Snowman Trek from Paro, 30 days

photo courtesy of Tourism Council of Bhutan
Most Difficult Trek on Earth

Tour highlights

  • Probably most difficult trek ever
  • 13 passes around 5 thousand meters
  • Beautiful and easy start with good acclimatization
  • Pristine and original village Laya
  • Remote Lunana with isolated villages
  • Sightseeing in Paro, Jakar, Wangdue, Punakha
# Itinerary Program
1 Arrival to Paro Morning arrival to Paro. Visit of Paro dzong, National Museum and town. Program subject to time of arrival.
2 Paro, excursion to Thimphu Early in the morning we will drive to Thimphu. Hike to Dodedra shedra. Start at Dechencholing part of Thimphu and gently climb some 500 meters up, with beautiful views of Thimphu town. Dodedra is monastery school set in pristine environment away from the hustle and bustle of the town. Visit main temple with original mural paintings and small museum. Descend back to Thimphu for lunch. Then drive to Buddha Dordenma, the gigantic statue of Buddha overlooking the valley and short walk to striking city viewpoint. See Memorial Chorten, always busy with devotees. 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 a reasonable price. Evening visit of Tashicho dzong, the castle, which serves as the seat of the king and government. Drive back to Paro in the evening.
3 Drive Paro – Gunitsawa Morning visit of Kyichu lhakhang, the temple built in 8th century by Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo. Climb to Taktsang gompa (Tiger's Nest), most venerated and holy place in Bhutan overlooking valley from the steep cliff.  After lunch drive to Drukyel dzong. This used to be a place where the trek started before. See ruins of the old dzong (castle) and continue further to the military camp of Gunitsawa on the new built road. Possibility to make detour to Lhadi Gompa just before the military camp. First night camping just above the military camp at the elevation of 2890 m.
4 Trek Gunitsawa – Thangthangkha 16 km, 7-8 h, ➚ 770 m, ➘ 10 m, camp altitude 3610 m. On this long day there are a lot of up and downs, mostly through the forest along the Paro chhu river. Finally, you will reach a large chorten on the junction, where you will need to take the trail to the left. After about half an hour, you will reach Thangthangtha campsite. The place is equipped with dilapidated toilets, a kitchen house, and a caretaker's dwelling. If weather permits, you might glimpse the first great view of Jomolhari, best photographed right from the toilets. Camp is cold and it gets dark early.
5 Trek Thangthangkha – Jangothang 10 km, 5-6 h, ➚ 480 m, camp altitude 4080 m. If you did not see  Jomolhari peak in the evening, you still have a chance to get a great view this morning. The trek continues up the Paro chhu valley which widens into patches of alpine meadow and scanty growths of forest. You will cross an army checkpoint along the way and enjoy a spectacular view of high mountain ridges and snow-capped peaks. In this area, yaks and their herder’s homes become a regular feature of the landscape. Passing the villages Soe, Takethang, and Dangochang is another asset on this day. After reaching Jangothang, one of the most beautiful campsites of the Himalayas, you can enjoy the most spectacular view of Jomolhari over the ruins of the ancient temple or fortress.
6 Halt in Jangothang Today we will make a beautiful acclimatization hike to Tshophu lakes in 4450 m altitude. Start going from camp further north along the few hamlets and then turn to the steep ascent towards the east. Finally, you will reach a long deep valley hidden from below and see the two spectacular ice lakes hidden at its bottom. Walk to the first or even second lake since it offers great views back towards the summits of Jomolhari I, Jomolhari II, and Jichu Drakye. Herds of blue sheep are also a common sight. If you are strong, you can even continue to the Bonte-la pass (4850 m) but not further. The trail ultimately leads back to Gunitsawa after two days trekking (is so-called Jomolhari Yaksa trek). After enjoying the views around the lakes, descend back to Jangothang and have a good rest, making yourself ready for the next day.
