Dzongdrakha Goemba

Western Bhutan

The visually splendid but little-visited cliffside retreat of Dzongdrakha Goemba is one of several local sites where Guru Rinpoche did battle with local demons and it's well worth a short detour off the Paro–Cheli La road. A string of four chapels and a large chorten perch on the cliff face. Budget an hour to visit the site.

The first building you come to is the private manor house of Jongsarbu Lhakhang, founded in the 18th century by the meditation master Gyanpo Dorje, and fronted by a lovely suntala (mandarin) tree. The main statue is of Sakyamuni in his princely Jowo form, flanked by the local protector Tsethsho Chen and a tshomen (mermaid spirit).

The Tsheringma Lhakhang is dedicated to the goddess of longevity, one of five sisters, depicted riding a snow lion. Climb the narrow log ladder behind the chapel to the cave-like Droley Lhakhang, which houses local protectors Doley and Shari Tsen alongside a couple of papier-mâché heads that were once used during local festivals. Local parents who have just given birth to a son are supposed to come to this chapel to receive an auspicious name for their child.

Nearby is the Guru Lhakhang, where the caretaker will tell you stories about local spirits, flying saints and magical spells, and point out sacred dagger marks in a nearby stone. Behind the main statue is a hidden relic chorten that allegedly has to be enclosed to prevent it flying away; the caretaker can open a little door at the back to reveal part of the chorten. The final building is the small Lhamey Lhakhang.