Trekking in Bhutan is unlike anywhere else in the Himalayas. The walks are long and arduous but they are complemented by crystal air and views that defy description. Only a handful of tourists trek each year and paths and communications may not be as developed as they are in other Himalayan destinations. However, what Bhutan may lack in infrastructure development it makes up through its superb facilities for trekkers. All parties are accompanied by a trained guide, a cook, an assistant and at least one horseman. Horses and yaks carry all provisions and most belongings; trekkers rarely have to carry more than a daypack with camera and extra film.
Treks vary from short three-day walks across relatively low altitudes to the three-week Snowman Trek that covers 356 kilometers and climbs three of the Kingdoms highest passes. Inexperienced trekkers are recommended to do the trek from Thimphu to Paro or vice-versa. Called the Druk Path, it leads across the chain of mountains separating the two valleys passing crystal clear lakes and offering splendid views of the high Himalayas outside the monsoon season. More difficult treks take in northern villages and pass yak herdsmen who spend most of the year tending to their herds high above the villages. The northern paths climb as high as 5,500 metres and should only be attempted by strong experienced walkers.
The Snowman Trek is an extension of the beautiful Laya Gasa Trek, and leads from Laya into high altitudes of the Bhutanese Himalayas. It takes tough and enduring trekkers into the Lunana region and further on to Gangkhar Puensum and Bumthang or down to Sephu in Trongsa district, depending on which route you choose. The Snowman trek leads through the most remote areas up to very high altitudes. Trekkers have to camp in altitudes above 5,000m more than once, and depending on the seasonal temperatures, the camps are sometimes on snow.
Duration: 25 days, Max. Elevation: 5,320m
Highest Camp: 5,050m
Best Seasons: Mid June to Mid October
Finish: Sephu (Trongsa)
Day 01: Snowman Trek starts: Gasa – Koinal
Duration: 7 – 8hrs
Altitude Gain: 970M/ 3181Ft
Altitude Loss: 549/1800 ft
The trail from Gasa is gradual accent through the forest mixed forest of Larch, Fir and Rhododendron for four hour
to the Balela Pass (3810m/ 3261m). After the pass, the trail is descents of three hours to Koina camp site.Overnight Camp
Day 02: Koinal – Laya
Altitude Gain: 637m/ 2089 ft
Altitude Loss: Nill
The trail winds up and down crossing through few streams and wood bridges. En- route we will pass some beautiful water fall, cave, forest and rivers. Lunch will be served at the side of the bridge, across the river. After lunch climb up gradually to Laya crossing the army camp where you need to show the trekking permit. From Tatsemakha it is one hour to Laya Village Overnight Camp
Day 03: Laya Halt
One can go around the villages visiting houses and the people. Laya people are friendly and will happily pose for
photographs. Women of Laya wear special dress and typical bamboo hats, decorated with turquoise and silver ornaments.
Overnight at Laya: Camp
Day 04: Laya – Rodophu
Duration: 7 – 8hrs
Altitude gain: 975m /3200ft.
From Laya we descend to an army camp and continue following the river till the turn off point to Rhoduphu. After lunch the climb continues through rhododendron bushes till you reach the camp at Roduphu just next to the Rhodu Chhu.Overnight Camp
Day 05: Rodophu – Narethang
Duration: 7 – 8hrs
Altitude Gain: 2375ft725m.
Altitude loss: Very little.
After following the river for about half an hour you will have a steady climb to a high open valley at 4,600m and then further up to Tsomo La (4,900m). Tsomo La offers a superb view of Lunana, Mount Jomolhari and Jichu Drake, and the Tibetan border. The route then crosses a flat, barren plateau at about 5,000m. The campsite at Narethang is towered by the peak of Gangla Karchung (6,395m).Overnight Camp
Day 6: Narethang – Tarina
Duration: 6 – 7hrs
Altitude Gain: 265ft/80m.
Altitude loss: 1082m / 3350ft.
Campsite Altitude: 12,915ft/3938m.
