Phajoding Dungtsho Lake 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 from Paro to Thimphu. Equally young and acclimatized Bhutanese residing in Thimphu are also undertaking outdoor camping or a hike to Phajoding Dungtsho.
The number of photos of Phajoding Dungtsho 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 best creation of nature. Therefore, now many people want to travel Dungtsho.
However, 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.
I had to return from halfway during my first visit to Phajoding Dungtsho. A severe altitude sickness accompanied by giddiness struck me. But now I feel I could have easily suppressed it and made to Phajoding Dungtsho. 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.
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.
There is yet another nature trail from Tsaluna. 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 Phajoding Dungtsho Hike in a day.
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.
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 Temple
There are many monks at Phajoding 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 Monastery also provides free guesthouse rooms for visitors. 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 pass.
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.
Hiking gears/things during Dungtsho Hike
The journey to Dungtsho Lake is through hills of varied gradients. 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.
Weather in Bhutan always remains 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 lotions, 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.
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, boiling point of water will be lower. So cooking will take more time.
How good is Phajoding Dungtsho Lake?
Phajoding Dungtsho is the biggest lake in Thimphu Phajoding. 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.
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.
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 snowcapped mountains. When temperature is bit warmer, rising of thin vapour out of turquoise-like lake water makes whole region wonderfully dreamy.
If we can set up a tent and hold a night on the hill overlooking Dungtsho and its sister Dungtsho Shama, I cannot imagine how wonderful the experience of observing sunset and sunrise will be. However, I cannot think of doing so at such high altitude point.
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 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.
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”.
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 all your senses when your soul become slave to the beauty of such a magnificent creation.
Recommend to read following travel experiences and exciting travel stories from Bhutan:
- The largest Guru Nangsi Zilnon statue – Travel map to Lhuentse Takila.
- Dzongdrakha Temple in Paro looks same like Tiger Nest Temple.
- Romantic Getaway at Paro Dongkola Temple.
- Dochula Pass – Travel experiences with Indian Tourists.
- Place to visit in Paro – Chumbu Lhakhang.
- Photography Hike to Thimphu Phajoding Monastery.
- Travel to Gasa – land of unnatural peaks and hot springs.
- Royal Botanical Park of Bhutan at Lampelri, a good place to visit.
- Top 10 tourist attractions of Gangtey Valley.
- 17 best places to visit in 2017 – CNN has identified Bhutan as one of them.