Brief Background on Trekking Route
The Phobjika Valley, at 3000 metres (9840ft), is one of the few glacial valleys in Bhutan and is the chosen home of the rare black-necked crane which migrates here in winter from Tibetan Plateau. The valley of Gangtay is one of the most beautiful places in Bhutan and Gangtey Goempa is the only Nyingmapa monastery on the western side of the Black Mountains. During this moderate trek, one visits the villages of Gogona and Khotokha, passing through meadows and fields, then forests of juniper, magnolia and rhododendrons. This is a combination of moderate and easy treks. It starts from Phobjikha Valley at 3000m, which is one of the few glacial valleys in Bhutan. This is one of the finest low-altitude treks in Bhutan.
Trekking Season: March-June & September-November
Day 1: Arrive Paro & Paro-Thimphu ( 54 km, 1 hr)
Arrive Paro by Drukair. After immigration and customs formalities, you will be received by the representative of Access Bhutan Tours & Treks. Then you will be driven to Thimphu.
Check into your hotel in Thimphu and after lunch visit the following
- Centenary Farmers’ Market (open from Thu-Sun only): Most of the Thimphu’s population and many valley dwellers converge on the bustling weekend market, held by the side of Wangchu River. A wide range of foodstuffs and local arts and crafts are sold at the market, which runs from Friday afternoon till Sunday evening. A visit to the market provides great photo opportunities, as well as the chance to mingle with local people.
- Takin Preserve, which houses the national animal the Takin that is only found in Bhutan. This is an extremely rare member of the goat family. Found in herds in the very high altitudes (13,125ft and over). They live on a diet of grass and bamboo. It can weigh as much as 550 pounds.
- Changzamtok Weaving Center to observe beautiful colourful silk and cotton textiles being woven into shawls, scarves and traditional Bhutanese dresses.
- Kuenselphodrang ( commonly known as Buddha Point) where the largest Buddha statue in the country is perched on the hillock overlooking the Thimphu Valley .
- Tashichhoe Dzong, a fortress of the glorious religion. It was built in 1641 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel and was reconstructed into present structure by the late King, His majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck in the year 1962-1969. It houses the secretariat building, the throne room and the office of the king, and the central monk body.
- The National Memorial Chorten (stupa) which was constructed in 1974 as a memorial for the third King of Bhutan, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, who is widely regarded as the father of modern Bhutan. The term ‘chorten’ literally means ' seat of faith' and Buddhists often call such monuments the 'Mind of Buddha'. Meet the elderly generation in circumambulation, especially in the evenings, at the National Memorial Chorten.
- Craft Bazaar where craftsmen and artisans from across the country display and sell their handicrafts.
Dinner & overnight at Hotel Migmar or similar in Thimphu.
Day 02: Thimphu-Punakha/Wangdue
Distance: 71 km & estimated driving time: 2½ hours
After breakfast, you will travel to Punakha & Wangdue through Dochula Pass (3,088m). In the clear spring sky, you can enjoy the panoramic view of the Himalayan Mountain ranges. At Dochula Pass you will see the beautiful 108 chortens (stupa) built on the hill by Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck (the Queen Mother of Bhutan) for the security and well being of His Majesty, the King of Bhutan. You will also visit Druk Wangyal Lhakhang (temple) .The temple was built to honor His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck (the 4th King of Bhutan). The past and future appear to merge in the details of the temple that tells the story of a supreme warrior figure whose vision pierces the distant future.
After refreshment at Dochula Pass Resort you will continue your journey to Punakha. Punakha has been inextricably linked to some of the most momentous events in the Bhutanese history and deserves its reputation as one of the most beautiful and significant regions at the heart of Bhutanese culture. Punakha had served as the capital of Bhutan from 1637 till 1907 and the 1st National Assembly was held here. Punakha Dzong (fortress) is historically important and stands as the symbol for a unified Bhutan.
You will stop at Lobesa Village to visit the Devine Madman’s Monastery-Chhimi Lhakhang, famously known for its fertility shrine, where one can receive a special fertility blessing. After lunch at Lobesa Village you will visit the Punakha Dzong, located on the island of the Pho - Chu (male river) and the Mochu (female river). The dzong was built in 1637 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (high Drupa Kagyu lama who unified the warring valley kingdoms under a single rule in 16th century) to serve as the religious and administrative seat of the region. It was here that the dual system of government was introduced in the 17th century and in 1907, enthroned the first King Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck. Damaged over the centuries by four catastrophic fires and an earthquake, the dzong has been fully restored in the recent years by the 4th King Jigme Singye Wangchuck. At the dzong, you can see the highest standards in woodwork. Also visit the massive Kuenray, the Coronation Hall of all Bhutanese kings, the Dzongchung at the entrance to the dzong and the cantilever bridge over the Mochu that has been recently renovated.
In the evening, drive through upper Punakha valley passing through farm houses and take a hike through farmhouses to the beautiful Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Lhakhang (temple) built by Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuck (the Queen Mother of Bhutan) for peace and stability in this ever-changing world. This temple is situated on the hilltop overlooking the valley below. The leisurely walk up to the temple would take about an hour. Visit the temple and also enjoy the breathtakingly beautiful view from there.
Dinner & overnight at Meri Puensum Resort or similar in Punakha.