The view from the pass is breathtaking and the whole range of mountains including Jekangphu Gang (7,100m), Tsenda Kang and Teri Gang (7,300m) can be seen. The pass descends along a large moraine. Again one has great views: a massive glacier descends from Teri Kang to a deep turquoise lake at its foot. Up here a glacial lake burst through its dam in the early 1960s, causing widespread damage and partially destroying Punakha Dzong. Finally, it is a very long descent through thick rhododendron to Tarina valley, where you will find several good campsites along the Tang Chhu.Overnight Camp
Day 7: Tarina – Woche
Duration: 5 – 6hrs
Altitude gain: 740ft/225m.
Altitude loss: Nil.
Campsite Altitude: 13,655ft / 4,163m.
The walk leads down through conifer forests following the upper ridges of the Pho Chhu, passing some impressive waterfalls. The trail then climbs over a ridge and drops to Woche, a settlement of a few houses, the first village in the Lunana region.Overnight Camp
Day 8: Woche – Lhedi
Duration: 5 – 6hrs
Altitude gain: 1650ft/503m.
Altitude loss: 2510ft/765m.
Campsite Altitude: 12,790ft/3900m.
The trek starts through juniper and fir forests, and further ahead, through rhododendron bushes. Climb up to Keche La pass (4,650m) where one can have the great view of surrounding mountains again. After the pass, descend to the riverside walking through a village with a stunning view of Table Mountain and others. Follow up the river till Lhedi Village. Lhedi has a basic health unit, a school and a wireless telephone connection.Overnight Camp
Day 9: Lhedi – Thanza
Duration: 6 – 7hrs
Altitude gain: 720ft /219m.
Altitude loss: Nil.
Campsite Altitude: 13,450ft/4100m.
In clear weather, you will have great views of Table Mountain (7,100m).Around lunch time you will pass the small village of Chozo (4,090m) which has a dzong still in use. Reaching Thanza again you will have a great view of Table Mountain which forms a 3,000m high wall of snow and ice behind the village. Although there are possibilities to camp directly at Thanza, most groups prefer to camp in Thoencha.Overnight Camp
Day 10: Rest day at Thanza
Altitude: 4100m /13,450ft.
One can walk around or climb up the ridge for fascinating view of lakes and mountains.Overnight Camp
Day 11: Thanza – Djundji
Altitude gain: 1640ft/500m.
Altitude loss: Nil.
Campsite Altitude: 14,890ft/4540m.
From Thoencha, the trail climbs up to a large boulder from where you will have excellent views of Thanza, Toencha and Choso village and the surrounding mountains. After a few hours of relatively flat and easy walking, you will reach a yak meadow with some yak herders’ huts. It is an excellent campsite with a great chance to spot some blue sheep on the hills above. A trail junction near the campsite will give you the choice between the routes up to Gangkhar Puensum base camp, and further on to Bumthang or to Sephu (Trongsa). Both routes are described in this website.Overnight Camp
Day 12: Djundji – Tsho Chena
Altitude gain: 2001/610m.
Altitude loss: 625ft/190m.
Campsite Altitude: 16272ft/4960m.
Having chosen the route to Sephu, the trek crosses the creek and after a long climb, you will reach Jaze La (5,150m) with spectacular panoramic mountain views. The path then descends between snow covered peaks and a couple of small lakes to the campsite near the Shore of Tshochena Lake.Overnight Camp
Day 13: Tsho Chena – Jichu Dramo
Duration: 7 – 8hrs
Altitude gain: 605ft/85m.
Altitude loss: 280ft/85m.
Campsite Altitude: 16,595/5060m.
You follow the bank of the blue green lake before arriving at a ridge at 5,100m, where there is another spectacular view in all directions. After going up and down over small hills to reach a glacial lake, the route descends first before climbing again up the next pass, the Loju La (5,140m). Finally after crossing a small saddle (5,100m) you will enter a wide glacial valley from where the trail descends gradually to the campsite at Jichu Dramo.Overnight Camp
Day 14: Jichu Dramo – Chukarpo
Altitude gain: 870ft/265m.
