9D 8N Trekking & Cultural Adventure West

  • Trekking & Cultural Adventure West

    Trekking & Cultural Adventure West
    Trekking & Cultural Adventure West

Bhutan Tour Itinerary

Enjoy five days of hiking on the Trans Bhutan Trail during this nine-day adventure across western Bhutan. Hike from Haa to Paro, enjoying incredible views of both valleys and, at clearer times of year, spectacular vistas north towards the Himalayan range from the Kaleyla Pass. Take in the highlights of the Capital, Thimphu, before trekking along the “Divine Madman Trail” towards the pleasant town of Phunaka. Before departure, hike up to the famous Tiger’s Nest Monastery.


Day 1

Paro – Haa

Elevation      Weather in Haa

On arrival at Paro International Airport today, you will be met by your guide. You will be driven by private vehicle to the town of Haa, with a brief stop en route to take in some breathtaking Himalayan vistas at Chelela which, at 3,810 metres (12,500 feet) above sea level is the highest paved road in Bhutan. As you arrive at Chelela, you may wish to join with your guide and driver in a hearty cry of ‘lha-geh lu!’ (‘May the Gods be victorious’).

You will be given time to settle into your hotel in Haa and to rest before joining your guide for an afternoon acclimatization walk around the town. Your orientation walk will include a visit to the Lhakhang Karpo or ‘White Chapel’ complex, just south of Haa Dzong (fortress). The Lhakhang has an atmospheric central chapel which houses statues of the Tse-la-nam Sum trinity. During your visit to the Lhakhang Karpo, you will have the option of a traditional pre-expedition blessing in preparation for your upcoming trek on the Trans Bhutan Trail.

Your guide will select a local restaurant in Haa for dinner this evening, which will be your first chance to learn about and sample Bhutanese cuisine.

Accommodation: Soednam Zingkha Heritage Lodge or similar (3*)
Meals: D 

Day 2

Haa – Katsho – Ngopa (Paro)

Elevation      Weather in Paro

After breakfast at your hotel, you will be transferred to Katsho, where you will begin your first day of trekking on the ancient Trans Bhutan Trail. For generations, the people of Haa followed the route you will walk today to trade with the Parops in the neighbouring valley. There, they would barter 20 drey (approximately 30 kilograms or 66 pounds) of Shakam (dried meat) for 20 drey of rice at Paro Tshongdu (market) because the harsher climatic conditions in Haa are unsuitable for rice cultivation.

The age-old trail follows the beautiful Haa river as it gently rises out of the Katsho Valley, passing through yak pastures before heading into forests of pine and rhododendron. As you traverse the Katsho Valley, look out for cliff-edge Bjungneydra Taktsang (monastery), also known as “The Mini Taktsang”, and the sky burial site of Kungkarpo. The Trail continues to climb until it reaches the pass at Kaleyla, where it crosses the ridge trail between Chelela and Sagala. At Kaleyla, you will enjoy stunning views of the Himalayan range to the north, including, on the clearest days, vistas of Mount Jomolhari (7,314m/23,996ft), Mount Jichudrakegang (6,794m/22,290ft) and Mount Tsherimgang (6,789m/22,273ft). You will be provided with a picnic lunch during this stop.

From Kaleyla, the trail descends through rhododendron and bamboo forest into the Paro Valley. The last few kilometres to Paro will then be on tracks which meander through traditional Bhutanese farming villages.

On arrival in the Ngopa gewog of Paro you will have the chance to visit Kichu Lhakhang (temple). Said to date from the 7th century and built by Songtsen Gampo, it is one of Bhutan’s oldest religious sites. Kichu Lhakhang is home to an original statue of Jowo Jamba which is one of the most sacred sculptures in the region; and the two orange trees inside the monastery courtyard are said to bear fruit year round.

Your guide will arrange for dinner either at your hotel or in a local restaurant. 

