Along the Chamkhar Chhu river in Bumthang, the Wangdichholing Palace rises from the Jakar valley floor, surrounded by the verdant colors of the region’s rice fields.
Constructed as a private residence in 1857 for Trongsa Penlop Jigme Namgyel, a legendary Bhutanese warrior, the palace was the birthplace of the first King of Bhutan, Ugyen Wangchuck, Jigme Namgyel’s son. Under King Ugyen Wangchuck, Wangdichholing became the seat of national power in the early twentieth century, housing the king’s offices and courts. In 1950, the capital was moved to Paro, and ten years later the royal family followed.
For the last 50 years, Wangdichholing has been largely neglected, though a monastic school housing a community of 30 monks has occupied a small portion of the rooms since 2004.
The palace and its ancillary structures remain a classic example of nineteenth century Bhutanese architecture. White stone walls bonded with earthen mortar, wattle-and-daub partitions, and richly ornamented timber details characterize the complex, which is built around a central courtyard and houses priceless murals, texts, sculptures, and textiles.