Altitude loss: 2870ft/875m.
Campsite Altitude: 15,910ft/4850m.
Right after leaving the camp you will climb through a moraine to Rinchen Zoe La (5,320m). Spectacular mountain scenery with Gangkhar Puensum amongst the impressive mountains is the reward for climbing the highest pass on this trek route and Rinchen Zoe Peak (5,650) towers above the pass the west. Descending from the pass, the route leads into a wide valley with several lakes and goes steeply down along a moraine to the Thamphe Chhu. Here the vegetation begins to thicken again and you will see the first real trees since Lhedi. After a couple of hours you reach the campsite at Chukarpo.Overnight Camp
Day 15: Chukarpo – Thampoe Tsho
Duration: 5 – 6hrs
Altitude gain: 1000ft/305m.
Altitude loss: 1310ft/400m.
Campsite Altitude: 14,285ft/4355m.
The descent continues along the river till you reach the yak herder huts at Gala Pang Chhu (4010m). From here the trail climbs steeply towards Thampe Tsho, a beautiful clear turquoise lake, with the campsite next to it.Overnight Camp
Day 16: Thampoe Tsho – Maurothang
Duration: 5 – 6hrs
Altitude gain: 1015ft/310m.
Altitude loss: 3165ft/965m.
Campsite Altitude: 12,130ft/3698m.
From the lake you climb steeply to the last pass on your trek, the Thampe La (4,600m) with a good chance to spot some blue sheep on the way. Then the path descends to the sacred lake Om Thso. Passing a waterfall you will reach another, smaller lake 100m below to descend steeply to the Nikka Chhu. The path finally leads through mixed forest to large clearing on the banks of the river with a few yak herder huts, Maurothang.Overnight Camp
Day 17: Maurothang – Sephu – Phobjikha
On the last day of this extraordinary trek the path follows the Nikka Chhu to reach a large grassy area overlooking the road and the village of Sephu. You finally reach the road at the Nikka Chhu Bridge at Sephu where you will find several stores (mainly selling bamboo products) and small restaurants. You will be then transferred to your hotel.
This trek takes you into an area adorned with a multitude of pristine, crystal clear lakes. As you walk amidst the shimmering lakes you’ll be treated to stunning views of the entire Himalayan mountain range and some of the world’s highest peaks including Mt. Everest, Jomolhari, Masang Gang, Jichu Drake, Gangche Ta and many more.
During the trek an entire day will be dedicated to visiting some of the more picturesque lakes, fishing and resting. The trail also takes you through several Bhutanese villages so you can get a good idea of traditional Bhutanese village life as you make your way back from the lakes.
While this is a somewhat strenuous trek, it is well worth the effort because of the tranquility and beauty of natural landscape that you will enjoy during the journey. The best time to embark on this trek is between April-June or September –October.
Day 01: Paro – Gur
Distance: 7 km
The trek starts at beautiful Gynekha village and begins with a short descent to the river. After crossing the river you start climbing until you reach a huge rock platform from where you have a picturesque view of the valley below. After another two hours you reach Gur, an area of yak pastures located just below the main trail.
Day 02: Gur – Labatama
Duration: 5 hrs
On the second day, the trail takes you across the high ridges from where you can truly appreciate the rugged beauty of your surroundings and the mountain vegetation. The path winds through refreshing meadows adorned with wild flowers and asparagus (in spring). The first mountain pass you cross is marked by a huge cairn and gives a spectacular view of Kanjenjunga (Sikkim) and a number of the Bhutanese Himalayan peaks. As you descend the pass you will be able to see the entirety of the Dagala mountain range including meadows and yak herder camps. Once you have descended into the Labatama valley you begin climbing gradually through the valley, passing several yak herder huts before you arrive at Uthso Tsho. The campsite is right next to the lake.
Day 03: Labatama Halt
This day will be dedicated to relaxing and recuperating at Labatama. It is an ideal to taker’s an excursion to any of three nearby lakes: Reli Tsho, Hen Tsho and Jama Tsho. Hikers are encouraged to take the opportunity to engage in some trout fishing as the location is ideal. Permits are required for fishing so you should request your tour operator to make the necessary arrangements beforehand.
