You are here Bhutan Culture Tour 7 Days Bhutan Walking Tour
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Bhutan Himalaya
Bicycle tour
Culture Tour
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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.


Day 01 / Arrive Paro (2280m)
Upon arrival in Paro we are met at the airport and transferred to our hotel. Our airport representative will assist us through immigration and arrange our transfer to our hotel. Paro is located at 2280 metres in a beautiful wooded valley with terraced farmland along the Paro Chu River. If time permits a short tour will be organised to have a look around town. After we settle in, there is a briefing given by our tour leader sometime late in the afternoon, whereby our upcoming program is discussed and any last-minute arrangements co-ordinated. The evening is free and dinner is included at our hotel.

Day 02 / Tiger's Nest Monastery - Paro (2280m)
As a warm-up for our trek we leave in the morning for an excursion to the legendary Taktsang (Tiger's Nest) - a small monastery, clinging on a rock cliff 900 metres above the valley floor. Paro Valley is wide and fertile and one of the most beautiful in Bhutan, producing rice, millet, wheat and potatoes as the main crops. In the morning we drive along this valley next to the Paro Chhu (Paro River) to the start of a trekking trail which leads to the monastery. The trek is steady uphill and will take us about 2-3 hours to reach the monastery. There is a teahouse half way up which offers refreshments and on the way down, a well-earned lunch. A few years ago the monastery was seriously damaged by fire but has since been rebuilt, although tourists are not permitted to enter the interior of the monastery. 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, we may also make an optional visit 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. We return to Paro for our overnight stay. On clear days we can see the peak of Mount Chomolhari (7314m) - Bhutan's second highest peak.

Day 03 / Shana (2800m)
(Walking time: approx 5 hours)
After breakfast we drive on a winding road in a north-westerly direction up the Pa 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. Our trek starts from here and in fine weather the towering peaks of Chomolhari appear as a backdrop. Today we walk at a relaxed pace through green, flooded paddy fields and small villages, following the Pa Chhu. Initially our 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 we have a further 30 minute walk to our overnight camp at Shana. The camp is set amongst the fir trees with the Pa Chhu running swiftly by. During the first stage of the trek horses carry our food and equipment, but as the trail goes higher the work will be taken over by yaks.

Day 04 / Soi Thangthanka (3630m)
(Walking time: approx 8 hours)
Today is a long day with plenty of ups and downs and a considerable amount of time spent avoiding mud holes. From our camp we continue walking through picturesque countryside, crossing and recrossing the Pa Chhu many times. We leave the last of the paddy fields and slowly gain altitude, through forest with the chance of seeing wildlife such as langur monkey, deer, wild boar and even bear. 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 round bends, we can avoid these situations. The Bhutanese way is to shout or sing to warn off the bears! We camp at Soi Thangthanka with Chomolhari to be seen at the top of the valley if conditions are clear.

Day 05 / Jangothang (4040m)
(Walking time: approx 7 hours)
Our walk involves 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. We stop for lunch at Nengethang, a village of yak herders, although we will see few of them here at this time of the year for 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 us near to the village of Jangothang and, as you gain altitude, there can be spectacular views of Chomolhari and Jichu Drake (6794m). We have now reached the Chomolhari Base Camp area in high alpine country. We 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 which 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 massive Himalayan grandeur. Chomolhari was seen by Irving and Mallory on their 1921 expedition to climb Everest. George Mallory described it as ‘astounding and magnificent’.

Day 06 / Jangothang (4040m)
(Rest and Acclimatisation Day)
The decision to rest or not is your's. If you are feeling the effects of altitude, then a rest day in the true essence is recommended, however if you feel good the best thing to do is walk higher, then come down and sleep lower. 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 the first choice of a ridge walk plus views across the valley and the third goes to the head of the valley in the direction of Chomolhari.

Day 07 / Lingshi (4150m)
(Walking time: approx 8 hours)
We are now in open yak pasture land, which is wild and beautiful. Fifteen minutes after leaving camp we come to the last settlement of the valley - a reminder of the isolation in this region. Still in the morning, we continue our ascent to cross the rocky Nyile Pass at 4870 metres. In fine weather the views of the surrounding mountains are magnificent. The walk to the pass is steady up and up, with a deceptive false summit about one hour before the actual high pass. We then commence a long but gradual descent into the Mo Chhu Valley on a stony path to Lingshi Dzong, keeping an eye out for the rare blue sheep that can sometimes be found grazing in the area.

