Duration: 10 nights / 11 days.
Accommodation: Hotels, Resorts and Tents.
Activity Type: Walking, Trekking & Tour.
Difficulty Level: Easy.
Group size: Minimum 2 pax
Best Months for the Trek: January – May, September – December.
Popularity Rating: *****
At 3000 meters, Phobjikha Valley is one of the most beautiful glacial valleys in the Himalayas. It is the winter home to the rare Black–necked Cranes coming in from the Tibetan Plateau. The valley of Gangtey is one of the most beautiful places in Bhutan and the Gangtey Gompa monastery is the only Nyingmapa monastery on the western side of the Black Mountains. This moderate trek passes through the village of Gogona and Khotokha, through meadows and fields, then forest of juniper, magnolia and rhododendrons. It’s one of the finest low level treks in Bhutan.
Day 01. Arrive at Paro, 2280 meters, by Druk Air:
The flight into Paro is a befitting introduction to the spectacular beauty of Bhutan. In clear weather, you will be able to see some of the world’s highest peaks as you fly into Paro. As the aircraft prepares for landing, you will be surrounded by the lush green valleys. On landing, your Bhutanese escort from Druk & Drukpa Travel will greet you at the exit terminal, and then drive you the short distance to the Hotel. After Lunch, you will visit Ta Dzong, an ancient watchtower, now the National Museum. Just below the Museum is the Paro Rinpung Dzong, the centre of civil and religious authority in this valley. A short walk takes you to the base of the Dzong and across a traditional cantilever bridge. Dinner and overnight in a hotel.
Day 02. Paro, 2280 meters: Excursion to Taktsang Monastery:
After breakfast a short drive will take you to Satsam Chorten, from where you start your 2-hour hike to view the spectacular Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest) monastery. The trail climbs through beautiful pine forests. You will stop for a rest and light refreshments at the Taktsang Zakhang (cafeteria) and then walk a short distance until you see, clearly and seemingly within reach, the famed Taktsang Monastery. Built in the 1600s, this incredible monastery clings to the edge of a sheer rock cliff. It is said that Guru Padmasambhava, the tantric mystic who brought Buddhism to Bhutan, came to Taktsang riding on a tigress. Lunch will be served at the cafeteria, followed by the walk back to Satsam Chorten.
After lunch, we will drive you to the ruins of the Drukgyal Dzong (Victory Fortress) about 16 km away from Paro town. Built in 1647 by the great Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, father and unifier of medieval Bhutan, the dzong was destroyed by fire and has been in ruins since then – an evocative reminder of the great victories it was built to commemorate. On a clear day you will see an unforgettable view of Mt. Jhomolhari (7,314 m), the highest unclimbed peak in the world. On the way back, visit Kichu Lhakhang that was built in 659 AD by the Tibetan King Srongsen Gampo. In the evening, drive to Thimphu. Dinner and overnight in a hotel.
Day 03. Thimphu Sightseeing:
The day begins with a visit to the National Memorial Chorten (1974) built in honour of the late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, and the Dupthop Lhakhang, one of the few surviving nunneries in Bhutan. We then visit the National Library, which displays ancient Buddhist manuscripts, and the Traditional Painting School where traditional art is still kept alive through instructions in the art of Thangka painting (sacred Buddhist scrolls).
After lunch, we drive to Buddha Point to see the tallest Statue of Buddha in the world. We will then visit Changangkha Lhakhang and Takin Preserve Centre. In the evening, we will visit the Tashichhodzong, seat of the government and the Central Monastic Body, including the summer residence of the Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot of Bhutan). Then we will visit the Handicrafts Emporium followed by shopping for souvenirs in the shops of Thimphu. Overnight in a hotel.
Day 04. Thimphu – Punakha: (76 kms, 3 hours drive).
After breakfast, we will drive to Punakha via Dochula Pass. If the weather is clear, we stop for a while at Dochula Pass to view the higher Himalayas. On the way, we will stop a while to view Chimi Lhakhang, known as “the Temple of Fertility”, and built by Lama Drukpa Kuenley (the Divine Madman) in the 15th century.
In Punakha, we will visit the Punakha Dzong built in 1637 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and located between Pho Chu (Male River) and Mo Chu (Female River). For many years until the time of the second king, the Dzong served as the seat of the government. The construction of the Dzong was foretold by Guru Rimpoche who predicted that a person named Namgyal will arrive at a hill that looks like an elephant. There was a smaller building here called Dzong Chu (Small Dzong) that housed a statue of Buddha. It is said that Zhabdrung ordered the architect, Zowe Palep, to sleep in front of the statue, while Palep was sleeping, the Zhabdrung took him in his dreams to Zangtopelri and showed him the palace of Guru Rinpoche. From his vision, the architect conceived the design for the new Dzong, which in keeping with the tradition, was never committed to paper. The Dzong was named Druk Pungthang Dechen Phodrang (Palace of Great Happiness). Punakha is still the winter residence of Je Khenpo and King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck convened the First National Assembly here in 1952.
Day 05. Punakha – Gangtey Gompa:
After breakfast, we will drive for 2 hours to Gangtey. On the way, you will visit the Wangduephodrang Dzong built in 1638. The Dzong is located at the confluence of Mo Chu and Tang Chu rivers. Drive further to Gangtey. Visit Gangtey Gompa Monastery from outside. Gyaltse Pema Thinley, the grandson and mind reincarnation of Pema Lingpa, founded the Temple in 1613. It is a Nyingmapa Monastery and is affiliated to other Nyingmapa monasteries including Tamshing in Bumthang. Explore Phobjikha valley, famous for the Black-necked Cranes during winter. Dinner and overnight at a guesthouse.
Day 06. Gangey – Gogona 2950 meters: Start of Trek – The trail winds up through fields and then ascends the Tselela Pass. Then the trail descends gradually for some time trough forests of juniper, bamboo, magnolia, and rhododendron. After the last short climb you will reach Gogona village. The people of Gogona were originally nomads and they speak Jopkha (language of the nomads). Distance 15 km, about 6 – 7 hours.
Day 07. Gogona – Khotokha 2600 meters:
In the morning you will climb a gentle slope to Shobjula (11,155 ft.). Then the path leads down to a wide valley of Khotokha, summer place for the people of Sha (under Wangduephodrang). Distance 15 – 16 km, about 6 – 7 hours.
Day 08. Khotokha – Chazam – Wangdue (3 – 4 hrs):
A short ascend leads to Mulaila Pass (9200 ft). Then the path descends through ever-changing vegetation till the bridge in Wangduephodrang. Your trek ends here at. Dinner and overnight in a hotel.
Day 09. Wangduephodrang – Thimphu, 77 km:
After breakfast, drive to Thimphu. After Lunch, witness an archery match, visit the General Post Office for stamps. Dinner and overnight in a hotel.
Day 10. Thimphu – Paro, 56 kms:
After breakfast, excursion to Cheri Monastery. After lunch, drive to Paro. On the way, visit Tachog Lhakhang and visit a Bhutanese Farm House. In the evening, free to stroll the town for photography. Dinner and overnight in a hotel.
Day 11. Departure:
Early morning drive to the airport and farewell.