Day 03: Punakha-Wangdue-Gangtey/Phobjikha Valley
Distance: 64 km,estimated driving time: 2 ½ hrs for one way
After breakfast drive to Phobjikha valley through the dense forests of the Phobjikha Valley you arrive at Gantey village where you see the Gangtey Monastery and visit the monastery. Phobjikha valley is part of the beautiful Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park (formerly known as Black Mountains National Park), one of Bhutan’s most important nature sanctuaries. Each winter it is home to a flock of 300 rare and endangered black-necked cranes. The surrounding hills and mountains are home to nomadic shepherds and yak-herders. This is one of the most remote and untouched regions in Bhutan and is only just opening its doors to the outside world.
The Black necked cranes start migration to this area from November each year. You will have refreshment and lunch at a resort/restaurant in this valley. Afternoon you can visit the Black Necked Crane Center and explore this beautiful scenic valley.
Overnight in camp at Phobjikha.
Day 04: Phobjikha-Zasa
Distance 15km, six to seven hours, 610m ascent, 410m descent, camp altitude 3,130m
The Trek starts near the village of Tabiting. The trail winds through meadows and fields and the climb takes you through a mixed forest of juniper, bamboo, magnolia and rhododendron to Tsele La (3430m). From here you descend into the Juge Kangkha Chhu valley. Further on, the path leads to Gogona, well know for its “Gogona Cheese” production.The campsite is a bit further on besides a small stream in a yak pasture called Zasa.
Day 05: Zasa-Chorten Karpo
Distance 16km,five to seven hours, 450m ascent, 860m descent, camp altitude 3,330m
A gentle climb leads to Shobe La pass (3,480m). The descent from the pass leads to a wide valley, surrounded by beautiful mountain ranges. Below the route one can see Khothokha, a village with about 60 houses. You finally reach the campsite by climbing gently up till you see four chortens ( stupa) in a forest filled with blue pines.
Camp in Chorten Karpo.
Day 06:Chorten Karpo –Tikke Zampa (Distance 12km, four to five hours, 120m ascent, 1,340m descent)
From the camp you climb till you reach a forest road. From here it’s an easy walk up to a little ridge at 2,800m. The walk down back into the valley leads you through Bhutan’s best bird watching areas.
Overnight at a hotel in Wangdue.
Day 07: Wangdue-Paro
Distance:125 km, estimated driving time: 3 ½ hrs
After breakfast you will be driven to Paro. After lunch at Paro you will visit the following:
- Paro Rinpung Dzong (fortress), built in 1645 to defend the valley against Tibetan invaders. The Dzong is now being used as an administration center and school for monks. From the Dzong you will walk down to Rimpung Bridge (Traditonal Cantilever Bridge), oldest bridge in Bhutan.
- Dungtse Lhakhang( temple): The unusual and circular lhakhang, reminiscent of the Shanag, or the black hat worn by the Bhutanese Black Hat dancers was, built by the great “Builder of iron chain bridges,” Drupthob Thangtong Gyalpo. Experience a visit to this unique temple whose founder was extended invitation by the two guardian deities of Ap Chundu and Jowo Drakey.
- Farm houses in Paro Valley and a visit to a farm house offers a good glimpse into the lifestyle of a farmer.
In the evening walk around Paro town and you may visit local handicraft shops.
Dinner & overnight at Tashi Namgay Resort or similar hotel in Paro.
Day 08:A Day Hike to Taktsang Ghoempa (Tiger’s Nest Monastery)
After breakfast, hike up to Taktsang Monastery, also known as ‘Tiger’s Nest’. The walk up to the viewpoint will take about 1 – 1 ½ hrs depending on your fitness and from View Point you will enjoy a spectacular view of the monastery clinging to the side of the cliff. Stop for refreshment at the View Point Cafeteria. Then walk further up to the monastery which will take about 1 hour. It is said that in the 8th century Guru Rinpoche flew on the back of a tigress from eastern Bhutan to this place and meditated in a cave here for 3 months. The principal Lhakhang (monastery) of the present monastic complex dates from 1692. Taktsang was damaged severely by fire in 1998 but has now been fully restored to its former glory. After visiting the monastery, walk downhill back to the road on the way stop for lunch at the view point cafeteria and then walk further downhill to the road point. Then drive back to hotel. On the way visit Kyichu temple,one of the 108 temples built in the 7th century by the Tibetan King Songsten Gampo. The story goes that a giant demon lay across the whole area of Tibet and the Himalayas and was preventing the spread of Buddhism. To overcome her, King Songtsen Gampo decided to build 108 temples, which would be placed on all the points of her body. Of these 108 temples, 12 were built in accordance with precise plans. Thus, it happened that in about the year AD 638 the temple of Jokhang in Lhasa was built over the very heart of the demon.
In the evening you can relax.
Dinner & overnight at Tashi Namgay Resort or similar in Paro.
Day 09: Paro Departure
In the morning after breakfast tour guide from Access Bhutan Tours will escort you to the Paro airport for your flight to your onward destinations.
End of the Trekking Tour Program
Note: This trek is considered to be the easiest. It is normally cultural treks that take you through villages, and involves walking within the tree line for an average of 5-6 hours a day. Not much training is required for this kind of treks. The ascent will not be more than 3000 mts. above the sea level. Moderate fitness is required.