PROMINENT DZONGS IN BHUTAN

Daga Dzong, formerly known as Daga Trashiyangtse Dzong is a fortress in Dagana district in Southern Bhutan. Daga Dzong is one of the oldest dzongs in Bhutan.

The name Daga Dzong is derived from two sources; Darkala, which comes from the province’s guardian deity Jomo Darkala and Darkanang (The Realm of White Prayer Flags) from Dudjom Jigdrol Yeshey Dorji, a great Buddhist master. The Daga Dzong was traditionally the stronghold of the Daga Penlop, who held the rank of cabinet minister under the Desi (temporal ruler) system of government introduced by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel in 1651. The dzong was constructed in the year 1651 and is seen as a significant heritage place because of its glorious history. Druk Namgyel was commanded to build the dzong under the order of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel to defend the area from the southern states, present day Assam and West Bengal. Due to the defensive functions of the dzong, the fortress occupies a ridge overlooking the valley.

It is presently the headquarters for the Dagana district administration and monastic body. Among other sacred relics, the dzong houses a buffalo horn measuring about 4’5”. The horn is believed to have been discovered by Daga Penlop Tempa Thinley in the early 16th century.

Ever since Daga Dzong was built in 1651, no major renovation has been carried out until 2012.

Dobji Dzong is considered to be the first model Dzong in Bhutan. The other names known locally include Dokar, Dogar, or Dobdrek Dzong. The name Dogar, which means white border, is a reference to the “Five White Boulders'' in the village of Dogar. The dzong is situated in Paro at an altitude of 6,600 feet on the way to Haa in western Bhutan.



Dobji Dzong was built in 1531 by Ngawang Chogyal, the brother of Drukpa Kuenley, who is popularly known as the “Divine Madman”. Legend has it that Ngawang Chogyal has followed the spring originating below the throne of Jetsun Milarepa in Tibet. The source of the spring was found to be a rock located on the current location of Dobji Dzong, which was then chosen for its religious significance.

The mentioned spring is still visible today. However, Dobji Dzong was destroyed by a massive earthquake on September 2011. The remaining central tower was believed to have survived because of a Terma statue (the treasure statue of Guru Langdarchen).

The utse (tower) previously served as Dogar Penlop’s residential, and subsequently converted to become the central jail in 1976. It was later on converted into Jetsun Milarepa Lhakhang to propagate Drukpa Kagyu Buddhism. Dogar Dobji Dzong, according to Chencho Tshering Dorji’s PhD research article was discontinued as the central jail in 1997 after the residents expressed grievances and the dzong had suffered structural defects.

From serving as the main centre to propagate Drukpa Kagyu Buddhism to housing Dobji Penlop and later as a central jail, Dogar Dobji Dzong has transitioned with changing times

Today, the dzong houses a monastic school and religious relics such as the statue of Jetsun Milarepa, Ngawang Chogyal, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel and Dunsay Dewa Zangpo. The sacred statue of Jetsun Mila was believed to be brought from Druk Ralung in Tibet.

While historically, people feared visiting the dzong for its dark history of housing the country’s most notorious prisoners. The dzong is currently buzzing with devotees daily.

Locals also visit the place for ‘Drupchu’, the holy water that is said to have healing properties. The main holy water site is located between the hills. It takes around 15 minutes to walk to the site from Dobji Dzong.

Dobji Dzong underwent renovation in 2019.

On 12 April 2021, a landslide caused infrastructure damage to Dobji Dzong. It swept away a temporary store of Dobji Dzong along with a retention wall adjacent to its main tower. A recent earthquake and constant rainy weather are said to have triggered the landslide. The store housed masks, dresses, furniture, and kitchen utensils.

Drukgyal Dzong means ‘Fortress of the Victorious Drukpa’. Located in Phondey village, Paro district, Drukgyel Dzong was believed to have been built in 1646 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to commemorate his victory over the Tibetan invaders. Others account that it was Tenzin Drugda, the second Desi, (who was Paro Penlop at the time) who assembled it at the command of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal.

The Drukgyel Dzong structure consists of a tall central building and an adjacent courtyard surrounded by lower buildings. The fort is located on top of a hill with steep cliffs on three sides and a single entrance to ensure that it is not vulnerable to attacks. It is heavily guarded by several watchtowers situated between the entrance and foot of the hill. There also used to be tunnels providing protected passages for people to fetch water from the river below the hill but these tunnels are now sealed.



The ancient fortress served as an important defense base in the region and housed sacred documents until 1951 when it was almost completely destroyed by fire. Unlike the other ancient fortresses in the country, Drukgyel Dzong is the only dzong used for defensive purposes without any religious or administrative functions. It is one of the four principal Taa Dzong (defense fortresses). The other defense fortresses in Bhutan are Gasa Trashi Thongmon Dzong, Haa Damthang Dzong and Lingzhi Dzong.

When the invasions by Tibet finally ended, Drukgyel Dzong became an important location for the traders. Rice was the main export from Bhutan to Tibet, while salt and tea were the main goods imported from Tibet. Caravans would stop by Drukgyel Dzong before going through the Tremo La pass.

The existing ruins and original defense structure of the Drukgyel Dzong are well preserved and protected. The ancient ruins of Drukgyel Dzong is a famous archaeological site in Bhutan. This impressive structure was even featured in the National Geographic magazine in 1914. Despite the fire in 1951, the glory of Drukgyel Dzong remained until today. It is listed as a tentative site in Bhutan's Tentative List for UNESCO inclusion.

