhutan kitchen is a warm place serving Bhutanese cuisine in the heart of the town. Dive into the local dishes such as ema datshi and thukpa. Dont miss out on the complimentary shot of arra (the local firewater) or sud-ja(butter tea) at lunch.

4. Ambient cafe is highly frequented by expats and chances of bumping into a mountain bikers is very high

5. Hotel Jhumolhari is a lovely place to indulge with your spouse/ family

STAY

1. Druk Heritage Residence is lovely home converted into cottage villa. Along with cohesive homely feeling they offer spacious rooms with bath tub and free wifi. It has bar to soak yourself in the lovely cold evening.

2. Damchoe’s Guesthouse is lovely traditional home located in the outskirts of Thimphu with an organic vegetable garden of their own. It has warm owners & amazing view to offer.

3. Norzin Lam is in the central road and most of the hotels are concentrated on this road, near Clock Tower, almost next to each other.

 

Read complete guide on Bhutan, with detail travel guide on Paro, homestay in Paro and Punakha.

Here is a visual tour of the trip:

View of Bidh Dordenma. That beautiful crazy sky!!!

Thimphu city in evening

They might as well call it gateway to heaven on earth

Just can’t get enough of that sky

Original Zombala restaurant

This old lady was a lovely lady who spoke to me for few mins but i didn’t get a word.

Postcards from Thimphu

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Travel Guide | Bhutan – Land of happiness!

This post is a summary of the activities, travel route and most importantly how to reach to Bhutan. Read detailed posts on Paro, Thimphu and Punakha on things to do there.

How to reach here Bhutan:

There are mainly two ways of reaching this country;

Directly fly to Paro (via Mumbai or Delhi). Alternately you may fly to Bagdogra, West Bengal, for an onward journey to Phuentsholing by car (roughly 4-5 hours, Rs.2,500 on average). Here you have an option to either stay in Jaigaon (which is Indian border city) or stay in Phuntsholing (Bhutan border city) – which we did. Its ideal to stay in Phuntsholing as the permit office is located there.

Permit/ Visa:

Citizen of India/ Bangladesh/ Maldives don’t need a visa. You may just carry your voters id/ passport/ ration card along with photographs and legitimate hotel/ stay letters to receive the permit which is valid only for 7 days. Any further stay needs an extension which can be obtained either from Phuntsholing of Thimpu permit office.

In our research I noted that mostly travelers had hassle free experience in getting their permit/ visa. However, we had a different experience.

The permit & visa offices stay shut on Saturday, Sunday and all Bhutanese public holidays. We reached Phuntsholing on sunday night and monday morning we were at the permit office. It was chaotic and no clear information of what to submit and to whom. Mainly first we submitted a form which we got from permit office along with photograph, letter from all stays and passport as ID card. These documents are then processed on the their 1st floor office wherein they call each person at the counter while entering the details in their system. We verified each detail filled in and gave our finger impressions. Post which the forms are further processed and permit is issued. This entire process most people have listed to take about 20mins to 2 hours at max. It took us 6 hours and we ended up wasting our day in Bhutan.

Later we got to know that since our visit was during the main Tshechu festival along with rush accumulated on Monday (since permit office is shut on weekends) which we didn’t expect at all.

Also, from some cities such as Punakha, you need special permit. Since we werent very sure of visiting Punakha, we got the permit done from Thimpu, which was an easy breeze and took only 15 mins.

For other nationals, Bhutan has a Visa on arrival at the Paro airport and its said to be hassle free, provided you have all the required documents listed on their website.

SEASON

Thumb rule – Southern Bhutan is tropical, East is warmer than the West, and in the high Himalayan region expect perpetual snow. Bhutan’s Tshechu festival calendar is also a very good way to understand best seasons – there are none (or few) Tshechu festival during January, February, June, July & August.

WINTER: December, January & February – Much of the east-west highway remains snowbound during winter. One of the chief attractions in winter is the beautiful Gangtey (Phobjikha) valley where you can expect to see a wide expanse of rolling plain with bamboo shrubs. The graceful Black-Necked Cranes and Yak come to roost at the plain from the Tibetan plateau during this time of the year offering wild-life picture opportunities.

SUMMER (SPRING): March, April & May – Best time and most preferred time to visit Bhutan (means most expensive time and definitely getting bookings in last minute is going to be a challenge). This season is considered the most beautiful time of the year in Bhutan, resplendent and ablaze with a spectacular array of bright colors. This is the time when the valleys are green with fresh vegetation and fruit trees are blossoming. Paro Tshechu festival is held in this season.

MONSOON: June, July & August – Bhutan receives the most amount of rainfall than any other region in Himalaya.

AUTUMN: September, October & November – Its lovely with clear and crisp blue skies, providing a grand view of some of the tallest unclimbed mountains in the world. It is the best time for trekking and traveling Also a good time to catch the solitude of parks and somber views of dzongs and monasteries. Thimphu Tshechu festival is held in this season.

Get the entire festival list for Bhutan here.

COST

 

 

 

Travel map:

We travelled from Bagdogra >> Phuntsholing >> Paro >> Punakha >> Thimphu

Individual travel guide for Paro, Punakha, Thimphu and Paro homestay is on its way. Do check them out for details on see, eat and stay.

Here is a quick sneak peak into the trip.

Monks enjoying beautiful skyline

Foggy road to Phuntshuling

Fur ball

Bhutanese girls in their traditional attire

Lady chanting in monastery

Just cant get enough of this skyline