The Sacred Valley Trek17 Nights 18 Days
The Sacred Valley Trek
The scared valley trek is a moderate trek of ten days that takes you through the magnificent Thangbi valley, following along the Chamkhar River. It takes you to the base camp of Gangkhar Puensum (Bhutan’s highest mountain and te world’s highest unclimbed mountain). According to Bhutanese history, the mountain is the source of three major Bhutanese rivers, the Kurui Chu, Chamkhar Chu, and the Mangde Chu. These rivers flow through the Lhuntse, Bumthang and Trongsa valleys respectively, and each area has a pivotal significance in Bhutanese history, religion and culture.
- ParoIn Paro valley, we see the castle-fortress at Rinpung, the ruins of the “Victory Fortress at Drugyel”, the National Museum, and the 7th century temple complex at Kurje. The highlight is the hike to Taktshang monastery (Tiger’s Lair), an edifice on a sheer cliff wall 800 meters above the valley floor, worshipped in the entire Himalayan Buddhist world.
- ThimphuIn Thimphu, we visit the magnificent castle-fortress at Tashi Chho Dzong, the seat of power which also houses the palace of the King. Then we go to other places of interest like the Memorial Stupa, traditional paper factory, Folk Heritage Museum, Textile Academy, Handicraft Emporium, the site of the world’s biggest Buddha statue.
- Bhutanese CultureStroll around town and see Bhutanese culture by observing people, dress, language, customs, art and craft, etc.
- 1 ARRIVAL PAROThe flight over the Himalayas is one of the most spectacular experiences one will ever experience. You will fly past Mt. Everest, Kanchenjunga and the entire Himalayan range visible on the left hand side. On landing at Paro you will be met by our representative from Journey to Discover Bhutan. After Customs and Immigrations formalities, you will be escorted to the hotel. Over night at hotel
- 2 Paro - BUMTHANG (Fly to Bumathang)Fly to Bumthang by domastic flight, The drive takes around 8-9 hours. The road passes through National horticulture center at Yuespang over the Dochu La at 10,000 feet (la, a word we’ll get to know well, means pass). In clear weather, the pass offers paranomic view of Himalayan summits stretching far to the northeast. Spiraling down from the pass to the fertile valley of Lobesa, we pass across the fortress of Wangdiphodrang. The trail climbs steadily through tropical vegetation, finally reaching the Pele La (10,825 feet). Descend through the open meadows of yak herder’s settlement till Chendebji Chorten, a shrine of ancient lineage built on the old walking trail across the country. The first sight of Trongsa Dzong, the largest in Bhutan, is most impressive and a masterpiece in architecture. The road winds another 20 kilometers before reaching the town. We will have a short stop over in Trongsa to explore the shops of Trongsa. Depart for Bumthang over Yongtong la pass 11,635ft. As we enter the Chume Valley (the first of the four valleys which comprise the Bumthang Valley) we will observe the Yathra weaving center at Zugney. Yathra is the name for the locally produced hand-woven woolen cloth. Distinctive patterns and bright, earthy colors enliven the fabric, which is used for a wide variety of purposes and much sought after throughout Bhutan. Another 20 minutes drive to Jakar. Check in your hotel. Overnight Guesthouse.
- 3 BUMTHANG VALLEY SIGHTSEEINGToday is kept as an easy day for acclimatization for the Trek. The day begins with visit to the places of cultural and historical interest. First visit will be to Jambay Lakhang, the first monastery built in Bhutan in 7th century by Tibetan King followed by Kurjey Lakhang, which bears the body imprint of Guru Rimpoche on a rock. From here start a gradual walk to Tamshing monastery, related to Tertorn Pemalingpa (treasure discover), followed by visit to Kharchu Dratsang, a private monastery of his eminence Namkhai Ningpo. It is a religious institute for monks. Lunch at your guesthouse, Afternoon visit Jakar Dzong, castle of white bird, presently the administrative center and religious institute of Bumthang district. Evening at leisure. Overnight: Guesthouse.
