Bhutan Trip Advisor is Now 1-derful Bhutan Tours
Best time: Mid-March to November
Duration: 17N/ 18D
Day 1: Arrival: Paro
On arrival, guests will be received at the airport by 1-derful Bhutan Tours’s guide who will be your companion for the duration of your tour Bhutan.
Drive to your hotel, check-in and to freshen up. After lunch, visit the Ta Dzong (National Museum): The name Ta Dzong translates to ‘watch tower’ and it served the function of watch tower for the Paro Rinpung Dzong. Back in the day, similar look-out points were built for other dzongs (fortresses) to counter any approaching hostilities, for those were the days of frequent strife. These towers were specifically built high atop hills and other vantage points during the old days.
Presently serving as the national museum (since late 60’s), it houses an array of antiquities such as ancient thangka (exquisite scroll painting), mural paintings and other forms of art done by great personalities of those days, original textiles of the kingdom which represent the culture that still flourishes, weapons & armour used back in the day, household objects typical to the Bhutanese people’s way of life back then and even now, and other natural and historical artifacts.
Paro Rinpung Dzong: (‘fortress of a heap of jewels’). It was built in the mid 17th century to protect and to gain control over the region, many invasions were averted from this dzong. It now serves as seat of the Paro district administration and residence for the monastic school. Rinpung dzong like all other dzongs in Bhutan is adorned with wall murals that symbolize the lives of the Bodhisattvas and other prominent saints, drawings from Buddhist parables within which the country’s culture and traditional life is intricately represented and holy symbols that signify their own individual religious meanings.
Day 2: Paro: Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest) hike
Have early breakfast and drive up to the base of Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest). The most famous and sacred site among all the places in Bhutan. Guru Padmasambhava is said to have come riding on a flying tigress to this place and meditated in a cave for 3 months, it wasn’t until Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal came to this place and meditated that it gained the popularity that it has now. The present structure is said to be built in the 15th century but was destroyed by fire in 1998 and has been restored.
The walk is about 2 hours till the top through wide pathways which was built during the restoration works. One hour into the climb there is a tea point from where you get a very good view of the monastery, they also serve lunch here. From there it’s about another 45 minutes climb to the 2nd view point and the highest point in the hike.
Kyichu Lhakhang: Considered the oldest temple along with Jampa and Kenchosum Lhakhang in Bumthang, it dates back to the 7th century when a Tibetan King ordered 108 temples to be built in a single night to subdue a huge ogress. It was later renovated in the mid 19th century and in the late 1960's by the Grand Queen Mother. It is also considered by many to be one of the holiest places in the country. Inside the compound is an orange tree which always has oranges no matter what the season.
Overnight at a hotel in Paro
Day 3: Drugyal Dzong (2580m) – Gunyitsawa (2900m) – Thangthangka (3580m)
Altitude gain – 1000m Distance – 16km Duration – 8hrs
Post breakfast, check-out of your hotel and drive beyond Drugyal Dzong ruins on farm roads up-to Gunyitsawa, an Army base outpost.
Start trekking from here, this is the longest of all the trekking days taking about 8 hours to reach the campsite. The trail continues to follow the river gradually ascending through a mixed forest of blue pine and oak and, later in the afternoon, tall rhododendron trees, birch, fir and maple. Though the trail is rocky and bumpy, it is not strenuous but in rainy conditions it can be quite muddy and add to the difficulty. There are several simple wooden bridges to cross and sometimes the river reaches right up to the trail. The lunch break comes after about 4 hours of walking through an ever-narrowing valley: Shing Karp or Thombuzam are popular stopping places at around 3305m.
Several tails lead in other directions, such as the trail to Tremo-la, which was the old salt-trading route to Tibet. Not long before reaching the campsite the trail leads you up a ridge with a chorten. Beyond, in the distance, at the end of the valley the Jumolhari mountain comes into view. Finally, after 8 hours you reach the campsite.
The campsite is located in a spacious clearing and directly faces Mount. Jomolhari. The view of the early morning sun striking the tip of Jumolhari is breathtaking. Mount. Jomolhari, at 7314m is among the highest mountains in the world.
