General Information About Himalaya Walking Tour
This Bhutan walking tour will take you through stunning, isolated wilderness to rarely visited monasteries, remote and peaceful villages and valleys, and to high passes offering breathtaking mountain scenery that are only accessible only by foot. This fantastic tour provides a wonderful opportunity to explore Bhutan’s natural wonders at their best, as well as gain a true experience of traditional life with an afternoon spent as a guest in a village. This tour also explores the highlights of Bhutan’s culturally rich western valleys of Paro, Punakha and Thimphu and beautiful Phobjikha.
DAY 01: ARRIVE PARO – THIMPHU
The flight to Paro is one of the most spectacular mountain flights in the world, with a constantly changing panorama of some of the highest mountains on earth. Our representative will meet you at Paro airport. After lunch enjoy afternoon sightseeing around Paro, including a visit to the National Museum, Ta Dzong. This museum houses many religious relics, works of art and handicrafts offering a great orientation into Bhutan’s historical, cultural, and religious past. Next, visit the Rimpong Dzong to see the painting of the great saint Milarepa, considered as the master of meditation by the Bhutanese and believed to have attained enlightenment in a lifetime. Dzong’s are large monasteries and district administrative centres, which were once strategic forts. Afterwards, transfer for Thimphu for overnight (1.5 hours).
DAY 02: THIMPHU
Enjoy a full day of sightseeing in Thimphu beginning with a visit to the National Memorial Chorten depicting the Buddhist faith in the form of paintings and statues. This temple was first initiated by the Third King as a protection from the negative elements of modernization. The Royal Queen Mother completed it as a memorial stupa for the Third King who passed away in the year 1972. You will also visit the 12th century Changangkha Temple and Drubthob monastery housing the Zilukha Nunnery. If there is time, you may visit the nursing pen for the Takin, the national animal of Bhutan, and Tashichhodzong.
Hike to Cheri Monastry
Morning drive through the countryside surrounding Thimphu to Jigme Dorji Wildlife Sanctuary, the largest protected area in the Bhutan. The park is home to several endangered species including the takin, snow leopard, blue sheep, tiger, red panda, and the Himalayan black bear. More than 300 species of birds have been cataloged within the park.
Our walk begins from the small village of Dodena. Our trail starts by crossing a covered bridge over the Thim chhu and we climb steadily to Cheri Goemba, a small monastery perched on the hill with a view over the Thimphu Valley. Shabdrung built the monastery in 1620, and is the location where the first community of monks in Bhutan was established. The monastery is considered very sacred as it contains the ashes of Tempi Nima, the father of the first Shabdrung of Bhutan, and beautiful frescoes of Buddhist saints. Shabdrung also spent three years in retreat here and it’s a renowned meditation place even today.
After our visit to the monastery, we descend back the way we came, keeping our eyes open for the goral (wild goat) that are often spotted on the cliffs nearby. Back at the village of Dodena we will have picnic lunch along the clean and unpolluted Thimphu River. After lunch, we follow a riverside trail via Begana to Cabesa, home to the Choki School of Arts. The Choki School is private and provides free skills-related education in the traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan to Bhutanese children who are unable to attend or complete their formal education. After visiting the school we continue along the riverside trail and pass through small rural villages before returning to Thimphu. Overnight at your hotel in Thimphu.
DAY 03: THIMPHU – PUNAKHA (HIKE: TASHIGANG GOENPA/LUNGCHOTSE LHAKHANG/DOCHU LA)
Depart Thimphu, driving for about 45 minutes before beginning our hike to Tashigang goenpa (3200m). This monastery was built in 1786 by the 12th Je Khenpo. From Tashigang monastery you will enjoy a gradual uphill climb of about 2 hours to 18th century Lungchutse Lhakhang. The picturesque route passes through forests of rhododendrons, magnolias, birches, firs, hemlocks and bamboos, and occasionally meadows that are being used as yak pastures. The view from Lungchutse Lhakhang over the entire Bhutan Himalaya and its snow covered peaks is amazing. We will walk down hill for about an hour until we reach Dochula pass, a wonderful sight marked by 108 chortens (Stupa), and on a clear day an incredible view of Himalayan peaks. Here will be meet our waiting vehicle and driver.
Drive for about an hour & half down into the sub-tropical Punakha Valley. Overnight at your hotel in Punakha/ Wangduephodrang.
DAY 04: PUNAKHA
In the morning visit Punakha Dzong, built in 1637 by the Shabdrung, the ‘Unifier of Bhutan’ as predicted by the great Guru Rimpoche (Padmasambhava). It is situated at the confluence of the Mo Chu and Pho Chu (Mother and Father Rivers) and is the winter headquarters of the Je Khenpo and hundreds of monks who move en masse from Thimphu to this warmer location. The three story main temple of the Punakha Dzong is a breathtaking example of traditional architecture with four intricately embossed entrance pillars crafted from cypress and decorated in gold and silver.
