13 days

Bhutan's Sacred Summit Trek

Bhutan's Sacred Summit Trek

Tashichho Dzong - Fortress of the Glorious Religion

Taktsang Monastery - The Tiger's Nest

Paro's Dzong

Bhutan’s valleys

Bhutan’s capital Thimphu

Trip rating
  • Druk Yul means 'Land of the Thunder Dragon', the local name for the country known to the world as Bhutan. It lies in the heart of the vast Himalaya and to both its west and east, rugged mountain ranges stand between it and the hill districts of India. Towering to the northwest, the stark and dramatic mountains of the Chomolhari Range form the frontier with Tibet. Very few visitors have entered this tiny Himalayan kingdom and even fewer have been privileged to trek into her high mountains. Of the few areas open to trekkers and climbers the route to the base camp of Chomolhari (7314m), the sacred mountain of Bhutan, is probably the most aesthetically beautiful. Bhutan is not just about scenery and unbelievable mountains; it is also about friendly people and an enduring and living Buddhist faith with magnificent monasteries, rich religious traditions and about a turbulent past. The great fortresses or 'dzongs' found throughout the country are mute testimony to the wars, sieges and attempted invasions in times gone by. Today the country is a stable and peaceful kingdom where the king is revered and the economy is measured in 'Gross National Happiness'! Trekking through the dense forests, walking above the tree line with the nomadic yak herders, enjoying rare sightings of musk deer and blue sheep, and standing beneath the dramatic ice peaks of Chomolhari - these all make this one of the most rewarding treks in the entire Himalaya.

    Why we love it

    • Bhutan lies in the heart of the vast Himalaya and is surrounded by rugged mountain ranges. Towering to the northwest, the stark and dramatic mountains of the Chomolhari Range form the frontier with Tibet.
    • Very few visitors have entered this tiny Himalayan kingdom and even fewer have been privileged to trek into her high mountains. Chomolhari (7314m), the sacred mountain of Bhutan, is breathtakingly beautiful.
    • Bhutan is not just about scenery and unbelievable mountains; it is also about friendly people and an enduring and living Buddhist faith with magnificent monasteries, rich religious traditions, and a turbulent past.
    • The great fortresses or 'dzongs' found throughout the country are mute testimony to the wars, sieges and attempted invasions in times gone by.
    • Bhutan is now a peaceful kingdom where the king is revered and the economy is measured in Gross National Happiness!
    • Trekking through forests, walking above the tree line with nomadic yak herders, enjoying sightings of rare animals, and standing under the dramatic peaks of Chomolhari make this one of the most rewarding treks in the Himalaya

    Itinerary

    Day 1 - Paro (2280m)

    • Bhutan Visas & Additional Accommodation
    • Travel in Bhutan is strictly controlled and to do any independent travel outside of a group tour is extremely difficult and expensive to arrange. We provide a group visa for travellers on our tours in Bhutan, which stipulates that all travellers must arrive and depart on the same days that our tour program starts and finishes. For this reason we are generally not able to provide additional accommodation outside of our tour dates and advise all travellers to book flights in and out of Bhutan that correspond with the start and finish day of the tour. In the rare case that no flights are available and you need to arrive earlier or depart later we are only able to book additional accommodation for you in conjunction with a special individual visa which can add around AUD1000 to the cost of your tour, to be paid at the time of booking.
    • On arrival in Paro you will be met at the airport and transferred to the hotel.
    • Paro is located in a beautiful wooded valley with terraced farmland along the Paro Chu River. If time permits a short tour will be organised so you can have a look around town.
    • You will then head out to explore the valley by vehicle and on foot before returning to the hotel for dinner (included). There will be a briefing given by the tour leader, and any last-minute arrangements will be coordinated.
    Dinner

    Day 2 - Tiger's Nest Monastery - Paro (2280m)

