Despite the opening up of a number of new trekking possibilities in Bhutan, the long-established route from Chomolhari across to Laya will always rank as one of Bhutan's finest treks. The reasons for this are not hard to find. This route offers a great variety of trekking conditions, from picturesque farmland and forest to alpine pastureland and high passes.
Day 1: Arrive Paro (By Druk Air). The flight into Paro on our national carrier, Druk Air, is a befitting introduction to the spectacular beauty of our country. In clear weather, magnificent views of the world's highest peaks, give way to the lush green Paro valley as you land. Your Bhutanese escort from Country Travels will greet you on arrival, then drive you the short distance to the Hotel. Afternoon visit Ta Dzong, an ancient watchtower, which now houses the National Museum. Evening ends with a walk through Paro's main shopping district. Dinner and overnight at the hotel.
Day 2: Paro hike to Taktsang and Paro sightseeing. After breakfast, we drive to the winding road to the Drukgyal Dzong, the ruined fort, which was once defended this valley from Tibetan invasions, and also visit a Bhutanese farm house of a local family at Drukgyal for a close up view of everyday Bhutanese life. We then drive beyond Satsam Chorten to hike up (or horse ride) to the Taktsang monastery (Tiger's nest). The horse ride up to the cafeteria will take around 1.5hrs. At the view point, you will enjoy the stunning view of the monastery, where Guru Padmasambhava landed on the back of a tigress in the 8 th century. We then walk back to the road point and visit Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the oldest temples in Bhutan also visit Rinpung Dzong, built in the 17 th century to defend the valley against Tibetan invaders. The Dzong is now used as and administration centre and school for monks. Dinner and overnight at hotel.
Day 3: Paro - Shana (Start of Trek). Our trek to Shana starts at Drukgyal Dzong following the Paro river and we pass cultivated fields and tiny picturesque villages. The forests are alive with numerous birds and brightly coloured butterflies. Overnight at camp Shana. Altitude 2,820 m; Distance 14 Km; Time 5 - 6 hours.
Day 4: Shana - Thangthangka. The trail follows the river through a heavily forested area with a few isolated farmhouses. It narrows and closes in and the trail winds up and down along the drainage. We pass a junction en route, where another path leads north over the Tremo La to Tibet. Camp is in a meadow with a stone shelter. Altitude 3610 m; Distance 21 Km; Time 7 - 8 hours.
Day 5: Thangthangka - Jangothang. In the morning after passing a small army post, the trail slowly leaves the forest line and gradually climbs into a beautiful valley, passing Tegethang, a winter home of yak herdsmen. Lunch will be served in one of these huts. Lots of yaks will be seen today before we arrive at the Jumolhari base camp (4,115 m). High mountains overlook the camp and visible nearby are the ruins of an old fortress used to guard Bhutan against Tibetan invasions. Altitude 4,115 m; Distance 15 Km; Time 5 - 6 hours.
Day 6: Jangothang (Halt). A rest day. A chance to acclimatize and walk up to the Jumolhari glacier or to the lakes in the opposite direction.
Day 7: Jangothang - Lingshi. A good day's walk today with spectacular views of the Jhomolhari, Jichu Drakey and the Tserim Gang. We start climbing straight away and after some 3 to 4 hours reach the Nyelela pass (4,700-m). After the pass we descend to a circular hut just below Lingshi, where we camp. Coming down from Lingshi we obtain our first views of the truly mystical Dzong atop a high hill. Altitude: 4010m; Distance: 17 kms; Time: 6 - 7 hours.
Day 8: Lingshi - Chebisa.
This is a magical day. Leaving Lingshi behind we gently climb gently to reach another delightful village, Gom Yu, which is set right below a 300 m cliff. Another hour walk brings us to a lovely little valley with a huge waterfall at one end of the Shangri La village of Chebisa, where we camp by the side of the river. The walk is very leisurely with plenty of reasons and opportunities to linger. Altitude 3,780m; Distance 12 kms; Time 4 - 5 hours.
Day 9: Chebisa - Shomuthang.
