The trek leads through high mountain passes (16,100 ft) into the wilderness above the tree line – a world of snow peaks, glacial lakes, herds of blue sheep, alpine blossoms and home of the hospitable Layaps. The route also takes you through the therapeutic hot springs of Gasa and ends in the sub-tropical valley of Punakha.
Day 01 Arrival at Paro (by Druk Air) – Transfer to hotel.
The flight into Paro on our national carrier, Druk Air, is a befitting introduction to the spectacular beauty of our country. In clear weather, magnificent views of the world’s highest peaks, give way to the lush green Paro valley as you land. You will fly past Mt. Everest, Kanchenjunga and the entire Himalayan range visible on the left hand side. On landing at Paro you will be met by our representative. After Customs and Immigrations formalities, you will be escorted to the hotel. In the afternoon visit Ta Dzong, an ancient watchtower, which now houses the National Museum. Below the museum is the Paro Rimpung Dzong, the center of civil and religious authority in this valley. A short walk takes you to the base of the dzong and across a traditional cantilevered, covered bridge. A short distance further is one of the innumerable archery grounds. (Archery is the national sport of Bhutan). If we are lucky, we may catch a match in action.
The evening ends with a walk through Paro’s main shopping district.Overnight at hotel Olathang/Kyichu Resort.
Day 02 Paro – Hike to Taktsang Monastery
A very special day, with an excursion to view the spectacular Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest) monastery – After breakfast a short drive takes us to Satsam Chorten, from there a 2 hour horse ride till the viewpoint point of the monastery. The trail climbs through beautiful pine forest, many of the trees festooned with Spanish moss, and an occasional grove of fluttering prayer flags. We stop for a rest and light refreshments at the Taktsang Jakhang (cafeteria) and then walk a short distance until we see, clearly and seemingly within reach, Taktsang monastery. Built in the 1600s, this incredible monastery clings to the edge of a sheer rock cliff that plunges 900 m into the valley below. Legend has it that Guru Padmasambhava, the tantric mystic who brought Buddhism to Bhutan, landed here on the back of a flying tiger. Looking at the monastery flying tigers doesn’t seem so impossible after all. Lunch will be served at the cafeteria, followed by a short walk to Satsam Chorten for the drive to the hotel.
** This hike is generally to get acclimatize yourself for the trek.
Day 03 Paro – Shana (start of trek)
Our trek to Shana starts at Drukgyal Dzong following the Paro river and we pass cultivated fields and tiny picturesque villages. The forests are alive with numerous birds and brightly colored butterflies. Overnight at camp Shana. Altitude 2,820 m; Distance 14 Km; Time: 5 – 6 hours.
Day 04 Shana – Soi Thangthangkha
The trail follows the river through a heavily forested area with a few isolated farmhouses. It narrows and closes in and the trail winds up and down along the drainage. We pass a junction enroute, where another path leads north over the Tremo La to Tibet. Camp is in a meadow with a stone shelter. Altitude 3610 m; Distance 21 Km; Time: 7 – 8 hours.
Day 05 Soi Thangthangkha – Jangothang
In the morning after passing a small army post, the trail slowly leaves the forest line and gradually climbs into a beautiful valley, passing Tegethang, a winter home of yak herdsmen. Lunch will be served in one of these huts. Lots of yaks will be seen today before we arrive at the Jhomolhari base camp (4,115 m). High mountains overlook the camp and visible nearby are the ruins of an old fortress used to guard Bhutan against Tibetan invasions. Altitude 4,115 m; Distance 15 Km; Time 5 – 6 hours.
Day 06 Jangothang – Halt
A rest day. A chance to acclimatize and walk up to the Jhomolhari glacier or to the lakes in the opposite direction.
Day 07 Jangothang – Lingshi
A good day’s walk today with spectacular views of the Jhomolhari, Jichu Drake and the Tserim Gang. We start climbing straight away and after some 3 to 4 hours reach the Nyelela pass (4,700 m) . After the pass we descend to a circular hut just below Lingshi, where we camp. Coming down from Lingshi we obtain our first views of the truly mystical Dzong atop a high hill. Altitude 4000m; Distance 17 kms; Time 6 – 7 hours.
Day 08 Lingshi – Chebisa
This is a magical day. Leaving Lingshi behind we gently climb gently to reach another delightful village, Gom Yu, which is set right below a 300 m cliff. Another hours walk brings us to a lovely little valley with a huge waterfall at one end of the Shangri La village of Chebisa, where we camp by the side of the river. The walk is very leisurely with plenty of reasons and opportunities to linger. Altitude: 3,780m; Distance 12 kms; Time 4 – 5 hours.
