SNOW MAN TREK

The formidable Snowman trek in Bhutan is considered the most challenging and expensive trekking in Bhutan or even in the Himalayan region. So you will have to choose an appropriate time or season and must be physically fit for the successful completion of the trek. And the best time considered to start this trek is from late May and end of September months. The trek will go over many high passes that are over 4000-5350 meters, encountering all the breathtaking views of permanent snow capped Northern Himalayan ranges in Bhutan. You will also camp at high altitude several times after your couple of hour’s wonderful and scenic day hikes whilst you also get to camp at remote Lunana village surrounded by many gorgeous glacial lakes. Lunana village is also one of the highest settlements in the world. Blue Sheep’s, Marmots and many picturesque glacial lakes can be seen quite often on the trek. You can also see Rhododendrons, Blue Poppy and many other alpine flowers in bloom if you trek in-between late May to June months.

DETAILED ITINERARY for 30 days.

Day 1. Arrive Paro Bhutan by Druk Air

Arrive Paro by Druk Air Airbus 319 jet, the national carrier. The flight offers you beautiful views of mountains on your approach. On arrival and after visa formalities you will be received by our representatives and transferred to your very comfortable hotel. In the afternoon you will have the opportunity to explore Paro town a little and visit Paro Dzong. A Dzong is part fortress, part castle, part monastery and part administration building. Paro Dzong is one of Bhutan’s most impressive and well-known dzongs, and the finest example of Bhutanese architecture we’ll see. The inward-sloping walls form a massive structure that towers over the town and is visible as a great white monolith from vantage points throughout the valley. Paro is at 2280 metres (7500 ft).

Day 2.  Hike to Taktsang Monastery

Day hike to Taktsang monastery, the famous “Tiger’s Nest”. Horses can be arranged for about $8 usd. The hike which is all uphill takes about 2-3 hours through a lovely pine forest. The monastery which clings to a huge granite cliff 800 meters above the Paro valley was devastated by fire in 1998, but the Royal Government took immediate steps to restore the monastery to its original structure, and it has been completely rebuilt. It is believed that the Buddhist saint Padmasambhava came in the 7th century on a flying tigress and meditated in a cave for 3 months. The demons were subdued who were trying to stop the spread of Buddhism and converted the Paro valley to Buddhism. During the end of the 17 century, a monastery was built on the spot where the saint meditated and it is a pilgrimage site for every Bhutanese to visit once in their life time. Drive back to hotel.

 Day 3. Army Camp to Pine Camp | Distance: 13km - 4 to 5 hours

A short drive from Paro takes us to Drukgyel Dzong, the old fort where the trek used to begin, but we continue up the extended road to the Army Camp, and the start of our trekking route. Heading up the Paro Chhu river valley, the trail passes the small settlements where we see excellent examples of Bhutanese farmhouses, and then through a forest to 'Pine Camp' (3000m / 9850 feet).

Day 4. Pine Camp to Thangkthanka | Distance: 18km - 6 to 7 hours

Leaving Pine Camp the trail continues upriver and the route winds in and out of rhododendron and blue pine forests. We are now in Jigme Dorji National Park, so keep your eyes open for wildlife and changes in vegetation as we continue to climb in elevation. Tonight we camp in Thangkthanka (3520m / 11545 ft. )

Day 5. Thangthanka to Jangothang | Distance: 19km - 5 to 6 hours

An hour out of camp this morning we leave the tree line and head into the high mountains. At the halfway point of our hike, we cross Tengethang, a winter home of the migratory yak herders. Arriving at Jangothang (4040m / 13,250 ft), we can watch the sun set on Mt. Jhomolhari (7314m) and Mt. Jichu Drake (6989m). 

Day 6. Rest day in Jangothang (Chomolhari Base Camp)

The first of our acclimatization days, we have many day-hiking options. The first is a three to four hour excursion up the ridge to the north for great views of Jichu Drake. The second is to hike up towards the head of the valley in the direction of Jhomolhari. The third is a trek up the main valley towards the last house and onward toward Jichu Drake, this gives a great view of where we will be going in the next few days. The final alternative is a fishing expedition to Tshophu, a high-altitude lake about a two hour hike away.

