Day 1 Arrival in Paro, Town stroll, o/n Paro
Day 2 Explore Paro. Tiger’s Nest Hike, o/n Paro
Day 3 Trek. Drukgyel to Shana
Day 4 Trek. Shana to Soi Thangthankha
Day 5 Trek. Soi Thangthankha to Jangothang
Day 6 Trek. Jangothang to rest and acclimatization
Day 7 Trek. Jangothang to Lingshi
Day 8 Trek. Lingshi to Shodu
Day 9 Trek. Shodu to Barshong
Day 10 Trek. Barshong to Dolam Kencho
Day 11 Trek. Dolam Kencho – Dodena – Thimphu, o/n Thimphu
Day 12 Thimphu valley exploration, o/n Thimphu
Day 13 International Departure
Grade: moderate – demanding
Duration: 9 days trek, 13 days total program
Altitude gain: 11,608ft/3539m
Altitude loss: 7987ft/2435m
Best Time: April –June/September-November
This is a superb well loved 9 day trek for strong walkers. Starting from Paro Drukgyel, it goes into northern Bhutan to the land of yak herders and to the base of Mount Jomolhari (23,995ft/7315m), the abode of Goddess Jomo, a sacred mountain of the Bhutanese. The trek can be continued to Lingshi which once guarded the frontier with Tibet during the 17 Century. This trek offers fabulous views of the high Himalayas including Jomolhari, Jitchu Drake (22,925ft/6989m) and Tshering Khang mountains besides the stunning Himalayan scenery and exceptional flora. You will encounter many yak herders with their hairy wards and their camps and few villages of the highlanders. A visit to the house of the nomads will be a good experience.
Day 1: Arrive in Paro – acclimatization
On arrival at Paro airport, you will be met by your guide and driver and transferred to your hotel after completion of arrival formalities.
In the afternoon, visit Ta Dzong, built in 1651 as a watchtower. In 1968, the watchtower was converted to Bhutan’s National Museum. The collection includes art, relics, religious Thangkha paintings, postage stamps, coins and handicrafts, as well as a small natural history collection. Then walk down a short hillside trail to visit Rinpung Dzong built in 1646. The Dzong now houses the offices of the district administration and Paro’s monk body.
Day 2: Explore Paro valley – Tiger’s Nest 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.
In the afternoon there will be choice of excursions with those wanting a further immersion into the culture and religion, visits to the Kyichu Lhakhang, Dumtse Lhakhang with a nice stroll around town afterwards.
Day 3: Drukgyel – Shana
Distance: 9.3 miles/15 km
Time: 5 hours
Drive the winding road north-west up the Pa Chu to Drukgyel Dzong, the ruined dzong which once
defended this valley from Tibetan invasion. This fortress, now a burned shell, was once strategic in Bhutan’s defense against Tibetan invasion in the 17 century. Mt. Jomolhari, the sacred summit, reaches skyward beyond the Dzong. The paved road ends here. The trek begins here following the river gently uphill through a narrowing agricultural valley. Many farms and houses line the valley. The campsite at Shana is just 10 minutes after the military camp in Gunitsawa where there are several camping places in the meadows surrounded by trees.
Day 4: Shana – Soi Thangthankha
Distance: 13.7 miles/22 km
Time: 7-8 hours
Today is more challenging as the trail continues uphill through the river valley. It narrows and closes in and the trail winds up and down along the drainage. Camp is in a huge meadow with stone shelter the government built for trekkers. Great views of Jomolhari as you reach the camp which makes an excellent photo opportunity. The trail climbs through beautiful thick forest of oak, different coloured rhododendron in spring, bamboo and ferns. Look out for birds. There are many species here. You will also pass few settlements of the yak herders.
