The capital of the country is located at an altitude of almost 2500 m above sea level, in a beautiful wooded valley that stretches along the Thimphu-Chhu (Wang-Chu) River. Its population does not exceed 50 thousand people. Thimphu is perhaps the most unusual capital in the world and one of the most ancient capitals on the planet (although the modern city is no more than half a century old). This is the only capital of the planet without traffic lights, and one of the few in which there are absolutely no ultra-modern buildings made of glass and concrete. Thimphu’s entire architecture is built on the centuries-old traditions of local architects, awash with brightly decorated facades and towering spiers, giving the city a charming medieval flavor. There is an unprecedented law in force here, according to which even newly built buildings must be created using the forms and motifs of traditional Bhutanese architecture. See Countryvv for labor market in Bhutan.
Dominating the horizon, on a hill above the city, stands the imposing Trashi-Cho-Dzong (“Fortress of the Blessed Religion”, XIX-XX centuries) – the symbol and pride of the capital. This vast monastery, which previously played an important role in the defense and cultural life of the capital, now hosts the palace of the Supreme Lama and the royal residence on its territory. In the immediate vicinity lie the Chorten National Memorial (1974, dedicated to the third king of Bhutan, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, the father of the current ruler), the School of Traditional Painting or the National Institute of Zorig-Chusum (1997), as well as the National Library with its extensive collection of ancient manuscripts, considered the best collection of religious and historical literature in the Himalayas. National Institute of Traditional Medicine, south of Trashi-Cho-Dzong.
Also in the capital you can find the Royal School of Art, the National Textile Museum, the Thangka Art School and many other cultural institutions. And the picturesque streets of the city deserve attention in themselves – here you can wander for hours between low buildings, each of which is not like the next one and most often carefully decorated with traditional motifs. And between the houses are small gardens and tiny parks. Thimphu has a factory that makes traditional paper from plant fibers, and the colorful stamps the kingdom is famous for can be bought at Thimphu General Post Office. Throughout the city, which is generally quite small, you can find many shops selling local handicrafts and textiles.
In the very center of Thimphu, on the banks of the Wang Chu River, a vast and colorful market spreads every weekend. Most of the population of the capital gathers here, and the market itself is not so much a place of trade as the main source of information, gossip and the center of public life. Close to the market area is the Changlimithang National Stadium, the main venue for the national sport of archery. Moreover, each competition is accompanied by the obligatory participation of teams in folk clothes and interesting rituals. Thimphu also has the only golf course in the country.
Just 12 km from the capital is the majestic Phajoding Monastery (XIII century), from the observation deck of which offers a beautiful view of the capital and its surroundings, the small monastery of Sulukha Dzong and the green forests of the foothills. Cheri Monastery, located almost on the outskirts of the capital, is famous for its colorful architecture, and a beautiful panorama also opens from the slopes of the nearby Sangai Gang hill. 8 km south of Thimphu, on the crest of a mountain range, is the Simtokha Dzong Monastery (1627 – the oldest fortress and the oldest dzong in the country), which houses the Royal Theological Academy. Also around the capital you can find such interesting objects as the Sangyagang Tower, a mini-zoo in Motithang (there is only one species of animal here – takin).
The city of Paro is the air gate of the country (7 km from the city is the only international airport of Bhutan) and the center of the vast and fertile Paro Valley, widely known for its landscapes, colorful villages and an abundance of historical buildings, from numerous monasteries to many whimsically decorated with carvings houses. The Paro Valley is one of the most populated areas in the country, as well as the center of the western part of the country, inhabited by peoples of Nepalese origin.
The main attraction of Paro is the unique monastery of Taksang-Lahang-Dzong (“Tiger’s Lair”), lying on the top of a cliff, at an altitude of 900 m above the valley floor. Founded by Guru Rimpoche (VIII century) on the site of the cave in which Padmasambhava meditated, today it is one of the main Buddhist shrines of the country. Here are concentrated 8 separate temples, a waterfall (the wives of Padmasambhava bathed in it while he was meditating), several monastic huts, and above the monastery, on the slopes of the mountain, there were many more monasteries and a cult place – a children’s “cemetery” (the ritual of a child’s burial here is so different from European norms that this place can be called a cemetery relatively). In April 1998, a fire almost completely destroyed the main building of the monastery, but it will be restored to its original form.
Also noteworthy in Paro is the Bhutan National Museum Ta-Dzog, located in an ancient tower (1651-1656), the dilapidated fortified monastery of Druk-Yul-Dzong (Drugyel-Dzong – “fortress of victory”, XVIII century), the palace of the Queen Mother, large monasteries Paro-Dzong or Rinchen-Pung-Dzong (“Fortress on the mountain of jewels”), Zari-Dzong and others. In the mountains above Paro there are many small monasteries and chortens – Satsam Chorten, Rinpung Dzong, Jele Dzong, Kuychu Lhakhang and Dungtse Lhakhang, as well as Chelila Nunnery. And the majestic panorama of mountain ranges above the city is crowned by the snow cap of the sacred mountain Chomolgari (7400 m, climbing is prohibited).