I heard quite a number of times that there is yet another temple in Paro that is almost same like Taktshang (Tiger Nest Monastery). I inquired few of my friends who are from Paro and came to know that it is perhaps Dzongdrakha that comes closer to it.
They are of the view that though Dzongdrakha Lhakhang shares architectural designs of Taktshang Monastery, they are not same. Indeed they are uniquely different in their own ways. However, this made me more curious.
I wanted to visit it and then personally see if there is any similarity between Taktshang Monastery and Dzongdrakha Lhakhang as they claim.
Therefore, on 18th March, I travelled Paro with two of my friends with an ultimate objective to visit Dzongdrakha Lhakhang. We left Thimphu at around 6 p.m. Our plan was to hold a night and visit it the following day i.e. Sunday.
History of Dzongdrakha Lhakhang
Tibetan Lama Gonpo Dorji came to Bhutan sometimes in late 16th century following the prophecy of Lama Rinchen Samten Pelzang, an abbot of Tibetan Nenyingpa Monastery, to opening Dzongdrakha Temple in Paro and spread Nenyingpa in the country.
Gonpo Dorji came with some religious relics and settled in a cave where present Dzongdrakha Lhakhang is situated. He remained under strict meditation in a cave during which he was said to have discovered a crystal Stupa.
He was made to believe that it is the prophesied site. Local people became his religious supporters and patrons. It is said that he even started a Choeje family from there to spread Nenyingpa in other parts of Bhutan.
His popularity continued until Zhabdrung came to Bhutan with Kagyu sect suppressing all other minor Buddhist sects. Nenyingpa was one of the minor sects.
Presently, the main part of Dzongdrakha Lhakhang stands on the spot where Gonpo Dorji mediated and discovered Crystal Stupa. The other three temples were built later on by local chieftains.
Where is Dzongdrakha Lhakhang?
This temple is on the western side of Paro above Bondey village. It’s just few minutes’ drive from Paro International Airport to the left side of Haa-Paro Highway.
It’s a spectacular temple built on a steep cliff above an expansive Bondey valley. If we look at the beauty of its location and architectural designs, it indeed looks much similar to Taktshang (Tiger’s Nest Monastery).
Therefore, today people often call Dzongdrakha Lhakhang as second Taktshang. I have heard a rumour that some tourists mistake it for Taktshang.
Travel to Dzongdrakha Lhakhang?
Though local people go Dzongdrakha Lhakhang by walking all the way from Bondey town, it is not advisable for tourists.
The best option for tourists would be to travel by a car till the junction and then go on foot from there. It takes about 20 mins to reach the temple from the junction.
There is no official opening and closing timing like in case of Paro Taktshang. However, to enjoy panoramic view of the valley and travel nearby places of interest, it would be better to go around 9 in morning.
4 small temples of Dzongdrakha
Dzongdrakha Lhakhang isn’t a single temple. It’s rather a compound of 3 other temples including the main temple built by Gonpo Dorji.
These three temples are separate dedication to Drolma (Tara), Tsheringma (goddess of long life), Jowo Jampa (future Buddha) and Guru Padmasambhava.
Therefore, they have statues of them in their own shrines. And crystal stupa discovered by Gonpo Dorji and the relics he brought from Tibet are enshrined in the main temple.
Tourist attractions of Dzongdrakha
Bondey valley views
Dzongdrakha is among sheer cliffs. The view of the temples will be mesmerizing and its surrounding provides various points to enjoy panoramic view of the valley.
If you have time and you can descend via rough steep trail, take a trail that starts below main temple on return journey. You can then go little towards right side to capture view of Dzongdrakha from another angle.
Chelela view points
It’s just a few kilometers away from Chelela; a pass that separates Paro and Haa. This pass is like Dochula.
There are many viewpoints from where you can enjoy the serene views of Paro valley and also Jhomolhari mountain. You’ll love the view of pass with fluttering prayer flags in patches.
Dzongdrakha has its own annual 2 days Tshechu (festival). It starts just a day before annual Paro Tshechu and ends a day after Paro Tshechu. People take Dzongdrakha Tshechu as a head and tail of Paro Tshechu.
During the tshechu, the religious relics brought by Gompo Dorji and the crystal stupa he discovered during meditation will be open for people.
Just below Druk Seed Centre, there is a higher gradient point from where you can enjoy the view of Paro International Airport and other parts of Paro town.
You cannot see Airport and that parts of the town from Dzongdrakha temple. If seed centre is open, you may also request visiting the compound. There are various floral seeds and saplings to see.
Bondey village life
When I visited Dzongdrakha, I made sure to explore life of people residing nearby. I took a walk along the farm road to see houses, farms, orchards and lifestyles of the people.
I saw a man working in the field. I went near and helped him with the work. He is a frank person. We talked about so many things. Indeed I have learned history of Dzongdrakha from him.
Recommend to read following travel experiences and more exciting stories from Bhutan:
- Royal Botanical Park of Bhutan at Lampelri, a good place to visit.
- My simple tips for Thimphu Phajoding Trip.
- The secrets of Tiger Nest Monastery (Taktshang) Hike.
- Dochula Pass – Travel experience with Indian Tourists.
- Travel to Gasa – The land of unnatural peaks.
- Bumthang Travel – The Experiences and Stories of a Traveller.
- 17 best places to visit – CNN includes Bhutan in this list.
- 45 uncommon facts of Bhutan all Tourists need to Know.