We made our way to Trongsa after stopping by at the colorful festival in Wangdue. The town of Trongsa is smacked right in the middle of Bhutan and is one of the most historic towns in the country. Although the distance between Wangdue and Trrongsa is only 76 miles/123 km, our journey took almost seven hours long (including rest stops). You see, the road trip in the countryside of Bhutan is never straightforward and is not for the faint of heart.

The narrow road hugs the mountain with a steep drop on one side. It goes up and down, with up to about 20 dizzying hairpin turns per mile and it can also be a bumpy ride. Most of the roads were paved in the 1960’s and are now ridden with potholes.  (The public buses in Bhutan are aptly called “Vomit Comet!” Go figure.) That said, don’t forget to pack your Dramamine if you’re visiting Bhutan.) But once you can get used to the shake and sway, the sceneries along the way are truly spectacular to behold.

Evergreen forest on the Road to Trongsa, BhutanWe stopped to stretch our legs in a lush evergreen forest with small waterfalls. The air here was so crisp and easily eased queasy stomachs. 

Pele Pass to Trongsa, BhutanThe route traversed through Black Mountain and we stopped at its highest point, the Pele Pass (11,220 ft/3,420 m).  Like all high mountain passes in Bhutan, it is marked with a stupa and colorful prayer flags, which are meant to bestow blessings to anyone passing by.

Drawing on the rock wall on the road to Trongsa, BhutanWe passed by exotic murals on roadside rock walls. They were left here after being used for the filming of 2002 Bhutanese movie Travellers and Magician.

Driver Tsangay, Lingkor Tours and Trek, BhutanThis is Tsagay, our driver whose amazing driving skill kept us safe on the road.  During our lunch stop, we noticed that he rolled down his gho and written on his undershirt was “Fakebook!” We thought it was hilarious. 

Chendebji Chorten near Trongsa, BhutanWe stopped by to visit Chendebji Chorten located on a river confluence. It reminded us of the Swayambhunath Stupa in Kathmandu and we learned that it was actually the model for this chorten. It was built in 18th century by a lama to cover the remain of an evil spirit that was subdued in this spot. 

Waterfall on the road to Trongsa, BhutanThis beautiful waterfall was our last rest stop before reaching Trongsa.

Villages in Trongsa, BhutanAs we approached Trongsa, we were in awe of the beautiful setting of the mountain villages that were perched on the mountain slopes.

Trongsa Dzong (Fortress), BhutanAnd as we entered Trongsa, we finally caught sight of its magnificent Dzong (fortress) dramatically situated on a ridge overlooking a gorge. A Dzong is the administrative and monastic center of each district in Bhutan. The Punakha Dzong maybe the most beautiful fortress in Bhutan, but the Trongsa Dzong in the largest and has the most spectacular location.

Trongsa Dzong (Fortress), Bhutan

Trongsa Dzong (Fortress), BhutanWe visited the Dzong early the next day. It was impressive upclose as it was from afar.

The Trongsa Dzong was the ancestral home of Bhutan’s royal family.  The Wangchuk Dynasty ruled the district of Trongsa before it ruled over the whole country in 1907. The first two kings ruled from this Dzong. Today, the tradition remains that the crown prince serve as a penlop (governor) of Trongsa before ascending the throne.

Trongza Dzong (Fortress), BhutanThe stragetic location of Trongsa gave the Dzong great control of the east-west trade and derived signifcant tax revenue from it. The only road connecting eastern and western Bhutan still leads through Trongsa and used to passed through the ground of the Dzong. The Trongsa penlop had the power to divide the country by commanding the closure of the gate.

Trongsa Dzong (Fortress), BhutanThe rich history of Trongsa Dzong goes back from the 16tth century when a holy man built a temple on the site after discovering a self-manifesting hoof-prints of a horse belonging to Bhutan’s protective deity Palden Lhamo. The dzong was built in its current form in the 17th century.

Trongsa Dzong CourtyardsThe Dzong is a massive complex consisting of several levels and maze of corridors, alleyways and courtyards.  It is constructed out of stone or pounded mud and accentuated with impressive woodworks.

