11 Day Bumthang Owl Trek Journey

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Day 1 Arrival in Paro, transfer to Thimphu, o/n Thimphu
Day 2 Transfer to Gangtey, o/n Gangtey
Day 3 Transfer to Bumthang, o/n Bumthang
Day 4 Trek. Menchugang to Schonath
Day 5 Trek. Schonath to Kitiphu
Day 6 Trek. Kitiphu – Jakar, o/n Bumthang
Day 7 Transfer to Punakha, o/n Punakha
Day 8 Explore Punakha valley, o/n Punakha
Day 9 Transfer to Paro, o/n Paro
Day 10 Paro valley exploration. Tiger’s Nest Hike, o/n Paro
Day 11 International Departure

Grade: moderate
Duration: 3 days Trek, 11 day total program
Best time: March – June/September – November

The Bumthang Owl Trek offers an invigorating experience of the culture and environment of the country. It is a moderate 3-day route which starts from Menchugang and ends in Jakar Dzong. The trail has an abundance of flora and fauna, and the panoramic views of the valleys beneath, the hill tops and the Himalayas spread over a broad horizon would be an experience that one shall cherish for a lifetime. Birds of different spices including the monal pheasants can be sighted on this trek.

Day 1: Arrive in Paro, Transfer to Thimphu
Distance: 34.3miles/55km
Drive Time: 1.5 hours

On arrival at Paro airport, you will be met by your guide and driver and will drive you to Thimphu, the capital of the Kingdom.

About 7 km before Thimphu, pause briefly to admire Bhutan’s oldest fortress, Simtokha Dzong built in 1627, rising up from a small hilltop on the right side of the road.
After lunch visit the National Memorial Chorten built as a tribute third king and as a monument to world peace; the National Institute of Traditional Medicine, where herbal medicines are made and dispensed and traditional medicine practitioners are trained; the Institute for Zorig Chusum, where students learn the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan; the National Library, which houses an extensive collection of Buddhist literature including many ancient Buddhist texts; Tashichhodzong, which houses the Throne room, His Majesty’s secretariat, offices of some Ministries and the Central Monk Body.

Day 02: Thimphu – Gangtey

Distance: 76.9miles/123km
Drive Time: 5-6 hours

Drive for about 5 hours to Gangtey. Hike to Hongtsho Goenpa before you drive pass Dochu La pass (3,088m) and Wangdue Phodrang Dzong.
On a clear day there is a spectacular view from here of
Bhutan’s highest peaks. On a clear day Masagang (7,158m), Tsendegang (6,960m), Terigang (7 ,060m), Jejegangphugang (7,158m), Kangphugang (7,170m), Zongaphugang (7,060m) a table mountain that dominates the isolated region of Lunana, and finally, Gangkar Puensum, the highest peak of Bhutan at 7,497m can been seen from Dochu La. Continue on to Wangduephodrang town, where your lunch will be served. Then proceed to Trongsa over PeleLa pass (3,300m), which divides the country the east from the west.

Day 03: Gangtey – Bumthang

Distance: 42.5miles/68km
Time: 2 hours

En route visit to the majestic Trongsa Dzong, ancestral abode of Bhutan’s royal family. Then visit the Ta Dzong, watchtower which is now turned into a Heritage Museum. The museum was inaugurated in 2008 with splendid views of Trongsa and the Trongsa Dzong. The exhibition covers all aspects of Bhutanese culture, history and Bhutan’s monarchy, with some rare and beautiful objects on display. One of the galleries is dedicated to the history of the kings of the Wangchuck dynasty and houses a selection of clothing, ritual and everyday objects donated by the royal family to serve as an illustration of their past and current lives. After the museum, proceed to Bumthang and in the afternoon, time permitting, visit the 17th century Jakar Dzong and then Kurje monastery, built in the 17th century to mark the place where Guru Padmasambhava meditated in the 8th century, leaving his body imprint on the rock.

Day 04: Trek: Manchugang – Schonath

Max Altitude: 11,318ft/3,450m

Start at Manchugang and visit the biggest village in Bumthang, called Dhur at an elevation of 2900m above sea level. The village consists of about 75 households with a recorded population of around 800 people. The single village has three types of inhabitants the Kheps (tax payers) having cattle and farmland, Brokpas (nomads) having Yaks and a third group having either. This village has two different dialects, the usual Bumthang Kha and the Brokke (nomadic dialects). A walk above the village to get the overall view of the village is interesting. Climb down to the river where the traditional water-driven flour mill can be seen. This traditional water driven flour mill used to be a source of livelihood for the people of Dhur village. It has been abandoned after the intake channel was washed away by flashflood. The program has been rehabilitated as it symbolizes an authentic Bhutanese tradition. Continue the trek uphill through the blue pine forest and reach the camp at Schonath (3450m) in hemlock and juniper forest. The hooting of owls through the night is quite common, hence the name the Owl Trek.

