Justifiably the most popular trekking destination in Bhutan is the Jomolhari Trek. Locales believes that the mountains are the abode of the gods. It is fitting that Chomolhari, considered one of the most beautiful and imposing mountains existing anywhere across the great Himalayan range, is Bhutan's deeply venerated guardian peak. Its location on the northwestern border with Tibet means that on a relatively brief journey one is afforded the opportunity of experiencing the sparkling majesty of some of the world's highest summits and the ascetic magnificence of a lunar alpine wilderness sparsely inhabited by migrating yak-herders.
Your journey begins with a gentle ascent through the Paro valley. Already the distant shadow of Chomolhari looms large as you pass through fantastically undisturbed forests of rhododendron and pine, past sporadic village settlements and lush fields. The trail continues, rising above the tree line through a spectacular snow peak flanked valley, to the base camps of Chomolhari and its dazzling companion peak, Jichu Drake. The entire area is abundant with wildlife, including blue sheep, takin and a wide variety of birds. Our newly revised route then traverses the remote wilderness (quite possibly under the vigilant watch of the elusive snow leopard), crossing two high passes before making a steep descent back to the valley floor. The trip ends with a whistle-stop tour around the highlights of the west.
Please have your Bhutan visa copy, passport and the air ticket ready at this time. Airlines does not permit advance seat assignments and the check in staff will assign all seats. It may be possible to switch seats with others once on the plane. On a clear day we can view Kangchenjunga - the 3rd highest peak in the world, Mt. Everest, and Chomolhari, Bhutan's sacred mountain.
Upon arrival in Paro, the immigration official will stamp the Bhutan visa into your passport. Exit the customs area, and you will meet your Bhutanese guide and the driver. After lunch in town, visit Kichu Lhakhang, which is one of the oldest and most important temple in the country. Here your guide will arrange for a small blssing ceremony for safe passage and good eather for the rest of the journey in the kingdom and specially for our trek. Later stretch your legs by taking walk around the town before retreating to the hotel for rejuvenation.
Your guide will take you through some orientation on the trips over dinner.
After an early breakfast today, we drive 15 minutes to the base of Taktsang Temple and prepare for our acclimatization hike today. This magical monastery clings to a vertical granite cliff 2,600 feet above the valley floor. The legend of Taktsang (Tiger's lair) dates back to 747 AD when Guru Rinpoche (Padma Sambhava), is believed to have arrived at this site on the back of a tiger and subdued the evil spirits in the region. The Guru then meditated in the holy cave that is the site of the Pelphug Lhakhang today. According to Tantric Buddhist mythology, the vanquished local deities became the protectors of the dharma and one of them, Singye Samdrup, is recognized today as the guardian deity of Taktsang.
Guru Rinpoche is also believed to have concealed among the rocks of Taktsang various forms of Dharma treasures known as Ters, which were destined to be discovered later by Tertons (treasure discoverers) for the propagation of Dharma. In approximately one hour, we will reach the teahouse that has a wonderful panoramic view of the temple. For those interested, it is possible to get a closer view by hiking another 45 minutes to an hour (each direction) to reach the small chorten directly across from the temple. Anyone not interested in hiking further can relax at the teahouse and enjoy the view. One can continue further to visit the temple. The entire hike (roundtrip) is about 5 hours.
Afternoon leisure time in hotel to pack your gears for the trek tomorrow.
Elevation gain: 700m/2,300ft
Elevation loss: 700m/2,300ft
In the morning, we drive the winding road northwest up to Drukyel Dzong hich is currently undergoing renovation. Drugyal Dzong was once the first line of defence against Tibetan invadrs. On a clear day you will see the summit of Mt. Chomolhari (24,500 feet), the sacred summit, reaching skyward beyond the Dzong. The farm roads are unpaved so get yourslf ready for bumps on the way. The road follows the river gently uphill through a narrowing agricultural valley, many farms line the valley. The trail proceeds up a wide valley beneath forest-covered mountains. Bright red chilis dry on the farmhouse rooftops and wheat fields are golden and ready for harvest.
After two hrs drive, we will be stopped at army checkpost to show our permits. From here takes about 20 minutes to reach the last farmhouse and the road point. Here you will meet your terkking crew members and ponies. After a simple lunch, start your trek following the course of the river which flows from Jomolhari. The trail is gentle and takes us to our first camp in a grove of pines at Shana, which is at the confluence of two valleys.
Elevation Gain: 365m/l,200ft
Elevation loss: 0
Early morning you will be wokn up by staff with bed tea and washing water. After breakfast and breakfast, we continu our trek again. For many this is the most challenging day, due to both the uneven terrain and the distance. The trail heads gradually up the river valley, passing farms and crossing and re-crossing the river many times. The trail goes up and down quite a bit and the footing is sometimes challenging with many river rocks on the path. One last climb after tea, up about 300 feet to a small pass, then the trail levels out above the river and gradually winds down again to cross a cantilever bridge. After the bridge, the trail climbs again and then splits. We take the left side trail towards the mountain, the trail to the right (past the chorten) heads to Soi Yaksa. Camp is in a meadow near a stone shelter that the government has built for trekkers. If the weather is clear, we should get a stunning view of Chomolhari from this camp.
Elevation gain: 666m/2,200ft
Elevation loss: 0
We continue up the Pa Chu river, passing a small army post where the valley begins to widen again. The trail climbs to a beautiful flat plateau with a small chorten, and then follows the river around a sharp bend. Another brief climb takes us to a plateau where our staff will have a hearty lunch waiting for us. After a hot lunch of noodles and vegetables, we continue, now above tree line, through a spectacular valley lined with snow peaks and several huge waterfalls. We pass the small village of Jangothang, with a community school. We will seek permission from the head teacher to visit the classroom and interact with the young children who will be happy to see someone from outside. You can ask them anything and you can also share your stories to the curious and excitd students. We will then end our session with the students with our gifts and group picture.