Day 7. Jangothang to Lingshi | Distance: 20km - 6 to 7 hours

Heading uphill from Jangothang we cross the first of many major passes. The Nyile La pass at 4890m (16,135 ft) is about a four hour ascent. Descending the other side we will encounter sparce juniper and rhododendron and pass many yak herder camps. From this area on we start to see herds of blue sheep. Arriving in Lingshi we set up camp at 4150m (13,700 ft).

Day 8. Lingshi to Chebisa | Distance: 14km - 4 to 5 hours

This morning we will visit Lingshi Dzong, also known as Yugyel Dzong in the 17th century, it was used in the past to control travel between Tibet and Bhutan. Since today’s hike will not be as long, the pace will be more relaxed. Upon reaching the camp at Chebisa (3850m / 12,600 ft), we will have time to visit Chebisa village and see a slice of Bhutanese village life.

Day 9. Chebisa to Shakshepasa | Distance: 13km - 4 hours

Crossing the Gombu La pass at 4350m (14,300 ft), we descend into a rhododendron filled valley, and continue past some yak herder camps to Shakshepasa where we camp at 3980m (13,100 ft). Sometimes we continue on to a bigger (flatter;) camp 1.5 hours further along the trail to make the next day a little shorter.

Day 10. Shakshepasa to Robluthang | Distance: 18km - 7 to 8 hours

An early morning start will get us on the way to Jhari La pass at 4747m (15,600 ft). Decending to Tsharijathang, the valley where herds of Takin (the national animal of Bhutan) are normally seen. From here we climb to our camp at Robluthang at 4160m (13,700 ft).

Day 11. Robluthang to Limithang | Distance: 19km - 7 to 8 hours

Starting early a strenuous hike leads to the Shinge La pass at 5005m (16,650 ft). Descending to Limithang we’ll see Mt. Gangchenta (6840m) and the glacially carved Gangchhenta valley. Gangchhenta means Great Tiger Mountain. We camp at 4140m (13,650 ft).

Day 12. Limithang to Laya | Distance: 10km - 4 to 5 hours

A shorter hike follows a trail in and out of a heavily wooded, uninhabited valley. Climbing up out of the forests we will be rewarded with some great views of Gangchhenta and Masang Gang (7165m) mountains. We camp at Laya at 3840m (12,650 ft).

Day 13. Rest day in Laya

Staying in Laya for the day we will get a chance to see the village with its community school, hospital, archery field and the first shop since the Paro Valley. Laya is a unique village of about 800 people with their own language, customs and distinct dress. The women keep their hair long and wear peculiar conical bamboo hats with a bamboo spike at the top. They wear a lot of silver jewellery on their backs, on many women this display includes an array of teaspoons.

Day 14. Laya to Rodufu | Distance: 19km - 6 to 7 hours

The trek leads gradually downhill to the Lunana trail junction, then makes a gradual climb to the camp through a forest of conifers, maple and rhododendron. The trail improves and becomes wider as we climb out of the river valley. We camp at Rodufu near a small stream at 4160m (13,645 ft).

Day 15. Rodufu to Narethang | Distance: 16km - 8 to 9 hours

It is a long hike, first crossing the Tsimo La pass at 4950m (16,200 ft). Descending to Narethang we pass some dwarf rhododendron and hike in the shadow of Gangla Karchung peak (6395m). We camp at 4900m (16,000 ft).

Day 16. Narethang to Tarina | Distance 18km - 6 to 7 hours

Climb to Karchung La pass at 5240m (17,187 ft) and down to the glacial lakes that are the source of the Tang Chhu river. Above the lakes are the mighty peaks of Jejekangphu Gang (7300m) and Tsenda Kang (7100m). We camp at Tarina, 4020m (13,250 ft).

Day 17. Tarina to Woche | Distance: 15km - 5 to 6 hours

The walk leads down through conifer forests, following the upper reaches of the Pho Chhu river. The trail then climbs over a ridge and drops to the village of Woche at 3940m (13,000 ft). The trek has now entered the Lunana region. We often continue on about an hour past Woche to a spectacular campsite below the Keche La pass.

Day 18. Woche to Lhedi | Distance: 19km - 7 to 8 hours

It’s a gradual climb from Woche to the campsite below the pass, and then gets steeper on the section up to the Keche La, at 4580m (15,100 ft), after which it drops steeply to Thega village our usual lunch spot. The afternoon hike continues along a beautiful river valley past spectacular waterfalls to Lhedi village where we camp at 3600m (11,800 ft). Sometimes we continue on about an hour or so beyond Lhedi village to a lovely campsite.

