This 15-day trek, an extension of the Jumolhari trek, takes you through diverse flora and fauna and provides an opportunity to spot the Blue Sheep, the Takin and the Blue Poppy, the national animal and the national flower of Bhutan. It will also give you a glimpse of the unique culture of the Layaps, a nomadic community that live on the northern fringes of the country and a chance to soak in the natural hot springs in Gasa. The highest point on this trek is 4115 metres above sea level.
Pick up from Paro International Airport (2280m) and drop at hotel. If time is available visit Paro town in the afternoon.
After breakfast, visit the National Museum housed in Ta-Dzong which was built in 1656 and served as the watch tower of Paro Dzong in the past. Visit Paro Dzong, also called the Rinchen Phug Dzong, which means fortress on a heap of Jewels. Paro Dzong is one of the most impressive and well-known dzongs of Bhutan and was built in 1644. After lunch in town, proceed towards Drukgyel Dzong, 14 kilometres from Paro town. Also known as the fortress of victory, Drukgyel Dzong was built by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1649 to commemorate the victory over Tibetan invaders in 1644. Return to the hotel. Dinner in the hotel.
After breakfast, drive for about eight kilometres north of Paro town to visit Bhutan's most well-known monastery, Taktshang (Tiger's Lair) perched on a cliff 900 metres above the valley floor. Legend has it that Guru Rinpoche, who bought Buddhism to Bhutan in the eighth century flew to Taktshang on a tigress and mediated for three months. The trek to the monastery and back takes about four hours. Lunch will be served in the cafeteria near the monastery. Afternoon prepares for the Druk Path Trek.
Paro Shana (Start of Trek)
Distance 14 kilometres, Time 5-6 hours. The trek to Shana starts at Drukgyal Dzong and follows the Paro river through cultivated fields, tiny picturesque villages and forests filled with numerous birds and brightly coloured butterflies. Overnight at camp Shana. Altitude 2,820m;
Distance 21 kilometres, Time 7-8 hours. The trail follows the river through dense forests with a few isolated farmhouses. After a while, it narrows and closes in and winds up and down and passes a junction where another path leads north to Tremo La. Tibet. Camp in a meadow with a stone shelter. Altitude 3610 m
Distance 15 kilometres; Time 5 - 6 hours. After passing a small army post in the morning, the trail slowly leaves the forest line and gradually climbs into a beautiful valley, passing Tegethang, a winter home of yak herdsmen. Lunch in a yak herdmen's hut. A lot of yaks will visible before arriving at the Jhomolhari base camp. High mountains overlook the camp and nearby are the ruins of an old fortress that was used to guard Bhutan against Tibetan invasions. Altitude 4,115 m;
Rest day. A chance to acclimatize and walk to the Jhomolhari glacier or to the lakes in the opposite direction.
Distance 17 kilometres; Time 6 - 7 hours The Jangthong Lingshi trail is a good day's walk with spectacular views (if the day is clear) of Jhomolhari, Jichu Drake and the Tserim Gang peaks. It is a climb from the start-up to Nyelela pass (4,700 m) which takes about three to four hours. Then it is a descent to a circular hut just below Lingshi, the camp for the day. The descent to Lingshi provides spectacular views of the truly mystical Dzong atop a high hill. Altitude 4000m;
Distance 12 kilometres; Time 4 - 5 hours. Ý The Lingshi Chebisa route is a magical one. Leaving Lingshi behind the trail gently climbs to reach another delightful village, Gom Yu, which sits below a 300-metre cliff. After another few hours, the trail enters a little valley with a huge waterfall at one end of the village of Chebisa, the riverside camp spot for the day. The walk is leisurely with plenty of reasons and opportunities to linger. Altitude 3,780m;
Distance 17 kilometres; Time 6-7 hours. The day starts with quite a stiff climb through high pastures up the Gokula pass (4,320 m) before dropping through forests of dwarf rhododendron. The trail climbs again gradually descending to the camp near a riverbed. Altitude3, 890m;
Distance 22 kilometres; Time 7 - 8 hours. A long haul over the Jarela pass at 4,640 m where we once again get stunning views of the Himalayan mountains above us. We drop steeply down a forest trail to the Tsarigathang valley, where herds of Takin roam, then cross a knee-deep river before climbing up Robluthang, the camp for the day. Altitude 4,100m;
Robluthang - Lemithang:
Distance kilometres; Time 6-7hours. The Robluthang - Lemithang trail is one of the hardest of the trek. It begins will a slow climb to Shinchela pass at 4,870 m from where one can view the mountains, including the spectacular Gang Chen Ta at the head of the valley. On a clear day, practically all the mountains on the northern border are visible. Eagles, gryphon vultures, blue sheep and yaks abound in this area. Altitude 4,040m;
Distance10 kilometres, Time 4-5 hours. The trail follows the river, one of the tributaries of the Mochu, through a forest of rhododendron and silver fir and enters the village of Laya, the home of the Layaps, a unique nomadic community of Bhutan. The layaps wear vertical stripe yak hair clothing and conical bamboo hats. The women wear their hair long and decorated with turquoise and jade jewellery. The features of the Layaps are more Tibetan/ Mongolian than the Bhutanese who live in the central valleys Most part of the day is spent at leisure or visiting village houses and mixing with the villagers. Good views of the Masagang and the other peaks. Altitude3, 880m.
