Package #1 – Black mountain Trek in Gangtey -8 days
This trek is to the beautiful Phobjikha valley one of the few glacial valleys in Bhutan, which lies in the mountains east of Wangduephodrang. After crossing over the pass you soon come to the great monastery of Gangtey, established in the 17th century. The village of Phobjikha lies a few kilometres down from the monastery, on the valley floor. This quiet, remote valley is the chosen winter home of the rare black-necked cranes, who migrate here annually from the Tibetan plateau. This moderate trek visits the villages of Gogona and Khotokha, passing through meadows and fields, then forests of juniper, magnolia and rhododendrons in full bloom in April. It is one of the finest low-level treks in Bhutan.
Best season to trek: The best times for this trek are March to May, and September to November. The best months are April and early May when the rhododendrons are in full bloom.
Season: The trek is possible from late March until mid-June and from September to November however the ideal time is either in Spring months of April & May or in late Autumn from late September to early November. This trek can be graded as moderately strenuous.
- Day 1: Arrive Paro International Airport, Transfer to Thimphu (54km, 2hrs)
- Day 2: Travel to Gangtey (164Km, 5-6hrs)
- Day 3: Gangtey Gompa – Gogona (Trek)
- Day 4: Gogona – Khotokha (Trek)
- Day 5: Khotokha – Chazam/Wangduephodrang
- Day 6: Wangduephodrang – Thimphu (70Km, 2-3hrs)
- Day 7: Thimphu – Paro (54Km, 1hr)
- Day 8: Depart from Paro International Airport
Day 01: Arrive at Paro International airport and Transfer to Thimphu (Capital city of Bhutan)
The only two international flight (Druk Air and Bhutan Airlines) to Paro is one of the most spectacular of all mountain flights. Whether flying along the Himalayan range from Kathmandu or over the foothills from Kolkatta, the journey offers fascinating views and an exciting descent into the Kingdom. Soon after you leave the Indian low lying plains and the great view of The Mount Everest from your window, you will be flying over densely forested areas and will see the far-flung Bhutanese Temples and Monasteries built on the steep terrain-mountains and cliffs. Before you cease your imagination and wondering how people are going to get there on foot, you
will be informed by flight attendant to fasten your seat belt to prepare for landing at Paro International Airport, the airport which has only one strip runway lying between a local community of Traditional Bhutanese Houses on one side and a high
way motor road on the other side. Then as you descend towards the Paro Valley, you will be flying very close overhead the Paro Villages. The valley of Paro contains a wealth of attractions, with cover of green paddy fields, crystal clear Pa Chu
river, the Paro Dzong (Fortress) and then slowly but spine chillingly (for the First timer into Bhutan), you will land at the airstrip and on landing, you are sure to wonder, “wow!!! the Pilot is really good…Thank God we have landed”. And usually,
the First Timers flying into Bhutan, clap in unison and then there is a guffaw of laughter and giggles….Truly an instant awakening of happiness from the moment you land. Bhutan’s first gift, as you disembark from the aircraft will be cool, clean fresh mountain air.
On arrival at Paro international airport, You will be then ushered to immigration counter and baggage claim areas by very astonishing and helpful airport staffs. After then, your tour guide will be waiting for you at the exit door with full of excitement expression on his/her face with Khadhar (a white scarf on his/her hand to offer you as tradition culture). The reason for offering a white Khadar is; traditionally we believe white colour symbolising a purity, hence to show you, you are now encircled by pure-hearted people, you are welcome and be loved as our guest and you will be taken full care. The good-humoured drivers and his cheerful assistant will be happy to gently pack your luggage in SUV cars and head towards Thimphu.
Visit Tamchog Lhakhang: On the way to Thimphu, we will take an opportunity to visit Tamchog Lhakhang. This temple en route to Thimphu capital city of Bhutan, so anyone can visit this temple which is situated on a small hill overlooking the Paro river. One has to cross an ancient bridge and this bridge is the main attraction as the irons on this bridge are ancient and legend has it that these irons were pounded into Chain links by the Treasure Hunter of Bhutan in the 16th Century. The pounding was done by beating the iron on his thighs.
