Trongsa: The vanguard of the warriors

Located in central Bhutan, Trongsa holds an important place in Bhutan’s political history. Owing to its strategic location, Trongsa was the main power center for centuries. The only trade route between eastern and western Bhutan passed through Trongsa, running directly through the dzong, which gave Trongsa Penlop (governor) immense power and control over trade and tax revenue. After hereditary Monarchy was introduced in Bhutan in 1907, the first two Kings ruled from Trongsa. Traditionally, the crown prince is appointed as Trongsa Penlop before acceding to the golden throne. 

Trongsa town – a cluster of buildings built chock-o-block, is located on a steep slope, flanked by the Ta Dzong (Watch Tower) on a ridge above the East-West National Highway, overlooking the commanding Trongsa Dzong (fortress). The national highway runs right through the town.

Festival Highlights

Yeshey Goenpoi Drupchen, Festival of Mahakala

This festival, dedicated to the dominant male protective deity of Bhutan, Yeshey Goenpo (Mahakala), is performed every year at Trongsa Dzong. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel first introduced the festival in the 17th century to celebrate the victory over Tibetan invasions.

TRONGSA TSHECHU, Festival of Mask Dances

One of the oldest mask dance festivals in the country, the five-day Tshechu is held in the northern courtyard of Trongsa Dzong during the month of December or January. Known for its spectacular mask dances, the Tshechu draws thousands of spectators from around the district. The Tshechu concludes with the unveiling of Thongdrol (giant appliques).

CLIMATE

The climate is mild and generally warm and temperate.

BEST TIME TO TRAVEL

Spring, Autumn, Winter

CLOSEST AIRPORT

Bathpalathang Airport (Domestic Airport)

DISTANCE FROM THIMPHU

5 hr 2 min (189.7 km) via Thimphu-Trongsa Highway

PLACES TO SEE

Trongsa Dzong

Built in 1648, the massive Chokhor Rabten Tse Dzong is located on a mountain spur, steeply rising from the base of the roaring Mangdechhu (river). The Dzong is arguably the most spectacular work of traditional Bhutanese engineering and architecture in the country. The Dzong comprises a maze of buildings, corridors and alleys, and stone-paved courtyards. The Dzong boasts 25 lhakhangs (temples) in total. For many centuries, the Dzong served as the seat of the powerful Trongsa Penlop and later the Kings of Bhutan.

Trongsa Dzong
Ta Dzong - The Royal Heritage Museum

Perched on a ridge overlooking Trongsa Dzong, Ta Dzong served as a watch tower, guarding the Dzong from external invasions. Chogyal Minjur Tempa, the first Governor of Trongsa, built the Ta Dzong in 1652. It has four observation points resembling Tiger, Lion, Garuda, and Dragon. The Ta Dzong was converted into The Royal Heritage Museum in 2008. Ancient decorative arts and artifacts, thangkas (scrolls), sculptures, arms and armors, ritual objects, and masks among others are exhibited at the Museum. The Ta Dzong also houses a shrine dedicated to the epic hero, King Gesar of Ling.

Kuenga Rabten Palace

The historic Kuenga Rabten Palace is located some 23 kilometer south of Trongsa town. Built on a gentle slope, facing the Black Mountain range, Kuenga Rabten Palace served as the winter residence of second King of Bhutan. As the tradition was, the Royal Family and the entire retinue would travel to Kuenga Rabten Palace from Bumthang during the winter months. Built as a three-storeyed traditional building, a gallery runs around the courtyard on three sides, and the tall main building is located on the fourth side as two protruding aisles.

Kuenga Rabten Palace

THINGS TO DO

Mangde Foot Trail

If you love hiking, take the ancient trail leading to Trongsa Dzong. The two-hour hike will take you through broad-leaf vegetation and the historic ‘Thoma Drak’ cliff before reaching the traditional cantilever bridge over the raging Mangde Chhu. From here, the trail ascends till the western gate of the magnificent Trongsa Dzong.

Picnic Lunch at Chendebji Chorten

Chendebji Chorten, located below the highway en route to Trongsa, is patterned on Swayambhunath Stupa in Kathmandu, Nepal with eyes painted at the four cardinal points. It was built in the 18th century by Lama Zhida to cover the remains of an evil spirit that was subdued at this spot. Legend says that the evil spirit manifested as a gigantic snake. This is an ideal location for picnic lunch.

Chendebji Chorten
Visit Nabji Lhakhang

Nabji Lhakhang (temple) is located in Nabji village on the southern flanks of Trongsa. The temple houses a stone pillar where rival kings – Sindhu Raja of Bumthang and Gyap Naoche of Assam, imprinted their handprints as an agreement not to fight anymore in presence of Guru Rinpoche in the 8th century. Tashi Chedron, the daughter of King Sindhu Raja, built this one-storeyed temple after she became the consort of Guru Rinpoche.

Birding

The sub-tropical forest between Trongsa and adjacent Zhemgang district is one of the birding hotspots in the country. This stretch is known for beautiful Nuthatch and the Rufous-necked Hornbill. Both the birds are globally threatened species.

Rufous-necked Hornbill