Day 04: Labatama – Panka
The trail climbs along the western side of Dala Tsho up to a saddle at 4,520m. From here onwards you will have a fantastic view of the majestic Himalayan peaks all through the descent. The mountain peaks visible include Mt. Everest (Nepal), Mt. Kanchenjunga (Sikkim), Mt. Jomolhari, Mt. Jichu Drake, Mt. Tshering Gang, Mt. Khangbum, Mt. Masang Gang, Mt. Tsende Gang and Mt. Gangche Ta. If you want an even better view, you can climb a peak close to the saddle with an altitude of 4,720m. From the saddle the path descends, passing some yak herder huts to Doccha Chhu. You follow the river for a while, but stay higher up on the slope to reach Panka with ascents and descents along the way.
Day 5: Panka – Thimphu via Chamgang
This day entails the crossing of several passes but none of them require a major climb. You should keep your eyes open for different varieties of blue poppy (June-July) and mountain birds while in this area. After crossing the last pass, Tale La (4,180m) you start a long descent to Talakha Gompa. You will camp right beside the monastery and wake up to the early morning prayers of the monks. From here you will be treated to a great view of Bhutan’s capital Thimphu.
DRUK PATH TREK
Most popular trek in the country as it passes through a gorgeous natural landscape of blue pine forests, high ridges and pristine lakes while at the same time offering the opportunity to visit some ancient lhakhangs, dzongs and villages.
The Druk Path Trek is also a fairly easy hike to undertake as the distances between rest camps is fairly short. The trail takes you through forests of fir, blue pine and dwarf rhododendrons at altitudes ranging between 2400-4200 m. On the third day hikers will arrive at Jimiling Lake, whose crystal clear waters are home to gigantic trout.
This trek also offers hikers stunning views of Mt. Gangkar Puensum, the highest unscaled peak in the world. The best times to embark on the Druk Path Trek are between March-June or September-November.
Day 01: Paro – Jili Dzong
The first day can be quite arduous as you have to climb more than 1,000m elevation. You start from the Ta Dzong (National Museum) in Paro. The trek follows a gravel road past a few farms for about 30 minutes and then climbs up a steep ridge before leading through blue pine and fir forests to Damche Gom. Once you reach the ridge below Jili Dzong you descend about 100m to the campsite below the Dzong.
Day 02: Jili Dzong – Jangchulakha
You begin with a steep climb for about an hour and a half, then the slope evens a bit and the ascent is more gradual. The trail takes you through thick alpine forests and dwarf rhododendron tress. You may see herders and their yaks around your campsite.
Day 03: Jangchulakha – Jimgelang Tsho
Duration: 4 hrs
The trail follows a ridge and on a clear day the view of the mountains and valley are simply stunning. The campsite is close to the Jimgelang Tsho Lake. This lake is known for its giant sized trout.
Day 04: Jimgelang Tsho – Simkotra Tsho
The trail takes you through dwarf rhododendron trees and past Janetso Lake. You may come across some yak herder camps where you will have the opportunity to get a glimpse of a nomad’s life. The campsite is close to Simkotra Tsho Lake.
Day 05: Simkotra Tsho – Phajoding – Thimphu
The day begins with a gradual climb. If the weather permits, you will have a spectacular view of Mount Gangkar Puensum (7541m), the highest mountain in Bhutan and several other Himalayan peaks. From this pass, the trek takes you downhill towards Phajodhing where you will have lunch. Trek downhill to Thimphu through a forested area of mostly blue pine. The walk, at a leisurely pace, takes about three hours and thus you will reach your destination
Important treks in Bhutan
Jomolhari Trek is longer than the Jomolhari Loop – the most popular trekking routes in Bhutan. With altitude differences of 2,500m and nearly 5,000m it offers a wide range of landscapes, fauna and flora. The highlight of this trek is the spectacular view of Mount Jomolhari from Jomolhari Basecamp (Jangothang).