After then we will continue our journey towards Thimphu, the next remarkable spot comes is Chhuzom (Confluence), is the juncture of Thimphu river (Wang Chu) and Paro river (Pa Chhu). Chuzom is also a major road junction, with southwest
road leading to Haa (79km), south road to Phuntsholing (141km) and northeast to Thimphu (30km). Three different styles of stupas; Tibetan, Nepalese and Bhutanese adorn this confluence. From Chuzom, the road follows Wangchu River upstream as you pass through villages and suburbs to the capital, Thimphu. The notable villages you will see along the way are Kharbije, Ramtogto and on the opposite side of the river is Sisina, where you can stop to see the small nunnery institutions, Khasadrapchhu with Hydro plant and shops, Namseling with extensive rice paddies, apple orchards and several old houses. As you approach Thimphu, the suburbs are Simtokha and Lungtenphu.
Now after arriving in Thimphu, we will take you to the hotel, show you your room and you may take a short break. After a brief rest depending on the time, we will be doing a sightseeing tour of the following most tourist attraction spot. We are much certain that we will not be able to complete whole sightseeing spot listed below, however, depending on time, your tour guide will discuss with you and help you to select the best of the best as per time permits.
Visit Archery fields where most of the time there will be competitions. You must be knowing that Archery is national game for Bhutan. You will enjoy watching Bhutanese unique style of archery game, as Competitions are a riot of colour and excitement, with two teams in traditional dress shooting at small wooden targets placed 140m apart (Olympic standard is 50m). The distance is so great that team members gather dangerously close to the target to yell back how good the archer’s aim was. This is often accompanied by howls, chanting, encouragement and jokes. Members of the opposing team may shout back how terrible the archer’s aim is and make ribald remarks. When an arrow hits the target, team-mates perform a celebratory dance and sing the praises of the shooter, who tucks a coloured scarf into his belt. For major tournaments, each team brings its own cheerleading section of girls decked out in their finest clothes. They perform dances in between play, and during the shooting they do brief routines and shout lewd and disparaging comments about the opposing archer’s parentage or sexual prowess.
Visit Textile Museum, you will see the Royal Collection, of Bhutanese antique textile artefacts, warp pattern weaves, and weft pattern weaves including crowns of Bhutan’s kings, Namzas (dresses) and other accessories are worn by the Royal Family, The ground floor of the Textile Museum has displays demonstrating the skills of spinning, colouring fibres, preparing a loom, and manipulating two sets of yarns. Decorative fabrics and textile arts and crafts are categorically displayed in the galleries situated on the first floor of the Textile Museum. There are displays showing the traditional regional garments produced by women and men in Bhutan, and those garments used for special religious occasions.
Visit Folk Heritage Museum. This museum lets you experience the traditional way of lifestyle at Bhutanese home. The museum also displays an impressive collection of typical household objects, tools and equipment. The Folk Heritage Museum is set inside a three-storied, 19th-century traditional house. The museum also organizes regular demonstrations of rural traditions, skills, habits and customs as well as hosting educational programs for children.
Visit National Institute for Zorig Chusum. Zorig Chusum refers to the thirteen traditional visual arts and crafts that Bhutanese have practised for generations. The thirteen arts and crafts include; painting, carving, sculpture, calligraphy, carpentry, gold- silversmithing, bamboo work, wood turning, weaving and embroidery, pottery, blacksmithing, masonry and incense-stick making. You can have an interview or conversations with the students and instructors to know more. The showroom sells good-value pieces made by students.
Visit Centenary Farmer Market is a must, The Centenary Farmer’s Market in Thimphu is an explosion of colours and scents. Thimphu residents throng the market on the weekends, to buy the freshest local produce (pure organic) from across the country, as well as a wide variety of vegetables, fruits and other products imported from India. You’ll see the variety of food in the country, including basket fiery chillies, fresh cheese, and fruits and the seasonal vegetables are eaten by the Bhutanese, including various types of Orchids and Ferns. In addition, many stalls contain Bhutanese handicrafts and household items. It’s fun to meander the aisles, taking in the lively atmosphere of the market.
