With so much to offer, what to do in Thimphu is an important consideration. Arriving at this quaint capital city is like being transported into a different era. The old world charm and the tranquility of being amongst mountains are attributes that this city has maintained. However, one will be happily surprised to witness the commercial and cultural growth in Thimphu. Thimphu effortlessly combines the experience of spiritual chortens with upbeat cafes, formidable dzongs with a buzzing nightlife. If it is the best of both worlds that you crave, deep dive into the eclectic selection of Thimphu experiences that we’ve curated for you!
The peak season is between September-November during the vibrant Thimphu Dromchoe and Tsechu festivities. Read about Bhutan’s festivals here.
Spring heralds the blooming rhododendrons all over the surrounding hills and the annual procession of the monks from Punakha into Thimphu.
Be sure to spend a weekend in the city to experience the magic of its weekend markets, archery tournaments and lively nightlife.
Following are our top picks on what to do in Thimphu. We’ve included not just sightseeing, but also the experiences one truly travels for.
What To Do In Thimphu –
View from the Tango Monastery
There is no better way to see a city than to cover it by foot. And we are strong proponents of taking off without any agenda and discovering little-seen sights, a day in the lives of locals going about their business or stopping to smell the flowers on the hills. Thimphu has so many trails one can cover, missing the opportunity would be sacrilege. Put on your sneakers, switch on your google maps (or don’t) and wander about the streets of the city or better still, leave the city behind and hike up to the Tango Monastery and be rewarded with panoramic views of the entire city. If you’re wondering what to do in Thimphu, this is how to start!
Trashi Chho Dzong at night
This fortress and Monastery is perched on the northern edge of the city. The two-storied white-washed building has been the seat of the Druk Desi or the head of the Civil Government of Bhutan. A tour of this dzong is a great experience and one can see the throne room, the various offices of the government etc. It is also a sight to behold at night and looks even more formidable all lit up. For history lovers, this specially answers the question of what to do in Thimphu.
The handicrafts section at the Thimphu Weekend Market
Like we said, Thimphu is bustling during the weekends and attending the weekend market should be on every traveller’s list. Located permanently on the left bank of the Wang Chu, the market runs from Friday to Sunday. The market sells produce of all kinds, from dried fish to a variety of cheeses. The highlight is crossing over the cantilever bridge to arrive at the handicrafts section. Pick up a souvenir here and take back a part of Bhutan with you! Add this to your list of what to do in Thimphu.
The Jungshi Handmade Paper Factory
For the creative types wondering what to do in Thimphu, there’s a lot! Thimphu is the seat of handicrafts in Bhutan and if you’re not content with just buying some, you can also try your hand at some of the notable crafts of the country. Head over to the Jungshi Handmade Paper factory and learn the fascinating process of making Bhutanese paper called Deh-Sho. You can also try and learn weaving at the Royal Textile Academy of Bhutan. The Academy promotes this age-old craft while trying to empower the women skilled in it. The exhibitions here display the intricate and elaborate textiles woven for the Royal Family.
Takins at the Motithang Preserve
It is befitting to a country as eccentric as Bhutan to have a national animal that is extremely unusual. The Takin which is half-goat and half-cow, can be spotted in the preserve dedicated exclusively to their welfare. The zoo they were housed in was abolished by the King as he declared that it did not match the principles of Buddhism and all the animals were set free into the wild. However, the Takins were fairly domesticated by that time and refused to leave the city. They are now housed in the preserve that caters to their well-being and it is the best place to spot this rare mammal.
A tournament at the Changlimithang Stadium
Weekends are the most lively time to be in Thimphu and mean weekend markets, a festive atmosphere and loads of archery tournaments. The locals consider archery more than a sport and the camaraderie they share over it is what makes attending such an event truly exciting. Take a spot at a stadium with a glass of beer. Cheer on the locals as they use traditional or new age equipment to aim at unbelievable distances. The Olympics have got nothing on these tournaments. Attend one to know what we mean.
Don’t be surprised to see contemporary cafes in Thimphu. The smell of freshly roasted coffee in the crisp and fresh air of this town will be more memorable than just rushing through the day, taking in sights. Visit the Ambient Cafe, full of expats working away or read a book at the Junction Bookstore Cafe. Coffee Culture, Art Cafe, Karma’s Cafe are great options too. Bet you didn’t think this would make it to the list of what to do in Thimphu!
