When you are done hiking to Tiger Nest Monastery (Taktshang) in Paro, travelling to Chumbu Goemba should be your next goal. Chumbu Goemba is as sacred as Taktshang Goemba.
It has many sacred excursions and tempting historical stories as any important temples in Bhutan would do. It’s also located on a secluded hilltop; detached of civilization and its related disturbances. It provides an opportunity of peaceful hike for its visitors.
The trail to Chumbu Goemba is through peaceful forest of pine trees and hemlocks. It’s along the basin of Dopchu; the river that flows through Dop-Shari valley and joins Paro River behind Paro Rinpung Dzong. There are few traditional wooden cantilever bridges over it on the way.
This means you have to cross this river few times before reaching Chumbu Goemba. However, I am sure that all along the way, you’ll be praising this river for its cleanliness like I did during my recent visit.
The trail is bit longer compare to that of Tiger Nest Monastery or Taktshang. But given the gradient of the trail, you won’t get physically exhausted. Moreover, during appropriate season, you can also see quite a number of rhododendron flowers, mountain lilies and other rare floral species. You can also see jungle cocks, magpies and pheasants and some other birds.
How to reach Paro Chumbu Goemba?
If you are in Paro town, take a taxi and go towards Dungtse Lhakhang. After taking right turn from there, you’ll reach to a junction. Right road leads to Shari and left to Kuenga School. You must take the left road and drive straight until reaching a concrete road over Dopchu. But don’t cross this bridge.
On asking local people about Chumbu Goemba trail, they would advise you to go following the same road but without crossing any bridge until road ends. This information is correct. The road ends at a cremation ground. And from there, you have to leave your car, carry your things and then start hiking.
There is very low possibility that you’ll lose your track. Because trail is a well-trodden one and there is no junction. If you sometimes feel you must have gone out of the track, look above and see if there is power line. As far as you are walking beneath those high tensions power lines, you are on a right track.
The trail is gentle and fairly easy. However, steep trail starts from a small chorten that is in a gorge below Chumbu Goemba. Luckily the steep trail is short and ascend won’t take more than 30 minutes.
But you have an option whether to first visit the temple and then visit its excursions or directly go to temple. Some people take a trail from the base to visit the related excursions first and then visit the temple at last.
History of Chumbu Ney/Chumuphug
Tertoen Drugdra Dorji built this temple sometimes in 15th century. However, the main relic of the temple is the statue of Lam Dorji Phamo (Vajira Yogini). The statue is miraculously in a floating postition. Chumbu Lhakhang is the only temple in Bhutan that is in an exclusive dedication to Lam Dorji Phamo.
In Bhutan history, Chumbu was initially named as Chumuphug meaning a ‘cave of holy water’. But with passage of time, it has got corrupted and became ‘Chumbu’. Today you can relate the relevance of this name with availability of wonderful holy waterfall and numerous Drubchus (holy water).
Legend has that there are only two statues of Lam Dorji Phamo in the world – one in Tsari Nye of Tibet and one that is in Chumbu Goemba. Though both statues were to be in equal size and height, mistakenly the one that is in Chumbu Goemba was built bit shorter by the sculptor.
When devotees of Lam Dorji Phamo expressed their dissatisfaction, it’s told that Yogini came to Chumbu Lhakhang personally and then raised the statue using her tantric powers and became equal to the one that is in Tibet. Therefore, the statue is miraculously in a floating mode unlike the one that is in Tsari Nye of Tibet.
In another line of oral tradition, the statue is said to have been discovered from the lake. During its discovery, it was in a size of human fist. But when Lam Shacha Rinchen tried to build a replica of it to measure the size of the statue that is in Tsari Nye of Tibet, the small fist-sized statue grew into present size.
You can use a torch light and a paper to see if the statue is really in floating mode. You’ll be surprised to see that the statue’s feet aren’t in touch with the base. You can slide paper between foot and the ground.
How to make hike to Chumbu Better?
The hike to Chumbu Goemba is moderate. However, it can be tough for people who are taking such hike for the first time. And people who aren’t from countries having geographical terrains similar to Bhutan might also find it bit hard.
However, you can make Chumbu Goemba hike bit lighter with some measures. Unlike in the case of Taktshang Hike, you don’t have an option of taking ponies to drop you till the base. You have to walk by any means. Therefore, since the hiking takes at least 4-5 hours in round trip, you shouldn’t forget to use your energy in a sustainable manner.