In April 2016, to celebrate the birth of the Dragon Prince, Gyalsey His Royal Highness Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck, as well as to commemorate the arrival of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel to Bhutan in 1616 AD and the birth year of Guru Rinpoche, then Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay announced that the dzong will be restored and reinstated to its former glory upon the command of His Majesty King Jigme Khesar. The announcement and ground breaking ceremony took place on 6 February 2016, a day after the Crown Prince was born.


 

 

Gasa Dzong is the administrative headquarter of Gasa district. The dzong was named after its protector Trashi Thongmon. Legend believes that Zhabdrung, who was greeted by a deity of Gasa when he made his way to Bhutan gave the name of the deity.



Gasa Dzong is located at an elevation of about 2800m. Gasa Dzong was said to have been built by Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyal in 1640s above the cave meditated by a Tibetan saint Terkhungpa. The dzong was often called Gasa Dzong, Ga means ‘blacksmith’ and sa means ‘land’. It refers to Terkungpa who was skilled in blacksmithing.

Gasa Dzong has a unique circular shape with three watchtowers at strategic points. The utse is built directly above the cave where Terkhungpa supposedly meditated. The temple of Kap-Goenm, or Kazhimai Lhakhang, lies to the left of the cave, which houses the images of Buddhas of the tree eras, the past, the present, and the future; the Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal; and Guru Rinpoche.

On a clear day, you can get stunning views of Mount Gangboom in the backdrop that enhances the beauty of Gasa Dzong.

It has a great historical, cultural and spiritual significance. Just below is the “La Tsho” which literally means ‘soul lake’. The lake is an important part of the history of Gasa Dzong. Locals believe that Gomo, the guardian of the dzong emerged from this lake in the form of a snake and bound the dzong when Tibetans attacked the dzong with firearms in the 16th century. The surrounding of the lake was developed and named Eto Meto Garden, and was inaugurated by Honourable Agriculture Minister, Dr. Pema Jamtsho on June 2, 2012 to commemorate the Coronation Day of Fourth Druk Gyalpo, Jigme Singye Wangchuck.

A contingent of the monastic body led by the Drapai Lopon (head of the lexicography division of the monastic body) visit Gasa to make the annual offerings to the deities in the last week of the 10th month of the Bhutanese calendar every year. In honor of Mahakala, gun salutations are performed on the 29th day. It is a common belief that during the time of Terkhungpa, there lived a famous Bon master in Gasa. During a competition of spiritual attainment, the Bon master proved that he could walk up the cliff with ease. Terkhungpa perhaps expressed his appreciation of this great achievement. Today, as a token of appreciation to the Bon master, a Bon priest must also participate in the ceremonial procession of the offerings to the Mahakala, wearing his full ritual attire.

Gasa Tshechu is held annually at the same time as Thimphu Tshechu. However, the first day of the tshechu is held in Phu Lhakhang, the original place of the festival.

You can visit Gasa by attempting the world’s toughest trek, Snowman Trek. This remote village in the northwest part of Bhutan is known for its indigenous inhabitants, the Layaps. The Layaps have a very distinct culture, attire and language that is different from the mainstream Bhutanese. They are easily recognised from the iconic conical hats that they wear on their heads.

There is also an annual Royal Highlander Festival celebrated in Gasa every year.

Haa Dzong, formally known as Wangchuk Lo Dzong, is one of Bhutan’s newest dzong built in 1915 to replace the small structure. Haa Dzong is situated at the eastern side of Haa in Damchoe region. It is one of the first sights that you see upon reaching Haa district. The dzong was originally built in 1895 after the appointment of the first Drungpa, Head of Sub-district. The dzong serves as a defence against Tibetan invasions given its proximity to the Tibetan borders.



Legend has it that Haa Dzong was built to hold back the evil influences of the serpent deities on the lives of the people and their livestocks. Locals believe that there are 108 serpent deities around the area. Some of the chortens (stupas) which were built to appease these deities, can still be found today.

In terms of architecture, Haa Dzong is a lot smaller in size compared to the other bigger fortresses in Bhutan. However, the design is not any less impressive. Haa Dzong was heavily damaged by a fire in 1913. Gongzim Ugyen Dorje started the building of a new one in the same year.



The dzong was built as an administrative office for the Royal Government of Bhutan, as well as the Indian Military Training Team. In 1963, Haa Dzong’s responsibility was handed over to the Indian Military for them to use as a training and coordination centre.

In order to provide the facilities for these expat officials, the Haa Dzong also took the responsibility to uphold venues like the Wangchuk Lo Dzong Military School, a military hospital and school for the children of the Indian expats. Due to these reasons, most of the festivals in Haa are celebrated in Lhakhang Karpo instead.

Jakar Yugyal Dzong, commonly known as Jakar Dzong ‘Fortress of White Bird’, is situated on a ridge above the Jakar village of Chamkhar Valley in Bumthang. The dzong played a pivotal role as a fortress of defence for the whole eastern districts. It was also the seat of the first king of Bhutan.



There are different accounts of the origin of the dzong. Some believe that the dzong was built by Lam Ngagi Wangchuk (1517 - 1554) who came to Bhutan to spread the teachings of the Drukpa Kagyupa Buddhist order. It is said that a white bird perched on where Jakar Dzong was situated. This is considered an auspicious sign. According to the oral legend, a group of Lamas and elders were considering moving a fort, which was situated, at the eastern site of the Bumthang Valley. As they were sitting down to discuss the matter, a bird, presumed to be the king of geese rose into the air and rested on a spur. The location was subsequently chosen for the present location of Jakar Dzong.

