Snowman Trek Bhutan
Day 1: Arrive Paro
Depending on the arrival time, you may be able to see few places in the late afternoon or evening, that may include visit to Paro Rinpung Dzong and a short familiarization tour of Paro town.
Paro: The small and charming town of Paro lies in the center of the valley at an average elevation of 2280m, on the bank of Pa Chhu River. Paro town was first formed in 1985 with one main street, lined with colorfully painted shops. Of recent, new constructions have taken place parallel to main street. The head quarter of Paro district is located in nearby Rinpung Dzong. Bhutan's international airport is also located here, and the capital is just over one hour away. Paro is known to be most fertile valley. It is one of the most historic valleys in Bhutan too. Both trade goods and invading Tibetans came over the pass at the head of the valley, making Paro the closest cultural connection with Tibet of any Bhutanese district.
Paro Rinpung Dzong: This Dzong was consecrated in 1645 by Shabdrung Nawang Namgyal on the site of smaller fort. Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries it served as a bastion against invasion from the north. It is regarded as one of the finest Bhutanese architecture - with intricate wood work, large beams slotted into each other and held together without nails. In it houses the giant 30m X 45m Thangka (Thongdrol), commissioned in mid-18th century, displayed on the last day of Paro Tshechu (festival). Rinphung Dzong is the district headquarter of Paro and residence of state monks under Paro rabdey.
Overnight at the hotel in Paro. (Altitude 2,280m)
Day 2: Paro
Drukgyel Dzong: Currently under restoration, is located 14kms north of Paro town, near the end of the paved road. Its name means victorious fortress and was built 1644-49 to commemorate the Bhutanese victory over the Tibetan-Mongol forces. It was later burnt in fire by accident in 1951. On a clear day, Mt. Jumolhari (7,314m), Bhutan's holy peak can be seen against its backdrop.
Kyichu Lhakhang: Kyichu Lhakhang or Kyerchu Temple is located short distance north of Paro town. It is one of the oldest and most beautiful temples. The temple is popularly believed to have been built in 659 AD by King Songtsen Gampo of Tibet, to pin down 'the left foot of the supine Ogress', which was thwarting the establishment of Buddhism in Himalayas. Kyichu is said to be one of the main 12 temples of the 108 temples that were built overnight across Tibet and borderlands. The temple was adopted by different sects and many important Buddhists teachers spent time here and unearthed concealed teachings (terton). The inner hall of the main Jowo Lhakhang shrine conceals the original 7th century Jowo Jamba Statue. Its central image of Jowo Jamba is flanked by eight standing Bodhisattvas and by statue of Zhabdrung and Guru Rinpoche. The outer hall of the Jowo contains statue of Chenrizig with 11 heads and 1000 arms. Attached to Jowo Lhakhang is Guru Lhakhang temple, which was constructed by Queen Mother Ashi Kesang Wangchuk in 1968 and its principal image is 5m statue of Guru Rinpoche. Also here is a chorten, containing ashes of of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, a highly revered Buddhist master, and spiritual teacher of Queen Mother who passed away in 1992 and was cremated nearby.
Ta Dzong (National Museum of Bhutan): Established in 1967, the museum is housed inside a circular ancient watchtower. It has fascinating collection of arts, relics, and religious thangkha paintings, household’s stuffs, arms, handicrafts, stuffed animals and Bhutan's famous Stamps among others.
Dzongdrakha Gompa: From the little town of Bondey, near the airport, walk for about ½ an hour to Dzongdrakha, a group of temple monastery with retreat center overlooking the Paro Valley. The temples are situated on the cliffs above the terraced fields of Bondey. The temples were built in the 16th century by the first local king, Chogay Dragpa. The four temples are dedicated to Tara, Tsheringma, Guru and Jowo Jampa.
Overnight at the hotel in Paro. (Altitude 2,280m)
Day 3: Paro (Taktshang Monastery Hike)
Upon return from the hike, you can prepare your luggage for the trek. Things you don’t need during the trek can be left behind.
