Simtokha Dzong: Bhutan’s Stunning Castle Monastery - Be On The Road | Live your Travel Dream!

Monday, May 16, 2022

Simtokha Dzong: Bhutan’s Stunning Castle Monastery

Monk studies inside Simtokha Dzong, Bhutan

Bhutan as a destination is a travel perk for the Indian citizen. Not only is it one of the top easy visa international destinations for Indians, it is also very light on your wallet. A great attraction on a fabulous day trip route covering Thimphu –> Dochula pass –> Punakha valley is Simtokha Dzong, a 17th century castle monastery. Simtokha Dzong is the first of its kind monastery in Bhutan. It is an important historical monument, a former Buddhist monastery and it houses one of the premium Dzongkha language learning institutes.

One of the first things you will notice as you enter this castle monastery is young monks hovering over books or discussing subjects with other students. And that is what makes the Simtokha Dzong special.

Simtokha Dzong - one of the oldest Dzongs of Bhutan

Located on the approach road to the panoramic Dochula pass, the lush Punakha valley and the rest of central and Eastern Bhutan, Simtokha Dzong is strategically built on a projecting ridge that overlooks the entire Thimphu valley. This strategic location also adds to its beauty quotient as it towers in the middle of lush greenery and mountains. As you enter the dzong, you will be awed at its size, just like most of Bhutan’s other dzongs. But, the thing that will catch your attention here are the student monks and if you speak some Hindi or English, you can strike a conversation with any friendly monk student and get to learn more about the monastery, their life in general and their education.

Apart from the size of the dzong and the monk students, the highlight of the Simtokha Dzong has to be unique Himalayan mural paintings painted in the assembly hall and the lhakhangs. The murals of the four guardian kings protecting the four cardinal directions – Vaishravana (North), Dhritarashtra (East), Virudhaka (South) and Virupaksha (West) greet you as you enter the dzong. The dark murals inside the lhakhangs and the walls that are adorned with embroidered thangkas are the other highlights of this place that one should not miss.

Monk prays at Simtokha Dzong, Bhutan

Simtokha Dzong is a great location for a day trip from either Thimphu or Paro or as a pit stop on a trip to Dochula pass, Punakha and the rest of East Bhutan. The experience becomes much richer when you start chatting with the student monks. I recommend this stunning castle monastery of Bhutan with multiple thumbs up!

Buddhist monks in deep study at Simtokha Dzong, Bhutan

How to reach there:

Simtokha Dzong is about 6 kilometers from Thimphu’s city center. It should take you about 15 to 20 minutes from Thimphu depending on traffic. Getting around Bhutan is fairly simple. You can hire a cab from Thimphu if you wish to be comfortable. If you are traveling on a budget, you can either opt for a shared cab or take a bus headed towards Punakha.

Simtokha Dzong - Thimphu's oldest Dzong

Best season to visit:

Simtokha Dzong is accessible and open all year round. Each season adds its beauty to the landscape around the Simtokha Dzong. However, if you want the absolutely best months to visit Simtokha, I would recommend the months between November and February as this is when the weather will be very pleasant and the days will be bathed in bright sunshine.

Where to stay:

The closest place to stay would be Thimphu. But, Paro isn’t too far away from Simtokha Dzong. And both cities have a decent array of accommodation. Hence, you can stay at either Thimphu or Paro depending on your trip itinerary.

However, in terms of sheer proximity and access to more parts of Bhutan, Thimphu would be a better option. Hotel Tandin in the center of the city is a great budget hotel that serves lip smacking Indian food.

Buddhist Monk studies at Simtokha Dzong, Bhutan

Where to eat:

The best place to eat would be the capital city of Bhutan as it offers close proximity and a wide variety of restaurants, cafes and bakeries. If someone is very hungry, then they should find small dhabas on the highway that serve basic food items like rice, chapati, bread omelette, tea, coffee, etc.

Buddhist Monk sits at the entrance of Simtokha Dzong, Bhutan

Other nearby tourist attractions:

1) Kyichu Lakhang: Bhutan’s prettiest temple

2) Taktsang monastery: Icon of Bhutan

3) Trongsa: The heart of Bhutan

4) Valley walk from Punakha to Wangdi Phodrang: Rustic Bhutan at its very best

5) Punakha: Bhutan’s gorgeous valley town

6) The rich valley of Paro: A surreal Himalayan experience

7) Thimphu: Bhutan’s bustling capital

8) Bumthang: Switzerland of the East

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