Masagang Base Camp Trek, 11 days

Sunset on Tsenda Kang form Somji camp
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Tour highlights

  • Moderately difficult rarely walked high altitude trek
  • Best sights of Paro, Thimphu, Wangdue and Punakha
  • Overnight in Dochu-la pass with panoramic views
  • Yak herders in Laya and Lungu villages
  • Two nights in gorgeous Nullithang campsite
  • Great views of Masagang and Tsenda Kang peaks
# Itinerary Program
1 Arrival, Paro Arrival to Paro. ➜ Drive to Paro airport viewpoint. Depending on schedule, you might see planes landing and taking off. Runway in Paro is famed as one of the most demanding of all World's International airports. ➜ Visit to Rinpung dzong, the castle where the Bernard Bertolucci’s Little Buddha film was shot. ➜ Walk in lively little town packed with interesting shops, cafés, and bars! ➜ Sightseeing is subject to arrival time.
2 Paro – Dochu-la Today we will hike to Taktsang gomba (Tiger’s Nest), the most famous monument of Bhutan. Monastery in perched on the rock cliff in 3015 meters is not only beautiful place to visit, but also it makes nice acclimatization hike before you trekking. For even better experience of high altitude, you might climb above the main temple to Zangtopelri Lhakhang in 3350 meters. After visiting the temples, descend back to parking. ➜ Drive to Dochu-la pass (3010m) with stop at Tachog lhakhang to see traditional bridge made using ancient iron chains. ➜ Accommodation in hotel. In clear weather you might see panorama of snowy peaks including Gangkhar Punesum (7540m), the highest mountain of Bhutan which was never summited by man. You can also see the Masagang (7194m) towards which we will be trekking. ➜ Overnight in higher altitude will help with your acclimatization in coming days.
3 Dochu-la – Gasa Wake up early for the sunrise on the mountain peaks. Mountain views, if the weather permits, should be quite stunning. ➜ After breakfast, start drive down to Wangdue district. ➜ Stop at the Thinleygang and undertake hike to Laptsakha with stop to visit Chandana lhakhang, temple associated with famous Divine Madman. ➜ Take lunch in Punakha and again start drive to Gasa.  ➜ If time permits, make a stop for hike to Khamsum Lhakhang, the charming temple on the top of the hill with stunning views of paddy fields around it. ➜ Start ascending along the Mo Chu river through the dense forest. ➜ Reach to Gasa hot springs. Taking a bath in the pools of hot sulfurous water will sooth your body and muscles before the trek! ➜ Overnight camping by the hot springs or staying in local guest house with very simple facilities.
4 Trek Gasa – Takshimakha Trek 3h, 6km, ➚300m, ➘200m. Wake up leisurely. ➜ Drive to Gasa town and visit monumental Gasa castle. There are nice scenic views from there and also few interesting chapels to visit. ➜ Start the rough road drive from Gasa towards north through the mixed forest. ➜ Reach to Tongchudrak, the current road head. Road is still being extended and finally will reach villages of Laya and Lungu. Here your luggage will be loaded on horse and trekking will start. ➜ Anyway, we have only short distance to cover, mostly flat with some gentle ups and downs, finally reaching Takshimakha military camp. ➜ Take a rest here as the next day you are going to reach high altitude and serious trekking will commence. ➜ Overnight in 3450 m.
5 Trek Takshimakha – Laya – Lungu Trek 15km, 6-7h, ➚1000m, ➘500m. ➜ Today will be long day, ascending to higher elevation. ➜ First get your permits checked at military camp checkpost. ➜ Start climb of approximately 300 meters to Laya village, inhabited by people called Layaps. They are yak herders, who recently they became prosperous thanks to harvesting of yarsa-gumba (cordyceps) fungus. ➜ Layap woman are famous for their bamboo antenna hat. ➜ Have lunch and see the village temple. ➜ By now, you will be feeling the effects of high altitude so walk slowly and breathe deeply. ➜ From Laya, we will start descending and again climbing up to another village called Lungu. It is smaller and much less visited settlement also inhabited by Layaps. Explore the village life and make shopping in the last grocery store for a couple of days! ➜ Overnight here in 3740m.
