The fortress was restored and expanded by the third desi (secular ruler), Mingyur Tenpa, in the 1670s, and it has been enlarged and modified many times since. The fine murals inside have been restored by experts from Japan. The squat, whitewashed dzong looks more fortress-like than most, and the only gate is on the south side (though the original gate was on the west wall). As you enter, note the murals of the four guardian kings – Vaishravana (north), Dhritarashtra (east), Virudhaka (south) and Virupaksha (west) – protecting the four cardinal directions, and the jewel-vomiting mongoose in the hand of the yellow King of the North.
The utse (central tower) is three storeys high, and prayer wheels around the courtyard are backed by more than 300 slate carvings depicting saints and philosophers. The large central figure in the central Lhakhang is of Sakyamuni, flanked by the eight bodhisattvas, and the ceiling is hung with an incredible array of dhvaja (victory banners) in brightly coloured silk. The dark murals inside this Lhakhang are some of the oldest and most beautiful in Bhutan and the walls are adorned with embroidered thangkas (religious pictures).
In the western chapel are statues of Chenresig, green and white Taras, and an early painting of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. Do check out the tigers’ tails and guns hanging from the pillars in the eastern goenkhang, a protector chapel dedicated to the guardians of Bhutan, Yeshe Goenpo (Mahakala) and Pelden Lhamo.
After visiting Simtokha Dzong we then moved to our next destination, one of the highest and beautiful locations in Bhutan Dochula Pass.
The Dochula Pass is a mountain pass in the snow-covered Himalayas within Bhutan on the road from Thimpu to Punakha where 108 Memorial Chortens or stupas known as “Druk Wangyal Chortens” have been built by Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk, the eldest Queen Mother. Apart from the Chortens, there is a monastery called the Druk Wangyal Lhakhang (temple), built-in honour of the fourth Druk Gyalpo (head of the state of Bhutan), Jigme Singye Wangchuck the open grounds in its front yard is a venue for the annual Dochula Druk Wangyel Festival. The pass with 108 memorial Chortens is adjacent to the country‘s first Royal Botanical Park. The pass is located at an elevation of 3,100 metres (10,200 ft) on the East-West Road from Thimpu to Punakha and further east in the Himalayas amidst the Eastern Himalayan snow-covered mountains. To the east of the pass, the snow-clad mountain peaks of the Himalayas are seen prominently and among them is the Mt. Masanggang at 7,158 metres (23,484 ft) which is the highest peak in Bhutan, known in local language as the Mt. Gangkar Puensum. The weather at the pass was quite foggy and chilly. However, between October and February, panoramic views of the Bhutan Himalayas can be seen.