- 4 BUMTHANG – KHAGTHANGSTART OF THE TREK FROM TOKTOZAMPA Drive to the north Kurjey valley (8800 ft). We start our trek at the Toktozam Bridge. Within 20 minutes we come to Thangbi Lakhang, a 15th century monastery founded by Pema Lingpa with the original statuary of eight bodhisattvas and two protector deities. We continue up the valley following the feeder road till Shabjithang Community School. We pass through Nasphey village to Khagthang military camp, where we camp in a meadow near the river.
- Elevation: 9425 ft
- Altitude gain: 625 ft
- Time: 5-6 hrs
- 5 KHAGTHANG – SHEMTHANGContinuing up the west side of the Chamkhar Chu, we walk through rolling terrain of alternating bamboo forest and meadow, past several wooden bridges (which we do not cross) and finally to a new suspension bridge that we cross, onward 20 minutes to our meadow camp at Shemthang.
- Elevation: 10,750 ft
- Altitude gain: 1,325 ft
- Time: 7-8 hrs
- 6 SHEMTHANG – TSAMPA GOMPAWe now continue ascending the east bank of the Chamkhar Chu, through bamboo and rhododendron grooves into spruce, fir, juniper, and birch forest to the last settlement in the valley with a small Royal Bhutan Army post at Tsampa Gompa. Above us looms a rock citadel festooned with prayer flags, the abode of Draktsen, one of the ancient war gods of pre-Buddhist Bhutan (handy for the army), now sworn to protect the Buddhist teachings and the animals of the valley. Above here no living being can be killed or trash burned. As it is never wise to provoke a war god, even a retired one, we will comply with local tradition.
- Elevation: 12,225 ft
- Altitude gain: 1,475 ft
- Time: 5-6 hrs.
- 7 TSAMPA GOMPA – SHINGKUFrom our camp at the confluence of two branches of the Chamkhar Chu we now head northwest up the left or main fork. Gaining altitude more quickly now, we pass through the first of numerous seasonal yak-herding camps with ancient boulders carved and inscribed with the mantras of Chenrezig, the bodhisattva of compassion and Guru Rimpoche, the demon-taming saint who is credited with bringing Buddhism to the Himalayas. We stop near treeline at the yak camp of Shingku, literally ‘top trees’ in Dzongkha, to savour one last forest meadow and also for acclimatization.
- Elevation: 13,825 ft
- Altitude gain: 1,600 ft
- Time: 4-5 hrs.
- 8 SHINGKU - BUMARPAAn easy morning’s walk to the yak settlement of Bumarpa, from which the day-hiking possibilities are seemingly endless and the views of the peaks are spectacular.
- Elevation: 14,800 ft
- Altitude gain: 975 ft
- Time: 3-4 hrs
- 9 BUMARPA – BASE CAMPExploration/Leisure. If the weather is good, we highly recommend a pre-breakfast jaunt up the hill to the east of camp for an extraordinary early morning view of Gangkhar Puensum (1 hr r/t 500-700 ft alt. gain). After that, some people may find a day of relaxation just what the doctor ordered. Others may wish to hike up valley past Buurstam, the last yak encampment, to the base of the glacier (2-3 hrs r/t 500 ft alt. gain). There is a pristine alpine lake, less than an hour from camp in the cirque to the southwest (2 hrs r/t 300-500 ft alt. gain). And finally, those with energy to spare may wish to opt for an upclose and personal view of Gangkhar Puensum’s famed three brothers (summits) by taking the valley to the west. This 6-7 hr r/t 2000 ft alt. gain hike is ‘noticeably uphill’ as the guiding euphemism goes, it takes us to what must be the highest (16,500 ft) room with a view in yak-herding Bhutan.
- 10 BUMARPA – TSAMPA GOMPAToday we return down valley and cross the river on a new wooden bridge just above Tsampa Gompa for a secluded riverside camp.
- Elevation: 12,175 ft
- Altitude gain: 2,625 ft
- Time: 6-7 hrs
- 11 TSAMPA – THOLEYTHANGToday we use some of that slowly acquired acclimatization to traverse up and around the rocky spur above camp. The operative word is ‘up’, but the reward is a glorious hanging valley with a chance to see blue sheep, blood pheasant, the extraordinary blue Himalayan monal, and the largest bird in the Himalayas, the lammergier – all seen here on our reconnaissance.