Visit The TAKIN Preserve: Located in Motithang about 3km away from the heart of Thimphu city is a wildlife reserve area for Takin, the national animal of Bhutan. The reason for declaring takin as a national animal of Bhutan on 25 November 2005 is attributed to a legend of the animal’s creation in Bhutan in the 15th century by Lama Drukpa Kuenley. When a small number of Takin were confined in a “mini-zoo” in Thimphu, the Fourth King of Bhutan felt that it was improper for a Buddhist country to confine animals for religious and environmental reasons. He, therefore, ordered the release of the animals and the closure of the mini-zoo. To everyone’s surprise, the takin, known for their docile behaviour, refused to leave the immediate area and stayed in the streets of Thimphu in search of food for weeks.
Visit National Memorial Chorten (Stupa): This stupa one of the most visible religious structures in heart of Thimphu city, The building of this landmark was originally envisaged by Bhutan’s third king, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuk (“the father of modern Bhutan”) who has wished to erect monument to world peace and prosperity. Completed in 1974 after his untimely death, it serves both as a memorial to the Late King and as a monument to peace. Visitors will find elderly
Bhutanese people circumambulating the Chorten throughout the day. Chorten literally means ‘Seat of Faith’ and Buddhists often call such monuments, the ‘Mind of Buddha’.
Visit Buddha Dordenma Statue: This massive statue of Shakyamuni measures at a height of 51.5m, making it one of the largest statues of Buddha in the world. The statue is made of bronze and is gilded in gold. 125,000 smaller Buddha statues have been placed within the Buddha Dordenma statue; 100,000 statues of which are 8-inches-tall and 25,000 statues of which are 12 inches tall. Each of these thousands of Buddhas has also been cast in bronze and gilded. The throne that the Buddha Dordenma sits upon is a large meditation hall.
By the evening when the times comes to conclude the day program, you can visit some of the most famous restraints, club and pubs for relaxation and jam-session. There are heaps of both international and local fine restaurant in the town.
Day 2: Travel to Gangtey (164Km, 5-6hrs)
After early breakfast, drive to Dochula pass (3,050m) which is en route to Gangtey. We’ll have a chance to stop for a photo shooting and taking fresh air at Dochula Pass. Dochula pass is a popular location among tourists as it offers a stunning 360-degree panoramic view of the Himalayan mountain range. The view is especially scenic on clear, winter days with snowcapped mountains forming a majestic backdrop to the tranquillity of the 108 chortens gracing the mountain pass. Bhutanese families enjoy visiting the pass during holidays and weekends to picnic and simply enjoy the scenery. It is common to see families and groups of friends seated amongst the chortens, enjoying a packed lunch and hot tea. For tourists, this is an ideal location to capture beautiful pictures of the Himalayan mountain range during clear, warm days. If the weather permits, you can see a range of high Himalayan peaks towards the northeast. Following peaks can be seen from this pass, on a clear day ; Masagang (7,158m), Tsendagang (6,960m), Terigang (7,060m ), Jejegangphugang (7,158 m ), Kangphugang (7,170 m ), Zongphugang (7, 060 m ), a table mountain that dominates the isolated region of Lunana – finally Gangkar puensum, the highest peak in Bhutan at 7,497m.
Further drive onwards arriving Wangduephodrang town for lunch. We will quickly stroll through Bajo town before we proceed towards Gangtey. The valley of Gangtey is one of the most beautiful and unspoiled places in Bhutan. The surprise of finding such a wide, flat valley without any trees after the hard climb through dense forests is augmented by an impression of vast space and is an extremely rare experience in Bhutan where most of the valleys are tightly enclosed. A few kilometres beyond the Gangtey Monastery, on the valley floor, lies the fascinating valley of Phobjikha.
Overnight at the hotel in Gangtey. (Altitude 3000m)
Day 03: Gangtey Gompa – Gogona Trek begins (15km, 6-7 hours)
Right after breakfast, we will prepare for day trek, your tour guide will pray to God for the success of the whole trek and traditionally celebrate an opening ceremony of the trek, You may want to take pictures at this point. The trail winds gradually upwards through meadows and fields, ascending to Tsele-la pass (3, 400m) where we stop for lunch. The trail then descends gradually for some time through forests of junipers, bamboo, magnolias and rhododendrons. After a last short climb, we reach Gogona (3100m) village, a beautiful hilltop site overlooking a long valley. the people of Gogona were originally nomads and they speak a language called Bjopkha (the language of nomads). Overnight camp. A 30-minute walk beyond Gogona is a hamlet where you may find homemade ara (local alcoholic drink) to buy. The women here weave blankets.