Another 45 minutes walk will lead us to the base of the ruins of an ancient fortress and (if it is clear) Chomolhari looming at the end of the valley. According to our trip leader Sha Phurba "Mount Chomolhari never dissappoint visitors to allow a glimpse of her summit even during the cloudy days". This is a great place to arrive early and take some optional evening hikes in the region or simply take a chair and sip tea and enjoying the magnificent view of Mt. Jomolhari in the front.
Elevation gain: 600m/1,9809ft
Elevation loss: 100m/330ft
Its a big day today because we have a long distance to cover. The trail crosses the river and begins to climb up to the lakes. A steep climb for about 45 minutes with spectacular views of Jitchu Drake and Chomolhari which grow more and more impressive as you gain altitude. Once you reach the top of the plateau, the trail will level out and after crossing a small hill, the first lake will come into view. This is a spectacular walk with the three major peaks rising above the valley, a broad stream on your right and snow covered peaks in the distance.
As we near the top of the pass, we cross a small glacial stream. The trail winds up and into an upper valley, with snow capped peaks in the distance. We skirt several streams and a small lake as we make our way towards the final climb to the Bang Tue La (Pass) at 4,730m/15,600ft.. Be on the lookout for Blue Sheep on the steep hillsides above the valley. In the fall, the sheep gather together in herds numbering up to 500 individuals. In addition to the Blue Sheep, there are several Snow Leopard which live in this region. As we climb, we will pace ourselves to allow our bodies to adjust to the elevation. We stop for a quick group photo and to yell, 'LHA GEY LO!! - A Bhutanese tradition which means 'Praise to the gods of the pass!"
From the pass, the trail drops quickly to a huge grass-covered plateau dotted with yak herder tent stone circles. To the right is a massive cliff with waterfalls and a vast scree field below. The valley of Soi Yaksa is an incredibly scenic box canyon which ends abruptly at the foot of the steep cliff. Above the canyon floor, the landscape is comprised of cliffs, waterfalls and higher still, snow covered peaks. Above the cliff to our right, the mountain rises to a dramatic point, resembling the throne of a local deity. As we ramble through the steep grazing fields, we can see the edge of the plateau, which ends with a final descent to the valley floor and our campsite beside a rushing stream.
Elevation gain: 707m/2,333ft
Elevation loss: 484m/1600ft
We climb steadily for 600 feet above the camp and then the trails levels out and winds around a ridge and crosses a stream. Another steep climb leads us to a small pass marked by several small chortens. We stopped for a brief tea break and then continue, now above tree line, past one yak herder tent and herds of grazing yaks. We reach the next valley which has a beautiful snow fed river. We cross the river and begin the climb to the pass. It is steep, but we take our time and after one and half hours we reach our second pass, Takalung La at 14,400ft. From the pass, we can see the large valley of Thangbue and our campsite for the night. A gently winding trail leads us downhill to our camp. If the weather cooperates, the view from the pass is spectacular, with Chomolhari and Jitchu Drake rising over the mountain range we covered yesterday. We have a clear view of the Bang Tue La, (yesterday's pass), and the Soi Yaksa Valley. Thangbue is a wide valley filled with yak herder encampments, many yaks, horses, and a few goats.
Elevation gain: 646m/2132ft
Elevation Loss: 397m/1312ft
In the morning the trail climbs steeply from camp up the side of a mountain covered with dwarf rhododendron. It is a relatively short but steep climb to the small pass. From this point, we begin a wonderful part of our trek route. For almost two hours, we walk along a ridgeline trail with drop offs to the valley floors below on both sides. If it is clear, there are panoramic views of the major peaks and distant valleys. Eventually we drop down from the high ridge and we begin to glimpse views of another dramatic peak, Drake Gang. Like Jitchu Drake, it is the residence of a local male deity, while Chomolhari is the home of Jomo, a female deity. We are now in an area of rocky cliffs and parapets, which is faded in and out of the mist. We drop further don to a lovely spot with views of the valleys below us. We stop for a tea break while enjoying the view. From this tranquil spot, we begin one of our most challenging parts of the trek. For the next three hours, we dropped steeply on a switchback trail losing about 4500 feet. The trail again is littered with many stones, which make footing challenging. Taking our time (and watching our knees!), we descend to the valley floor. As we lose elevation, the landscape changes from alpine with dwarf rhododendrons to lush pine forests with huge old growth trees. Even lower, we entered a mixed forest of pine and oak.
During the remaining journey from GUNITSAWA to Drukyel Dzong, we enjoy the relatively flat (compared to the walk from Thangbue) walk to the road head. Upon arrival at a certain point, we will be met by the staff and vehicles for a post trek celebration and pick up. Drive to Paro to your hotel.
Elevation gain: 218m/722ft
Elevation loss: 1,345m/4440ft
Today, we drive to the capital of Bhutan - Thimphu and explore some of city highlights, Memorial stupa, Buddha Point, weekend Market, Textile Museum, Posta Museum, Crafts bazaar, Papr factory, Painting School, handicraft shops, etc. In the evening, we drive back to Paro for farewell dinner with your guide and driver.
Last minute shopping for souvenir in Paro town before checking into th hotel overnight.
Our guide and driver will see you off at the airport to depart Bhutan. We hope you had a wonderful time in Bhutan. Wishing you safe flight home. Bon Voyage, Tashi Delek!