Day 1: Arrive Paro (By Druk Air).
The flight into Paro on our national carrier, Druk Air, is a befitting introduction to the spectacular beauty of our country. In clear weather, magnificent views of the world’s highest peaks, give way to the lush green Paro valley as you land. Your Bhutanese escort from Golden langur travel Bhutan (GLTB) will greet you on arrival, then drive you the short distance to the Hotel.
Day 2: Paro.
Your journey into the Thunder Dragon kingdom will truly begin with a drive in the morning to the ruins of the Drukgyal Dzong 16 km up the valley. Built in 1647 by the great Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, father and unifier of medieval Bhutan, the dzong was destroyed by accidental fire and left in ruins as an evocative reminder of the great victories it was built to commemorate. Explore the ramparts and on a clear day experience an unforgettable view of Mt. Jhomolhari (7,314 m). Our next visit is Ta Dzong, an ancient watchtower, which now houses the National Museum.
Below the museum is the Paro Rimpung Dzong, the center of civil and religious authority in this valley. A short walk takes you to the base of the dzong and across a traditional cantilevered, covered bridge. A short distance further is one of the innumerable archery grounds. (Archery is the national sport of Bhutan). If we are lucky, we may catch a match in action. The evening ends with a walk through Paro's main shopping district.
Day 3: Paro, Excursion to Taktsang Monastery.
A very special day, with an excursion to view the spectacular Taktsang (Tiger's Nest) monastery - After breakfast a short drive takes us to Satsam Chorten, from there a 2 hour horse ride till the viewpoint point of the monastery. The trail climbs through beautiful pine forest, many of the trees festooned with Spanish moss, and an occasional grove of fluttering prayer flags. We stop for a rest and light refreshments at the Taktsang Jakhang (cafeteria) and then walk a short distance until we see, clearly and seemingly within reach, Taktsang monastery.
Built in the 1600s, this incredible monastery clings to the edge of a sheer rock cliff that plunges 900 m into the valley below. Legend has it that Guru Padmasambhava, the tantric mystic who brought Buddhism to Bhutan, landed here on the back of a flying tiger. Looking at the monastery flying tigers doesn’t seem so impossible after all. Lunch will be served at the cafeteria, followed by a short walk to Satsam Chorten for the drive to the hotel.
Day 4: Paro – Shana (Start of Trek).
Our trek to Shana starts at Drukgyal Dzong following the Paro river and we pass cultivated fields and tiny picturesque villages. The forests are alive with numerous birds and brightly colored butterflies. Overnight at camp Shana. Altitude 2,820 m; Distance 14 km; Time 5-6 hours.
Day 5: Shana - SoiThangthangka.
The trail follows the river through a heavily forested area with a few isolated farmhouses. It narrows and closes in and the trail winds up and down along the drainage. We pass a junction enroute, where another path leads north over the Tremo La to Tibet. Camp is in a meadow with a stone shelter. Altitude 3610 m; Distance 21 km; Time 7-8 hours.
Day 6: Thangthangka - Jangothang.
In the morning after passing a small army post, the trail slowly leaves the forest line and gradually climbs into a beautiful valley, passing Tegethang, a winter home of yak herdsmen. Lunch will be served in one of these huts. Lots of yaks will be seen today before we arrive at the Jhomolhari base camp (4,115 m). High mountains overlook the camp and visible nearby are the ruins of an old fortress used to guard Bhutan against Tibetan invasions. Altitude 4,115 m; Distance 15 Km; Time 5 - 6 hours.
Day 7: Jangothang (Halt).
A rest day. A chance to acclimatize and walk up to the Jhomolhari glacier or to the lakes in the opposite direction.
Day 8: Jangothang - Lingshi.
A good day’s walk today with spectacular views of the Jhomolhari, Jichu Drake and the Tserim Gang. We start climbing straight away and after some 3 to 4 hours reach the Nyelela pass (4,700 m). After the pass we descend to a circular hut just below Lingshi, where we camp. Coming down from Lingshi we obtain our first views of the truly mystical Dzong atop a high hill. Altitude 4000 m; Distance 17 kms; Time 6 - 7 hours.
Day 9: Lingshi - Chebisa.
