MERAK SAKTENG TREK – 18 DAYS
Merak-Sakteng stands out as a distinct attraction in Bhutan. Unlike anywhere else in the country, it offers a visitor to experience a unique semi-nomadic lifestyle, culture and vernacular in one of the most scenic pastoral valleys in the protected area of Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary (SWS) in Trashigang Dzongkhag (District), in Eastern Bhutan.
It is a moderate trek (between 1,500m and 4,100m) traversing through the semi-nomadic villages of Gengu (3400m), Merak (3500m), Sakteng (2800m), Thakthi (2200m), and Joenkhar (1700m). Tour operators are not mandated to use a particular trail but the most common trail usually begins from Chaling and ends in Phongmey. Both these Geogs of Merak and Sakteng are an important watershed for Ngere Ama chu and Gamri chu rivers respectively.
The campsites have been designed aesthetically to blend with local architecture and ambiance. Enclosed by a stonewall (with a gate to bring in the ponies to unpack trekking paraphernalia), the campsite is equipped with facilities such as tenting sheds, toilets, kitchens (in some), dining area and water supply. A signage describing the location, altitude, forest type, fauna, additional hiking trails in the locality, distance and time to next camp welcomes a visitor to each campsite.
Day 01: Arrive Guwahati-S/Jongkhar
Arrive in Guwahati airport in Assam, India. Meet our representative and drive to Samdrup Jongkhar, a trade hub for eastern Bhutan. In the evening stroll around the town. Overnight at Hotel in Samdrup Jongkhar.
Day 02: Samdrup Jongkhar-Trashigang
After an early breakfast, drive north to Trashigang. En-route we visit to a local weaving center in Khaling. Later in the afternoon, we visit Trashigang Dzong, administrative center for the valley. Overnight at Hotel in Trashigang.
Day 03: In Trashigang
Drive to Trashiyangtse, visit Gomkora temple, Doksum village along the way. In Trashiyantse, visit Traditional Art School, Chorten Kora and stroll around the village and its small town. Return to Trashigang for overnight. Overnight at Hotel in Trashigang.
Day 04: Commence trek to Donmong Chu ( Approx. 19km, 5-6hours)
From Trashigang drive for about 2 hours to the road end at Chaling at 2135m. Then begin trekking with gradual climb towards Shaktimi meadow, with yaks and sheep grazing with some yak herders’ huts scattered on the hillside. Continue the climb to reach Mendula Pass at 3345m. After the pass it is all downhill through the rhododendron forests till campsite at a beautiful meadow known as Donmong chu by the river at 3145m. Overnight in camp.
Day 05: Donmong Chu-Merak (Approx. 10.5km, 3-4hours trek)
Today we trek along the Donmong Chu River through the rhododendron forests and shrubs. Today’s trail skips steep climbs and follows the river bends, gradually gaining the height. The first village we come across is Gangu (3430m) and after another 45 minutes, we arrive at a large Merak village at an elevation of 3520m. Overnight in Camp.
Day 06: Merak-Mitsateng (Approx. 16km, 6 hours trek)
We start early from the camp, towards the east with a gradual climb to the first pass at 3900m. Today we cross the highest pass along with some smaller passes and ridges so it might be toughest day this trek. We continue along the tree line till we reach Nachungla Pass at 4150m. Catch a glimpse of 360 views of Bhutan peaks, Arunachal and Tibet. From the pass, it is a long descent to Miksateng village campsite at 3060m. Overnight in camp.
Day 07: Mitsateng-Sakteng (Approx. 6.5km, 2-3hours trek)
After breakfast, we descend down to the river and then climb gradually towards a small pass with a small chorten (stupa) on the hill overlooking the Sakteng valley. From the ridge, we descend down to the valley, cross the river into Sakten village at an altitude of 2950m.
Overnight in camp.
Day 8: Sakteng
Today we rest at Sakteng exploring its beauty. In the morning, we visit the village, local homes, temple, meet with people and witness the lifestyle and unique living culture of this ethnic group. In the afternoon, we watch the cultural show performed by locals. Brokpas have a unique yak and ache lhamo dances. We can also try the local liquor with a special ceremony. Overnight in Sakteng.