Jakar Dzong was attacked thrice by the Tibetan army. In the 17th century, the ruler of Tsang in Tibet, Phuntsho Namgyel, sent an army to destroy Zhabdrung twice. In 1679, the previously defeated chieftain of Bumthang Chokhor raised a Tibetan army and attacked the dzong. The defenders sought help from the protecting deity, Choe Chhong Chamdal Sum. The prayer was answered when the gun mounted on the sills, the legend says, aimed itself towards the enemy camp and fired by itself, killing two important Tibetan commanders. Since this victory, the dzong came to be known as Jakar Thobgyal (gyal-victory).

The third invasion happened under the reign of the 3rd Desi, Minjur Tempa. The difficult battle was only won with the additional arrival forces under Lam Ngawang Rabten. After this victory, the dzong was renamed as ’Jakar yugyal Dzong’ meaning Victorious Fortress of the White Bird. The name jakar and Yugyal were later merged to form the name Jakar Yugyal Dzong.

The two main features of Jakar Dzong is the 50 metres high Utse (central tower) attached to the main eastern wall and its well protected water supply source. The water supply source was important for the locals to access water in case of a siege in the olden days.

Like most of the other dzongs in Bhutan, Jakar Dzong houses the administration offices, a few temples and monks’ living quarters. Although the size of the dzong is relatively smaller than some, the architecture of this peaceful and quiet dzong is beautiful and great for photography.


 

Lhuentse Dzong is an ancient fortress and Buddhist monastery located in Lhuentse district, in eastern Bhutan. It lies on the eastern side of Kuri Chhu and perched on a spur at the end of a narrow valley. Lhuentse Dzong was originally a temple built on the site where Ngagi Wangchuk meditated in 1551. The temple was known as Kurtoe Lhuentse Phodrang. For many years, the Lama resided here and later on, went to Timula, where he established his summer seat.

There was also a story that Ngagi Wangchuk was meditating in Timula, and he arrived at the present location of Lhuntse Dzong, looking for a winter seat. A deity appeared before him in the form of a white bleating goat. The bleat was taken as an auspicious sign, and thus, he built the temple in 1552. The temple was named Leyley Dzong, ‘Fortress of the Goat’.

The monastery was originally established by Pema Lingpa’s son Kuenga Wanpo in 1543, although it wasn't until 1654 that the Trongsa Penlop (governor), Minjur Tenpa, built a formal dzong here after winning a battle and named it Lhuentse Rinchentse. The dzong was later restored in 1962 and again between 1972 and 1974.

The historic importance of Lhuntse Dzongkhag is on account of its established link as the ancestral home of theWangchuck Dynasty. The forefather of Wangchuck dynasty, Jigme Namgyal was born there in 1825.

Lhuentse dzong contains five temples, three of which are in the central tower and are dedicated to Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche). The dzong also contains a Gonkhang, which is dedicated to Mahakala, and a temple dedicated to other deities. The ground floor also has a temple dedicated to Avalokitesvara. The Kunre, the assembly hall for the monks, is located on the upper floor. Presently, there are around 100 monks residing there.

A legend tells about the origin of the statue of Tshepame, the most sacred artefact in Lhuentse Dzong. A fisherman who had laid his trap in a stream, possibly Kilingchu, found the image while inspecting the trap one morning. It was decided that the image be kept in Killing Lhakhang but the image behaved most strangely, construed as its refusal to stay in the Lhakhang. On more than one occasion, it is believed to have flown outside of the Lhakhang. On one occasion, it was found at a place called Nongma Chorten. An iron curtain was subsequently hung in front of the Lhakhang’s window in order to prevent the image from escaping. However, the image tore a gap in the chain and escaped. Killing Gonpo, the Lhakhang’s deity, is believed to have thrown a stone as it was escaping, which broke the centre of its crown, Rignga. A woman who was cutting grass in the paddy fields found the image. She heard the word atsa, an expression of pain and found that she had sliced the left thumb of the image. The statue then returned to dzong. Locals believe that smoke rises from the grave in the eighth month, prior to the celebrated “blessed rainy day.”

The dzong has suffered serious damage during an earthquake measuring 6.1 on the Richter magnitude scale that hit eastern Bhutan on Monday, 21 September 2009. Many other monasteries in the region also suffered serious damage.

The renovation of the dzong was completed in October 2013 and the structure returned to its former glory. It looks exactly like it has in the past. The newly renovated dzong was inaugurated on 12 April 2014 by His Majesty the King’s Representative, His Royal Highness, Gyaltshab Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. The Agriculture and Forests Minister and the members of the Parliament also attended the Rabney.

Paro Dzong is the administrative seat of Paro district. Paro Dzong, officially known as Rinpung Dzong, ‘Fortress of Heap of Jewels" was built in 1644 under the order of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. It got its name due to its large collection of treasured buildings.



Rinpung Dzong is an ancient fortress in traditional Bhutanese architecture with a complex of courtyards, temples, administration offices and open space surrounded by towering walls. All the buildings are equipped with huge windows with elaborate wooden carvings of traditional Bhutanese motifs. Paro Dzong is considered one of the finest examples of Bhutanese architecture and it’s one of the top tourist attractions in Bhutan. You can see this impressive dzong as you are landing in Paro Airport. Rinpung Dzong is easily accessible, with only a 15-minute walk from Paro town.



During the 17th and 18th century, Paro Dzong was an important bastion for the Kingdom of Bhutan against invasion from the north. At present, it houses the monastic body and government offices, and serves as the religious, military, administrative, and social centers of their district.

This magnificent Rinpung Dzong is the location for some scenes from the ‘Little Buddha’ movie directed by Bernardo Bertolucci filmed in 1993. Rinpung Dzong is also the venue for the Bhutanese religious festival, Paro Tshechu, held annually. Paro Tshechu is one of the most popular festivals in Bhutan for locals and tourists alike. The Paro Tshechu is held annually from the 9th till the 15th day of the 2nd month in the Bhutanese lunar calendar (usually in March or April). The highlight of the Tshechu is the masked dance performances in honour of Guru Rinpoche and the unfurling of thongdrol, a large Buddhist scroll depicting the Eight Manifestations of Padmasambhava, on the last day.

