This trip to Bhutan allows the travelers to enjoy the taste of the great variety of Bhutanese landscape. The views from some of the major passes that we cross are breathtaking. It gives you a chance to meet people, enjoy the pristine forest with rare glimpse of wildlife and observe the ancient old traditions of arts and crafts whilr traveling through the less frequented areas of Bhutan.
Our journey starts from Paro Valley where our flight will land. After touring through this tiny town, we will take an excursion to the famous Tiger’s Nest locally known as Taktshang Gompa, this incredible monastery clings to the edge of a sheer rock cliff that plunges 900 meters into the valley below. We start our trek to Jomolhari - a medium duration trekking in Bhutan that is probably the most trekked route due to its easy access, beautiful terrain and spectacular views of the majestic snowcapped mountains. Locally known as Jomolhari (The Mountain of Goddess), believed to be the abode of Jomo (goddess) is one of the most beautiful and imposing mountains in the entire Himalayan region. Located at the northwestern border with Tibet, trekking to the base camp of this dome shaped mountain provides an opportunity to experience the panoramic views of some of the world’s highest peaks.
Beginning from Paro valley, your trek starts with gentle ascent through Bhutan’s undisturbed forest of rhododendrons and pines. Passing through the villages with lush fields of rice, wheat, barely and crossing over the tree lines you arrive in the regions sparsely inhabited by the migrant yak herders. The trail continues through enchanting valley flanked with snowcapped peaks to the base of Mount Jomolhari and its spike shaped companion, Jichu Drake. You spend one entire day exploring the vicinity or just relaxing and enjoying the wonders of nature. You resume your trek by crossing series of major passes through the remote wilderness with abundant of wildlife, including, blue sheep, Takin and variety of birds, perhaps under the surveillance of the elusive snow leopard. After the trek, you have a day to see Bhutan’s tiny Capital city with no traffic light.
Day 01: Arrival
Flying in to the country’s only airport, in the beautiful Paro valley, the clear mountain air, forested ridges, imposing monasteries and welcoming Bhutanese people in their striking national dress, provides a breath-taking first impression.
Your guide from Bhutan Excursions will meet you at the airport. A fifteen-minute drive follows the narrow winding road to our hotel, which are traditional Bhutanese buildings with attractive gardens and an exceptionally peaceful atmosphere.
In the afternoon, we will visit the Ta-Dzong, which was built in 1651 as a watchtower for the Rinpung Dzong. Since 1967, the watchtower has served as the home of the National Museum and holds a fascinating collection of art, ancient relics and religious artifacts. Next in line, we will visit Rinpung Dzong built by Shabdrung in 1646, the Dzong houses, the monastic body of Paro and its district administration. If there is time, we will walk along the small main street of Paro in the evening with its typical Bhutanese shops and small lodges.
Altitude at Paro: 2300m
Overnight: Hotel in Paro
Day 02: Hike to Tiger’s Nest
Today, we hike up to the famous cliff-hermitage called Taktsang, the “Tiger’s Nest.” This monastic retreat is built into a sheer cliff face high above the Paro valley. Legend has it that the Tibetan Buddhist saint Padmasambhava flew across the Himalayas on the back of a tiger and landed here, bringing Buddhism to Bhutan. The trail to the monastery climbs through beautiful pine forest and an occasional grove of fluttering prayer flags.
After visiting what is known as one of the most venerated pilgrimage sites in the country, we will go off the beaten track further up to the temples that are on the hilltops above Tiger’s Nest. It’s so peaceful there and you can really communicate with nature as you enjoy the views from the top be it that of mountains or the valley. No wonder that some monks have chosen this place to meditate for the rest of their lives!
Coming back, we are following a different path that takes us through the pristine thick forest of oaks and rhododendrons festooned with Spanish mosses.
Approximate walking time: 06 hours
Altitude at Paro: 2300m
Overnight: Hotel in Paro
Day 03: Gunitsawa – Thangthangka (08 - 09 hours)
Drive up to Gunitsawa (2850m) where the road ends and the trek begin. The trail follows Pachu with lots of small ups and downs through the thick conifer forest of the Jigme Dorji National Park. The valley finally narrows gradually to a mere path, which ascends to a meadow where a camp will be set up. From here, if weather permits, you will have the first great view of Mount Jhomolhari.
