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Bhutan Tours

Jomolhari Trek - 12 Days


Paro Valley, Bhutan.
Bhutan

This Tour to Bhutan has been organized to give trekkers access to enjoy the taste of the great variety of Bhutanese landscape with breathtaking views of mountains and valleys beneath from some of the major passes that we come across but in order to reach them we’ll have to pass through several other habitats including some of the finest woodland remaining in the Himalaya.

It gives you a chance to meet people, enjoy the pristine forest with rare glimpse of wildlife and observe the ancient old traditions of arts and crafts as we travel through the less frequented areas of Bhutan.


Tour Information


We shall arrive at the country’s only airport, in Paro, having flown from Bangkok along the chain of the Great Himalaya and, if the weather is kind, will have had views of several 8000 m peaks. Our first couple of days will help us to acclimatize to the altitude, visiting the world famous Taktsang, or Tiger’s Nest Monastery, and hiking along Chele La Ridge, almost nearly 4000m.

Then we embark on the most important element of our trip when we start out on the Jomolhari Trek. We set out through rice paddies and other cultivations and then for three days we shall be walking through the wonderful woodland gaining height steadily as we follow the course of the Pachhu, the snow melt swollen river. By third day we are emerging from woodland into heath land above the tree line in alpine meadows. High pastures, screes, rock and mountain tops now come into view, while beyond nearer ridges snow covered peaks beckon.

The camps have been selected to allow a sensible pacing by distance and a measured increase in camp heights, but having attained 4000 m at the end of Day 3 we shall have two nights at this altitude to prepare ourselves for the lift to come. The mountain scenery from the camp is stunning, with the great bulk of Jomolhari, 7314 m, sharply etched against a clear blue sky as the back drop to our breakfast table.

Walking in Bhutan.
Bhutan

From just down the valley, the fluted snow spire of Jichu Drake, 6989 m, is similarly stark. After a day of hiking in the vicinity of this camp, we now resume our trek to the Thimphu valley by crossing two major passes through the remote wilderness with abundant of wildlife, including, blue sheep, Takin and variety of birds, perhaps under the surveillance of the elusive snow leopard.


Pace


On a typical trek day, we will be woken at 6.00 am, by a member of the camp crew bringing tent tea, followed shortly by a bowl of hot washing water. By 7.30 am, when breakfast is ready, we will have packed ready for the day’s activity (day pack, and main luggage if appropriate). We leave with our guide just before 8.30 am and spend the rest of the day walking and botanising at an unhurried but steady pace. We stop for about an hour for a hot lunch and arrive back, or at our next campsite, at about 4.30 pm. On days when we are moving camp, the crew will pack up the tents, load the horses, overtake us and have the new camp ready for our arrival. A hot drink will be ready when we arrive, followed by washing water and our evening meal.

After eating, we discuss the route for the following day with our guide before retiring to bed.

This will sound very familiar to anyone who has trekked in Nepal, the main differences being that the camp crew is much smaller in Bhutan and there are no tea houses or shops along the way.


Fitness


It is essential that participants undertake regular walking in the months leading up to the start of the Tour so that you can enjoy to the full what this trip offers. The itinerary gives an indication of the distances involved. Previous experience of multi-day trekking as well as of extended periods camping over 3000 m is preferable.
It is accepted practice in Bhutan for the Guide to assess trek participants as to their physical fitness, and their ability to undertake what is ahead. In the event of serious concern he will stop and possibly turn back those who, in his opinion, cannot complete the undertaking.


Acclimatisation


Every effort has been made to allow gradual acclimatisation to the altitude, but this is a factor which is unpredictable for anyone. Many folk have their own ideas about how to combat the effects of altitude and we always carry Diamox with us and use it if we feel the need. If you plan to use such a drug for the first time, visit your doctor well in advance of the trip and ensure that you have a trial at home so that you understand what the effect is on you before administering it at height.


