This route offers a great variety of trekking conditions, from picturesque farmland and forests to alpine pastureland and high passes. Spectacular campsites, beneath some of Bhutan’s most impressive peaks, of which the most notable are Chomolhari and Jichu Drake, are also features of this trekking route. Numerous isolated dzongs and scattered settlements, including the extraordinary village of Laya, provide a great deal of cultural
Interest en route.
Season: The trek is generally open from late March until May and mid-September to October, but April is the best trekking month for this route.
Day 01: Arrive Paro by Flight
The flight to Paro is one of the most spectacular in entire Himalayas. Whether flying along the Himalayan range from Kathmandu or over the foothills from Kolkatta, the journey offers fascinating views and an exciting descent into the Kingdom. Bhutan’s first gift to you as you disembark from the aircraft will be cool, clean fresh mountain air. After immigration formalities and baggage collection, you will be met by our representative, and afterwards transfer to the hotel.
The beautiful valley of Paro encapsulates within itself a rich culture, scenic beauty and hundreds of myths and legends. It is home to many of Bhutan's oldest temples and monasteries, National Museum and country's only airport. Mount. Chomolhari (7,314m) reigns in white glory at the northern end of the valley and its glacial water plunge through deep gorges to form Pa Chhu (Paro river). Paro is also one of the most fertile valleys in the Kingdom producing a bulk of the locally famous red rice from its terraced fields.
This afternoon is dedicated for exploring Paro and its surrounding.
Visit Ta Dzong, originally built as Watchtower, which now houses National Museum. The extensive collection includes antique thangkha paintings, textiles, weapons & armour, household objects and a rich assortment of natural and historic artifacts.
Afterwards, walk down a hillside trail to visit Rinpung Dzong, which has a long and fascinating history. Built in 1646 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the first spiritual and temporal ruler of Bhutan, the Dzong houses the monastic body of Paro, the office of the Dzongda (district administrative head) and Thrimpon (judge) of Paro district. The approach to the Dzong is also through a traditional covered bridge called Nemi Zam. A walk through the bridge, over a stone inlaid path, offers a good view of the architectural wonder of the Dzong as well as life around it. It is also the venue of Paro Tshechu, held once a year in the spring.
Evening take an exploratory walk around Paro main street.
Overnight at the hotel in Paro. (Altitude 2,280m)
Day 02: Paro
After breakfast, take a short drive to Satsam Chorten (trail head point) for a walking excursion to Tiger’s Nest (Taktsang Lhakhang) (approx 5 hours walk). This most famous of Bhutan’s monasteries is perched on the side of a cliff 900m above the Paro valley floor. It is said that Guru Rinpoche arrived here on the back of a tigress, and meditated at this place, hence the monastery is also called ‘Tiger’s Nest’. This site, which has long been recognized as a most sacred place, was visited by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1646, the religious and temporal ruler of Bhutan. It is a place of pilgrimage which Bhutanese try to visit at least once in a lifetime.
Later in the afternoon visit Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the oldest monasteries of the Kingdom reflecting introduction of Buddhism in Bhutan.
Overnight at the hotel in Paro. (Altitude 2,280m)
Day 03: Shana Zam – Thongduzam, 9km, 3 – 4 hours walk
From Paro, drive north-west for 30 minutes to the end of the surfaced road at the ruins of Drukgyel Dzong (2530m). From here continue following a farm road for around 1 - 1.5 hours, passing through small hamlets of houses built in traditional Bhutanese design. Arriving at the end of the farm road at Shana (2860m), meet your trekking crew. Then set off following a path beside the river before climbing through beautiful lush forest of oak, rhododendron, bamboo and pine, pass the 2-house hamlet of Shing Karap. Beyond here the trail forks with one path leading across the Tremo La (forbidden pass) to Tibet. We take the other path following the main river. We make a steep climb and descent to cross the river on a bridge and soon after we reach the clearing of Thongduzampa (3150m) where we make camp.
Day 04: Thongduzam - Soi Thangthangkha, 8km, 3 - 4 hours walk
Ascent 500m, Descent 100m
Today is a short day of trekking, but it is important too to gain height gradually. Continue along the river through a magnificent forest of pine and spruce, mixed with oak, birch and maple as the valley begins to narrow. In some areas, the trail can be muddy, especially after the rain. There are many small ups and downs as we follow the river north. After crossing a bridge, we make a short climb to reach a junction of two valleys, marked by a large chorten, from where (weather permitting), we can see Mt. Chomolhari at the head of the valley. Our trail stays on the west bank of the Paro Chu and the campsite is only half an hours’ walk from here at Soi Thangthangka (3575m).
