When I was a student at Royal Thimphu College, my classmate boys went for one-night camping at Phajoding during one of the weekends. I also listed myself in the team. But at last moment, I was caught with a fever. I couldn’t join the team.
When my friends returned and were sharing their experiences and wonderful camping photos, I cursed the fever. I missed the chance. However, I promised myself to go there at least once.
But once I have joined my job, series of works kept me grounded. Indeed it never came up in my mind. However, when my friend suggested the idea, I was immediately in.
On 25th February 2017, three of us prepared lunch and then headed to Phajoding at around 7 a.m.
Where is Phajoding?
It’s above Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan. But to be more specific, it’s above Motithang. There is no road till there and it’s at about 3 hours’ walking distance from the road point. We took less than 2 hours.
The trail starts from the road few meters above the Motithang Takin Preserve. The trail is through tall cypress trees, mixed with short plants and rhododendrons.
The trail is quite sloppy. If you have visited Paro Taktshang, the trail is similar. Only thing is former needs more time. However, it’s clean and peaceful – few hikers only. On the way, there are resting spots and tap water.
When you reach there, you’ll feel colder. It’s at an altitude of 4300 meters. This place receives snowfall before Thimphu. It’s even at higher altitude comparing to Dochula Pass.
Place of Interests
It takes more than 3 hours to reach Phajoding. So what’s in it besides health benefits one gets from hiking?
There should be something that would make your laborious uphill hike worthy. Don’t worry, there are quite a number of points of interest at Phajoding.
You may consider following seven as attractions or points of interest at Phajoding:
- Phajoding Monastery.
- Phajoding Camping.
- Phajoding Short Mounds.
- Phajoding viewpoints.
- prayer flags hoisting.
- 18 hidden lakes.
- Highest climb point (Laptsa).
- Thuje Drak Temple
#1 Phajoding Monastery
This monastery was founded by Phajo Drugom Zhipo, a 13th-century Buddhist saint who is appreciated for wide-spread of Buddhism in Bhutan. The monastery stands on the site he mediated.
The monastery now houses more than 90 Buddhist monks who are underprivileged financially or emotionally. They are studying Buddhist scriptures and prayers.
You can visit the monastery temple to see various relics, pray and then receive blessings from Phajo. The complex is large that one can leisurely roam for relaxation. During my visit, this monastery was under major renovation.
#2 Phajoding Camping
There is an expansive green ground to the left of the monastery. This provides a good place for holding nights camping. There is water for cooking and toiletry uses.
However, I cannot think of holding a night on this ground during winter. Climate is very cold and unpredictable. Better drop camping idea if you are visiting during winter.
#3 Phajoding Short Mounds.
If you go above Phajoding Monastery, you’ll come across few rocky short mounds. They look artistically wonderful.
I spent few minutes at the base appreciating their beauty. If you are a landscape photographer, I am quite sure, you’ll surely love shooting their photos.
Some parts of popular Bhutanese movie ‘Dhangphu Dhingphu’ were also shot around those mounds.
#4 Phajoding Viewpoints
Phajoding is on a hill. Therefore, there are many viewpoints from where you can get the view of whole Thimphu town in a single frame.
However, viewpoints that are very popular among tourists are the one that is below an expansive camping ground and below the monastery.
During foggy day, you won’t be able to see Thimphu town from there. However, you’ll love the scene of clean fluffy clouds blanketing Thimphu valley.
#5 Prayer flags hoisting
Buddhism has a belief that we must hoist prayer flags on a higher land from where we can see both water and land bodies. When they flutter, merits will reach far.
Therefore, you can say Phajoding provides a good place for hoisting prayer flags. You can purchase prayer flag rolls from Thimphu town and raise them there.
#6 18 hidden lakes.
There is a belief that there are 18 hidden lakes above Phajoding. Though there is no single person who claims of seeing all those 18 lakes, it’s said that fortunate will be able to see all.
Ordinary people like you and me can see few lakes though. They are above Phajoding. It takes about 2 hours to reach those lakes. They are among rugged ridges.
During my last visit, I was unfortunate. It was foggy and I couldn’t see lakes clearly. So I don’t have a single photo of lakes to share in this article.
#7 Highest Climb Point
When we hike to see those hidden lakes, we have to hike farther above Phajoding. The trail is through small pass. On the highest point, there is a small white chorten/stupa.
We can take rest on this spot. It’s from here we can see part of Thimphu for the last time. From there it’s a downhill walk. However, this point provides views of beautiful distant Himalayan mountains. During a sunny day, we can get good landscape pictures.
#8 Thuje Drak Temple
This temple is at a distance of about half an hour hike from Phajoding Monastery. Just like many temples in Bhutan, Thuje Drak Temple is also at a base of giant cliffs. It’s from here, you can get better views of Thimphu valley.
Bhutanese who travel Phajoding for outdoor camping usually hold nights in this temple. There are holy water (Drubchus) blessed by Khandro Yeshey Tshogyel and Guru Padmasambhava. They are said to have power of blessing pilgrims with long and cleansed life.
Tips for Phajoding Trip
The trip to Phajoding may turn out good for others but not for all. It also didn’t turn out as a good one for me last time. My ad hoc decision without proper planning may be the main causes.
Therefore, I will share the mistakes I have committed during my last trip. You can then plan properly and make Phajoding trip a memorable one.
Best time to visit Phajoding
I can say that going to Phajoding for hiking, trekking, sightseeing and camping isn’t recommended during late autumn and winter seasons.
It was very cold and foggy during my visit. It was during winter. I couldn’t see even a single lake clearly forget about distant landscape views. Moreover, I have forgotten to take sweets to beat altitude sickness. I nearly collapsed on my return.
If your objective is to see those lakes during the trip, it would be better to hold one-night camping near Phajoding Monastery and then proceed the following day.
It would be quite a rush if you want to cover all the places of interest mentioned above in a day.
Recommend to read following travel experiences and more exciting stories from Bhutan:
- Royal Botanical Park of Bhutan at Lampelri, a good place to visit.
- Bumdeling – The winter habitat of Black-necked Cranes in Bhutan.
- The secrets of Tiger Nest Monastery (Taktshang) Hike.
- Dochula Pass – Travel experience with Indian Tourists.
- 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.