This 14 day tour is an incredible combination designed to give you clear insights into life in Bhutan – the major sites and an intense 9 day trek to Jhomolhari Base Camp!
Duration: 14 Days
Best season: October - November; April - May
This is a classic 9-day Trek starting from the Drugyal Dzong in Paro and ending at Dodena near Thimphu. The route passes through two high passes from Jangothang and the view of Mt Jhomulhari (7,314m) from Jangothang is spectacular. This trek is strenuous but very popular, with the highest point being 4,115m.
BRIEF ITINERARY Day 01:
Welcome to Bhutan Day 02:
Paro sightseeing Day 03:
Trek begins from Paro-Shana [2820m] Day 04:
Shana-Soi Thangthaka [3610m] Day 05:
Soi Thangthaka-Jangothang (Base Camp) [4115m] Day 06:
Jangothang Rest Day (Excursion) Day 07:
Jangothang – Lingshi [4000m] Day 08:
Lingshi – Shodu [3750m] Day 09:
Shodu – Barshong [3600m] Day 10:
Barshong – Dolamkencho Day 11:
Dolamkencho – Dodena [2600m] – Thimphu Day 12:
Thimphu sightseeing Day 13:
Thimphu-Paro Day 14:
Day 01: Welcome to Bhutan
The flight into Paro on our national carrier, Druk Air, is a great 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.
Upon arrival, you will be received by your host who will transfer you to your hotel to settle in and relax. Dinner and overnight at the hotel in Paro.
Day 02: Paro sightseeing
After breakfast, we will drive out to the ruins of the Drukgyal Dzong (fort). This dzong, now in ruins, was built by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to commemorate the victory over the Tibetan invaders in 1644. The Shabdrung is credited with being the unifier of Bhutan and he also sought to create a distinctly Bhutanese cultural identity, separate from the Tibetan culture from which it was derived. The dzong’s name actually means "victorious Druk" and it had been used as an administrative centre until 1951 when a fire caused by butter lamp destroyed it. We can explore the ramparts and on a clear day we can see the unforgettable view of Mt. Jhomolhari (7,314m).
On the way back to Paro we will visit Kichu Lhakhang, a monastery that was built to hold down the left foot of an ogress whose body covers Bhutan and most of Eastern Tibet. It is one of the 108 monasteries that were miraculously constructed in one night by Tibetan King Songten Gampo in the 7th century. This is one of two of these monasteries that lies within Bhutan, the rest being found in neighboring countries. Next we visit the Rimpung Dzong (Paro Dzong) built in 1646 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. The Dzong presently houses administrative offices and protected within its walls is a collection of sacred masks and costumes, some dating back several centuries.
After lunch we visit the Ta Dzong, an ancient watchtower that, since 1967, has been the National Museum of Bhutan. A specific route must be followed in the building which ensures a clockwise progression around important images. Exhibits include an impressive collection of thangkas; a description of early history that illustrates how magic and science are inseparable in Bhutan; and not to be missed, Bhutan’s eclectic stamp collection, including some stamps that you can listen to on a record player! Dinner and overnight at the hotel in Paro.
Day 03: Trek begins from Paro-Shana [2820m]
Our trek to Shana starts at Drukgyal Dzong following the Paro river north along an ancient trade route to Tibet. If we are lucky we may be able to catch a glimpse of Mt. Jhomulhari from the trail head. As we walk we pass cultivated fields and tiny picturesque villages and the forests are alive with birds and brightly coloured butterflies.
Our campsite tonight is in Shana, overlooking across the river to one of the last houses in the vicinity to have electricity.
Approx Walking Time: 5-6 Hours
Day 04: Shana-Soi Thangthaka[3610m]
Walking time 7 - 8 hours
The trail follows the river through a heavily forested area with a few isolated farmhouses. It narrows and closes into a rocky gorge and our trail winds up and down along the gorge. We pass a junction en route, where another path leads north over the Tremo La to Tibet.
Our camp tonight is in a meadow with a stone shelter and if the weather is clear we should have great views of the surrounding mountains.
Approx Walking Time: 7-8 hours
Day 05: Soi Thangthaka-Jangothang (Jhomulhari Base Camp) [4115m]
Walking time 5 - 6 hours
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.
Today the landscape changes from the alpine forests to the vastness of the highlands. We trek through sturdy and thorny shrubs, Juniper trees, semi-nomadic settlements and yaks grazing in the open. Our trail changes from bumpy rocks to fairly flat terrains, making walking a pleasure, although it is much more windy without the protection from the dense forests.
We will see lots of yaks today before we arrive at the Jhomolhari base camp, with high mountains overlooking our camp. Jangothang is also known as Land of Ruins as a ruined fortress towers over our campsite from a rocky outcrop with coloured prayer flags spanning its walls. This fortress used to guard Bhutan against Tibetan invasions.
Approx Walking Time: 5-6 hours
Day 06: Jangothang Rest Day (Excursion)
Today we have a rest day, given the high altitude. Depending on how you are feeling, we have a chance to walk up to the Jhomolhari glacier or to the Tsho Phu lakes. Or for a steadier day we can take in the sunrise over Mt Jomulhari and explore the ruins.