Day 19. Lhedi to Thanza | Distance: 19km - 6 to 7 hours

The trail climbs gradually following the main source of the Pho Chhu to Chozo village. At the small Chozo Dzong there are some lay monks. Above Chozo the valley opens as we approach Thanza village near the foot of 7100m Zogophu Gamp, which is also know as Table Mountain. We camp at Thanza, 4080m (13,300 ft).

Day 20. Rest Day In Thanza, 4080m (13,300 ft)

This day is a fantastic opportunity to interact with the hospitable local villagers, and explore the beautiful surrounding area, our farthest point in the Lunana valley. Alternatively you can relax around camp and rest up for some of the tough days ahead. As Thanza is sometimes a transfer point for horses and yaks, it is sometimes necessary to have a day here for our staff to ensure all the necessary yaks are rounded up by the local herders who do not operate on 'Western time'! Please note: Assuming everyone in the trekking party has acclimatized properly up to this point, and our horse/yak logistics are smoothly in place, we may only spend the morning in Thanza, and leave for our campsite up the valley at Danji in the afternoon in order to save the rest day in case it is required later in the trek due to altitude or weather-related concerns while crossing the Rinchen Zoe pass out of Lunana.

Day 21. Thanza to Danji | Distance: 8km - 4 hours

Today is a relatively short, although somewhat steep, climb to a campsite called Danji, part way up to the Jaze la pass. It will allow us to have some extra time in the morning and make a later start. The camp is around 4600m/15,000ft, with spectacular views of snow-capped peaks! It is an important acclimatization spot.

Day 22. Danji to Tso Chena | Distance: 12km - 5 hours

The first part of the day involves a climb up over three false summits to Jaze La pass at 5050m (16,570ft). From the pass it is a short downhill trek to the campsite at the lake of Tso Chena at 4800m (15,740 ft). Keep your eyes open for blue sheep during the hike.

Day 23. Tso Chena to Jichu Dramo | Distance: 14km - 4 to 5 hours

The trail has a series of gradual ups and downs between the snow-capped peaks and across the Loju La pass at 4940m (16,300 ft) before descending to camp at Jichu Dramo at 4880m (16,000 ft).

Day 24. Jichu Dramo to Chukarpo | Distance: 18km - 6 to 7 hours

We start with a hard climb to Rinchen Zoe La pass at 5290m (17,350 ft), the highest on the trek. It is then all downhill to Chukarpo, which is just above the tree line at 4950m (16335 ft).

Day 25. Chukarpo to Thampe Tso | Distance: 18km - 5 to 6 hours

It is a long mostly downhill walk along the river, followed by a climb up to the Um So lake at 4230m (13,950 ft). In this lake Pema Lingpa found a number of religious treasures. Continuing downhill we camp by the lake of Thampe Tso at 4200m (13,860 ft).

Day 26. Thampe Tso to Maurothang | Distance: 14km - 5 hours

It is a short walk to the base of Thampe La and a steep climb to the pass at 4580m (15,100 ft). The trek is then all downhill through rhododendron bushes to the yak pasture of Maurothang where we camp at 3550m (11,640 ft).

Day 27. Maurothang to Upper Sephu - Drive to Punakha | Distance: 17km - 5 hours

On our final day of trekking we descend through a beautiful valley to the lovely village of Sephu where the new road-head beyond Nikachu Chazam continues to push up the valley to the upper part of the village. From there, if time permits, we will drive east to Trongsa. This beautiful Dzong is the centre of the region of Bhutan called "Bumthang". The Trongsa Dzong is one of the most impressive in the kingdom, and can be seen from a great distance in its strategic position high above the Mangde Chhu river. In the late-afternoon/early evening, we have a spectacular 3-hour drive back west across the mountains to Punakha. We stop along the way at Chendebji to visit the Chendebji Chorten, patterned after Swayambhunath in Kathmandu and built in the 19th century by Lama Shida from Tibet. We also stop at the top of the Pele La pass (3400m). Overnight in Punakha at a very comfortable hotel.

Day 28. Drive Punakha to Thimphu

We will have time in the morning to see Punakha Dzong (the second of Bhutan's dzongs to be built) which for many years served as the seat of government. The dzong was first built in 1637 and is still one of the largest in Bhutan. We will drive to Thimphu in the morning (about 2 hours) and have the afternoon to visit Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan. We will visit the Trashi Chhoe Dzong, built as the symbol of the capital and then explore the shops along Norzin Lam, Thimphu's main street.