    • As a warm-up for your trek, you will leave in the morning for an excursion to the legendary Taktsang (Tiger's Nest) - a small monastery, clinging precariously to a rock cliff 900 metres above the valley floor. Paro Valley is wide and fertile, and one of the most beautiful valleys in Bhutan. Rice, millet, wheat, and potatoes are the main crops produced in the area. You will drive along this valley next to the Paro Chhu (Paro River) to get to the trekking trail that leads up to the monastery.
    • The trek climbs steadily uphill and will take about 2-3 hours. After an hour of walking you will stop at a teahouse that offers refreshments as well as a wonderful panoramic view of the monastery.
    • For those interested, it is possible to get a closer view by hiking another 45 minutes to an hour to reach the small chorten directly across from the monastery. Anyone not interested in hiking further can relax at the teahouse and enjoy the view.
    • The monastery was seriously damaged by a fire in 1998, but has since been rebuilt. Legend has it that the Great Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhawa) flew here from Tibet on the back of a tigress to subdue the demons of Paro Valley.
    • Time permitting, you may also make an optional visit to Ta Dzong, a circular fortress built in the mid 17th century and now converted into the National Museum that houses an excellent collection of Bhutanese antiquities.
    • You will return to Paro for an overnight stay. On clear days you can see the peak of Mount Chomolhari (7314m) - Bhutan's second highest peak.
    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 3 - Shana (2890m)

    • After breakfast you will drive on a winding road up the Paro Chhu to Drukgyel Dzong. The dzong was built in the 17th century and played a strategic role in repelling many a Tibetan invasion. The fortress is now a burnt shell.
    • Your trek starts from here and in fine weather the towering peaks of Chomolhari will appear as a backdrop. Today you will walk at a relaxed pace through green, flooded paddy fields and small villages, following the Pa Chhu.
    • Initially your walk is through forests of fir and pine, before opening out to open pastures. There is a large army post at the village of Gunyitsawa, from where you will have a further 30 minute walk to the overnight camp at Shana.
    • The camp is set amongst the fir trees with the Paro Chhu running swiftly by. During the entire trek, horses will carry all your food and equipment.
    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 4 - Soi Thangthanka (3580m)

    • Today is a long day with plenty of ups and downs and a considerable amount of time spent avoiding mud holes.
    • From the camp you will walk through picturesque countryside, crossing and recrossing the Paro Chhu many times. You will leave the last of the paddy fields and slowly gain altitude through forest, with the chance of seeing wildlife such as langur monkeys, deer, wild boars, and even bears.
    • The bears are usually harmless unless suddenly disturbed - this can frighten them and lead to a more dangerous situation. By travelling in groups and taking care when going around bends, we can avoid these situations. The Bhutanese shout or sing to warn off the bears!
    • You will camp at Soi Thangthanka. Chomolhari can be seen at the top of the valley if the conditions are clear.
    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 5 - Jangothang (3992m)

    • Today your walk will involve an ascent through a beautiful valley with pleasant views of the river below. After an hour or so, the thick forest opens into areas of wind-blown scrub trees and then yak pastures.
    • You will stop for lunch at Nengethang, a village of yak herders, you won't see many herders here at this time of the year, as they are usually at higher altitudes. The elderly, the women, and children are more often the ones in the village at this time.
    • The afternoon's trekking takes you near to the village of Jangothang and, as you gain altitude you may witness spectacular views of Chomolhari and Jichu Drake (6794m).
    • At this point you will have reached the Chomolhari Base Camp area in high alpine country. You will probably notice the affects of the increase in altitude and even small hills can present a challenge, but the views are ample compensation.
    • Chomolhari is considered to be the sacred abode of the female god, Chomo. (Chomo - name of god, Lha - god, Ri - mountain.) The peak was first climbed in 1970 by an Indo-Bhutanese expedition, they left a sanctified image of the Lord Buddha on the summit. Here yaks graze against the backdrop of huge icefalls; the scene is one of incredible Himalayan grandeur. Chomolhari was seen by Irving and Mallory on their 1921 expedition to climb Everest. George Mallory described it as ‘astounding and magnificent’.
    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 6 - Jangothang (3992m)

