This itinerary offers cultural tours through the breathtaking valleys of Bhutan’s most beautiful and cultured regions of Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Wangdue, Trongsa and Bumthang. Trekking through the northern regions of Bumthang valley will bring you at the foot of the majestic Mount Gangkar Puensum, Bhutan’s highest mountain. At 24,741 feet, this ice-draped giant is the highest unclimbed peak in the world (and will remain so, since the Bhutanese declared it off limits to climbers).
This exhilarating 10 days trek through soaring spruce forests and up over High Mountain passes festooned with Buddhist prayer flags. En route you will witness the best of Bhutan’s Himalayan grandeur, meet the farmers and yak herding families of the highlands, and admire the way this tiny independent kingdom has so successfully preserved its environment and its thriving Buddhist culture. The trek begins on an old footpath to Tibet and moves steadily up from subtropical valleys to misty alpine forests with eye – popping Himalayan views. The highest campsite is at 13,300 feet. Fabulous displays of wildflowers will add dazzle to the already breathtaking scenery.
DAY 1 BANGKOK-PARO
The flight into Paro on the national carrier, Druk Air, is a fitting introduction to the spectacular beauty of this country. In clear weather, magnificent views of the world’s highest peaks give way to the lush, green Paro valley (7,992 feet) as we land. Even at the airport, it’s clear that spirituality infuses all aspects of life in the Dragon Kingdom. The transparent purity of the air, absence of noise, smell of pine and burning of juniper plants, along with monasteries, stupas, and prayer flags dotting the valley will initially make us feel like we have landed on a different planet.
Our Bhutanese escort will greet us on arrival, and take us to our hotel. After lunch we will visit the National Museum, Ta Dzong. The museum holds works of art, handcrafted objects of daily life, stuffed animals, costumes, armor, and even stamps, giving us an idea of Bhutan’s cultural and ecological richness in a very short time. We’ll walk downhill from the museum to Paro Rimpung Dzong, and then through a traditional covered bridge across the river. Our car will be waiting to take us back to the colorful main street of Paro for a quick tour and then back to our hotel overlooking the valley for dinner.
DAY 2 PARO-PUNAKHA (5,500 ft)
After breakfast we will drive to Punakha to tour the majestic Punakha Dzong, situated between the rivers Pho Chu and Mochu (male and female rivers). This dzong is now used as the winter seat of the Je Khenpo (the spiritual head of Bhutan). It is believed that this temple blesses women who seek fertility. Overnight at Punakha guest house.
DAY 3 PUNAKHA-TRONGSA (7,200 feet)
After breakfast we will tour the majestic Punakha Dzong, situated between the rivers Pho Chu and Mochu (male and female rivers). This dzong is now used as the winter seat of the Je Khenpo (the spiritual head of Bhutan). It is believed that this temple blesses women who seek fertility. We next make the four-hour drive to Trongsa, checking out the Phobjikha and Pele La Passes for red pandas and other high-altitude wildlife. During clear weather we can view the snowcapped peaks of the Himalayas. As we descend from the pass through the dwarf bamboo we reach Chendebji Chorten. This Chorten or Stupa was built in eighteenth century by a Lama known as Shida, in order to nail into the ground a demon that had been terrorizing the inhabitants of the valley. We will have our packed lunch here and then continue our journey toward Trongsa. Overnight at the Trongsa Yangkill Resort.
DAY 4 TRONGSA–BUMTHANG-CHOCKMEY (10,600 feet)
We start our fabulous drive to Bumthang after an early breakfast. From Trongsa the road rises rapidly through a series of hairpin bends until we arrive at Yotong La Pass (11,200 feet). We continue our drive to Tsugney village where we will see the traditional weaving of woolen fabrics and continue on to the trailhead at Dur Zam where our packhorses are waiting. After the gear is loaded on the horses, we’ll begin hiking to the village, then hike through bamboo thickets along the Dur Chu (Chu means river)and then a fairly steep 600 foot climb to a beautiful meadow surrounded by blue pines and spruce. Continue your climb gradually through a forest of rhododendron, mix conifers, bamboo and red birch. Camp at Chockmey (10,600 foot, 5-6 hours, 8 miles)
DAY 5 CHOKMEY–LOONGSOOM (11,600 feet)
It is a short day, start the day by descending on a rocky trail to the river. The trail continues to go up and down with gradual gain of altitude through the forests of cypress, pine, rhododendron and birch. After several crossings of the river we arrive at Loongsoom, a small meadow surrounded by Junipers. This area is used by the yak herders. (11,600 foot, 4-5 hours, about 5 miles.
DAY 6 LOONGSOOM – TASHISA (13,600 foot)
We again ascend gradually through forests of rhododendron, fir, spruce and juniper. After crossing the wooden bridge we come to a junction of two trails. The left trail leads to Dur hot Springs, we continue to hike to the right trails along the stream. After sometime we reach the tree line and are surrounded by rocky cliffs. Arrive at Tashisa (meaning “where the horse died”). Camp at 13,600 foot, 4 -5 hours, 5 miles.