 Day 29. Drive Thimphu to Paro

The morning is free to do some more sightseeing or shopping around Thimphu. In the afternoon we take a 2 hour drive through the lovely central foothills to Paro where we will overnight in a comfortable hotel.

Day 30. Depart Paro for home

Waking up in Paro, we’ll have time for one last walk through town before saying our goodbyes and heading to the airport for the Druk Air flight out of Bhutan.

DETAILED ITINERARY for 27 days.

DAY 01: ARRIVE PARO
The flight to Paro is one of the most spectacular mountain flights in the world, with a constantly changing panorama of some of the highest mountains on earth. After passing through customs, enjoy some lunch before afternoon sightseeing around Paro, including a visit to the Ta Dzong Museum housing many religious relics, works of art and handicrafts. Next, visit the Rimpong Dzong. Dzong’s are large monasteries and district administrative centres, which were once strategic forts. Overnight at your hotel in Paro.

DAY 02: THIMPHU
Enjoy a full day of sightseeing, including a visit to the National Memorial Chorten, 12th century Changangkha Temple, the Zilukha Nunnery and Tashichhodzong. If your visit to Thimphu coincides with the weekend, you can walk through the Thimphu Market. Overnight at your hotel in Thimphu.

DAY 03: THIMPHU – PUNAKHA
Punakha was the ancient capital of Bhutan. Visit spectacular Punakha Dzong, built in 1637 by the Shabdrung, the ‘Unifier of Bhutan’. After lunch, enjoy a walk to Chimi Lhakhang, temple of Drukpa Kuenly. Overnight at your hotel in Punakha.

DAY 04: PUNAKHA/TASHITHANG – DAMJI
8km, 5-6 hours
The trek starts by the riverside, following a well marked path through subtropical forest. There are many wild orchids growing in this rather damp area, but be on the lookout for leeches also! Today’s walk is fairly gentle climb up to Damji village (2,400), where we camp for the night.

DAY 05: DAMJI – GASA
15 km, 6-7 hours
The path continues on through subtropical forested area and villages up to Gasa Tshachu (hot spring). The Tshachu is famous for its curative powers, and people come from all over the country to bathe here. After lunch near the spring, we have a climb up to Gasa Dzong (2,900m) where we camp overnight.

DAY 06: GASA – CHAMSA
13km, 6-7 hours
After breakfast, we visit the Gasa Dzong. Today’s trek begins with a steep climb up to Bele-La Pass (3,700m) through mixed forests. We then descend for about to our forest camp at chamsa (3,650m).

DAY 07: CHAMSA – LAYA
22 km, 8-9 hours
The trail descends to the bank of the Mo Chu. After crossing the river we have lunch by the bridge. From here it is a gradual climb up to Laya (3,800m) passing by an army camp en route. We camp at Laya.

DAY 08: LAYA
Rest Day
Explore Laya village. You can go and visit one of the local houses. Traditional Bhutanese hospitality is extended even to a stranger, and a cup of tea and chang (alcohol brewed from barley) is always offered.

DAY 09: LAYA – RHODOPHU
19 km, 8-9 hours
From Laya we descend to the army camp and continue following the trail along the river till the turn off point for Rhodophu. After lunch we continue climbing upwards through rhododendrons till we reach a hanging valley where there are yaks grazing (4,350m). We camp here by the river.

DAY 10: RHODOPHU – TARINA
25km, 10-11 hours
Today’s trek is the longest of the trip and it is important to start early, around 5 am. We first climb up to Tsimo-La Pass (4,700m) where we can enjoy a superb view of Lunana, and the peaks of Chomolhari and Jichu Drake. Following 4 hours of level walking, we climb up to Ganglakarchung-La Pass (5, 080). The view from the pass is breathtaking, encompassing the whole mountain range. After crossing the pass, it is a very long descent to the Tarina valley, where we camp at 3,980m.

DAY 11: TARINA – WOCHEY
17 km, 6-7 hours
The path descends through coniferous forest, following the upper reaches of the Pho Chu .The trail then climbs over a ridge and drops to Wochey at 3,800m, the first village since Gasa. Camp at alt 3, 800m.

DAY 12: WOCHEY – LHEDI
17 km, 6-7 hours
Today’s trek begins with a walk through mixed forests and further ahead through rhododendron bushes. We climb up to Keche-La Pass (4,480m). We then descend enjoy mountainous views en route. We walk upstream as far as Lhedi village (3,650), where we camp overnight.

