Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan, is an intoxicating blend of the modern and traditional. You’ll notice the enigma of Bhutan’s contrasts most evidently here: crimson-robed monks sharing pavement space with technology-conscious teens. Amidst Buddhist sights and traditionally dressed locals, travellers can soak up the charming exuberance of the city’s cafes, restaurants, nightclubs and markets. There are no traffic lights in Thimphu, so grab the opportunity to pose with the city’s policemen who stand in decorative booths and direct traffic using hand signals.
Get your hiking boots on for the climb up to this famous monastery, located about three hours trek from Thimphu. Home to over 80 monks, as well as sacred Buddhist artefacts and relics, Phajoding consists of 10 temples and a sprinkling of meditation houses. Just be mindful not to disturb the peace and tranquillity at this spiritual haven as you amble along the centuries-old structures.
This gem is one of the most important religious structures in Thimphu and really gives a sense of how Buddhism blends itself in the city’s fabric. Built in 1974 to honour the third Dragon King, many Bhutanese come to this chorten of elaborate mandalas and intricate sculptures to chant and pray for good fortune.
Take in the sights, smells and sounds at Bhutan’s largest weekend market. Shop for traditional textiles, handicrafts and fresh produce as you sample local fare — including the flavourful yak milk butter drink.
Legend has it that in the 15th century, a Tibetan saint known as “The Divine Madman” devoured a cow and a goat, then regurgitated the head of the goat and the body of the cow to create the dong gyem tsey, or takin. For its magical and religious provenance, the takin was declared the national animal of Bhutan in 2005, and here is where you can see them graze.