Tour DetailsDestination: Bhutan
Dates: Fall 2014
Cost: $8,945 + flights
Trekking Tour to Bhutan
Number of days: 32
Itinerary dates: September, 2014
Tour Leader: Beth Whitman
* Interested in this 2014 tour? Contact us and we’ll let you know when dates have been announced.
Known as the hardest trek in the world, this legendary adventure is only for the experienced and determined trekkers. The route essentially combines the Jhomolhari and Laya treks, passes through the Lunana region and ends at Bumthang. The trek includes breathtaking landscapes and ultimately reaches an altitude of about 18,480 feet.
The group will meet in Bangkok for the flight to Paro, Bhutan. Flights leave Bangkok early in the morning so it’s best to arrive at least 24 hours prior to departure to Bhutan in the event of flight delays.
NOTE – Expect the following on trekking days: You’ll rise early and, after breakfast, pack your bag and prepare your daybag with anything you’ll need for the day (water, snacks, camera, etc.). Once the group departs on foot, the tents are dismantled by the staff and everything, including your main bag, is packed up on ponies or yaks (depending on the section of the trek). Though this entourage can be quite large, they will pass the group along the path and have camp set up again by the time the group arrives at the end of the day. Lunch and snacks are served along the way by the cook staff but you’ll want to carry your own protein bars and treats each day.
ALSO – If you are comparing this itinerary to other published itineraries, note that distances, altitude and daily trek times vary because the trek has not been well documented and distances and altitude are best guesses.
Arriving in Bhutan, you’ll immediately enjoy the magnificent beauty of the region. On a clear day, spectacular vistas of the Himalayas, the world’s highest mountains, make way for the rich, green Paro Valley. Stepping off the plane, you’ll be struck by the crisp, fresh air. You’ll be met by your guide and driver immediately after going through visa control and customs and then proceed to your hotel.
Following lunch, you may have the opportunity to visit the National Museum where you’ll see locally-made textiles, ancient armor, household objects, thangkas, weapons and many other artifacts. You may then visit Rinpung Dzong (monastery). If there’s time you’ll want to also walk Paro’s one main street to visit the local shops. Dinner and overnight in Paro.
The group will spend another day here to help get acclimated to the elevation.
After an early breakfast, you’ll head out to hike 2+ hours up to Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest), Bhutan’s most iconic monastery, perched on the side of a hill. You’ll enjoy the views and go to the temples at the top. You’ll then start the walk back down, stopping at the tea shop/cafe, situated at the halfway point. Here, you will find an amazing view looking back up at Tiger’s Nest. The group will then proceed down and have a picnic lunch in the forest. Dinner and overnight in Paro.
Paro – Shana (start of trek)
The group will take a bus to Drukgyal Dzong and from there start the trek to Shana, which follows the Paro River. If the weather cooperates, from here you’ll see Mt. Jhomolhari (23,995 feet). On this first day of trekking, you’ll pass farmhouses, cultivated fields and small picturesque villages and will have to manouevre across a couple of suspension bridges. Overnight at camp in Shana.
Altitude 9,251 feet; Distance 8.6 miles; Time 5 – 6 hours.
Shana – Thangthangka
The trail follows the river through a heavily forested area (which will likely be quite cool) with a few isolated farmhouses along the way. In the afternoon, expect rough terrain as the trail winds up and down. You’ll pass a junction en-route where another path leads north over the Tremo La to Tibet. Camp is in a meadow with a stone shelter.
Altitude 11,843 feet; Distance 13 miles; Time 7 – 8 hours.
Thangthangka – Jangothang
At the start of this day’s hike, you’ll have views of Mt. Jhomolhari (meaning ‘Goddess of the Mountain Pass’). 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 the huts here. Many yak can be seen before arrival at Jhomolhari Base Camp (13,500 feet). High mountains overlook the camp and visible nearby are the ruins of an old fortress used to guard Bhutan against Tibetan invasions.
Altitude 13,500 feet; Distance 9.3 miles; Time 5 – 6 hours.
Jangothang (Jhomolhari Base Camp)
Today is a rest day. Though not actually a base camp for Jhomolhari (climbing from the Bhutan side is prohibited), it is located at the base of the mountain. This is a good day to take a break as you will have ascended nearly 6,000 feet in the previous 3 days. If you’re up for it, there are numerous day hikes to take around this area.