DAY 13: LHEDI – THANZA
17 km, 7-8 hours
The route continues to follow the river, rising gradually to Choejong village (the biggest village in Lunana) where we stop for lunch. After lunch, we visit the village temple, then walk for some timeto a suspension bridge to cross the river. Soon we reach our campsite at Thanza (4,000m).

DAY 14: THANZA
Rest Day
A welcome day of leisure, or if you are feeling really energetic, you can climb up to the ridge for yet another splendid view of the mountains.

DAY 15: THANZA – TSHORIM
19 km, 8-9 hours
Today’s trek starts with a climb up to the ridge, from where there is a great view of Table Mountain and Thanza valley below. We follow a stream through a small valley, enjoying the view of snowcapped Mountains. We then climb up out of the valley to reach our campsite at Tshorim (5,125m).

DAY 16: TSHORIM – GANGKAR PUENSUM BASE CAMP
16 km, 6-7 hours
Today’s Trek is one of the highlights of the Trip. The day starts with a short climb up to Tshorim Lake. We walk around the side of the lake, enjoying a panoramic view of the Gophula Ranges. The final stretch up to Gophu-La Pass (5,230m) is very short. After crossing the pass, we descend to the base camp, walking along the ridge and enjoying a great view of Gangkar Puensum. Climb up a pyramid shaped peak for a better view or you can go directly to the base camp (4,970m) near the Sha Chu.

DAY 17: GANGKAR PUENSUM BASE CAMP
Rest day at the base camp, enjoying the great views.

DAY 18: GANGKAR PUENSUM CAMP – GESHE WOMA
14 km, 6-7 hours
Today’s trail follows along the Sha Chu and descends to Geshe Woma (4,200m) where we camp.

DAY 19: GESHE WOMA – WARATHANG
18 km, 8-9 hours
The path continues along the course of the Sha Chu until the climb to Saka-La Pass (4,800m). Visibility is poor along this part of the trail, so we must keep watching the top of the ridge in order to stay on course. Enjoy stunning views of small lakes spread below towering peaks. We camp at 4,000m.

DAY 20: WARATHANG – DHUR TSHACHU
14 km, 5 hours
A short half hour climb take us up to Juli-La (4,400m) before descending to the riverside through dense rhododendron, Juniper and conifer forests. We then cross a bridge and after a short climb reach Dhur Tshachu hot spring, where legend has it that Guru Padmasambhava bathed in the 8th century.

DAY 21: DHUR TSHACHU – TSHOCHEMCHEM
16 km, 8-9 hours
From the spring, it is a long and steady climb upwards, with great views of the mountains in Lunana. Eventually the ground levels out, and we see several beautiful deep blue lakes, yaks grazing on the surrounding Pasture, and yak herder’s camp (3,850m).

DAY 22: TSHOCHEMCHEM – DHUR (MOTOR ROAD) – BUMTHANG (JAKAR)
21 km, 13 hours
This is the last day of the trek. We must set off very early in order to reach Bumthang before dark. The path follows the Chamkhar Chu, descending gradually with few climbs. The trek ends when we reach Dhur village, where transport will meet us and drive us to the lodge in Bumthang (Jakar).
Note: Unless very fit, it is best to spread this final stage over 2 Days.

DAY 23: BUMTHANG
Bumthang is the spiritual and cultural heartland of Bhutan. Spend the day exploring the some of Bumthang’s sacred sights including Kurje Lhakhang, home to a rock featuring the imprint of Guru Rimpoche’s body, Jambay Lhakhang (7th century) and Jakar Dzong. Also visit Tamshing Monastery housing some of the oldest wall paintings in Bhutan. Overnight at your guesthouse in Bumthang.

DAY 24: BUMTHANG – TRONGSA
The journey to Trongsa takes approximately 3 hours. Trongsa is the ancestral home of Bhutan’s ruling dynasty. After lunch on arrival, visit Trongsa Dzong, a masterpiece of Bhutanese architecture. Trongsa is the largest Dzong in Bhutan and the location of where the institution of monarchy in Bhutan began. Also visit the Ta Dzong located on the hill overlooking the Dzong. Overnight at your hotel in Trongsa.

