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We have shown the itinerary on the basis of a complete holiday purely for illustrative purposes. Naturally as tailor-made Bhutan holiday specialists we would be happy to discuss additional options, whether it be other activities, more/less sightseeing, alternative/upgraded accommodation etc dependent upon your interests, preferences and time available. We even tailor-make a suggested 'what to pack' list for you based upon your ultimately chosen Bhutan tailor-made holiday too.
It’s a full days drive of around 7hrs, but it’s a spectacular journey. Firstly up and over the Dochu La (3,000m) and then down into the Wangdiphodrang and Punakha Valleys. Another high pass to cross, this time the Pele La (3350m) and then a seemingly endless descent to Trongsa. Here you won’t be able to miss the Trongsa Dzong. It’s one of the most important and impressive of all the Dzongs in Bhutan. If you’re up for it there’s a watch tower above the Dzong from where there are really dramatic views from the roof top.
Another day another road pass, this time the 3,350m Yotong La, which leads down into the stunning Bumthang Valley. It’s a much shorter drive today of around 3-4hrs, so there’s plenty of time for stops along the way at points of interest, as well as a stroll in the Jakhar area to stretch the legs.
A short drive (the last for a while….promise) of around 30 minutes to Tangbi where your trek support crew will be waiting for you. Once the pack animals are all loaded it’s time to start your trek proper. Heading along side the river you walk upstream through typical rural farmlands for a couple of hours, perhaps three and cross the river by way of a bridge at Nathe. Things soon become a bit more foresty and less rural and a further half hour of walking brings you to camp (2640m). There’s a small army check post who are here to check the permits of the local people wishing to go into the Chamkha Cha Valley to collect cordyceps, a fungus that is highly prized due to its believed medicinal value. Walking time is approx 5-6hrs.
It’s now really all about ascent as you head up through dense forest with the now raging river ever present below. Reaching a confluence of two mountain rivers at around 2950m you cross via a bridge and continue on what is mostly gradual ascent up to Gophu Camp at 3275m. A longer walking day of around 7hrs.
Things are becoming increasingly spectacular as you follow the trail that climbs up by the river. Ahead are some pretty impressive cliff faces and at times it can be a bit muddy and tricky underfoot. But, as you are gaining height you’re entering the alpine zone and there are open meadows used by the yak herders for grazing. Continuing on this all ascent day the trees begin to thin out more. Reaching a small temple known as Tsampa, camp is a further hours walk at the tiny settlement of Tsawuu, although in some instances camping here is sometimes not possible so you’d camp near to the temple. Altitude at camp-3850m, walking time a good 8hrs.
Today you’ll be going over the 4,000m mark and so the following two days of trekking are much shorter by necessity and in order to help with acclimatisation. It is still mostly uphill though. But, the good news is that some Himalayan peaks that form the border with Tibet come into view. Reaching a chorten, you’re now in open mountain country and there’s a little bit of downhill to the river and a collection of yak herder huts known as Gewathang. You’ll also encounter a series of yak gates on this section which leads across open meadow lands as well as through juniper and rhoododendron forests, with the odd boulderous rock to negotiate. Camp is by another collection of herders huts by the river at Shingo (4210m). Walling time is around four and a half hours.
You will certainly know that you’re well and truly in the heart of Yak country and there are also some fine Himalayan peaks up to 7,000m in view too. Welcome to the high Himalayas. Leaving camp there’s a very short uphill before a short descent and then a more gradual rising walk into Chamkha Chu Valley. Once again you pass several collections of yak herder huts and eventually after having to walk over bogland a large open meadow surrounded by gnarly, rock peaks appears. This is as far as you’ll go today. Altitude at camp-4495m. Walking time around 4hrs.
Although it’s been a longish and gradual height gain, it’s good sense to build in an acclimatisation day today. Namely a day to climb higher and then descend back down again. Gangkar Puensum can wait until tomorrow although you may get a glimpse today if you choose to walk and not rest up at camp. One option would to hike up to a collection of stone built herders huts known as Buutrsum. It’s a sort of “pick your way” route as the trail is pretty much non existent. Basically you would follow the river further upstream towards a glacial moraine and around the 4800m mark. The reward is a great view of Melunghi Gang and the top of Gangkar Puensum. It’s around a 6hr return trip to camp, but up here there’s always the option to wander of somewhere else in this pretty spectacular mountain valley, most of which remains largely unknown to all but the hardy yak herders.
Seeing the world’s highest unclimbed peak has been the principle objective of this trek, but already you’ll have realised that it so much more than that. What could be determined as Gangkar Puensum Base Camp and your aim today is to reach a very large, open valley beneath the mountain. However, you may get wet as from camp there’s a river to cross and no bridge. This glacial fed river is not surprisingly very cold. Sorry about that, that’s the remote Himalayas for you. Having waded through the not really difficult to cross river and then down to some huts by Bamurpa, you then climb up to prayer flagged ridge and traverse for a while. In around 2hrs you reach another herders site. There’s still more ascent as you walk up to a sort of pass at around the 5,000m mark and from here you should hope for some gobsmacking views of Gangkar Puensum. It’s now only a short walk to camp (4995m) by a trio of herders shelters. Walking time approx. 5hrs.
You could start heading back down today, but after all the effort to get here and the fact that it is simply one of the must spectacular mountain amphitheatres in the world it would be almost madness to leave and not explore a little more. One option is to climb to get better views and head up onto a ridge and further up to around the 5400m mark. Looking back down to the valley you’ll see a series of tiny, scattered lakes as well as breathtaking mountain scenery and the realisation that “not many people come here”. There aren’t really any trails here, which is hardly surprising as it’s not a frequently visited location like say EBC or ABC and the like in Nepal. So, with your guide you can certainly choose other possibilities to enjoy the magnificent scenery. There are other side valleys to explore and you can be sure that very few people have explored them.
Retracing your steps all the way back to Khaktang in around 5-6hrs of walking it’s time to say a sad “goodbye” to your trek support crew, whom hopefully by now are your good friends and have supported you well. At Khaktang a private vehicle will take down to Jakhar, where a bed and a warm shower will now be welcome if not a somewhat strange experience.
Whilst it is just a short flight to Paro from Jakhar and subject to being able to secure tickets for the flight (a challenge at times in itself) the flight itself is highly weather dependent. Thus it may be necessary to drive back to Paro. Subject to the flight arrival time it may be possible to enjoy an afternoon of sightseeing in Paro. Highlights include the National Museum and the amazing Paro Dzong.
You can’t really come to Bhutan without seeing the Tigers Nest. The Machhu Picchu of Bhutan-Taktsang Monastery and today you’ll visit it. It’s actually a stiff 2hr walk up through woodland and a rather steep climb of around 350m ascent it is too. Thankfully there’s a teahouse at one of the classic Taktsang Monastery view points where you can rest and refresh before a further 30 minutes of climbing brings you to Takstang (3110m) itself. On the final climb you pass what is probably the most famous view point that looks directly across to the monastery. It’s usually possible to enter the monastery, but if there’s something going on at the monastery (religious/VIP visit) then it may not be possible. Heading steeply down a descent of around 100m leads into a gorge before climbing back up to the main monastery gate, from which it’s down to the valley floor and your ride “home”. Walking time is around 4-5hrs with around 750m of ascent and descent. It’s actually quite a challenging walk to get your iconic photo’s of what is probably Bhutan’s most famous site.
Detailed Example Itinerary