JOMOLARI TREK – 13 DAYS
The Mount Jomolhari (Goddess Mountain) Treks take you from 2,600m up to 5,000m or higher, and are some of the most popular treks in Bhutan. This is partly because of its access to Paro (where the only airport in the country is located) and Thimphu (the capital city), and the fact that it is of moderate difficulty. In addition, the duration of the trek is ideal for most visitors. There are several variations of the route, but the treks range anywhere from 7 nights to 11 nights. Bridge To Bhutan offers two trekking route options: Jomolhari Trek 1 (8+5 days) and Jomolhari Trek 2 (12+4 days).
The two Treks differs and each takes a separate route after Day 6. Jomolhari Trek 1 is perfect for those looking to spend a good week in the mountains. Jomolhari Trek 2 is longer in duration, and presents sustained panoramic views of the Himalayan range throughout its 12-day expedition.
The Treks take you through the scattered villages and farmland into pristine and verdant forested valleys, to the land of yak herders, where the yaks can be seen grazing and lumbering across the beautiful sloping alpine-mountain sides. Camping at Jangothang (Day 6) is superb and one can catch an up-close and breathtaking view of the majestic Mount Jomolhari (7,314 m/ 24,000 ft.).
Season: Best from April to June and September to November
Max Altitude: 4,890 m/ 16,000 ft
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DAY 1: ARRIVE PARO
On your flight to Paro valley (2,300m/7,500 f), Bhutan, if the skies are clear, you’ll be treated to some breath taking views of the highest peaks in the world including Mt. Everest, Makalu, and beautiful Kanchenjunga. You will also get the first glimpse of the Mt. Jomolhari. Upon arrival, you will be received by your Bhutanese guide and will escort to your hotel. After lunch we pay a visit to Ta Dzong (watch tower fortress), built in 1651 as a watch tower and in 1968 inaugurated as Bhutan’s National Museum. The collection includes art, relics, religious thangkha painting, postage stamps, coins and handicrafts, as well as a small natural history collection. Below Ta Dzong is Rinpung Dzong
Overnight at Hotel in Paro.
DAY 2: EXCURSION TO TIGER’S NEST (Day of acclimatization)
Early morning our car will drop us at the trailhead to view the spectacular and famous Taktsang monastery (Tiger’s Nest), whose history dates back to 8th century. The trail (5 hours round trip) to the monastery climbs through beautiful pine forest, many of the trees covered with Spanish moss, and an occasional grove of fluttering prayer flags. Half way through the hike, we stop & relax at the cafeteria for a while, and then continue; a short hike will present us with a clear and seemingly within reach, the imposing Taktsang monastery. Built in 1600s, this incredible monastery clings to the edge of a sheer rock cliff that plunges 900 meters into the valley below. It is believed that, in the 8th century, Guru Rimpoche, the tantric mystic who brought Buddhism to Bhutan, landed here on the back of a flying tigress to subdue a demon. Guru Rimpoche is believed to have meditated here in the cave for three months, and it is considered one of the most sacred pilgrimage sites for Buddhists all over the world.
In the afternoon, visit Kyichu Lhakhang, a 7th century temple built by the Tibetan King, Songtsen Gampo. It is one of the oldest and most sacred temples of Bhutan.
Overnight at Hotel in Paro.
DAY 3: PARO – SHANA (start of trek)
Distance: 17km/10.5 miles; Total altitude gain: 320m/1,050ft; Duration: 5-6 hours; Campsite elevation:
2,820m/9,250ft; Level of difficulty: Easy This morning we drive to the trailhead and visit the Drugyel Dzong, built in 1647 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel to commemorate his victory over the Tibetans in 1644. Drugyel Dzong means ‘fortress of the victorious Drukpas.’ When the high mountain air is clear, the towering peak of Mount Jomolhari (7,314 m/24,000 ft) appears as an impressive backdrop. The mountain, which marks the frontier with Tibet, is most sacred, as are all the mountains in Bhutan, and it is the dwelling place of the Goddess Jomo. It was first climbed in 1937, but the expedition never actually set foot on the summit. Jomolhari has never been climbed since and it is now a ‘protected peak.’
Our trek starts from Drugyel Dzong (2,580m/8,400ft) with a short downhill walk on a wide trail. The trail then climbs gently through well maintained rice terraces and field of millet. Later on we come to apple orchards and forests. Soon the valley widens, and we reach the army post of Gunitsawa (2,810m/9,200ft). This is the last stop before Tibet. We continue upwards to just beyond Shana Zampa where there are several good camping places in meadows surrounded by blue pine forest.
DAY 4: SHANA – THANGTHANGKHA
Distance: 20km/12miles; Total altitude gain: 760m/2,500 ft; Duration: 7-8 hours; Campsite elevation:3,610m/11,800ft; Level of difficulty: Long moderate day but not difficult, muddy & bumpy path
This is the longest trekking day taking up to eight hours to reach the campsite. The trail again follows the Pa Chu (Paro river), ascending and descending through pine, oak and spruce forest. After crossing a bridge to the left bank of the river, we stop for a lunch. Then we continue along the river, climbing upwards through rhododendron, birch, fir and maple forest, and crossing the river once more before reaching our campsite (3,610m/11,800 ft).
