13 Days Bumthang Cultural Trek
Day 1 (Paro)
The flight to Paro crosses the Himalayan Mountains, affording spectacular views of the awesome peaks, including the sacred Jumolhari and Jichu Drake peaks in Bhutan. On arrival you will be greeted by the guide and transfer to the hotel. After lunch, visit the Ta Dzong, once a fortified lookout tower that is now the National Museum. Then walk down the trail to visit the Rinpung Dzong meaning “fortress of the heap of jewels”. Next visit Kichu Lhakhang, the oldest temple in the country. From there you will be taken to the Drugyal Dzong (Bhutan Victory Fort), which was built in 1646 to commemorate Bhutan’s victory over Tibetan invaders during the 1600s. On a clear day you can see Mount Jumolhari, Bhutan’s second-highest mountain at 7,314meters. Overnight at hotel in Paro.
Day 2 (Paro, Thimpu)
After breakfast hike to Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest) Monastery, which is Bhutan’s most famous monastery situated at 3180 meters. Guru Rinpoche (spiritual master) is said to have flown on the back of a tigress to meditate in a cave where Taktsang Monastery now stands. Lunch will be served in the Cafeteria Restaurant, located about halfway up on the mountain. The monastery is perched on the edge of a steep cliff, about 900 meters above Paro Valley. After having explored the monastery, you will hike down to Paro valley. This evening, you will transfer to Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan. Overnight at hotel in Thimphu.
Day 3 (Thimpu, Punakha)
After breakfast, enjoy the scenic drive to Punakha with a stop for tea at Dochu La (3,100 meters), where on a clear day you can get spectacular views of the Himalayas. From the pass, drive downhill through the forests of rhododendron, fir and hemlock. You will arrive at Punakha after traversing through rice field and along the bank of Punakha River. On the way, you will stop at Metshina Village and take a 20-minute walk through the rice fields to Chimi Lhakhang, which is a fertility temple dedicated to the Devine Madman or Lama Drukpa Kuenley. If you wish, receive the blessing from the Lama’s wooden phallus! After lunch, visit Punakha Dzong, which is stunningly situated in between the male and female rivers like an anchored ship. Overnight at hotel in Punakha.
Day 4 (Punakha, Bumthang)
After early breakfast you will drive to Bumthang, the cultural heartland of the country. The route is along a spectacular winding road, crossing 3,300-meter-high Pele La pass, and at certain times of year it’s possible to see yaks. You will stop in Trongsa for lunch. After lunch you’ll visit Trongsa Dzong, the masterpiece of Bhutanese architecture. Then you’ll proceed to Bumthang with lush valleys and hilly forests. Along the way you will stop at a yathra (textile weaving) factory, where the yathras are designed with patterns unique to Bumthang, and you can even watch some of the weavers at their looms. Check into hotel on arrival. Overnight at hotel in Bumthang.
Day 5 (Bumthang)
Today’s sightseeing in Bumthang includes Jakar Dzong, the administrative center of the valley; Jambay Lhakhang, one of the oldest monasteries in Bhutan, dating from the introduction of Buddhism in Bhutan; and Kurjey Lhakhang, one of the most sacred places, because Guru Rinpoche, a great 8th century spiritual master left his body imprint on the cave when he was meditating. You will also have a chance to tour Tamshing Lhakhang, a treasure house of interesting religious Buddhist paintings. In the evening you can visit local shops. Overnight at hotel in Bumthang.
Day 6 (Ngang Lhakhang)
10KM / 2-3 HOURS / 170M ASCENT
You will begin trek today with a walk that covers about 12 miles in five to six hours. Your trial follows the Chamkhar Chu, a river known for trout. Stop for lunch at Thangbi Lhakhang. From here the trek enters the Ngang Yul (Land of the Swan), at the centre of which lies the Ngang Lhakhang (Swan Temple). In bygone days, the valley was populated by swans, and hence the name Ngang Yul. You will camp tonight at an altitude of 9500 feet.
Day 7 (Ugyen Choling)
18KM / 6-7 HOURS / 750M ASCENT 670M DESCENT
Your walk today covers 14 miles in seven to eight hours. You will begin with a gradual climb to Phephe La Pass at an altitude of 11,000 feet, the highest point of the trek route. The trial passes through beautiful forested areas where many stops can be made to enjoy the natural beauty of the place. Along the way, you will visit the Ugyen Choling Palace, which a repository of artifacts of ancient nobility. Your camp tonight is at an altitude of 9500 feet.
Day 8 (Jakar)
1.6KM / 1 HOUR / 130M DESCENT
Your trek today covers about 6 miles in two or three hours. The trial follows the Tang Chu, another trout-filled river. On the bank of the river is the Tang Rimochen Lhakhang, marking a sacred place where Guru Rimpoche meditated. The trek continues past the Mebar Tsho (Flaming Lake) to Pangshing, where you are picked up and driven the rest of the way to Jakar where you celebrate your return to civilization with a refreshing shower in hotel accommodations.
Day 9 (Bumthang, Punakha)
You’ll begin the day at the Bumthang market, and then drive to Punakha. Along the way visit the typical Bhutanese town of Wangdue with its dramatic Dzong perched on a ridge at the bend of a river. The nearby villages are known for their slate and stone carvings. Overnight at hotel in Punakha.
Day 10 (Punakha, Thimpu)
After breakfast, you will drive to Thimphu with stop at Dochula for tea. Here you will visit the new Druk Wangyal Monastery, which is the only of its kind in the country, with elaborate paintings depicting the lineage of the present monarchy and their visionary works. Check into your hotel on arrival. Overnight at hotel in Thimphu.
Day 11 (Thimpu)
After breakfast you will visit the King’s Memorial Chorten (built in memory of the third King of Bhutan who reigned from 1952-1972), Changgangkha Monastery, the radio tower (for a great view of Thimphu Valley and the Thimphu Dzong), and the zoo, which contains the national animal of Bhutan: the takin. From there you will visit the nunnery temple, the National Library (which houses ancient manuscripts), and the School of Arts and Crafts (also known as the painting school). After a relaxing lunch, you will visit the National Institute of Traditional Medicine, a traditional paper factory and the majestic Tashichhodzong. In the evening you can explore Thimphu city and absorb the lifestyle of the people. You can also visit some interesting handicraft shops. Overnight hotel in Thimphu.
Day 12 (Thimpu, Paro)
In the morning, you will catch a busy weekend market at the bank of Thimphu River where people from nearby villages come here to sell their farm products. You can stroll through the market to see the variety of food of the country, including basket upon basket of fiery chilies, fresh cheese, and mangoes. In addition, many stalls contain Bhutanese handicrafts and household items. It’s fun to wander the aisle, taking in the bustling atmosphere of the market. Perhaps this market scene offers wonderful opportunity for photographs and to mingle with local people. Later in the evening, you will drive to Paro. Overnight at hotel in Paro.