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Semtokha Dzong

The Simtokha Dzong is one of the most beautiful tourist attractions in Bhutan, and gets that beauty both by its inspiring architecture and its impressive location. It stands grandly on a projecting ride, overlooking the entire Thimphu valley spread out below.

This elegant structure was built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, who is renowned for having built some of the most fabulous looking dzongs (a type of fortress architecture found mainly in Bhutan which serves several purposes, from monks’ accommodations to administrative offices). After having won certain territories in Western Bhutan, he looked to defend himself against both internal and external enemies. To achieve that purpose, he began building several dzongs, of which this is one.

It is widely believed that a famous Tibetan Lama (teacher of Dharma in Tibetan Buddhism), Lama Zhang, had predicted that a dzong would be constructed by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel at the intersection of three western regions. Sure enough, that prophecy came true and today, and today, this beautiful dzong acts as the boundary to three western regions, Sha (wangduephodrang), Wng (Thimphu) and Pa (Paro).

There is also a famous mythology surrounding this fortress. It is believed that this area was home to many demons. The place where the dzong was to come up, was inhabited by a demon who harmed passers by. However, Zhabdrung defeated the demon and banished her into a rock on the hills where the dzong stands today. It was decided that to imprison the demon eternally, the rock should be enclosed, and that was what was done.

Visiting this dzong today can be an informative and delightful experience. This impressive fortress houses the Lama’s chamber, enemy dzong (which is a chamber used to store weapons), storeroom and monastic school. If you look above about 500 meters, your eyes catch the sight of the ruins of Simtokha DzongTa Dzong (watch tower). The left side of the fortress is marked by Chu Dzong (water fortress), which functions as a prayer hall for students today. To the front of the Simtokha Dzong, on the right, is a crematorium.