6 Trek Lungu – Nulithang Trek 15km, 5-6h, ➚550m, ➘300m. ➜ Trail from Lungu will be gently ascending, offering nice views of the village with the snowy peaks at the back and birds-eye perspective of Takshimakha military camp. Later, the trail will connect to another path leading from Takshimakha to Masagang BC. ➜ Hike along some hamlets and through the ruins of the old military camp. Cross the creek and continue hiking gently up, getting more views of the surrounding hills. ➜ Finally the stunning sight of Tsenda Kanga peak to the right and top of Masagang summit on the left will open in front of you. This is Somji camp, also called Masagang Base Camp. Unfortunately the place can sustain only few tents, so bigger groups need to continue some 30 minutes down to Nulithang. ➜ By evening enjoy the last touches of light on Tsenda Kang! ➜ Camping in 4140m.
7 Nulithang explore Today you have three options for day hike. ➜ Possibly the most rewarding trip is to climb to five thousand meters high “Chethola’s view point”. This is very steep climb with no proper trail. You need to start in Somji and climb the hill by your right side. It will take some 3 to 4 hours to reach summit. The effort will be rewarded by undisturbed view of Masagang and 360° degree panorama of the high snowy peaks all around. Then you have to descend the same way. ➜ Another less demanding option is to climb the other hill, just above Somji. Partly slided trail will ascend on the hill ridge. The view of Masagang will be gradually opening. In some 2 hours you will reach to herders' campsite with undisturbed view of Masagang, Tsenda Kang, Kang Bum and other peaks around. From here you shall continue to the valley below the Masagang glacier. If you feel strong, you can even try to reach ice lake from which mighty stream flow. Descending from here offers nice views. There are a lot of rhododendrons which will blossom in the spring. The trail is sometimes difficult to follow so advance carefully. Whole trip might take about 4 hours. ➜ Finally, you can also hike north of the Nulithang to Phongme. Going there by the right side of the river and walking back by the trail leading on the left side. This 8 hours long round trip offers quite pleasant views of the mountains and landscape without too much climbing. Going just halfway to the ruined castle or monastery is good and relaxing possibility if you don't feel too strong.
8 Trek Nulithang – Tongchudrak, drive to Gasa Trek 18km, 6-7h, ➚200m, ➘100m. ➜ Today we will need to start early. ➜ You will follow the same way you reached, but instead of going to Lungu village, you will take direct path to Tashikha military camp. ➜ After again letting the soldiers check your papers, you will retract your steps back to Tongchudrak road head. ➜ Take a jeep and get ready for the bumpy drive, reaching Gasa in the evening. ➜ Once again camp by the hot springs with opportunity to wash the sweat and of previous day away and sooth your muscles! This is the trek's end.
9 Gasa – Punakha In the morning, start drive to Punakha. ➜  Drop to hotel and refresh yourself after the trek. ➜ Visit to Punakha dzong dubbed as “Palace of the Great Happinnes” which counts as the most intricately decorated castle in the kingdom and used to be winter seat of the Bhutanese rulers. ➜ Walk to nearby suspension bridge which is known as longest such bridge in Bhutan.
10 Punakha – Thimphu
Morning walk to Chhimmy lhakhang temple, devoted to the 15th century saint Drukpa Kunley, known as “Divine madman”, who allegedly taught Buddhism by singing, drinking and scandalous sexual exploits. Way to temple is perched by houses decorated with phallic symbols, as commemoration of the saint's antics. Temple is also known as fertility booster, attracting childless couples from all over the Bhutan and foreign countries as well. ➜  Drive to Thimphu and visit Buddha Dordenma, the gigantic statue of Buddha overlooking the valley and walk to striking city viewpoint. ➜ Drop to central Clock Tower square and walk in Norzin lam street and see the traffic police signaling in junctions. Thimphu is only capital in the world without the traffic lights. ➜ Finish walk at handicraft market where many interesting Bhutanese souvenirs can be seen and bought for reasonable price. ➜ Optionally celebrate conclusion of your Bhutan trip in famous Mojo Park music club or other Thimphu's popular venues.
11 Departure Drive to Paro and departure from Bhutan.
Tour variants, extensions and combinations: 
  • Extend stay in Nulithang/Somji (+1 day): If you can afford to stay on the trek one more day, you can cover the both possible options: Climb to high viewpoint and do the round trip hike to Phongme.
  • Explore Phongme valley (+2 day): If you have even more days available for trekking, you can trek further to Phongme and camp one night there. There is possible day hike from there to Masagang glacier or to ice lake on the other side.
  • Extend cultural sightseeing (+1 and more days): This tour is quite quick in the sense of cultural sightseeing so additional day or two or even more might enhance your experience if you're interested in Bhutan's original culture.
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