Day 4: Thangthangka (3580m) – Jangothang (4000m)
Altitude gain – 420m Distance – 8km Duration – 5hrs
The 2nd day is relatively easy, about half-an-hour away from the campsite is another army outpost where your guide will register your entry permits issued by the army headquarters at Lungtenphu, Thimphu. Another half-an-hour to 45minutes walk away from the outpost you will come across an open space with a chorten (stupa) standing in the middle of the clearing, on the slopes of the hill are a couple of yak herder camps.
You will reach a clearing with the chorten in the middle. The Pachu river is again to the right and the trail passes through some very small villages made up of two or three houses each: these are called Jomphu, Tegithang and, a little further on, Dotabithang. By now, at an altitude of 3860m, the path has reached above the tree line.
It is possible to reach Jangothang, the Jumolhari base camp, just in time for lunch. A small community hall has been built out of stone and wood to provide protection from the elements. The cooking can be done inside and all the trekking gear can be stored here.
The altitude at the base camp is 4000m and is a beautiful place to spend the night. The imposing, rounded bulk of the Jumolhari mountain fills the view to the Northeast and in the evening profile of the ruined Jangothang Dzong ruins, populated by huge ravens creates a mystical atmosphere.
Day 5: Jangothang – Halt
Today is a day to rest and acclimatize to the altitude. The body also needs time to adjust to the falling temperatures, especially during the night.
There is an opportunity to explore the valley and enjoy wonderful views of the mountains. A one-hour trek a little further up the valley to the right of the campsite takes you to a point from where you can view the majestic, cone shaped Mt. Jichu Drakey piercing the clear blue sky. Jichu Drakey cannot fail to remind you of the Matterhorn from this perspective. It is a sight to behold!! Many rank this as the most beautiful mountain in Bhutan. An hour’s leisurely trek will take you to the twin lakes of Tshophu.
DAY 6: Jangothang - Lingshi
Altitude gain – 850m Distance – 16km Duration – 7hrs
A long day today as we cross our first pass. Leaving the valley by a short steep trail we ascend through a broad open landscape. A final steep climb takes us to the top of the pass, the Nyale La, at about 4,850m. From here there are magnificent views of the dozens of peaks that line the border with Tibet. A long easy descent through a sea of dwarf rhododendrons brings us back to the tree line, and down towards Lingshi dzong (4,150m), situated on a small hill in the bottom of the valley.
Day 7: Lingshi – Chebisa (3980m)
Altitude loss – 130m Distance – 11km Duration – 5-6hrs
Today is an easy day. If we did not do so yesterday we can start today by visiting the impressive Lingshi Dzong, perched on a hill above the camp giving incredible views north towards Tibet. Leaving Lingshi on a fairly level trail we traverse high above the river before rounding a corner to look down on the small picturesque village of Goyul set below a towering rockface. Watch out for the Himalayan griffin vultures gliding along the cliff face searching for thermals. After descending to Goyul the trail climbs again before turning into another side valley to reveal the spectacularly situated village of Chebisa (3,980m) where we camp tonight. In the afternoon we can explore further up the valley, where there is a waterfall. Camp – Chebisa (3980m)
Day 8: Chebisa – Shomuthang (4250m)
Altitude gain – 250m Distance – 12km Duration – 7-8hrs
Today begins with a stiff climb of nearly four hours up a ridge to Gubu-la pass (4,500m). We descend from the pass through rhododendrons 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.
Camp – Shomuthang (4250m)
Day 9: Shomuthang – Robluthang (4160m)
Altitude gain – 250m Distance – 12km Duration – 7-8hrs
Today we have an early start to cross the Jhari La (4,750m). The day starts with a short steep climb away from camp. The trail then turns to traverse up a side valley heading for the pass. The effort of reaching the pass is rewarded with a panoramic view of the rugged mountain ridges stretching out in the distance. As we descend, the sparse grass is replaced by a hillside covered in rhododendrons that in turn give way to fir trees and then the grazing pastures of Tsheri Jathang. This valley acts as the summer home to the shy, wild takins. There is another short, steep climb at the end of the day to reach our campsite at Robluthang.