Check out the Paro Tshechu Festival itinerary.

Formerly named Pungtang Dechen Photrang Dzong, ‘The Palace of Bliss or Great Happiness’, Punakha Dzong was built in 1637. The location of the majestic fortress is said to have been chosen by the founder of Bhutan, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel. Punakha Dzong takes pride in being the second oldest and also the second largest dzong in Bhutan. The dzong is part of the Drukpa Lineage of the Kagyu school of Buddhism in Bhutan.

It’s magnificent structure showcases the world-class architecture of Bhutan and finest Bhutanese craftnaship. In fact, Bhutanese architecture has inspired building designs from all over the world including the architecture of an entire university campus, UTEP in Texas, United States. Punakha Dzong is truly one of the most beautiful dzongs in Bhutan and one of the most visited places by tourists.

Punakha Dzong complex
Punakha Dzong is a six-storey structure with an utse (central tower) located at an elevation of 1200 m (3900 ft). Punakha Dzong’s structures such as the doors and windows was built using rammed earth, stones and timber. The dzong measures 180 m (590 ft) in length and 72m (236 ft) wide with three docheys (courtyards), unlike the other dzongs that usually have only two courtyards. The northern yard is where all the administrative functions take place. The courtyard consists of a large white stupa and a Bodhi tree.



The third courtyard is the most important of all as it houses the main temple and national treasures. Unfortunately, you are not allowed to enter; only the two designated guardians, lama, the king and the chief abbot can access it.

Aside from that, the Nag Yul Bum Temple houses the original volume of the Kanjur, which is the golden holy book of the Drupka School of Thought.

Served as the Government’s Central Location until the Mid-1950s Punakha Dzong is deeply rooted in history and significance. For many years, Punakha Dzong served as the seat or the central location for the Government of Bhutan until the capital relocated to Thimphu in 1955.

The majestic fortress remains Punakha’s District Administrative Center housing several religious relics. The fortress also served as the venue for the notable royal wedding of the fifth king, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and Queen Jetsun Pema.

Punakha Dzong standing strong
In 1939 and 1944, the Tibetan attacked Punakha Dzong but thanks to its defenders, the attack was averted, and the fortress survived to stand the test of time. A commemorative chapel was built to house the arms seized from the Tibetans who were defeated by the Bhutanese on this spot. From 1744 to 1763, the dzong was enlarged substantially during the rule of the 13th desi, when Sherab Wangchuk was the chief abbot. The dzong suffered numerous fires between 1750 and 1849, and was severely destroyed by an earthquake in 1897.

What Makes Punakha Dzong Such a Unique Tourist Attraction?
Punakha Dzong sits at the confluence of the Mo Chhu (Female) and Pho Chhu (Male) rivers. To access the dzong, you’ll need to cross the Bazam Bridge, rebuilt in 2008 after severe floods swept away the original bridge built in the 17th century.



The ‘one hundred pillar hall’, which has exquisite murals, is a fascinating sight for tourists to admire. Inside the dzong, there are beautifully carved woodwork and colourful paintings. The dzong is also very picturesque and a great spot for photography.

Punakha Dzong was also the venue for the notable royal wedding of King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck and Queen Jetsun Pema held on 13 October 2011.

What’s the Best Time to Visit Punakha Dzong?
For the best experience, visit the spectacular fortress in May. It’s the season where gorgeous jacarandas blossom, beautifying the courtyard of Punakha Dzong.

The popular annual Punakha Tshechu festival and Punakha Drubchen is also held in Punakha Dzong, in either February or March.

Along the old road from Paro to Phuentsholing, about 5km south of Thimphu, lies the charming ancient fortress. Simtokha Dzong was built in 1629 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. Strategically built on a projecting ridge with deep gullies, the Simtokha Dzong overlooks the entire Thimphu Valley.

Officially known as Sangak Zabdhon Phodrang ‘Palace of the Profound Meaning of Secret Mantras’. Simtokha Dzong is the first dzong built in Bhutan during the 17th century which is still intact in its original state. There were dzongs in Bhutan built as early as 1153, but this was the first dzong built by the Zhabdrung, and was the first structure to incorporate both monastic and administrative facilities. It is also the oldest dzong to have survived as a complete structure. Just above the dzong is Bhutan's Institute for Language and Culture Studies.



The present site where Simtokha Dzong stands is the boundary between three western regions: Sha (Wangduephodrang), Wang (Thimphu) and Pa (Paro). The intersection was marked with three stones that belong to the people of Punakha, Thimphu, and Paro. Surrounded by these three stones was a piece of land known as Sem-tokha or Sem-dokha with a temple built on it. This temple was later gifted to Zhabdrung by Lama Panka Song. A Tibetan Lama Zhang has prophesied that Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel would build a dzong at the junction of three western lands. To fulfill the prophecy and honor the offer of Lama Panka Song, Zhabdrung decided to build the dzong.

The area was inhabited by many demons, and legend has it that the site where Zhabdrung decided to build the dzong was occupied by a demon that would harm travellers who stayed overnight. Zhabdrung visited the place and subdued the demon, banishing her into the rock on the hill where the present dzong is located. The dzong was constructed enclosing the rock, to ensure the continuing imprisonment of the demon. Hence the dzong derived its name as Simtokha, from the word sunmo (demon), do (stomach) and kha (on) - the dzong on top of the demon’s stomach. During its construction Simtokha Dzong was attacked by an alliance of Tibetans and five Bhutanese lamas from rival Buddhist schools who were opposed to the Zhabdrung's rule. The attack was repelled and the leader of the coalition, Palden Lama, was killed. In 1630 the Tibetans attacked again and took the dzong, but the Zhabdrung regained control when the main building caught fire and the roof collapsed, killing the invaders.