Day 08 / Chebisa (3880m)
(Walking time: approx 7 hours)
The trek today is a slightly shorter one permitting us time to visit Lingshi Dzong in the morning. This small dzong stands completely alone on top of a grassy hill in the midst of a wide valley. It was once an important lookout for the trail leading through the Lingshi La (pass) to Tibet. In fact this village is the closest we get to Tibet on this trek. Our trek takes us into the lower part of the valley where there are few houses. Eventually we pass through Goyul, a village with stone houses surrounded by open fields of barley and towering rock walls forming a backdrop to a small stream. Goyul is about one hour past a chorten that looks down on the village of Chebisa. Upon arrival at the campsite there may be enough time to visit the village. It has about ten households set in beautiful surrounds, with a huge waterfall at one end.

Day 09 / Shomuthang (4160m)
(Walking time: approx 6 hours)
We continue the journey through yak herder country and should come across numerous groups of herders with their black tents woven out of yak hair. We cross Gombu Pass (4280m) and, if the weather permits, there is a spectacular view of the mountain peaks to the north, especially of Mount Gangchhen Ta. After crossing a knee-deep river before reaching Shomuthang we should keep a lookout for the rare takin, which is the national animal of Bhutan. It looks like a small American bison with a face resembling that of a moose. They travel in small bands and are very shy.

Day 10 / Robluthang (4250m)
(Walking time: approx 8 hours)

Today is a longer day. In the morning we climb over Jhari La Pass (4750m) and then descend into the Tsheri Jathang Valley. We find we are walking a little slower due to the altitude, but the spectacular scenery is ample reward and compensation. The mountains now dominating our view is the big snow peak of Gangchhen Ta (Great Tiger Mountain) and Tserim Kang (Mountain of Long Life). We also catch a glimpse of tomorrow's trek across the Sinche La (5005m), the highest pass on our trek. There are also further chances of seeing the elusive takin today. This valley is a special takin sanctuary, where the local yak herders have agreed not to graze their yaks if there are takin present. From the valley we climb up to Robluthang, where we camp for the night. At Robluthang we meet for the first time the people from the Laya Region.

Day 11 / Limithang (4140m)
(Walking time: approx 7 hours)

Today is the day we cross the highest of the passes on the trek - the Sinche La (5005m). We start early and climb steadily all morning, but it will take us about five hours to reach the pass. The trail varies from long steady uphill sections to a series of switchbacks, then a sustained uphill on moraine to the prayer flags of the pass. It is a great feeling to reach the top of the pass and we are sure to be filled with the excitement of having made the top and the knowledge that this is as high as we go. The Bhutanese have a ritual of yelling out ‘Lha Gey Lo!!’, which translates to ‘Praise the Gods of the Pass’. So scream that out in a way that intimates that you mean it! There are still a number of ups and downs yet to be trekked, however sit down and enjoy a well-earned lunch on the other side of the pass, knowing we have conquered the magical 5000-metre mark. After lunch we descend into the valley, down a rocky trail that levels off near a huge glacial lake. From the lake it is a 30-minute walk to our overnight camp at Limithang. The campsite is in an alpine meadow with Gangchhen Ta (the Great Tiger) dominating the skyline and protecting our campsite - a tranquil and peaceful place to spend the night.

Day 12 / Laya (3840m)
(Walking time: approx 4 hours)

We awake in the shadows of the 'Great Tiger' (Gangchhen Ta). The morning is also perfect for taking photos of the glacial formations above us. The trekking is today is much shorter, following the previous day’s high pass crossing. It is mainly a downhill walk through forests of untouched cedar and fir, complete with lichen blowing in the breeze. The trail descends next to a large stream, which we cross several times on good, sturdy bridges. Gangchhen Ta prowls behind us in the west and there are some good views of Masang Kang (7194m) to the north. We arrive at Laya in time for lunch and then spend the afternoon wandering through this fascinating Village. Our campsite is near the local community school, so a visit to witness the local Bhutanese students at work and play is essential. Needless to say there are be no shortage of students wanting to find out about us and also practise their English. The local people are called Layaps and there are approximately 1000 of them living in the village of Laya. They have a distinctive dress sense, with the women wear conical hats that includes a bamboo spike on the top. They grow their hair long and dress in black yak wool jackets and skirts. Our visit to Laya is a real highlight of the trek. The people are very welcoming and respectful and the village location at 3840 metres makes it a place that does not see many visitors.