    • The decision to rest or not is yours. If you are feeling the effects of altitude, then a total rest day is recommended. If you feel good however, the best thing to do is walk higher, then return again to sleep at the lower altitude.
    • There are optional day walks in three separate directions. One takes you to a high point on a ridge with views across to Jichu Drake and Chomolhari, another can be combined with a ridge walk plus views across the valley, and the third goes to the head of the valley in the direction of Chomolhari.
    • (Rest and Acclimatisation Day).
    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 7 - Tso Phu (4297m)

    • Today's walk is very short, so it is possible to enjoy another day hike from Jangothang before heading to the lakes and your new campsite.
    • HRH Prince Namgyal Wangchuck stocked the two lakes with brown trout in the 1960s, so those interested in fishing may wish to head up to the lake earlier in the day and try their luck.
    • The trail crosses the river before climbing up to the lakes. This is a steep 45-minute climb with spectacular views of Jitchu Drake and Chomolhari, which grow more and more impressive as you gain altitude.
    • Once you reach the top of the plateau, the trail levels out and after crossing a small hill, the first lake comes 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 in the distance.
    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 8 - Chorapang (3749m)

    • Today you will tackle Bang Tue La (Pass), which at 4700 metres, is the highest point on the trek. An early start is recommended to allow enough time to reach camp. This also means you can conquer the pass in the morning when the weather is at its most stable.
    • The trail leaves the valley floor and begins the climb to the pass with a steep traverse of a scree slope. As you near the top of this first incline, you will cross a small glacial stream. The trail winds up to an upper valley with snow-capped peaks in the distance.
    • You will skirt around several streams and a small lake as you make your way towards the final climb to the pass. Be on the lookout for blue sheep on the steep hillsides above the valley, as well as marmots emerging from their burrows on the ground.
    • From the pass, the trail drops quickly to a huge grass-covered plateau dotted with yak herder tent stone circles. The valley of Soi Yaksa is incredibly scenic and ends abruptly at the foot of a steep cliff. Above the valley floor, the landscape comprises of cliffs, waterfalls and, higher still, snow-covered peaks.
    • Above the cliff to your right, the mountain rises to a dramatic point, resembling the throne of a local deity. As you ramble through the steep grazing fields you can see the edge of the plateau. You will end your day with a final descent to the valley floor and the campsite situated beside a rushing stream.
    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 9 - Thangbue (3999m)

    • You will climb steadily for 180 metres above the camp before the trail levels out and winds around a ridge and across a stream. There will be another steep climb to a small pass marked by several small chortens.
    • You will stop for a brief tea break and then continue, now above tree line, past one yak herder tent and herds of grazing yaks, before reaching the next valley, characterised a beautiful snow-fed river.
    • After crossing the river you will begin the climb to the pass. It is steep but there is no time pressure and after one-and-a-half hours, you will reach the second pass - Takalung La (Pass) (4330m). From the pass, you can see the large Thangbue Valley and the campsite for the night. A gently winding trail will lead you downhill to your camp.
    • If the weather cooperates the view from the pass is breathtaking, with Chomolhari and Jitchu Drake rising over the mountain ranges. You will have a clear view of the Bang Tue La (Pass) (the pass you crossed previously) and the Soi Yaksa Valley. Thangbue is a wide valley filled with yak herder encampments, many yaks, horses and a few goats.
    • (3940m)
    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 10 - Shana (2890m)

    • Today's trail climbs steeply from the 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, you will embark upon a wonderful part of the trek route.
    • For almost two hours, you will walk along a ridgeline trail with drop-offs to the valley floors below on both sides. Eventually you will drop down from the high ridge and you will begin to glimpse views of another dramatic peak - Drake Gang. Like Jitchu Drake, Drake Gang is the residence of a local male deity, while Chomolhari is the home of Jomo, a female deity. You will drop further to a lovely spot with views of the valleys below.
    • From this tranquil spot, you will begin one of the most challenging parts of the trek. For the next three hours, you will drop steeply on a switchback trail losing about 1350 metres. The trail is littered with many stones, which make footing challenging. Taking it slowly (and watching your knees!), you will descend to the valley floor.
    • As you lose elevation, the landscape changes from alpine with dwarf rhododendrons to lush pine forests with huge old growth trees. As you get lower, you will enter a mixed forest of pine.
    • You will return to Shana for your final night of camping.
    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 11 - Thimphu (2250m)