Taktshang - Tigers Nest: Often referred to as Taktshang Pelphung monastery, it is one of the most venerated and famous of Bhutan's monasteries, located on the face of a 900m sheer cliff. It is an impressive and unmissable site, but accessible only by walk or to ride mules/pony. From the trail head at Rumtokto (2600m), the walk till the Cafeteria is a steep one-hour uphill (about 350m ascent). From the Cafeteria (2940m), one can get a good close-up view of Taktshang. Savor views of the monastery over a well-deserved cup of tea and biscuits at the cafeteria and continue uphill for another 45 minutes to a high observation point (3140m) where there is a Chorten. From this vantage point, the lookout to the monastery is really spectacular and seems almost close enough to touch. It is now on the other side of a deep chasm, only around 150m away as bird flies, but takes half hour or even more to reach. Continue down the flight of cliff-hanging steps on the narrow trail to a beautiful waterfall that plunges down the deep chasm and alongside is a retreat hermitage, jammed dramatically into a rock crevice. Then climb up the flight of steep steps to the monastery. At any point on this walk, you can always return if you find it too difficult. Once inside the monastery, there are several shrines or temples with few monks in residence.
After visiting Taktshang monastery's many shrines, most tourists schedule lunch at the Cafeteria upon return. After lunch, retrace back to the road-head where you started in the morning. The return from Cafeteria is all downhill and takes just over half hour. Further, if you have more time, energy and ready for more challenging day, you can start early and trek beyond Takstang to see several monasteries, temples, retreat houses in the surrounding area. The most notable among them are Zangdopelri and Ugyen Tsemo. Pony/horse can be hired for ride up till the Cafeteria. However, you cannot ride beyond the cafeteria or come down hill on the horse. According to the legend, Guru Padmasambhava or Guru Rinpoche, who spread the Buddhism across the entire Himalayas is said to have flown here in the 8th century on the back of a Tigress, in order to subdue negative spiritual forces that were hostile to spread of Buddhism. In 853, one of his students, Pelgyi Senge mediated here in the main cave. The stupa inside one of the temples contains his mortal remains and therefore the cave is known as 'Pelphung or Pelgi's cave'. Subsequently many great spiritual masters such as Milarepa, Thangthong Gyalpo, Phajo Dugom Zhigpo, Shadrung and many others, passed periods here in profound meditation. In 1692, Tenzin Rabgye built a two storey temple around what little may have existed previously. This was expanded and refurbished many times over the period of time. Taktshang and several temples in the area were burnt down in 1951 by fire accident but much of them remained intact and most of the relics were saved. Soon after, the, Taktshang was rebuilt by population of Tsento village. Again, in April of 1998, a major fire destroyed the main structure of the building and its contents (some believe it to be arson). Reconstruction began in 2000 and was completed and consecrated after extensive efforts and financial support of Governments as well as donors.
Day 4: Trek to Thongduzam
Day 5: Trek to Soi Thangthangkha
Day 6: Trek to Jangothang
Day 7: Jangothang Rest or exploration day
Day 8: Trek Jangothang – Lingshi
Day 9: Trek Lingshi – Chebisa
Day 10: Trek Chebisa – Shomuthang
Day 11: Trek Shomuthang – Robluthang
Day 12: Trek Robluthang – Lemithang
Day 13: Trek Lemithang – Laya
Day 14: Rest & Explore Laya Village
Day 15: Trek Laya - Rodophu
Day 16: Trek Rodophu - Tsome - Narethang
Day 17: Trek Narethang - Karchungla - Tarina
Day 18: Trek Tarina - Woche Village
Day 19: Trek Woche Village - Keshe La (4,485m) - Lhedi (3650m)
Day 20: Trek Lhedi - Thanza (3,970m)
Day 21: Thanza Rest or trek to Danje
Day 22: Trek to Danje (4450m)
Day 23: Trek to Tsorim lake near Gangkar Phunsum
Day 24: Trek over Gophula to Geshe Woma
Day 25: Trek to Mischugang at the base of Phorang La Pass
Day 26: Trek to Worithang crossing Phorang La and Saga La
Day 27: Trek to Dur Tsachu (Hot Springs)
Day 28: Trek to Tsho Chenchen
Day 29: Trek to Gorsum - Jakar (Bumthang)
Day 30: Jakar (Bumthang)
