Day 1: Arrive at Paro Airport. Altitude: 2,280m/7,524ft above sea level
The flight into Paro brings breathtaking views of the Himalayan Mountains. If the weather permits you will be able to see Mt Everest (8,848m, 29,198ft) and other Himalayan mountains. The landing, flying through the Paro valley between the 4,000 metre high mountains, starts your day in an unforgettable way! Your Bhutanese representative will greet you on arrival and drive you through the beautiful valley of Paro to the hotel you will be staying.
This beautiful valley is home to many Bhutan’s oldest monasteries and temples. The country’s only airport is in Paro. The valley is also home to Mount Chomolhari(7,300 meters) situated at the northern end of the valley whose glacier water forms the Pachu flowing through the valley.
Later visit, Drugyel dzong :This ruined dzong is of historical importance. It was built in 1649 by Zhabdrung to commemorate the victory of the Drukpas over the Tibetan invasion in 1644. The Bhutanese still vividly recall and celebrate this victory which was tremendously important to the history of the area. On a clear day (7,326m/2,4176ft), you have a fascinating view of the white domed peak of sacred Jhomolhari (Mountain of Goddess).
Kichu Lhakhang(Monastery): It is one of the two most sacred and the oldest temples in Bhutan. It was built in 7th century by Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo. It is believed that he took the responsibility to built 108 temples in the different regions of Tibet, Bhutan and in other Himalayan regions to control evil spirits, disease and droughts out of which two of them are in Bhutan. (Kichu Lhakhang in Paro and Jambay Lhakhang in Bumthang).
Rimpung Dzong: Means fortress of the heap of jewels. It was built during the time of Zhabdrung (deeply revered to this day as dynamic political and spiritual leader) in 1644. It houses both administrative and monastic bodies. It is also the venue for the Paro festival (Tsechu), held once in a year during spring season (April). The main highlight of Paro festival is that it has the unfurling of the one of the oldest Thongdol (gigantic scroll painting) which literally means
Overnight in Paro.
Day 2: In Paro.
Morning take an acclimatization hike to the famous Taktshang Monastery (Tiger’s nest): This is Bhutan’s most recognizable cultural icon perched 800m/2,640ft up a seemingly sheer cliff. Although it was tragically and mysteriously consumed by fire in April 1998 it has now been restored to its former glory. It is believed that in the 8th century, the great tantric master Guru Rimopche/ Padmasambhava (2nd Buddha) flew from Kurtoe (eastern Bhutan) on the back of a tigress to the site where the monastery now stands. The hike takes between one to two hours there and slightly less on the way back. Most of the route is through wonderfully cool and sheltered oak forests. Although the paths are worn they are easily walked. There is a tea house half way for a break. After the tea house the path is slightly steeper and more open with one area of exposed steps. It is a route that anybody of reasonable fitness can make but those who suffer from vertigo might prefer to wait at the tea house.
If you are interested, after visiting what is known as one of the most venerated pilgrimage sites in the country, we will go off the beaten track further up to the temples that are on the hill tops which is known as Ugyen Tshomo Lhakhang, above Tiger’s Nest. It’s so peaceful there and you can really communicate with nature as you enjoy the views from the top be it that of mountains or the valley. No wonder that some monks have chosen this place to meditate for their life! To go down, we are following a different path that takes us through the pristine thick forest of oaks and rhododendrons festooned with Spanish mosses.
Ta Dzong: Means watch tower. It served as a watch tower during the 17th century to guard the region from the Tibetan invasion. It was converted to the National Museum in 1968. It houses a fine collection of Bhutanese art, relics, religious thankas (used to bolster the visualization generated during meditation and were made from Himalayan animal fibers), paintings, animals found in Bhutan, arms and ammunitions and the country’s exquisite stamp collections.
Visit the Farm House: Bhutan is justly NOT famous for its cuisine, which is somewhat predictable. Eating at a local farmhouse at least gives a slightly different variation, and a chance to see the inside of such a home, rather than just the brightly decorated exteriors.(Please note that if you take hot stone bath or eat in the traditional farm house then you need to pay extra).