DAY 5: THANGTHANGKHA – JANGOTHANG
Distance: 14km /8.7 miles; Total altitude gain: 420m/1,380ft; Duration: 4-5 hours; Campsite elevation: 4,080m/13,385ft; Level of difficulty: Short & easy
The third day’s trek is relatively shorter one so it is possible to set off a little later and progress at a leisurely pace. The path ascends for a while until we reach the army camp. We then follow the river above the tree line, enjoying stunning views of the surrounding peaks. Hot lunch is served at a yak herder’s camp. A short walk from here into the valley takes us to our campsite at Jangothang (4,080 m/13,385ft) where the view of Jomolhari and Jichu Drake are spectacular. The area is rich in bird life. Birds sighted en route include the fire-tailed sunbird, Ibis bill, White-throated Dipper, Yellow-billed Chough, Rosy Pipit, Snow Pigeon, Blue-fronted Redstart, Plumbeous Water Redstart, Blood Pheasant, Snow Partridge and many more.
DAY 6: HALT AT JANGGOTHANG
DAY 7: JANGOTHANG – SOI YAKTSA
Distance: 16km/10 miles; Total altitude loss: 280m/918ft; Duration: 6-7 hours; Campsite elevation: 3,800m/12,470ft;
Level of difficulty: Strenuous. The trail leads to a last settlement in the valley and drops to the Paro Chhu. Passing the twin Tshophu lakes (4,380m/14,370ft) you will climb up steeply to Bhonte La pass at 4,890m/16,043ft, the highest point of this trek route. You will then make a fast descent to reach the Dhumzo Chhu river. You trek downstream passing the few houses of Dhumzo to arrive at your camp soon after.
DAY 8: SOI YAKTSA – THOMBU SHONG
Distance: 11km/6.8 miles; Total altitude gain: 380m/1,247ft; Duration: 4-5 hours; Campsite elevation:4,180m/13,714ft; Level of difficulty: Moderate
The trail climbs 100m over a ridge to drop to another stream then. After crossing the Takhung La pass
(4,520m/14,830ft) you descent to Thombu Shong, a wide glacial valley commonly frequented by yak herders and their yaks. There are three yak herder huts. Your campsite tonight is next to them.
DAY 9: THOMBU SHONG – ZAKHAPANG
Distance: 15km/9.3 miles; Total altitude loss: 1,480m/4,856ft; Duration: 5-6 hours; Campsite elevation: 2,700m/8,858ft; Level of difficulty: Moderate with three hours of downhill hike.
A half hour of climb would reach Thombu La pass (4,380m/14,370ft). Crossing the pass you will hike along one of the most picturesque ridges on the trek for another hour. The trail suddenly makes a descent to finally reach Gunitsawa. Follow the river and retrace the trail for another hour to reach your campsite.
DAY 10: ZAKHAPANG – DRUGYEL DZONG
Distance: 14km/8.7 miles; Total altitude loss: 360m/1,181ft; Duration: 4-5 hours; Level of difficulty: Easy
The valley opens as you pass by the primary school and some houses. From Mitshi Zampa you will join the farm road, which takes you finally back to Drugyel Dzong, where your car awaits you. You will be driven to the comforts of your hotel.
Overnight at hotel in Paro
DAY 11: PARO – PUNAKHA
The road to Punakha takes you pass the confluence of Pa chu river and Thim chu river and through the Thimphu Valley. You will gradually climb through a forest of pine and cedar, festooned with hanging lichen high up near Dochula pass (3,050m/10,000ft.). We will stop to soak up the breathtaking panoramic views of the Himalayan mountain ranges. The views continue entertain us as we descend along a series of hairpin bends to the fertile valley of Punakha (1,350m/4,430ft). Before proceeding further to Punakha town we will hike up to the Chimi Lhakhang (temple) on a small hilltop. It is a pleasant 30 minutes hike through the rice paddies and the small village. This temple is dedicated to the great Yogi in 15th century known as Lama Drukpa Kuenley or popularly known as the “Divine madman” in the west. He preached in the way that is unlike the stiffness of clergy and society of the time; he dramatized the teachings using songs and outrageous sexual humor. Bold Phallus symbols and paintings on the houses or temples are a common sight in Bhutan, confirming his influence to date. The symbols are believed to ward off the evil spirits. It is also believed that this temple blesses couples having fertility issues. A popular pilgrimage spot for the Bhutanese, it
is frequented by childless couples and parents who have difficulty raising children from all over the world. After Lunch, continue your drive towards Punakha Dzong (Fortress) situated between the two rivers Pho Chu and Mochu (Male and Female River). This fortress is now used as the winter seat of the Je Khenpo (the chief abbot of Bhutan). This Dzong had served as the capital seat of the Kingdom for more than three hundred years.
Overnight at hotel in Punakha
DAY-12: UNAKHA – THIMPHU – PARO
Morning drive to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan. It is the only capital city in the world without traffic lights. Visits includes, the Memorial Chorten, built in the memory of the late 3rd king; the Institute of Traditional Medicine where centuries old indigenous medicines are still made; the National Institute of Zorig Chusuum (school of 13 traditional arts and crafts); the National Library that houses ancient Buddhist texts; and Takin Reserve. Time permits also visit Tashichhodzong, the “fortress of the glorious religion.” Its history is very old, dating back to the 13th century. The Dzong suffered serious damage from fire in 1771. After the reconstruction, the Dzong caught fire once again in 1869 and was restored in 1870 by Jigme Namgyal, father of the 1st King of Bhutan.
Overnight at hotel in Thimphu/Paro
DAY13: DEPART FROM PARO