Day 031: Paro – Sharna Zampa– Thangthangkha
Distance: 22km (7-8hrs)
Elevation: 3,610mts / 11,844ft
Drive 2 hours from Paro town to Sharna which follows Paro Chhu passing beautiful meadows, paddy fields and impressive farm houses and after about hours you will reach the army post at Gunitsawa village. At the army check post your trek permit (provided by your tour operator) will be checked and endorsed. On this long day, the trail continues with lots of small ups and downs. After going uphill through the river valley the valley finally narrows gradually to a mere path which descends to a meadow where a camp will be set up. From here, If weather permits, you will have the first great view of Mt.Jumolhari.
Day 02: Thangthangkha – Jangothang
Distance: 19km (5-6hrs)
Elevation: 4,080mts / 13,386ft
This morning the trek continues up the Paro Chhu valley which widens into patches of alpine meadow and scanty growths of forest. You will cross an army checkpoint along the way and enjoy a spectacular view of high mountain ridges and snow-capped peaks. In this area yaks and their herder’s homes become a regular feature of the landscape. Passing the villages Soe, Takethang and Dangochang is another asset on this day. After reaching Jangothang, one of the most beautiful campsites of the Himalayas, you will again have a spectacular view of Mount Jomolhari.
Day 03: Jangothang Halt
The rest day in Jangothang provides plenty of possibilities for day hikes with great views of 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. You can also trek up to Tosoh or hike around the area. There are good short hiking trails in three directions. Jomolhari and its subsidiary mountain chains lay directly west, Jichu Drake to the north and there are a number of unclimbed peaks to the east.
Day 04: Jangothang – Lingshi
Distance: 18km (7-8 hours)
Elevation: 3,800mts / 13,386ft
The trail follows the stream or half an hour and crosses the bridge to the right side. Start the climb up to the first ridge with a breathtaking view of Jhomolhari, Jichu Drake and Tshering Gang. Then Walk towards the valley, almost flat for a while, until the climb to the Ngye La pass at an altitude of 4,700m. After the pass, it is a gradual descent to the Lingshi camp, enjoying the panoramic view of the peaks and Lingshi Dzong.
Day 05: Lingshi – Shodu
Distance: 22km (8-9 hours)
Elevation: 4,080mts / 13,451ft
The Laya Gasa route leaves the Jhomolhari trek here. The trek route climbs towards a small white Chorten on a ridge above the camp, then turns south up the deep Mo Chhu valley. The trail stays on the west side of the largely treeless valley, climbing steadily a short distance above Mo Chhu. It then crosses the river, and climbs steeply for two hours to Yeli La pass (5,220m). From the pass, on a clear day, you can see Jhomolhari, Gangchen Ta, Tshering Gang and Masang Gang.
Day 06: Shodu – Barshong
Distance: 16km (6-7 hours)
Elevation: 3,710mts / 12171ft
At this place, one comes back to tree line. The path follows Thimphu River, descending through rhododendron, juniper and other alpine forests. The view of the cliff facing rocks and waterfalls is stunning. Hot lunches will be served by the riverside. After lunch the trail gradually ascends to the ruins of riversides. After lunch follow the trail that gradually ascends to the ruins of Barshong Dzong
Day 07: Barshong – Dolam Kencho
Distance: 15km (5-6hrs)
Elevation: 3,320mts / 10892ft
The trail descends down to the Thimphu Chhu river valley, through dense forests of rhododendron, birch, conifer, maples and bamboos and then ascends to pasture lands. The camp is in a meadow.
Day 8: Dolam Kencho – Dodena (Tango) – Thimphu
Distance: 8km (4hrs)
Elevation: 2,300mts / 7,546ft
The trail continues through forested areas winding up and down and through a small pass. Langurs (monkeys) can be seen along the way. In Dodena, you will exit the Jigme Dorji National Park and reach the road head next to an impressive cantilever bridge. Drive to Thimphu City (25km/20 minutes) and check in to Hotel.