DAY 25: TRONGSA – PARO
After breakfast, depart for Paro. On arrival, enjoy a stroll through the Paro township. Overnight at your hotel in Paro.

DAY 26: PARO
After breakfast hike to Taktsang Monastery, walking approximately 1.5 to 2 hours uphill. The view of Taktsang Monastery built on a sheer cliff face 900 metres above the valley floor is spectacular. Afterwards visit 7th Century Kyichu Lhakhang. Overnight at your hotel in Paro.

DAY 27: DEPART PARO
Breakfast in the hotel, then drive to the airport for flight to your onward destination. Tashi Delek!

DETAILED ITINERARY for 25 days.

Day 1: Drukgyel Dzong – Sharna Zampa (Distance 17km, four to five hours, 360m ascent, 80m descent, camp altitude 2,850m).

Drive up to Drukgyel Dzong (2,580m) where the road ends and the trek begins. With a gradual climb the trail follows the Paro Chhu passing beautiful meadows, paddy fields and impressive farm houses. After about four hours you will reach the army post at Gunitsawa village. At the army check post your trek permit (provided by your tour operator) will be checked and endorsed. The campsite is on the opposite side of the river, not far from Gunitsawa.

Day 2: Sharna Zampa- Thangthangkha (Distance 22km, seven to eight hours, 770m ascent, 10m descent, camp altitude 3,610m).

On this long day, the trail continues with lots of small ups and downs. After going uphill through the river valley, you enter the Jigme Dorji National Park. The valley finally narrows gradually to a mere path, which descends to a meadow where a camp will be set up. From here, if weather permits, you will have the first great view of Mount Jomolhari.

Day 3: Thangthangkha – Jangothang (Distance 19km, five to six hours, 480m ascent, camp altitude 4,080m).

If you did not see Mount Jomolhari last evening, you will have a great chance to get a great view this early morning. This morning the trek continues up the Paro Chhu valley, which widens into patches of alpine meadow and scanty growths of forest. Cross an army outpost along the way and enjoy a spectacular view of high mountain ridges and snow-capped peaks. Yaks and the herder’s homes become a regular feature of the landscape. Passing the villages Soe, Takethang and Dangochang is another asset on this day. Reaching Jangothang, one of the most beautiful campsites of the Himalayas, you will again have a spectacular view of Mount Jomolhari.

Day 4: Jangothang Halt.

The day in Jangothang provides plenty of possibilities for day hikes with great views on lakes and snow capped mountains such as Jomolhari and Jichu Drake. There are good chances to spot some blue sheep on the upper slopes of the valley. Jangothang is a perfect environment for your acclimatization. Trek up to Tosoh or hike around the area. There are good short hiking trails in three directions. Jumolhari and it’s subsidiary mountain chains lie directly west, Jichu Drake to the north and a number of unclimbed peaks to the east.

Day 5: Jangothang – Lingshi (Distance 18km, six to seven hours, 840m ascent, 870m descent, camp altitude 4,010m)

After 15 min. from the camp the trail climbs rapidly for about half an hour and then becomes a gradual ascend to the Nyilila pass at 4,870m. While on the climb enjoy the surrounding. You might see herds of blue sheep grazing on the slopes of the mountains. From the pass you will have spectacular views of Mt. Jomolhari, Jichu Drake and Tsherimgang, all of them rising above 7,000m. On the way down to the camp you will pass by some of the yak herder’s tent, made from yak wool, where the herders take shelter while on the move to various pastures for their yaks. As you come down into the Lingshi basin, you get a wonderful view of Lingshi Dzong on a clear day. Tserimgang and its glaciers rise up at the north end of the valley. The campsite is next to a stone hut you reach just before Lingshi Dzong.

Day 6: Lingshi – Chebisa (Distance 10km, five to six hours, 280m ascent, 410m descent, camp altitude 3,880m).

Today is the shortest walking day, and you can really take it easy. Shortly after starting you will reach a chorten below Lingshi Dzong. Here, you have the choice of staying on the main trail or taking a diversion up to the Lingshi Dzong (4,220m), which sits right atop a ridge. Besides a very special atmosphere of mystic silence Lingshi Dzong provides a great view over the valley. After Lingshi Dzong you will be passing the villages of Lingshi and Goyul. In Goyul, the stone houses are clustered together to a small compact village that is unusual in Bhutan where village houses are normally scattered. On reaching the campsite at Chebisa with a beautiful waterfall behind the village, you will have plenty of time to visit the village houses if you feel up to it.

