19 Days / 18 Nights
Day 1: Paro Arrival
You will arrive at Bhutan’s international airport in Paro. Paro, Bhutan is situated in a beautiful valley at 2280 meters and the valley provides an incredible introduction to this magical kingdom. Your guide will meet you at the airport and transfer you to your hotel where you can take a short break before heading out to see the sights. Your sightseeing tour around the Paro Valley will commence with a visit to the unique fifteenth century temple of Dungtse lhakhang. Continue your day with a stop at the National Museum to see a treasure trove of Bhutanese artifacts including religious Thangka paintings, weapons, costumes and a fascinating collection of stamps. The museum is housed in the Ta Dzong (watch tower), built in sixteen forty-nine C.E. and used to defend the Paro Valley during times of war. Finally, a visit to Ringpung Dzong which is one of the finest examples of Bhutanese architecture is a good way to round out your first day in Bhutan. Stay the night in Paro.
Day 2: Hike to Taktshang
Hike to the sacred Takshang Goenpa (Tiger’s Nest Monastery) built of a rock face nine hundred meters above the valley floor. During his second visit to Bhutan in the eighth century the Guru Rinphoche flew on the back of a tigress to the place where the monastery now stands in order to subdue the demon Singye Samdrup. After defeating the demon the Guru meditated at this location for three months. In the sixteenth century Gyalshe Tenzin Rabgay, then the ruler of Bhutan built the monastery in commemoration of the Guru’s feats. Takshang is considered one of the most holy sites. It is a highlight for any tourist visiting Bhutan and a place where all Bhutanese believe they must visit once in their lifetime. Upon returning from your hike to Taksang you can visit the seventh century temple Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the oldest temples in Bhutan. In the evening you can sort your Stay the night in Paro.
Day 3: Drive to Chelela and continue to Shana
Start the day with a forty-five minute drive to the Chelela Pass (3,890 meters). If the weather cooperates the pass offers a charming view of the second highest Himalayan peak in Bhutan, Mount Jomolhari. A staggering seven thousand four hundred fifty-six meters above sea level the mountain is known by locals as the Mountain of God. In order to help acclimate to the kinds of altitude experienced on your trek you will take a one and a half hour hike from the roadway to a vantage point situated at four thousand five hundred meters. From here you will have even better views of Mount Jomolhari and other peaks including Kanchengula. Continue your hike down through a Rhododendron and Hemlock forest to Kila Geonpa, a nunnery monastery. From here you will return to your car and drive back to Paro for lunch. After lunch you will drive two hours to your campsite at Shana. On the way to Shana you will have time to visit Drukgyal Dzong, the Victory Fortress. Built in sixteen forty-four to commemorate the victory over Tibetan invaders the dzong was destroyed by fire in nineteen fifty-one. After arriving in Shana you will be introduced to your trekking crew, which will have evening tea waiting for you. Spend the night in Shana camp (2890 meters).
Start of Trek
Day 4: Shana to Soi Thangthangka
Begin your trek with an ascent through the Paachu River Valley and beautiful Blue Pine and Rhododendron forests. Stop for lunch after crossing Thangthang zam (bridge) and then continue to follow the river bank for a few hours until reaching a stupa marking the junction with another trail. Following the trail to the left will take you to Sio Thangthangka. From the junction you should reach your campsite within the half hour. Looking to the north you will see Mount Jomolhari from the top of the valley. (19km, 7 to 8 hours).
Day 5: Soi Thangthanka to Soi Jangothang
The trail passes through a small Army checkpoint and the valley begins to widen as you leave the forest behind. You will have enjoyable views of several snow capped peaks, high mountain ridges, yaks and their herders throughout your hike as you make your way to Jangothang campsite. Stop for lunch in an open meadow and then continue on to your campsite for the evening. Settle in for the night in a beautiful grassy meadow beneath the ruins of a fortress that lies at the base of Mount Jomolhari. (19km, 6 hours)
Day 6: Rest at Jangothang
Spend the day exploring the area as you take a day of rest from your trek. Walk to Tshophu as a way to get acclimated to the altitude. You will be rewarded with spectacular views of Mount Jomolhari , Jichu Drake and will see two picturesque lakes along the way. You might choose, instead, to plot out your own path to the east where no proper trail exists. Hiking east will afford you views of many unclimbed Himalayan summits and ridges. Stay the night at the Jolmohari base camp (4040 meters).