Jangothang – Lingshi
Today the group will need to swap out the ponies with yaks as they will be better suited to the high altitude. The trek will start with a long climb up (3 – 4 hours) before reaching Nyile La Pass (15,419 feet ). There will be spectacular views of Jhomolhari, Jitchu Drake and Tsheri Kang. Also in the distance will be Tiger Mountain.
After the pass, you’ll descend to a circular hut just below Lingshi, where you’ll camp. Coming down from Lingshi, you’ll have your first views of the truly mystical dzong atop a high hill.
Altitude 13,123 feet; Distance 10.5 miles; Time 6 – 7 hours.
Lingshi – Chebisa
This is a magical day and one of the easiest of all trekking days. Leaving Lingshi, you’ll gently climb to reach another delightful village, Goyok, which is set right below a 984 foot cliff. Another hour’s walk brings you to a lovely little valley with a huge waterfall at one end of Chebisa. The walk is very leisurely with opportunities to linger. You’ll camp by the side of the river.
Altitude 12,401 feet; Distance 7.5 miles; Time 4 – 5 hours.
Chebisa – Shomuthang
Today, you’ll start with quite a stiff climb through high pastures up the Gombu La Pass (14,300 feet) before dropping through forests of dwarf rhododendron – which at times can be slippery. You’ll then head down to the camp which is situated near a riverbed. This valley is one of the most beautiful on the Snowman Trek.
Altitude 13,100 feet; Distance 10.5 miles; Time 6 hours.
Shomuthang – Robluthang
Today, it’ll be at least 3 hours of climbing before reaching Jare La Pass at 15,695 where, once again, you’ll get stunning views of the Himalayas including Sinche La, Tiger Mountain and Jitchu Drake. You’ll then drop steeply down a forest trail to the Tsharijathang Valley, where herds of takin (the national animal) and many yaks roam. You’ll then cross a knee deep river (there may or may not be a bridge) before climbing up to Robluthang where you’ll camp.
Altitude 13,451 feet ; Distance 13.6 miles; Time 7 – 8 hours.
Robluthang – Lemithang
This is one of the hardest days of the trek. You’ll climb slowly up to Sinche La Pass at 15,977 feet and be rewarded with stunning views of mountains, including the spectacular Tiger Mountain at the head of the valley. On a clear day, practically all of the mountains on the northern border are visible. Eagles, griffin vultures, blue sheep and yaks abound in this area. You’ll descend down for some time until you reach camp which is a lovely spot by the riverbank.
Altitude 13,254 feet; Distance 8.5 miles; Time 6 – 7 hours.
Lemithang – Laya
Today, you’ll walk along the river, one of the tributaries of the Mo Chu (Mother River), and through a forest of rhododendron and silver fir and then enter the village of Laya. The people of Laya are famous for their vertical stripe yak hair clothing and their strange conical bamboo hats. The women wear their hair long and with a great deal of turquoise and jade jewelery. The features of the people are even more Tibetan/Mongolian than the Bhutanese who live in the central valleys.
There are stunning views of the surrounding mountains. The afternoon may be spent at leisure or visiting village houses and chatting with villagers.
Altitude 12,729 feet; Distance 6.2 miles; Time 4 – 5 hours.
Today is a rest day in Laya with the opportunity to meet the local people and to visit nearby sites if you like. This village is located in a beautiful setting surrounded by snowy mountain peaks. It’s possible to visit the local school here as well as the community’s dzong.
Laya – Rodophu
Today, you’ll have a relatively easy descent to Tashi Makhang army camp where there is a checkpoint. But from there, it’s mostly steep ascent, through forest and muddy trails, to Rodophu. If the weather is clear you should have great views of the Tsenda Gang group of mountains.
Altitude 13,451 feet; Distance 10.5 miles; Time 6 – 7 hours.
Roduphu – Narethang
Today, you’ll tackle the approximately 3-hour climb to Tsemo La Pass (16,090 feet), which starts out with a gentle ascent and gets steeper closer to the pass. But from the pass you may be lucky enough to see the spectacular Gangla Karchung as well as Jitchu Drake and Jhomolhari. You’ll then descend and finally climb to Narethang, where you’ll camp at 16,200 feet, the first high camp on the trek.
Altitude 13,615 feet; Distance 6.2 miles; Time 6 – 7 hours.
