10 Very Best Things To Do in Thimphu

Thimphu City

Nestled high in the mountains of west-central Bhutan, Thimphu is the country’s largest city and the national capital. It replaced Punakha as the capital of the Bhutanese Kingdom in 1961. The city boasts a tasteful blend of nature, culture, and history. From the remarkably gorgeous landscapes to the ancient monasteries and imposing monuments, there are many picturesque sights to see and things to do in Thimphu.

Bhutan, particularly Thimphu was on our travel bucket list for a long time, but we were always apprehensive thinking it is an isolated, remote region.

So, it took us much longer than usual to decide and finally plan our trip. We totally fell in love with this Himalayan country as soon as we landed there.

It is no more a remote location on the world map. There are airports, concrete roads, bridges, and good hotels yet nature is preserved in its pristine form.

If you are visiting Bhutan, make sure to spend a few days in the charming city of Thimphu. Without further ado, let’s explore the best things to do in Thimphu.

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A Quick Glance Through

Things To Do in Thimphu

1. See The Buddha Dordenma Statue

Buddha Dordenma Statue is one of the most recognizable landmarks of Thimphu.

The 169-foot Shakyamuni Buddha statue is located atop a hill in Kuenselphodrang Nature Park.

Buddha Dordenma Statue - one of best things to do in Thimphu
Buddha Dordenma | Unforgettable Things To Do in Thimphu

The construction of this monument began in 2006 and its completion in 2015 marked the 60th anniversary of fourth king Jigme Singye Wangchuck.

Statues of Buddhist deities at Buddha Point Thimphu
Female Bodhisattvas

Inside of the monument is dotted with 125,000 smaller Buddha statues measuring 8-12 inches. Each statue is made of gilded bronze.

The courtyard is adorned with elegant statues of Buddhist goddesses (Bodhisattvas).

From the hilltop, you can take in stunning views of Thimphu Valley and its peaceful surroundings.

Read this article to learn more: Buddha Dordenma – Complete Guide To Planning A Trip.

2. Visit the National Memorial Chorten

The National Memorial Chorten is a Tibetan-style stupa located right in the heart of Thimphu city.

Erected in 1974, the chorten is dedicated to the third Druk Gyalpo, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck.

He passed away at a young age and couldn’t fulfill his wish to build a chorten representing the mind of Buddha. So, this monument was built by the king’s mother in his memory.

National Memorial Chorten Thimphu
National Memorial Chorten with Mist-clad Hills in The Backdrop

The structure is aesthetically designed with golden spires and finials to mark the top.

This memorial stupa is famously known as the “most visible religious landmark in Bhutan“. It is frequented by locals as well as tourists.

If you are visiting the capital city of Bhutan, this must feature on your list of things to do in Thimphu.

Good to know: in Tibetan, chorten means stupa.

3. Hike to The Beautiful Cheri Monastery

Tucked at the northern end of Thimphu Valley, the ancient Cheri Monastery sits at an altitude of 2,800 meters.

It was established in 1620 by Ngawang Namgyal, the first Zhabdrung Rinpoche and the founder of the Bhutanese state.

Cheri Monastery - one of the interesting things to do in Thimphu
Cheri Monastery | Amazing Things To Do in Thimphu

This monastery is a major teaching center of the Southern Drukpa Lineage of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism.

From the base, it’s about an hour hike to the monastery through scenic fir and pine forests.

There is a parking lot at the base with plenty of space to park tourist vehicles.

Walk a few steps from the parking area to get to a small bridge festooned with prayer flags. The Cheri Monastery hike begins right after you cross the bridge.

Read this post to find out more about the hike: Cheri Monastery Hike – A Complete Guide.

4. Learn About Bhutan’s Traditional Art Forms

mask making at National Institute for Zorig Chusum
Mask Making in Progress

A visit to the National Institute for Zorig Chusum is one of the most interesting things to do in Thimphu.

It gives you an opportunity to discover the 13 traditional arts of Bhutan. These art forms include:

sculpturing, wood carving, traditional painting, calligraphy, paper making, bronze casting, embroidery, weaving, carpentry, masonry, bamboo and cane weaving, gold/silver smithy, and blacksmithy.