Later stroll around the town. Overnight in Paro
Day 3: Laya Gasa Trek Commences
Duration: 16 days, Max. Elevation: 5,005m
Highest Camp: 4,220m
Standard: Medium to hard
Best Seasons: April to June & Mid September to Mid Nov
Start: Drukgyel Dzong (Paro)
Finish: Tashitang (Punakha)
The first part of the Laya Gasa Trek goes along the same route as the Jomolari Trek I right till Lingshi. Besides the unforgettable views of Mount Jomolhari, the trek offers spectacular views on Jichu Drake, Gangchhenta (Great Tiger Mountain). Between Jangothang and Laya the trail hardly goes below 4,000m and one has good opportunities to spot blue sheep or even takin. Some beautiful Bhutanese mountain villages, the unique culture and appearance of the Layaps (people of Laya district) and finally a day of relaxation at the Gasa hot springs add to an extremely rewarding trekking experience. All in all, the Laya Gasa Trek is considered to be the most beautiful trek of Bhutan, only to be beaten by the tough Snowman Trek.
Drukgyel Dzong: Sharna Zampa
(Distance 17km, 4/5 hours, 360m ascent, 80m descent, camp altitude 2,850m).
Drive up to Drukgyel Dzong (2,580m) where the road ends and the trek begins. With a gradual climb the trail follows the Paro Chhu passing beautiful meadows, paddy fields and impressive farm houses. After about four hours you will reach the army post at Gunitsawa village. At the army checkpost your trek permit (provided by your tour operator) will be checked and endorsed. The campsite is on the opposite side of the river, not far from Gunitsawa.
Day 4: Sharna Zampa- Thangthangkha
(Distance 22km, 7/8 hours, 770m ascent, 10m descent, camp altitude 3,610m).
On this long day, the trail continues with lots of small ups and downs. After going uphill through the river valley, you enter the Jigme Dorji National Park. The valley finally narrows gradually to a mere path which descends to a meadow where a camp will be set up. From here, if weather permits, you will have the first great view of Mount Jomolhari.
Day 5: Thangthangkha – Jangothang
(Distance 19km, 5/6 hours, 480m ascent, camp altitude 4,080m).
If you did not see Mount Jomolhari last evening, you will have a great chance to get a great view this early morning. This morning the trek continues up the Paro Chhu valley which widens into patches of alpine meadow and scanty growths of forest. Cross an army outpost along the way and enjoy a spectacular view of high mountain ridges and snow-capped peaks. Yaks and the herder’s homes become a regular feature of the landscape. Passing the villages Soe, Takethang and Dangochang is another asset on this day. Reaching Jangothang, one of the most beautiful campsites of the Himalayas, you will again have a spectacular view of Mount Jomolhari.
Day 6: Jangothang Halt.
The day in Jangothang provides plenty of possibilities for day hikes with great views on lakes and snow capped mountains such as Jomolhari and Jichu Drake. There are good chances to spot some blue sheep on the upper slopes of the valley. Jangothang is a perfect environment for your acclimatisation. Trek up to Tosoh or hike around the area. There are good short hiking trails in three directions. Jumolhari and it’s subsidiary mountain chains lie directly west, Jichu Drake to the north and a number of unclimbed peaks to the east.
Day 7: Jangothang – Lingshi
(Distance 18km, 6/7 hours, 840m ascent, 870m descent, camp altitude 4,010m)
After 15 min. from the camp the trail climbs rapidly for about half an hour and then becomes a gradual ascend to the Nyilila pass at 4,870m. While on the climb enjoy the sourrrounding. You might see herds of blue sheep grazing on the slopes of the mountains. From the pass you will have spectacular views of Mt. Jomolhari, Jichu Drake and Tsherimgang, all of them rising above 7,000m. On the way down to the camp you will pass by some of the yak herder’s tent, made from yak wool, where the herders take shelter while on the move to various pastures for their yaks. As you come down into the Lingshi basin, you get a wonderful view of Lingshi Dzong on a clear day. Tserimgang and its glaciers rise up at the north end of the valley. The campsite is next to a stone hut you reach just before Lingshi Dzong.
Day 8: Lingshi – Chebisa
(Distance 10km,5/6 hours, 280m ascent, 410m descent, camp altitude 3,880m).
Today is the shortest walking day, and you can really take it easy. Shortly after starting you will reach a chorten below Lingshi Dzong. Here, you have the choice of staying on the main trail or taking a diversion up to the Lingshi Dzong (4,220m), which sits right atop a ridge. Besides a very special atmosphere of mystic silence Lingshi Dzong provides a great view over the valley. After Lingshi Dzong you will be passing the villages of Lingshi and Goyul. In Goyul, the stone houses are clustered together to a small compact village that is unusual in Bhutan where village houses are normally scattered. On reaching the campsite at Chebisa with a beautiful waterfall behind the village, you will have plenty of time to visit the village houses if you feel up to it.