The fortress was restored and expanded by the third desi (secular ruler), Mingyur Tenpa, in the 1670s, and it has been enlarged and modified many times since. The fine murals inside have been restored by experts from Japan.

Simtokha Dzong is built over 65 square feet and has a single entry point. There are three-storey all connected by stone steps while the lowest exterior has prayer wheels around the courtyard and 300 slate carvings that depict Buddhist masters and saints. The primary chapel houses the statue of Sakyamuni Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama) and the images of eight Bodhisattvas adjacent on both sides. The chapel is adorned by various murals which are considered very old. The chapel to the west has the image of Chenresig, and the wives of the Tibetan King Songsten Gampo, the White and Green Taras. You can also see an old painting depicting Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal.

As you enter the dzong, there are murals of the four guardian kings – Vaishravana (north), Dhritarashtra (east), Virudhaka (south) and Virupaksha (west) – protecting the four cardinal directions, and the jewel-vomiting mongoose in the hand of the yellow King of the North. The dark murals inside this lhakhang are some of the oldest and most beautiful in Bhutan and the walls are adorned with embroidered thangkas (religious pictures).

Perched over Paro Rinpung Dzong is the Ta Dzong (watchtower) built in 1649 to protect the dzong. It was renovated in 1968 as the National Museum of Bhutan under the command of the third king, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. It’s unusual round shape resembling a conch shell makes the museum highly attractive. The Ta Dzong is located on the river bank of Mangde Chu in Paro. There is an underground passage in Ta Dzong which is believed to connect the tower to Pa Chhu river and it was used to supply water during war time.



Notably, the museum structure had been uninhabited for an extended period especially when dzong state was weak and on the verge of collapse. However, during the reign of the third king, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, the father of modern Bhutan, a complete renovation of the museum was ordered, and the structure was inhabited again. Like the other traditional structures in Bhutan, Ta Dzong was built with wood and stones without the use of a single nail. However, the Ta Dzong structure is stable and very strong as it has stood the test of time especially by surviving the 1714 and 1896 earthquakes.

Despite its sturdy foundation, the renovated parts of the tower could not stand the 2011 earthquake which had a magnitude of 6.9. The museum suffered extensive damage and about 3,000 antique artifacts had to be moved to a temporary hall in front of the main tower. Renovation of the museum began immediately after all the artifacts were relocated. The museum subsequently reopened in 2019.

Ta Dzong is the place for your induction of Bhutanese’s culture and traditions. National Museum of Bhutan houses some of the finest specimens of Bhutanese art, including masterpieces of bronze statues and paintings. The National Museum has in its possession over 3,000 Bhutanese art works, covering more than 1,500 years of Bhutan’s cultural heritage. It’s extensive collection of works makes it an ideal place for visitors to learn about the history, cultures and traditions of Bhutan.

There is also a documentary on the Bhutanese monarchy for visitors to gain deeper understanding of the revered royal family in Bhutan. The third floor is the royal gallery that showcases artefacts from the royal family. Some of the sacred items from the Wangchuck family include the First King’s robes, the Raven Crown, sword of Trongsa Penlop (governor) Jigme Namgyal, and Third King’s sword.



Other most revered treasures of the National Museum of Bhutan include a stone egg claimed to have been laid by a mule and a ritual dagger belonging to the protector Dorje Lekpa. There is also a section of stuffed animals, butterflies, handicrafts, jewelry, and textiles all from Bhutan. In the stamp section, there is an excellent display of triangular, embossed, silken, record, and 3-D stamps.

Considering that Buddhism is a widespread religion in Bhutan, this museum also houses fearsome festival masks and carvings of important teachers and saints from the region. Also, a few ancient iron links from the Tachhog iron bridge are housed in the museum.

Accessing the Museum
Access to the museum involves driving through a 4-kilometre loop into Dop Shari valley. While at the museum, one can easily access the town by walking down a path which passes through dzong. You can get excellent views of the valley and the Ugyen Pelri palace. If you are adventurous, you can also hike to the Zuri Dzong.

Ta Dzong museum is an important structure in Bhutan which houses thousands of historical artifacts. The museum stands on a landmark tower dating back to the 17th century which makes it an essential part of Bhutan's culture. Although there is no record of the initial architect of this historic tower, the impressive structure is still something to marvel at.

The Ta Dzong is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 9am to 4pm. Sunday is from 11am to 4pm. Ta Dzong is closed on Monday and some government holidays. Ta Dzong can be visited anytime within the operating hours.

Tashichho Dzong, ‘Fortress of the Glorious Religion’ or ‘Fortress of Auspicious Doctrine’, or popularly known as Thimphu Dzong, is an impressive structure that houses the throne room and offices of the king, the secretariat and the ministries of home affairs and finance. Other government offices are housed in the buildings nearby Tashichho Dzong. It’s been the seat of the Royal Government of Bhutan since 1962 after the capital moved to Thimphu from Punakha.



The dzong is located close to Thimphu town, on the right side, next to the banks of Wang Chhu River. It’s a huge majestic structure surrounded by beautiful gardens and well-kept lawns. There are thirty temples, chapels and shrines within Tashichho Dzong.