7 Trek Jangothang – Lingshi 13 km, 6-7 h, ➚ 840 m, ➘ 870 m, camp altitude 4010 m. This is one of the longest days of the trek. A short distance from the camp the trail begins climbing rapidly for about half an hour and then becomes a gradual ascent to the Nyilila pass at 4870 m. Enjoy the beautiful surroundings while climbing. You might see herds of blue sheep grazing on the slopes. From the pass, you will have spectacular views of Jomolhari, Jichu Drake, and Tsherim Kang peaks. It's a gradual and long descent to the camp. On clear days, you will be welcomed with the spectacular view of the Lingshi Dzong on the heap of the hill. Finally, descend to the valley. There are few suitable campsites here and your staff will select the most practical one given the actual conditions.
8 Trek Lingshi – Chebisa 10 km, 4-5 h, ➚ 280 m, ➘ 410 m, camp altitude 3880 m. Today is the very short walking day so if you feel strong enough, you can make a morning side trip north of the camp to the lake Chhokam Tsho at 4340 m near the Jichu Drakye base camp. The side trip will add about 8 kilometers and 450 m both up and down and will take about 3 hours. Otherwise, start walking from camp and to a junction by the white chorten. Here, you have the choice of staying on the main trail or taking a detour up to the Lingshi Dzong (4220 m), which sits right atop a high ridge. In addition to a very special atmosphere of mystic tranquility, 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 form a small compact village that is unusual in Bhutan where settlements are usually scattered. On reaching the campsite at Chebisa, you will have plenty of time to visit the village houses if you feel up to it. There is also a beautiful waterfall located behind the village that is worth visiting.
9 Trek Chebisa – Shomuthang 17 km, 6 h, ➚ 950 m, ➘ 640 m, camp altitude 4220 m. The morning starts with a long ascent behind Chebisa Village (2-3 hours) over a wide pastureland towards Gobu La (pass). On the way, you might see people herding yaks. There is also a great chance to spot large herds of blue sheep above the trail. After crossing Gobu La (4410 m), you descend into the valley, then climb again a bit before descending again to Shakshepasa (3980 m), the large flat valley. This place is a possible campsite, but we might also continue with some extra climb to Shomuthang campsite (4220 m) in case the water is available there and your group is small.
10 Trek Shomuthang – Robluthang 11 km, 4-5 h, ➚ 500 m, ➘ 760 m, camp altitude 4160 m. You begin by climbing up the valley to view Kang Bum (6526 m). After three hours of climbing, you will reach Jhari La (4750 m), from where you catch the first glimpse of Sinche La, the pass you will have to cross the day after. The big snow peak in the north is Gangchhenta 6840 m, better known as the Great Tiger Mountain. If weather is clear, Tsherim Kang and the top of Jomolhari will be visible. As the day trek is short, you might like to make a climb to Jhari Peak adjacent to the pass at an elevation of 4935 m for better views. Round trip will take you a bit over an hour. Descend to the herder's camp above the river which is called Tsheri Jathang, located in a beautiful wide valley. 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 bit further and you will finally reach your campsite at Robluthang on a rocky meadow.
11 Trek Robluthang – Limithang 13 km, 6-7 h, ➚ 850 m, ➘ 870 m, camp altitude 4140 m. The trek starts out with an initial 40-60 mins ascent before gradually raising for another one and half hours through the boulder field. It is then about one hour steep ascent before reaching Sinche La (5005 m). As you descend the far side of the pass you will see an impressive terminal moraine and a glacial lake at the foot of the valley. You can see classic examples of lateral moraines where the glacier has pushed rocks up both sides of the valley. Below the moraine, you cross the Kango Chhu creek and soon reach the Limithang campsite. The peak of Gangchhenta towers over the campsite even though it’s quite a distance away.
