The magnificent Genyen Latsho

Genyen Latsho, the Spirit Lake above Dechenphu

Distance: 12 km
Time: 7 hours

About Aap Genyen

Genyen Jagpa Melan is the king of the warriors of demi-gods and the revered protective deity of Thimphu. His residence is in Dechenphu – the Land of Consummate Bliss. Initially, it is said that he used to indulge in actions which went against the principles of Buddhism. However, he was subdued by Guru Padma Jungney and offered his heart and soul to the Guru, vowing to become a protector of the Dharma.

In the 14th century, when Lama Jamyang Kuenga Singye came to Bhutan, he was received by Aap Genyen and his retinues. They led the Lama to the place where Dechenphu Lhakhang stands today where they renewed their vow as Dharma Protectors. Legend says the protective deity then sunk into a rock, giving Thimphu its name i.e. “Thim” meaning to sink and “Phu” meaning hill.

There are many more accounts of Aap Genyen narrating his encounters with Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, other religious figures and local deities.

Dechenphu Lhakhang, the base point of the Genyen Latsho hike

Dechenphu Lhakhang, the base point of the hike

Genyen Jagpa Milan Latsho

The “la” in “Latsho refers to life force and the Genyen Latsho is said to contain the life force of the local deity Aap Genyen. The path to this lake starts from Dechenphu Lhakhang; a little way down from the entrance. If you are unsure about the route, you can ask the locals or monks. Unfortunately, we got lost (again) from the very beginning since we took the wrong path – the footpath right beside the entrance.

Colors of autumn seen on the way to Genyen Latsho hike

Colors of autumn seen on the way

After about an hour, you’ll reach the Tshamkha or the retreat center. The small houses may appear to be isolated but it is proper etiquette to stay quiet until you are past the area.  Most of the route is steep, but there are a few places where the gradient becomes more gentle and easier to walk on. Unfortunately, we had cloudy weather the day we went on this hike so the view of the valley below was covered by fog and mist.

En route to the Genyen Latsho

En route to the lake

The 7 hours long route is largely uneventful, mostly through the dense forest and a few places where the trees give way to clearings. Autumn had already taken  hold when we went on this hike so most of the plants and flowers had withered. I can imagine how colorful it would be in the summer when the flora is in full bloom, but it would be difficult to walk in the rain.

Curious rocks half concealed by fog on the way to Genyen Latsho

Curious rocks half concealed by fog

Once we crossed the tree-line, the landscape changed and the soft path was replaced by gravel and rocks. The closer we got to the lake, the more rock formations we saw; some of them were strange and intimidating. We decided to break for lunch after reaching the mountain pass, but you could continue till your destination and enjoy your meal beside the lake. We had a view of the Latsho from the place we paused for lunch and it appeared to be quite close by. The distance was rather deceiving since we actually had to walk for an additional hour. But it was worth trudging through the final part of the trek to see the magnificent lake up close.

Genyen Latsho at an altitude of 4200 m

Genyen Latsho at an altitude of 4200 m

Genyen Latsho appeared to be menacingly black in color from a distance but when seen nearby, the color was closer to dark green. Nested between small hills, it is mysteriously dark and very large, like a portal to some other world. To an imaginative mind, it seems like many things could be lurking beneath the calm surface. As is the custom, we offered incense and milk to the lake in hopes of accumulating merit. The serenity of the tsho and the surrounding area gave me a sense of peace, almost like the busy world had stopped for a moment. Seven hours walk may sound tough but the destination is worth the trouble. You definitely need to see the Genyen Latsho for yourself; the photos do not do it justice.

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