This is a nine days trek, starting and ending the trek at the Drukgyel Dzong, Paro. It is one of the best treks for nature lovers, which offers stunning views of peaks and alpine pastureland. Many scattered settlements of Yak herders of Thongbu valley and you will be in the wilderness nature of habitat of Takins and blue sheep can be seen along the route.
Day 1: Arrive Paro and sightseeing hotel.
Day 2: Paro sightseeing. Hotel.
Day 3: Trek day 1 - Start of Trek Paro/Shana. Camp.
Day 4: Trek Day 2 - Shana – Thangthangkha. Camp.
Day 5: Trek Day 3 - Thangthangkha – Jangothang. Camp.
Day 6: Trek Day 4 - Jangothang – Halt. Camp.
Day 7: Trek Day 5 - Jangothang - Chorapang. Camp.
Day 8: Trek Day 6 - Chorapang - Thongbu. Camp.
Day 9: Trek Day 7 – Thongbu - Shana. Camp.
Day 10: Trek Day 8 – Shana – Paro or Thimphu. Hotel.
Day 11: Trek Day 9 – Thimphu/Paro. Hotel.
Day 12: Paro – Departure.
Day 1: Arrive Paro.
Fly into Bhutan on Druk Airways. If you are lucky, you will have glorious view of the snow-capped Himalayas. The remarkable and steep descent into the Paro valley is an awe-inspiring beginning to an adventure of a lifetime. After visa formalities and collection of baggage, you will meet the Bhutanese representative from our company – For Your Bhutan Experience!, who will receive you and drive through Paro valley to your hotel. After settling down at the hotel, you will have your lunch. Afternoon visit the National Museum (Tak Dzong) (one of the fine museums in Asia that would shed further light to your adventurous trip to Bhutan and Paro Rimpong Dzong, administration center and religious institute of the valley. This Dzong may be familiar to people who watched Burtolucci’s film “The Little Buddha”, followed by walk through Paro town. Dinner and Overnight: Hotel.
Day 2: Paro - Taktsang (Tiger Nest Excursion).
After breakfast we drive to the north of Paro valley to Ramthangkha, from where we start our hike to the Taktsang monastery (Tiger’s Nest). Visitors are permitted to hike up to the viewpoint from where they can see the monastery hanging on a cliff. I will obtain the special permit to visit the monastery. Legend has it that Guru Rimpoche flew from Eastern Bhutan on a tigress, bringing Buddhist teachings and meditated here in this cliff. This is one of the most venerated and sacred of all Buddhist sights around the world. Lunch will be served at Taktsang cafeteria. Walk downhill to the road and en route visit Drukgyel Dzong (now in ruins), which reveals the reminiscence of ancient architecture and followed by visit to Kyichu Lhakhang, built in the 7th century by Songtsen Gompo, which denotes the spread and emergence of Buddhism in the country. Evening at leisure: Dinner and Overnight: Hotel.
Day 3: Paro – Drukgyel Dzong to Shanna. Trek Day 1.
Start of the trek: Early morning depart to Paro, 2 hrs drive t Paro. The first day the trek starts with a 20 min (16 km) drive to the northwest of Paro Valley to Drukgyel Dzong, the ruined Dzong, which once defended the valley from the Tibetan invasion. This fortress, now a burned shell, was once a strategic in Bhutan’s defense against the Tibetan aggression. Mt Chomolhari (7314 m/24,500 ft), sacred submit, reaches skyward behind it, are forming the starting décor of the Trek. Here we meet our Bhutanese Trekking crew and the first group of pack animals. It will take a while to sort the loads before the pack animal leave. So there is time to visit the ruins of the Dzong and to take some obvious picture painted on the side of a house next to the road.
We start walking down about 80 m along a dust road for the first hour, through the rich agriculture valley, following the Paro Chu. After two and half hour walk from the Drukgyel Dzong you enter a forest in which very soon you come across a Chorten, where packed lunch will be served. The trails proceeds up a wide valley beneath the forest-covered mountains and beautiful farmhouses. After two and half hours you will get to a military camp called Gunitsawa but generally called as Shana. Our trekking permit will be checked at the army gate and cross the army camp’s bridge, which you start climbing for around 20min. We walk for another 30 minutes and all of sudden you reach to an open field with the grove of pines, where is our camp for tonight.
Day 4: Sahana - Soithnagkha. Trek Day 2.