Day 7: Sio Jangothang to Lingzhi
Following the trail you will climb gradually and cross the bridge over the Paa Chu tributary along the way. The trail rises steeply to the Nyeli Pass (4850m) where you will see many cairns wrapped in prayer flags. From the pass you will have great views of Jomolhari, Jichu Drake and Tsherim Gang. Continue on with a steep decent to an area with small streams where you will enjoy your lunch. After lunch your trekking crew will make a decision as to which of the two possible campsites you will continue to for the night. Continuing to the site at Cherjipang, just outside of Linzhi village, will take you past Lingzhi Dzong. Unfortunately, the Dzong was destroyed by the earthquake of two thousand eleven and is currently undergoing restoration so visiting it is not possible. If your guide and crew opt to camp below the Army checkpoint you will make an ascent through a small stream, shortening your hike to the site. After settling in, you may have time to visit Lingzhi village and the local school; both are a short walk from the campsite. (19km, 7 to 8 hours). Stay the night in Lingzhi camp (4010 m)
Day 8: Lingzhi to Lingzhi to Chebisa
The three to four hour hike to Chebisa constitutes the shortest day of trekking. Start the morning on a hillside path with views across the valley. You will pass by Lingzhi village and a school, where you can stop in for a short visit. Many of the students at the school are the children of yak herders who attend the school while the parents are tending to their herd at higher altitudes. A visit to the school and Lingzhi village will give you a good sense of daily life for people living in these remote villages. After leaving the village you will descend along the trail to the beautiful village of Gangyul which is located at a pass. From this point you will hike along hillsides for an hour or so until you reach your campsite at Chebisa. After making camp you will have the opportunity to visit some village houses and a waterfall located nearby.
(16km, 3 to 4 hours). Stay the night in Chebisa camp(3990m).
Day 9: Chebisa to Shomuthang
Start the day with a steep climb to Gobu La Pass (4350m). You will pass through wild pastures frequented by grazing yaks and may see eagles and Himalayan Blue Sheep along the way. After crossing the pass a short walk through Rhododendron forests will bring you to a stream where you will stop for lunch. Continue on your way through more forest of Rhododendron and Juniper as you descend to the river. Traverse a hillside and end the hike with a steep climb to Shomuthang. The campsite is near the tributary to the Mo Chu River that emerges below Gasa Tsachu (hot spring). (17km, 7 hours). Stay the night in Shomuthang campsite (4100m).
Day 10: Shomuthang to Robluthang
Start the day with a climb to Jhari La (4785m) and be rewarded with stunning views of Gangchen Tag (the Great Tiger Mountain). Look back and you will still be able to see Jomolhari, Jichu Drake and Tserimgang. The trail will again descend through forests to the valley of Tsharijathang. Here herds of Takin can be seen in the months of June through August. You will continue on crossing the river and climbing the hillside for an hour to your campsite at Robluthang. (18km, 7 to 8 hours). Stay the night at Robluthang campsite (4160m).
Day 11: Robluthang to Limithang
Today you will follow the yak trail that starts above the campsite, taking it through a hanging valley and past a yak herder’s hut. After an hour’s walk turn to follow the river valley and soon Shingchen La Pass (5100m) will come into view. A tough climb will bring you to the highest and last pass of the Laya-Gasa Trek. After you cross the pass the path descends rapidly through the valley to the banks of a huge moraine located at the bottom of Gangchen Tag (the Great Tiger Mountain). Spend some time walking on the moraine and taking pictures of the lake. Continue on your walk down to the campsite in a meadow by the river at Limithang. (19km, 8 hours). Stay the night at Limithang campsite. (4160m).
Day 12: Limithang to Laya
You can enjoy a relaxing day walking to Laya village where you will see the local people wearing their unique regional dress. The trail winds downhill through a river valley populated with forests of Spruce and Juniper. You will then climb gradually from the river approaching Laya village from the east. (10km, 5 hours). Stay the night in Laya village campsite (3800m).