Accommodation: The Village Lodge or similar (3*)
Meals: B,L,D
Trek Distance:17 kilometres (10.57 miles)
Estimated Trek Duration: 8 hours
Elevation Gain: 1,169 metres (3,835 feet)
Starting Elevation: 2,801 metres (9,190 feet)
Ending Elevation: 2,380 metres (7,809 feet)
Maximum Elevation: 3,790 metres (12,435 feet)

Day 3

Ngopa – Dopshari (Paro)

Elevation      Weather in Paro

After breakfast this morning, rejoin the Trans Bhutan Trail heading east. The Trail rises gently from Lamgong Village as it traverses the sprawling rice paddies of the Paro Valley, before carving around the northern ridge and descending into the traditional village of Dopshari.

At Dopshari, enjoy a cookery demonstration and a traditional Bhutanese lunch at a local farmhouse. After lunch, you will also have the opportunity to try your hand at Bhutan’s national sport, archery, and have a quick game of traditional ‘khuru’ (darts).
After lunch, head back out onto the trail for the climb up to Upper Dopshari, where you will enjoy stunning views out over the Paro Valley.

You will be collected from Upper Dopshari and transferred back towards Paro. En route, visit Ta Dzong or the ‘watchtower’, originally built in 1649 to protect Paro Dzong from the Tibetan military. In 1968, Ta Dzong became Bhutan’s National Museum, and is now home to a number of exhibitions including sculpture, painting and artifacts depicting Bhutan’s magical past. Afterwards, continue to the stunning Paro Rinpung Dzong (fortress), meaning ‘Fortress on a Heap of Jewels. The original construction of this dzong is believed to have been completed in 1458 and it was restored to its present glory by His Majesty the Third of Bhutan, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, to mark his royal wedding in 1951.

After your visits, head to your hotel, where we recommend you relax and unwind after your trek in a traditional Bhutanese hot stone bath before enjoying dinner with your guide at a nearby restaurant. 

Accommodation: Tushita Eco Lodge or similar (3*)
Meals: B,L,D
Trek Distance: 16 kilometres (9.94 miles)
Estimated Trek Duration: 6 hours
Elevation Gain: 943 metres (3,049 feet)
Starting Elevation: 2,380 metres (7,809 feet)
Ending Elevation: 2,826 metres (9,272 feet)
Maximum Elevation: 2,826 metres (9,272 feet)

Day 4

Paro – Thimphu

Elevation      Weather in Thimphu

After breakfast today, you will be transferred by private vehicle to Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital city. With elevations ranging between 2,248 metres (7,375 feet) and 2,648 metres (8,688 feet) above sea level, Thimphu is the fifth highest capital city in the world by altitude. The city offers a unique blend of the modern world with Bhutanese tradition.

Today will be spent taking in the best of Thimphu’s numerous attractions. First, head to the scenic Kabisa Valley, just north of Thimphu, to the Choki Traditional Art School. Choki is Bhutan’s only private institution providing free education to underprivileged youths who have a keen interest in learning the traditional arts and crafts. During your visit to the school you will see students engaged in a number of traditional art forms, including painting, carving, and tapestry.

Also visit Thimphu Dzong (fortress). The Dzong was rebuilt by His Majesty the Third of Bhutan, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck in 1962, when the capital of Bhutan was moved from Punakha to Thimphu. Since that time it has been the seat of the Government of Bhutan. Undoubtedly Thimphu’s most imposing building, you will have time to enjoy its quiet courtyards, the small Lhakhang Sarp chapel and the Dzong’s imposing utse (tower).

After lunch in a local restaurant, head to Buddha Point, home to Thimphu’s most recognized landmark, the Buddha Dordenma. Guarding the entry to the Thimphu valley, this 51 metre (167 feet) gilded bronze statue is filled with 125,000 miniature statues and sits atop a three-storey base housing a chapel and thousands of donated statuettes. The statue was commissioned to mark His Majesty the Fourth King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck’s 60th birthday and was originally made in China before being transported to Thimphu in pieces.