DAY 7 TASHISA-DOLLYTHANG (13,400 feet)
As we gain the altitude, the trek becomes more difficult. If the weather permits, we may have views of distant glaciers and snow-capped peaks. We ascend up to Dolly La Pass (15,700 feet), then descend to the camp at Dollythang. We enjoy the great views of the surrounding mountains. (5-6 hours, 8 miles)
DAY 8 DOLLYTHANG-TSAWA (11,200 feet)
The trail ascends and descends through dwarf rhododendron forests before crossing Chamkhar Chu and heading north along the riverside trail. Overnight at camp. (5-6 hours, 8 miles)
DAY 9 TSAWA–GANKAR PUENSUM BASE CAMP (13,400 feet)
We spend most of this day hiking through the rhododendron and bamboo forests. As the forest begins to thin out, the snowcapped mountains surround us and we pass through many yak herder camps, where trip members may be invited into a yak hair tent for a cup of butter tea. Overnight at camp. (8-9 hours, 10 miles)
DAY 10 GANKAR PUENSUM BASE CAMP
On this rest day, we enjoy spectacular views of Gangkar Puensum, at over 24,000 feet the tallest unclimbed peak in the world. Alternatively, we may take a short hike along one of the local ridgelines to enjoy a better view of all three of the mountain’s peaks.
DAY 11 GANKAR PUENSUM BASE CAMP–TSAMPA GOMPA (11,100 feet)
Today is a short hike as we head downstream to camp at the Tsampa Monastery. (5-6 hours, 7 miles)
DAY 12 TSAMPHA GOMPA-PETHSO (9,300 feet)
The hike will be first through rhododendron and then bamboo forests along the Chamkhar River to our camp at Petsho. (5-6 hours, 7 miles)
DAY 13 PETSHO–NGANLHAKHANG (8,600 feet)
We continue our hike through dense forest and then emerge into wheat and barley fields and numerous Bhutanese farm houses to arrive at Nganlhakhang (Swan Temple). (6-7 hours, 7 miles)
DAY 14 NGANLHAKHANG-JAKAR VALLEY ( 7,700 feet)
We hike past small farm houses, stopping occasionally to chat with the inhabitants. We may also have a chance to purchase weavings from some of the local women. Overnight in Jakar Valley hotel.
DAY 15 BUMTHANG – TRONGSA
Your day will begin with hiking from your lodge to the temple of Jambay Lhakhang. It is said that, a Tibetan King known as Songtsen Gompo builds the main shrine in seventh century. The story goes that a giant demo ness lay across the whole area of Tibet and the Himalayas. To overcome her and to consecrate the land he decided to build 108 temples. Jambay Lhakhang is counted one of them and is believe to be built on the demon’s left foot. Continue your hike to Kurjey Lhakhang, which is 20 minutes walk from Jambay Lhakhang. Kurjey is dedicated to Guru Rinpochey. He had meditated here and had left his body print in the cave. Thus, the temple is known as Ku-body and Jey-print. Continue your hike to Tamshing Lhakhang built in 1501 by Pema Lingpa. It contains fundamental interest for the history of painting in this region and it is also, along with Gangtey Gompa in the Black Mountains, one of the only places where Pema Lingpa’s tradition of religious teachings still continues today. Your hike will continue to Kunchogsuem Lhakhang. Similar to Jambay Lhakhang, this temple is also believed to build in the 7th century. Your car will pick you up here and drive you to Trongsa, this will take about 2 hours. Overnight in the fabulous Trongsa Yangkill Resort.
DAY 16 TRONGSA- PHOBJIKHA – PUNAKHA (4500 feet)
After breakfast we will pay a brief visit to the Trongsa Dzong, another magnificent example of traditional Bhutanese architecture, and then proceed on to the Phobjikha Valley. After crossing the Pele La pass, we will make a left turn on another road that will lead us to the broad and beautiful valley of Phobjikha. This valley also serves as the winter home for the rare black-necked crane that migrates from the plateau of Tibet. Although there are no guarantees, the cranes usually arrive in late October and should be visible by the time we arrive in early November. As we hike downhill to the valley, we will have our cameras ready to take pictures of the cranes. Our packed lunch will be served at a strategic spot from where we can have good views of the valley. We finish the day with the drive to Punakha. Overnight in Punakha hotel.
DAY 17 PUNAKHA-THIMPHU (8,000 feet)
After Breakfast we resume our journey to Thimphu stop at the Dochula Pass for few minutes for a leg stretch and photographs, if weather permits we might be able to view the Bhutan’s 200 mile snowcapped peaks. Resume your journey, and arrive at Thimpu, the only capital city in the world that has no traffic lights. Thimpu installed traffic lights in the early 1990s but then removed them in favor of returning to their tradition of elegantly clad, white-gloved policemen, who control traffic with dramatic hand gestures. Our guide has arranged visits to the National Library, the school of Traditional Medicine, the school of Traditional Crafts, and finally to Thimphu’s weekend market (this is available only during Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays). Vendors from throughout the region arrive on Friday afternoon and remain selling their goods until Sunday night. It’s an interesting place to visit, where village people jostle with well-heeled Thimphu residents for the best – and cheapest – vegetables and foodstuffs. This is the only time that fresh produce is easily available and the shopping is enhanced by the opportunity to catch up on the week’s gossip. At the northern end of the market is a collection of stalls called the indigenous goods and handicrafts section, here you will find locally produced goods, including religious objects, baskets, fabrics and different hats from various minority groups.
In the late afternoon, we will complete our journey with the two hour drive back to Paro. Overnight at Paro hotel.
DAY 18 PARO-BANGKOK
After breakfast transfer to airport for your flight to onward destination.
Note: This is a sample intended to give you a general idea of the likely trip schedule. Numerous factors such as weather, tour conditions, the physical ability of the participants’ etc., may dictate itinerary changes either before departure or while on the tour. We reserve the right to change this schedule in the interest of the trip participants’ safety, comfort and general well being. RATES ARE SUBJECT TO CHANGE.