Bumthang: The district of Bumthang is located in the north-central region of Bhutan and due to the great number of temples and sacred sites, it is often referred to as the spiritual heartland of the country. Bumthang consists of Ura, Chumey, Tang and Choekhor valleys. The winters are cold with a persistent strong wind and some snow fall and the summers are warm and pleasant, and due to the high altitude and interior location, the region does not suffer much from the torrential monsoon rains. Jakar situated in Choekhor valley is the capital of Bumthang district. Most of the hotels and important religious sites are located here. The town consist of a single lane street with wooden houses on each side. Bumthang is famous throughout the country for its brightly coloured distinctive woolen item called Yathra, besides it is also famous for dairy products, honey, apples and other agricultural products. Bumthangkha is the widely spoken dialect in this region Jampey Lhakhang:Jampey Lhakhang is one of the 108 temples built by the Tibetan King SrongtsenGampo in 659AD . This temple was built on a single day to suppress the demoness, which was said to have been causing obstruction to the spread of Buddhism. So, temples were constructed over her body parts that spread over Tibet, Bhutan and the borderlands. The best-known temples are Jorkhang in Lhasa, Kichu in Paro and Jambay Lakhang in Bumthang. It is also believed that Kongchugsum in Bumthang, Khaine in Lhuentse and the two temples of Haa might have also been the parts of these 108 temples. This temple was later visited by Guru Rimpoche and was restored by Sindhu Raja after Guru Rimpoche restored his life force. Since then this temple has been repaired and rebuilt several times. This is a fabulous temple and a must visit sight in Bumthang. Kurjey Lhakhang Complex: Named after the sacred power place where Guru Rinpoche (8th century) left the imprint of his body (kurjey) on solid rock which can be seen from inside the shrine. The complex consists of three large temples surrounded by a perimeter of 108 stupas. Upon entering, the first temple to the right is Guru Lhakhang (which houses the cave) dating from 1652. The middle temple Sampalundrup was built by the first King Ugyen Wangchuk in 1900, during his tenure as Trongsa Penlop. The third temple is recently constructed under the patronage of Her Majesty queen mother Ashi Kesang Wangchuk. Tamshing Goempa: Located opposite Kurjey Lhakhang, was founded by Bhutan's own religious treasure discoverer, Terton Pema Lingpa in 1501 who was believed to be the reincarnation of Guru Rinpoche. He discovered many religious treasures around the country. The original murals on the walls still survive, which are considered to be the oldest extant painting in Bhutan. Jakar Dzong: Literally meaning "Castle of the white bird" is located on a picturesque ridge overlooking the Chokhor valley. This fortress with impressive walls, elegant structure and simple interior was built in 1667 and was refurbished in 1683. This fortress is said to be one of the largest dzongs in Bhutan.
Overnight at the hotel in Jakar.
Day 31: Jakar - Trongsa (68km, approx. 2.1/2-hour drive)
The drive to Trongsa is about 68km and takes about 2.1/2 hours. Drive across the Kiki La Pass into Chume valley, and then cross over the Yotongla pass (3,551m) into Trongsa.
Yathra Weaving at Zungney: Yathra is colourful wool weaving, a pattern native to the central Bhutan with deep colors. In the village of Zugney in Chumey valley, there are shops, where you can see the weavers- at-work. You may also be able to see the dyeing of wool using natural dyes and other processes.
Afternoon visit Trongsa Dzong, also called Choekhor Rabdentse, it is the largest and most impressively situated dzong in Bhutan, perched high on a cliff above the deep Mangde Chu gorge, built in 1648 on the site of temple which was built in 1543. The huge many-level fortress with its intricate wood carvings has a maze of courtyards and covered passages that follow the contour of the ridge. The first and the second King ruled the country from this fort and all successive Kings have held the post as the Trongsa Penlop(governor) prior to being crowned as the King.
Also visit Ta Dzong, a cylindrical stone structure rising five stories, was built in 1652 by Chogyal Minjur Tempa. After more than 350 years, it has been resurrected into a classy museum, that represents a tasteful blend of tradition and modernity.
Overnight at the hotel in Trongsa.
Day 32: Trongsa – Gangtey (Phobjikha) – Punakha (170km, approx. 6-hour drive)
Gangtey in Phobjikha Valley: Gangtey or Phobjikha at an average altitude of 3,000m is a wide and beautiful valley, designated as conservation zone within the Jigme Singye Wangchuk National Park (formerly Black Mountains National Park) is a natural habitat for wildlife, including the nesting grounds for the endangered black-necked cranes(Grus nigricollis) that migrate from Central Asia in the winter (late October - March). Gangtey is the name for a hilltop village and its monastery and the valley is known as Phobjikha and falls under Wangdue Dzongkhag.
Visit Gangtey Gompa Monastery: The Gangteng Monastery or simply the Gangtey Gonpa monastery is located on a hillock amidst the Gangtey village with a striking view of the Phobjikha valley below. This monastery was established by Gyalse Rigdzin Pema Thinley, the grandson and the reincarnation of great Bhutanese treasure finder Pema Lingpa in 1613. It is headed by the ninth Gangtey Trulku and is the largest Nyingmapa monastery in Western Bhutan. The extensive complex comprises the central gonpa, quarters for the monk and meditation centres.