Camp: Thangthangka (3610m)
Day 04: Thangthangka - Base Camp (04 - 05 hours)
If you did not see Mount Jomolhari last evening, you will have a great chance to get a great view this early morning. This morning, the trek continues up the Pachu valley that widens into patches of alpine meadow and meager growths of forest. Cross an army outpost along the way and enjoy a spectacular view of high mountain ridges and snow-capped peaks. Yaks and the herder’s homes become a regular feature of the landscape. Passing the villages Soe, Takethang and Dangochang is another asset on this day. Reaching Jangothang, one of the most beautiful campsites of the Himalayas, you will again have a spectacular view of Mount Jomolhari.
Camp: Base Camp (4080m)
Day 05: Halt at Base Camp
The day in Jangothang provides plenty of possibilities for day hikes with great views on lakes and snow capped mountains such as Jomolhari and Jichu Drake. There are good chances to spot some blue sheep on the upper slopes of the valley. Base Camp is a perfect environment for your acclimatization. There are good short hiking trails in three directions. Jomolhari and its subsidiary mountain chains lay directly west, Jichu Drake to the north and a number of unclimbed peaks to the east or trek up to Tsophu (Twin lakes).
Camp: Base Camp (4080m)
Day 06: Base Camp - Lingshi (07 - 08 hours)
After about 15 minutes from the camp the trail climbs rapidly for about half an hour and then becomes a gradual ascend to the Nyilila pass at 4,870m. While on the climb enjoy the surrounding. You might see herds of blue sheep grazing on the slopes of the mountains. From the pass you will have spectacular views of Mt. Jhomolhari, Jichu Drake and Tsherimgang, all of them rising above 7,000m. On the way down to the camp you will pass by some of the yak herder’s tent, made from yak wool, where the herders take shelter while on the move to various pastures for their yaks. As you come down into the Lingshi basin, you get a wonderful view of Lingshi Dzong on a clear day. Tserimgang and its glaciers rise up at the north end of the valley. The campsite is next to a stone hut you reach just before Lingshi Dzong.
Camp: Lingshi (4010m)
Day 07: Lingshi – Shodu (08 - 09 hours)
Today, we will be following one of the tributaries of Mo Chu River of Punakha for the most of the day till we reach Yale La pass (4500m).
From the pass, on a clear day we can have a stunning view of the snow capped mountains and the lakes below. The trek from the pass to the campsite at Shodu is downhill following one of the tributaries of Thimphu River.
Camp: Shodu (4080m)
Day 08: Shodu - Shomthang (06 - 07 hours)
So far, we’re on normal and regular Jomolhari Trekking Route but from here, we will be on our own as we leave the main route and set off on to the path less traveled.
The trail initially traverses through fir and hemlock forests till we come out of it to the alpine meadow and tackle the long and gradual ascent to Lhede La pass at 4800m. The view from here is no less striking. Our campsite at Shomthang is not so far from here.
Camp: Shomthang (4300m)
Day 09: Shomthang – Nabtsho (05 - 06 hours)
We start the day with an easy downhill walk following the trail that is well used by the yaks and its herders into the beautiful Takeethang Valley. We cross the stream and climb up a bit through firs and rhododendrons to go down to another stream. The trail then traverses through the conifer forest for a while and leads up above the tree line with a long steep climb. Once out of the woods, the climb is less strenuous and pretty much gradual till our camp.
Camp: Nabtsho (4300m)
Day 10: Nabtsho – Dungtsho (05 - 06 hours)
We traverse to Yusa La (4280 m) following the yak’s path whereas our horses will have to go down to the lake below our camp following the previous day’s path and then come up to Yusa La because that stretch of path we are following is rough and difficult for the horses. From Yusa La, we make a steep descent of about 200m to the base of Rangtha Ja (name of the cliff) where there is a fork. Keep left and ascend gradually to Dungtsho La (4270m). Our campsite is just about half an hour’s trek from here through the narrow and rocky path.
