Trekking to Great Dungtsho-Bhutan’s lake amidst Rocky Castles


Phajoding Lake Dungtsho is becoming a popular tourist destination in Thimphu. You ask anyone in Thimphu about this lake. I am quite sure many would be having so much to tell about this lake. Some of them even might be able to give you a sketch of its travel route.

In recent times, more tourists travelling to Bhutan also visit Dungtsho Lake during the course of undertaking Druk Path Trek and Phajoding Monastery Trek. Equally young and acclimatized Bhutanese residing in Thimphu are also undertaking outdoor camping or one day Phajoding Monastery Hike keeping Dungtsho as an excursion.

Highest point of Phajoding

The number of photos of Dungtsho Tsho being shared over Facebook, Instagram, magazines and other social media is on rise. In almost all the photos, Dungtsho appears pristine and calm surrounded with different rhododendron flowers and artistic mountains; the creation of nature at best. Therefore, now many people want to travel Dungtsho.

Hike to Dungtsho in groupHowever, there are as many people who want to travel Dungtsho as there are who cannot make there no matter how much they want to be there. Hiking to Phajoding Dungtsho, we are talking about walking across rugged mountains of Bhutan rising at an elevation of at least 4000m above sea level.

Dungtsho lake in winter

I had to return from halfway during my first visit to Phajoding Dungtsho. I was struck with Phajoding Monastery altitude sickness accompanied by headache and giddiness. But now I feel I could have easily suppressed it and completed Phajoding Hike. I didn’t know then what it takes to successfully reach Phajoding Dungtsho.

Where is Dungtsho Lake of Thimphu?

When we talk geographically territory point of view, I am not sure in which District Dungtsho Lake would fall. Some people claim it’s under Paro. But some say it’s under Thimphu as it’s much closer to the central administration centre of Thimphu Dzongkhag.

Hiking trail to Dungtsho

Dungtsho Lake is at an approximate altitude of 4300m. But if we take the trekking trail from Thimphu Motithang Takin Preserve, Dungtsho is about 4 hours away from Phajoding Monastery. If you are trekking along the famous trail of Druk Path Trek, you have to take a left detour near Simkotra Tsho. In about an hour, you’ll reach Dungtsho.

If you start your hike from Paro Drugyel, it would take at least two days to reach Phajoding Dungtsho Lake. But if you start from Thimphu, it would take two days to make at Dungtsho. However, I was told that physically fit, young and acclimatized people can make there in a day from Thimphu.

Holy lakes of Bhutan

There is yet another nature trail from Tsaluna Goemba. This is also one of the popular trails in Bhutan that goes through various passes and takes you to Dungtsho Lake. However, I don’t have an experience of going to Dungtsho from Tsaluna.

How to travel to Phajoding Dungtsho?

I don’t recommend travelling to Dungtsho from Thimphu and returning on the same day. I have an experience in it. If you aren’t a sporty and frequent hiker who is accustomed to such harsh Himalayan terrains, you’ll fail to complete Thimphu to Phajoding Dungtsho Hike in a day.

Phajoding winter camping

Therefore, other option, a recommendation for normal people is starting a hike from Thimphu, holding a night at Phajoding Monastery and then returning Thimphu following day after visiting Dungtsho. This won’t tax your body much and also you’ll get time to enjoy beautiful scenery during the hike and visit all Phajoding temples.

Hiking nature trail to Phajoding

The probability of getting caught by altitude sickness and giddiness is also high when such hike is undertaken in a day. Our bodies would normally find hard to adjust with changing altitude and air pressure fast. Therefore, consider Phajoding Dungtsho hike as a two days’ affair if you are a woman and an occasional hiker.

Outdoor camping at Phajoding Monastery

There are many monks at Phajoding Temple in Bhutan who are in retreat. Therefore, your presence there shouldn’t be a disturbance for them. You cannot hold night or pitch tents wherever you like. If you ask monks there, they would show you appropriate places to pitch tents and spend your night.

Phajoding landscape beauty

Phajoding Monastery also provides free guesthouse rooms for visitors. However, if you feel the rooms aren’t quite clean and spacious, you can settle with outdoor camping. If you can reach to Phajoding bit early, you can continue with your journey and camp in a meadow after crossing the Laptsa Point.