Tashichho Dzong was first constructed in 1216 A.D. by Lama Gyalwa Lhanangpa where Dechen Phodrang now stands above Thimphu. The dzong was originally known as Dho-Ngon (Blue Stone) Dzong. However, after Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal took over the dzong in 1961, he found it too small, and rebuilt another one, known as the lower dzong. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal reconsecrated and renamed the dzong to Tashichho Dzong. Most of the original dzong was destroyed by fire in 1771 and a new dzong was built at the present site by the sixteenth desi, Sonam Lhurup, and consecrated by the thirteenth Je Khenpo (chief abbot), Je Yonten Taye. The dzong was destroyed by fire and rebuilt multiple times.



The present dzong was rebuilt by the third king, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, in 1962 after the capital moved from Punakha to Thimphu. The entire architecture of the dzong was rebuilt in the traditional manner without any nails. Zopen Parpa Yodsel oversaw the overall renovation works. Only the utse (central tower), Lhakhang Sarp (new temple), and main goenkhang (protector temple) remained from the earlier dzong.



To the west of the dzong is a small tower, Ney Khang Lhakhang which houses a statue of Sakyamuni Buddha and other protective deities. In 1953, the royal family took up residence in the Dechencholing Palace, located in the north of Tashichho Dzong.

The popular annual 3-day Thimphu Tshechu festival is also held in Tashichho Dzong, in September.

Tashichho Dzong replica in Kagawa, Shikoku, Japan
You can also find a replica of the original Tashichho Dzong located in Kagawa, Shikoku in Japan. The replica is in Maragume, surrounded by the Ayauta Forest, at the edge of the New Reoma World complex. Inside, you can find Bhutanese artifacts and information about the Kingdom.

Check out the Tashichho Dzong replica in Kagawa, Japan.

Trashigang Dzong ‘The Fortress of the Auspicious Hill’ is one of the largest ancient fortresses in Bhutan. It is strategically located on the ledge of a mountain with steep cliffs on the three sides, overlooking the confluence of the Drangme Chhu and the Gamri Chhu. The fortress in eastern Bhutan was built in 1659 to defend against Tibetan invasions. Presently the dzong is used as the seat for the district monastic body and administration of Trashigang district. The present dzong was enlarged by Dzongpon Dopola in 1936.



According to legend, it is said that upon seeing the Trashigang Dzong, the invading Tibetan armies remarked that the dzong was “a Sky Dzong and not on the ground” as they retreated. It has been the political stronghold of eastern Bhutan for over 300 years.

The dzong was consecrated and named as Trashigang by Dudjom Jigdral Yeshe Dorje. After the 1962 Sino-Indian War, Bhutan allowed Indian soldiers returning home to pass through eastern Bhutan. However they were required to deposit their rifles at the armoury in the dzong, and proceed through Bhutan unarmed. The rifles lie in the dzong to this day.

Trashigang Dzong is only accessible from the north, via a narrow road, paved by blasting through the cliff-side. At the entry gate, on the left, there is a fine mani lhakhang and a slate carving of Seng Doma, a local protector who is half-male, half-female.

Trashigang Dzong suffered severe damage after the earthquake in 2009. The epicenter of the earthquake is only 16km (ten miles) away from Trashigang Dzong. Several restorations have been executed to preserve its original structure. Extensive renovations to the dzong were completed in 2019.



Inside Trashigang Dzong, there are six lhakhangs (temples). The 1st-floor goenkhang features paintings of a yeti, while another chapel is dedicated to the deity Choegi (Yama) Gyelpo, the wrathful aspect of Chenresig. He is a protector of the faith, the god of death and the king of law, who weighs up the good and evil at the end of a person's life.

Many lama dances are performed in Trashigang to appease Yama. The annual popular three-day Trashigang Tshechu is held at Trashigang Dzong in November or December.

Trashiyangtse Dzong is one of the oldest dzongs in Bhutan with a history dating back to the 9th century. It was previously known as Dongdi Dzong. Gonkar Gyal, grandson of Lhasey Tshangma, who had established himself in Tshenkharla, built Dongdi Dzong. He was invited by the people of the region in Trashiyangtse, known as Donglum, to be their leader. However, Dongdi Dzong was abandoned and fell into ruins during the Tibetans attack.

In the 15th century, the famous treasure revealer, terton, Pema Lingpa chanced upon the ruins during one of his visits and decided to rebuild it, renaming it Trashiyangtse Dzong, ‘Fortress of the Auspicious Fortune’.

In the 17th century, when the Trongsa Penlop (governor), Chogyal Minjur Tempa launched an eastern military campaign to bring the six eastern regions under Drukpa rule, the ruler of Trashiyangtse, King Jigdra, submitted to the Penlop’s request. In 1648, Minjur Tempa further renovated as well as extended the dzong.

Legend of Chuchizhey
The central tower’s main relic is a statue of Chuchizey (Avalokiteshvara), statue of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, Guru Padmasambhava, Lord Buddha and other deities.

This legend tells the story of how Chuchizhey (Avaloketeshvara or eleven-faced God of Compassion) came to be in the dzong. In the past, an old lady by the name of Shali Teng lived a few kilometers north of the dzong. She left her home every day to collect firewood. One day, she heard whispers coming from nearby a cypress tree. She ignored the sound, thinking some men were teasing her. On her way back, she heard the same noise. On closer looks, she found the statues of Chuchizhey, Jampelyang (Manjushiri) and a stupa. She asked herself, “Who has left them here?” The Chuchizhey replied, “No one brought us here, we flew from Lhasa, Tibet.”

The lady brought the statue home and she began to become richer day by day. Suspicious of her growing wealth, a local landlord peeped through her window and saw the statues and stupa. He snatched the statues and the lady reported the matter to the King. The King ordered the statues and stupa to be brought to Trashiyangtse Dzong. The statues have since remained in Trashiyangtse Dzong.