This institute was founded by the Government of Bhutan to promote the country’s traditional art and craft.

painting classroom in National Institute for Zorig Chusum
Painting Classroom

You can take a tour of the institute and see the students in action in their classrooms. Tourists are allowed to visit and take pictures during working hours.

5. Visit Pangri Zampa Monastery

Set on the west bank of the Wang Chhu River, Pangri Zampa Monastery is just 8 km north of Thimphu city. A Tibetan Lama, Ngawang Chogyal, founded it in the 16th century.

There are two temples in the monastery complex. The main temple, Pangri Zampa Lhakhang, is located on the northeast side of the complex.

Pangri Zampa Monastery - one of the best things to do in Thimphu
Pangri Zampa Monastery | Best Things To Do in Thimphu

According to folklore, this temple appeared in the dream of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (the unifier of Bhutan) bringing him from Tibet to Bhutan in 1616.

After coming to Bhutan, he built another temple next to Pangri Zampa Lhakhang and lived there. This temple is known as Zhabdrung Lhakhang.

This monastery complex also serves as the astrology college for Buddhist students.

6. Spot Takins at Motithang Takin Preserve

The 8.4-acre Motithang Takin Preserve protects the elusive takins in the natural environment.

Initially created as a zoo, it was turned into a wildlife preserve at the behest of the King of Bhutan.

The Takin is Bhutan’s national animal but a rare species. It has a strange appearance with a goat-like head and a cow-like body.

Motithang Takin Preserve
Takin Preserve | Interesting Things To Do in Thimphu

This Preserve is the only place in and around Thimphu where you can easily see a Takin.

It is located in the Motithang district of Thimphu, approximately 5 km from the main city.

7. Soak in The Gorgeous Vistas at Dochula Pass

Perched at an elevation of 3,100 meters, Dochula Pass is a scenic mountain pass that connects Thimphu to Punakha.

You can enjoy breathtaking views of the Eastern Himalayan snow-clad mountains from here.

View of The Himalayas from Dochula Pass
Captivating View of The Mountains From Dochula Pass

On a clear winter day, Bhutan’s highest peak, Mt. Gangkhar Puensum (7,570 meters) is also visible from this place.

Adding to the allure of Dochula Pass are 108 stupas, also known as Druk Wangyal Chortens.

These chortens were built to honour the Bhutanese soldiers who lost their lives fighting insurgents in 2003.

108 Chortens at Dochula Pass - one of the amazing things to do in Thimphu
108 Chortens

There is a big stupa at the top and the smaller stupas are laid out below in layers.

Dochula Pass is truly an incredible sight. And, a visit to this pass is hands down one of the best things to do in Thimphu.

Read this post to learn more about the mountain pass: Dochula Pass – How To Plan Your Visit.

8. Explore The National Library of Bhutan

The National Library of Bhutan was set up in 1967 to preserve sacred religious books and historical manuscripts.

Initially, the library was housed within Tashichho Dzong. As the collection grew, the Royal Government of Bhutan felt the need for a permanent library building.

National Library of Bhutan
National Library of Bhutan | Image: Andrea Williams

So, the present four-storeyed building was constructed and the national library was moved to its new abode in 1984.

The building has classic Bhutanese architecture with small arched windows, slanted roof, and frontage made of colourful wood.

You can stroll through different floors of the library and admire the variety of texts protected in their original state.

The National Library is located just a few meters away from the National Institute for Zorig Chusum.

Fun fact: World’s largest published book (by physical size) is kept in The National Library of Bhutan.

9. Appreciate The Bhutanese Textile Arts at The National Textile Museum

The National Textile Museum is the brainchild of Queen Mother Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuck.

It was established in 2001 to promote the country’s textile arts such as Thagzo (weaving) and Tshemazo (embroidery).

The museum displays an astonishing collection of textile artwork with a unique amalgamation of colours and patterns.

National Textile Museum - one of the interesting things to see in Thimphu
National Textile Museum Entrance

While there, you can also explore the museum’s royal collection showcasing crowns, dresses, and accessories of the Bhutanese royal family.