Black-necked Crane: ‘Thrung Trung Karmo' as this bird is passionately known in Bhutan is the subject of many Bhutanese songs and folklore. The birds are considered as the holy messenger, symbol of peace and prosperity. These graceful birds are so culturally important that they’re seen among the paintings on the walls of home, temples and Thangkhas. In Phobjikha, farmers believe the birds’ presence ensures a healthy crop and tourists travel from around the world to see them. The wetland in the center of Phobjikha valley provides the nesting grounds and natural habitat for these black necked cranes. Black Necked Crane Information Centre is situated on the edge of the forest and wetland along the main road of Phobjikha, it has an observation room equipped with high power telescope and spotting scopes for catching the best view of the cranes. The centre also offers information that outline the natural and cultural history of the area.
After visit Gangtey monastery and Phobjikha valley, drive onwards o Punakha.
Overnight at the hotel in Punakha.
Day 33: Punakha - Thimphu (75km, approx. 2.1/2-hour drive)
In the morning, visit Chimi lhakhang and Punakha Dzong.
Chimi Lhakhang: The temple, flanked by hundreds of prayer flags, sits edge of on picturesque plateau, at the periphery of fertile rice fields. Chimi Lhakhang is dedicated to Lama Drukpa Kunley or Drukpa Kunleg (1455 - 1529) also known as 'The Divine Madman'. He was a great accomplished master of Mahamudra Buddhist tradition, but he is remembered more for the outrageous nature of his teachings, often using strong sexual overtones and inclinations. In Bhutan, he is also a cultural icon around whom countless yarns of facts and fiction, and stories and legends have been spun. Drukpa Kuenley originally built a chorten on this site, on which a temple was later built in 15th century. It is a pilgrim site, especially for childless couples. It is accessed by easy walk of 15 minutes each way, from near Mitsina at the intersection of Punakha and Wangdue road.
Punakha Dzong: Punakha Dzong also known as Pungthang Dechhen Phodrang (‘The Palace of Great Happiness’) located at the confluence of the Pho Chu and Mo Chhu rivers was built by Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyal in 1637. Presently it serves as the administrative center of Punakha Dzongkhag and the winter home of the Central Monastic Body led by HH the Je Khenpo (chief abbot). The Dzong houses the most sacred relics of the Drukpa Kagyu school including the Rangjung Kasarpani, and the sacred remains of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. On 17th Dec 1907 Ugyen Wangchuk was crowned here as the first King of Bhutan and on 13th Oct 2011 the wedding of the 5th King, Jigme Kesar Namgyal Wangchuk and Jetsun Pema was held here. The Dzong was damaged several times by flood, earth quake and by fire and each time it was rebuilt to its original grandeur.
Post lunch, drive to Thimphu across Dochula pass (3080m). Rest of the afternoon is free in Thimphu to relax, rest or explore on your own.
Thimphu: Thimphu is the capital of Bhutan, and also the name of the valley and Dzongkhag or district. With estimated population of around 100,000, Thimphu is Bhutan's largest city. Thimphu valley is at an average elevation of 2300m. It was a wooded farming valley until 1951, when massive 17th century Fortress, Tashicho Dzong, was revamped by King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk to form Bhutan's official capital and replace the ancient capital of Punakha. Today the city sprawls across the western slopes of the Wang Chhu river valley, with several government offices located around Trashichoe dzong. Rapid expansion following the pattern of rural exodus has resulted in considerable rebuilding in the city centre and mushrooming suburban development elsewhere. Norzin Lam, the recently upgraded main thoroughfare, is lined with shops, restaurants, retail arcades and public buildings. Elsewhere, there is a mix of apartment blocks, small family homes and family-owned stores. By regulation, all buildings are required to be designed in traditional style with Buddhist paintings and motifs. A lively weekend market (now open all days of the week) near the river supplies meat, vegetables and tourist items. Most of the city's limited light industry is located south of the main bridge. Thimphu has a growing number of commercial services and offices which provide for ever-growing local needs. Interestingly, Thimphu is one of national capitals that do not have traffic lights. Instead of traffic lights, traffic police direct the oncoming traffic with their dance-like movement of their arms and hands. The Memorial Chorten dominates the skyline of Thimphu. The Buddha Dordenma statue, the largest Buddha statue in the world, is on a ridge top, overlooking the city.