Since then, a few incidents surrounding the statues have increased locals’ beliefs. As the fame of the statue spread, a Bumthang chieftain came and grabbed the statues to be brought to his hometown. Upon arrival, the weather turned bad, the chieftain fell sick and items on the altar always appeared thrown around. The chieftain consulted the Zhabdrung who said that something new has been brought and kept on the altar. The chieftain immediately returned the statues.

In another incident, the statue went missing when an earthquake almost collapsed the entire dzong. The locals found the statues in a cave and the statue spoke: ‘I’m fine here in the cave.” The dzong also has a Dam Lung (subduing boulder), which can be seen on the wall at the main entrance of the dzong. Oral accounts state that a demon in Dongdi Chu was harming people. Terton Pema Lingpa threw a boulder at the demon and subdued it. Further in the village of Pemaling, one can still see the walls of the hermitage where Pema Lingpa meditated.

Trashiyangtse Dzong was renovated and sanctified with the sacred Rabney (consecration) ceremony in 2005 by His Holiness the Je Khenpo Trulku Jigme Choeda. Dongdi Tshechu is performed every year on the 15th and 16th days of the 8th month of the Bhutanese calendar.

Trongsa Dzong literally means ‘the fortress on the tip of a Dungkhar (conch) of the never-changing country of Druk and the everlasting Dharma’. Trongsa Dzong was built in 1647 during the time of Trongsa Penlop Chogyal Minjur Tenpa. It’s strategically located overlooking the Mangde Chhu (river).

It was the seat of power over central and eastern bhutan. This massive dzong is the largest fortress in Bhutan. You can see the sight of Trongsa Dzong long before you actually reach Trongsa. The intricacy of its buildings is clearly visible from town. Trongsa Dzong is undoubtedly one of the most impressive dzongs in Bhutan. It showcases the magnificence of Bhutanese craftsmanship and traditional Bhutanese architecture.Narrow stone stairs, alleys and corridors connect the buildings.



Trongsa Dzong is an important administrative building that provides the headquarters of the Government of Trongsa district. Trongsa is a strategic central location to control Bhutan and for centuries it was the seat of the Wangchuck dynasty. Thus, Trongsa Dzong is closely connected to the royal family. It was in this dzong that the first two Bhutanese kings ruled the country. Tradition also dictates that the crown prince serves as Trongsa penlops (governors) before acceding to the throne.

Trongsa Dzong was founded by Yingzin Ngagi Wangchuk, a descendant of Ngawang Chogyal and a revered follower of Kuenkhen Pema Karpo. In 1541, he meditated at the village of Yueli in Trongsa, a few kilometers from the present dzong. During the meditation, he saw a lighted butter lamp below the ridge at the present goenkhang, which houses the guardian deities, Palden Lhamo (Mahakali) and Yeshey Goenpo (Mahakala).

Considering the place to be sacred, he built mediation quarters. There was once during his meditation in the new quarter, the deity Palden Lhamo appeared and prophesied that this place would play an important role in spreading the teachings of Buddha. After that incident, Yingzin Ngagi Wangchuk constructed a small temple and named it Mondrupley. Over the years, his disciples built many smaller meditation centers near Mondrupley temple, which soon began to resemble a small village. The people of Yueli named this new village Trong-sar (new village).



Trongsa Dzong was severely damaged by an earthquake in 1987. Reconstruction was carried out in 1927 by the then penlop of Trongsa, Jigme Namgyal, father of Bhutan’s first king.

There is a watchtower, 25 temples dedicated to Tantric deities, a museum and a printing shop that produce religious texts within Trongsa Dzong. Most of the decoration was designed during the rule of the first king, Ugyen Wangchuck. During winter, the Trongsa rabdey (district monk body) also migrate to Trongsa Dzong from Bumthang Dzong.

The five-day Trongsa tshechu is held in the northern courtyard in December or January. It culminates in the unveiling of a thongdrol (a giant thangka - a painted or embroidered religious scroll).

Zhabdrung Ngawang namgyel was supposedly at Chimi Lhakhang in Punakha when he met a decrepit old man. He described a ridge in the present-day Wangdue Phodrng as a ‘sleeping elephant’ and told Zhabdrung that he would unite the country by building a Dzong on the ‘neck’ of the ridge. The Zhabdrung, surmising the old man to be Yeshey Gonpo (Mahakala), took his suggestion and sent forth a noble to study the area. As the emissary drew close to the area, he saw four raves circling above the ridge. Upon reaching the ridge, the birds flew in four directions. On returning to Chimi Lhakhang he made his report. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel took this as a good omen and immediately set forth in 1638 to constructa Dzong overlooking the convergence of the Dngchu and Punatshangchu.

An interesting story connects the Dzong to the old cantilever bridge that once used to span the Punatsangchu. The bridge was built after the construction of the Dzong under the direction of a famed mason called Drakpa fromRinchengang village. As a safeguard against flashfloods, a mandala dedicated to Mithugpa (Aksobya) was installed at the base of the bridge’s foundation. During the tenure of the 20th Wngzop Domchung a big flodd washed way the entire bridge, but the base where the mandala was installed was left intact.

It is said that Dzongpon Domchung organized a tsechu in which the Doley Raksha dance, famed in the region for its aesthetic intricacies, was performed to attract the river spirit who was disrupting the reconstruction of the bridge. As the spirit stayed engrossed in the festivity, Domchung, with several hundred men, sneaked down the river and completed the bridge. The spirit unleashed many floods to bring down the bridge, but the Wangzop, true to his clever character, had a worked design into the foundation pillars to withstand the force of the water.