Day 9: Chebisa – Shomuthang
(Distance 17km, 6/7 hours, 890m ascent, 540m descent, camp altitude 4,220m)
You walk through a wide pastureland towards Gobu La (pass). On the way, you will see a few people herding yaks. There is also a great chance to spot large herds of blue sheep above the trail. After crossing the Gobu La (4,410m), you descend to the valley, then climb again a little bit, and descend again to Shakshepasa (3,980) where a helipad has been established. Climbing from here you will finally reach the campsite at Shomuthang, above a river, which is a tributary of the Nochu river.
Day 10: Shomuthang – Robluthang
(Distance 18km, 6/7 hours, 700m ascent, 760m descent, camp altitude 4,160m).
As the walk is a little strenuous, it is advisable to start early. Climbing up the valley to view Kang Bum (6,526 m) and some edelweiss. After two hours of climbing you will reach Jhari La (4,750m), from where you catch the first sight of Sinche La, the pass you will have to cross the day after. The big snow peak in the north is Gangchhenta 6,840 m. better known as the Great Tiger Mountain. If weather is clear, Tserim Kang and the top of Jumolhari will be visible. The camp by the river is called Tsheri Jathang. Herds of takin, the Bhutanese National Animal, migrate to this valley in summer and remain for about four months. The valley has been declared a takin sanctuary. Climb up a little bit and you will reach the campsite at Robluthang in a rocky meadow.
Day 11: Robluthang – Limithang
(Distance 19km,6/7 hours, 850m ascent, 870m descent, camp altitude 4,140m).
After crossing Sinche La (5,005m) the last and highest pass on the trek in case you don’t intend to continue the Snowman trek from Laya onwards you descend to a little stone house where a few Laya women dressed in typical Laya costume with long pointed bamboo hats on their head live and offer their weaving products. Right behind the stone house you will see an impressive terminal moraine and a glacial lake at the foot of the valley. You can see classic examples of the lateral moraines where the glacier has pushed rocks up both sides of the valley. Below the moraine, you cross the Kango Chhu and soon reach the Limithang campsite. The peak of Gangchhenta towers over the campsite even though it’s quite a distance away.
Day 12: Limithang – Laya
(Distance 10km, 4/5 hours, 60m ascent, 340m descent, camp altitude 3,840m).
Today, you walk all the way downhill along a narrow winding river valley. After a long time, you again trek partly through deep forest. The trail leads you to the west side of Laya village. From the west of the village you will view Gangchhenta again and catch a glimpse of Masagang. In the village centre is a community school and a basic health unit with telephone connection. The campsite is below the school.
Day 13: Rest Day in Laya:
You can visit the communities out there and relax for the day.
Day 14: Laya – Koina
(Distance 19km, 6/7 hours, 260m ascent, 1,070m descent, camp altitude 3,050m).
The trail winds up and down along the river valley of Mo Chhu avoiding natural obstacles and affording breath-taking views of the crashing river, feeder streams and water falls. Lots of ups and downs will lead you to Kohi Lapcha at 3,300 m. The trek then drops down to the large stream of Koina Chhu, where you will find the campsite of Koina.
Day 15: Koina – Gasa
(Distance 14km, 6/7 hours, 740m ascent, 1,500m descent, camp altitude at Gasa Tsachu 2,240m).
Today you will have your last major climb of the Laya Gasa Trek. You will cross the Bari La (3,740m), after which the trail is all the way down till you reach Gasa village (2,770m), where you will find the first restaurants since starting from Drukgyel Dzong. There also is a campsite close to Gasa Dzong (. You will have to decide if you want to stay in Gasa village or descend for another one hourto the Gasa Tsachu (hot springs) and relax in the thermal water. The Gasa Tsachu is one of the most popular hot springs in Bhutan.
Day 16: Rest Day in Gasa:
You can stroll around the village, take a hot spring bath and visit the Dzong.
Day 17: Gasa – Damji
(Distance 18km,5/6 hours, 480m ascent, 470m descent, camp altitude 2,250m).
After a short climb, the trail winds through lots of ups and downs, through rolling hills and passes and pine and oak forests, villages and wheat fields. You will also see a beautiful view of the Gasa Dzong glued to the valley wall as if floating in space. You finally reach Damji with its well maintained campsite.
Day18: Damji – Tashithang
(Distance 16km, 5 hours, 250m ascent, 870m descent).
