PUNAKHA WINTER TREK – 11 DAYS
This is a short and easy trek through Punakha, the ancient capital of Bhutan.This hike follows the old foot trail from Thimphu to Punakha passes through several villages, forests and rice fields. It offers incredible views of Phajoding Monastery and crosses through Sinchula Pass. Hikers will also camp near Chorten Ningpo, an ancient chorten linked to Bhutan’s favourite patron saint, The Divine Madman Lam Drukpa Kuenley.
Best time to trek between March-May and September-November.
Day 1: Arrive Paro then to Thimphu
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. If you arrive via Kathmandu, which offers the most breathtaking view of the range, it’s possible to see Mount Everest and Mount Kanchenjunga as well. Upon arrival in Paro, you will be greeted by our representative and transferred to your hotel. In the afternoon you can 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. Afterward you will visit Kichu Lhakhang, the oldest temple in the country. Later drive to Thimphu. Overnight in Thimphu
Day 2: Thimphu
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. Overnight in Thimphu.
Day 3: Thimphu-Shong Pang
Drive north up the valley towards Dechencholing (the residence of the Queen Mother) Palace, following the Thimchu. The transport will reach you up to Pangrizam, the last motor point. From here, the trek starts towards Shong Pang, which takes about 4/5 hours through villages. The camp will be just above Chamina village.
Day 4: Shong Pang-Dopshing Pang
The trek trail ascends gradually up till you reach the pass called Sinchula which is about 3,490m. From this point, if the weather is clear, one can see Phajodhing Monastery, which is just above Thimphu. After 2 Km walk, you can view Thinly Gang village, Talo Monastery and the motor highway towards the ancient capital of Bhutan. The trek from the pass is more or less downhill till you reach the campsite.
Day 5: Dopshing Pang-Chorten Ningpo
The trek to Chorten Ningpo is rather gradual and will be walking through thick forests, villages and rice fields. The campsite is at an alt. of 2,700 m.
Day 6: Chorten Ningpo-Zomlingthang
For about 2-3 hours, the trek trail will be through several villages until you reach a motor road. From the motor road, you will follow the road towards Punakha, which is the ancient capital of Bhutan.
Day 7: Zomlingthang-Limukha
Follow the motor road till Punakha Dzong and then cross the Pochu River (Male River), the river that drains the remote Lunana region. You will have a steady half-day climb into a forest of scattered long needle Chir Pines. Make sure to fill your water bottle before leaving Punakha, as there is no water on the way for a couple of hours. You will have 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, alt. 2,250m.
Day 8: Limukha-Chungsakha-Punakha
The trek trail ascends gradually up through the thick forest of oak species and rhododendrons till you reach a pass called Dochula. Then descend through the thick forest leading to a small monastery dedicated to a lama called 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. Then drive to Punakha Overnight in Punakha.
Day 9: Punakha-Thimphu
After breakfast visit Punakha Dzong, the “Palace of Great Happiness” built in 1637 by the Shabdrung, 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. After lunch, Drive to Paro stop at Dochula pass for a hot cup of tea and some snacks. Continue to drive down to Paro. Evening: guests can either rest in the hotel. Over night hotel in Paro.
Day 10: Hike Paro Taksang
Drive up to Satsam Chorten, 10 km from Paro town and hike up to Taktsang Monastery. The name Taktsang means ‘Tiger’s Nest’. The Monastery is perched on a rocky ledge with a sheer drop of nearly 3000 ft. and overlooks the Paro valley and river. Taktsang is one of the most venerated pilgrim sites of the Himalayan world. It is believed that in the second half of the 8th century, Guru Padmasambhava, known as the second Buddha in Bhutan, meditated in the spot where the Monastery is situated having alighted there on the back of a tigress. Picnic lunch at the Taktsang cafeteria. The round trip hike takes about 4 hours.
Day 11: Depart Paro
After early breakfast drive to Paro Airport for departure. Our representative will bid you farewell.