Wangdue Phodrang Dzong was founded by the Zhabdrung in 1639. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal was supposedly at Chimmi Lhakhang in Punakha when he met a decrepit old man who described a ridge in present day Wangdue Phodrang as a ‘sleeping elephant’ and told him he would unite the country by building a Dzong on the ‘neck’ of the ridge. The Zhabdrung, surmising the old man to be Yeshey Gonpo (Mahakala), took his suggestion and sent forth a noble to scout the area. As the emissary drew close to the area, he saw four ravens circling above the ridge. Upon reaching the ridge, the birds flew away in four directions, north, south, east and west. When returning to Chimmi Lhakhang, he made his report. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel took this as a good omen and immediately set forth in 1638 to construct a Dzong overlooking the convergence of the Dangchu and Punatshang chu.

The people of Wang and Shar Dar Gyad were involved in its construction along with the people of Rinchen Gang who were skilled masons.

There are three doorways and three courtyards in the Dzong. The first gate is the entrance, the second leads to the inner sanctum of the Dzong and the third contains the deep interiors of this historic structure.

Years later, the Dzong was enlarged by the 4th Desi Tenzin Rabgye. In addition to the four-storied Utse built by Zhabdrung he added another two-storied Utse. The construction was looked after by the Dzongpon Gedun Chophel. The 7th Dzongpon of Wangduephodrang Sonam Lhendup also added new structures to the Dzong. He also installed a statue of Lord Buddha.

Much later with the passage of time a powerful local lord known as Kawang Sangye, extended the Dzong towards the present town. Another Wangzop, Acho Boep, ordered further construction, modifying the Dzong to the form which it holds today. In 1837 the Dzong was destroyed by a great fire and later rebuilt. During the time of Lam Neten Pelden Singye the Dzong was also damaged by a severe earthquake and later rebuilt. Dzongpon Domchung also seems to have also restored the Dzong, though at an unknown time. During the reign of the Late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, the Dzong was renovated, supervised by Dronyer Pema Wangdi.

The rabdey was first instituted by Zhabdrung himself after the completion of the Dzong which was later enlarged during the time of 10th He Khenpo Tenzin Chogyal.

An historic dzong built by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1638 was located at Wangdue Phodrang. The dzong was burnt down by a fire in June 2012. However, as the dzong was being renovated at the time of the fire, most of the historic relics had been put into storage and so were saved from destruction.


The dominant language in Wangdue Phodrang is Dzongkha, the national language, spoken in the western two-thirds of the district. Communities along the border with Bumthang District in the northeast speak Lakha. Along the same border, in central Wangdue Phodrang, inhabitants speak Nyenkha. In southeast Wangdue Phodrang, remnants of the autochthonous ‘Olekha (Black Mountain Monpa) speaking community barely survive.

Further information: Transport in Bhutan

There are three paved roads in Wangdue Phodrang dzongkhag. The Lateral Road enters from the west at Dochu La Pass, crosses the Sankosh (Puna Tsang Chhu) at Wangdue Phodrang dzong, and continues east to Tongsa. One spur road heads north from WangduePhodrang to the dzong at Punakha and slightly beyond. This road eventually becomes the trail to Gasa. A second spur departs the Lateral Road near the Pele La pass halfway between Wangdue and Tongsa, traveling south a short distance to Gangteng Monastery and the Phobjika valley where the rare black-necked cranes (grusnigricollis) may be found.


WangduePhodrang is divided into 15 gewogs:

  • Athang Gewog
  • Bjena Gewog
  • Daga Gewog
  • Dangchu Gewog
  • Gangte Gewog
  • Gasetsho Gom Gewog
  • Gasetsho Om Gewog
  • Kazhi Gewog
  • Nahi Gewog
  • Nyisho Gewog
  • Phangyuel Gewog