The trail descends from the high agricultural benches above the Mo Chhu into a lush semi-tropical gorge filled with banana trees, creepers and various tropical vegetation. You will also see monkeys and a few other animals occasionally. The road actually leads further up than Tashithang and will soon reach Damji. You can save about two hours of walking when you arrange transport from the current road head.
Then drive to Punakha. Altitude: 1,350m/4,455ft above sea level.
Punakha served as the capital of Bhutan until 1955. It is the winter seat of the Je Khenpo(Chief Abbot) and the monk body. It has a temperate climate and its rich fertile valley is fed by Pho (male) Chu and Mo (female) Chu (river).(3 hrs drive)
Later you can relax and stroll around. Overnight in Punakha.
Day 19: Punakha to Thimphu. Altitude: 2,320m/ 7,656ft above sea level
Thimphu is a bustling town on the banks of the Thimphu Chhu and set gloriously in the hills of the Thimphu valley. It is home to the Bhutanese Royal Family, the Royal Government to several foreign missions and development projects. Bhutan’s only golf course, a nine-hole circuit, is situated next to the magnificent Tashichoo Dzong.
Morning visit, Punakha Dzong (fortress): Built in 1637 by Zhabdrung which is remarkably located between the rivers of Mo (Female) Chu (river) and Pho (Male) Chu. Until the time of second king it served as a seat of the king. Now it is the winter capital of the central monk body.
Then hike to Chimi Lhakhang: This Temple was built by lam Drukpa Kuenley (The Divine Madman) in 1499. It is about thirty minutes hike across fields from the road – a welcome chance to stretch your legs after the drive. His style of teaching was thought shocking, insulting and including obscene behavior. His outrageous actions and sexual antics were a deliberate method of provoking people to discard preconceptions. In the temple you will receive a blessing from his wooden phallus. Wooden phalluses are often found hanging in the four corners of the houses and also phalluses are painted on the walls of houses. It is the common belief that this helps in driving away evil spirits.
Later visit the weekend market: The days are absolutely central to the lives of the Bhutanese, but there are many reasons to visit other than the delicious fresh food on offer every Friday, Saturday and Sunday.There are regular competitions centered on the national sport of Bhutan - archery - as well as the opportunities to buy beautifully handcrafted items such as yak tail dusters and butter tea cups. The people crowd the stalls every day, dressed in full colour and gathered to meet and to barter, much like the street markets in London!
Paper factory: The handmade paper making in Bhutan stemmed from the age old tradition originated in 8th century of Bhutanese history. It began as domestic ancient activity which is still in practice in remote areas. The handmade paper constitutes as valuable National heritage of Bhutanese cultural identity and is preserved through all the ages. The Traditional paper is recognized and held high esteem both in home and outside world. Jungshi Paper Factory was established in November 1990 as an undertaking of the Royal Government of Bhutan. The unit now boasts as a major and sole dealer in handmade paper and its products.
Later visit, Zorig Chusum Institute (Thirteen Crafts): It was established in 1971 by the Royal Government in order to preserve the invaluable heritage and promote the arts of Bhutan. The two main objectives of the institute are a) to preserve and promote the traditional arts and crafts and b) to create job opportunities for the underpriviledged group of the society, school dropouts and unemployed youths.
Mini zoo: Here you can see just one animal - Bhutan’s national - the Takin. This is an extremely rare member of the goat family. Found in herds in the very high altitudes (13,125 ft and over). They live on a diet of grass and bamboo. It can weigh as much as 550 pounds. The zoo was emptied in accordance with Buddhist principles, but the Takin came back so the keepers decided to look after them, also in accordance with Buddhist principles!
Sangaygang View Point: As well as being the location of the transmitter tower of the only national television tower in the country (BBS), the view point is also the perfect place to take in some truly breathtaking views of the entire city of Thimpu. On a clear day you can see the ubiquitous prayer flags fluttering on the hills in the distance as well as the whole of the Thimpu valley - needless to say, this is THE place to take your camera and capture the essence of a remarkable country. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is also known as the Lover’s Point! And also later visit Kuenselcholing hilltop where the largest Buddha in the world is being built.
Tashichho Dzong: The names means - Means Fortress of 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.
In the evening if you wish we can make arrangements to take you to enjoy the recent trends of the younger Bhutanese, who spend their evenings in the discotheques, or in the entertaining hubs where there are live performances of Bhutanese songs and dances (traditional and modern) by the best Bhutanese bands. If you wish you can even test your singing talents in the bars that offer Karaoke. Overnight in Thimphu.
Day 20: Depart from Paro.
Early breakfast at the hotel and your escort will assist you with exit formalities and bid you farewell.