Day 5: Soi Thangthankha – Jangothang
Distance: 10.6 miles/17km
Time: 5 – 6 hours
After enjoying the view of the jomolhari in the morning from your camp walk for one hour through theforest upstream of Pa Chu. Pass a small military camp, the border of Paro and Thimphu, where the valley begins to widen again. Late in spring, towards the tree line, the Blue Poppy (Bhutan’s national flower) has been spotted. Second military camp you see guards a pass into Tibet, 11km away from Phari, border town of Tibet. Further on you will also see ruins of small dzong built to stop invasion from Tibet. You will see few villages ahead. Views of high ridges and then snow-capped peaks can be seen all around as you near the camp. Tonight’s camp at 13,260ft/4044m is below the overwhelming snow and ice covered east face of Jomolhari(23,995ft/7315m) with its massive 3200m high wall of granite, marble and quartize.
Day 6: Jangothang – rest and acclimatization
Most people will feel the effects of ascending 1800m in three days, so a rest day at Jomolhari camp will help with acclimatization. There are some good day hikes from the camp either to the foot of Jomolhari or to the many viewing point of Jomolhari and Jitchu Drake.
This area is rich in livestock, which has always been very valuable at these altitudes since cultivation is difficult. Yaks are by far the most important animal. Horses are kept for carrying loads and sometimes for riding. Some agricultural development has taken place recently with education and supply of suitable seeds from the government. Four different kinds of incense are also grown and collected her.
Day 7: Jangothang – Lingshi
Distance: 11.2 miles/18km
Time: 6 – 7 hours
The trail follows the stream for half an hour and crosses the bridge to the right bank. We now start our climb up to the first ridge, enjoying breathtaking view of Jomolhari, Jichu Drake and Tserimgang. The trail then takes us across a fairly level valley floor until the climb up to Nyele La pass (4,700m). We descend gradually from the pass to our camp site at Lingshi (4,000m), enjoying a panoramic view of the mountain peaks and Lingshi Dzong as we walk.
Day 8: Lingshi – Shodu
Time: 7 – 8 hours
The Laya-Gasa route leaves the Jomolhari trek route here. Our trail climbs up towards a small white chorten on a ridge above the camp, then turns south up the deep Mo Chu valley. The trail stays on the west side of this largely treeless valley, climbing steadily a short distance above the Mo Chu. It then crosses the river, and climbs steeply for two hours to Yeli La (4,820m). On a clear day you can see Jomolhari, Gangchenta, Tserimgang and Masagang from this pass. Descend alongside a stream to a rock shelter in the cliff face, and then continue on downstream to Shodu (4,100m), where we camp in a meadow with a Chorten.
Day 9: Shodu – Barshong
Time: 5 – 6 hours
We are now back at the tree line, and our path follows the course of the Thimphu Chu, descending through rhododendron, juniper and mixed alpine forests. There are stunning views of rocky cliff face and waterfalls along the way. We stop at the riverside for a hot lunch. Then the trail takes us gradually upwards to the ruins of Barshong Dzong (3,600m), near which we camp for the night.
Day 10: Barshong – Dolam Kencho
Time: 4 – 6 hours
The trail descends gently through a dense forest of rhododendron, birch and conifers, then drops steeply to meet the Thimphu Chu. The trail runs along the left bank of the river, climbing over ridges and descending into gullies where side streams run down into the river. The final stage of the trail climbs around a cliff face high above the Thimphu Chu, coming out onto pastureland where we camp for the night at 3,600m.
Day 11: Dolam Kencho – Dodena – Thimphu
Time: 3 – 4 hours
The trail winds in and out of side valleys above the Thimphu Chu, making a long ascent through a forest of conifers and high altitude broadleaf species to a pass at 3,510m. The trail then drops steeply down to the river, following it southward to the road head at Dodena (2,600m). Our car will meet us here to drive us to Thimphu.
Day 12: Explore Thimphu valley
Full day of sightseeing in Thimphu valley with visits to the National Memorial Chorten, Tashichhodzong, National Library, Institute for Zorig Chusum (Bhutanese arts and crafts school), National Institute of Traditional Medicine, Handicrafts Emporium.
Other option for today is a day excursion to Punakha valley.
Day 13: Thimphu – International Departure
After breakfast, drive to Paro airport for flight for onward destination.