The picture perfect Changangkha Lhakhang
Perched atop a ridge, Thimphu’s oldest temple has tremendous significance to its people. Parents bring their new-borns here to seek blessings. The temple is simple and almost poignantly so. There is no grandeur or stately aesthetics, but the sounds of the pilgrims’ chants and the holiness of the place make this a must-visit in Thimphu. Do not leave without going to the kora (pilgrims’ path) in the back, with its ornate black and gold prayer wheels. Go here preferable during sunset and take in the magnificent views of the sun going down on the valley from this vantage point.
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Rajesh & Gauri Natu
Graphic Designer, Apple
Sunil, after I ran 21k Marathon I bragged about it for years. The same is being repeated again, with my ambition to drive across the Himalayas, which was almost faded with Srinagar under curfew. You and Chetan were the spark to our fire that we could do this drive and without a single trouble. Driving is a passion but driving thru places where there are no roads is trouble, but your breakup of program and awesome car condition helped us actually sail thru. Three cheers and five stars.
Absolute Networks, Mumbai
Wow. wow, wow. What a experience! We took the route of Delhi - Jammu - Srinagar - Leh - Sarchu - Manali - Delhi. Sunil Kapoor gave us excellent service which includes his next to new 4WD in immaculate condition and all hotels were top class. Coming from Australia, we were bit nervous in start but when we met Sunil, we had full trust and all went very positive. Sunil gave us perfect instructions and everything was according to plan. Thank you Sunil and your team for our one of the best experience in life you have provided us.
Director, Webential, Australia
Eight of us from Sri Lanka got Sunil to arrange a self driven tour to Leh and we are very happy with our decision. He was punctual, trustworthy and met our expectations. The service provided was very professional. As foreigners it’s hard to arrange such a tour by ourselves and Unwind outdoor filled in the gap perfectly. All places we stayed were nice and decent. Should specifically mention about the two Scorpios which we instantly fell in love with. They were very well maintained ...
Friends from SriLanka
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The itinerary was so crisp and so very well laid out that there was no reason for us to worry other than coping up with nature’s fury.
Clifford Chance, Delhi
We did a SUV self drive trip from Chandigarh to Ladakh and back organized by Unwind Outdoor.
Highly recommend Unwind Outdoor as Sunil and Manpreet took care of everything we needed (car, hotel bookings, sightseeing and food recommendations, permits) and everything was organized seamlessly. Sunil was very patient with all our queries, giving suggestions and options to suit our preferences.
Ashish & Neha Thadani
Great to see the know-how of the Unwind Outdoor team regarding every aspect of the Srinagar - Leh - Chandigarh self drive trip. From weather conditions, to road conditions, to health/clothing requirements, and also driving instructions - Sunil and Manpreet are warm, meticulous and knowledgable. Villa Himalaya in Sonamarg surpassed all our expectations and ensured that our expected standards for the rest of the trip were extremely high.
Symbiosis Law School, Mumbai
Thanks Sunil for arranging a wonderful trip. Everything went well and we were in good hands with friendly and competent drivers. Accommodation was good and tents were comfortable beyond our expectations. We didn't have problem with food choices. It was a totally rejuvenating vacation and experience for us. Thanks from us in Singapore!
We had an amazing 9-day from Manali to Leh. Serene, breathless and picturesque. High altitude sickness was a big issue for us but we were in good hands.
Unwind Outdoor was superb in arranging and coordinating the trip. Taking care of all arrangements and checking-in on us. Kudos to Sunil and his team.
Assistant Director, Jurong Town Corporation, Singapore
We travelled as a couple & completed a self drive trip from Delhi-Jammu-Srinagar-Kargil-Leh-Nubra-Pangong-Tso Moriri-Sarchu-Manali-Delhi. Itinerary was meticulously designed to be a mix of adventure and comfort. Hotel choices were best. Support was available at all points in case of emergency.Vehicle provided was top notch. Thanks to Mr. Sunil Kapoor for personally putting in efforts to maintain such high standards.
Nikhil & Neha Mazumdar
Manager L&T, Mumbai
Six of us (two families) travelled to Leh in Jul / Aug 2015 and we had an excellent experience with Unwind Outdoor. From the very beginning of our excited planning phase, Sunil has been willingly suggesting us options, number of days, places to visit etc. He has all the knowledge of the terrain, passionate about trekking and traveling himself, so he understands travel-crazy people such as me and my quirks.
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Barclays Bank, Bangalore