To Lhuentse Singye Dzong – Slice of Last Shangri-La in Bhutan


Last updated on October 4th, 2019

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 many stories of Kurtoe Singye Dzong; some from spiritual pilgrims and majority from its onlookers. I have also read about it on the 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.

Kurtoe Singye Dzong

I was wondering if Kurtoe Singye Dzong is like an ancient surrealistic castle I usually see in some Chinese Movies. I also heard that Bhutanese who traveled Lhodrak Monastery of Tibet in olden days passed via Singye Dzong. There was no thought of visiting it out of my spiritual desire.

Wooden trail near singye dzong

But now I can say 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.

Since Singye Dzong is also within Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary near the Tibetan border, the trek overall provides insights into alpine wildlife and vegetation. It’s also where we sink in nature and realize different feelings of being away from civilizations.

Travelling to Eastern Bhutan

This Dzong is in Eastern Bhutan under the geographical jurisdiction of the Lhuentse Dzongkhag administration near the alpine Tibet-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.

Lakes in Singye Dzong

There are many Bhutanese local travel agencies that 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 came to know it can be done after contacting Sonam Tshering (mobile: 17561618), the caretaker of Singye Dzong.

Lhuentse Pilgrimage

We started our journey from Thimphu. It was a two days’ journey from Thimphu to Khoma, with one-night halt at Bumthang. Though the 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 a swing.

Praying for lakes

The Mystical Lion Fortress is one of the restricted places in Bhutan for which traveling 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.

Milking yaks in Bhutan

There was a line of women at Khoma who were weaving the best textiles of Bhutan – Kishuthara. It’s believed that Guru Padmasambhava blessed Khoma village with the skill of weaving. Therefore, today Bhutanese Kira that is handwoven 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.

Porter and pony to Singye Dzong

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 firstday hike wasn’t as hard as I imagined.  Probably it must be because the condition and gradient of the hiking trail were favorable. And our excitement must have been still lit.

Bhutan bird watching tours

We called it the first day of our journey with a night halt at Tsekang village (2,750m). But I don’t know if these village people were kind or we were fortunate. One of the families at Tsekang accepted us in their house as one of them.

Our second day ended at Thangkarmo Village (3,050m) after hours and hours of walk. But this place isn’t a residential area. Unlike in Tsekang we had to pitch a tent in an open ground.

Domestic animal yaks near Singye Dzong

But some of us including me showed a 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 that I never dreamed of living. And cooking outdoor in the traditional manner was my first experience.

Outdoor cooking on the way to Singye Dzong

On the third day, many of us actually struggled. We had to climb mountains, ridges, hills and then cross the number of rivers with altitude rising as high as 3,500m. However, the 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 the third day at about 4.30 in the 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.

Hiking to singye 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 the beauty of Singye Dzong. I was taking photos after photos.

Frozen lake of Lhuentse Singye Dzong

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.

Singye Dzong Hike

Lam Karma Penjore completed his meditation terms there and then he promised to visit Singye Dzong once every year thereafter. Meeting a person like him who goes out of their ways to help someone is usually a 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.

Beauty of Bhutan holy mountains

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 the right time. They are basically holy mountains of Singye Dzong.

Bhutan holy lakes

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.

Best Buddhist tours in Bhutan

The main attractions of Singye Dzong are its holy lakes. Tsho kar (White Lake), Tsho Na (Black Lake) and Terda Lhatso are only a few Alpine holy lakes of Bhutan that are accessible for people.

Holy lakes of Bhutan

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 for you subscribe to those travel packages.

It’s quite easy. You just need to carry a sleeping bag, raincoat, rations, chocolates, utensils, gloves, comfortable shoes, warm clothes 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.

Buddhist Prayer flags

Kurtoe Singye Dzong can be one of the few places to enjoy unspoiled scenery, and fresh mountain air of Bhutan orchestrated by the genuine hospitality of nature. However, Singye Dzong isn’t open to foreign tourists. Even Bhutanese need permits.

Sunrise in Singye Dzong

People of Lhuentse have been demanding the government to make Singye Dzong accessible even for tourists. However, whether to allow it or not is still on tables of relevant agencies. I was told that research is going on. Therefore, until it’s officially open, tourists cannot visit Singye Dzong.

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