Day 05: Schonath – Kitiphu

Max Altitude: 12,696ft/3,870m

Trekking through the virgin forest of huge temperate trees like spruce, hemlock, fir, birch and many species of rhododendron makes you breathe the real wilderness of Bhutan. Bamboos are the main undergrowth of this wild forest. During the months of April and May the rhododendrons are in full bloom. In about two hours, you will arrive at the Drangela Pass (3600m). Ascending the Kitiphu ridge brings you to an altitude of 3870m for the night’s camp. If weather favors, have a wonderful view of the valley and the panoramic snow caped Himalayan Mountains from top of Kitiphu. The highest mountain of Bhutan Gangkar Punsum (7541m) stands right in front of you when you are on the peak of Kitiphu (4000m).

Day 06: Kitiphu – Jakar

Max Altitude: You will be climbing down today

Enjoy the magnificent sun rise in the morning before you start your last leg of your trek. Climb down to the monasteries of Zambhalha, Chuedak and Tharpaling which brings you to the religious life of monkhood, the historical Buddhist learning centre. Chuedak monastery has 100 Avaloketeshvara in the form of Chukchizhey (eleven heads) that you will see nowhere else in the country. After the monastery, walk along the ridge of Kikila and finally follow the ancient trail between Trongsa and Bumthang. Second King of Bhutan and his royal entourage use to follow this trail when they migrated to Trongsa from Bumthang in the winter months. The Royal entourage took 3 days to reach Trongsa from Bumthang. The spectacular view of the Jakar Dzong awaits you as you end your three day trek with many interesting and unforgettable memories.

Day 07: Bumthang – Punakha

Distance: 133miles/214km
Drive Time: 8 hours

Drive to Punakha with lunch en route.

Day 08: Punakha valley exploration

Your day in Punakha Valley begins with a hike up thru fields of chillies, cabbages and rice along the banks of the Mo Chhu to the upper end of the valley to the Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten, a stunning monument recently built by the Queens and consecrated in 1999. Returning down thru the valley you will have plenty of time to take in the impressive Punakha Dzong, home to the remains of Bhutan’s first ruler, Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyal, and the winter residence of the monastic order’s leader and his entourage of monks. Later a picnic lunch will be served on the banks of the Punak Chhu at a vantage point of the stunning Dzong and confluence of the Mo Chhu and Pho Chhu. Following lunch a quick drive will take you to the village of Talo where you will stop to walk the stunning, quiet grounds of the village temple and perhaps visit the home village of the Kingdom’s four Queens.

Day 09: Punakha – Paro

En route to Paro hike to Chimi Lhakhang, the fertility temple

After lunch in Paro, visit to the National Museum, housed in the Ta Dzong (watchtower). Here, an intriguing collection of artifacts provide a wonderful introduction to the rich culture and heritage of the Kingdom. Just a short walk downhill lays the dominating Paro Dzong, a fine example of Bhutanese historic architecture. From the Dzong, the tour crosses Nyamai Zampa, a traditional cantilever bridge, and guests are then driven to the town temple, built in 1525, to view ancient wall paintings. Paro options include picturesque picnic spots or, perhaps, a visit to a traditional farmhouse to lunch with the family. This afternoon there will be choice of excursions with those wanting a further immersion into the culture and religion with visits to the Kyichu Lhakhang, Dumtse Lhakhang and the Drukgyel Dzong alter.

Day 10: Paro – Taktshang Hike

This morning will begin with a hike up to view one of Bhutan’s most revered monuments, the Taktshang Goemba, more commonly referred to as the “Tiger’s Nest”. The four to five hour return trek offers spectacular views of this sacred monastery perched on a cliff face 900m above the valley floor. The balance of the day can be spend browsing shops in town, enjoying the spa around the lodge or taking on another hike into the rich forests that rise up behind the lodge.

Town stroll and shopping in the evening.

Day 11: Paro: International departure

Early breakfast in the hotel and drive to the airport for flight to onward destination.

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