12 Trek Limithang – Laya 10 km, 4-5 h, ➚ 60 m, ➘ 350 m, camp altitude 3840 m. Today, you walk downhill all the way along the narrow, winding river valley. After a quite few days, the trail takes you through densely forested region finally reaching the west side of Laya village from where you will have spectacular views of Gangchhenta and Masagang peaks. In the village center, there is a community school and basic health care unit. The campsite is located below the school. Explore the village and visit of the traditional local farmhouse. Inhabitants of the village belong to distinctive tribe called Layap. Their women wear original conical bamboo hats decorated with color beads. In some welcoming house, you might taste local spirit called “ara” or other delicacies.
13 Trek Laya – Rhoduphu 19 km, 7-8 h, ➚ 1030 m, ➘ 750 m, camp altitude 4160 m. 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.
14 Trek Rhodophu – Narethang 17 km, 7-8 h, ➚ 740 m, camp altitude 4900 m. After following the river for about half an hour you will have a steady climb to a high open valley at 4600 m and then further up to Tsomo La (4900 m). 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 5000 m. The campsite at Narethang is towered by the peak of Gangla Karchung (6395 m).
15 Trek Narethang – Dead Man’s Camp 21 km, 6-7 h, ➚ 300 m, ➘ 1200 m, camp altitude 3970 m. From the camp you will climb for about an hour to Gangla Karchung La (5120 m). The view from the pass is breathtaking and the whole range of mountains including Jekangphu Gang (7100 m), Tsenda Kang and Teri Gang (7300 m) 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. Anyway as this day is not particularly long, you will continue about 1 hour further to large boulder for camping. This place is called “Dead Man’s Camp” by the Bhutanese staff because the tourist did die on this place due to high altitude sickness. You should be having good acclimatization though, so have no worry. Your Bhutanese staff might be afraid of ghost though!
16 Trek Dead Man’s Camp – Woche Chhu 15 km, 4-5 h, ➚ 240 m, ➘ 330 m, camp altitude 3910 m. 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 after about 2.5-hour walk. This is settlement of a few houses, the first village in the Lunana region. The trail leading south-west is the fastest way to reach Punakha valley and is used by locals when they need to go to “civilization”. Spend some time to explore the village or visit a local shop. Afternoon continue some 1.5 hour the campsite by the Woche Chhu river side.
17 Trek Woche Chhu – Lhedi 16 km, 7-8 h, ➚ 980 m, ➘ 1190 m, camp altitude 3700 m. This will be quite hard and long day. The trek starts through juniper and fir forests, and further ahead, through rhododendron bushes. Climb up to Keche La pass (4650 m) 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 and a school. Camp by the village.
18 Trek Lhedi – Thanza 14 km, 6-7 h, ➚ 450 m, camp altitude 4150 m. In clear weather, you will have great views of Table Mountain (7100 m). Around lunchtime, you will pass the small village of Chozo (4090 m) which has a dzong still in use. Reaching Thanza again you will have a great view of Table Mountain which forms a 3000 m 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.
19 Halt in Thanza Rest day in Thanza. You can either get well deserved rest after very difficult part of the trek of make about 1-2 hours hike to neighboring villages. Other option is the viewpoint in 4800 m with the views of the surrounding mountains. Thanza has mobile phone network and even the data connection, so you can check your e-mails and update social networks.
20 Trek Thanza – Tshorim 8-9 h, camp altitude 5240 m. 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 4500 m, and it rises gradually up to 4650 m. 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. This is the highest campsite of the trek.
21 Trek Tshorim – Geshe Wom 7-8 h, camp altitude 4400 m. This is one of the highlights of the trek and the day starts with a short climb to the Tshorim Tsho lake, one of the most spectacular mountain lakes of Bhutan. 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 (5455 m) is not long. After the pass descend to the Zanam campsite, walking along the ridge to enjoy a great view of Gangkhar Puensum. We will not camp here though and will continue walking for another two hours for another good camping place by Sha Chhu, making next day long stretch much more feasible.
