Cheri Monastery Hike: A Complete Guide

Cheri Monastery - one of the interesting things to do in Thimphu

Cheri Monastery sits on a hilltop at the northern end of Thimphu Valley. It is considered to be the first monastery of Bhutan and dates back to the 17th century.

The only way to see this ancient monastery is by taking an hour-long uphill walk. In this blog post, we will discuss everything you need to know to hike the Cheri Monastery trail.

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A Quick Glance Through

Cheri Monastery Facts

  • Cheri Monastery, also called Chagri Dorjeden Monastery, is a major teaching center of the Southern Drukpa Lineage of the Kagyu School of Tibetan Buddhism.
  • The monastery was built in 1620 by Ngawang Namgyal, the first Zhabdrung Rinpoche and the founder of the Bhutanese state.
  • It is believed that the Zhabdrung spent three years in strict retreat at Cheri Monastery.
    • While staying at the monastery, he established the first Drukpa monastic order in Bhutan in 1623.
  • Some prominent Tibetan Buddhist leaders who visited this place before Ngawang Namgyal:
    • Padmasambhava in the 8th century.
    • Phajo Drugom Zhigpo in the 13th century. He introduced the Drukpa Kagyu tradition to Bhutan.

About The Hike

It is about 17 km drive from central Thimphu to get to the Cheri Monastery trailhead.

We started from the hotel right after breakfast and reached Dodeyna in about 35 minutes.

There was just one car in the parking lot when we arrived. So, it was clear that the place is bereft of tourist crowds and not visited by many.

While walking towards the base, we were pondering if the hike is well worth the effort. It was our guide Karma who convinced us to do the Cheri Monastery hike and I am glad we did it.

cantilever bridge near cheri monastery, thimphu
Bridge Near The Base of The Monastery

After walking a few steps from the parking, we came to a small cantilever bridge on the Wang Chhu River.

The bridge was adorned with prayer flags and offered captivating views of lush green landscapes on both sides.

We began to hike Just after crossing the bridge.

scenic trail to cheri monastery
Nature Trail Leading To The Monastery

The chirping birds, the rustling leaves, and the gentle breeze whispering in our ears, there were melodies of nature everywhere.

As we continued climbing up, we were rewarded with stunning views of Thimphu Valley below.

view of thimphu valley from the trail
View of Thimphu Valley From The Trail

The trail was steep at a few places and needed more effort to keep going.

After reaching halfway, we came across a stupa with benches placed around it. We sat there for some time and ate snacks that we were carrying in our backpack. It helped restore our energy levels to continue hiking.

stupa on the way to cheri monastery
Small Stupa Located on The Way To Cheri Monastery

Thereafter we didn’t take any breaks and stopped only after reaching the monastery.

There was some construction work going on inside the monastery, so we couldn’t see the entire complex.

We visited the original temple built by Ngawang Namgyal, the founder of Bhutan. Although the temple has been renovated, it remained at the same location.

ancient temple inside the monastery complex
An Ancient Temple Inside The Monastery Complex

Hiking down was much easier and took us approximately 40 minutes to come to the base.

We were fully tired by now and found ourselves craving for tea. Luckily our tour guide carried portable chairs, a table, and everything needed for making tea.

He along with the driver set it up for us by the riverside. We enjoyed our tea and soaked in the tranquility and quietness of the verdant landscape.

wang chhu riverside
All Set To Enjoy Tea By The Riverside!

Cheri Monastery Hike Overview

Duration (Roundtrip): 2 hours

Distance: 2.5 km

Elevation: 2,800 meters

Elevation Gain: 400 meters

Difficulty Level: Medium

How To Reach There

From Thimphu, rent a car to reach Dodeyna where the Cheri Monastery trailhead is located. It can take anywhere between 25 to 40 minutes to get to Dodeyna depending on your place of stay in Thimphu.

At the base, there is a parking lot with plenty of space to park tourist vehicles. Walk a few steps from the parking area and you will see a small cantilever bridge to your right. The hike begins after you cross the bridge.

When is The Best Time To Hike

We recommend doing this hike first thing in the morning so that you have the rest of the day for sightseeing in Thimphu.

If you attempt it later during the day after sightseeing, you may not have enough energy to hike up the steep trail.

Accommodation in Thimphu

Most tourists buy tour packages to visit Bhutan because it is mandatory for foreign nationals except for citizens of India, Bangladesh, and Maldives to book their trips with a registered tour operator.

Tour packages usually include accommodation. So, the tour operator books your stay.

If you are from India, Bangladesh, or Maldives and planning to visit Thimphu independently, here are some good options for each budget type.

Luxury Hotels: Taj Tashi, Le Meridien Thimphu, Hotel Druk

Mid-range Hotels: City Hotel Thimphu, Khang Residency, Ludrong Hotel

Budget: Hotel Gakyil, Khamsum Inn, Kisa Villa

Check Prices And Availability of Hotels in Thimphu.

Tips For Cheri Monastery Hike

  • Dress modestly since you are hiking up to a monastery.
    • Do not wear shorts, half pants, or short skirts.
    • If wearing a collarless shirt or t-shirt, make sure it is a full sleeve. Half sleeve shirts and t-shirts should be collared.
  • Wear a good pair of hiking shoes with proper fit. Avoid wearing sandals and flip-flops as they may not provide adequate support during hiking.
  • For additional support and stability, you can use a hiking stick. It is particularly useful for kids.
  • Carry plenty of drinking water and some snacks to get energy boost from time to time
  • Hike at a moderate pace. Going too fast can get you exhausted quickly. Stop to enjoy the scenic beauty around the trail.
  • Be a responsible hiker and do not litter or throw plastic bottles/wrappers.
  • Lastly, this hike gives you a fitness check for the Tiger’s Nest Monastery hike that you may attempt later in Paro.

Further Reading

Find more inspiration for your upcoming Thimphu trip.

10 Very Best Things To Do in Thimphu.

Buddha Dordenma – Complete Guide To Planning A Trip.

Tashichho Dzong, Bhutan – Your Essential Travel Guide.

Dochula Pass – How To Plan Your Visit.

Over To You Now…

We hope you found this Cheri Monastery hiking guide helpful. Did you hike this trail on your Thimphu trip? Tell us in the comments below.

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