What is amazing about the architecture of all Dzongs is that no nails are used in their construction. No architectural plans are prepared either. They solely rely on mental concept of the design.

Doors at Trongsa Dzong, BhutanWe were fascinated by the traditional designs of the doorways throughout the complex.

Trongza Dzong (Fortress), Bhutan

Standing by one of the huge door with traditional Buddhist insignia.

Administrative Section in Trongsa Dzong, Bhutan

Some of the administrative offices.

The Dzong is divided into two sections: the administrative section containing the government offices and the monastic section containing monks’ quarters and about 25 temples.

Trongsa Dzong (Fortress), Bhutan

One of the courtyards in the monastic section.

Trongza Dzong (Fortress), Bhutan

The monks’ quarter.  About 500 monks reside here.

A Monk in Trongsa Dzong (Fortress), Bhutan.

A monk standing by the prayers wheels in front of a temple.

Monk in Trongsa Dzong (Fortress), Bhutan

A monk crossing a courtyard.

The Wheel of Life, Trongsa Dzong, BhutanOur guide Leki was showing us the diagram of the “Wheel of Life” in front of one of the temples. It represents the Buddhist view of the cycle of birth, death and rebirth.

-Monk and Cat, Trongsa Dzong, BhutanWe were fascinated by this sight of this monk brushing a kitten. The kitten ran away but the monk caught up with it and continued to brush it. We learned that he was trying to remove all the lice from the kitten. Such a typical display of Buddhist compassion.

Monk in Trongsa Dzong (Fortress), BhutanThe monk then went to wash his hands in the” sink with a view”. 

View from Trongza Dzong (Fortress), Bhutan

The spectacular view of the river and valley from one of the Dzong’s window.

Trongza Dzong (Fortress), BhutanThe sign in the Dzong’s ground that affirms the town’s commitment to environmental preservation.

Giant tree in the ground of Trongza Dzong (Fortress), BhutanHugging an old and huge Banyan tree in the Dzong’s ground. 

A house in the Town of Trongsa, BhutanWe visited the pleasant and quiant town of Trongsa. Its few streets were lined with tradtional three-story whitewashed homes surrounded with potted plants.

General Shop, Trongsa, BhutanThe streets were lined with charming shops.

Hotel and Restaurant in Trongsa, BhutanThe town also has a cluster of restaurants and small hotels that cater to locals who break their long journey as they travel from east to west or vice versa.

Laundromat, Trongsa, BhutanFancy finding a laudrymat in town!

Little Boy and Chili Pepper, Trongsa, BhutanA boy half-lying on a bench next to drying red hot chili peppers. The red chili peppers are used as main ingredients in ema datsi, the Bhutanese national dish and daily staple.

Little girl in Trongsa, Bhutan.jpgA lovely daughter of a shop owner showing us her toy.

We enjoyed our visit in Trongsa. We were captivated by its beautiful setting, its magnificent Dzong, its charming town and people, and its fascinating myths and legends. It was worth the long ride.


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Linking to Travel Photo ThursdayOh, the Places I’ve Been and Travel Photo Discovery.

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Taking you on our journey one photo - and footstep - at a time.

39 responses to “Trongsa, The Center of Bhutan

  1. As I made my way through your post I kept on finding more and more “favourite” photos. Some of which were the monk carrying cardboard box, sink with a view, amazing hugest every Banyan tree, and the windows with the pretty painted frames – I could go on :)
    budget jan recently posted..Cambodia – Slow travel and Unfinished BusinessMy Profile

    • Marisol

      Hi Jan, thanks! Glad to know you enjoyed a lot of photos.