Day 10: Robluthang – Lingmithang (4100m)
Altitude gain – 800m Distance – 10km Duration – 7-8hrs
We start the day with a long climb up to Shinje-la pass (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 a scramble down a steep path, with the compensation of splendid views of Gangchenta peak (6,840m) along the way. Tonight we camp at 4,100m on flat ground above the river in a forested area, with Gangchenta towering directly above us to the north.
Day 11: Lingmithang – Laya (3850m)
Altitude loss – 250m Distance – 12km Duration – 4-5hrs
An early rise is recommended today to watch the sunlight rising up the massive snow covered face of the Great Tiger Mountain. Today is an easy day after the last three hard days crossing high passes. In fact it is mainly downhill all the way to Laya. The trail follows a winding river in a closed-in valley. Laya itself is at only 3,850m and we should reach the hillside village for lunch. The afternoon is then free for exploring the village and meeting the people. There are plenty of opportunities to buy artefacts and handicrafts made by the Laya villagers. For the energetic, there are still plenty of hikes around the Camp.
Day 12: Laya halt
Spend the day at Laya exploring the village and meeting with and observing the daily life of the Layaps.
Day 13: Laya – Koena (3800m)
Altitude loss – 150m Distance – 15km Duration – 5-6hrs
We descend from Laya to the army camp at the side of the Mo Chu (Mother river of Punakha), and then walk alongside the river till reaching a bridge. After crossing the bridge, the track winds up and down through juniper and fir forests.
Day 14: Koena – Gasa hot springs (2200m)
Altitude loss – 1600m Distance – 15km Duration – 5-6hrs
Today we head for the Balela Pass (3,740m), the trail undulates and is steep in parts. We then have a long walk through the forest to Gasa. From Gasa there are great views to the mountains across the valley. Gasa Dzong is an impressive building hidden amongst the wilds of the Bhutanese mountains. From Gasa we descend to the Gasa Hot Springs where we camp tonight and we can have a welcome soak in the hot water. Monks and villagers alike come to relax in the hot water and there is a special bathhouse here reserved for the King of Bhutan.
Day 15: Gasa – Punakha
Post breakfast, say bye to your trekking team and visit Gasa Dzong if you are interested. The road is not paved and will take about 5-6 hours to reach Punakha from Gasa, it is a beautiful drive though as you come across many picturesque villages and settlements along the way.
Once in Punakha, check-in at your hotel and rest. You can go for a walk around town or nearby in the evening.
Overnight at a hotel in Punakha
Day 16: Punakha sightseeing – drive to Thimphu
Drive back up north to hike up to KHAMSUM YUELLEY NAMGYAL CHORTEN: a temple that stands majestically on a strategic ridge above Punakha valley. The temple was built by the Queen Mothers to ward off negative energies, promote peace, stability and harmony in a changing world after it was prophesied in the scriptures by Thragthung Dudjom Lingpa.. It is said all its unique architectural designs have been drawn from the scriptures. The hike takes about 45 minutes one way through relatively easy path through paddy fields and thin pine forest. Once at the top, you can enter the stupa and climb all the way to the top for a breath taking view of the valley below.
While coming back, take a detour to visit Yebisa village and hike along the river side. Yebisa – Sonagasa Hike: This is a great hike anytime of the year. It starts from Yebisa village, going through it and the paddy field surrounding it while following the river downstream. It’s will be lush green during monsoon and golden brown during Autumn as the paddy ripens. The trail then goes along a small patch of trees (mostly pine trees) before coming to a suspension bridge and a small road (to Aman Kora Resort). You’ll have to keep following the trail beside the bridge and keep following the river near the bank, the path soon becomes wider and then you’ll see the open valley where there is the Royal horse ranch/ stable and some sheep which is kept there. Once you reach a wide open space with manicured lawns, you will be able to see Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten behind sitting majestically on a small hill. The manicured lawn is actually a small ‘practice’ golf course of the Royal family and there’s a Royal Guest house close by. You’ll have to continue walking through the Royal Garden below where there are many different plants which the Queen Grantmother and the Queen mothers have brought from different places. Your vehicle will pick you up at the end of the garden just outside the gate. All in all, this hike will take about 2 hours from the village till the pick-up point.