Afterwards, you will stop at the Memorial Chorten, a Tibetan-style stupa built in 1974 and one of Thimphu’s busiest religious sites, before continuing to Simtokha Dzong (fortress). Built in 1629 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, it is said to sit on the site where a demon disappeared into a rocky outcrop. Simtokha Dzong is said to be the first dzong (fortress) in Bhutan built to house both administrative and monastic residents, and it is also the oldest dzong to have survived as a complete structure. The Dzong boasts many fine murals, carvings and tapestries, a three-storey utse (tower), and a number of chapels.

Your guide will arrange for dinner either at your hotel or in a local restaurant. 

Accommodation: Tara Phendheling Hotel or similar (3*)
Meals: B,L,D

Day 5

Dochula – Toeb

Elevation      Weather in Paro

After breakfast, you will be transferred by private vehicle to the Dochula Pass, where you will rejoin the Trans Bhutan Trail. At clearer times of the year, you will be able to enjoy panoramic views of the Himalayas to the north from Dochula.

From here, descend down into the adjacent valley and join what is known as the ‘Divine Madman Trail’. You will now be following in the footsteps of The Divine Madman himself, Drukpa Kuenley, when he came to Bhutan from Tibet in the 16th century to fulfil his legacy of suppressing evil energies through his dharma teachings. Over the coming days, you will come across many important cultural sites and extraordinary stories which relate to the life of Drukpa Kuenley.

You will make a stop for a picnic lunch at Thinleygang Lhakhang (temple) before continuing to follow the Trail down towards Toeb. On arrival you will visit the Toeb Chandana Lhakhang (temple), also known as the Chandana Lhakhang, meaning ‘where the arrow landed’. Legend has it that when Drukpa Kuenley fired an arrow from Tibet to determine his path, it landed here in Toeb Chandana. The temple itself was built in the 15th century to ward off the evil energy of a demoness and served as the religious seat of Ngawang Chogyal. The two hills at each end of the temple resemble knees and are said to be the knees of Ngawang Chogyal herself.

Next door to Toeb Chandana Lhakhang (temple) is the house of Toeb Tshewang, which Drukpa Kuenley’s arrow is said to have struck when it landed. It is said that, dressed as a hunting beggar, Kuenley courted Tshewang’s wife and that, in a fit of jealous rage, Tshewang drew a sword which Drukpa Kuenley miraculously knotted. Realizing his divine power, Tshewang offered Kuenley his wife to fulfill his prophecy.

This evening, you may have the opportunity to spend the night in Toep Tshewang’s farmhouse. The building still houses the eleven-stepped wooden latter that Kuenley’s arrow is said to have struck and the descendants of Tshewang have preserved the house as a monument for fifteen generations.

This evening, you will enjoy a traditional Bhutanese dinner.

Accommodation: Signature Trans Bhutan Trail Camping
Meals: B,L,D
Trek Distance: 13.5 kilometres (8.39 miles)
Estimated Trek Duration: 9 hours
Elevation Gain: 50 metres (164 feet)
Starting Elevation: 3,114 metres (10,217 feet)
Ending Elevation: 1,560 metres (5,118 feet)
Maximum Elevation: 3,114 metres (10,217 feet)

Day 6

Toeb – Mendelgang

Elevation      Weather in Punakha

After breakfast this morning, bid farewell to Toeb as you commence the climb up towards Sew Drangsa. In recent years, the central monastic body occasionally uses this route to reach its winter residence in Punakha and to return to Thimphu in the summer. At Sew Drangsa, you will find a clearing marked with prayer flags, which is where the monks stop for lunch en route. From here, the trail descends towards Punakha Dzong (fortress), offering spectacular views of the Punakha Valley and the Punatsangchu hydroelectric project on the way.

