This itinerary offers an in-depth experience of Bhutan combining a short trek with a diverse insight into the country’s culture; which makes this such a fascinating place to visit. The proposed trek is an absolute gem as it unfolds spectacular landscapes and takes you off the beaten path. We were the first people to research the route in 2006 and were fortunate enough to discover an absolute classic. We also had the honor of naming it, The Juniper Trail. Our guides now consider this to be the best short trek in Bhutan, offering rewards normally reserved for much longer itineraries in the high Himalaya. In the lower valleys, the landscapes are dominated by striking dzongs or monasteries which are visually spectacular and truly fascinating places to visit.
This trekking holiday to Bhutan is purely a suggested itinerary. It can be booked as it is or alternatively used as a starting point for creating your own ideal tailor made trip to Bhutan.
Day 01: Arrival
Flying into 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.
On arrival at Paro airport, after immigration and custom formalities, your guide from Bhutan Excursions for the trip will receive you and transfer you to the hotel.
This beautiful valley encapsulates a rich culture, scenic beauty and hundreds of myths and legends. It is home to many of Bhutan’s oldest temples and monasteries, the country’s only airport, and the National Museum. Mt. Jomolhari (7,300m) reigns in white glory at the northern end of the valley, its glacial waters plunging through deep gorges to form the Pa Chu (Paro River). The Paro valley is one of the kingdom’s most fertile, producing the bulk of Bhutan’s famous red rice from its terraced fields.
Visit the following places in Paro;
Built in 1646 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the “fortress of the heap of jewels” stands on a hill above Paro Township. The approach to the Dzong is through a traditional covered bridge (called the Nemi Zam) and then up a paved stone path running alongside the imposing outer walls. The valley’s annual springtime religious festival, the Paro Tsechu, takes place in the courtyard of the Dzong and on the dance ground on the hillside above.
The Jowo Temple of Kyichu is one of the oldest temples in Bhutan, originally built in the 7th century by the Tibetan Emporer Songtsen Gampo. It is considered to be one of the 108 border taming temples he built. In 1971 HM Kesang Choden Wangchuck, the Queen of King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, built a Guru Temple next to the old Jowo Temple which was consecrated by HH Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. Since then, the annual rites of great accomplishment for the deities Vajrasattva, Palchen Heruka, and Vajrakilava have been held in this temple for the well being of the country under the patronage of HM Kesang Choden Wangchuck. There is a belief that the two orange trees in the courtyard of Kyichu Lhakhang bear fruit throughout the year.
Altitude at Paro: 2300m
Overnight: Hotel in Paro
Day 02: Hike to Tiger’s Nest
Today, we will hike 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 hill tops 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.
After this hike, we will take a drive to Thimphu which 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. Thimphu has a special charm and it is fascinating to sit and watch a gathering of local people in the town square, wearing their traditional dress and going about their business in a typically unhurried Bhutanese way.
Approximate walking time: 06 hours
Altitude at Thimphu: 2400m
Overnight: Hotel in Thimphu
Day 03: Sightseeing in Thimphu
Your morning sightseeing in Thimphu includes visit to the following places:
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.
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.
National Memorial Chorten
The building of this landmark was originally envisaged by Bhutan’s third king, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, who had wanted to erect a monument to world peace and prosperity. 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.
Archery is Bhutan’s National Sport. Archery matches are among the most picturesque and colorful events you will find here and well worth a visit. There are formal competitions on many weekends, and archers practice most afternoons and weekends when there is no competition. It’s easy to find a session to watch.
Later, we will take a drive to Chuzomtoe, the starting point of our trek – The Juniper Trail to spend the first night at camp from where there is a superb view of Bhutan’s Himalaya on a clear day.
Approximate driving time: 02 hours
Altitude at Chuzomtoe: 3310m
Overnight: Camp at Chuzomtoe
Day 04: Chuzomtoe - Tsendu La (05/06 hours)
If you’re up early and skies are clear, you’ll enjoy sunrise over the eastern Himalaya. The trail runs gradually up along the ridge for over two hours till the base of a treeless peak, occasionally passing by beautiful meadows that are being used by the yak herders to keep their yaks in winter. The trail then traverses for sometime before you make your way up through the thick alpine forest of firs, rhododendrons and junipers to Tsendu La, a beautiful meadow on top of the ridge with breath taking views, be it of mountains or of valleys underneath.
Overnight: Camp at Tsendu La (3775m)
Day 05: Tsendu La - Pangka La (04/05 hours)
After the late breakfast, we will trek down the hill till we get to Dongle La pass (3565m) which is marked by an old two legged Chorten. This pass is along the forsaken ancient mule track between Paro and Ha valleys. This route was like the present day highway not so long ago, with traffic of mules and people being the beast of burden in the same way. From here, the trail goes gradually up through the alpine forest till you get above the tree line in the vicinity of huge meadow of Pangka La.
Overnight: Camp at Pangka La (4150m)
Day 06: A day at Pangka La
It is worth rising up early in the morning to see the sun rise over the eastern Himalayan mountains or just to experience the solitude of this heaven like place on earth. We will spend the day on this mountain, contemplating and enjoying the beauty of nature to the fullest.
Overnight: Camp at Pangka La (4150m)
Day 07: Pangka La - Chele La (05/06 hours)
After breakfast, we will start the last day of our trek sliding down slowly along the wide and well used yak’s trail for a while till it gets level. Along the ridge, we will come across some yak herder’s camps and then we have a short climb before we make our way down to yet another abandoned mule track at Dzongle La (3565m). From here, the path gets more of level traversing along one side of the rocky ridge till you get to the finishing point of your trek at the highest motor able pass in the country which is marked with grove of fluttering prayer flags known as Chele La (3750m).
Altitude at Paro: 2300m
Overnight: Hotel in Paro
Day 08: 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.
TASHI DELEK & GOOD LUCK!