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As the capital of the Royal Kingdom of Bhutan, Thimphu is a must visit for a glimpse into the city life in this quiet and serene country. Over the years, this small city has transformed into a busy, energetic and eclectic version of its former self. It is a place that has opened its arms and welcomed tourists from around the world. On any given day you can see a mix of camera-toting holiday makers walking down its humble streets alongside red-robed monks, traditionally garbed locals and the fashionably clad youth of the city. Thimphu has much to offer in terms of experiences, from modern amenities to tranquil monasteries, quaint cafes to buzzing bars, local markets and boutiques. Breathtaking views and beautiful monuments add to the charm of this place. Fortunately the commercialization in Thimphu is limited as international food and retail chains are not permitted to set up here, thereby, keeping the rich local flavours thriving.
1. Get swept up in the Festive Fervor:
If you are fortunate enough to visit Thipmhu at the time of one of the many Buddhist festivals, you are truly in for a treat. The streets are alive with festive spirit as brightly colored prayer flags usher you throughout the city.All around people wearing their best traditional clothes congregate as they make their way to the celebrations. The dance performances, with beautiful costumes that tell of legends and stories of Bhutanese culture and the monks that perform them, are a visual delight. It is truly an unforgettable and enriching cultural experience.
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2. Take in the stunning Valley View:
Thimphu is situated in a beautiful valley and there are several vantage points one can visit to take in the stunning views. One such spot is the Changkangkha Lakhang, a beautiful temple that is best visited for sunset views of the valley bathed in golden light.
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3. Gaze upon the Beautiful Buddha:
From the moment you enter Thimphu you will spot a gigantic Buddha statue set upon a mountain from various points around the city. An iconic monument, The Buddha Dordenma is one of the tallest seated Buddha statues in the world and a must visit. The temple is still under construction and upon completion will house over 100,000 smaller Buddha statues. The views from atop the mountain are an added bonus!
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4. Shop for Silks, Souvenirs & More:
The streets of Thimphu are lined with several souvenir shops and boutiques that sell silk scarves. Prayer wheels, colourful prayer flags, handcrafted Buddha idols and host of other artisan products can be purchased here. Avid stamp collectors can also visit the Thimphu post office to acquire some of Bhutan’s world famous stamps. Also a must visit is the Weekend Market that has stalls by vendors from all over Bhutan. From the freshest fruits and veggies to handcrafted trinkets, the market is a treasure trove for a keen shopper.
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5. Explore the Wilderness & Wildlife:
The Motithang Takin Preserve is the home of the national animal of Bhutan, the Takin. It is an unusual animal, usually described as having a mix of goat and moose like features. The animal is native to Bhutan and is also found in small numbers in the neighbouring countries of India and China. A chance to spot this rare species that has baffled taxonomists is an experience one can only chance upon in Thimphu!
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6. Give Archery a Shot and Hit The Bullseye:
Head to the Archery stadium and watch the keen shots of the players as they compete in the national sport. Archery is taken very seriously in the country and is deeply steeped in their culture and history. Everything from the costumes to dances that surround this sport is a treat for those of us whose idea of sports is a game of football or cricket!
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7. Experience the Sacred Spirituality:
Visit the National Memorial Chorten and feel the calm positive energy that envelopes the area. Bhutan is a deeply spiritual nation and the people of the country are a shining example of it. At the Memorial people of all ages and several visitors to the city congregate to pray and it is inevitable that you too will get swept up in the mystique and tranquility.
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8. Gobble up a bowl of Tasty Thukpa:
Thukpa, an originally Tibetan noodle soup, is popular all over this region of Asia especially in Bhutan and Nepal. There are vegetarian and non-vegetarian varieties with beef, chicken or pork. Foodies and first time visitors to Thimphu must sample a cup or bowl of this delicious hot steaming soup on a cold night. From fine dining restaurants to street side vendors, you are never very far from Thukpa in Thimphu!
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9. Discover the unique Art, Craft and Culture:
All across Bhutan you will come across stunning examples of Bhutanese art and crafts. From painted houses to intricate statues and handicrafts, Bhutanese culture is expressed in every form. Visit the National Institute of Zorig Chusum also known as "The Painting School" to see the students learn the traditional forms of art and craft which is an integral part of their religious and cultural heritage. Also must visit are the Heritage Folk Museum, Voluntary Artists Studio and the National Textile Museum.
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10. Rejoice with the Revelers, Rockers and Ravers:
If you like a little less quiet on your holiday, Thimphu has a host of fun bars and nightclubs for the party animals! The youth of Bhutan love their rock and electronic music and the hotspots in town have something for everyone from live bands to foot-thumping EDM. Party the night away or enjoy a rock concert in this Himalayan country and feel right at home as you dance to familiar tunes.
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Thimphu is a beautiful little city with a big big heart and no traveller has come away disappointed. The city in all its subtle beauty awaits you and the experience will leave you feeling enriched, rejuvenated and counting down to your next trip here!
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