Located at an altitude 2,350m, lies the charming capital of Bhutan, Thimphu. This city of 15,000 inhabitants has the rare distinction of being the only capital in the world, without any traffic lights. Thimphu became the permanent capital of Bhutan in 1952 and at that time it was just a Dzong(fortress), surrounded by a few huts. As the prayer wheels of time turned, Thimphu slowly transformed into the city of ‘today’ in the early 1970s. The buildings of Thimphu have a traditional style and that includes even the petrol pumps. This has been enforced by a royal decree to preserve the strong national character of Bhutan’s architecture.
The first must visit place in Thimphu is the Trashichhoedzong. The centre of power of Bhutan lies in the Trashichhoedzong or ‘the fortress of the auspicious religion’. The Dzong dates back to the 13th century and was then located on a spur, northeast of the present location. Subsequently after a fire in 1772 it was rebuilt at the present location, at the bottom of the valley. The Dzong has stood the test of many fires and earthquakes went on to become the seat of the government in 1969, under the third king.
The other must visit site of Thimphu, is the Memorial Chorten (Buddhist funeral monument) with its golden spires and tinkling bells, built to honour the third king who died in 1972. The memorial chorten is an excellent eye opener into the mysteries of Tantric Buddhism. The three traditional pillars of Buddhism, the Word, the Body and the Mind of Buddha are embodied in this memorial. The word of Buddha is written in gold, the body is in the form of a 1000 statues and the mind is in the form of the Chorten.
The other attractions of Thimphu are the School of Arts and Crafts, the Weekend market, the Changlimithang Stadium, and the Traditional Medicine Hospital where you can watch the preparation of traditional medicine.