Afterwards drive to Yabesa village and hike to through ricefields and up to Khamsum Yueley Namgyal Chorten, built by her majesty the queen Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuk. Perched high on a hill on the bank of the river, the Chorten houses paintings belonging to Nyingmapa Traditions.
Take a picnic lunch on a picturesque riverside before driving to Lobesa for a pleasant walk through small hillside villages to visit a farm house. Here we will see a Traditional Bhutanese cooking and farming demonstration. This will include the milking of a cow, followed by the churning of milk and the production of cheese and butter. We will also experience the brewing of local wine (“Ara”) and preparation of the national dish, “Emadasti”. Afterwards walk down through terraced rice fields to the main road where your vehicle awaits.
DAY 05: PUNAKHA – TRONGSA
Morning drive towards Trongsa. Enroute visit beautiful Chendebji Chorten. The Chorten was erected in the 18th century. The imposing Trongsa Dzong can be viewed across a deep canyon to signal your approach to the town around a curving road. Trongsa is the ancestral home of Bhutan’s ruling dynasty. Overnight at your hotel in Trongsa.
DAY 06: TRONGSA- PHOBJIKHA
After breakfast transfer to Phobjikha Valley. Drive down the winding mountain road through oak and rhododendron forests, into the wide and picturesque Phobjikha valley. Phobjikha is one of Bhutan’s few glacial valleys, and chosen winter home of black necked cranes (November – March) migrating from the Tibetan plateau. The valley is one of the most beautiful in Bhutan. Visit the Phobjikha Sanctuary with an opportunity to view the majestic black necked cranes (Nov-Mar only) and Gangtey Gompa (Monastery), dating back to the 16th century and the only Nyingmapa monastery in western Bhutan. Overnight at your hotel in Phobjikha.
DAY 07: PHOBJIKHA VALLEY – WANGDUE (SHASILA HIKE)
Drive to Longtey Village located beyond Pele La pass (3,420m) for a hike across Kayche La (3700m) and back to Gangtey. We climb up gradually through the thickets of dwarf bamboos, birch, rhododendron, hemlock and fir rich with diverse birdlife to Kayche La, marked with some prayer flags. The other side of the pass is mostly meadows, and it’s all downhill to Gangtey through the long and beautiful stretch of meadows and farms.
(Shasila Hike) – The trail is used by the people of Sha Ngawang and Chitokha to migrate between their summer and winter home in Gangtey. It was also an important trail used by the Gangtey Truelku and his followers in the past while migrating between his winter residence in Sha Chitokha and Gangtey Gompa. It takes approximately 03-04 hours walk for casual trekkers to reach Kheylaykha from Phobjikha. Your driver will meet you at the road and take you to Thimphu. Overnight at your hotel in Phobjikha.
DAY 08: WANGDUE – PARO
Drive back to Paro over Dochu La via Thimphu where you will have an opportunity to visit handicraft and souvenir stores, and enjoy lunch at a local restaurant in Thimphu. Afterwards, we drive back to Paro and en-route visit Semtokha Dzong, the oldest Dzong in Bhutan. Time permitting the journey can be broken with a visit to Tamchhu Lhakhang built by Thangtong Gyalpo, the so-called Iron Bridge Builder. Overnight at hotel in Paro
DAY 09: PARO
After breakfast hike to Taktsang Monastery. The trail is broad and the walk of approximately 1.5 to 2 hours uphill takes you almost a kilometre above the Paro valley floor (for those who cannot hike we will arrange a horse for transfer up to cafeteria). The view of Taktsang Monastery built on a sheer cliff face 900 metres above the valley floor is a spectacular sight. The Monastery is also an important pilgrim site for the Buddhists. The great Guru Rimpoche is said to have flown here on the back of a tigress when he brought the teachings of the Buddhist Dharma to Bhutan in the 8th Century. He then mediated in a cave there for three months where the monastery was later built. The cave is said to be the origin of Buddhism in Bhutan. Nearby there is a teahouse where you can stop for refreshments before returning to Paro for lunch.
In the afternoon drive to the ruins of the 17th Century Drukgyel Dzong, an historic monument built by the Shabdrung to commemorate his victory against invading Tibetans in 1644. In fine weather the towering peak of the sacred Mount Jomolhari (7314m) appears as a stunning backdrop. On the return drive to Paro, visit 7th Century Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the 108 temples constructed by the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo. Kyichu is built in a manner similar to the Jokhang in Lhasa. Inside there is a great golden image of Buddha Shakyamuni. Overnight at your hotel in Paro.
DAY 10: DEPART PARO
Breakfast in the hotel, then drive to the airport for flight to your onward destination.