Our office boys will have already organised the camp before you arrive, they will be waiting for you with a cup of tea/coffee in their hand as Bhutanese traditional gesture of welcoming. Alternately, you may choose to spend your night at Homestay. Some of you might be hearing this term ‘Homestay’ for the first time, this homestay culture is very common in Bhutanese society. This literally means you are spending the night in the traditional home of Bhutanese family, where you get to experience an excellent glimpse into the day-to-day life of a typical Bhutanese family. You’ll enjoy delicious home-cooked meals and the unparalleled hospitality of a Bhutanese host. All officially sanctioned and listed home-stays are located in the gorgeous Bhutanese countryside, far from the noise and crowds of population centres. Our tour guide will have to arrange a home-stay with one of the local families. The farmers will happily welcome you into their homes and regale you with local legends of mermaids and ancient kings.
Day 04: Trek Gogona – Khotokha 16km, 6-7 hours
The trail winds gently up above Gogona village, passing flocks of sheep, farmers at their field, children hesitantly waving at you, old people turning the prayer wheels. Climb into a forest of firs, oak, spruce, dwarf rhododendron, miniature azaleas, cypress and juniper. Much of the undergrowth is Daphne, the plant that is used for hand-made paper and may be identified by its yellow flowers. Then along but gradual climbs leads to Shobju La pass (3410m). The trail down from the pass is rocky and muddy, weaving through the forest and crisscrossing a small stream. Eventually, at about 3000m, the trail meets a rough trek used by tractors to collect wood from the forest. Follow the road, with a few shortcuts through the woods, to a sawmill and woodcutters camp at Dolonaga (2830m). Still heading down, the trail overlooks the broad Khothangkha valley and eventually reaches Chorten Karpo, where there are four Chortens dedicated to the four Je Khenpos who came from this area. Three of the Chortens are square, in Bhutanese style, and the fourth is Nepali style. The best camp is in this clearing at 2790m, beside a forest of large blue pine overlooking the valley and the village of Khothangkha, comprising about 60 rustic houses.
Overnight camp, (Altitude 2790m) alternately you may choose Homestay
Day 05: Khotokha – Chazam/Wangduephodrang, 12km, 5 hours
A short, steep climb along a well-known path takes you to Tashi La (2800m). This is the upper terminus of the cable car that transports wood down to Chhuzomsa, 1300m below. The walk down is through a beautiful forest, with the undergrowth changing from rhododendrons and magnolia to ferns and dwarf bamboo. This stretch of trail is one of the finest bird-watching areas in Bhutan. Among the species found here are laughing thrush, shrike, magpie and woodpecker. The trail then plunges down past steep terraced wheat fields to a cluster of houses at Whachay. The trail eventually meets the road near Tikke Zampa at 1500m.
Your Trek successfully ends here, your tour guide will still pray to God for this mission accomplishment, little traditional success celebration and transfer to the hotel.
After taking good rest, we will spend our rest of the day at leisure and explore Wangduephodrang town. Adjoining to Punakha.
Overnight at the hotel in Punakha
Day 06: Punakha – Paro (124Km, 5-6hrs)
After breakfast, travel back to Paro with numerous stopover following places on en route to Paro;
Visit Punakha Dzong: The journey continues through varying scenes of greenery all the way to Punakha Dzong. The Punakha Dzong lies between two great rivers with their local names as the Phochu (Male River) and the Mochu (Female River). Presently, this Dzong serves as the winter residence for the Je Khenpo, Chief Abbot of the Central Monastic Body and also the office of the District Administration. Punakha Dzong was built in 1637 by the founder of Bhutan, Shabdrung Rimpoche. Shabdrung Rimpoche went into meditation in 1651 at the age of 58, for 12 long years in the Punakha Dzong, after he had established the DUAL system of Governance in Bhutan. Shabdrung Rimpoche’s death was announced only 25 years after his death, as it was believed that even after his physical death, he remained in a meditational form which all the great Buddhist Lamas can only perform. The Dzong houses many sacred, holy ancient relics, the most sacred being the RANGJUNG KHARSAPANI. This relic is a self-created image of Avalokiteswara that miraculously emerged from the vertebrae of Tsangpa Gyarey, the founder of the Drukpa School when he was cremated. The first national assembly was hosted here in 1953. Punakha Dzong is not only the second oldest and second largest dzong but it also has one of the most majestic structures in the country.