Detailed Itinerary


Dzong Fortress Bhutan.
Bhutan

Day 1: Bangkok - Paro


Flying into the country’s only airport, in the beautiful Paro valley, the clear mountain air, forested ridges, imposing monasteries and welcoming Bhutanese people in their striking national dress, provides a breath-taking first impression. On arrival at Paro airport, after immigration and custom formalities, your guide from Bhutan Excursions for the trip will receive you and transfer you to the hotel.
The valley of Paro contains a wealth of attractions and your afternoon sightseeing includes; Drukgyel Dzong: This Dzong, with a picturesque village nestling below its ramparts, was built by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1646, to commemorate his victory over the Tibetan invaders. Though largely destroyed by fire in 1951, the towering outer walls and central keep remain an imposing sight. On a clear day, there is a splendid view of Mt. Jhomolhari from the approach road to Drukgyel Dzong.
Rinpung Dzong:  Built in 1646 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the “fortress of the heap of jewels“stands on a hill above Paro Township. The approach to the Dzong is through a traditional covered bridge (called the Nemi Zam) and then up a paved stone path running alongside the imposing outer walls. The valley’s annual springtime religious festival, the Paro Tsechu, takes place in the courtyard of the Dzong and on the dance ground on the hillside above.
Ta Dzong: On a ridge immediately above Rinpung Dzong is Ta Dzong, built as a watchtower to protect Rinpung Dzong. (“Ta” means “to see” in Dzongkha, so the watchtower of a Dzong is always called a “Ta Dzong”). On account of their function, watchtowers are always round in shape. In 1968 Paro’s Ta Dzong was inaugurated as the National Museum, and now holds a fascinating collection of art, relics, religious thangkha paintings, Bhutan’s exquisite postage stamps, coins and handicrafts, together with a small natural history collection.

Altitude at Paro: 2300m

Overnight – Tenzinling Resort or Similar in Paro


Tiger's Nest monastery, Bhutan.
Bhutan

Day 2: Hike to Tiger’s Nest Monastery


Today, we hike up to the famous cliff-hermitage called Taktsang, the “Tiger’s Nest.” This monastic retreat is built into a sheer cliff face high above the Paro valley. Legend has it that the Tibetan Buddhist saint Padmasambhava flew across the Himalayas on the back of a tiger and landed here, bringing Buddhism to Bhutan. The trail to the monastery climbs through beautiful pine forest and an occasional grove of fluttering prayer flags.

After visiting what is known as one of the most venerated pilgrimage sites in the country, we will go off the beaten track further up to the temples that are on the hill tops above Tiger’s Nest. It’s so peaceful there and you can really communicate with nature as you enjoy the views from the top be it that of mountains or the valley. No wonder that some monks have chosen this place to meditate for the rest of their lives!  Coming down, we are following a different path that takes us through the pristine thick forest of oaks and rhododendrons festooned with Spanish mosses.

Approximate Walking time: 6 hours. Altitude at Paro: 2300m

Overnight – Tenzinling Resort or Similar in Paro


Breath-taking views, Bhutan.
Bhutan

Day 3: Chele La Ridge Hike


This morning, we will take a drive to Chele La (3750m), the highest motor able pass in the country and hike up along the meadow to Kung Karpo La (4100m). Weather permitting; we will enjoy the breathtaking views of the snowcapped mountains while walking above the tree line along the ridge that divides Paro and Ha valley. The short steep descent from the top will take us to the nunnery of Kila Gompa.  Here the nuns, called anims, live a life of contemplation and seclusion, with daily prayer and spiritual practice.  The temple itself is surrounded by numerous meditation huts, and many hidden caves lie inside the rocky cliffs.  The gompa is surrounded by a lush forest dominated by tall firs.  Sparkling mountain streams wind down the slopes, which are covered with a variety of wildflowers and plants.

About 30 anims, or nuns, live here, ranging in age from about 20 to 80 years.  The community is one of the oldest of seven nunneries in Bhutan, and was initially established in the early 9th century as a meditation site.  After being destroyed by fire, the temple was rebuilt and officially established in 1986 as an anim dratshang (religious community of Buddhist nuns).

Kila Gompa is historically significant as a sacred meditation site.  Many renowned Buddhist saints have come here to find peace and seclusion.  The main temple houses ancient statues of Chenrezig (Avalokiteswara) and Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) among others.

Life here is simple.  The day begins and ends with prayers.  The anims arise at 3 AM and study Buddhist scripture until 8 AM when they go to the temple for prayers.  The first simple meal of the day (rice, vegetables and tea) is eaten at 10 AM, after which studies continue until 9 PM when a simple supper is served.  The nuns retire after a final session of prayer.  Most of the nuns have given up properties and left their families to live with the bare minimum of material things.  Their studies and subsistence are supported by the government.

Some of the older nuns have retired into meditation, while many of the younger ones pursue basic Buddhist studies and perform religious ceremonies.  The course takes 5-6 years, after which they begin meditation, which can range from four months to three years.  One young nun, when asked why she had chosen this life, replied “There is peace in thinking about others, apart from yourself.”  Another said “If I was given back my youth, I would still choose this life but I would start it earlier.  I have never been more at peace with myself.”

The walk down from here to the road is lined with small white chortens and it will take us about an hour.

Approximate walking time: 5 hours. Altitude at Paro: 2300m.

