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Thimphu presents itself as the modern face of Bhutan, but modern is a relative term in this remote Himalayan kingdom. Locals in embroidered robes paint the streets in vivid shades of color, and the sound of chanting and temple bells rings out across the mountains. As capital cities go, this is no bustling metropolis — only 80,000 people live in these winding streets — but what Thimphu lacks in size, it makes up for in character. Bhutan's splendid isolation — and its cautious approach to tourism — have preserved a pristine Buddhist culture that is vanishing from other parts of the Himalaya. Here, Buddhist symbols are etched into the ...

Thimphu presents itself as the modern face of Bhutan, but modern is a relative term in this remote Himalayan kingdom. Locals in embroidered robes paint the streets in vivid shades of color, and the sound of chanting and temple bells rings out across the mountains. As capital cities go, this is no bustling metropolis — only 80,000 people live in these winding streets — but what Thimphu lacks in size, it makes up for in character. Bhutan's splendid isolation — and its cautious approach to tourism — have preserved a pristine Buddhist culture that is vanishing from other parts of the Himalaya. Here, Buddhist symbols are etched into the architecture and monks file through the streets to Thimphu's mighty dzong (fortress monastery), whose white-washed walls and stepped roof mirror the peaks beyond. Visiting Thimphu — and indeed Bhutan — is only possible on an organized tour, for a daily fee of $200, but this includes meals, accommodation, local transportation, guides and all entry fees. All tours are custom-made, so you could spend your days exploring Thimphu, or set off for wild adventures trekking, climbing or rafting in the Himalaya. To truly be transported to another plane, come here in October for Thimphu's animated Tsechu and Drupchen festivals.

Joe Bindloss
About the Expert

Joe Bindloss has written more than 30 guidebooks for Lonely Planet, Time Out and other publishers, with a focus on Southeast Asia, the Indian Subcontinent and island nations.

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Joe Bindloss for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: West Central Bhutan, Dzongkhag Valley
  • Language: Dzongkha, also Sharchopkha, Nepali and English
  • Currency: Bhutan Ngultrum
  • Research: Thimphu | Wikitravel

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    February to May and September to November. Come in October for Thimpu's biggest festivals.