Today is a hard day. Lot of distance to cover; altitude gain is also above the limit and the trail after lunch is tough due to many ups and downs with many stones sticking out. Up early this morning, after bed tea and washing water, then breakfast at 7:00 am and depart the camp by 8:00 am. We follow the river upstream on the right side on a muddy trail and after 10 min we reach to the ruin of old wooden bridge being photographed by Claude White in the beginning of last century and on the right side of house, you can see a sign board JDNP (Jigme Dorji National Park) “Leave nothing but the foot prints.
Take nothing but the memories”, which is possible for you to read by using binoculars. The trail climbs steady through the beautiful thick forest of oaks, rhododendrons, bamboo and ferns reaching at a clearance with two houses, called Shing Karap. Not far after crossing Shing Karap, your trail occurs a major split decorated with heap of stones. The left trail goes up and is more visible with even stone paved surface; the trail leads up the forbidden pass Termo La and onwards to the city of Phari to Tibet (14 km). We will take this route, which goes a bit, down hill through the forest. Another 35 min, including with a little steep climb and decent again brings us to wooden bridge called Syende Zam (River Sey Chu).
Continuing up streams and following the main river on the left side, after 5 min you find a wide clearance in the forest, which is a lunch spot. Continue your trek to Sio-Thangkha for another 3/4 hours trekking and 300+ climbing, but actual is about 500 m or more due to all the ups and downs to be climbed. You come across the beautiful forest consisting mainly birch, firs, larch, maple. blue pine and rhododendrons. We finally reach to a last real step climb for today and decent down to the main river, following the river you reach a bridge at 3560 m which we should cross.
A short climb after bridge you will be able to see a chorten and look into a wide valley towards the right called Soi Yaksa, which has some big snowy peaks between 5000 m to 5650 m at the end. On the other side of the camp you these mountains, you will find Basingthang – a campsite on the trek from Lingshi to Thimphu. In this valley there are also a quite big farmhouses and the ruin of a Dzong Called Sey Dzong. We will not cross the bridge leading to the chorten but follow the trail to the left side of the river, which gives a opportunity to have a spectacular view of Mt Chomolahari from the bridge on a clear day. Walk for another 30min or so to reach at the campsite Soi-Thangthangkha for today.
Day 5: Soi Thangkha – Jangothnag (Chomolhari Base Camp). Trek Day 3.
The trail follows the Pa Chu and after one-hour walk or more you pass a small army post where the valleys begin to widen. During the day, you cross so many beautiful settlements, which make it a very attractive day. We continue through open valley above the tree lined with snow peaks. We pass the small settlements, with the out reach health clinic for the community and within an hour, you reach at the base of the ruins of an ancient fortress and you can see the Mt. Chomolhari looming at the end of the valley.
Day 6: Jangothnag Halt (Chomolari Base Camp). Trek Day 4.
Ascending 1800 m in 3 days is something that most people feel. Therefore, we keep a rest day at Chomolhari Base Camp to give your body to acclimatize. There are some really nice hikes, which are ideal to do during the rest day. The hike includes climbing up facing the Chomolhari in the front and hike towards the northeast to view Mt. Jitchu Drake. The other option is going in the valley facing Chomolhari in the front to view the glaciers at the base.
For those feeling the altitude or just interested in relaxing at the camp, watching the shifting light on Chomolhari…not a bad way to spend the day! The summit of Chomolhari is considered to be abode of the goddess Jomo. It is the perfect mountain with ideal shape – more or less symmetrical – a real throne for a goddess. The other most exciting one is going in easterly direction up to two big lakes called Tshophu, which are full of trout fish.
From the lakes you have a nice view back of Chomolhari, Jitchu Drake and Tsherim Gang. You will be passing through Tshophu (lakes) on your journey to Chorapang. Today is more or less a rest day. There are stupendous day hikes in 3 directions. Chomolhari and its subsidiary are directly west, Jichu Drake to the north, unclimbed summits and ridges to the east. It is possible to enjoy another day hike from Jangothang before heading to the lakes and the new campsite, which is about 10 minutes from the lakes. Those interested in fishing may wish to head up to the lakes earlier in the day.
Day 7: Jangothang to Chorapang. Trek Day 5.