Lunch at Chime Lhakhang: en-route to Paro, we will visit Chime Lhakhang, located on a hillock among the green and lush paddy field stands a pilgrimage site for a childless couple. Chimi Lhakhang is known as the “Temple Of Fertility”. The temple was built over half a millennium ago by Ngawang Choegyel, the 14th Drukpa hierarch. The monastery is renowned throughout Bhutan as a fertility inducing magnet, pledging that all who wish to conceive will find guidance at the temple. Thousands of pilgrimage within and across the country visit the Fertility Temple in the hopes of having a child, as well as receiving a wang, blessing, from the saint with the ‘magic thunderbolt of wisdom. Couples with new-borns often visit the temple so that a local lama, Buddhist teacher, can bestow a resounding forename on the child, whilst eager travellers can approach lamas for their unique Bhutanese name and special meaning. Myth and folklore cloak Chimi Lhakhang and its maverick saint, Drukpa Kunley. He preached Buddhism is an unconventional manner, by way of song, comedy, and shocking sensual connotations. Legend has it that the Yogi buried a dog-like demoness under the rotund earth, shaped in the female form, that now stands under the Stupa floor. He actively encouraged phallus symbols to be used throughout the design of the temple in paintings and carvings. To this day, the monastery safeguards the original wooden phallus symbol, embedded with a silver handle, from Tibet, that is used to bless visitors and pilgrims. You will be also given a wooden phallus symbol locket or wristband.
Lobesa: is a warm and beautiful place, surrounded by many varieties of international restaurant especially built for tourist. Most of the tourist spend their night here to do a day hike here. You may also return back to do various activities here in Lobesa.
Dochula Pass: We will still stop for a photo shooting at Dochula Pass.
Simtokha Dzong; we will visit the oldest fortress of the Kingdom built in 1627, it now houses the School for Buddhist studies.
Upon reaching Paro, if the time permits we will walk to visit Paro market and take a stroll through town’s main street. Once we back to the Hotel we’ll serve you Dinner and overnight halt at the hotel in Paro.
Day 07: Paro sightseeing tour
After breakfast, sightseeing of Paro includes the following;
Visit Paro Rinpung Dzong: One of the main attractions in Paro is the Paro Rinpung Dzong (fortress), which was built in 1646. The Dzong now houses for the office of the district Administration and district monastic body of Bhutan. On the way to Dzong, you can able to see Bhutanese traditional wooden bridge built in ancient style. Along the wooden galleries lining the courtyard of the Rinpung Dzong are fine wall paintings illustrating Buddhist lore such as four friends, the old man of long life, the wheel of life, scenes from the life of Milarepa, Mount. Sumeru and other cosmic Mandala.
Visit The National Museum (Ta-Dzong) is located just above the Paro Rinpung Dzong, which was built to be used as the watchtower for the Dzong during inter-valley wars of the 17th century. The Ta Dzong is now serving as National Museum. The Museum has got a collection of all kinds of traditional Masks, extinct wildlife animals skin cover, Stamps, Photos, Statues, Pottery, Arms and Ammunition, ancient costumes, relics, religious paintings, handicrafts, and hangs the Biggest mask in Bhutan. The collection at the National Museum preserves a snap-shot of the rich cultural traditions of the country.
Visit Drugyal Dzong (Victorious Fortress), Another site worth visiting in Paro is Drugyel Dzong or The Fortress of the Victorious Bhutanese. It was constructed by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1646 to commemorate his victory over marauding Tibetan armies. On a clear day, one can get a spectacular view of Mountain Jhomolhari, the third -highest mountain in Bhutan at 7,326 meters. The fortress was destroyed by fire in 1951 but the ruins remain an impressive and imposing sight.
