Motithang Takin Preserve
The national animal of Bhutan, and it is worthwhile taking the time to see these oddball mammals at the the Motithang Takin Preserve, a large fenced enclosure that was originally established as a zoo. But when the King of Bhutan declared it was improper for Buddhist country to keep animals in such confinement, the big beasts were set free. Yet they didn’t wander far. The best time to see them is early morning, when they gather near the fence to feed.
Changangkha Lhakhang, perched atop a promontory with sweeping views of Thimphu Valley, hums with pilgrim activity since its construction some 800 years ago. It was established in the 12th century on a site chosen by Lama Phajo Drukgom Shigpo, who came from Ralung in Tibet. Parents traditionally come here to get auspicious names for their newborns or blessings for their young children from the protector deity Tamdrin. Children are blessed by a phurba (ritual dagger) and given a sacred thread.
National Textile Museum in Thimphu
National Textile Museum in Thimphu is the place to learn about Bhutan's living national art of thagzo (weaving). The weaving techniques you’ll glimpse here bear on everything from the simple gho and kira robes that are the national dress for men and women including the wedding clothes worn by the fourth king and his four wives, to the giant thondroel (appliqué tapestries) that are unfurled at the holiest of the annual religious festivals. The museum shop offers some interesting books and fine textiles. No photography.
Statue of Buddha Dordenma
The gigantic 51m-tall steel statue of Buddha Dordenma is located atop a hill in Kuenselphodrang Nature Park, overlooking the southern entrance to Thimphu Valley. The massive three-storey base houses over a hundred thousand smaller Buddha statues, each of which, like the main statue itself are made of bronze and gilded in gold. The Buddha looks best in morning light, or at night when it is illuminated.
National Library of Thimphu
The National Library was established in 1967 within the central tower of Tashichodzong to preserve ancient Dzongkha and Tibetan texts. Later it moved to a building in the Changangkha Lhakhang. To provide a permanent home for the sacred religious books and manuscripts in the growing collection, construction of the present four-storeyed and eight-cornered traditional building, was initiated and was inaugurated in 1984. Today, the building is also a vibrant example of traditional Bhutanese architecture.
National Institute of Traditional Medicine
Visit the National Institute of Traditional Medicine in Thimphu, established in 1978 to preserve the healing traditions of Bhutan – which, until now, have only been transmitted orally. The institute also collects medicinal plants from remote corners of the Bhutanese Himalaya, such as Lingzhi, Laya and Lunana, and then distributes pills, tablets, ointments and medicinal teas to regional health-care units around the country. The small museum details some of the 300 herbs, minerals and animal parts that Bhutanese doctors have to choose from.
Folk Heritage Museum
This restored three-storey, rammed-earth and timber building replicates a traditional farmhouse and is furnished as it would have been about a century ago to provide visitors and tourists with fascinating insights into the Bhutanese material culture and way of life. Details that jump out include the antique noodle press, the leopardskin bags and Brokpa yak-hair 'spider' hats. The restaurant here serves good Bhutanese meals.
National Institute for Zorig Chusum
This institute, charged with preserving and promoting traditional aesthetics, and contributing to the country’s economy through production of high quality arts and crafts, operates four- to six-year courses that provide instruction in Bhutan's 13 traditional arts. Students specialize in painting (furniture, thangkas – painted religious pictures, usually on canvas), woodcarving (masks, statues, bowls), embroidery (hangings, boots, clothes) or statue-making (clay).
Royal Botanical Garden
Opened in 1999, the Royal Botanical Garden offers an excellent look into Bhutan's varied flora, which might be of interest to horticultural enthusiasts. The garden has a weedy collection of approximately 369 species of orchid, indigenous to the various micro-climates of this tiny Himalayan country, and which bloom at various times throughout the year. It's a favourite weekend picnic spot of Thimphu residents. It is here where the visitors can find one of the largest rhododendron collections in the world, as well as beautiful assemblages of various trees, bamboo, and medicinal plants, derivatives of which are used in roofing, paints, furniture-making, dyes and incense.