You will certainly leave the tourist track behind when hiking to Dodey Drak Monastery, a little-visited gem of a monastery located just north of Thimphu. The moderately strenuous climb along an ancient hidden trail reveals beautiful scenes of chir pine forest dotted with the vibrant colors of rhododendron blooms in springtime. In other seasons you may still spot White Langur monkeys, as well as various species of birds and butterflies as you walk along the pine-needle-carpeted trail. There are also spectacular views of Tashi Chho Dzong, Wangdi Tze Dzong, and Dechen Phodrang the higher you climb with the occasional glimpse of Thimphu city through the trees.
Visiting Dodey Drak is possible as a day hike, but we highly recommend that you spend the night. The monastery has a guesthouse that welcomes all and it is a humbling experience to share a meal with the friendly monks. Otherwise, camping a little further up from the monastery provides breathtaking views of the valley with a memorable sunrise. Please note that during the monsoon the rain could make the trail slushy and slippery; a few leeches might even try to "hang out" with you! But we are there to help you with the slush and the leeches.
Since the establishment of Dodey Drak Monastery in the 12 Century AD, the trail has been used as the main route connecting the monastery with the rest of Thimphu. The temple at the monastery was established by the Chief Abbot, the head of the clergy. The monastic school was established by His Majesty the Fourth King Jigme Singye Wangchuck in 1980. The monastery complex now consists of many small living quarters for the student monks while the classes are held inside the altar rooms.
The monastery houses a small museum with many historic and religious artifacts and stories attributed to one of the Chief Abbots called Jamyang Gyeltshen. He is considered an acclaimed craftsman who made numerous statues, paintings, and murals. A 1000-year old meditation hermitage sits above the monastery where hermits meditate for as long as 12 years! There is also a cave nearby from which holy spring water drips. Locals believe that drinking this water washes away sins and promotes good health and prosperity.
Take the opportunity to experience this atmospheric and charming monastery firsthand and you will be one of a select few who have had this uncommon adventure!
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