Did you visit Lhuentse Singye Dzong? If not, it’s now that you should definitely plan to undertake Singye Dzong Trek. I have heard so much stories of Kurtoe Singye Dzong; some from spiritual pilgrims and majority from its onlookers. I have also read about it in Lhuentse Dzongkhag Website.
Initially I included Lhuentse Singye Dzong in my bucket list imagining how wonderful it would be hiking through folds of those high mountains and then getting to enter one of the oldest Buddhist monasteries of Bhutan that is among clouds.
I was wondering if Kurtoe Singye Dzong is like an ancient surrealistic castle I usually see in some Chinese Movies. There was no thought of visiting it out of my spiritual desire.
But now I can say an adventure travel to Lhuentse Singye Dzong isn’t only a good offbeat hiking opportunity for its visitors but also is an explorative land of Bhutan’s history. If you want to unveil many mysterious stories of Guru Padmasambhava and his consort Khandro Yeshi Tshogyel, travel Singye Dzong – The Lion Fortress of Bhutan.
Travelling to Eastern Bhutan
This Dzong is in Eastern Bhutan under geographical jurisdiction of Lhuentse Dzongkhag administration near alpine China-Bhutan border. To reach such a distant destination, first we have to reach Khoma from where hiking trail to Singye Dzong actually starts. There is no road till Singye Dzong. But we were in Thimphu at the time of planning this travel.
There are many Bhutanese local travel agencies who sell Lhuentse Singye Dzong travel packages for Nu.15,000. But we didn’t purchase this Singye Dzong Trek travel package. It was my mother’s opinion to keep it more or less a family outing kind of activity.
We started our journey from Thimphu. It was a two days’ journey from Thimphu to Khoma, with one night halt at Bumthang. Though whole journey was in all a tiring one, I remained silent without bothering my travel friends about my back pain, joint pains, giddiness and more. The eagerness to reach Kurtoe Singye Dzong and curiosity of its beauty left my mouth clipped and heart on swing.
The Mystical Lion Fortress is one of the restricted places in Bhutan for which travelling is allowed only with permit even for Bhutanese. The travel permit is issued at Khoma Gewog office signed either by the gup or Lhuntse Dzongda. Since we would be able to start our journey only the following day, we visited Lhuntse Dzong and explored Khoma village.
There was a line of women at Khoma who were weaving best textiles of Bhutan – Kishuthara. It’s believed that Guru Padmasambhava blessed Khoma village with skill of weaving. Therefore, today Bhutanese kira that are hand woven at Khoma cost not less than Nu.85,000.
Journey to Singye Dzong
The next day morning we gathered at Khoma Zam. There were monks, students, locals and even civil servants who were getting themselves ready for the 3 days long trek to the Mystical Lion’s Fortress of Bhutan. Some have managed paid ponies.
Our group had neither a pony nor a porter. We divided our loads and took the first step of 3 days’ journey to Kurtoe Singye Dzong with prayers and determination.
The first day hike wasn’t as hard as I imagined. Probably it must be because the condition of the hiking trail was good and our excitement still lit.
We called it the first day of our journey with a night halt at Denchung village. But I don’t know if this village people were kind or we were fortunate. One of the families at Denchung accepted us in their house like one of them.
Our second day ended at Thang Karma after hours and hours of walk. But this place isn’t a residential area. Unlike in Denchung we had to pitch tent in an open ground.
But some of us including me showed willingness to spend the night in a cave which is nearby the tent we just pitched. For the first time I found myself in a place which I never dreamed of living. And cooking outdoor in traditional manner was my first experience.
In third day, many of us actually struggled. We had to climb mountains, ridges, hills and then cross number of rivers. However, third day treated us with scenic alpine meadow and snow-capped mountains. The journey was like walking above clouds with a span of enthralling meadow at lower ground.