Rest for a day and have an opportunity to meet the local people.
Distance 19 kilometres, time 6-7hours The trail winds along the river valley offering breathtaking views of the crashing river, feeder streams and waterfalls. Altitude 3,300m.
Koena - Gasa Tsachu
Distance 15 kilometres; Time: 6/7hours From Koena it is a gradual climb to Balela pass at 3,740 m and then a descent to Gasa village. The first sight of the Gasa Dzong perched on the hillside over the village is one of the highlights of the trail. From Gasa Dzong, it is an hour's walk down a steep drop to the river and the natural Gasa Hot Springs. Altitude: 2,638m;
Gasa Tsachu - Goen Damji
Distance 21 kilometres, Time 7/8 hours. After the climb away from Gasa Tsachu, the trail winds through rolling hillsides with the vista of fields, villages and forests of oak and pine. Gasa Dzong will be visible behind, as if glued to the valley wall, seeming afloat in space. Overnight in camp. Altitude: 2,280 m,
Goen Damji - Punakha (end of Trek)
The trail descends from the high agricultural benches above the Mochu into a lush semi-tropical gorge filled with banana trees, creepers and the sight of an occasional monkey. Overnight in Punakha.
After breakfast, visit Punakha Dzong. Punakha Dzong was built in 1637 and was the former capital of Bhutan. It lies at the confluence of the Mo Chu (female river) and the Pho Chu (male river). Punakha Dzong still serves as the winter residence of the Central Monk Body. The construction of the Dzong was foretold by Guru Rimpoche, the tantric saint who brought Buddhism to Bhutan. There was a smaller building here called Dzong Chu (Small Dzong) that housed a statue of Buddha. It is said that Shabdrung ordered the architect, Zowe Palep, to sleep in front of the statue, while Palep was sleeping, Shabdrung took him in his dreams to Zangtopelri and showed him the palace of Guru Rimpoche. From his vision, the architect conceived the design for the new Dzong, which in keeping with the tradition, was never committed to paper. The Dzong was named Druk Pungthang Dechen Phodrang (Palace of Great Happiness). The war materials captured during the battle with Tibetans are preserved here. After lunch, drive to Thimphu. En route visit, Chimi Lhakhang also called Temple of Fertility built by Lama Drukpa kuenley in 17th century.
Thimphu Sightseeing and Drive to Paro
Sightseeing in Thimphu (2320m) includes visits to : National Library which was established in 1967 and has many ancient Dzongkha and Tibetan texts); Painting School or the National Institute for Zorig Chusum (the 13 traditional arts and crafts like painting, woodcarving, embroidery and statue making; National Memorial Chorten which was built in 1974 in memory of the third King of Bhutan; Semtokha Dzong which is about five kilometres south of Thimphu. Semtokha Dzong was built in 1629 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. Today it houses the Institute for Language and Culture Studies.); Tashichhodzong is the seat of the government of Bhutan. It houses the secretariat, the Throne Room, His Majesty's secretariat, the Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs and the Ministry of Finance. If the sightseeing falls on the weekend you can visit Thimphu's open vegetable market where farmers from the nearby regions gather to sell their produce. The evening is set aside for shopping in town. Drive to Paro in the afternoon.