Narethang – Tarina
Today, you’ll first climb slowly up to the Karakachu La Pass (16,465 feet) which will take 2 – 3 hours. At the pass, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of Karakachu, Tsenda Gang, Jejekangphu and Teri Kang. The descent into the Tarina Valley is steep and long, perhaps taking 3.5 hours before hitting the valley floor (where herds of takin roam) and the easier 2 – 3 hour walk to camp. It will be a day of great views of the surrounding mountains and lakes.
Altitude 12,795 feet; Distance 15 miles; Time 8 – 9 hours.
Tarina – Woche
Today will be a relatively short trekking day. During the early part of the day, you’ll follow a river for about an hour before ascending up a steep muddy trail. There will then be a stiff climb to reach camp near Woche. This area is where the beautiful Lunana region begins.
Altitude 12,565 feet; Distance 7.5 miles; Time 5 – 6 hours.
Woche – Lhedi
Today, you’ll climb gradually through juniper forests and then cross a river from where you’ll have great views of Jejekangphu. A stiff climb then takes you past the Yumtso and Setso lakes and onward to Kesha La Pass (15,305 feet). It will take 2 – 3 hours to get to the pass. You’ll then descend into Tega Village and finally back up a steep, short climb to reach camp at Lhedi.
Altitude 11,942 feet; Distance 9.3 miles; Time 6 – 7 hours.
Lhedi – Thanza
Today, you’ll follow the Pho Chu through the village of Lhedi. You’ll then climb upward for about 30 – 45 minutes to Chozo Dzong, which was built in the 17th century. After 3 or 4 hours, you’ll reach the beautiful villages of Dyotta and Thanza, where you’ll camp in a meadow with views of Table Mountain right in front of you.
Altitude 13,320 feet; Distance 9.3 miles; Time 6 – 7 hours.
Today is another well-deserved rest day where you’ll be able to explore the village and visit with the people of Thanza.
Thanza – Tshorim
Today’s trek starts with a climb up to the ridge, from where there is a great view of Table Mountain and Thanza Valley below. You’ll cross the ridge and enter a small valley with a stream running through it. You’ll then follow the stream up the valley, enjoying the view of snow-capped mountains, and have lunch near the bridge. You’ll then climb up out of the valley, crossing some small ridges to reach the campsite at Tshorim (16,814 feet).
Altitude 16,814 feet; Distance 11.8 miles; Time 8 – 9 hours.
Tshorim – Gangkar Puensum Base Camp
Today’s trek is another highlight of the trip. The day starts with a short climb up to Tshorim Lake. You’ll walk around one side of the lake enjoying a panoramic view of the Gophu La ranges. Then, the final stretch up to Gophu La Pass (17,158 feet) is very short.
After crossing the pass, you’ll descend to the base camp walking along the ridge and enjoying a great view of Gangkar Puensum. The group may then detour left and climb up a pyramid-shaped peak for a better view or go directly down to the base camp (16,305 feet) near the Sha Chu (river) where camp will be set up.
Altitude 16,305 feet; Distance 10 miles; Time 6 – 7 hours.
Gangkhar Puensum – Geshe Woma
Today, you’ll follow the trail along the Sha Chu, which descends gradually to Geshe Woma, where you’ll camp.
Altitude 13,780 feet; Distance 8.7 miles; Time 5 – 6 hours.
Geshe Woma – Warathang
The trail continues along the course of the Sha Chu for 2 – 3 hours until the stiff climb to Saka-la Pass begins. Visibility is poor along this part of the trail, so you’ll must keep watching the top of the ridge in order to stay on course. The group will stop for lunch near a yak herder’s camp, then climb up to Saka La Pass (15,750 feet).
Here, there are stunning views on the descent to the lakes and another short ascent during which you’ll see small lakes spreading below towering mountain peaks.
Altitude 13,125 feet; Distance 11 miles; Time 8 – 9 hours.
Warathang – Dhur Tsachu
A short half hour climb takes you up to Juli La Pass (14,435 feet). After crossing the pass, you’ll descend to the river side through dense rhododendrons, juniper and conifer forests. You’ll then cross a bridge and after a short climb you’ll reach Dhur Tsachu hot springs where legend has it that Guru Padmasambhava (Rinpoche) bathed in the 8th century.
Altitude 13,750 feet; Distance 8.7 miles; Time 5 – 6 hours.
Dhur Tsachu – Tshochenchen
From the spring, it is a long steady climb upward, with great views of the mountains in Lunana. Eventually the ground levels out and you’ll see several beautiful deep blue lakes, yaks grazing on the surrounding pastures and yak herder’s camps.