If you want to learn about Bhutan’s rich textile heritage, visiting this museum should be on your list of things to do in Thimphu

10. Marvel at The Historic Tashichho Dzong

Tashichho Dzong is a historic fortress and monastery situated on the western bank of the Wang Chu River.

Founded in 1216 by Lama Gyalwa Lhanapa, the dzong was destroyed and rebuilt several times. A massive fire destroyed the original structure in 1772.

Tashichho Dzong - one of the unforgettable things to do in Thimphu
Historic Tashichho Dzong | Unforgettable Things To Do in Thimphu

The present dzong was constructed in 1962 by Jigme Dorji Wangchuck (the third king) after the capital was moved from Punakha to Thimphu.

Tashichho Dzong is now the seat of the Government of Bhutan and houses the offices of the king and some ministries.

The dzong complex is impeccably well-maintained with lush lawns and gardens adding to the charm.

The interiors are equally impressive and embellished with huge murals and paintings depicting Buddhist deities.

Read our Guide to Tashichho Dzong to learn more about this attraction.

Where To Stay

In Bhutan, it is mandatory for foreign nationals except for citizens of India, Bangladesh, and Maldives to book their trips with a registered tour operator. So, it is likely that your Thimphu stay will be arranged by your tour operator.

However, tourists from India, Bangladesh, and Maldives have a choice to travel independently. And if you are planning to do so, you will need to book accommodation on your own. See below our top recommendations for each budget.


Pemako (Formerly Taj Tashi)

Pemako is the epitome of luxury in Bhutan. If your budget allows, this is the place to splurge on your Thimphu stay.

There are 66 elegantly furnished rooms with great views.

The hotel offers a range of amenities to make your stay as enjoyable as possible. It features two on-site restaurants, a tea lounge, a bar, a gym, and a full-service spa.

At the spa, you can choose from a variety of therapeutic treatments, massages, and traditional Bhutanese baths.

The property is well located to explore Thimphu’s main tourist spots. The National Textile Museum (Bhutan Textile Museum) is less than 10-minute walk from here.

Check Availability and Book A Room in Pemako.


City Hotel Thimphu

City Hotel Thimphu is an excellent place to stay close to the city center. The property has 32 spacious and well-appointed rooms.

It features a gym, a multi-cuisine restaurant, a snack bar, and a lounge to relax. Plus, you can enjoy fantastic views of Thimphu’s outdoors from the rooftop sitting area.

Check Availability and Book A Room in City Hotel Thimphu.


Hotel Gakyil

Centrally located near Thimphu’s Clock Tower, Gakyil is a great choice for budget travelers.

The hotel has 40 nice and comfortable guest rooms, decorated in a minimalistic style. Each room is furnished with TV, room heater, electric kettle, intercom, and free wifi.

There is an on-site restaurant that serves all meals as well as snacks.

Check Availability and Book A Room in Hotel Gakyil.

How To Get There

Bhutan’s only international airport in Paro is about 48 km from Thimphu.

It is served by two airlines: Drukair and Bhutan Airlines. There are direct flights from a handful of cities including Kolkata, Delhi, Kathmandu, Dhaka, Bangkok, and Singapore.

From Paro, you can take an intercity bus or hire a taxi. It takes roughly 1.5 hours to reach Thimphu by car.

Bhutan is also accessible by road from India. You can reach Bagdogra by flight and take a 4.5-hour road trip to the border town of Phuentsholing.

Get your immigration formalities done at Phuentsholing Immigration Office and head to Thimphu. A 6-hour scenic drive from Phuentsholing takes you to Thimphu.

Best Time To Visit Thimphu

The best months to visit Thimphu are during Spring (March to May) and Autumn (September to November). The weather is perfect for sightseeing and hiking.

In late September, two popular festivals, Thimphu Drubchen and Thimphu Tshechu are celebrated in Tashichho Dzong. If you want to attend these festivals, plan your trip accordingly.

June to August is the monsoon season and not a great time for walking the nature trails.

January and February are the coldest months of the year when the capital city experiences snowfall.

For those looking to avoid crowds and feel the winter charm of Thimphu, December is the most optimum month to visit.

Over To You Now…

Hope you found this guide with the best things to do in Thimphu helpful and got plenty of inspiration for your upcoming trip.

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