Today, we pass the yak herder’s houses and cross the small river, The trail climbs steeply for about 45 minutes with spectacular views of Jitchu Drake and Chomolhari, which gradually gets more impressive as you gain altitude. Once you reach the top of the plateau, the trail will level out and after crossing a small hill, the first lake will come into view. This is a spectacular walk with the three major peaks rising above the valley a broad stream on your right and snow covered peaks. H.R.H Prince Namgyal Wangchuk stocked these two lakes with brown trout in the 1960s.
Fishing is strictly prohibited in these two lakes. After crossing the lakes, we tackle the Bang Tue La (Pass) which is the highest point on our trek at 15,600’ An early start is recommended to allow for enough time to reach camp and to get over the pass in the morning when the weather is pleasant. Be on the lookout for Blue sheep on the steep hillsides above the valley. In the fall, the sheep gather together in herds numbering up to 500 individuals. In addition to the Blue sheep, there are several Snow leopards, which live in these regions. As we climb, we will pace ourselves to allow our bodies to adjust to the elevation.
At a slow pace, we should be at the pass by approximately 11:00 am. From the pass, the trail drops quickly to a huge grass covered plateau dotted with yak herder tent stone circles. To the right is a massive cliff with waterfalls and a vast scree field below. The valley of Soi Yaksa is an incredibly scenic box canyon, which ends abruptly at the foot of the steep cliff. Above the canyon floor the landscape is comprised of cliffs, waterfalls and higher still, snow covered peaks. Above the cliff to our right the mountain rises to a dramatic point, resembling the throne of a local deity. As we ramble thought the steep grazing fields, we can see the edge of the plateau which ends with a final descent to the valley floor and camp site beside a rushing stream.
Day 8: Chorapang - Thongbu. Trek Day 6.
We climb steadily for 600 feet above the camp and the trails levels out and winds around a ridge and cross a stream. Another steep climb to a small pass marked by several small chortens-stupas. We stooped for a brief tea break and then continue, now above tree line, past one yak herder tent and herds of grazing yak. We reach the next valley, which has a beautiful snow fed river. We cross the river and began the climb to the pass. It is steep, but we take our time and after one ad a half hours we reach our second pass. The Takalung la at 14,400’.
From the pass we can see the large valley of Thongbu and our campsite for the night. A Gently winding tail leads us down hill to our camp. If the weather co-operates the view from the pass is spectacular, with Chomolhair and Jitchu Drake rising over the mountain range we covered yesterday. We have a clear view of Thebang Teu La (yesterday’s pass) and the Soi Yaksa Valley. Thongbu is a wide valley filled with yak herder encampments, many yaks’ horses and a few goats. Camp at Thongbu.
Day 9: Thongbu to Shana. Trek Day 7.
Our trail climbs steeply from camp up the side of a mountain covered with dwarf rhododendron. It is a relatively short but steep climb to the small pass. From this point, we begin a wonderful part of our trek route. For almost two hours, we walk along a ridgeline trail with drops off to the valley floors below on both sides. If it is clear, there are panoramic views of the major peaks and distance valleys. Eventually we drop from the high ridge and we begin to glimpse views of another dramatic peak, Drake Gang. Like Jitchu Drake, it is the residence of a local male deity, while Chomolhari is the home of Jomo, a female deity. We were now in an area of rocky cliffs and parapets, which faded in and out of the mist.
We dropped further to a lovely spot with views of the valleys below us. We stop for a tea break while enjoying the views. From this tranquil spot, we begin one of our most challenging parts of the trek. For the next three hours, we dropped steeply on a switch back trail losing more than 4,500 feet. The trail again is littered with many stones, which make footing challenging. Taking our time and (watching our knees!) we descend to the valley floor. As we lose elevation, the landscape changes from alpine with dwarf rhododendrons to lush pine forests with huge old growth trees. Even lower, we entered a mixed forest of pine and oak. We break our journey at Shana and camp here for the night. Camp.
Day 10: Shana to Drugyel Dzong to Thimphu. Trek Day 8.
For the remaining journey from Shana to Drukyel Dzong we will have riding ponies available for those who would like to ride. Anyone wishing to walk to the head may do so at their leisure. Upon arrival at Drukyel, the representatives from the office will meet us and vehicles for a post trek celebrations. We drive the distance to your Hotel in Thimphu for the night, where our luggage and hot shower awaits us!
Day 11: Thimphu sightseeing or you can do some sightseeing in Thimphu or one can have leisure day in Thimphu.
Day 12: Thimphu - Paro. Early morning drive to Paro for your onward flight.
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