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Places to visit in Thimphu - The Bhutan Odyssey

Bhutan! We are always short of words to describe this paradise. The kingdom has an authentic charm. It is traditional, ethnic and spiritual all at the same time. It's full of monumental buildings, temples, monasteries, fortresses, valleys, rivers, hills, mountains, and loving people. Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan is one such valley surrounded by hills on all sides. It is a charming small city, modern while preserving its heritage, culture and traditional way of living. In this 3rd article of the series 'The Bhutan Odyssey', we will take you through the city of Thimphu with recommendations on places to visit and things to do.

Flag of Bhutan brought down at the end of the day at Tashichho Dzong, Thimphu
Flag of Bhutan brought down at the end of the day at Tashichho Dzong, Thimphu
 

This blog is the third blog in the series 'The Bhutan Odyssey'. Our previous two blogs - 'Introduction to Bhutan and why you should visit it' and 'Plan your own trip to Bhutan' will help you understand the climate, geography, main sightseeing attractions, people and culture of Bhutan. Our subsequent articles will help you traverse various other interesting towns and villages to visit in Bhutan.

3. Places to visit in Thimphu (This article)

 
Thimphu city during the night. Did you know Thimphu city does not have any traffic lights_The Bhutan Odyssey_Places to visit in Thimphu
Thimphu city during the night. Did you know Thimphu city does not have any traffic lights_The Bhutan Odyssey

Places to Visit in Thimphu:

1. Buddha Dordenma Statue, Thimphu

As we entered and roamed around Thimphu, we saw a big golden statue of Buddha sitting atop a hill from almost any part of the city. It is also probably one the most iconic image from Bhutan apart from Tiger's Nest at Paro that is widely published through the world. This statue of Shakyamuni Buddha is the largest sitting Buddha statue in the world.

Buddha Dordenma Statue towering above Thimphu city, the capital of Bhutan
Buddha Dordenma Statue towering above Thimphu city, the capital of Bhutan

Nestled in the 100-acre forested Kuenselphodrang Park, the Buddha Dordenma statue is the most amazing attraction of Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan. The short drive to Buddha Dordenma statue will take you 300 feet above the city of Thimphu on a hilltop. The statue is about 169 feet tall and sits on a lotus above a meditation hall. It is made of bronze and is gold-coated which symbolises indestructibility. The right hand of Buddha in the statue rests on his right knee and there's an offering bowl in his left hand. It will seem that the Buddha is looking right at you with a calm and composed look. His smile radiates compassion.

Face of Lord Buddha in Buddha Dordenma statue as seen from down the stairs - Thimphu_The Bhutan Odyssey_Places to visit in Thimphu
Face of Lord Buddha in Buddha Dordenma statue as seen from down the stairs - Thimphu_The Bhutan Odyssey_Places to visit in Thimphu

The meditation hall beneath the statue has an entrance from the right side. Inside this, there are yet another 1,25,000 smaller Buddha statues also made of bronze and gold-coated. Out of these, 1,00,000 statues are 8-inch tall and 25,000 are 12-inch tall. Each of these statues is filled with sacred relics and mantras. The life story of Lord Buddha and his 12 main life events, from birth to enlightenment to death, is painted on the inside walls of the meditation hall. Huge thangkas (Tibetan Buddhist paintings) and mandalas (symbolic circular diagram) are painted on the ceiling. The meditation hall also contains a statue of four-faced Vairochana Buddha. Photography is prohibited inside the meditation hall. The huge statue is surrounded by various beautiful statues of 'Dakinis', female messengers of Buddhism.

Beautiful statues of 'Dakinis', female messengers of Buddhism around Buddha Dordenma in Thimphu, Bhutan
Beautiful statues of 'Dakinis', female messengers of Buddhism around Buddha Dordenma in Thimphu, Bhutan

It took 10 years to completely build the statue of Buddha Dordenma and some parts of it are still under construction. It is said that Yogi Sonam Zangpo predicted long ago that such a statue will be built in this area of Bhutan to bestow peace, happiness, and blessings to the whole world. Even Guru Padmasambhava, who is referred to as the second Buddha, also forecasted the erection of such a statue.

The statue of Buddha Dordenma, Thimphu valley, Bhutan_The Bhutan Odyssey_Places to visit in Thimphu
The statue of Buddha Dordenma, Thimphu valley, Bhutan_The Bhutan Odyssey_Places to visit in Thimphu

Indeed, Buddha Dordenma can be counted as the most instagrammable place to visit in Thimphu. The site is best visited early in the morning or in the evening. However note that in the evening, the sun would go behind the statue making it challenging to get good clear pictures. You can spot it even during the night from Thimphu city as its face is illuminated during the night time. The site offers a wonderful panoramic view of Thimphu and is a place where we could spend hours admiring the beautiful landscapes with moving clouds.

The view of Thimphu valley and surrounding mountains as seen from the top of the hill from Buddha Dordenma statue- Thimphu_The Bhutan Odyssey_Places to visit in Thimphu
The view of Thimphu valley and surrounding mountains as seen from the top of the hill from Buddha Dordenma statue

2. Bhutan Postal Museum, Thimphu

A visit to Bhutan Postal Museum in Thimphu city should be a part of everyone's Bhutan itinerary. Why? Because here you can get your own photo printed on the Bhutanese stamps and send a postcard with those personalised stamps to your loved ones. You can send them your favourite picture or get one clicked right there and then to get it printed on the stamp. The site also sells souvenirs and various colourful and beautiful postcards with pictures of Bhutan and its cultural heritage that you can buy and send them to your family and friends back home. You get to write messages on the postcards in the old letter-writing style and put your postcard in the red coloured letterbox. Exciting, isn't it?

The personalised postal stamps that one can get printed at The Bhutan Postal Office, Thimphu_The Bhutan Odyssey_Places to visit in Thimphu
The personalised postal stamps that one can get printed at The Bhutan Postal Office, Thimphu_The Bhutan Odyssey_Places to visit in Thimphu

In the same compound is a museum that showcases the postal history of Bhutan and its evolution. The museum is operated by the Bhutan Postal department.


Charge for the personalised stamp - Nu 500 for 12 stamps (you cannot get less than 12 stamps). We got 12 stamps of one of our group photo printed, distributed amongst ourselves and wrote a postcard to each of our friends and family. So remember to jot down the address of all your loved ones before visiting the Bhutan Postal Museum.

Charge for the postcard - Nu 20 per postcard

Museum entry charge - Nu 150 per person for international visitors, Nu 100 per person for SAARC country visitors and Nu 50 per person for local Bhutanese visitors.

Visiting hours: 9 AM to 5 PM in the summer season, 9 AM to 4 PM in the winter season and 9 AM to 1 PM on Saturdays. The postal office and museum are closed during Sundays and public holidays. However, the good thing is it is open at the time of Thimphu tsechu.