We spent our first day in Paro and then next morning we started for Thimphu, which is approx 70 km (2 hours driving time). Thimpu is the capital of Bhutan and also the biggest city in Bhutan. There are some really nice places to visit in Thimpu. There are some must-see places in Thimpu and Punakha. Here is my list of places.
Places to visit in Thimpu
Iron Chain Bridge Bhutan
On the way we stopped at “Iron Chain Bridge” – This bridge was built by great Buddhist saint Thangtong Gyalpo in 1400 on Pro Chuu, he said to had built many chain bridges in Bhutan. This bridge connects to a small monastery across the river Paro Chuu but these days this bridge is closed for public use and only with the special permission.
After a brief stop here we drove to our final destination Thimpu, the capital of Bhutan. There are many small and big places in & around Thimpu but one should not miss some of these places.
It’s one of those places from where we can get a good overview of the Thimphu valley. It is a short drive from the town. This a big bronze Dordenma Buddha and towers 169ft over the hill. There is a temple inside it, there are several small statues of Buddhas.
Also known as “fortress of the glorious religion” and popularly called as Thimpu Dzong. It’s an impressive structure that houses the Bhutanese government and houses the secretariat, throne room, and offices of King of Bhutan. It was renovated by late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck in 1962.
The entire Dzong was rebuilt in traditional fashion, without nails or written plans. We went around early evening because during the day government official work here and tourist are generally not allowed.
While we were roaming around in the compound, we saw the flag lowering ceremony. Everyone cleared the compound and we stood on sides to see the ceremony, which was small but nice. Try to see the ceremony, it takes only 15 minutes and it is one of the must-see in Thimpu.
The king’s residence is also close to it and its upper part can be seen from outside the dzong.
This monastery was built in 1627 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. It houses the Institute for Language and Cultural Studies. The most interesting artistic feature of this dzong is the series of over 300 finely worked slate carvings behind the prayer wheels in the courtyard.
This stupa was built in 1974 in memory of the third king, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, who is popularly regarded as Father of modern Bhutan. There are beautiful statues and paintings inside it. Buddhist people circle around Chorten for while offering prayers.
It is housing an extensive collection of priceless Buddhist manuscripts. They have maintained it well and it is one of the pride possession of the country.
The Institute for Zorig Chusum (commonly known as the Painting School), here students undergo a 6-year training course. They teach students (Girls and boys) Bhutan’s 13 traditional arts and crafts.
It is situated near the market and place worth a visit to get to know about the national art of weaving. Here I had seen major weaving techniques, styles of local dress and textiles made by women and men. They also have a showroom, where they sell different products.
Local Market of Thimpu
It is a small market in comparison to any other countries capital but I managed to buy some interesting traditional things including local dress Kira from here. There is an amphitheater also in the market.
Takin Mini Zoo
The Takin is the national animal of Bhutan and only attraction of this place. It looks like a cross between a cow and a goat. The legend has it that Takin was created by the great Buddhist saint, Drupa Kunley and it can be found only in Bhutan or nearby areas.
While we were staying in Thimpu, we went to Punakha for a full day excursion. We started after early breakfast and our first stop was Dochula viewpoint after that we went to Punakha Dzong.
Places to see in Punakha
Dochula View Point
When we left for Punakha on the way after 45 minutes, we stopped at Dochula viewpoint. On a clear day, the Himalayan range is seen prominently more specifically Mt. Masanggang. Here in the middle of the road on slightly elevated place 108 memorial Chortens or stupas have been built by Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk, the eldest Queen Mother.
These marks the victory of King Jigme Singye Wangchuck who dislodged the rebels from their camps and also in honor of the Bhutanese soldiers who were killed in the December 2003 battle against Assamese insurgents from India. There is a monastery called the Druk Wangyal Lhakhang and it was built in honor of the fourth Druk Gyalpo.
We started for the Punakha, which is situated in relative lowlands of the Punakha valley and is winter capital of Bhutan. This Dzong is most majestic and beautiful, it is standing on an island between the confluence of the Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu rivers.
This dzong is one of the most photogenic of all Bhutan’s ancient dzongs (fortresses). The dzong is joined to the mainland by an arched wooden bridge. This dzong contains many precious relics from the days when successive kings reigned the kingdom. The Dzong also serves as the residence of the royal family when they visit. Punakha is a beautiful valley with tropical climate throughout the year.