Located about half an-hour drive from Paro Town, the ruins of Drukgyel Dzong was built in 1649 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to control of the route to Tibet. The dzong was named ‘Druk’ (Bhutan) ‘gyel’ (victory) to commemorate the victory of Bhutan over Tibetan invaders in 1644. One of the features of the dzong was a false entrance that lured the returning Tibetan invaders into an enclosed courtyard during a second attack.
The dzong sits at the point where the trail from Tibet via the Tremo La enters the Paro valley. Once the Tibetan invasions ceased, this became a major trade route, with Bhutanese rice being transported to the Tibetan town of Phari Dzong in barter for salt and bricks of tea. Trekking groups have largely replaced the trade caravans and you may see mule men here preparing for the Jhomolhari trek.
The building was used as an administrative centre until 1951, when a fire caused by a butter lamp destroyed it. You can still see the charred beams lodged in the ruined walls. There have been a few attempts at renovation, but all that has been accomplished is the installation of a new roof on the five-storey main structure to stop it from eroding and collapsing.
As you walk up to the dzong you’ll pass a small chapel on the left, a chorten on the right, and then the remains of the large towers and the walled tunnel that was used to obtain water from the stream below during a long siege. There’s not much left to the dzong except the front courtyard and ta dzongs (watchtowers) behind.
Back in the village you can take a nice stroll up to the small Choedu Goemba, which houses a statue of the local protector, Gyeb Dole. The road to the dzong passes Jetshaphu village, several army camps and the Amankora resort. On a clear day (most likely in October or November) there are fine views of Jhomolhari’s snowy cone from this stretch, which makes for a great bike ride.