Singye Dzong Tourist Hotels
During third day at about 4.30 in evening, we could finally see a glimpse of the Majestic Singye Dzong. All of us prostrated. My prostration was partly out of excitement for successfully making it there and partly out of reverence for the sacredness of this Dzong.
The place was more than I imagined. The scenery is unparalleled and its trail was but a physically rewarding one. The white mountainous backdrops, heavenly views, captivating meadow, and turquoise-like lakes all tell beauty of Singye Dzong. I was taking photos after photos.
We were supposed to find a proper place to pitch our tents. It would have been quite an exhausting thing. But luck favored us again. One Buddhist Lama agreed to share his room with five of us.
Lam Karma Penjore completed his meditation terms there and then he promised to visit Singye Dzong once every year thereafter. Meeting person like him who goes out of their ways to help someone is usually blessing during such travels!
Mystical Lion Fortress of Bhutan
The reason behind the name Singye Dzong was because the cliff of Singye Dzong looks like Singye (The Lion). As per Singye Dzong history, it’s said that there are eight more Dzongs like Gawa, Tsemo, Rinchen, Duelwa, Namkha, Dorji and Pema Dzong with one crematorium each.
All those Dzongs individually represent eight manifestations of Guru Padmasambhava. But all those Dzongs are embedded inside cliffs which are believed to come out at a right time. They are basically holy mountains of Singye Dzong.
In Gawa Dzong, we can see the treasures revealed by Guru from a nearby Lake. This Dzong also has many religious sites such as Guru Kurjey (the body image of Guru), Guru Chhipgaar (Guru’s Saddle), Jachhung Gondo (Garuda’s egg), Khandu Yeshey Tshogyal’s cave and Zangdo Pelri.
The main attractions of Singye Dzong are its holy lakes. Tsho kar (White Lake), Tsho Na (Black Lake) and Terda Lhatso are only few Alpine holy lakes of Bhutan that are accessible for people.
Singye Dzong is a large pilgrimage site. I was told that it would take at least 14 days to visit all its sacred sites. But now this is one of the top selling local travel packages in Bhutan. I feel it’s not at all necessary you to subscribe those travel packages.
It’s quite easy. You just need to carry sleeping bag, rain coat, rations, chocolates, utensils, gloves, comfortable shoes, warm cloths and then off you can hit the road. However, Singye Dzong weather won’t treat you well during summer and winter. Better plan your Singye Dzong Adventure in Spring or early Autumn.
Singye Dzong for Tourists
My journey to Singye Dzong was physically demanding so much it was adventurous and spiritually satisfying. Once I was there, the bewitching scene of the monastery, under the clear sky, surrounded by mountains, worked as an elixir.
Kurtoe Singye Dzong can be one of the few places to enjoy unspoiled scenery, and fresh mountain air of Bhutan orchestrated by genuine hospitality of nature. However, Singye Dzong isn’t open for foreign tourists. Even Bhutanese need permits.
People of Lhuentse have been demanding government to make Singye Dzong open even for tourists. However, whether to allow it or not is still on table. I was told that research is going on. Therefore, until government opens it, tourists cannot visit Singye Dzong.
Recommend to read following travel experiences and exciting travel stories from Bhutan:
- Tachog Lhakhang – Temple of Bhutan’s 900+ years old Iron Bridge.
- Chorten Kora – A stupa that tells stories of Tawang and Bhutan.
- Zhuk Drak Temple – Taktsang Temple in Bumthang?
- 13 Arts and Crafts of Bhutan – Journey through Zorig Chusum.
- Tips for Tourists in riding Taxi cabs from Phuentsholing Bhutan.
- Mystical Mebartsho or the Burning Lake of Bumthang.
- Taktsang Monastery – Seeking Smiles from Familar Face.
- Interesting walk over suspension bridge of Punakha Bhutan.
- To Trashigang Merak – The land of Brokpa People in Bhutan.
- 65 Tourist Attractions in Paro other than Paro Taktsang Monastery.