      • Nur weil Sie sich Dinge “nicht von&lelters#8221; können heißt das nicht, dass es diese Dinge nicht gibt. Die eigene Vorstellung ist der Bruchteil der Realität, die in einen Kopf passt. Nicht umgekehrt. (Stellen Sie sich doch mal ein paar Milliarden Wassermoleküle vor. Einzeln, wie sie in ein paar Kubikmillimeter Wasser rumtanzen)

  2. Agness

    These photos bring back so many great memories from Lhasa, thank you so much for that. This post has simply made my day. I’ve never heard of Trongsa, but it looks like a very mysterious, spiritual and religious place – a great mixture of all. It’s amazing how colorful this place is surrounded by praying flags.
    Agness recently posted..Miso Hungry: How To Eat Well In Japan Without Going BrokeMy Profile

    • Marisol

      Hi Agness, my pleasure! Glad the post made your day. A lot of people who travel to Bhutan don’t make it as far as Trongsa and Bumthang in the central region as they are farther and they don’t want to pay for extra travel days, but we do highly recommend visiting the area. It’s so rich in culture and nature and the experience of worth the extra daily tariff.
      Marisol recently posted..Trongsa, The Center of BhutanMy Profile

  3. Marcia

    I’m impressed that they use no nails or architectural plans. They could teach us a lot.
    Thanks for the tour, Marisol & Keith. Because of you, I’ve put Bhutan on my list.
    Marcia recently posted..Gingerbread Houses, JamaicaMy Profile

    • Marisol

      HI Marcia, if you see the immensity of this fortresses and how sturdy they are you’d be more impressed with its unique construction. We can definitely learn a lot from them. I’m glad you put Bhutan on your list. I truly hope you make it there soon.
      Marisol recently posted..Trongsa, The Center of BhutanMy Profile

  4. Cindy

    Friends just told us that Bhutan needs to be numbers 1, 2 and 3 on our travel to-do list and your posts on the country have supported that assertion. Wow. What a beautiful place.
    Cindy recently posted..Marrakech’s Magical Majorelle in MoroccoMy Profile

    • Marisol

      Hi Cindy, your friends are right and I’m glad we’re able to justify their claim. Bhutan really deserves to be on the top of the list of any travel and culture lovers.

  5. Mike

    This is kind of corny but I first heard of and saw a prayer wheel in the movie “The Golden Child”. That waterfall picture is absolutely spectacular, Marisol! I was staring at Tsagay’s shirt for about 30 seconds (prior to even reading the text below the picture) saying to myself, “Hey, Facebook! No wait….does that say…Fakebook?!” That is so funny! Loved this post :)
    Mike recently posted..$200 Giveaway To Celebrate Our One Year Blog Anniversary!My Profile

    • Marisol

      Hi Mike, not corny at all! Movies are great learning tools after all:) Ha! Ha! It’s great you picked up on Tsagay’s shirt right away.
      Marisol recently posted..Trongsa, The Center of BhutanMy Profile

  6. I love clicking on your link because the destination you take me to is always a fun, thrilling surprise. This one is no exception. You two have hit the right combination of fun, travel, exploration and excitement in this blog — I love my visits here!!
    Jackie Smith recently posted..That Unforgettable Taste of TahitiMy Profile

    • Marisol

      Hi Jackie, I’m so pleased that you enjoyed your visits here. Such a compliment coming from a very seasoned traveler and blogger like you:)

  7. I get carsick easily, but this looks like it may be worth all the queasiness. So much of the architecture reminds me of Tibet. I’ve heard of other places built without nails, but this is the first I’ve heard of not using building plans. Impressive! I also really like that monk brushing the kitten. How compassionate.
    Michele {Malaysian Meanders} recently posted..Snapshots from Singapore Changi AirportMy Profile

    • Marisol

      Hi Michelle, two of our fellow travelers had really bad motion sickness but they said that they wouldn’t miss this experience for the world. Their construction technique was truly impressive. You would appreciate it more if you see the immensity and grandeur of this structure in person.

  8. Another fabulous journey. Bhutan is on my wish list so I have added Trongsa to the list of places to see. The mountain setting reminds me a lot of Darjeeling. Imagine waking up to that stunning view every day!
    jenny@atasteoftravel recently posted..Eating in London’s East EndMy Profile

    • Marisol

      Hi Jenny, we woke up to the view of the Dzong and the surrounding gorges. It was magical. We really recommend a visit to Trongsa and Bumthang. A lot of people miss this area because they don’t wan’t to spend on extra daily tarriff but they’re really worth it.