Day 34: Thimphu
Takin Sanctuary: Short distance off the road to the telecom tower, a trail leads into a large fenced area that was originally established as a mini-zoo. The king decided that such a facility was not in keeping with Bhutan's environmental and religious convictions, and it was disbanded some time ago. The animals were released into the wild, but the Takins were so tame (some people say they are simply stupid) that they wandered around the streets of Thimphu looking for food, and the only solution was to put them back into captivity. It's worthwhile taking the time to see this strange, quite weird animal. Takin (Budorcas taxicolor) has been chosen as the national animal of Bhutan is based both on its uniqueness and its association with country's history and mythology. It is said that Drukpa Kunley or Devine Madman, a popular 15th century saint is said to have created it with his magical power at a large congregation of devotees. It resembles a cow from back, a goat from the front, and it continues to befuddle taxonomists, who cannot quite relate to another animal.
Painting School: The National Institute for Zorig Chusum Pedzoe (School of Arts and Crafts) is commonly known as "the painting school". It operates under the National Technical Training Institute and offers a six-year course that provides instruction in Bhutan's traditional arts and crafts called Zorig Chusum - meaning 13 crafts. It follows the regular school schedule (9am-5pm Mon-Fri and 9-1pm on Sat) with exceptions of holidays and breaks. Tourists are allowed to visit the school and take a peek at the classes the boys attend. There is also a small shop at the school that sells the students' work.
Changangkha Lhakhang: Changangkha Lhakhang is an old fortress like temple and monastic school perched on a ridge above Thimphu, south-east of Motithang. It was established in the 12th century on a site chosen by Lama Phajo Drukgom Shigpo, who came from Ralung in Tibet. The central statue is Chenresig in 11-headed manifestations, and the books in the temple are larger in size than usual Tibetan texts. There is an excellent view of Thimphu from the courtyard.
Trashichho Dzong: Trashichoedzong, meaning the fortress of "auspicious doctrine" has traditionally been the seat of the Dharma Raja and summer capital of the country. The original Thimphu dzong was built in 1216 by Lama Gyalwa Lhanangpa, above the present Dzong, where Dechen Phodrang now stands. Soon after, Lama Phajo Drukgom Shigpo, who first brought the Drukpa Kagyu lineage to Bhutan, took it over. In 1641 Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal acquired it from Lama Phajo's descendants, but soon finding it too small, he built the present Tashicho Dzong and called it a lower Dzong. In 1771, when Dechen Phodrang was destroyed by fire, everything was moved to the lower Dzong, which was expanded then, and again by the 13th Druk Desi (1744-1763), and further expanded in 1866. It was damaged during an earthquake of 1897 and rebuilt in 1902. King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck had it completely renovated and enlarged over five years after he moved the capital to Thimphu in 1952 in traditional style using neither nails nor written plans. Presently it houses the throne room and offices of the king, the secretariat and the ministries of home affairs and finance. Other government departments are housed in buildings nearby. The main structure of the Trashichoe Dzong is two-storied with four three-storied towers at each corner, topped by triple-tiered golden roofs. In the center of the building is a large central tower called utse. This fortress serves as the office of the King, ministers and various government organizations. It also is the headquarters for central monastic body of Bhutan. Bhutan's spiritual leader Je-Khenpo and the monks of both Thimphu and Punakha reside here during summer. Thimphu Festival, traditionally held here, has been moved outside in a new courtyard.
Buddha Dordenma: A massive golden Buddha sitting atop Kuensel Phodrand in the capital city of Bhutan In Thimphu. The monument holds an invisible secret: Unbeknownst to many people viewing the statue, they aren’t actually looking at one Buddha, they’re looking at 125,000 of them.
Memorial Chorten: The memorial chorten is one of the most visible landmarks of Thimphu, built in 1974 to honor the memory of third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk. It is a four-storey chorten decorated with richly carved annexes facing the cardinal directions, and features elaborate mandalas, statues and a shrine dedicated to the popular third king. There are numerous religious paintings and tantric statues housed inside, reflecting both peaceful and wrathful aspects of Buddhist deities from complex tantric teachings. Throughout the day people circumambulate the chorten, whirl the large red prayer wheels and pray at a small shrine inside the gate. The early morning is particularly tranquil as elderly people shuffle in and spruced-up kids on their way to school whiz in and out to pay homage.
Overnight at the hotel in Thimphu.
Day 35: Thimphu – Paro airport (55km, approx. 1 hour & 15 min drive)