Day 7: Chebisa – Shomuthang (Distance 17km, six to seven hours, 890m ascent, 540m descent, camp altitude 4,220m)

You walk through a wide pastureland towards Gobu La (pass). On the way, you will see a few people herding yaks. There is also a great chance to spot large herds of blue sheep above the trail. After crossing the Gobu La (4,410m), you descend to the valley, then climb again a little bit, and descend again to Shakshepasa (3,980) where a helipad has been established. Climbing from here you will finally reach the campsite at Shomuthang, above a river, which is a tributary of the Nochu river.

Day 8: Shomuthang – Robluthang (Distance 18km, six to seven hours, 700m ascent, 760m descent, camp altitude 4,160m).

As the walk is a little strenuous, it is advisable to start early. Climbing up the valley to view Kang Bum (6,526 m) and some edelweiss. After two hours of climbing you will reach Jhari La (4,750m), from where you catch the first sight of Sinche La, the pass you will have to cross the day after. The big snow peak in the north is Gangchhenta 6,840 m, better known as the Great Tiger Mountain. If weather is clear, Tserim Kang and the top of Jumolhari will be visible. The camp by the river is called Tsheri Jathang. Herds of takin, the Bhutanese National Animal, migrate to this valley in summer and remain for about four months. The valley has been declared a takin sanctuary. Climb up a little bit and you will reach the campsite at Robluthang in a rocky meadow.

Day 9: Robluthang – Limithang (Distance 19km, six to seven hours, 850m ascent, 870m descent, camp altitude 4,140m).

After crossing Sinche La (5,005m) – the last and highest pass on the trek in case you don’t intend to continue the Snowman trek from Laya onwards – you descend to a little stone house where a few Laya women – dressed in typical Laya costume with long pointed bamboo hats on their head – live and offer their weaving products. Right behind the stone house you will see an impressive terminal moraine and a glacial lake at the foot of the valley. You can see classic examples of the lateral moraines where the glacier has pushed rocks up both sides of the valley. Below the moraine, you cross the Kango Chhu and soon reach the Limithang campsite. The peak of Gangchhenta towers over the campsite even though it’s quite a distance away.

Day 10: Limithang – Laya (Distance 10km, four to five hours, 60m ascent, 340m descent, camp altitude 3,840m).

Today, you walk all the way downhill along a narrow winding river valley. After a long time, you again trek partly through deep forest. The trail leads you to the west side of Laya village. From the west of the village you will view Gangchhenta again and catch a glimpse of Masagang. In the village centre is a community school and a basic health unit with telephone connection. The campsite is below the school.

Day 11: Acclimatization day in Laya

If you have trekked from Drukgyel Dzong you should spend a day recuperating from the trek to Laya and preparing yourself for the rest of this challenging but spectacular trek. If you have started from Tashitang/Damji (Punakha) you should also walk up to Laya to acclimatize, and not just stay at the trail junction to Lunana. It’s worthwhile to spend one day in Laya just for the great views from Laya and its extraordinary inhabitants.

Day 12: Laya – Rhoduphu (Distance 19km, six to eight hours, 1,030m ascent, 750m descent, camp altitude 4,160m).

From Laya we descend to an army camp and continue following the river till the turn off point to Rhoduphu. After lunch the climb continues through rhododendron bushes till you reach the camp at Roduphu just next to the Rhodu Chhu.

Day 13: Rhodophu – Narethang (Distance 17km, five to six hours, 740m ascent, camp altitude 4,900m).

After following the river for about half an hour you will have a steady climb to a high open valley at 4,600m and then further up to Tsomo La (4,900m). Tsomo La offers a superb view of Lunana, Mount Jomolhari and Jichu Drake, and the Tibetan border. The route then crosses a flat, barren plateau at about 5,000m. The campsite at Narethang is towered by the peak of Gangla Karchung (6,395m).

Day 14: Narethang – Tarina (Distance 18km, five to six hours, 270m ascent, 1,200m descent, camp altitude 3,970m).

From the camp you will climb for about an hour to Gangla Karchung La (5,120m). The view from the pass is breathtaking and the whole range of mountains including Jekangphu Gang (7,100m), Tsenda Kang and Teri Gang (7,300m) can be seen. The pass descends along a large moraine. Again one has great views: a massive glacier descends from Teri Kang to a deep turquoise lake at its foot. Up here a glacial lake burst through its dam in the early 1960s, causing widespread damage and partially destroying Punakha Dzong. Finally, it is a very long descent through thick rhododendron to Tarina valley, where you will find several good campsites along the Tang Chhu.