Day 05: Soi Thangthangkha – Jangothang, 15km, 5 – 6 hours walk
Ascent 550, Descent 100m
Cross a small army post and a chorten and then, leaving the forest behind, we enter more open country, surrounded by high ridges and snowcapped peaks. The trail continues through lovely juniper forest, past few yak-herder’s villages. Our camp is a little further on, a beautiful grassy meadow beneath the enormous east face of Chomolhari, by a ruined dzong (4080m).
Day 06: Jangothang Rest or exploration day
Today is a scheduled rest day, intended to aid acclimatization before the crossing of the high passes. Jangothang is one of the most spectacular camping places in the Himalayas. Snowcapped peaks form the western side, with clear stream running through the valley, surrounded by yak herder’s villages, and trout filled lakes to visit. One possibility is to hike up the ridge to a grassy summit at approximately 5000 meters, from where there is an incredible close-up view of Mt. Chomolhari and its glaciers. The cooks will have had all day to prepare a small feast for your dinner.
Day 07: Jangothang – Lingshi, 18 km, 7 - 8 hours walk
The trail follows the stream for half an hour and crosses the bridge to the right bank. We now start our climb up to the first ridge, enjoying breathtaking views of Mt. Chomolhari, Jichu Drake and Tsrim Khang. The trail then takes us across a fairly level valley floor, until the climb up to the Nyele-la pass (4,700m). We descend gradually from the pass to our campsite at Lingshi (4,000m), enjoying a panoramic view of mountain peaks and Lingshi Dzong as we walk.
Day 08: Lingshi – Chebisa, 10 km, 5 - 6 hours walk
We continue on the trail past Lingshi Dzong, perched on its hilltop, enjoying views of green hills, the winding river and magnificent peak as we walk. It is an easy day, and a pleasant walk through villages and yak herders’ camp. After lunch, a short walk takes us to Chebisa village, where we camp by the side of a stream (3,860m).
Day 09: Chebisa – Shomuthang, 17 km, 6 - 7 hours walk
Today beings with a stiff climb or nearly four hours up a ridge to Gubu-la pass (4,350m). We descend from the pass-through rhododendron to our lunch place. We cross the stream after lunch, and continue along the up and down path, through rhododendron forests and yak herders’ camps, occasionally sighting flocks of blue sheep as we walk. Tonight’s campsite is at an altitude of 4,250m.
Day 10: Shoumuthang – Robluthang, 18 km, 6 - 7 hours walk
The trek begins with a climb to Jari-la pass (4,700m). We descend from here to Tasharijathang valley, the summer grazing ground of the rare Himalayan Takin (Bhutan’s national animal). Today’s scenery is absolutely breathtaking. Cross the river and clamber up the hillside for an hour or so to camp at Robluthang (4160m).
Day 11: Roluthang – Limithang, 19 km, 7 - 8 hours trek
We start the day with a long climb up to Shinje-la (4,900m), enjoying stunning mountain views from the path. After crossing the pass, we descend to Limithang. The path is quite narrow, and we may have to ford the stream again and get wet. The last part of today’s trek is rather scramble down a steep path, with the compensation of splendid views of Gangchenta peak along the way. Tonight, we camp at 4,100m on flat ground above the river in a forested area, with Gangchenta peak towering directly above us to the north.
Day 12: Limithang – Laya, 10 km, 4 -5 hours walk
In the morning we wake up to a superb view of Gangchenta peak in front of our camp. The walk to Laya is very pleasant with wonderful views along the way. We pass through a damp forest, filled with moss and singing birds. We set up camp on arrival at Laya village, the second highest settlement in the country at 3,800m.
Day 13: Rest day at Laya
Today we explore the village and environs. You can go and visit any of the houses around. Traditional Bhutanese hospitality is extended even to a perfect stranger, and a cup of tea and chang (an alcoholic drink) is always offered. The people in this village are very interesting, especially the women, whose plain black yak wool garments are set off by elaborate necklaces and conical bamboo hats decorated with turquoise & silver ornaments. In the evening, witness a cultural program of dances performed by village girls by the campfire, and enjoy the local alcohol (ara & chang, brewed from barley) if you have a strong stomach.