- Elevation: 14,600 ft
- Altitude gain: 2,425 ft
- Time: 5-6 hrs
- 12 THOLEYTHNAG – THOLEY LA – LABRANGWe move easily along the valley floor for an hour, past a mirror-smooth alpine lake. Keep an eye and ear open for the ruddy shelduck, a frequent visitor. Then it’s up through the tundra and hardy wildflowers to the pass at 15,685 ft. We’re rewarded with yet another glacially carved hanging valley, this one with immense rock walls and towers. We descend to camp at the yak camp of Labrang.
- Elevation: 13,625 ft
- Altitude gain: 1,085 ft
- Altitude loss: 2,060 ft
- Time: 4-5 hrs
- 13 LABRANG – CHOCHOKMEYFrom Labrang it’s a short walk to treeline, then down along the cascading river through rhododendron, juniper, and spruce into denser fir, hemlock, and birch forest. We cross several wooden cantilever bridges, always following the main river drainage downward, ending the day with a short, stiff little climb of 500 ft up the west bank to Chochokmey, a welcome, open meadow camp with excellent views.
- Elevation: 10,625 ft
- Altitude gain: 500 ft
- Altitude loss: 3,500 ft
- Time: 6-7 hrs
- 14 CHOCHOKMEY – DHUR – MENCHUGANG – JAKAREND OF TREK This being Bhutan, our last day of ‘down’ begins with a little more ‘up,’ then rolls downward through bamboo, skirting the downhill edges of several meadows and into blue pine forest. The air seems positively thick here. We descend to the river with live oaks now interspersed among the pines and continue along the valley floor beneath the village of Dhur. Finally, we pass under a new suspension bridge, round a corner to see a startlingly white stupa surrounded by prayer flags and it’s over. We cross a tributary via another suspension bridge to the trailhead town of Menchugang and our waiting transport back to the luxuries of hot showers, sheets, and possibly a Red Panda beer to toast an extraordinary trek.
- 15 BUMTHANG – PUNAKHADepart your hotel early morning to Puankha. The drive takes around 7-8 hours and packed lunch will served at Chendebji Chorten. Continue your journey to Puankha. Evening at leisure. Overnight Hotel
- 16 PUNAKHA / THIMPHU / PAROMorning visit Punakha Dzong, winter seat of central monk body and an ancient capital of Bhutan, which is remarkably located between two rivers of Pho Chu (male river) and and the Mo chu (Female river) Continue your journey to Paro and lunch will be at Dochula Cafeteria. Drive to Paro takes another 3 hours. Evening at leisure. Overnight at Hotel.
- 17 PARO VALLEY SIGHTSEEINGToday will be spent sightseeing in the Paro valley. Firstly our day begins with a hike to the Taktsang Lhakhang, known as The Tiger’s Nest this magical monastery clings to a vertical granite cliff 3,000 feet above the valley floor. The legend of Taktsang dates back to 747 AD when Guru Rinpoche (Padma Sambhava), in the wrathful form of Dorje Droloe, 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, which is the site of the Pelphug Lhakhang today. According to Tantric Buddhist mythology, the vanquished local deities became the protectors of the Dharma. Drive to the end of the road head till Ramthangkha In approximately one hour, we will reach a small teahouse that has a wonderful panoramic view of the temple. For those interested, it is possible to get a closer view of the monastery by hiking uphill for another 45 minutes. Lunch will be at the teahouse. Walk down hill to the base and drive to visit National Museum and Paro Rimpong Dzong. Finally stroll in Paro town.
- 18 PARO / BANGKOK or Katmandu (EXIT)Depart to the Paro Airport for your onward flight.
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Our ten day trip through Bhutan was a truly amazing experience. Bhutan is a beautiful kingdom and thanks to our excellent guide Tsheten, we could explore it thoroughly.
Tine Raeymaekers & Cis Verbeeck
I visited Bhutan in January/February 2007 for 11 days, and it was an incredible experience. Tsheten took very good care of me and introduced me at easy pace to Bhutan culture, customs, history and people.
It was clear that Bhutan had captured everyone's attention when my fellow taking photos the minute they stepped off the plane - and we hadn't even entered the airport yet! I was met at the airport by Tsheten himself, and from start to finish, he was organized, charming and attentive.