Trongsa is a linguistically diverse district. In the north and east, inhabitants speak Bhumthangka while Khengka is spoken in the extreme southeast region. Nyenkha is spoken in the western half of the district. Lakha speakers live along and across the northern border. And in the extreme south, the national language of Dzongkha is spoken.
Most of the districts in Trongsa are environmentally protected. Biological corridors also occupy substantial portions of the southeast and northeast.
Top Places to Visit in Trongsa
Trongsa Dzong is the largest and one of the most majestic dzongs in Bhutan and is a magnificent structure located on a ridge that overlooks the Mangde Chhu River. To its south, it drops sharply into clouds and mist. There are two ways to reach this Dzong- Mangdue foot trail, which is a steep climb towards the Eastern gate, and the other is a more leisurely walk to the Western entrance.
Trongsa Tshechu is also held on the Dzong grounds. What is interesting to note is that the only trail from Eastern to Western Bhutan runs through Trongsa and used to directly run through the Dzong itself.
A word of caution: Tourists are expected to dress respectably and modestly while visiting temples and other religious institutions. Shoulders must also be covered inside religious establishments. Since shoes are to be removed before entering a religious building, it is advisable to wear socks. Photography may also not be allowed at all places. It is advisable to ask the authorities beforehand.
Legend of Trongsa Dzong
Its rich history is traced to the founding of a temple in the area by the Drukpa lama, Ngagi Wangchuk, ancestor of Shabdrung Namgyal, who came to this place from Ralung in 1541 and built a small meditation room in 1543. One day he had been meditating nearby in a village called Yuling and witnessed a light from a body of lamps at the furthest point. He believed this to be an auspicious sign and erected a temple on the spot, on a mountain spur high above the gorges of the Mangde Chhu, at an altitude of 2,200 m.
Another version for building a temple here is that Ngagi Wangchuk saw self-manifest hoof prints of a horse that belonged to the protector deity Palden Lhamu. He then decided to build a small meditation centre, a tshamkhang, at that location.
One more version of the legend states that Ngagi Wangchuk, after witnessing the lights from lamps, went into a cave nearby for meditation where he found a small spring. He had a vision that the spring had been used by Palden Lhamu and built a small temple, which has now become the main temple Gunkhang. He also developed it into a small village with several houses and the place thus came to be known as drongsar ("new village") and popularly known in the local dialect as “Trongsa.”
A 5-day festival known as the Trongsa Tshechu is held in the northern courtyard of the temple during December or January. Every monastery in Bhutan observes this festival, which celebrates the arrival of Guru Rimpoche to Bhutan in the 8th century, a mark of triumph of Buddhism over evil. It is held in spring and autumn seasons according to the Bhutanese calendar, and masked dances are a popular feature along with the exposition of very large paintings on the cloth of Guru Rimpoche and other figures called the thongdrel. A fire blessing in the form of people running through "an archway of blazing straw" is also witnessed.
Jigme Singye Wangchuk National Park
A perfect example of serenity in nature, Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park is one of the country’s largest national parks area-wise. Located in Trongsa and occupying parts of other districts such as Wangdue Phodrang also, it is a popular bird watching spot in Bhutan.
Spring season is the best time to visit Jigme Singye Wangchuk National Park, as the flowers and greenery are in full bloom, and a lot of animals can be spotted during this time. All seasons, except for monsoon, are fairly good to visit the national park. In winters, many migratory birds visit here and are a good sight to watch. However, due to extreme weather, it isn’t really a good time to visit.
The Jigme Singye Wangchuk National Park covers areas of both the Trongsa and Wangdue Phodrang District. It can be reached easily from Trongsa. It is also connected to the Royal Manas National Park through a biological corridor.
Chendebji Chorten is located on a beautiful gorge and is a stop on the way from Thimphu to Trongsa. It is believed to be located where the three ridges and the three edges of the sky meet. It is an important site for religious practices and bears resemblance to the Bouddhanath stupa in the Kathmandu Valley of Nepal. There is also a prayer wall beside it. The chorten attracts a lot of tourists during the Sambha Lhundrup Molam Chenmo festival. It is also popular as a tourist spot with a restaurant that has opened nearby.
Thruepang Palace is situated just a little ahead of the Trongsa Dzong near the local vegetable market. This palace was built by the second King Jigme Wangchuck and is the birthplace of the third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. It is not very grand and resembles a large house with a courtyard. This courtyard has a number of traditional houses that were used by the entourage of the king when he used to come to stay. It is symbolic of the lifestyle led by the monarchs who used to change valleys as per the season. The palace also contains valuable traditional paintings and is still used by the present king to reside in when he travels through Trongsa. It is advisable to follow appropriate clothing etiquette while visiting the Palace.
Mangdue Foot Trail
The Mangdue Foot Trail is a wonderful option for nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts. It is a trail that begins from the Viewpoint Restaurant and goes through the forest of pine and rhododendrons and ends at the western gate of the Trongsa Dzong. The entire trek covers a distance of about 14 km and should approximately take 2.5 hours to complete.
Kuenga Rabten Palace
Kuenga Rabten Palace is situated around 23 km from Trongsa, and it takes about an hour to reach by car. Along the drive, you can see many beautiful fields and villages. This palace served as the winter home of the second king but is now used by the National Commission for Cultural Affairs. It has excellent woodwork, crafts, and paintings and also contains statues of Guru Rinpoche and Shakyamuni. There are also very good paintings of the 35 Buddhas of Compassion and Guru Rinpoches paradise Zangdopelri. A part of it is also used as a library. A further 20-minute hike from the palace is the Karma Drubdey Nunnery, where you can visit the hostel, dining hall, and main shrine. It is advisable to follow appropriate clothing etiquette.
Be a part of the legend
Bhutan’s valleys may look dull for people who are habituated to an urban lifestyle, but if you ever come to Bhutan and have loads of time to spare, be sure to check out these ancient dzongs and landmarks.
While staying somewhere and eating the local food and wearing traditional clothes is just a fraction of the place’s culture, being one with their history—culturally and spiritually—is something that you will always cherish throughout your life.
How to reach Trongsa
Air: The closest airport is Paro Airport. From Paro, you can take a cab to Trongsa.
Bus: From Gelephu in Southern Bhutan, Dungkar Transport plies buses to Trongsa on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 7:00 (arrival time is roughly 17:30). From the border town of Phuentsholing, Sernye Transport plies buses to Trongsa on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 6:00 (arrival time is roughly 19:30). From Thimphu in the Western region, Sernya Transport plies buses to Trongsa daily at 7:00 (arrival time is roughly 15:00).
Local transport: The attractive spots in Trongsa are situated close to each other and can hence, be covered by foot. However, you could opt for hired cabs, but this might prove to be slightly on the expensive side.
Best time to visit Trongsa
November to February is the best time to visit Trongsa. The weather is very pleasant and just right for outdoor activities. The festivals towards the end of November and the month of December only make this period more preferable. Room tariffs could be higher, so it's advised to pre-plan trips. April to June is the summer season; this time sees less number of footfalls comparatively. The temperature hovers around 21-25 degree Celsius. Monsoon season lasts from June till September, where the rainfall could be 188 mm. It is considered as the offseason to visit Trongsa as there is no scope for outdoor activities like trekking and hiking.