Day 14: Laya – Koina – Gasa Hot Spring
Today is one of the long trekking days and so we must start really early as we are trying to cover more than usual one days’ trekking to avoid a muddy campsite at Koina. Also the new farm road has reached nearly Koina. Although the overall tendency is to descend, there are many places where the path has to climb high above the river to negotiate steep spurs. Towards the end of day, meet the vehicle and drive to Gasa Dzong and further downhill to Gasa Tsachu (Hot spring), where we camp. Gasa Hot Spring is well known for its medicinal properties and there are several pools for you to enjoy the warm bath.
Day 15: Gasa Hot Spring - Punakha
Enjoy one more dip in the hotspring before your breakfast. Then drive along the winding road, and downhill through rich subtropical jungles to Tashithang and then to Punakha, which could take about 3hours.
Afternoon visit Punakha Dzong or (Palace of Great Happiness), built at the junction of the Phochu and Mochu rivers in 1637 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. This majesticdzong served as both the religious and the administrative center of Bhutan in the past. It measures some 600 by 240 feet and has a six-story, gold-domed tower. Inside are courtyards and religious statuary that hint at the depth of history and spiritual tradition embodied here. Your guide will illuminate your understanding of this intricate culture that is exotic to us, though long established here.
Later excursion to Chimi Lhakhang.
The Chimi Lhakhang, situated on a hillock in the centre of the valley, also known as the temple of fertility. It is widely believed that couples who do not have children and wanting one, if they pray at this temple, they are usually blessed with a child very soon. The trail leads across rice fields to the tiny settlement of Pana, meaning ‘field’. A walk through the village near the temple will give you rare glimpses into the daily life and lifestyle of the villagers.
Overnight hotel in Punakha. (Altitude 1,300m)
Day 16: Punakha – Thimphu (75km, approx. 3 hours’ drive)
After breakfast, a beautiful hike takes one to the regal Khamsum Yuelley Namgel Chorten, which was built to remove negative forces and promote peace, stability and harmony in the changing world. The Chorten dominates the upper Punakha Valley with commanding views across the Mo Chhu and up towards the mountainous peaks of Gasa and beyond.
Then drive to Thimphu, the modern capital of Bhutan.
Evening visit Trashichhoedzong, “fortress of the glorious religion”. This is the center of government and religion, site of monarch’s throne room and seat of Je Khenpo or Chief Abbot. Built in 1641 by the political and religious unifier of Bhutan, Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, it was reconstructed in 1960s in traditional Bhutanese manner, without nails or architectural plans.
Overnight at the hotel in Thimphu. (Altitude 2,320m)
Day 17: Thimphu – Paro (55km, approx. 1.1/2-hour drive)
After breakfast, sightseeing in Thimphu valley including visit to the following: The National Library, housing an extensive collection of priceless Buddhist manuscripts; the Institute for Zorig Chusum (commonly known as the Painting School) where students undergo a 6-year training course in Bhutan’s 13 traditional arts and crafts. Later visit Textile Museum, which provides insight into Bhutan’s one of the most distinct art form. Also visit Simply Bhutan, a living museum and studio encapsulating the cultural heritage of the Bhutanese people.
After lunch, visit King's Memorial Chorten continuously circumambulated by people, murmuring mantras and spinning their prayer wheels. Construction of this landmark was the idea of Bhutan’s third king, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuk (“the father of modern Bhutan”) who has wished to erect monument to world peace and prosperity. Completed in 1974 after his untimely death, it serves both as a memorial to the Late King and as a monument to peace.
Later drive to Buddha Point (Kuensel Phodrang). Located at a short drive from Thimphu city centre, visitors can get a good overview of the Thimphu valley from the Buddha point (Kuensel Phodrang). You can pay your obeisance and offer prayers to the Buddha, the largest statue in the country and then walk around and take a glimpse of the valley.
Then drive to Paro en route visiting Simtokha Dzong, the oldest fortress of the country built in 1627 which now houses the School for Buddhist studies.
Overnight at the hotel in Paro. (Altitude 2,280m)
Day 18: Depart Paro
After breakfast transfer to Paro International Airport for flight to onward destination. Our guide will assist you with exit formalities and bid you farewell.