Visit Kyichu Lhakhang, (Lhakhang means temple) is the oldest temple in the country, built in the 659 AD, by the King Songtsen Gampo of Tibet. It is believed that king had built 108 temples in the various place he visited on earth to spread Buddhism and Kyichu Lhakhang is included as one. The Lhakhang is located in between Paro Town and Drugyal Dzong. In Bhutan, people believe that the place where Lhakhang is built is considered one of the holiest place in the country, as it marks the advent of Buddhism in the country.
Visit Taktshang Monastery. (Taktshang means tiger nest) The Monastery’ is one of the Himalaya’s most incredible sites, miraculously perched on the side of a sheer cliff 900m above the floor of Paro valley. The Monastery clings to a vertical granite cliff drop of nearly 4000 ft and overlooks the Paro valley and the river. It’s the goal of every visitor to Bhutan and while getting there involves a bit of uphill legwork, it’s well worth the effort. It is said that in the second half of the 8th century, Guru Padma Sambhava known as the second Buddha in Bhutan meditated on this spot where the Monastery is situated having alighted there on the back of a flying tigress and now this site is a sacred shrine for Bhutanese pilgrims.
Visit Kila Goenpa: This nunnery perched on a vertical hill is great to go for hiking because the place is well known for its serenity and beauty of looking down at the Bonday Valley. It’s only a half day hike, which we recommend you to take chance.
Visit Chelela Pass – Located at 3810m (13,000ft), between the valley of Paro and Haa, Chele La pass is the highest road pass in the country. It is popular for short excursion for maybe two and half hours. You will see many tourists visiting this vantage point. Some prefer driving, some hiking and many wheels down either to Haa or Paro valley in their mountain bikes. The drive to Chele La is through dense spruce and larch forests. Depending on the season you will encounter various sights such as a frozen river, waterfall, Rhododendron forest and yaks grazing peacefully. On a clear day, you can view Mt. Jumolhari (the third -highest mountain in Bhutan at 7,326 meters) along with other sacred mountains Jichu Drake and adjoining peaks to the North West, as well as the view of both the valley (Paro and Haa).
By the time we conclude day trip, it will be already late evening, so this successfully concludes your whole trekking trip package with serving traditionally farewell Dinner in the hotel.
Day 08: Depart from Paro International Airport
After breakfast drive to the airport for flight to onward destination. Our sincere service doesn’t end here. While you and tour guide exchange thanksgiving and bids farewell, our good-humoured drivers and his cheerful assistant gently stack your valuable luggage on the trolley, helps you to push till check-in counter and waits until you get through to board gate.
We only part to meet again. ~John Gay
THINGS TO BRING FOR A TREK IN BHUTAN
Personal clothing: strong normal clothing (according to season), preferably cotton and woollen even for summer, because evening and early morning are always chill.
For Trekking, one must bring:
- Strong comfortable trekking boots – water-resistant for the rainy period-June-August.
- Raincoat (especially for the rainy period –June-August)
- Headgear/hat/cap; sun and rain protection
- Water pills – for extra caution in purifying stream; (boiled water is provided at all times during the trek)
- Aspirin – in case of altitude sickness
- Lots of socks
- Warm clothes
OPTIONAL ITEMS TO BRING FOR TREKKING IN BHUTAN
- Folding umbrella (only for wet months — July and August)
- One towel
- Wet-packed tissue paper.
- Airport Transfers
- Stay in hotels as indicated in the itinerary
- All three meals, tea and coffee
- Dedicated SUV vehicle with a driver and
- English Speaking Guide throughout the Trip
- Short hikes, Packed lunches and snacks wherever required
- Monumental Fees
- Bhutan Tourism Development Fee
- VISA processing Fee
Package Does Not Include:
- International Airfare
- Refreshments and bottled drinks and alcoholics/gratuities
- Cost arising out of Flight Cancellation/road blockades/ landslides and events beyond our control
- Expenses of personal nature and any other expenses not mentioned in the above cost