Day 13: Rest day in Laya
Today you will have the opportunity to explore the local customs and traditions of the Laya community. Visit farmhouses and meet the friendly local people who will be happy to offer you a cup of yak butter tea. If it is possible your guide will arrange a local cultural show during the evening where the women of Laya will attend wearing special dresses and bamboo hats, both of which are decorated with turquoise and silver ornaments. The entertainment will include the unique Layab style of dance and song. Stay the night in Laya village campsite (3800m).
Day 14: Laya to koena
Say goodbye to Laya village as you continue on the trail following the river valley with breathtaking views of vibrant rivers, their feeder streams and waterfalls. Continue the hike as you pass through Hemlock and Rhododendron forests until you the campsite at Koena. At the campsite you will find a hut to sleep in, which can be a welcome amenity as the grounds are often muddy. (19km, 6 to 7 hours). Stay the night at Koena campsite (3510 m).
Day 15: Koena to Gasa Tsachu(hot spring)
This morning you will start your hike with a gradual climb until you reach Bale La Pass (3740m). After reaching the pass the trail descends to Gasa Dzong, built in the sixteenth century by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. If time permits you can pay a visit to the fortress before continuing down to Gasa Tshachu. Our company will arrange for some refreshments as you take a rest from several days of trekking. Change your dress and go for an enjoyable hot spring bath with the locals before having dinner. (17km, 7.5 hours). Stay the night at Tshachu guest house. (2420m).
End of Trek
Day 16: Gasa to Punakha
After a relaxing breakfast you will depart from your trekking crew for a three hour drive to Bhutan’s old capital Punakha. On the way you will visit Punakha Dzong, the Palace of Great Happiness and one of the most beautiful dzongs in Bhutan. Built in sixteen thirty-six it stands majestically at the confluence of two rivers, the Mo Chu and Pho Chu. After your visit to the dzong you will check into your hotel for the evening. Stay the night in Punakha.
Day 17: Punakha to Thimphu
Start your day with a pleasant one-hour walk through terraced fields to Chimi Lhakhang, the Temple of Fertility. The brother of the Devine Madman, Lama Ngawang Chogyal, built Chimi Lhakhang in the fifteenth century. After visiting the temple you will drive to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan. Along the way you will stop at the Dochula Pass, at three thousand one hundred meters you will have great panoramic views of the eastern Himalayas as long as the weather cooperates. After arriving in Thimphu you will have time to partake in some sightseeing. Stop at Buddha Point to see one of the largest Buddha statues in the world. The Buddha sits at one hundred sixty-nine feet and the bird’s eye view from the point offers a great opportunity for pictures of the capital lying in the valley below. You can also visit the beautiful Memorial Chorten. Her Majesty Ashi Phuntsho Choden Wangchuk was the great grandmother of the current King of Bhutan and sponsored the building of the chorten in nineteen seventy-four as a memorial to her recently deceased son, the Third Druk Gyalpo of Bhutan. Stay the night in Thimphu.
Day 18: Thimphu to Paro
Start the day by continuing your sightseeing tour of Thimphu. Start with a visit to the twelfth century Changangkha Temple. The temple houses a unique statue of the God of Compassion in a seated posture with eleven faces. The temple is also known for the original wall paintings that still adorn the interior as well as the hundreds of religious scriptures written in gold, which are kept there. Also, tour the Takin Reserve to see Bhutan’s one of a kind national animal. Stop in at a traditional painting school to see the artwork of Zorigchusum, the thirteen traditional arts and crafts. See the world’s largest published book at the National Library or stop at the Folk Heritage Museum to see an example of a traditional farmhouse. You will have the option to visit a textile-weaving center at Changzamtok and Simtokha Dzong, built in sixteen twenty-nine it is the oldest surviving fortress in Bhutan. Embark on a one-hour drive back to Paro and stop along the way to see Taachog lhakhang. Take a short walk to the river to see a fifteenth century iron bridge. Both the temple and bridge were built by great iron builder Drupthop Thangthong Gyalpo. Spend the night in Paro.
Day 19: Drive to Paro Airport and departure
Your guide will accompany you to the airport to see you off and wish you a good journey and Tashidelek, Good Bye and Good Luck.