Day 09 Chebisa – Shomuthang
We start with quite a stiff climb through high pastures up the Gokula pass (4,320 m) before we drop through forests of dwarf rhododendron. We climb gradually and head down to the camp near a riverbed. Altitude 3,890 m; Distance 17 kms; Time: 6 – 7 hours.
Day 10 Shomuthang – Robluthang
A long haul over the Jarela pass at 4,640 m where we once again get stunning views of the Himalayan mountains above us. We drop steeply down a forest trail to the Tsarigathang valley, where herds of Takin roam, then cross a knee deep river before climbing up Robluthang where we camp. Altitude 4,100m; Distance 22 kms; Time 7 – 8 hours.
Day 11 Robluthang – Limithang
This is one of the hardest days of the trek. We climb slowly up to Shinchela pass at 4,870 m. and are rewarded with stunning views of mountains, including the spectacular Gang Chen Ta at the head of the valley. On a clear day practically all the mountains on the northern border are visible. Eagles, griffin vultures, blue sheep and yaks abound in this area. We descend down to camp on a lovely spot by the riverbank. Altitude 4,040m; Distance kms; Time: 6 – 7 hours.
Day 12 Limithang – Laya
We walk along the river, one of the tributaries of the Mochu and through a forest of rhododendron and silver fir and then enter the village of Laya. The people of Laya are famous for they’re vertical stripe yak hair clothing and their strange conical bamboo hats. The women wear their hair long and with great deal of turquoise and jade jewelry. The features of the people are even more Tibetan/ Mongolian than the Bhutanese who live in the central valleys The rest of the day is spent at leisure or visiting village houses and mixing with the villagers. Good views of the Masagang and the other peaks. Altitude 3,880m; Distance 10 kms; Time 4 – 5 hours.
Day 13 Laya
We have a rest day at Laya and an opportunity to meet the local people.
Day 14 Laya – Chamsa
The trail winds along the river valley offers breathtaking views of the crashing river, feeder streams and waterfalls. Over night at camp. Altitude 3,300m; Distance 19 kms; Time 6/7 hours.
Day 15 Chamsa – Gasa Tsachu
We gradually climb up to Balela pass at 3,740 m and then descend to Gasa village. The first sight of the Gasa Dzong perched on the hillside over the village is one of the sights of the trip. We then drop steeply down to the river for an hour and camp near the Hot Spring – a chance for a good, hot bath! Altitude 2,638m; Distance 15 kms; Time 6/7 hours.
Day 16 Gasa Tsachu – Goen damji – Tashithang (end of trek)
After the climb away from Gasa Tsachu the trail winds through rolling hillsides with the vista of fields, villages and forests of oak and pine. Gasa Dzong will be visible behind you glued to the valley wall, seeming afloat in space. The trail descends from the high agricultural benches above the Mochu into a lush semi-tropical gorge filled with banana trees, creepers and the sight of an occasional monkey. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 17 Punakha – Wangdue – Thimphu
In the morning visit the Punakha Dzong, the ancient capital of Bhutan built in 1637. In the winter the Je Khenpo, Head Abbot of Bhutan, moves to Punakha with about 1000 monks.This Dzong is open to visitors only in summer when the monk body is in Thimphu. We pass Wangdue, one of the major towns and district headquarters of Western Bhutan where we make a short stop to view the Wangdiphodrang Dzong dramatically located on the spur of a hill at the confluence of the Tsang Chu and Dang Chu rivers and then drive to Thimphu the capital. Dinner and overnight at hotel Jumolhari.
Day 18 Thimphu
Thimphu sightseeing includes visit to the National Institute of Traditional Medicine; the National Library, stocked with priceless ancient Buddhist manuscripts and the Art & Craft School, where children still learn the ancient art of Buddhist painting. Other highlights include a visit National Memorial Chorten, built in honour of our late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk; Zilukha Nunnery; Folk Heritage Museum; Textile Museum; Bhutanese Handmade Paper Factory and Handicrafts Emporium, which has all types of Bhutanese handicrafts and shopping for souvenirs in the shops of Thimphu. Overnight at hotel Jumolhari.
Day 19 Thimphu – Paro
Morning drive to Paro via Wangchuk Taba in order to visit the Botanical garden. Dinner and overnight at hotel Olathang/Kyichu Resort.
Day 20 Paro – Departure
In the morning your Bhutanese escort will bid you farewell at Paro airport. Good-bye and happy journey back home.