Camp: Dungtsho (4100m)
Day 11: Dungtsho – Thimphu (05 - 06 hours)
The day begins with a short gradual climb along the rocky trail till it gets level for a while and then there is a short descent before you climb up to Phume La (4210m). From here, it’s just under an hours walk to the edge of the ridge, which is marked by the Chorten, and a grove of fluttering prayer flags. On a clear day, one can have the views of long chain of snow covered mountains, and Thimphu valley underneath. From here, we have a long downhill walk to Thimphu passing Thujidrag temple, a retreat center that hangs on the side of a precipitous rock face and some temples at Phajoding (3870m).
Altitude at Thimphu: 2400m
Overnight: Hotel in Thimphu
Day 12: Thimphu
Thimphu is perhaps the most unusual capital city in the world, is the seat of government, home to Bhutan’s royal family, the civil service, and foreign missions with representation in Bhutan. It is also the headquarters for a number of internationally funded development projects.
The sightseeing in Thimphu includes visit to the following places;
National Memorial Chorten
Bhutan’s third king, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, who had wanted to erect a monument to world peace and prosperity, originally envisaged the building of this landmark. Completed in 1974 after his untimely death, it is both a memorial to the Late King (“the father of modern Bhutan”), and a monument to peace.
Buddha Dordenma Statue
This massive statue of Shakyamuni measures in at a height of 51.5 meters, making it one of the largest statues of Buddha in the world. The statue is made of bronze and is gilded in gold. The throne that the Buddha Dordenma sits upon is a large meditation hall.
The Buddha Dordenma is located atop a hill in Kuenselphodrang Nature Park and overlooks the Southern entrance to Thimphu Valley. The statue fulfills an ancient prophecy dating back to the 8th century A.D that was discovered by Terton Pema Lingpa (Religious Treasure Discoverer) and is said to emanate an aura of peace and happiness to the entire world.
Motithang Takin Preserve
A short distance up the road to the telecom tower is a trail leading to 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, Bhutan's national animal, were so tame 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 these oddball mammals. The best time to see them is early morning when they gather near the fence to feed. It's a five-minute walk from the road to a viewing area where you can take advantage of a few holes in the fence to take photographs.
Most of the Thimphu population and many valley dwellers converge on the bustling weekend market, held down by the riverside. A wide range of foodstuffs and local arts and crafts are sold at the market, which runs from Friday to Sunday. Otherwise, there is no use going there on other days. A visit to the market provides great photo opportunities, as well as the chance to mingle with local people and perhaps buy some souvenirs.
In Bhutan, textiles are considered the highest form of art and spiritual expression. Our handlooms have evolved over centuries and reflect the country's distinctive identity. Most of the designs and patterns of weave are unique to the country. Bhutanese weavers have been very innovative in their designs while maintaining the traditional character of the art. By utilizing primarily the simple back strap loom, the Thunder Dragon People have crafted one of the most advanced and sophisticated weaving cultures in the history of civilization.
Weaving Centre produces hand-woven textiles on site and has a selection of cloth and ready-made garments for sale. This is one of the few places where you can watch weavers at work.
Visit the government-run Handicrafts Emporium and privately owned crafts shops, which offer a wide range of handcrafted products, including the splendid Thangkha paintings and exquisitely woven textiles for which Bhutan is famous.
The “fortress of the glorious religion” was initially erected in 1641 and rebuilt by King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk in the 1960s. While other governments around the world ensconce themselves in fortresses of stone and steel, the seat of Bhutan's Royal Government is in a building that mirrors the country's culture and its people.
The building we see today is largely a modern affair, built in 1962 when His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuk moved the government to Thimphu after a fire at its original location.
The complex's central tower is original. Tashichhodzong houses the main secretariat building, throne room of His Majesty the King of Bhutan. During the warmer summer months the monk body headed by His Holiness, the Je Khenpo, makes its home in the Dzong.
Altitude at Thimphu: 2400m
Overnight: Hotel in Thimphu
Day 13: Departure
After breakfast in the hotel, drive to the airport in time to catch up your onward flight. Your escort from Bhutan Excursions will bid you farewell and soon the remote and legendary Dragon Kingdom disappears again behind its guardian mountains.