Thimphu also in the past spelled as Thimpu, is world’s smallest capital and largest city of Bhutan. One of the most curious feature of Thimphu is that it is the only capital city in the world that does not have traffic lights. It is situated in western central part of Bhutan and surrounding valley is one of Bhutan's dzongkhags, the Thimphu District. City became the capital of Bhutan in 1961. As of 2005 it had a population of 79,185, with 98,676 people living in the entire Thimphu district.
Thimphu, as the political and economic center of Bhutan, has a dominant agricultural and livestock base, which contributes to 45% of the kingdom's GDP. Tourism, though a contributor to the economy, is strictly regulated, maintaining a balance between the traditional, development and modernization.
Culture of Bhutan is fully reflected in Thimphu in respect of literature, religion, customs, national dress code, monastic practices, music, dance, literature and in media. Thimphu Tsechu is an important festival when masked dances, popularly known as Chaam dances, are performed in courtyards of the Trashichhoe Dzong in Thimphu. It is a four-day festival held every year during Autumn (September/October), on dates corresponding to the Bhutanese calendar.
Initially, when Bhutan was opened up for Tourism in 1974, the Government-owned Tourism Corporation was set up in Thimphu to encourage and organise individual and group tours to destinations of cultural importance in Bhutan, concentrating on Buddhism, weaving, birds, nature and trekking and any special package. This organization was privatized in 1994 and named as Bhutan Tourism Development Corporation. The corporation also owns and manages hotels and tourist lodges at all major tourist centres in Bhutan. It has its own fleet of cars and also interpreters in several international languages to cater to tourists of various denominations.
The traditional architectural monuments in Thimphu, as in rest of Bhutan are of typical Bhutanese architecture of monasteries, dzongs (most striking fortress type structures), chortens, gateways, Lhakhangs, other sacred places and royal palaces, which are most distinctive architectural forms of Bhutan. Prayer Flags, Mani Wall and Prayer Wheels present a propitious setting throughout the urban agglomerate of Thimphu.
Trashichhoe Dzong - Most prominent landmark in Thimphu is the Trashichhoe Dzong (meaning: "Fortress of the Glorious Religion") located on west bank of Wang Chu. Imposing white washed structure, as seen now, has undergone several renovations over the centuries following fires and earthquakes.
Simtokha Dzong - Known as Sangak Zabdhon Phodrang (Palace of the Profound Meaning of Secret Mantras) is said to be the oldest surviving fortress cum monastery established in 1629 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, who unified Bhutan. It was attacked several times in 17th century but survived and was refurbished repeatedly. It is a small Dzong (only 60 metres (200 ft) square with gate on the southern direction), located about 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) to the south of Thimphu.
Tango Monastery - The word 'Tango' in Bhutanese language means "horse head". This Monastery is located to the north of Thimphu near Cheri Mountain. It was founded by Lama Gyalwa Lhanampa in 13th century and built in its present form by Tenzin Rabgye, 4th Temporal Ruler in 1688. Tango Monastery is built in the Dzong fashion and has a curved (semi-circular) outside wall and prominent main tower with recesses. It covers the caves where originally meditation and miracles were performed by saints from 12th century onwards.
Cheri Monastery - Also called Chagri Dorjeden Monastery was established in 1620 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal; first monastery established by him at a young age of 27. The monastery, which is now a major teaching and retreat centre of Southern Drukpa Kagyu order, is located at the northern end of Thimphu Valley, about 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) from the capital.
Buddha View Point (Dordenma) - The Buddha Dordenma is a bronze statue, that is constructed amidst the ruins of Kuensel Phodrang overlooking Thimphu city, about 100 metres (330 ft) above the Wang Chu river bed. It is a gigantic Shakyamuni Buddha statue. The statue houses over one lakh (one hundred thousand) smaller Buddha statues, each of which like the Buddha Dordenma itself, are made of bronze and gilded in gold. It is one of the largest Buddha rupas in the world, at a height of 51.5 metres (169 ft). The statue alone is being built at a cost of US$47 million.