Day 09: Sakten-Joenkhar Teng (Approx. 17km, 6-7 hours trek)
Today we trek for about 6-7 hours with a gradual descent. As the journey is seems long so we start early from the camp. Leaving Sakteng, we march forward for the Joenkhar Teng and camp right next to the river at an altitude of 1750m. Overnight in camp
Day 10: Joenkhar Teng Tashigang–Mongar (Approx. 8km, 2-3 hours trek)
Our last day of the trek begins with short climb through Joenkhar Teng and a long descent crossing suspension bridges and short climb to reach Phongmay (1770m). Afterwards, drive to Mongar town, which takes about 5hrs via Trashigang. Overnight at Hotel in Monger.
Day 11: Mongar- Bumthang
After breakfast, we begin a long and spectacular drive west to Bumthang, across Thrumshingla National park, witnessing the drastic vegetation and landscapes, rich in bird and other wildlife. We also pass through many small hamlets and villages along the way before arriving in Jakar in the evening. Overnight at Hotel in Jakar.
Day 12: Bumthang
In the morning visit Kurje Lhakhang, one of the most sacred places in the kingdom as Bhutan’s “patron saint”, Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) meditated here. From Kurje monastery, a tarmac road heads south along the right bank of the river to Jambey Lhakhang. This temple, erected by the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century, is one of the two oldest in Bhutan (the other being Kyichu Lhakhang in Paro). After lunch, hike to Tamshing Lhakhang, founded in 1501 by Pema Lingpa. It contains interesting and ancient Buddhist wall paintings. Later, visit Jakar Dzong, “the castle of the white bird”, and then take a stroll through Bumthang’s market area before returning to the hotel. Overnight at Hotel.
Day 13: Bumthang – Trongsa – Punakha
After breakfast take a long drive to Punakha. From Jakar, cross into Chumey valley, then across Yontongla pass, we arrive in Trongsa, where we stop to peek at the Tower of Trongsa museum and also see the impressive Trongsa Dzong. Trongsa Dzong is one of the largest fortress in Bhutan. Traverse Pele la pass (through Black mountain national park) and descend into semi-tropical Punakha-Wangdue valley, where we arrive in the evening. Overnight at Punakha.
Day 14: Punakha-Thimphu
After breakfast, visit Punakha Dzong, the “Palace of Great Happiness” built in 1637 by the Zhabdrung, the ‘Unifier of Bhutan’ as predicted by the great Guru Rimpoche (Padmasambhava). And drive for about 12 km and from the road point take a walk across the rice fields and a river to reach the Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten, which is located on a beautiful hillock called Ngezergang. It houses the paintings and statues belonging to the Nyingmapa tradition. Visit Metshina Village and take a 20-minute walk through the rice fields to Chime Lhakhang, which is a fertility temple, where you may receive a special fertility blessing if you wish. Afterwards, drive to Thimphu. Overnight at Hotel in Thimphu.
Day 15: Thimphu – Paro
After breakfast you will visit the King’s Memorial Chorten (built in memory of the third King of Bhutan who reigned from 1952-1972),Buddha Point, 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, the majestic Tashichodzong. In the evening, drive to Paro. Overnight at Paro in Hotel.
Day 16: Paro
After Breakfast visit the Paro Dzong. It was built in 1646 and now houses government offices and religious institutions, as do all the Dzongs (forts) currently. You’ll cross a traditional wooden bridge on the way to the Dzong. You can then tour the National Museum, formerly the watchtower for the Dzong. It now houses a collection of fine arts, paintings, thangkas, statues, and antiques. After Lunch you will visit Kichu Lhakhang, the oldest temple in the country. over night hotel in Paro.
Day 17: Hike to Takstang Monastery
Early in the morning, make an excursion to Taktsang Monastery – this has to be the monastery with the most outstanding setting in Bhutan. Set on a vertical cliff face at 2950m above sea level, it defies all engineering logic. For the energetic, hike 2 hours up to get a more dramatic view of the monastery. (The hike demands a certain level of fitness and a pony ride to the monastery can be arranged at additional cost). Just on the outskirts of Paro town, visit Kyichu Lhakang, one of the oldest temples in Bhutan and have the opportunity to meet the local villages in a local farm house. Overnight at Hotel in Paro.
Day 18: Departure
After early breakfast drive to Paro Airport for departure. Our representative will bid you farewell.