This is a 3 days trek through the variety of forest, rugged landscape draped in many species of rhododendrons, remote villages and isolated monasteries. You will walk along the tranquil ridges and mountains, treated to unparalleled views of Mt. Gangkar Puensum, the highest unclimbed peak in the world. There is an abundance of avian wildlife in this area and pheasants such as the beautiful Himalayan Tragopan are a common sight around April-May.
The best times to undertake this trek is in late spring, between April and early June when the rhododendrons are in full bloom.
Day 01: Bangkok/Delhi/Katmandu – Paro -Thimphu
Highlights: Spectacular views of Mt Everest (8,848 m), Kanchenjunga (8,586m) and Lhotse (8,414 m); and a literal adrenaline-pumping landing on the roof of the world.
Travel by Druk Air, Bhutan’s national airline, to Paro, the country’s only international airport. The flight is exhilarating to say the least, as the route traverses parallel to the mighty Himalayas enabling passengers to see the world’s highest peak, Mt Everest, and many more. The descent affords a panoramic view of Bhutan’s foothills culminating into a thrilling landing at what is considered one of the world’s most challenging airports.
Meet your guide at the airport and head to the hotel for lunch. Devote the afternoon to sightseeing around the Paro valley famed for its natural beauty, historical monuments, agricultural farms and quintessentially Bhutanese village communities. Visit the National Museum, formerly a watchtower, and then the Castle on a Heap of Precious Jewels or RinpungDzong. Wind up the day with a stroll around Paro town. Evening drive from Paro to Thimphu is just under an hour. On the way stop at the Tamchoe Monastery view and chuzom the confluence of Paro and Thimphu River. Overnight at the hotel
Day 02: A Sojourn in Thimphu
Highlights: The power centre and the capital city of the Happy Kingdom. Also the hub of commerce and culture.
There are great many places to see in Bhutan’s capital. In the morning we will drive to Buddha Point, which provides a spectacular 360-degree close-quarter view of entire Thimphu and the adjoining areas. This is the site of the world’s tallest statue of Shakyamuni Buddha. Our next destination is the Memorial chorten of Third king of Bhutan the JigmeDorjiWangchuk, visit the 12th century Changangkha Temple, Takin Zoo and the viewpoint at Sangaygang. On our way back, we stopover at a nunnery, the Folk Heritage Museum and the Textile Museum.
After lunch, we will proceed to TashichhoDzong, a 17th century castle-fortress which today houses the offices of the King, Chief Abbot and government ministries. We will also take the opportunity to see the nearby parliament complex, the School of Arts and Crafts, vegetable market, and then spend the rest of the day watching an archery match and strolling around the town.
Day 03: Thimphu – Punakha/Wangdi
Distance: 77 kilometers, Time: 3 hours
Highlights: A panoramic view of the snow-capped eastern Himalayas and a multitude of alpine flowers and birds; Bhutan’s ancient capital and Temple of Fertility.
The three to four-hour drive from Thimphu traverses thorough a constantly changing kaleidoscope of vegetation, waterfalls, flowers, mountains and meadows. In about 45 minutes we will reach the famous Dochula pass (3,100m) where on a clear day we can see the entire eastern Himalayan range, teeming with 6,000m to 7,554m snow-capped mountains. The pass also known for its abundant species of extremely beautiful flowers has 108 Buddhist stupas exquisitely built around a mound, adding to the natural splendor of the place.
From the pass we descend to the sub-tropical valley of Punakha. Punakha served as the ancient capital of capital and still possesses the country’s main treasures in the form of Buddhist relics. Resembling a gigantic ship on an ocean floor from afar, and girdled by two (Male and Female) rivers, the castle-fortress also represents the best specimen of Bhutanese architecture.
After lunch in a small nearby village together with a rural farming household, we will walk along a footpath flanked by an endless view of ripening paddy fields to the Temple of Fertility – ChimiLhakhang. This temple, built in the 15th century to honour the “Divine Madman”, a saint iconoclast who is also associated with phallus worship, attracts barren couples from all over to receive fertility blessings from an anointed phallus. Than drive further to Punakha and stop at the views point the confluence of Male (Pho chu) and female (Mo chu) rivers and visit the PunakhaDzong, later visit the SangchenLhendrup Nunnery monastery.Night halt in Punakha
Day 04: PUNAKHA/WANGDUE -TRONGSA – BUMTHANG
Embark on a scenic drive to Bumthang over the Black mountain ridge via Pelela pass (3300m)/ Chendibjichorten (large Nepalese stupa)/ Tangsibji village. Lunch at Trongsa.
After lunch visit to TrongsaDzong, the biggest palace-fortress in the Kingdom reputed to have been built without using a single iron nail. This fortress has for centuries been the vanguard of powerful warriors, one of whom even led successful expeditionary forces against British-Indian army in the southern boundaries of his domain. We complete our Trongsa sojourn with a visit to the Watch Tower, Ta dzong, which is today preserved as the Museum of Bhutanese Kings.
The drive to Bumthang is initially an upward ascent for nearly half the journey till we reach the highest point at Yotong La pass (3,400 m). After a brief stopover to view the Black Mountain range, we drive towards Chumey entering the country’s most expansive and beautiful valley known as Bumthang or a Meadow of Beautiful Vase. The women of Chumey are known for their skills in weaving the exquisite Yathra – a clothing with intricate floral patterns woven out of sheep’s wool.Night halt in Bumthang.
