This is a short and easy trek through Punakha, the ancient capital of Bhutan. The altitude of the trail covers almost a thousand meters in range but the slopes are mostly gradual and should not present hikers with much difficulty.
This hike follows the old foot trail from Thimphu to Punakha and passes through several villages, forests and rice fields. It offers incredible views of Phajoding Monastery and crosses through Sinchula Pass. The first camp is near Chorten Ningpo, an ancient stupa linked to Bhutan’s favourite Patron Saint, Drukpa Kuenley.
Due to the low altitude and warm climate of the area, this hike is available all winter but the best times to go are between March to May, and September to November.
Day 1: Paro
The flight to Paro on a clear day is one of the most spectacular of all mountain flights. One can see Mt. Everest, Kanchenjunga, Makalu and other peaks in Bhutan such as Jomolhari, Jichu Drake and Tsering gang.
Upon your arrival at the Paro airport, you will be received by our guide and escorted to the hotel. In the evening take a stroll around the streets of Paro and get a feel of the place.
Overnight in Paro.
Day 2: Paro to Thimphu
The drive to Thimphu takes about 2 hours with a distance of 65Km. Enroute visit the 15th C. Tachogang Lhakhang, attributed to Thangthong Gyalpo, one of the famous saints from Tibet.
The road will take a diversion from Chunzom, a confluence of Pachhu and Wangchu rivers that flow from Paro and Thimphu respectively. It is a drive of about 45 minutes from this point to arrive at Thimphu.
Sightseeing in Thimphu encompass the visit of the Memorial Chorten, a huge stupa built in memory of the third king, the National Library, a repository of ancient manuscripts; and the Tashichho Dzong, the main secretariat building which houses the office of the King.
Overnight in Thimphu.
Day 3: Thimphu
Today is a day of acclimatization and cultural orientation. We will be going on a hike to Tango Goemba, an 18th C monastery which is one of the seats of the Drukpa Kagyu, the official state religion.
The visit to this monastery involves a drive of about 45 minutes to the car park from where the hike begins. The walk of about 45 minutes ascending close to 2900 meters is through the forest of rhododendrons, magnolias, and oak trees festooned with Spanish moss and lichen.
Upon completing the hike, you can wrap up the day’s sightseeing with a visit to the School of 13 Traditional Arts and Crafts.
Overnight in Thimphu
START OF THE TREK
Day 4: Thimphu - Shong Pang
Today, it an initial drive towards Dechencholing Palace, following the Thimchu river, up to Pangrizam, the last motor point. From here, the trek starts towards Shong Pang, which takes about 4 to5 hours through villages.
Today’s camp will be just above Chamina village.
Day 5: Shong Pang - Dopshing Pang
The trek trail ascends gradually till you reach Sinchula Pass at 3,490m. From this point, weather permitting, one can see Phajoding Monastery just above Thimphu. A further walk of 2 km will afford superb views of Thinleygang village and Talo Monastery caved up against a cliff face. The trek from the pass is a little series of undulations, till you reach the campsite.
Camp at Dopshing Pang
Day 6: Dopshing Pang - Chorten Ningpo
The trek to Chorten Ningpo is rather gradual and it is a hike through thick forests, villages and rice fields. Today’s hike affords a lot of opportunity to meet people working in their fields and also several chances at taking pictures of traditional farm houses, along the way.
The campsite is at an altitude of 2,700 m.
Day 7: Chorten Ningpo – Zomlingthang
Today it is a short hike of about 3 hours, and the trek trail will be through several villages until you reach the dirt road. From the motor road, you will follow the road towards Punakha, which is the ancient capital of Bhutan.
Overnight at Zomlingthang.
Day 8: Zomlingthang - Limukha
Today we incorporate the valleys of Wangduephodrang in our hike. We walk a short distance on the motor road till the Dzong at Punakha, and cross the Pochu river, that originates from the glacial lakes of remote Lunana region. After that, it is a steady half-day climb into a forest of scattered Chirpine trees.
The view from the trail offers a wonderful view of Punakha valley and the Dzong. If the weather is clear, you can see some snow peaked mountains to the north.
The campsite is near Limukha village at an altitude of 2,250m.
Day 9: Limukha - Chungsakha/Wangdue
Today the trek trail ascends gradually up through the thick forest of oak species and rhododendrons, till you reach Dochula Pass at 3000 m. Then, descending through the thick forest leads to a small monastery of Chungsakha, dedicated to Drukpa Kuenlay, popularly known as the Divine Madman.
From Chungsakha you can look across the valley to Samtengang on the ridge to the south. Walk down- hill till you reach the motor road and then drive for about half an hour to Wangdiphodrang.
Overnight in Wangduephodrang
Day 10: Wangdiphodrang – Thimphu-Paro
After breakfast, drive to Punakha Dzong at the northern end of the Punakha Valley. The Punakha Dzong lies at the conjunction of the two rivers and this ancient fortress majestically commands much of the Punakha valley. Considered one of the biggest and the most historical Dzongs, this fortress houses the District Administration office and the winter residence of the State Monastic Body.
After the Dzong visit, it is a winding drive up to the Dochula Pass at 3000m, where you can stop for a hot cup of tea and some snacks.
Upon resuming the drive, you will be by-passing the Thimphu city for your onward destination to Paro.
Overnight in Paro
Day 11: Thimphu – Paro
The Taktshang, or the Tiger’s Nest monastery is considered the national icon, and it is considered a cultural hotspot.
Built on a cliff face about 800 m higher from the car park, the walk to this 8th C monastery takes about 3 hours with a coffee stop midway at the cafeteria.
The total hike time is about 5 to 6 hours, and after you get back in the car, you can consider wrapping up the day by seeking blessings from Kichu Lhakhang, for your onward destination.
Day 12: Departure
Depending on your flight schedule, your guide and driver will escort you to the airport, help you with your travel formalities, and bid you farewell.