Inspiring • Authentic • Tailor-Made

Inspiring • Authentic • Tailor-Made

Pettitts Travel UK 01892 515966

Dzongs of Bhutan

Author: David Pettitt

Dzongs are an integral part of Bhutan’s cultural and administrative landscape. These fortress-like structures have a history deeply rooted in defence, subsequently evolving over time to provide religious and administrative functions. Important on both a national and local level, dzongs are an integral part of everyday Bhutanese life used by all sections of society and, for visitors, form a quintessential part of a holiday to Bhutan.

Primarily built as defensive fortresses, dzongs were strategically positioned to protect against external threats. As the years went by they underwent a transformation, becoming vital centres for spiritual practice and governmental activities. The distinctive architecture, usually consisting of massive, whitewashed walls reflects the original function, whilst intricately designed wooden balconies and traditional artwork reflect the skill of the local Bhutanese craftsmen.

However, dzongs are not solely places of worship. Some house monastic communities and safeguard sacred relics, some serve as administrative hubs, hosting official meetings and dispensing justice, whilst others have become museums housing important cultural and artistic collections. This blog highlights some of Bhutan's most popular or most important dzongs, explaining their history and roles, architecture and how they can be incorporated on a tailor-made tour of Bhutan.

Punakha Dzong

One of the most important dzongs in Bhutan, occupying a particularly picturesque position at the confluence of the Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu rivers, Punakha Dzong is the setting for the Punakha Tsechu festivities. Dating to the 17th century, the dzong houses numerous chapels and temples and is unique in having three courtyards rather than the normal two.

Rinpung Dzong

Located in the Paro Valley close to the National Museum, itself formerly a dzong, Rinpung Dzong is a striking example of traditional Bhutanese architecture. Commonly known as Paro Dzong, the complex is home to monastic body, houses a number of important sacred relics and also hosts a range of religious and cultural events.

Ta Dzong

Originally a defensive watchtower, today Ta Dzong is has changed use to become the National Museum of Bhutan. Located in the Paro Valley and completed in 1656 the museum houses a range of Bhutanese art, artifacts, and manuscripts but is most famous for its collection of ancient Buddhist thangkas.

Tashichho Dzong

Located in Thimphu, the nation’s capital, Tashichho Dzong is a key fortress and main administrative centre housing the King's offices, government ministries and the central monastic body. Construction of the complex started in the mid-1600s and the dzong is also the setting for the annual Thimphu Tsechu festival.

Trongsa Dzong

Trongsa’s magnificent dzong is considered to be amongst the finest of Bhutan. Work was first started on the dzong in 1543 and was subsequently expanded over the centuries. Guarding the main route between eastern and western Bhutan, Trongsa Dzong wielded immense power and its monastic community continues to play a leading role in regional affairs.

Jakar Dzong

Known colloquially as the ‘Fortress of the White Bird’, Jakar Dzong was founded during the 16th century. With a picturesque location in the Bhutan’s central Bumthang Valley, Jakar Dzong is the main administrative and monastic centre for the region and known for its intricate woodwork and decorative painted timbers.

Mongar Dzong

A staging post on the road to Trashigang and Lhuentse, Mongar’s dzong is one of the more modern in Bhutan and is set high above the town. With its two entrances and lack of surrounding walls, the dzong’s architecture is unique for Bhutan. Mongar Dzong is responsible for administrative and religious functions in the region and is home to a monastic community of over fifty monks.

Lhuentse Dzong

Lhuentse is the ancestral home of the Bhutanese Royal family and, consequently, this remote fortress holds significant national importance. Dominating the surrounding landscape atop a rocky outcrop above near vertical cliffs, over the centuries the dzong has played a vital role in safeguarding the region and promoting Buddhism.

Trashigang Dzong

Completed in 1659 after the conquest of eastern Bhutan, Trashigang Dzong controlled the wealthy trade routes between the subcontinent and the Tibetan plateau. The administrative headquarters of the Trashigang district, the dzong is also an important monastic complex, accommodating monks and hosting religious ceremonies.

Simtokha Dzong

Simtokha, established in 1629, is the oldest dzong in Bhutan to have survived as a complete structure. Originally an important fortress that was built to guard the eastern approach to the Thimphu valley, Simtokha Dzong has long been known as a centre of learning and today houses a language institute for Dzongkha, the national language of Bhutan.

Gasa Dzong

Remote Gasa Dzong is located in the far north of Bhutan. Built in the 17th century, Gasa Dzong holds significant cultural and religious importance, houses sacred relics and is home to a body of Buddhist monks. The Gasa Tshechu festival, held annually in April, is famous for its traditional mask dances performed by both monks and laymen.

Speak to a travel expert

Speaking to one of our experienced sales consultants is the best way to begin your Bhutan holiday enquiry.

It allows us to answer any questions you may have as well as make suggestions and recommendations for your planned trip.

We are available on evenings and weekends by prior appointment so please do not hesitate to book a call in with us at a time convenient to you.

Book An Appointment

Keep In Touch With Pettitts Travel

Sign up for our weekly travel ideas by email, keeping you up to date and inspiring you with ideas, information and suggestions for your next holiday.

Sign Up

Follow Us

Contact Us

Contact Us

01892 515 966

Speak to one of our Travel Consultants (* fields are required)

I would like to receive news and special offers