Day 07: Jangothang – Lingshi [4000m]
This morning, our trail follows the stream for half an hour and crosses the bridge to the right side. We start our climb up to the first ridge with breathtaking views of Jhomolhari, Jichu Drake and Tsrim Ghang. We proceed towards the valley, and it’s, blissfully, almost flat for a while and we may be able to see herds of blue sheep! At least, until we start the climb to the Nyeley La (pass) at an altitude of 4,700 meters. After the pass it’s a gradual descent to the Lingshi camp, enjoying a panoramic view of the peaks and Lingshi dzong.
Approx Walking Time: 7-8 hours
Day 08: Lingshi – Shodu [3750m]
Today is the most difficult day of our trek so we should make an early start. We begin walking opposite the dzong and ascend gradually through the treeless valley until the stiff climb to Yale la pass at 4950 meters the highest point of the trip. From here the panoramic view of Mt.Chomolhari, Jichu Drake and Tshrim Gang is breathtaking. After the pass it’s a long descent to the camp.
Approx Walking Time: 8 hours
Day 09: Shodu – Barshong [3600m]
Today we come back below the tree line, it will seem so lush! The path follows the Thimphu River, descending through rhododendron, juniper and other alpine forest. The view of the cliff facing rocks and waterfalls are stunning and a hot lunch will be served by the riverside.
After lunch our trail gradually ascends to the ruins of the Barshong dzong before reaching the camp.
Approx Walking Time: 6-7 hours
Day 10: Barshong – Dolamkencho [3600m]
The road descends through alpine forest and we once again join the Thimphu River for a while. After lunch climb up through thick bamboo and pine forests to Dolamkencho camp in pastures.
Approx Walking Time: 5-6 hours
Day 11: Dolamkencho – Dodena [2600m] – Thimphu
The trail winds in and out of valleys above the Thimphu River and then makes a long climb through a forest of conifers and high-altitude broadleaf species up to a 3,510m pass. The trail then begins a steep descent to the river, following it southward to the road in the town of Dodina. If we are on the look out, Langurs (monkeys) can be seen along the way today. At Dodina, you will be met by your transportation for the drive to your hotel in Thimphu.
Approx Walking Time: 3 hours
Day 12:Thimphu Sightseeing
After breakfast we will indulge in a great day’s sight seeing in Thimphu! First we will visit the National Memorial Chorten built in memory of the third King of Bhutan, His Majesty King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. The deities depicted inside are the Nyingmapa tradition of Buddhism and teachings of Vajrayana (or tantric form of) Buddhism and provide a rare insight into Buddhist Philosophy. We then visit the Dupthop Lhakhang, one of the few surviving nunneries in Bhutan.
We then visit the National Library, which holds a vast collection of ancient Buddhist manuscripts and some of the oldest records of Bhutanese history and religion. We follow this with a visit to the Painting School, famous for carving and free hand art. Here you can see not only paintings, sculpture, clay work and metal work, but also students and artists at work.
We then visit the locality of Lungtenzampa to observe the Royal silver smiths and Bhutanese paper factory at work. Other highlights ofour Thimphu exploring include a visit to the Tashichho Dzong (or the ‘Fortress of the Glorious Religion’), built in 1641 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and reconstructed in 1961. It is presently the seat of the national government and the Central Monastic Body, including the summer residence of the Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot and spiritual leader of Bhutan).
Lastly, we visit the Handicrafts Emporium to see the exquisite artistry of Bhutan’s traditional crafts and textiles before taking some free time to indulge in shopping for souvenirs in the shops of Thimphu. Over night back in our Hotel.
Day 13: Thimphu - Paro
After breakfast we have an excursion to Tango and Cheri Monasteries, two of the most highly respected Buddhist academic monasteries in Bhutan.
Lama Gyalwa Lhanampa founded the monastic school at Tango Monastery in the 12th century and the present building was built in the 15th century by the 'divine madman', Lama Drukpa Kuenley. Tango is the residence of an important Tulku (reincarnate lama) who is recognized as the seventh reincarnation of the highly respected fourth Desi, Gyalse Tenzin Rabgye, whose previous incarnation passed away in 1830.
The Cheri Monastery was built in 1620 by the Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. The monastery, which is now a major teaching and retreat center of the Southern Drukpa Kagyu order, is located at the northern end of Thimphu Valley about fifteen kilometers from the capital. Stunningly located on the southern edge of the Jigme Dorji National Park, the monastery is a steep walk uphill from the road head through a delightful forest rich in plant species, animal and birdlife. The views from the monastery are delightful and a silver chorten inside the monastery holds the ashes of the Shabdrung's father.
After lunch we visit the Mini Zoo, where we can see the Takin, the national animal of Bhutan, and Sangay Gang view point to enjoy the prayer flags and the scenery of the valley. We then drive to Paro and take an evening walk across Paro town. Over night in Hotel.
Day 14: Departure
Early morning, we drive to the airport and bid farewell, looking forward to seeing you again!