Day Hikes in Thimphu: Phajoding

This is one of the popular hikes around Thimphu valley. It is not the easiest of hikes, but the rewards – both in terms of the view and the feeling of satisfaction once you make it to the top – is totally worth it. You can get a birds-eye view of the entire Thimphu valley and the surrounding mountains.

You can walk up either from Sangaygang Radio Tower or from the grounds of the Royal Institute of Tourism and Hospitality. The walk to Phajoding is uphill and takes anywhere from 2 to 4 hours depending on your level of fitness. The trail winds through beautiful forests of oak and juniper.

You will see Phajoding monastery way before you reach it. The first sign that you are about to reach is a chorten with a view of the monastery. The second sign is a mani-dungkhor – a water driven prayer wheel. And the third sign is a larger chorten.

There are a number of small building and meditation retreat centres. The main temple was built by Sakya Tenzin in 1748 with 20 meditation huts around it. There is a small tsho (lake) which is revered. From the view point of Phajoding monastery you can get an absolutely stunning view of Thimphu.

The hike to Phajoding monastery and return can be made in one day (anywhere from 5 to 8 hours) but it is advisable to keep a full day for this program.

Chances are that you may acquire a friend or two along the way. During one’s walk along the mountain trails and in the vicinity of monasteries, it is not uncommon to have a quiet but friendly dog appear, seemingly out of nowhere, and walk quietly besides you on the lonely trail. They keep you company – while maintaining a respectable distance. When you stop for a snack or meal, they wait politely for handouts. Then when you start getting used to them and begin to think up of affectionate names to call them, they seem to suddenly disappear into the thin air.

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For those adventurers with bountiful energy continue the walk up to Thujedrag monastery and then further uphill to Phumola Pass (4,100 m). The pass is a spectacular site itself with stone cairens and rocks strewn slopes made colorful with the fluttering prayer flags.

A stone carien made colorful with bright flags carrying prayers to the wind. (Note the friendly dog – who accompanied the author from Bimelang tsho (lake) to this Pass)

There are some beautiful lakes beyond the Thujedrag Pass. But it would be advisable to plan an overnight camp in the mountains. Even the first lake is quite a walk away from the pass. The trail winds on loose gravel through juniper and rhodendron bushes. Along the way you can see the mountain where there are aerial burial grounds where in the past the bodies of young deceased children were left for the vultures.

The terrain changes significantly as you venture forward. The trail goes along ridges, past precipices, through small meadows and passes from a low alpine scrub zone and in a rhodendron scrub zone. There are many lakes – Bimelang Tsho, Dungkhar Tsho, Simkotha Tsho, Jimilang Tsho etc. It is a part of the Druk Path Trek between Thimphu and Paro so if you continue this way for two more days, you will reach Paro valley.