Altitude: 3800 m Time: 3-4 hours till Bumdra temple and an additional 3 hours to visit the three sky burials
An extremely popular tourist destination in Paro, and one of the shorter camping trips in Bhutan. It’s a place we’ve wanted to go to for the longest time and have finally been able to visit. It is called Bumdra because of “the footprint of the manifestation of a hundred thousand dakinis on a cliff”. It is believed that a hundred thousand manifestations of Khandu Yeshey Tshogyal (Guru’s consort) arrived at the place and meditated there. A right footprint believed to be left by the dakini can be seen on a rock inside the temple.
The best time to visit
The campsite at Bumdra with the temple on the cliff at the back
The best season to visit Bumdra is surely the non-monsoon season; because the rain tends to make hiking routes extremely slippery and hence difficult. We ended up visiting during the peak rain time, not out of willful defiance but due to circumstances; our free time just happened to be during the wrong season. Nonetheless, we ended up having fun despite some minor inconveniences. That said, to be on the safer side, try and plan your trip for the drier seasons.
Glamping at Bumdra
The place is ideal for camping and there are a couple of agencies providing camping services as well as people who carry and set up their own tents there. We, however, are a lazy bunch and did not want the hassle of carrying heavy stuff, pitching our own tents, and definitely not the trouble of having to cook after a hike. So, we decided to go with an agency providing these services instead. The package included 3 meals (lunch and dinner for the first day and breakfast for the next day), and they also provide a few horses to help carry your heavy luggage. But, somehow they forgot to mention it to us during the booking so be sure to ask about it in advance. Or like us, you’ll reach halfway carrying your own stuff before realizing it.
The morning view from the campsite
The camp has multiple double-bedded cozy tents, a few tents with twin beds, and separate tents for dining. They also provide hot water bags to help with the cold weather. There is no electricity at the camp but they have generators that light and provide heaters in the dining tents although only till 9 pm. After a tiring hike, I’m sure you’ll want to get in bed by then so the no-light part isn’t much of an issue.
The hike to Bumdra
The hike to Bumdra temple (and also the campsite) is about 3-4 hours from the basepoint, Sang Choekhor monastery. There are various other routes but we took the one from Sang Choekhor; parked our cars near the monastery and started our hike. The route initially passes through massive fields of burnt trees: the tragic remnants of a forest fire. On that note, please, please be mindful if you happen to set up a fire near any forested areas.
The field of burnt trees at the starting point
The route slowly transitions from the haunting ….. to green forested areas and leads to a temple, a little over halfway to Bumdra. If you have time, do visit the temple. It is called Chhoetse lhakhang and is a 700-year-old temple that is the residence of Lam Drakpa Jamtsho. Just nearby, there is a small canopy to take shelter from the sun or rain while enjoying the tea, snacks, and lunch served here if you book a package; else it’s a good place to have your packed meals as well.
The Chhoetse temple
The walk after the lunch point is much easier than the first half of the hike. Just before reaching the campsite, there is a wide lush green area, perfect for taking beautiful photos. The landscape kind of reminds one of the green valleys of Phobjikha; just smaller in size. There are also two chortens near the campsite that are the Kudung chortens of Bumdra Tulku (reincarnate of a Buddhist practitioner) and Tsampa (meditator) Sangay. On the other side, there is a small stone structure with prayer flags adorning it; believed to be the area where dakinis used to provide offerings of song and dance. Because of this legend, people tend to circumambulate the stone structure while dancing and singing as a form of offering.
Plain greens just before reaching the temple
Just a few minutes away from the campsite is the Bumdra temple; two tiny traditional structures built on the side of a cliff with the upper structure housing the dakini’s footprint. And a short walk below the temple leads to a holy water that is believed to be capable of curing all kinds of diseases.
To the Sky Burials
After the temple, it’s an additional 3 hours to visit the three sky burials blessed by Guru Rinpoche. The first burial site is the hardest (located at the top of a mountain after crossing the 2nd burial) at an approximate altitude of 4200m above sea level. Between the 2nd and 3rd burial, there is a rock said to be the hat of Guru Rinpoche; with a cave at the bottom where Guru and his consort Khandom Yeshey Tshogyal meditated. At the burial sites, one has to lie down and pretend that you are dead and wait till someone tells you to get up (to imitate death and resurrection).
The 2nd burial site
It is a popular attraction especially amongst females since it is the religious site of Khandom Yeshey Tshogyal; and is a must-try camping experience without the hassles of traditional camping. Even if you don’t camp and stay, the place is still worth a visit.
The hike is steep in some areas so it requires a medium level of fitness, especially if you plan to visit the sky burials.