Day 05: Stopover in Bumthang
Highlights: Monuments and structures which bring alive the exploits of saints and kings
This is the valley of myths and legends. One of the oldest surviving man-made structures in Bhutan, a temple dedicated to Buddha Shakyamuni, JambayLhakhang, was built in 639 AD as part of an oath by Tibetan emperor SongstenGampo to subdue a demoness who lay spread-eagled across the Himalayas obstructing the teachings of the Buddha. Our next visit will be the Castle of the White Bird (JakarDzong) whose central tower (utse) is the tallest in Bhutan. The castle currently serves as the administrative centre for the district.
From Jakar, we drive a short distance to Chakhar and then to KurjeyLhakhag. Albeit oblivious today, Chakhar is the site of the legendary “Nine-Storied Iron Castle” built by Sindhu Raja (king) in the 8th century and the innumerable myths surrounding it. Kurjey, meaning “Body Imprint on Rock”, has temples built against a wall of cliff. The imprint belongs to the 8th century saint Padmasambhava who mediated in a rock cave and, using his tantric powers as well as guile and guise, subdued the evils who tormented the people in the vicinity.
After lunch at our hotel, we drive to Tamzhingmonastery which preserves the remains of the works of TertonPemaLingpa who, in the 15th century, discovered many secret tantric teachings hidden by Padmasambhava. PemaLingpa was an artist and sculptor extraordinaire but, more importantly, one of the five “King Tertons” – treasure revealers – of Vajrayana Buddhism. Our last visit for the day is the “Burning Lake” in Tang where PemaLingpa, challenged by a local warlord, took a dive into a pool with a lighted butter lamp on his head and re-emerged from the lake with the lamp intact and holding a hitherto unknown statue in his hands.Night halt in Bumthang
DAY 06: (OWL TREK STARTS) MANCHUGANG – DHUR VILLAGE
The trek starts from Manchugang and takes you to Dhur village (2900m). The inhabitants of the village are the nomadic Kheps and Brokpas. There is a traditional water-driven flourmill near the river, which used to be a source of livelihood for the people of Dhur village. The trek resumes with an uphill climb through blue pine forests towards the campsite at Schonath (3450m), which is covered in hemlock and juniper trees. The otherwise silent nights are punctuated with the hooting of owls, hence the name ‘The Owl Trek’.
DAY 07: DHUR VILLAGE – DRANGELA PASS
The second day of this trek is mainly through lush forests of hemlock, fir, spruce and many species of rhododendrons which are in full bloom during the months of April and May.After few hours of walking you will arrive at the Drangela Pass (3600m). Climbing up the Kitiphu ridge brings you to the campsite for the night at an altitude of about 3870m. This point offers fresh view of snow capped mountains and valleys underneath. This is also when you can view the mount Gangkarpunsum (7541m).
DAY 08: DRANGELA PASS – THARPALING MONASTRY (OWL TREK ENDS)
On day three you descend towards the monasteries of Zambhalha, Chuedak and Tharpaling. Chuedak monastery has 100 Avoloketeshvaras in the form of Chukchizhey (eleven heads). Towards the afternoon the trek will take you along the ridge of Kikila and following the traditional trek route between Trongsa and Bumthang (the Royal Heritage Trail) through scenic hills and forests. Finally you will have the best view of JakarDzong and come to end of the trek at Bumthang. Your will be picked up by your vehicle from Tharpaling monastery and driven to a comfortable resort with spa & massage facility for aovernight stay in Bumthang.
DAY 09: BUMTHANG – TRONGSA – GANGTEY
After breakfast proceed to Gantey/Phobjikha via Trongsa about 5 hours. The approach to Phobjikha valley is through a forest of Oak and Rhododendron. Phobjikha is one of the most beautiful valleys in Bhutan and is the home to the very rare black-necked crane. The birds migrate from Tibet to Bhutan to winter here (from October -March). Visit GangteyGompa, one of the oldest Nyingmapa monasteries that look like a small Dzong and vist the crane centre. Walk around the villages. Overnight at the hotel
Day 10: Gangtey – Paro via wangdi
This morning drive 6hour to Paro and enroute visit Royal Botanical Park at Lamperi and lunch at the local restaurant on they way to Paro. Afternoon visit the 7th century Kyichu Temple, believed to have been built on a place that resembled a knee of a giant ogress. You can play the traditional sport he archery for an hour on the archer ground. Evening visit local farmhouse and enjoy the local dinner with family. Overnight at the hotel
Day 11: Discovering Paro Valley
Highlights: Hike to the Tiger’s Lair, the most famous Buddhist monastery in the Himalayas, built on a sheer rock face.
After breakfast, drive for half an hour and start hiking up to the temple that is renowned in the Himalayan Buddhist world as one of the most popular sites of pilgrimage. The five-hour round trip follows an ancient but oft-trodden footpath flanked by water-driven prayer wheels.
The temple, precariously perched on a hair-raising ravine about 1,000 metres above the valley floor, is considered sacrosanct as it was in a cave within this temple that the eight century tantric saint, Padmasambhava, subdued the evils who obstructed the teachings of the Buddha. The saint is believed to have come to Taktshang in a fiery wrathful form riding a tigress. Over the years, many Buddhist saints have meditated in and around the temple and discovered numerous hidden treasure teachings.
Visit the ruins of DrugyelDzongenroute. The fortress known as the “Castle of the Victorious Drukpa”, is a symbol of Bhutan’s victory over the Tibetan invasions in the 17th and 18th centuries. We can also get a view of the sacred mountain, Jumolhari, along the way. On the way back to our hotel, we will visit the 7th century Kyichu Temple, believed to have been built on a place that resembled a knee of a giant ogress. Evening walk around the town for shopping and Cultural show at hotel. Overnight at hotel
Day 12: Paro – Bangkok/Delhi/Katmandu
After breakfast drive to Paro international Airport and fly out.