People who have experiences of undertaking Chumbu Goemba Hike often have a say that we should visit the Goemba before start of monsoon in Bhutan. This means your visit to Chumbu Goemba would be better in the months of April-May.
The plight of travelling through marshy and slippery track often fighting with leeches will be immense if you travel Chumbu Goemba during rainy seasons. Moreover, Dopchu also becomes bigger during monsoon thereby bringing the possibility of washing away some bridges and hiking trail disconnection.
It’s also not advisable to undertake this hike during winter as this Goemba receives snowfall. And travellers would find hard to hike through snow-covered trail.
Travel Gears for Chumbu Goemba Hike
Weather in Bhutan usually remains unpredictable. Therefore, even if you are undertaking this hike during spring, you need to take raincoats or umbrella. And you might need good walking stick especially when you climb down the steep trails.
Bhutanese who go Chumbu Goemba on pilgrimage usually take packed lunch and other edibles to boost their stamina. You might need to consider taking few bottles of mineral water, chocolates and also packed lunch.
Since this Goemba is located on a hill at an altitude of about 2900 meters, you might feel cold on reaching there. You might also get headache or giddiness which is signs of altitude sickness. So you need to wear warm clothes and sun glasses to fight coldness.
Places to visit near Chumbu Goemba
Chumbu Goemba indeed has many excursions that have their own religiously inspiring anecdotes. However, the wonderful holy waterfall, main Chumbu Temple, Drubkhangs (meditation caves), Drubchu (holy water) and Guru Pangtsho (lake) are best places to visit in Chumbu Goemba.
The waterfall is just below the main temple. It takes less than 20 minutes to get there from the main trail. However, its trail is through rocky ridges and slippery river stones. You should be extra careful while going to that holy waterfall.
On the midway of return journey from the holy waterfall, you’ll come across three wonderful meditation caves of:
- Guru Padmasambhava.
- Khandro Yeshey Tshogyel.
- Khandro Mendarawa.
And just below the waterfall, there are many holy waters that are believed to relieve headache, tonsils and also some that will bless you with long life.
A small chorten just below the main temple provides a good viewpoint. You can enjoy views of pristine Himalayan Mountain ranges appearing as if they are at a stone-throw distance. And the green ground nearby this chorten is good place for eating lunch and taking rest.
There is another small lake above the main temple. Bhutanese believe it as a lake being blessed by Guru Padmasambhava himself. They make sure to visit it and take a sip of its water. It takes about 10 minutes from main temple entrance.
If you have time, there are many sacred places or caves you can explore nearby Chumbu Goemba. However, if you don’t take help of a monk or person who knows every details of them, those sacred caves and places won’t make any sense for you.
Safety measures while visiting Chumbu Nye
If you are wearing hard-soled shoes, I would suggest you not to visit the holy waterfall. Anytime you might slide off those slippery river stones. Carrying walking stick proves helpful though when you walk through this trail.
When you go to see the holy waterfall, it would be safe on your part to carry side bags from right shoulder. Because as you walk, in most cases your left shoulder will be touching cliff rocks. You might not want to get knocked down as you walk through narrow rocky trail.
The water of holy waterfall is quite cold. If you are someone who suffers from diseases like hypothermia and crypto, avoid going near to waterfall. It looks beautiful from distance.
Chumbu Goemba Opening & closing times
There is no official opening and closing timings for this temple. We can walk in after informing a caretaker (in this case policeman) and walk inside leaving your footwear at doorstep. The temple is bit dark inside. A monk will come with a torch to give explanation about the floating statue of Lam Dorji Phamo.
There are more than 10 monks who perform daily religious recitations and 3 policemen to look after shrines and artifacts of the temple. If you have some edibles, you can share with monks there. You’ll not go empty-handed. They also give you blessed robes and strings (sungkey).
Recommended to read following exciting travel stories and experiences from Bhutan:
- National symbols of Bhutan-Travel Bhutan to Discover them.
- Zhuk Drak Temple – Taktshang Lhakhang in Bumthang.
- The secrets of Tiger Nest Monastery (Taktshang) Hike.
- Dzongdrakha Temple, which looks similar to Paro Taktshang.
- Mystical Mebartsho or the Burning Lake of Bumthang.
- Travel Punakha to Experience River Rafting of Bhutan.
- Bumdeling-Winter Residence of Blacked-Necked Cranes in Bhutan.
- Royal Botanical Park of Bhutan at Lampelri, a nice place to visit.
- Dochula Pass – Travel Experiences with Indian Tourists.