Duration: Six days, Max. elevation: 4,520m
Highest Camp: 4,300m
Best Seasons: April to June and September to November
Start: Gynekha, Thimphu
Finish: Chamgang, Thimpu
The trek leads to beautiful high altitude mountain lakes and stunning views of the entire Himalayan range in Bhutan.
Day 01 :Bangkok/Delhi/Katmandu – Paro
Travel by Druk Air, Bhutan’s national airline, to Paro, the country’s only international airport. The flight is exhilarating to say the least, as the route traverses parallel to the mighty Himalyas enabling passengers to see the world’s highest peak, Mt Everest, and many more. The descent affords a panoramic view of Bhutan’s foothills culminating into a thrilling landing at what is considered one of the world’s most challenging airports.
Meet your guide at the airport and head to the hotel for lunch. Devote the afternoon to sightseeing around Paro valley famed for its historical monuments, agricultural farms and quintessentially Bhutanese village communities. See the National Museum, formerly a watch tower, and then the Castle on a Heap of Precious Jewels or Rinpung Dzong. Wind up the day with a stroll around Paro town. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 02 :Full day Taktshang hike
After breakfast, drive for half an hour and start hiking up to the Buddhist temple that is renowned in the Himalayan Buddhist world as one of the most popular sites of pilgrimage. The five-hour round trip follows an ancient but oft-trodden footpath flanked by water-driven prayer wheels.
The temple, precariously perched on a hair-raising ravine about 1,000 metres above the valley floor, is considered sacrosanct because it was in a cave within the temple that the eight century tantric saint, Padmasambhava, subdued the evils who obstructed the teachings of the Buddha. The saint is believed to have come to Taktshang in a fiery wrathful form riding a tigress. Over the years, many Buddhist saints have meditated in and around the temple and discovered numerous hidden treasure teachings.
Visit the ruins of Drugyel Dzong enroute. The fortress known as the “Castle of the Victorious Drukpa”, is a symbol of Bhutan’s victory over the Tibetan invasions in the 17th and 18th centuries. We can also get a view of Mt Jumolhari along this route. On the way back to our hotel, we will visit the 7th century Kyichu Temple which is believed to have been built on a place that resembled the left knee of a giant ogress.
Day 03: Paro – Gynekha – Gur
Distance seven km, five hours; 550m ascent, 210m descent; camp altitude 3,290m;
It will take us one hour’s drive to Gyenkha from where our exhilarating trek begins with a short descent to the river, followed by a climb to a huge rock platform from where we can enjoy a picturesque view of the valley below. An additional two hours of hike and we reach our camp site at Gur where we will come across some yak pastures near our main trail.
Day 04: Gur – Labatama
Distance 12km, six hours; 1,220m ascent, 110m descent; camp altitude 4,300m
Our path today leads through ridges and beautiful, rugged mountain vegetation carpeted with wild alpine flowers. We also come across refreshing meadows. Our first pass greets us with a breath-taking view of the world’s third highest mountain, Kanjenjunga, and nearly all the Himalayan peaks in the Bhutanese territory. Shortly after leaving the pass, we greet the entire Dagala range, interwoven with meadows and huts of yak herders, and finally descend to our camp site nearby a tranquil lake called Uthso Tsho.
Day 05: Relaxation day at Labatama
Today we relax and absorb the beautiful landscape and nature. We can undertake an excursion to any of three surrounding lakes – Reli Tsho, Hen Tsho and Jama Tsho. This is also an ideal opportunity to try our luck with trout fishing.
Day 06: Labatama – Panka
Distance 8km, six to seven hours; 260m ascent, 520m descent; camp altitude 4,000m.
We climb a little more taking the trail along the western side of Dala Lake up to a mountain saddle at 4,520m. Here we ponder and marvel at the beauty and might of nature. Just before us is an awe-inspiring parade of the Himalayan peaks, truly majestic and pristine, led by Everest and others like Kanchenjunga, Jomolhari, Jichu Drake, Tshering Gang, Khangbum, Masang Gang, Tsende Gang and Gangche Ta in tow. Thereafter, we descend to Doccha Chhu (river), follow its course for a while and reach Panka after a short but intermittent climbs and descents.
Day 07: Panka-Talakha
Distance eight km, five to six hours; 180m ascent, 110m descent; camp altitude 3,080m
Today will be remarkable in that we will be crossing several mountain passes but without any major ascent involved. Along the way, we will look for various species of Blue Poppy (June-July) and sightings of rare high altitude birds. The last pass before the descent to Talakha monastery is Tale La, located at 4,180 meters. We will camp for the night near the monastery and wake up the next day to the accompaniment of chants of the monks and chimes of ritual bells. Enjoy one last great panoramic view of Bhutan’s capital, Thimphu, before we head back to the hustle and bustle of modern life.
Day 08: Talakha – Chamgang – Thimhpu
Distance six km, three hours; 440m descent
A short walk takes us to a feeder road to the village of Chamgang. Then drive to our hotel in Thimphu and relax for the rest of the day.
Day 09: Thimphu sightseeing
There are great many places to see in Bhutan’s capital. In the morning we will drive to Buddha Point which provides a 360 degree close-quarter view of Thimphu and the adjoining areas. This place has the world’s tallest statue of Future Buddha Maitreya. Our next destination is the 12th century Changangkha Temple, Takin Zoo and the viewpoint at Sangaygang. On our way back, we will visit a nunnery, the Folk Heritage Museum and the Textile Museum.
After lunch, we will proceed to Tashichho Dzong, a 17th century castle-fortress which today houses the offices of the King, Chief Abbot and government ministries. We will also take the opportunity to see the nearby parliament complex. We will spend the rest of the day watching an archery match and strolling around the town.
Day 10: Thimphu – Punakha/Wangdi
The three to four-hour drive from Thimphu traverses thorough a constantly changing kaleidoscope of vegetation, waterfalls, flowers, mountains and meadows. In about 45 minutes we will reach the famous Dochula pass (3,100m) where on a clear day we can see the entire eastern Himalayan range, teeming with 6000m to 7554m snow-capped mountains. The pass also known for its abundant species of extremely beautiful flowers has 108 Buddhist stupas exquisitely built around a mound, adding to the natural splendor of the place.
From the pass we descend to the sub-tropical valley of Punakha. Punakha served as the ancient capital of Bhutan and still possesses the country’s main treasures in the form of Buddhist relics. Resembling a gigantic ship on an ocean floor from afar, and girdled by two (Male and Female) rivers, the castle-fortress also represents the best specimen of Bhutanese architecture.
After lunch in a small nearby village together with a rural farming household, we will walk along a footpath flanked by an endless view of ripening paddy fields to the Temple of Fertility – Chimi Lhakhang. This temple, built in the 15th century to honour the “Divine Madman”, a saint iconoclast who is also associated with phallus worship, attracts barren couples from all over the world to receive the blessings from a phallus.
Overnight at hotel in Punakha.
Day 11: Punakha/ Wangdue – Paro
We will visit the ruins and reconstruction work underway at Wanduephodrang, a fortress which was built in 1638 but was gutted in 2012. Then we will take a short stroll in Wangdue town and drive 125 kilometers (four hours) back to Paro where we will visit some other significant historical places. A brief farewell ceremony will be held during dinner in hotel.
Day 12: Paro – Delhi/Bangkok/ Katmandu
After breakfast drive to Paro international Airport for departure from the Land of the Thunder Dragon.