Have lunch in town then stop at Lobesa village and have lunch before going for a short hike to Chimi Lhakhang (Temple of Fertility), it is dedicated to Lam Drukpa Kuenley (Divine Mad Man) and is the place from where Phalluses originated as the symbol of fertility and protection and can be seen everywhere in Bhutan, on house walls and roofs and altars. Childless couples usually go to this temple to get blessings so that they conceive and are blessed with a child.
(NOTE: The temple and has some sexual depictions. You may want to reconsider visiting this place if you are not comfortable)
Post lunch drive up to Dochula Pass (3,150 m), where on a sunny day, you can get stunning views of the Himalayan ranges. The Dochu La Pass is probably the best known mountain pass in Bhutan. Located at an altitude of 3150 meter above sea level, the Dochu La Pass is about 30 kilometer away from the capital city Thimphu and the road to Punakha. On a clear day the pass offers visitors a spectacular view of the majestic eastern Himalayan Ranges. A cup of hot coffee or tea at the pass has almost become part of tradition for people travelling to and fro from Punakha to the capital city.
There is a small cafeteria at the pass that offers a chance for travelers to enjoy a hot beverage or a snack, it is located just off the road and overlooks the pass and is an ideal place to sit back, relax and enjoy the view. Another striking feature at the pass are the 108 Druk Wangyal Khangzang Chortens, that were built for the well-being of all sentiment beings on earth. The 108 Chorten were built as a tribute to the Kings of Bhutan for their selfless service and leadership they offer to the people of Bhutan. These Stupas or Chortens also represent the peoples love, appreciation and loyalty towards the country’s King.
Continue driving down to Thimphu where you’ll check-in at your hotel and rest. You can walk around town later in the evening
Overnight at a hotel in Thimphu
Day 17: Thimphu sightseeing
Post breakfast, visit the following
Folk Heritage Museum: The folk heritage museum was open to the general public in 2001 upon completion. It treasures troves of culture and rich Bhutanese heritage provide rich insights into the Bhutanese ethos. Try to schedule your visit during the morning hours since the museum is less crowded at that time and there is plenty of sunlight to go around. The folk heritage museum is housed in a replica traditional Bhutanese house learn first-hand about Bhutan‟s rich cultural traditions, its deeply rooted heritage which spans thousands of years and the Bhutanese way of life. The tour of this almost living museum will also give you a glimpse onto how many rural folk of the country live today following the ancient Bhutanese ways.
National Institute of Zorig Chusum: The art and crafts currently taught in Bhutan, were introduced to the country in the 15th century by Trenton Pema Lingpa. Trenton Pema Lingpa also known as the Great Treasure National Institute for Zorig Chusum - Discoverer is credited to have introduced these art forms to the people of Bhutan. These traditional crafts are a representation of the centuries of knowledge and ability that was been handed down to master craftsmen and artisan through each generation. Bhutan‟s unique artistic tradition has played a vital role in shaping the countries distinct culture and heritage. It was realized that this unique and priceless heritage of the nation need to be protected and promoted with the strong patronage of the royal government. With this vision in mind the royal institute for Zoring Chusum was established in the year 1971 to train the youth in the 13 traditional Arts and Crafts of Bhutan. The institute now falls under the aegis of the National Technical Training Authority which was established in 1990 to ensure high quality vocational training for the people of the country. The institute has now been operational for almost 40 years and has taught students the arts of painting, embroidery, calligraphy, sculpting and wood carving.