This is a magical day. Leaving Lingshi behind we gently climb gently to reach another delightful village, Gom Yu, which is set right below a 300 m cliff. Another hours walk brings us to a lovely little valley with a huge waterfall at one end of the Shangri La village of Chebisa, where we camp by the side of the river. The walk is very leisurely with plenty of reasons and opportunities to linger. Altitude 3,780 m; Distance 12 km; Time 4-5 hours.
Day 10: Chebisa - Shomuthang.
We start with quite a stiff climb through high pastures up the Gokula pass (4,320 m) before we drop through forests of dwarf rhododendron. We climb gradually and head down to the camp near a riverbed. Altitude 3,890 m; Distance 17 kms; Time 6 - 7 hours.
Day 11: Shomuthang - Robluthang.
A long haul over the Jarela pass at 4,640 m where we once again get stunning views of the Himalayan mountains above us. We drop steeply down a forest trail to the Tsarigathang valley, where herds of Takin roam, then cross a knee deep river before climbing up Robluthang where we camp. Altitude 4,100 m. Distance 22 km. Time 7 - 8 hours.
Day 12: Robluthang - Lemithang.
This is one of the hardest days of the trek. We climb slowly up to Shinchela pass at 4,870 m. and are rewarded with stunning views of mountains, including the spectacular Gang Chen Ta at the head of the valley. On a clear day practically all the mountains on the northern border are visible. Eagles, griffin vultures, blue sheep and yaks abound in this area. We descend down to camp on a lovely spot by the riverbank. Altitude 4,040 m. Distance km. Time 6-7 hours.
Day 13: Lemithang - Laya.
We walk along the river, one of the tributaries of the Mochu and through a forest of rhododendron and silver fir and then enter the village of Laya. The people of Laya are famous for they’re vertical stripe yak hair clothing and their strange conical bamboo hats. The women wear their hair long and with great deal of turquoise and jade jewelry. The features of the people are even more Tibetan/ Mongolian than the Bhutanese who live in the central valleys The rest of the day is spent at leisure or visiting village houses and mixing with the villagers. Good views of the Masagang and the other peaks. Altitude 3,880 m. Distance 10 km. Time 4 - 5 hours.
Day 14: Laya (Halt). We have a rest day at Laya and an opportunity to meet the local people.
Day 15: Laya - Koena. The trail winds along the river valley offers breathtaking views of the crashing river, feeder streams and waterfalls. Over night at camp. Altitude 3,300 m. Distance 19 km. Time 6/7 hours.
Day 16: Koena - Gasa Tsachu.
We gradually climb up to Balela pass at 3,740 m and then descend to Gasa village. The first sight of the Gasa Dzong perched on the hillside over the village is one of the sights of the trip. We then drop steeply down to the river for an hour and camp near the Hot Spring - a chance for a good, hot bath! Altitude 2,638 m. Distance 15 km. Time 6/7 hours.
Day 17: Gasa Tsachu - Goen Damji.
After the climb away from Gasa Tsachu the trail winds through rolling hillsides with the vista of fields, villages and forests of oak and pine. Gasa Dzong will be visible behind you glued to the valley wall, seeming afloat in space. Overnight in camp. Altitude 2,280 m; Distance 21 kms; Time 7/8 hours.
Day 18: Goen Damji – Punakha (the end of the trek).
The trail descends from the high agricultural benches above the Mochu into a lush semi-tropical gorge filled with banana trees, creepers and the sight of an occasional monkey. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 19: Punakha - Thimphu.
In the morning visit the Punakha Dzong, the ancient capital of Bhutan built in 1637. In the winter the Je Khenpo, Head Abbot of Bhutan, moves to Punakha with about 1000 monks This Dzong is open to visitors only in summer when the monk body is in Thimphu. A 3-hour drive takes us to the capital, Thimphu and our hotel. Evening at leisure.
Day 20: Thimphu - Paro.
After breakfast we visit at the Dupthop Lhakhang, one of the few surviving nunneries in Bhutan, and the National Memorial Chorten built in honour of our late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk and then. After lunch we stop at the Handicrafts Emporium following which we leave for Paro.
Day 21: Paro - Airport.
In the morning our GLTB representative will bid you farewell at Paro airport.
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