Day 15: Tarina – Woche (Distance 17km, six to seven hours, 270m ascent, 330m descent, camp altitude 3,910m).

The walk leads down through conifer forests following the upper ridges of the Pho Chhu, passing some impressive waterfalls. The trail then climbs over a ridge and drops to Woche, a settlement of a few houses, the first village in the Lunana region.

Day 16: Woche-Lhedi (Distance 17km, six to seven hours, 980m ascent, 1,190m descent, camp altitude 3,700m).

The trek starts through juniper and fir forests, and further ahead, through rhododendron bushes. Climb up to Keche La pass (4,650m) where one can have the great view of surrounding mountains again. After the pass, descend to the riverside walking through a village with a stunning view of Table Mountain and others. Follow up the river till Lhedi Village. Lhedi has a basic health unit, a school and a wireless telephone connection.

Day 17: Lhedi-Thanza (Distance 17km, seven to eight hours, 450m ascent, camp altitude 4,150m).

In clear weather, you will have great views of Table Mountain (7,100m). Around lunchtime you will pass the small village of Chozo (4,090m), which has a dzong still in use. Reaching Thanza again you will have a great view of Table Mountain, which forms a 3,000m high wall of snow and ice behind the village. Although there are possibilities to camp directly at Thanza, most groups prefer to camp in Thoencha.

Day 18: Rest day at Thanza.

In Thanza walk around and experience some village life or climb up the ridge for fascinating views of lakes and mountains. But as it takes time to arrange new yaks (the yaks from Laya will not go further than Thanza) you might have to spend one day at Thanza anyway.

Day 19: Thanza- Tshorim (eight to nine hours, camp altitude 5,120m).

Having chosen the route to Bumthang the trek starts by climbing a ridge with a great view of Table Mountain and Thanza valley below. The ridge altitude is 4,500m and it rises gradually up to 4,650m. After lunch walk upwards towards the left side of the bridge to enjoy the view of snow-capped mountains. You reach the campsite of Tshorim after climbing more ridges.

Day 20: Tshorim – Gangkhar Puensum Base Camp (six to seven hours, camp altitude 4,970m).

This is one of the highlights of the trek and the day starts with a short climb to the Tshorim Thso. You walk on the side of the lake enjoying a panoramic view of the Gophu La ranges. The last climb to the Gophu La pass (5,230m) is very short. After the pass descend to the base camp, walking along the ridge to enjoy a great view of Gangkhar Puensum. If interested, one can divert to the left side to climb up the pyramid peak for a better view or you can go down to the base camp nearby Sha Chhu.

Day 21: Gangkar Puensum Base Camp – Geshe Woma (six to seven hours, camp altitude 4,200m)

The trail further follows the Sha Chhu and descends gradually to Geshe Woma.

Day 22: Geshe Woma – Warathang (eight to nine hours, camp altitude 4,000m)

The path continues following Sha Chhu for two and a half hours until the stiff climb to Saka La begins. Visibility along the Saka La trail is poor so one must see top of the ridge for guidance. After having lunch nearby a yak herders’ camp you climb up to Saka La (4,800m). The path then descends to a couple of lakes and another short ascent is stunning. Scenery once again is beautiful with small lakes and the mountain peaks.

Day 23: Warathang -Duer Tsachu (five hours, camp altitude 3,590m)

An hour climb leads to Juli La (4,700m). After the pass, you descend to the riverside through dense rhododendron, juniper and conifer forests. After the bridge a short climb leads to Duer Tsachu. These hot springs, where Guru Padmasambhava is supposed to have taken bath, might be the most stunningly beautiful hot springs of the Himalayas. You might want to spend an extra day at Duer Tsachu.

Day 24: Duer Tsachu – Tshochenchen (eight to nine hours, camp altitude 3,850m).

From the hot springs it is a long and steady climb again with great views of mountains in Lunana. You will also come across blue lakes and yak herder huts.

Day 25: Tshochenchen – Duer Village

This is the last day of the trek and your porter change from yaks to horses. The path follows the Chamkhar Chhu, descending gradually with a few climbs in between. The trek ends here when you arrive at Duer village. From here you drive to Jakar (Bumthang).