Altitude 12,630 feet; distance 10 miles; Time 7 – 8 hours.
Tshochenchen – Dhur – Bumthang (end of trek)
Today is the last day of the trek! As such, the group will have to change back to using pack ponies. You’ll set off very early in order to reach Bumthang before dark.
The path follows the Chamkhar Chu descending gradually with few climbs. The trek ends when you reach Dhur village where a bus will meet the group and drive you to Bumthang. Dinner and overnight at HOTEL in Bumthang
Altitude 8,333 feet: Distance 13 miles; Time: 13 hours.
After a well-deserved sleep-in, you’ll continue east toward the Bumthang Valley, considered the seat of Buddhism in Bhutan. Here, you’ll have plenty of time to visit many of the region’s wonderful sights including several temples such as: Kurjey Lhakhang, the Tamshing Gompa (monastery), Jambay Lhakhang and the Jakar Dzong. If time permits, you might also visit the Swiss Farm where you can buy cheese, honey, beer and local fruit spirits.
In the evening, there will be an opportunity to attend a prayer ceremony at Karchu Dratsang (the monastery of His Holiness Namkhai Ningpo). Dinner and overnight at hotel in Bumthang.
Bumthang – Gangtey – Wangdue
After breakfast, you’ll begin the drive back west toward Paro. You may stop at Yotong La Pass for a break and then continue onward through Trongsa and over Pele La Pass. Soon after, you’ll turn south toward the Phoblika Valley (10’000 feet). This valley is considered to be the most beautiful valley in all the Himalayas (to those who haven’t done the Snowman Trek!) and is the winter home to the endangered black-necked cranes. Lunch will be provided along the way.
Dinner and overnight in Gangtey/Phoblika Valley.
Wangdue – Thimphu
After breakfast, you’ll continue westward drive over the Dochu La Pass (10,000 feet) to Thimphu. Lunch will be at a restaurant in Thimphu.
After lunch, you’ll have a chance visit numerous sights in this small city including: the Institute of Traditional Medicine; the Folk Heritage Museum; the Textile Museum; and the Handicrafts Emporium (for souvenirs and handicrafts). Dinner at a local restaurant and overnight at hotel in Thimphu.
Thimphu sightseeing – Paro
After breakfast, the group will visit the National Library, stocked with ancient manuscripts, and the Painting School where traditional arts and crafts are still kept alive. In the afternoon, you’ll visit the Dupthop Lakhang, one of the few surviving nunneries in Bhutan, and then the Tashichho Dzong, seat of the national government and the central monastic body. Other highlights include a visit to the National Memorial Chorten. Final celebratory dinner and overnight in Paro.
Paro – Departure
Following breakfast, you’ll leave for the airport for the sad farewell to the Kingdom of Bhutan and your flight to Bangkok. Though you can connect with an international flight on the same day, you might consider staying in Bangkok for one night in case flights out of Paro are delayed (not uncommon).
** Itinerary subject to change without notice.
Beth Whitman where noted
All others: Ryan Goebel (used with permission)
* Interested in this 2014 tour? Contact us and we’ll let you know when dates have been announced.
Flights from Bangkok to Paro: TBD
Single supplement: TBD
Interested in sharing? We do our best to pair up travelers so they can avoid the single supplement. However, priority is given to the first deposits received. If you’re interested in sharing – PLEASE send in the deposit as soon as possible in order to take advantage of this benefit. (Why a single supplement charge? See this FAQ page for an explanation.)
Final payment due: TBD
Price includes: Transportation in Bhutan, all meals, hotels, porters, guides, bottled water, visa, airport tax and tourist development fund fee. Also includes entrance fees to monasteries.
Price does not include: Flights to and hotel in Bangkok, evacuation insurance (highly recommended), souvenirs, personal purchases (such as books and snacks), beverages other than water and tips.
We recommend MedEx Assist for travel and/or evacuation insurance.
This trip is limited to 12 people and requires a $1,000 deposit on a first come, first served basis.
Minimum required: 6 people
For deposit and payments, please make payable and mail check to:
PO Box 16102
Seattle, WA 98116
For questions, please contact Beth at:
beth (at) wandertours (dot) com
Beth Whitman has traveled the world for more than 25 years and has a deep respect for cultures and the environment. She is the author of the Wanderlust and Lipstick series of guides and the editor of www.WanderlustAndLipstick.com and www.WanderTours.