Kuensel phodrang The Kuensel Phodrang or the Buddha point is the world‟s largest sitting Buddha statue, the statue is 167 feet high. The statue is situated on top of a hill overlooking the city of Timphu, it can be accessed by road and is about 15 minutes away from the city‟s center. The word Kuensel means everything is clear and from this place you will sure enjoy a great view of the Thimphu Valley on both sides. The statute will house a temple inside it, the statue and its adjoining car park and recreational center are currently under construction and is expected to be ready by December 2012. The statue is constructed out of bronze and is studded with many semi-precious stones. Since they are no factories in country that can make such a large bronze cast structure, statute is being manufactured in China and the pieces are brought to Bhutan and are assembled here. On the drive to the statue the steep winding hill road offers an unparalleled view of the city of Thimphu and is an excellent place to capture a view of the city especially after dark. A journalist once described the view as “seeing an osasis of light in the desert of darkness “as the city light of Thimphu shine very bright in an otherwise dark Thimphu valley.
Have lunch in town, rest for a while and then visit the following places.
Memorial Chorten: Referred to as the Memorial Chorten, it’s actual name is Gongzo Chorten or Gyaldren Chorten. The Chorten (Stupa) is a chief landmark in the Capital city and is also a very sacred place of worship for the local eople. The idea of the chorten was conceptualized by the 3rd King His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck to ward off negative energies. After His Majesty’s demise, the Chorten was built in his memory by the 4th King and the Queen Mother in 1972. Many old people come here early in the morning to circumambulate and say their prayers in the hopes of garnering enough good karma for their afterlife; they are joined by the middle and the younger generation in the evenings who also come to do either the same thing or to just relax their mind. The doors of this stupa remain mostly closed except on holy days. Inside, there are three stories and on each floor are statues of protective deities.
Motithang Takin preserve: The Motithang Takin Preserve also known as the Thimphu Zoo by many is a small natural preserve for the Takin Bhutan‟s national animal. It was originally a mini zoo, but it was converted in a preserve later on as the Takin. The mini zoo contained a small number of Takin but the King of Bhutan later decreed that it was improper for a Buddhist nation to keep an animal in captivity. The animals were set free and the zoo was shut down, but for some reason the Takin refused to leave the area for the forests nearby. Instead the animals were frequesntly found roaming around the streets of the capital city in search for food. As a result the government decided to demarcate an 8 acre fenced location as the Motithang Takin Preserve. The preserve is a forested preserve that mimics the Takin‟s natural habitat, in addition to the Takin there are a few musk deer and barking deer that live inside the preserve. There are plans to expand the preserves collection to include other rarely seen animals that live in Bhutan, currently the preserve plans to add the Red Panda and the Himalayan Serow to the preserve.
Tashichho Dzong: The Tashichho Dzong is a Buddhist monastery cum fortress at the northern edge of Thimpu the capital city of Bhutan. The Dzong was built on the western bank of the river Wang Chu, and has historically served at the seat of the Druk Desi or the Dharma Raja of Bhutan‟s government. After the kings assumed power in 1907 this post was combined with that of the king and Thimphu severed as the summer caital of the kingdom before becoming the full time capital of Bhutan. The original Thimphu Dzong (the Dho-Ngyen Dzong) is said to have been constructed in 1216 by Lama Gyalwa Lhanangpa. And was later taken over by Lama Phajo Drukgom Shigpo before the Dzong was conquered by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, who found the Dzong to be too small and expanded it to what is now known as theTashichho dzong is also called the "fortress of glorious religion." It was erected in 1641 and was subsequently rebuilt by King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck in the 1960s. The Dzong has been seat of the Royal government since 1952 and presently houses the Throne room and the Kings secretariat. The Tashichho dzong is also home to several ministries of the Bhutanese government, and the Central Monk Body which is the apex organization of the country's main spiritual order. The monument welcomes visitors during the Thimphu Tsechu festival which is held in autumn each year. The Dzongs main structure is a two striped quadrangle with 3 storied towers on each of its four corners
Overnight at a hotel in Thimphu
DAY 18: DEPARTURE
Post early breakfast, drive to Paro International Airport to catch your flight back home.
Drukpath TREK (9D / 10D)
JOMOLHARI TREK (14N / 15D)
NUB TSHONAPATA TREK (14N / 15D)
LAYA GASA TREK ( 17N / 18D )
SNOWMAN TREK (34N / 35D)
DAGALA TREK (11N / 12D)