However, if you want to observe views of morning sunrise, landscape of Thimphu town and other places, camping at Phajoding Monastery ground would be better. In early hours of a day, you’ll be gifted with wonderful views of Thimphu valley being beneath a blanket of morning mists.

Gears/things for Phajoding-Dungtsho Hike

The journey is through hills of varied gradients of Phajoding altitude rising at about 4300m above sea level. You should know what you’ll need to successfully complete such hikes. If you are to complete Dungtsho hike in a day, it would be quite a rush. You need to take your own packed lunch and other instant energy giving foods like chocolates, glucose drinks, fast foods and sweets.

Lakes of Bhutan in Thimphu

Weather in Bhutan is usually unpredictable. So don’t forget to take umbrellas or raincoats. Wearing thin woolen shirts having long sleeves will protect you from sun and sweats. During my recent hike, some of my friends have taken sunscreen, paracetamols and chewing gums which really proved helpful.

If you want to hold a night mid-way possibly at Phajoding Monastery, you must carry tents, mattress, cooking utensils and rice in addition to above things. During my last hike, some of my friends were so intelligent to pick vegetables from wild.

Picnic spots in Phajoding

But there is a risk associated with it. At times you might land up eating wrong ones and choking. So carry your own vegetable stock. Don’t carry dry meat or dry vegetables that will take time to cook. In high altitude place like Phajoding, boiling point of water will be lower. So cooking will take more time.

How good is Phajoding Dungtsho Lake?

Phajoding Dungtsho is one of the famous lakes in Bhutan like Kheng Buli Tsho in Zhemgang and Chubda Tsho in Bumthang. There are more than 5 similar spectacular lakes but comparatively smaller ones in vicinity. Thus far, Dungtsho hasn’t failed to please any of its visitors with rightfully fair share of magnificent Alpine scenery.

Phajoding Dungtsho in summer

When you travel to Phajoding Dungtsho during spring and early summer, different species of rhododendrons and other alpine plants will be in their best natural grandeur. The whole mountain looks like a hectare of well-tended flower garden.

Walking through hills in Phajoding

On sunny summer day, your hike to Dungtsho will be even more memorably scenic. All the lakes being located among collage of low-stony-hill castles, they look wonderful in contrast to distant snow-capped mountains. When temperature is bit warmer, rising of thin vapour out of turquoise-like lake water makes whole region wonderfully surrealistic and dreamy.

If we can set up a tent and hold a night on the hill overlooking Dungtsho and its sister lake Dungtsho Shama, I cannot imagine how wonderful the experience of observing sunset and sunrise would be. However, again I cannot think of doing so at such high altitude point.

Flowers in Phajoding Dungtsho

During winter, not many dare make this trip. The whole mountain will be covered with snow and at times you have to continue hiking intuitively without knowing the actual trail. And wintry wind will leave your eyes dry, facial and lips cracked. However, if you can make there, Dungtsho still has its own winter wonders.

Is it worth visiting Phajoding Dungtsho?

Travelling to such a distant destination and that also on foot will not only give you so many health benefits but also teach you lessons of endurance, patience, wonders of nature and more. It helps you appreciate your home and then provide a different outlook in life. Hiking to Phajoding Dungtsho is one of such excursions.

Travel guide to Phajoding Dungtsho

A well known novelist Charles Morgan once said, “There are moments, above all on June evenings, when the lakes that hold our moons are sucked into the Earth, and nothing is left but wine and the touch of a hand”.

Biggest lakes of Thimphu

This is the beauty and hypnotizing effects of lakes. Bhutan doesn’t have many lakes that are as good as Dungtsho. Because more than 70% of lakes in Bhutan are locked in glaciers. Go to Dungtsho at least once and experience the reaction of your senses when your soul become slave to the beauty of such a magnificent creation of nature.

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About Author

An auditor by profession, but a traveller, blogger and photographer by passion. This site was created to share travel stories of various destinations within Bhutan and also travel tips of travelling to Bhutan. Read More>>

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