Spend the day sightseeing in Thimphu. In the morning, visit the National Library and the Institute of Zorig Chusum. Stop off at the Textile Museum and 'Simply Bhutan', an eye-opening living museum that showcases traditional life in Bhutan. After lunch, visit the King's Memorial Chorten, Buddha Point and the Handicrafts Emporium. End the tour with a visit to the local crafts bazaar. The rest of the evening is free to rest or explore. Overnight in Thimphu.
Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner
Thimphu is the capital of Bhutan and its governmental, religious and commercial centre. It is nestled in the Wang Chuu river valley and is abundant in natural splendour, wildlife and culture. Thimphu is a very unique city with an unusual mixture of modern developments alongside ancient traditions. With a population of about 100,000 people, it is perhaps the world’s only capital city without traffic lights. In fact, there are no traffic lights in the whole of the country. Here, policemen stand in decorated pavilions in the main intersections and direct traffic using hand gestures in a conscious effort to save their culture from modern influences. Every building is still decorated with Dzong-style features and Buddhism influences every part of daily life. There is a variety of cafes, bars, nightclubs and restaurants, and Thimphu is one of the few places in Bhutan to have ATM machines. Altitude: 2,320m.
The National Library houses the largest published book in the world. Called 'Bhutan: A Visual Odyssey Across the Last Himalayan Kingdom', it weights over 60kg and is 1.52m high and 2.13m wide. Its pages are turned only once per month. The library itself was opened in 1967 to collect and preserve ancient Dzongha and Tibetan texts. Some of the most significant document are well-labeled in English and there is even a coulourful shrine inside the building.
The Institute for Zorig Chusum, commonly known as the Painting School, offers 4- and 6- year courses where students can learn the 13 traditional Bhutanese arts and crafts. Students start with woodwork, stonework and carving, then progress onto painting, sculpting, casting, wood-turning, blacksmith-y, ornament-making, bamboo work, paper-making, tailoring and weaving. Depending on the time you visit, you may even see some of the students selling their work outside and be astounded by their skills.
The King's Memorial Chorten is commonly called the 'most visible religious landmark in Bhutan'. It is continuously circled by people in clockwise direction who murmur mantras and spin large red prayer wheels, as is custom in all Bhutanese religious structures. This landmark was constructed in honor of Bhutan's third king, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuk ('the father of modern Bhutan'). Completed in 1974 after his untimely death, the monument is dedicated to world peace and prosperity, as well as a memorial to the king.
The Buddha Point (Kuensel Phodrang) is located on a hill in Kuenselphodrang Nature Park, overlooking the southern entrance to Thimphu Valley. Sitting atop the hill is one of the largest Buddha statues in the world, standing at a height of 51.5 metres and made of bronze, gilded in gold and studded with semi-precious stones. 100,000 smaller Buddha statues are hidden within the body, while 25,000 sit along the walls of the meditation halls inside the statue's throne. The creation of the statue symbolises the fulfillment of the Buddhist prophecy to bestow blessings and emanate universal peace and happiness to the world.