We start with quite a stiff climb through high pastures up the Gokula pass (4,320 m) before we drop through forests of dwarf rhododendron. We climb gradually and head down to the camp near a riverbed. Altitude 3,890 m; Distance 17 kms; Time 6 - 7 hours.
Day 10: Shomuthang - Robluthang.
A long haul over the Jarela pass at 4,640 m where we once again get stunning views of the Himalayan mountains above us. We drop steeply down a forest trail to the Tsarithang valley, where herds ofTakin roam, then cross a knee deep river before climbing up Robluthang where we camp. Altitude 4,100m; Distance 22 kms; Time 7 - 8 hours.
Day 11: Robluthang - Lemithang.
This is one of the hardest days of the trek. We climb slowly up to Shinchela pass at 4,870 m. and are rewarded with stunning views of mountains, including the spectacular Gang Chen Ta at the head of the valley. On a clear day practically all the mountains on the northern border are visible. Eagles, griffin vultures, blue sheep and yaks abound in this area. We descend down to camp on a lovely spot by the riverbank. Altitude 4,040m; Distance kms; Time 6 - 7 hours.
Day 12: Lemithang - Laya.
We walk along the river, one of the tributaries of the Mochu and through a forest of rhododendron and silver fir and then enter the village of Laya. The people of Laya are famous for they're vertical stripe yak hair clothing and their strange conical bamboo hats. The women wear their hair long and with great deal of turquoise and jade jewellery. The features of the people are even more Tibetan/ Mongolian than the Bhutanese who live in the central valleys. The rest of the day is spent at leisure or visiting village houses and mixing with the villagers. Good views of the Masagang and the other peaks. Altitude 3,880m; Distance 10 kms; Time 4 - 5 hours.
Day 13: Laya (Halt).
We have a rest day at Laya and an opportunity to meet the local people.
Day 14: Laya- Koena.
Descend to the valley and follow the "i Mo Chu"i0 through heavily forested areas. Overnight in the camp at Koena. Distace 20 Kms; Time 5-6 hours.
Day 15: Koena - Gasa Tshachu.
We begin today with a gradual climb to Yalela pass (alt.3740 mts.) and then descend again to Gasa. After reaching camp you can visit Gasa Dzong which is an outpost fort guarding the trade route to Tiber. Down by the river side is Gasa Tshachu (hot spring), worth a dip. Overnight halt at Gasa Tshachu. Distance 22 Kms; Time 5-6 hours.
Day 16: Gasa Tshachu - Goem Damji.
The path continuous descending and ascending, through heavily forested areas and lots of wild orchids. Camp nearby the village. Altitude 2200 mts; Distance 15 Kms; Time 4 - 5 hours.
Day 17: Goem Damji - Tashithang - Punakha.
Today is the last trekking day. Continue following the "Mo Chu" down through the heavily forested area till you reach Tashithang (alt. 1620 mts). The Country Travels coach will be waiting to drive you to Punakha. Overnight at the hotel in Punakha.
Day 18: Punakha - Thimphu.
Morning visit Punakha Dzong, winter seat of the Je Khenpo and the Monk Body, remarkably located between the rivers of the Mo (Female) Chu and Pho (Male) Chu. After that depart for Thimphu over Dochula pass(3050 m). Check in at the hotel in Thimphu. After Lunch a visit to the visit National Memorial Chorten, built in honour of our late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk visit National Library, stocked with priceless ancient Buddhist manuscripts and also visit the Folk Heritage Museum, which is dedicated to connecting people to the Bhutanese rural past through exhibition of items and artifacts used in rural households, Textile Museum, where the art of traditional weaving is still kept alive and preserved through exhibition and has a good collection of old textiles which are rich in its color and design. Other high lights include a visit to the Handicrafts Emporium, which has all types of Bhutanese handicrafts for sale. Evening stroll through the Thimphu's main town for some last minute shopping. Dinner and overnight at hotel.
Day 19: Thimphu - Paro - Departure ( by Druk Air).
After breakfast drive to Paro in order to catch your flight onwards where our representatives will bid you farewell and happy journey back home.