(5 nights camp, 4 nights hotel)
Trekking in Bhutan is the best way to explore this magical world of monasteries and mountains. Bhutan exudes a sense of serenity rarely found in our frenetic world. Its pastoral valleys are dominated by 16th-century monasteries presided over by red-robed lamas, and nomadic yak herders roam the high mountain valleys.
On this trip to Bhutan, you will explore both sides of this untouched world as you visit Bhutan’s extraordinary dzongs (fortress-like citadels) and trek in a mountain world of snowy peaks, gorgeous trout-filled lakes, and pretty fields of wildflowers.
While trekking, you will witness the best of Bhutan’s Himalayan grandeur, including the sacred mountain of Chomolhari (24,000′), search for snow leopards by following their tracks, and meet the farmers and yak-herding families of the highlands who meet the modern world on their own terms.
Grade: Moderate to Rigorous
Best Season: March-May & September-November
Day 01 Arrive Paro (L/D)
Fly to Paro (7,590′), Bhutan, on Druk Air, the national airline of Bhutan. After visa formalities at the Paro airport, you will be driven to the hotel overlooking the beautiful Paro Valley. We’ll have a late afternoon visit to the National Museum, housed in an old watchtower above Paro Dzong (a dzong is a fortress-monastery). The museum’s collections include displays of spectacular thangkas (religious scroll paintings), bronze statues, Bhutan’s beautiful stamps, and the Tshogshing Lhakhang (Temple of the Tree of Wisdom), with its carvings depicting the history of Buddhism. Overnight at Hotel.
Day 02 Paro (B/L/D)
Drive about nine miles north of Paro town to the trailhead where we start our 1½-hour hike to a tea house, where we enjoy a great view of Taktsang Monastery (its name means “tiger’s nest”), perched on a cliff 2,700′ above the floor of the Paro Valley. Our hike follows a steep switchback trail and serves as a great warm-up for our trek. After a break with tea and cookies, you have the option to sit outside the building and admire the monastery and its beautiful surroundings or, if you feel energetic, to continue another thirty minutes to a closer viewpoint. After lunch at the tea house we descend to the valley floor. Drive back to Paro. Overnight at Hotel.
Day 03 Drive to Shana, Trek to Soi Thangthangkha (B/L/D)
Drive up to Drugyal Dzong from where the feeder road starts meandering gently uphill following the river through a narrow valley of paddy fields to Shana. This is a rough stretch and the drive will take about two hours passing through purely rural settings and traditional farm houses. At Shana (2800m) which is an army outpost, you will meet your trek crew and the pack ponies and then start your trek to Soe Thangthangkha uphill through the river valley which narrows and closes in after some distance. The trail then winds up and down along the drainage. Most of the trail actually is downhill after the initial climb. The camp site is located in a meadow with stone shelter. Alt. Approx. 3400m, distance 17 km, time 7-8 hours. Overnight in Tents.
Day 04 Trek to Jangothang (B/L/D)
We continue following the Paro River as the valley widens again, opening to a spectacular area surrounded by high ridges and snowcapped peaks. A few yak-herding families are based in this area, and we may be lucky to purchase some yak cheese from them or have lunch in one of their simple, traditional homes. Camp at Jangothang (13,450′) below a ruined fortress near the base of Chomolhari. (5-6 hours hiking.)
Overnight in Tents
Day 05 Jangothang Halt (B/L/D)
Today is a free day to rest and explore. There are many optional hikes in the area where you can gain altitude quickly, which is good for acclimatization. Of course, you can also opt to stay at camp, take in the views, and rest for the challenging day ahead.
Overnight in Tents
Day 06 Trek to Dhumzo
The trail leads north to the last settlement in the valley and drops to the Paro Chhu, crossing it on a wooden bridge. Walk up to the Tshophu Lake (4380 meters), which is inhabited by ruddy-shel ducks. You will come across a second lake after you climb across a slope to a crest. Then descend into a hidden valley and climb steeply to Bonte La pass at 4890 meters. After the pass, the trail descends crisscrossing through yak trails down to the Dhumzo Chhu and after walking downstream below few houses you arrive to a camp at 3800m. Distance 16km in 6-7 hours.
Day 07 Trek to Thombu Shong
The trail climbs over 100 m over a ridge, and then drops to another stream. After crossing this stream, the trail heads up the hillside dropping into a small valley before emerging onto a ridge. Here the route turns south, ascending past few huts to Takhung La (4520 m). A short descend leads to Thombu Shong (4180 m) with few yak herder’s huts. Distance 11km in 4-5 hours.
Day 08 Trek to Shana Zampa, Drive to Paro
Climb out of the valley to Thombu La at 4380 m, and then drop gradually to about 4000 m. The trail then makes a steep descent, switch backing down the ridge, finally reaching the helipad at Gunitsawa (2730 m). Distance 13km in about 4-5 hours.
At Shana, we bid farewell to our staff and ponies and then continue on our drive back to our hotel in Paro via Drukgyel Dzong (about 2.5 hours).
Overnight at Hotel
Day 09 Drive to Thimphu, Sightseeing (B/L/D)
Today you will drive the 1½ road journey to Thimphu, the least visited of all the Himalayan capitals. In Thimphu, we will begin our sightseeing with a visit to a nunnery on the outskirts of Thimphu. We will then visit the School of Arts and Crafts (or “painting school”), where Bhutanese children can follow an eight-year program in traditional arts, such as drawing, painting, woodcarving, and sculpture. Based on time availability, we may also visit the Traditional Hospital of Herbal Medicine or watch the Royal Silversmiths create relief work for the monasteries and see how paper is made from the daphne plant with cosmos flower petals and other plants. At the end of the day, we may also pay a visit to the great Tashichho Dzong, seat of Bhutan’s administrative and religious center. Overnight at Hotel.
Day 10 Transfer to Paro International Airport for onward flight (B)
Early morning transfer to Paro International Airport (1½ hr) for onward flight.