    • For the remaining journey from Shana to Drukgyel Dzong, you will enjoy the relatively flat (compared to the walk from Thangbue!) walk to the road head.
    • After lunch, you will drive to Thimphu, the capital of present-day Bhutan. Thimphu's inhabitants live on both sides of a pleasant valley with the Thimphu Chhu flowing through the middle. By law, the facades of buildings in Thimphu can only be constructed in Bhutanese style.
    • In the afternoon, you will visit some of the workshops where young men receive a formal education in the art of traditional painting, sculpture and woodcarving. Thimphu has an excellent range of handicrafts, most notably woven cloth, wooden masks, thangkas, silverware, jewellery, and bamboo craft that comes from all over Bhutan. A nearby building houses the National Library. Ancient archives are carefully stored in this repository of religious and historical texts.
    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 12 - Thimphu (2250m)

    • After breakfast you will venture out to explore Thimphu. You will drive to a viewpoint and enjoy an excellent panoramic view of the city. On your way back, you’ll embark on a short ten-minute hike around the small enclosure in the pine trees, in an attempt to spot some takins - the national animal of Bhutan.
    • Your next stop is the Zilukha Nunnery in Drubthob Goemba, which is home to between 40-65 nuns, and also provides shelter for aging women and orphaned girls. The temple here is dedicated to the famous saint, Drubthob Thangthong Gyalpo, the man who first introduced and built the chain of iron bridges in Bhutan.
    • You will then pass Tashicho Dzong (Fortress of the Glorious Religion), the administrative and religious centre of Bhutan located on the right bank of Thimphu Chhu. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (Bhutan's supreme leader in the first half of the 17th century) built the present dzong in 1641, but the original building dates back to 1216. To this day the dzong serves as the seat of the government and is home to about 300 monks during summer. The monks move towards Punakha for three months during winters. You will not be allowed to visit the dzong while the monks are in residence in Thimphu, however you can capture snapshots of the building by walking around it.
    • You will then enjoy some free time in town to do your own exploration.
    • Other sights in the capital include the National Textile Museum and the Folk Heritage Museum. The Changangkha Lhakhang is a temple that sits majestically on a ridge above the city.
    • Next there is some time allocated to visiting the Weekend Market, where all manner of goods are for sale. Everything from handicrafts to dried yak meat is available to the hundreds of people who shop here weekly. In the evening you will return to the hotel for dinner.
    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 13 - Paro (2250m)

    • After breakfast you will be transferred to Paro Airport for your onward flight. (Please note that your departure flight is not included as part of the trip and must be booked separately.)
    Breakfast
  • What to Know

    What's Included

    • Local tour leader
    • Local guides
    • Airport transfers
    • Visa for Bhutan
    • Transport
    • Porterage on trek
    • Meals
    • Sightseeing and entrance fees

    Not Included

    • International flights
    • Airport departure taxes
    • Insurance (compulsory)
    • Additional snacks and drinks
    • Any optional tours and activities during free time
    • Camera fees
    • Excess baggage charges
    • Crew tips and items of a personal nature

    Safety Information

    SELF ASSESSMENT FORM:
    Due to the demands of travelling at high altitudes a Passenger Self Assessment Form is required for this trip.

  • Map Itinerary

  • Past Travellers' Ratings & Comments

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Trip at a glance

Trip Code PHBC
Group size 6 - 14
Start City: Paro
End City: Paro
Style: Small Group

What to know

A very good level of fitness is required. You will be trekking on hilly terrain, generally on well-defined paths, walking anywhere between 2-7 hours per day, on average about 5 hours a day. Altitude may exceed 4700 metres.

 

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