Dochula Pass – How To Plan Your Visit

View of The Himalayas from Dochula Pass

Dochula Pass lies at an altitude of 3,100 meters (10,171 feet) in eastern Bhutan. This high mountain pass offers road connectivity between Thimphu and Punakha.

After spending 2 days in Thimphu, we headed to Punakha via Dochula Pass. It was around 9 in the morning when we got there. The place was windy and foggy, the mountains in the backdrop were not distinctly visible.

As the day progressed, the mist gradually faded away. We took this picture (posted above) right before leaving Dochula Pass.

On a clear winter day, you can take in breathtaking views of the Eastern Himalayan peaks from here.

Another highlight of the place is Druk Wangyal Chortens, a memorial comprising 108 stupas.

How To Reach Dochula Pass

Dochula Pass is less than an hour’s drive from Thimphu. It can take anywhere between 45 to 55 minutes depending on your hotel location in Thimphu.

If you are going to Punakha from Thimphu, you will definitely cross this beautiful mountain pass.

About Druk Wangyal Chortens

The Druk Wangyal Chortens is an iconic monument built in memory of the Bhutanese soldiers who sacrificed their lives fighting insurgents in 2003.

108 Chortens at Dochula Pass - one of the amazing things to do in Thimphu

This battle against the insurgents was fought under the leadership of of fourth Druk Gyalpo (king of Bhutan), Jigme Singye Wangchuck. The operation was named “Operation All Clear” and the Royal Bhutan Army emerged victorious.

There are a total of 108 memorial stupas (chortens) located at the top of the mountain pass. They were constructed at the behest of the eldest Queen Mother of Bhutan, Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck.

In June 2004, the chortens were formally dedicated and sanctified with religious rites.

How The Chortens Were Built

The monument appears hemispherical dome-shaped if you view it from a distance. There is a big stupa at the top and the smaller stupas are laid out below in three layers.

The bottom layer has the greatest number of stupas, followed by the second and the third layer (closest to the top). The walkways between the stupas allow you to explore it fully from all sides.

108 chortens - stupa

All stupas are white with a red stripe near the top. They also have images of Buddhist deities embedded in it.

The crest of the stupas is adorned with a golden spire and a square-shaped harmika (fence surrounding the spire).

From laying the foundation stone to the erection of chortens, Bhutanese traditions and rituals were followed at every step. It involved offerings in the form of grains and butter-loaded bronze utensils.

Things To Do There

Soak Up The Natural Beauty

Dochula Pass is a place of stunning beauty crowned by the magnificent Himalayas.

It affords captivating views of the Jigme Singye Wangchuck Himalayan range, home to Bhutan’s highest peak Gangkhar Puensum.

Himalayan Range 
 Near Dochula Pass
Information Board Displaying Bhutan’s Mountain Range

At 7,570 meters (24,840 feet), Gangkhar Puensum is considered the highest unclimbed mountain in the world.

If you happen to visit here on a bright, sunny day, you will enjoy excellent views of the snow-clad peaks.

Explore 108 Chortens

Popularly known as 108 chortens, these memorial stupas add greatly to the beauty of landscapes.

The monument stands majestically at the top of the mountain pass right where vehicles turn towards Punakha. As soon as you get to Dochula Pass, you will see it.

chortens with Himalayan mountain range in the backdrop

The Himalayas provide a dramatic backdrop to the chortens for a picture-perfect scenery.

Take a stroll, see the chortens up close, and experience tranquility in a scenic mountainous setting.

Visit Druk Wangyal Lhakhang

This small temple sits just opposite of the Druk Wangyal Chortens and is walkable from there. It was built in 2008 to mark the centenary of monarchy in Bhutan.

We saw the temple from outside only as it was closed when we visited. Our guide told us it has beautiful interiors with quirky paintings and murals.

Distant View of Druk Wangyal Lhakhang

There are paintings of monks with laptops and a Druk airplane. Some of the paintings also depict the fourth king fighting the insurgents.

Tips For Visiting Dochula Pass

It is windy and cold most of the time at Dochula Pass. You will need to wear woollen clothes even when visiting in summer.

A Bhutanese festival, Druk Wangyel Tshechu, is celebrated here each year in December with enthusiastic fervour. It was first organized in 2011 to commemorate the great valour shown by the army in “Operation All Clear”. If you are visiting in December, you may be able to catch a glimpse of this festival.

Besides all the attractions, it also has a small cafeteria that serves tea, coffee, and snack items like sandwiches, and dumplings. In case you don’t get time to eat in Thimphu, you can grab a quick meal here. We tried butter tea and it was really good.

The cafeteria comes with washroom too, separate for men and women. Tourists can use the washroom even if they don’t buy anything.

Further Reading

Find more inspiration for your upcoming Thimphu trip.

10 Very Best Things To Do in Thimphu.

Cheri Monastery Hiking Guide.

Buddha Dordenma – Complete Guide To Planning A Trip.

Tashichho Dzong, Bhutan – Your Essential Travel Guide.

Over To You Now…

So that’s our travel guide to Dochula Pass. Has it helped you plan your visit to this high-altitude pass? Let us know in the comments below.

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