The largest city in Bhutan with more than 100,000 residents, Thimphu first began to develop as an urban area when it was declared the capital of the Kingdom of Bhutan in 1961. The city then began a period of rapid modernisation that is still ongoing, with cars, electric street lights, national sports stadiums and WiFi appearing.
Though Thimphu lacks the grandeur of other ancient capitals, it's an intriguing blend of tradition and modernity with its cluster of intricately-carved and painted buildings. The city retains its charm through cultural idiosyncrasies such as the sight of crimson-robed monks with laptops, white-gloved police directing traffic at each street corner and phallic graffiti meant to drive away evil spirits.
Thimphu is home to many Buddhist monasteries and landmarks, as well as several good museums such as the Folk Heritage Museum and the Bhutan Textile Museum. Several parks and preserves in the city are good places to enjoy the local flora and fauna, a highlight of which is the national animal of Bhutan, the Takin.
Shopping in Thimphu is rather limited. But beautiful handmade Bhutanese souvenirs such as exquisite textiles, gold and silver jewellery and other handicrafts are available from places like the National Institute for Zorig Chusum, the weekend market in Chubachu and the souvenir shops in Yarkay Central. There are also some good restaurants in Thimphu and visitors will find plenty of Indian and Asian food alongside local Bhutanese cuisine.