22 Geshe Wom – Warathang 7-8 h, camp altitude 4500 m. The trail further follows the Sha Chhu and descends gradually to Minchungang (4200 m). Here the very steep climb starts which will take you Phrodhrang La pass (4660 m). Below that, there is high campsite called Phrodhrang, which used by parties trekking in opposite way. Continue descending until you start again climbing to Sake La pass (4950 m) reaching to summit approximately 2 hours after first pass. From here it’s about one hour to descend to Warathang (4520 m).
23 Trek Warathang – Duer Tsachu 4-5 h, camp altitude 3350 m. Day starts with the short climb to Urathagn la (4600 m). After the pass, you have to undertake long and uncomfortable descend to the riverside through dense rhododendron, juniper, and conifer forest. 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 will enjoy the afternoon bath to clean the sweat of previous days!
24 Trek Duer Tsachu – Tshochenchen 15 km, 8-9 h, ➚ 1500 m, ➘ 700 m, camp altitude 4150 m. Refreshed in hot springs, you begin last major climb of the trek. Mixed forest is changing to juniper one. It will take about 3-4 hours to reach the Gokthong-la pass (4420 m). Descend below the pass and have lunch. After that, you will need to undertake 1.5 hour climb the Juli La pass (4700 m). This is good time to small celebration as it’s the last pass of the trek! Finally descend to the beautiful Tshochenchen campsite by the small stream.
25 Trek Tshochenchen – Gorsum 6-7 h, ➚ 100 m, ➘ 950 m, camp altitude 3200 m. Follow the stream all day, reaching to mixed forest of junipers and rhododendrons. Last camp at Gorsum after last serious trekking day.
26 Trek Gorsum – Duer, drive to Jakar 3 h, ➘ 700 m. Continue descending through mixed pine forest until you reach road head at Dur village. Here the bus will be waiting you! Enjoy the refreshments, and tell proper goodbye to your trekking staff. Then drive to Jakar and accommodate in the hotel after 24 days trekking!
27 Rest in Jakar Enjoying the end of trek in beautiful valley of Bumthang. Easy sightseeing around and visiting temples like Jambey, Lhakhang, Kurjey and Tamshing. Visit to Red Panda brewery with beer tasting. Explore lively little town of Jakar.
28 Jakar – Wangdue / Punakha In the early morning start drive back to the west. First reach to Chummey where you can stop for traditional textile shopping. After crossing Yotung-la pass (3400 m) descend to Trongsa. Here you will visit one of the largest castles, called dzong, in Bhutan. From here, the royal family of Bhutan had risen. Continue long drive on windy road with short stop at Chendebji stupa, which is designed after Bouddhanath stupa of Kathmandu. Reach to Pele-la pass (3450 m) which is the border of central and western Bhutan. Finally descend to subtropical Wangdue valley, reaching there by the evening.
29 Wangdue – Paro Morning climb to Khamsum monastery with wonderful view of the valley, and it's terraced paddy fields. Visit of Punakha dzong, which counts as the most intricately decorated castle in the kingdom. Short walk to Chhimmy lhakhang temple, devoted to 15th century saint Drukpa Kunley, known as “Divine madman”, who taught Buddhism by singing, drinking and scandalous sexual exploits. If time permits, also visit Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang nunnery with Bhutanese and Nepali style stupa, overlooking the valley from the high hill. Afternoon drive to Paro. Walk in town and enjoy the last day in Bhutan.
30 Departure from Bhutan Drop to Paro airport and departure from Bhutan.
Tour variants, extensions and combinations: 
  • Start in Gasa and shorten the tour to 23 days: If you are really strong you can also start the trek in Gasa, instead of Paro. See Snowman trek from Gasa for details.
  • Extra days for cultural sightseeing (1 or more days): Apart from trekking, you also want to visit major sights of Bhutan? Extend your trip with longer stay in Jakar, Trongsa, Phobjikha, Punakha, Thimphu and more. Inquire for options.
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