Overnight: Tenzinling Resort or Similar in Paro


Day 4: Drukgyel Dzong - Shana (5-6 hours)


Trek Starts -

Drive up to Drukgyel Dzong (2,580m) where the road ends and the trek begins. With a gradual climb the trail follows the Pachu (Paro River) passing beautiful meadows, paddy fields and impressive farm houses. After about four hours you will reach the army post at Gunitsawa village. At the army check point your trek permit (provided by your tour operator) will be checked and endorsed. The campsite is on the opposite side of the river, not far from Gunitsawa. Camp – Shana (2850m)


Typical camp, Bhutan.
Bhutan

Day 5: Shana/Thangthangka (7-8 hours)


On this long day, the trail continues with lots of small ups and downs. After going uphill through the river valley, you enter the Jigme Dorji National Park. The valley finally narrows gradually to a mere path which ascends to a meadow where a camp will be set up. From here, if weather permits, you will have the first great view of Mount Jomolhari. Camp – Thangthangka (3610m)


Day 6: Thangthangka/Jomolhari Base Camp (4-5 hours)


If you did not see Mount Jomolhari last evening, you will have a great chance to get a great view this early morning. This morning, the trek continues up the Pachu valley which widens into patches of alpine meadow and meager growths of forest. Cross an army outpost along the way and enjoy a spectacular view of high mountain ridges and snow-capped peaks. Yaks and the herder’s homes become a regular feature of the landscape. Passing the villages Soe, Takethang and Dangochang is another asset on this day. Reaching Base Camp, one of the most beautiful campsites of the Himalayas, you will again have a spectacular view of Mount Jomolhari. Camp – Jomolhari Base Camp (4080m)


Day 7: Rest Day at Jomolhari Base Camp


The day at Jomolhari Base Camp provides several possibilities for day hikes with great views on lakes and snow capped mountains such as Jomolhari and Jichu Drake. There are good chances to spot some blue sheep on the upper slopes of the valley. Jangothang is a perfect environment for your acclimatization. Trek up to Tsophu or hike around the area. There are good short hiking trails in three directions. Jhomolhari and its subsidiary mountain chains lay directly west, Jichu Drake to the north and a number of unclimbed peaks to the east. Camp – Jomolhari Base Camp


Walking in Bhutan.
Bhutan

Day 8: Jomolhari Base Camp/Lingshi (6-7 hours)


After 15 min. from the camp the trail climbs rapidly for about half an hour and then becomes a gradual ascent to the Nyilila Pass at 4,870m. While on the climb enjoy the surrounding. You might see herds of blue sheep grazing on the slopes of the mountains. From the pass you will have spectacular views of Mt. Jomolhari, Jichu Drake and Tsherimgang, all of them rising above 7,000m. On the way down to the camp you will pass by some of the yak herder’s tent, made from yak wool, where the herders take shelter while on the move to various pastures for their yaks. As you come down into the Lingshi basin, you get a wonderful view of Lingshi Dzong on a clear day. Tserimgang and its glaciers rise up at the north end of the valley. The campsite is next to a stone hut you reach just before Lingshi Dzong. Camp – Lingshi (4010m)


Day 9: Lingshi/Shodu (8-9 hours)


The trail climbs up to the Yelila Pass at an altitude of 4,930m. From the pass, on a clear day you will get an excellent view of Jhomolhari, Tserimgang and Masanggang. The trek from the pass to the campsite at Shodu is a steep downhill. Camp – Shodu (4080m)


Day 10: Shodu/Barshong (5-6 hours)


The trail follows the Thimphu Chu (river) through fir and hemlock forests, past beautiful waterfalls along the way. The valley narrows till the path takes to the slopes and gradually ascends to the ruins of Barshong Dzong.

Camp – Barshong (3710m)


Day 11: Barshong/Dodena (7-8 hours)


The trail descends down to the Thimphu Chu (river) valley, through dense forests of rhododendron, birch, conifer, maples and bamboos and then ascends to pasture lands. From here, the trail continues through forested areas winding up and down and if luck favors us, we may see some monkeys and finally reach at the road head which is next to an impressive Bhutanese cantilever bridge where our car will be waiting for us to drive to Thimphu the capital city for about half an hour.

Overnight – Jomolhari Hotel or Similar in Thimphu


Day 12: Paro - Bangkok


After breakfast in the hotel, drive to the airport in time to catch up your onward flight. Your escort will bid you farewell and soon the remote and legendary Dragon Kingdom disappears again behind its guardian mountains.

This price is inclusive of Expert leadership, All accommodations, All meals, All transportation during the tour and All activities as noted in the itinerary based on twin room sharing basis.


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