Wangdue Dzong has 14 temples, including Kunrey (assembly hall of monks). The Goenkhang has a figure of gonpo (Mahakala) carved on a stone slab.

Zhemgang Dzong was founded by Lama Zhang Dorje Drakpa in the 12th century. Zhemgang Dzong stands on top of a ridge that rises sharply from Mangde Chhu, facing the village of Trong and Zhemgang town. Lama Zhang Dorje Drakpa, a renowned scholar-sage of Drukpa Kagyu school of Buddhism, originated from Tibet and travelled to present Zhemgang in 1163. Lama Zhang set up a hermitage on the present site of the Zhemgang Dzong and settled there for many years. In 1655 CE, a single storey dzong was built on the hermitage to defend against invaders led by Choestse Penlop.

Located in the central part of Bhutan, Zhemgang was previously called as ‘Shemgang’ and currently as ‘Kheng’ by the locals. Khenrig Namsung is the ancient name of Zhemgang. It literally means the three divisions of Kheng: Upper (Chikhor), Middle (Namkor), and Lower (Tamachok) Kheng. The dzong was built to symbolise the unification of the three Kheng divisions.

Zhemgang Dzong is dedicated to Lam Zhang. This spiritual establishment has six Lhakhangs: Goenkhang, Lamai goenkhang, Naib Lhakhang, Guru Lhankhang, Mithrub Lhakhang and Kuenrey Lhakhang. Among these six Lhakhangs, Goenkhang is considered as the most sacred one, said to be built by Lam Zhang himself.

The Naib Lhakhang is dedicated to the dzong’s deity, Dorji Rabten, who was brought the area under control and appointed to safeguard the dzong by Lam Zhang.

It is said that a powerful Khaling overlord called Lango (a mythical creature who was half human and half bull) plotted against and killed Lam Zhang, the founder of the monastery. Lam Zhang was killed in the Trong village, which is believed to be cursed to this day because of the assassination. The oldest religious structure in Zhemgang is a gold plated six-inch image of Lam Zhang in the Goenkhang that somehow managed to escape two fire incidents that destroyed the dzong and the authentic chronicles and manuscripts that had been preserved in the dzong.

Besides Zhemgang Dzong, you can visit the local villages nearby and admire the beautiful views of Zhemgang. The district is rich in biodiversity.

In 1963, when Zhemgang created a separate district, the dzong was renovated under the command of the third king, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck and renamed as Dechen Yangtse or Druk Dechen Yangtse Dzong. In the mid-1980s, the district administration headquarters was separated from the old dzong and shifted to a separate two-storey building.

The annual Zhemgang Tshechu was introduced after the inception of the Rabdey in 1966. It is held for five days, from the 7th to 11th of the 2nd Bhutanese month.

The Bhutanese equivalent of Count Dracula’s castle, the Dzong is pretty much avoided by the locals today. There is no written history of the Dzong. Oral account believes that a king named Karpo Dung who invited a famous architect from Paro by the name of Zochhen Bala to design and built the fortress commissioned the Dzong. The architect is believed to have come across a white stone, shaped like a bowl, on a mound just above the Kurichhu. He called the place Zhongkar (Zhong = bowl and Kar = White) and decided to build the fortress there.

On the way to construct the Dzong, the Tsen (cliff deity) is believed to have sent two of his deputies to kill the architect. Bala miraculously survived the encounter. On arrival, Bala took seven days to create a model of the Dzong from stems of the Artemisia (Khnpashing) plant. Bala built a magnificent Dzong. Fearing that Bala would build a better Dzong in future decided to but off Bala’s hands during the farewell ceremony. Some account believes that Bala was thrown into the Kurichu and drowned.

As he was dying, Zochen Bala made a wish that subsequent King would face the same pain as him and that his dynasty would be wiped out. He also made a wish to be reborn as an evil in the court of the Tsen of Golongfrak that would forever haunt the Dzong and adjoining area. Locals believe that Bala was reborn as a giant snake that guard the Dzong and killed King’s horses once a night.

The King sought the help of a religious master of that time, Paseling Trulku, who journeyed to the Dzong. Trulku entered into a retreat and instructed not to be disturbed. However the King, who was growing suspicious instructed his chamberlain to spy on Trulku on the sixth day. Upon finding this distrust, Trulku informed the King that the Dzong couldn’t be saved, as the snake, which the Chamberlain saw submitting to Trulku, cannot be completely subdued. The King offered the offered Trulku a hundred cows and the pastureland around the Yundhiridrang. Till today, the land is still owned by the descendant of Trulku.

Zuri Dzong is one of the ancient fortresses located in Paro, Bhutan. Considered one of the oldest dzong, this ancient fortress dates back to 1352 and is home to the valley’s local protector. Built as a fort, the five-storey building is well protected by the surrounding double walls. You need to cross a small bridge to reach the dzong.



The Zuri Dong is not an administrative centre. The fortress houses a fine collection of murals and paintings in the upper chapels dedicated to the protector Zaa (Rahulla). There is also a cave within the area where people believe Buddha meditated in the 8th century.

Apart from its ancient rich history, the dzong is also famous for its stunning panoramic view of the entire Paro valley. The hike to reach Zuri Dzong is approximately 1.5 hours from National Museum Watchtower and an hour from Uma Paro Resort. It’s a leisure hike through cypress and pine trees with beautiful views of Paro valley. If you are looking for a moderate hike, you can also hike up north from Gonsaka Lhakhang or the Paro Taa Dzong. It’s relatively easier than hiking from the National Museum Watchtower.

You can also have a beautiful view of the Paro Rinpung Dzong from the top as you hike along the Zuri Dzong trail.