Hiking

Bjela Dzong, first campsite in the Druk Path Trek

Distance: 7 km
Time: 1-2 hours

Located at an altitude of approximately 3400m, it features a small fortress (Dzong) on a ridge between the valleys of Paro and Thimphu. This was the only path connecting the two valleys prior to the construction of motor roads in the country. Travelers often took shelter at this temple in the olden days.

There are multiple routes to reach this place from both the valleys. From Thimphu, there is a small unpaved road that leads till the base of the Dzong, which starts from the Jemina. If you’re taking this route, drive till Chimithangkha lhakhang and take the road towards Jidekha. However, the road is in a pretty bad condition so wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re taking a 4WD vehicle. Moreover, during rainy seasons, the road becomes too slippery even for 4WD vehicles. Bearing all these in mind, I would definitely recommend hiking to the place from Paro instead.

The surrounding green hills

The hike isn’t difficult and there’s no hassle of driving on small, slippery roads so it’s a win-win situation, even without considering the other benefits of hiking. The trail passes through dense forests with abundant shade and comfortable paths till the top. To get there, drive from Ta Dzong towards Six Senses resort. However, take the diversion opposite to the road to Six Senses Resort (there is a signboard) and continue till the end of the road, a place called Chubjakha. Although the road isn’t pitched, soling has been done in most areas making it a less slippery but bumpier ride.

Getting some rest on the way

The fortress in Bjela was the residence of a famous Buddhist practitioner, called Lam Ngawang Chogyel in the 15th century; and later renovated to the structure present today by Je Khenpo Sherab Singye in the 18th century. The temple houses tall statues of the three Buddhas of the past, present and future along with various smaller statues from the original temple.

As you reach the top, there is a traditional door-like gate leading to a small courtyard beside the two-storied temple. There is a kitchen just beside the gate with a “bukhari”(wood-burning stove) to keep the place warm in winter. The caretaker was kind enough to let us use the space to have our packed lunch in. There is a water shortage here so they often collect and rely on rain water especially for cleaning purposes.

Bjela Dzong standing atop the hill

Along the route, you can see various trees similar to the ones spotted en route to Chelela, due to similar climate conditions and altitude. The trail is frequently used for logging as well. The best time to visit would definitely be the drier seasons and if you want better views, the spring months. We visited in early June and the rain along with extremely foggy weather hindered the picturesque views from the top. But the weather cleared up once in a while so we still managed to get some good photos.

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