  9. Linda

    Now this looks like a place I would very much like to explore. I love the color and texture you have shown in your photos.

    • Marisol

      Hi Linda, thanks! Glad you enjoyed the photos. I’m sure you will love exploring Bhutan.

  10. I am in love with South Asia, and Bhutan is a high-priority place on my To-Do-Go List. Your photos, Marisol, made me wanting to go even more :) this is your best recent photo series. Monk brushing a kitten photo is very sentimental. “Fakebook” idea is awesome. A slow shutter in a waterfall picture is perfect! I am crazy about Street Portrait Photography. So I find the portrait of a girl (last photo) as very powerful. So much one can see in her eyes.
    memographer recently posted..Pretty Face of Minsk, BelarusMy Profile

    • Marisol

      Hi Alex, to visit Bhutan is to fall in love I really hope you can visit it soon. You and your cameral will have a feast on the endless photo opportunities. I’m glad you enjoyed this photo series. Such a compliment coming from a photog like you.
      Marisol recently posted..Trongsa, The Center of BhutanMy Profile

  11. I can’t get over just how beautiful and interesting Bhutan is. That long ride and any car sickness is definitely worth seeing such glorious scenery and architecture. Love all these pictures. Your photos of kids always make me smile but for this post, that monk brushing the kitten was so heartwarming. That is a lot of monks in those quarters! Who wouldn’t want to visit or even stay at a place emphasizing harmony with nature. Have a great weekend to both of you!
    Mary {The World Is A Book} recently posted..Exploring Linderhof Palace ParkMy Profile

    • Marisol

      Hi Mary, The long ride was so really really worth it. I’m glad you enjoyed the photos. We still can’t over the memory of that monk brushing the kitten. It was a priceless sight. You have a good weekend, too!

  12. From Iceland to Bhutan! what a contrast! I love every minute of the travels you share with us – virtual travel at it’s best – you take us to places that I can only dream of visiting. Thank you! I love your pics of town life – real life – my favourite is the little boy laying on the bench with the drying chillies.
    Happy travels, and thank you for stopping by my blog this week.

    • Marisol

      Hi Jill, thank you! I’m so pleased that we take you to a “virtual travel at its best.” This makes all the blogging effort truly worthwhile for us.

  13. Leigh

    What a picturesque journey from start to finish but so slow going. Wonder if you could bike it in the same time you could drive it. I love the shot of the flexible child near the chili peppers. My back hurts looking at him.
    Your photos as always are wonderful and they make me want to push Bhutan even higher up on my wish list.
    Leigh recently posted..A Day Hike in Arizona’s Superstition MountainsMy Profile

    • Marisol

      Hi Leigh, if you’re a very strong biker you can probably bike it. But I’d be a scared to do it myself. Parts of the road were treacherous, with very steep inclines. Glad you enjoyed the photos. Bhutan deserve to be high up on you list!

    • Marisol

      Hi Rajesh, It truly is a beautiful place. It’s easy to travel there from India.

  14. wow what a gorgeous tour, I would love to visit this some day…the doors and portals are really quite amazing, I love all the detailed work and artistry. thanks for sharing Marisol!
    noel morata recently posted..Sunrise in Hawaii, Travel Photo Mondays #28My Profile

    • Marisol

      Hi Noel, my pleasure. You should see the details and artistry in person, they’re truly awe inspiring. I hope you and your camera make it there soon.

    • Marisol

      Thanks Maria! I wish with all my heart that you see it for yourself someday:)

  15. I have loved looking at these photos, Marisol! Your pictures always make me feel like I’m right there with you, and also make me immediately want to follow in your footsteps. Bhutan is somewhere we’d love to visit one day (got to build up that travel fund once more), but these make me think fondly of our time in Nepal (though even more pristine!) as it’s the closest I’ve been. Thanks so much for bringing us along with you!
    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted..Marvelous, Magnificent MuluMy Profile

    • Marisol

      Hi Steph, our pleasure. I really hope that you and Tony make it there sometime soon. If you love your time in Nepal, you will love Bhutan even more.

  16. All is beautiful: the landscape, the culture, the history, etc! really! the river and valley wonderful!

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