Thimphu is the capital of the Kingdom of Bhutan, and with a population of around 80,000 is the nation’s largest city.Although the Thimphu Valley has supported small settlements for many centuries and a dzong has existed there since 1216, the city didn’t really develop until the king declared Thimphu the new capital in 1961. Vehicles first appeared on the streets a year later, and slowly the city began to adapt to its role as the nation’s capital. Currently the town is undergoing massive development. New tree-lined streets are being laid and the clock tower area in the center of the city has been transformed into a park-cum-open air theater where live cultural performances take place. In 2008, the national stadium was completed together with a new river-side park. The area around the dzong and government buildings is a particularly green and an attractive district.Norzin Lam is the city’s main thoroughfare and is lined with hotels, shopping complexes and hotels. Thimphu has a temperate highland climate, influenced by the south-west monsoon, measuring 1.427mm on average. Winters are cold with an average January temperature of 4.9ºC (40.8 F), with night temperatures below freezing and cool days, usually above 10ºC (50 F) and fairly large diurnal temperature variation. Snowfalls may happen overnight, but accumulation does not last long. On the coldest nights temperatures can bottom -10ºC but rarely fall to -15ºC. The lowest temperature ever recorded is -21ºC (-5 F). Summers are pleasantly warm and very rainy, with an average August temperature of 20.4ºC (68.7 F). The highest temperature ever recorded is 30ºC (86 F). The best times to visit are from mid September to the end of October and from March to May.Nearly all visitors arrive via plane from Paro, currently the country’s sole International airport, a 45 minute to 1 hour drive from the capital. An International airport is nearly completed in the south central district of Gelephu and there are three domestic airport and two domestic carriers.All inter-district buses arrive and depart from the city’s bus station, located across the river from the city center. It is a six to seven hour drive (mostly through Chukha (district) from the border town of Phuentsholing. Travelers should be aware that road-widening work will take place on the highway between Phuentsholing and Thimphu until 2011. During this time, there may be significant hold ups and other inconveniences. Work on the Paro to Thimphu section was complete in 2008.Various private operators like Dhug, Meto and Sernya run Toyota Coaster services from Phuentsholing to Thimphu. These buses can seat 22 and are very comfortable. Advance reservation can be made at Phuentsholing Bus Station. COnce in Thimphu one can find various buses plying to other parts of the country.The city center is small enough to negotiate on foot. Although lacking the charm and culture associated with ancient capitals, Thimphu is well endowed with attractions.Monasteries are referred to by their Dzongkha title of lhakhang or gompa.Bhutan’s small population means demand for new and innovative goods is small. Basically, Thimphu has three kinds of stores: clothing, handicraft and hardware. Between these, there is a small assortment of stationery-cum-bookstores and supermarkets. Almost all stores stock the same goods, so if you cannot find the required items in the first couple of stores it is generally useless to persist. However, what the city lacks in variety, it adequately substitutes with friendliness. As the store keeper informs you that the goods you want are not available and cannot be ordered, you will inevitably be facing a warm and friendly smile. Haggling at tourist-oriented shops is expected, but the margin for discount is small (unless you make a bulk purchase). However, store owners are extremely honest and there is little possibility to be cheated or offered an inflated price. Be aware that most handicrafts sold in Thimphu are made in Nepal or other Himalayan areas. Exceptions are cloth items, some thankas and goods made of lemon grass oil. These are generally made in Bhutan. It is important to note that most restaurants (including those in hotels) in Thimphu stop serving food between 9PM and 9:30PM. WesternChineseThaiBhutanese/IndianTraditional BhutaneseIndianBhutan is not a place for coffee lovers as most cafes only sell the instant variety. Below is a list of places that sell the real stuff. However, only Ambient and Karma’s have professional coffee machines. The others either sell only filter coffee or use an automatic coffee machine. Thimphu has few scintillating night clubs. Once inside any of these night clubs, it’s a complete glamorous affair. The cost of the entry is quite low too (approx INR 250 each). Some clubs allow stag entry as well. The drinks inside the clubs are on a economical side too. The people inside the bar would primarily be friendly (as is the case in whole of Bhutan) However, the local youths can create problems on small or no issues and might enter into a scuffle with outsiders. If you are an Indian, you could possibly attract a lot of undesirable attention.Hotel Singye at Norzin Lam near the Traffic CircleThe area code for Thimphu is 02. When calling from overseas. dial: +975 2 XXXXXXInternet cafes in Thimphu are linked to broadband. Connections are swift, though at around 60nu per hour quite expensive.Getting things done in Thimphu is relatively straight forward. All offices are computerized and the staff are well trained and helpful. However, it is often said that Bhutan has one of the world’s highest rates of meetings and workshops per working hours. This cannot be substantiated, but certainly meetings are very much part of the civil service culture here. In fact, it is often said that the last place you should begin a search for a civil servant is at his or her desk! As a result, you should be prepared to make several visits to an office in order to get a task complete as there is a very high possibility that the person dealing with your case will be out. Buses depart the inter-district bus station (across the river) throughout the day, though most, especially those heading to the east and Jakar/Bumthang leave between 6:30 to 7:30AM. As the inter-district buses are often full, it is advisable to purchase a ticket a few days in advance. Most districts are served by small Japanese Coaster Buses, which are comfortable and sturdy. Shared taxis are a quick and comfortable means to travel to nearby places, such as Paro (150nu) and Punakha (200nu). Shared taxis depart from the inter-district bus station, and drivers approach potential customers. They depart once full. Monastic complexes are referred to by their their Bhutanese title of ‘gompa’ not ‘monastery’.
Airport: Travel to Capital City Thimphu Cities in Bhutan