Spirituality meets politics! An It list of Buddhist monasteries, national museums and beautiful landmarks to check out.
*Please note: Not every landmark has a website or can be indicated by interactive maps. But they’re all famous, known by locals and drivers.
1. Tango Buddhist University
Founded in 13th century by Lama Gyalwa Lhanampa, and built in 1688 by Tenzin Rabgye, the monastery now also acts as a Drukpa Kagyu Buddhism School in Bhutan. Hike up 30 minutes to the actual monastery where you’ll be able to walk around the caves where meditations were performed since 12th century and touch the prayer wheels. Then sip on warm cups of tea and talk to lamas who teach at the school. A definitely unique experience!
2. Tashichho Dzong
Since Bhutan’s culture is deeply tied to its religion, the Bhutanese government weaves Buddhist practices and settings into governmental structures and rituals. Tashichho Dzong is a Buddhist monastery as well as the workplace for Bhutan’s civil government. This estate is a royal palace, a beautiful temple, and a government office that’s been part of the kingship since 1907 – the start of the monarchy.
This is absolutely worth a look during your stay in Thimphu because it’s a real look inside the intersection between politics and religion in Bhutan. “Dzongs” are built throughout the entire country, working similarly to a city hall in western cultures, but with temples and statues of Buddhas. Currently, Tashichho Dzong houses the throne room and offices of the king, the secretariat and the ministries of home affairs and finance.
3. National Institute of Traditional Art
Here, you’ll see an entire building of students working on various forms of art in their perspective classrooms. Travelers visit this place to gain a better understanding the process of making Buddhism art. It’s much more mathematical than one can imagine, to paint or draw the faces of a Buddhas. You’ll also see students learning ceramics, pottery, weaving and embroidery (another significant part of Bhutanese art).
4. Bhutan Textile Museum
This museum has the most incredible antique textile artefacts that you can only see in Bhutan. The museum frequently showcases exhibitions, and a popular one relates to The Royal Family. The Royal Collection displays rarely seen crowns of Bhutan’s kings, Namzas (dresses), luscious robes, hand-made silk beddings and intricate accessories worn by the Royal Family. This museum is modern and contemporary, absolutely a must-see.
5. Dochula Pass – 108 Bhutanese Stupas
The 108 stupas (chortens) will be one of the most interesting things to see in Thimphu. It is located near a highway, a bit of a drive away from Thimphu. To honor the victory of Bhutanese army during a war in Southern Bhutan in 2003, the queen, her Majesty Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk, built this monument. Over 3,000 meters above sea level, these stupas are all facing the same direction and each hold Buddhist texts inside.
Visitors typically come here on their way to other cities, because it is near a highway. The view is even more beautiful in midst of fog, which frequently happens. There’s a spot for lunch near by the stupas for refueling your energy!