Day 13 / Koina (3300m)
(Walking time: approx 7 hours)

After an enjoyably short trekking day followed by an easy afternoon in Laya, it is time to move further down the valley. Exiting the village of Laya we pass several chortens, which are believed to be part of the forces that protect Laya. The Layaps believe that many years ago the protective spirits changed all the stones and trees to soldiers, who then successfully repelled invading Tibetan forces. From Laya the trail traverses to the east, then descends to the valley and follows the Mo Chhu (Female River). Much of the walk is downhill through heavily forested areas, however there are still some small uphill sections and, during the afternoon, some short steep climbs. The walk next to the river provides a serene background and some picturesque viewing points. Our overnight campsite is on river in Koina, right after a small white stone building.

Day 14 / Gasa Tsachhu (2770m)
(Walking time: approx 7 hours)

Just as we thought it was all downhill, there is one more high pass to cross - Bari La (3900m). This is relatively tame after the heady heights of Sinche La (5005m). It is a gradual ascent which will take us about three hours, walking through forests of fir trees. The high pass is adorned with prayer flags and we again get to shout the ritual ‘Lha Gey Lo!!’, as we cross the pass. From Bari La it is a long and at times steep descent through bamboo forest until we spy Gasa Dzong across the other side of the valley. It is still quite a distance before we can relax for the day. It will take us about one hour to reach Gasa Village, which will appear quite busy after the quiet little villages that we have trekked through. There are schools, soccer fields, archery fields and police posts. From Gasa Village we trek down to Gasa Tsachhu, or Gasa Hot Springs, where we can relax the following day and soak our weary limbs. Our camp is located within the Hot Springs precinct and the good news is that the hot springs are open 24 hours per day. The springs are divided into different pools. There is the Royal enclosure which is only available if you are related to the Bhutanese Royal Family. The other pools are good for arthritic conditions, respiratory complaints and all sorts of aches and pains. They are very popular with local people; however the peak times of year for most Bhutanese people are during the middle of winter (December-January).

Day 15 / Punakha (1770m)
(Walking time: approx 6 hours)

Today is our final day of walking, so it is a good chance to enjoy a beautiful forested walk following the Mo Chhu River. Behind us there are some terrific views looking back at the Gasa Dzong guarding the valley and an opportunity to remember what the last few weeks have involved. We have been over high passes, through forests, met a variety of local people and been in some of the most isolated and remarkable places in the world. The trek today is primarily downhill. We will be walking over deep gorges spanned by suspension bridges. Beneath the bridges are crystal clear rivers and the walls of the gorges are covered with emerald green foliage. The weather will feel warmer now that we are below 2000 metres. The road is being built and continues to gain ground towards Damji and Gasa. At the road end our staff will be there with cold beer, water and a delicious cooked meal, which is a fine way to complete the trekking portion of our journey through Bhutan. Our overnight campsite is beside the river in an open field. As the electric lights illuminate the distant houses, we soon realise that civilisation awaits us.

Day 16 / Thimphu (2736m)
(Driving time: approx 4 hours)

After breakfast you drive the short distance to Punakha for a tour around the famous Punakha Dzong, which is built on the confluence of the Mo Chhu (Mother River) and Pho Chhu (Father River). Punakha Dzong was the second built in Bhutan and was previously the seat of government. Legend has it that the building of the dzong was foretold by Guru Rinpoche, who predicted that a person named Namgyal will arrive at a hill that looks like an elephant and build a structure. True to the prediction Ngawang Namgyal (the Shabdrung) arrived in the 16th century and built the dzong at the tip of the elephant trunk, which is right on the confluence of the two rivers. Punakha Dzong was the scene of some fine victories for the Bhutanese over invading Tibetan forces. The mixture of administrative, religious and defensive function has been used as the model for latter-day dzongs to be based upon. From Punakha Dzong our next stop is Thimphu, via a full and healthy lunch at Dochu La Pass (3200m), where on a clear day we have good views of the northern Himalayas. Following lunch it is a two-hour 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 are constructed in Bhutanese style.

Day 17 / Paro (2280m)
(Driving time: approx 1½ hours)
The majority of the day is spent in Thimphu where we have the opportunity to visit a number of places including Tashichlo Dzong, Royal Secretariat, Memorial Chorten, Handicraft Emporium Centre and, in case you did not have the opportunity to see takin in the wild, we can also visit a mini-zoo to see a family of captive takins. During the afternoon we drive 1½ hours to Paro, where we stay the night.

Day 18 / Paro (2280m)
After breakfast we are transferred to the airport for flight out, bringing to an end to this exciting journey exploring the highlights of Bhutan.


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