In order to cross the Bazam (bridge) at Punakha Dzong, you will need to be wearing formal Bhutanese dress, including a gho for men and a kora for women. Once on the other side, enjoy a tour of the Dzong (fortress), which was built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in around 1637 at the confluence of the Phochhu (male river) and the Mochhu (female river). Arguably, it is the most beautiful Dzong in the country. The Dzong guards Bhutan’s most treasured relic, the Rangjung Kharsapani, an image of Chenresig kept away from the public in the utse (tower). Guru Rinpoche had prophesied that this Dzong would be built by a man named Namgyal at a hill resembling an elephant. So, when Zhabdrung arrived at Punakha, he chose the tip of the trunk of the sleeping elephant as the perfect site. It has since survived Tibetan invasions, numerous fires, floods and a glacial lake burst. The Dzong served as the capital and seat of the Bhutanese Government until the early 1950s; and the coronation of His Majesty the First Druk, Gyalpo Ugyen Wangchuck, took place here. The building currently serves as the winter residence for the monastic body.

After your visit, head north by vehicle to Dzomlithang, where you will enjoy a cookery demonstration and a traditional Bhutanese outdoor lunch.

This afternoon, you will have the option of a gentle rafting expedition down the Mochhu. Head to the put-in spot, around 6 kilometres (3.7 miles) north of Punakha Dzong and enjoy a leisurely float down the wide river valley past Her Majesty the Queen’s winter residences and His Majesty the King’s weekend retreat.

Your guide will arrange dinner this evening either at your hotel or at a good local restaurant. 

Accommodation: Zhingkham Resort or similar (3*)
Meals: B,L,D
Trek Distance: 13.5 kilometres (8.39 miles)
Estimated Trek Duration: 9 hours
Elevation Gain: 195 metres (640 feet)
Starting Elevation: 1,560 metres (5,118 feet)
Ending Elevation: 1,225 metres (4,019 feet)
Maximum Elevation: 1,778 metres (5,834 feet)

Day 7

Punakha – Paro

Elevation      Weather in Paro

After breakfast this morning, there will be plenty of time to rest and enjoy the beautiful Punakha Valley prior to a leisurely road transfer back to Paro.

Before departure, you have the option of visiting the imposing Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten (stupa), which was built in 2004 to protect Bhutan from evil forces and bring peace to the world. The stupa is accessible via a one hour trek up a pleasant trail to the north of Punakha. Alternatively, visit the Chimi Lhakhang (temple), built in 1499 by the 14th Drukpa hierarch, Ngawang Choegyel. It is said that the site was originally founded when the Divine Madman, Drukpa Kuenley, built a chorten here after having tamed a demon with a magic thunderbolt of wisdom, trapping it in a rock.

On arrival in Paro, check into your hotel where you may enjoy the remainder of the day at leisure. Dinner will be arranged either at your hotel or a local restaurant. 

Accommodation: The Village Lodge or similar (3*)
Meals: B,L,D

Day 8

Paro

Elevation      Weather in Paro

After breakfast this morning, head northwest out of Paro by private vehicle for a visit to the iconic Taktshang Goemba, more commonly known as the ‘Tiger’s Nest Monastery’. Precariously perched on a sheer cliff face 900 metres (2,950 feet) above the Paro Valley floor, the Tiger’s Nest is undoubtedly Bhutan’s most famous religious building. It is built on the site where Guru Rinpoche is said to have arrived on the back of a tigress when he came to subdue the local demon, Singye Samdrup. After subduing the demon, Guru Rinpoche is said to have meditated in a cave here for three whole months.

The Monastery is only accessible by foot via a one and a half to two hour hike up the valley side. The trek offers spectacular views from the ridge and passes a small chorten, a basic monastery, and a waterfall on its way.

Once you have reached the Tiger’s Nest, you will have a chance to visit the cave where Guru Rinpoche meditated, as well as the extensive network of Lhakhangs (chapels) which house images, murals, chortens, and a holy spring. You may also wish to make a diversion to the attractive Machig-phu Lhakhang (temple) on the way back down to the access road.

After the visit, you will head back to your hotel in Paro, where you will be able to relax for the remainder of the day or do some last-minute shopping for souvenirs.

In the evening, enjoy a farewell dinner with your guide at a nearby restaurant. 

Accommodation: The Village Lodge or similar (3*)
Meals: B,L,D

Day 9

Depart Paro

Elevation      Weather in Paro

After breakfast today, you will be transferred to the airport for your international departure flight. 

Meals: B

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