One of the good things of visiting Bhutan is you get to walk a lot. Tourist attractions in Bhutan are mostly temples, monasteries and fortresses. And unlike in countries you visited, most of the tourist places in Bhutan are away from town. Some are in silent forest providing you the joy of being close with nature. Some are on hills giving good views of valleys below them and distant Himalayan Mountains.
In all, travelling to places of interest in Bhutan will burn as much calories as your evening gym workouts would do. Most of the places your Bhutanese travel adviser has mentioned in the list actually don’t have road connectivity – it’s intentional in most cases.
But the best part of this is you’ll not only get to visit sacred and history rich temples or monasteries of Bhutan, but will also get so much physical exercises in the process. Therefore, people who really love walking through woods and nature trails has a say that, ‘Bhutan is a Paradise for walkers.’
Indeed you’ll be surprised to know that at least 70% of the best places to visit in Thimphu don’t have direct road connection. It takes your love for hiking and physical ability to reaching all tourist attractions in Bhutan. Dodedrak Goemba is one of such tourist places in Thimphu.
Where is Dodedrak Goemba?
Dodedrak Goemba or Dodedrak Lhakhang is in Thimphu. It’s among pine forest above Samteling Palace; residence of Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuk. It consist of three main temples that are dedicated to Dhesum Sangay (Buddhas of past, present and future), Tselha Namsum (three goddesses of long life), and Gelwa Yabsey Sum.
It’s one of the sacred places in Thimphu that offers its visitors opportunities of both pilgrimage and short hiking. Bhutanese visit Dodedrak Lhakhang during auspicious days to offer butter lamps and say their prayers.
People who love to explore more of ancient Bhutan also travel Dodedrak Monastery as its temples were started 300 years ago. So much the place is peaceful and secluded for onlookers, it’s one of the best meditation centres in Bhutan.
Travel to Dodedrak Monastery
There is no motor-able road that shall take visitors till the doorstep of Dodedrak Monastery. You have to pack your things and start hiking uphill. However, there are two hiking trails to get there. One begins from Samteling Palace gate and one from Dechencholing Goemba.
Bhutanese don’t have much problem whether they choose to take the trail from Samteling Palace or the one that starts from Dechencholing Goemba. Latter is through steep gradient, Bhutanese seem to have no problem. No matter which trail you take, hike would take about 3 hours.
If you are someone from a country that doesn’t have geographical terrains like Bhutan or you are physically not that fit, taking the trail that starts from former is recommended. It’s bit sloppy and less arduous. People also say that it takes lesser time.
History of Dodedrak Goemba
Dodedrak Goemba was started by the 13th Je Khenpo (chief Abbot) of Bhutan, Yonten Thaye sometimes in 1779. Before he became the 13th Chief Abbot of Bhutan, he served as one of the principal lopens of central monastic body of Bhutan.
It was during his reign as 13th Je Khenpo of Bhutan that popular Tashichoe Dzong (Thimphu Dzong) was reduced to rubble by fire. However, he didn’t let that historical Dzong remain buried in rubble and supervised the rebuilding. Bhutanese history accredits him of being the main architect of Tashichho Dzong of present design.
In Bhutan history, Je Yonten Thaye is one of the most popular religious figures who reconstructed many Dzongs and temples. He also supervised reconstruction of Punakha Dzong after it was destroyed by fire when he was 57.
It’s said that many of the important monuments that are now inside Punakha Dzong were also brought by him from Tibet using his personal relationship with his Tibetan patrons and religious heads.
3 main temples of Dodedrak Goemba
Dodedrak Monastery has 3 main temples. They are main places of interest of Dodedrak Goemba. These temples are individually in dedication to different religious figures or protective deities.
The upper temple is in dedication to three Buddhas and Tshelha Namsum. We can see statues of past Buddha, present and future. Its main shrine room also has statues of Tshelha Namsum (three deities of long life). We can also see a medium statue of Zhabdrung.
However, the temple that is below it is undergoing a major renovation. During my last visit, its building was complete. They have to install shrines and monuments now. I felt that it would be in complete shape by a year or so.
The third temple is the one from which the name ‘Dodedrak’ derived from. It was built on a giant rock with concave head. It’s said that top and lower parts of the rock were once together. The rock has broken into two; lower forming the base for temple and upper part remaining like roof.
It houses religious items like golden butter lamp, giant copper container (thro) and other items that are related to one or other past religious figures of Bhutan. There are artistic paintings on rock faces. It’s said that one can hear a religious hum from the rock if one is blessed to be reborn in better realms in next life.
Other things of interest at Dodedrak
Dodedrak Monastery is not only popular with its three main temples. But there are also other things that are of interest for pilgrims and tourists.
Beside the main temple, there is a rough tunnel through rock for which you can test whether you are spiritually clean or not. It’s said that people with less merits and deeds won’t get through it successfully. But I was too afraid even to try.
Dodedrak Goemba has a garden of Bhutanese model houses and Dzongs. I have seen tourists visiting them and taking pictures. And there are also few big chortens (stupas). You can request a monk there to tell history of them. I can bet you’ll be amazed.
Best time to visit Dodedrak Goemba
When it comes to closing and opening time, there is no official opening and closing time for Dodedrak Monastery. This means visitors or pilgrims can visit Dodedrak Goemba or Dodedrak Monastery anytime of a day.
However, for your own convenience, I would suggest you not to visit it during auspicious days in Bhutan. Since many Thimphu residents go there at such times, you won’t be able to leisurely explore Dodedrak Lhakhang and its excursions.
If you are hiking to Dodedrak Monastery during monsoon seasons, it would be safe on your part to take the trail that starts above Samteling Palace. The trail that starts above Dechencholing Goemba will surely turn muddy and slippery.
Miscellaneous Note for Dodedrak Hike
If you are to take Dodedrak Monastery hike sometimes during monsoon season, you shouldn’t wear footwear having hard soles. They would increase the probability of slipping. The trails might become little muddy with rainfall.
You can also consider taking raincoats or umbrellas if you are visiting during summer. Weather in Bhutan becomes unpredictable in summer. And if you’re hiking to Dodedrak during winter, wear sunglasses and warm jackets to protect yourself from cold wintry wind.
It won’t take you more than 5 hours in a round trip. However, if you are in rush, you won’t be able to enjoy beauty of mother nature along Dodedrak trails. And just like in any other hikes in Bhutan, you shouldn’t forget to take drinking water. You also shouldn’t forget to use your energy in sustainable manner.
Recommend following travel experiences and exciting stories from Bhutan:
- Bhutanese celebrate first snowfall as the symbol of prosperity.
- Photography Hike to Thimphu Phajoding Monastery.
- Bumdeling – winter residence of Black-necked Cranes in Bhutan.
- Paro Dzong under flooding light during night.
- Mystical Mebartsho or the Burning Lake of Bumthang.
- Place to visit in Paro – Chumbu Lhakhang.
- The secrets of Tiger Nest Monastery (Taktshang) Hike.
- Royal Botanical Park of Bhutan at Lampelri, a nice place to visit.
- Beauty of Thimphu Tashichho Dzong during Evening.