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Valley of Thimphu

Thimphu is the capital city of Bhutan. Situated in the valley of Thimphu Dzongkhag stretching along the banks of the Wangchu River, it is the largest city in the country with a population of around 0.12 million.

Ranging in altitude of 2,248 meters to 2,648 meters above sea level, Thimphu is the fourth highest capital in the world.

Interestingly, Thimphu does not have International Airport and traffic light. It relies on the Paro International Airport which is about 54km away. Traffic police personnel stand at major intersections and direct movement of vehicle and people.

Thimphu contains most of the important political buildings in Bhutan, Tashi Choedzong: the seat of His Majesty the King and the Jekhenpo, Chief Abbot of Bhutan, National Assembly, Samtenling Palace, the residence of His Majesty the Fourth Kings, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, Lingkana Palce: the residence of His Majesty the King and, apex hospital: Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital.

Thimphu has become political and economic center since His Majesty the Third King, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck began to shift the capital from the ancient capital of Punakha in 1952.

Commercial hub of Thimphu

Why Thimphu was chosen for capital

1. Suitable for the round the year living

The climate of Thimphu is mild, warm and temperate. The summer season is comfortable with rains and clouds and the winter season is cool and clear. The average temperature recorded during winter varies between 5–15 °C while in summer the variation is between 15–30 °C.

2. Enough land area for population

The valley of Thimphu is flat-floored. It has enough land area for construction of houses for growing population.

3. Good water supply

Surrounded by high mountains in all directions and numerous streams flowing through, Thimphu has a good supply of drinking water. Moreover, Wangchu River runs through the Thumphu Valley.  

4. Good for drainage system

As Thimphu has a wide V-shaped valley, the surface water from rain runoff, snowmelt and nearby streams easily run downslope towards the Wangchu River.

Wangchu River flowing through the Thimphu valley

5. Falls in the center of the country   

Thimphu is not geographically located at the center of the country but it’s in position to control on movement in the highways from the north as well as from the South.

6. Tashi Choedzong

His Majesty the Third King had plan to reconstruct Tashi Choedzong in the 1960s. The new Tashi Choedzong would house the seat of His Majesty the King, Council of Ministers and the Central Monastic Body. His Majesty the 3rd King’s Palace was also build in Dechencholing in a distance of a few km above Tashi Choedzong.

7.  Closer to the Airport

Being closer to the airport was considered of great significance. Thimphu still does not have airport but Indian airstrip of Hashimara in West Bengal was the closest that time. Today, Thimphu relies on Paro Airport.

8. Nearer to Phuntsholing

Phuntsholing, a town in southern border, is the business center of Bhutan. Majority of the imports of Bhutan enter through Phuntsholing. The distance between Thimphu and Phuntsholing is around 150km. 

9. Scenic landscape

Traditional bridge across the Wangchu River

Surrounded by mountains covered with pine, and Wangchu River flowing through the valley of Thimphu make the landscape scenic.   

10. Dying wish of the Second King

Shifting of capital from Bumthang to Thimphu was a dying wish of His Majesty Jigme Wangchuck, the Second King of Bhutan. His Majesty administered the country from Bumthang during his reign.

The other reason could be the significance of the Central Monastic Body as Thimphu was their Summer Residence.

After passing away of His Majesty the Second Kind, the His Majesty the Third King moved to Paro and planned on shifting of the capital to Thimphu.

With completion of all the basic facilities, Thimphu officially became the Capital of Bhutan in 1961.

Present Thimphu

Today, Thimphu is the modern city with restaurants, cafes, nightclubs and shopping centres. However, it retains cultural identity.

Cultural landmarks

1. Changangkha Lhakhang

Changangkha Lhakhang

Changangkha Temple was founded by Phajo Drugom Zhigpo, a 13th Century Lama, who brought Drukpa Kagyu Buddhism to Bhutan. It is one of the oldest temples in Thimphu. Every child born in Thimphu Valley is believed to be protected by the deity of Changangkha Lhakang. 

2. National Memorial Choeten

Her Majesty the Queen Mother Ashi Kezang Choden Wangchuck built the National Memorial Choeten in memory of the His Majesty the Third King in 1974. Dungsey Thinley Norby envisioned the architecture. It is designed in a style of Jangchup Choeten with a pyramidal pillar crowned by a crescent moon and sun. 

3. Folk Heritage Museum

Folk Heritage Museum

The Folk Heritage Museum located in Kawa Jangsa is the oldest historical place in Bhutan. The Museum is more than 150 years old. It strives to disseminate the rich cultural heritage across generations by preserving it in different forms.     

4. Dechenphu Temple

Dechenphu Temple

Dechenphu Temple is a sacred palace of the Protector Deity Geyngyen Jagpa Melen. Phajo Drugom Zhipo’s son Dampa founded the temple and became the first chief abbot. Many Bhutanese visit the temple to receive blessing.

The foreigners are restricted to visit the temple due to some spiritual season.

5. Tashi Choedzong

Tashi Choedzong

In 1641, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal took over Dongoen Dzong and renamed it Tashi Choedzong. After the original dzong was destroyed by fire in 1772, a new dzong was built at the present site by the 16th Desi, Sonam Lhudrup.

His Majesty the Third King rebuilt the Dzong in 1962. Today, the Dzong contains offices of His Majesty the King and the Cabinet Secretariat besides serving as the summer residence of Central Monastic Body.

The original Dzong located above Tashi Choedzong, is now known as Dechen Phodrang Monastery.

6. Tango Monastery

Tango Monastery

Tango Monastery in Thimphu is the highest learning center of Drukpa Kagyu sect of Buddism in Bhutan. Located 14km towards the north, the monastery was founded by Phajo Drugom Zhigpo in the 13th Century.

7. Simtokha Dzong

Semtokha Dzong

Semtokha Dzong was built in 1629 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, who unified Bhutan. It is the first of its kind built in Bhutan. It served as the summer residence for the Central Monatic Body in several occasions, when Tashi Choedzong was destroyed by fire and earthquake.

8. Changlimithang Stadium

Changlimithang Stadium

Changlimithang Stadium is built on the site where Bhutan’s last civil war broke out in 1885. The battle established supremacy of Ugyen Wangchuck that lead to unification of Bhutan and his coronation as the first hereditary monarch of Bhutan.

Today, it is predominantly used for football matches and archery tournaments. The stadium also hosts national events and celebrations.

9. Buddha Dordenma Statue

Buddha Dordenma Statue

The 42 meter high Statue of Buddha Dordenma in Thimphu, is one of the tallest Buddha statues in the world. Funded by sponsors from Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China, the construction of the statue was completed in 2015.

The statue is dedicated to the 60th birth anniversary celebration of His Majesty the Fourth King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck.

10. Druk Wanggyel Choeten

Drung Wangyel Choeten

The Dochula Pass is a mountain pass in Thinphu on the way to Wangdi and Punakha. The pass is located at an elevation of 3,100 metres.

Her Majesty the Queen Mother, Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck built 108 stupas, known as Druk Wangyel Choeten, on the pass to honor the victory of His Majesty the Fourth King who led his small military machine against the Assamese insurgents in 2003.

Thimphu City Corporation strives to protect the fragile ecology of the Thimphu valley.

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