Hiking Heart of Bhutan II, 14 days

On the way to Ura
Ultimate hiking tour!

Tour highlights

  • Hiker's and nature lover's choice
  • Number of half & full day hikes
  • All major sights of Western and Central Bhutan
  • Dodedra shedra hike with great views of Thimphu
  • Lungchusey gompa hike with mountain panoramas
  • Domestic flight with mountain views
# Itinerary Program
1 Arrival, drive to Thimphu Arrival by plane to Paro airport and 1½ hour drive to Thimphu or in case of arrival by land from India in Phuntsholing/Jaigon and drive to Thimphu. ➜ On the way stop for Tashog Lhakhang to see traditional bridge built using ancient iron chains. ➜ Visit of Tashicho dzong, the castle, which serves as seat of the king and government. If time permits, visit of the other sights.
2 Thimphu Early morning 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 reasonable price. ➜ Evening in leisure exploring town on your own.
3 Thimphu – Wangdue / Punakha Morning start drive Hongtsho village. Reach to Tashigang gompa on the top of the ridge. ➜ From here, we will start 4–5 hours hike to the Lungchusey gompa with 360° mountains panorama viewpoint. We have good chance to glimpse some snowy peaks to the north, including Gangkhar Punesum (7570 m), the highest mountain of Bhutan and highest peak never summited by man. ➜ Descend to Dochu-la pass with beautiful 108 stupas. ➜ Visit to royal chapel Druk Wangyel lhakhang with depictions of 4th king. ➜ Continue drive to Wangdue. ➜ If you are early you can stop for short stroll in Lampelri Botanical Park. ➜ Time permitting you might also visit Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang nunnery with Bhutanese and Nepali style stupa, overlooking the valley from the high hill. ➜ Reach to hotel and evening in leisure. 
4 Wangdue / Punakha – Gangtey Early morning drive north of the valley and start hike to Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten. The hike start at the riverbank. Walk through the paddy fields and then start steep ascent to the temple. ➜ After reaching there, climb up to the temple's highest floor to get wonderful views of the valley. Walk back to the bridge where you started. ➜ Optionally you can also like to try rafting either from here, for easier “female river” experience, or drive to “male river” for more exciting white water rapids. ➜ After the hike finish, pay a visit to the Punakha, dzong, one of the most beautiful castles in Bhutan. ➜ Continue with 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. ➜ Drive to Gangtey and pristine Phobjika valley.
5 Gangtey In the morning we will start hike through the beautiful glacial valley with marshland on the bottom. Here the venerated Black Neck Cranes spends winter. Birds usually stays from November to February. ➜ After some 2 hours walk through forest and fields we will reach to Gangtey monastery and visit the main chapel. ➜ After visiting the temple and early lunch, we will start beautiful 4 hours hike through meadows and forest and crossing the mountain pass will take us to Longtey village where the car will be waiting. ➜ Drive back Gangtey and optionally visit Black Neck Crane center. ➜ Another easier but equally beautiful option is to drive to Amankora lodge and do Blue Pine hike, through the fields and pine forest. This hike finishes near to Black Neck Crane center. ➜ This hike finishes near to Black Neck Crane center. In the evening, you might like to try the hot stone bath, traditional Bhutanese treat (on extra payment, need to be ordered in the morning).
6 Gangtey – Chummey Early morning drive to Trongsa over Pele-la pass (3500 m). ➜ Stop here to see the shops run by local herders. You can get a lot of interesting things here, including the yak wool textiles, dust brush made of yak tail, medicinal plants like puttising root, potent cure for cough and fever or cordyceps dubbed as "himalayan viagra" and energy booster. Continue drive on scenic road with stop at Chendebji chorten which was built to resemble Boudhanath stupa of Kathmandu. ➜ Another important stop would be Trongsa viewpoint to see the full extent of the Trongsa castle, which you will visit some more drive afterward. This is the place from where the royal dynasty of Bhutan had risen. ➜ Also, visit intricate museum in watchtower Ta Dzong. It hosts number of interesting artifacts related to royal dynasty, history of Bhutan and many religious statues and temples. Finally, drive over Yotong-la pass (3550 m) to Chummey. ➜ If time permits, you can make short stroll from hotel Domkhar palace, the former summer residence of the second king, today’s monastery. You are not permitted to enter inside, but at least you can walk the courtyard with some interesting decorations.
7 Chummey – Ngang In the morning we will start drive to almost 4000 meters ridge on which historical Tharpaling monastery is built. You can visit the temples and walk around the scenic compound, before hiking to the top of the ridge from which you can see Jakar town and castle. Also see the statue of 14th century Buddhist teacher Rabjam Longchenpa, the saint who established Tharpaling monastery. ➜ Then hike down to Lamey Gompa, where the vehicle will be waiting. ➜ Drive to Jakar dzong, sleepy castle overlooking the valley. After lunch in town we will visit Jampay lhakhang, 7th century temple pinning down the ankle of giant demoness. ➜ From here we will take short walk to Kurjey gompa complex, the 3 temples which were built on place where magician-saint Guru Rimpoche subdued local demon. ➜ Continue walk along the Choekhor river and finally reach to Ngang lhakhang manor house, stylish farmhouse owned by local nobility where we will spend a night today. ➜ Don’t forget to visit the family temple which holds the memory of the household noble past.
8 Ngang – Tang Today will be spent full day hiking over the Phephe-la pass (3800m). While the distance is about 18 km, the trail is quite demanding with 800 m ascent and 700 m descent. The trails start from the Ngang Lhakahng in direction to the ruined fort of Draphe Dzong above the village. ➜ Hiking starts gently upwards across mixed forest and meadows, getting more and more steep as you walk. ➜ After reaching small temple and prayer flags in the pass, you start descending through forest and pastures down to fields of Tahung village, where the car will be waiting. ➜ Then drive to Ugyen Choling palace which hosts excellent museum displaying the medieval life in Bhutan. Palace is owned by noted Bhutanese writer Kunzang Choden and her husband Swiss agronomist Walter, very nice people to talk with. ➜ You will spend overnight here, enjoying the heritage feel of the place.
9 Tang – Ura In the morning you will leave the refuge of Ugyen Choling palace. ➜ You can walk down to the river to stretch the legs if you want. ➜ Then we will drive to Bapzur village from which we will undertake steep hike Kunzondrak Gompa. This monastery located on the rocky mountain served as refuge to 15th century saint and treasure discoverer Pema Lingpa. ➜ Hike is 400 meters up and same amount down and will take about 3 hours. The temples are interesting for its simplicity while the views of the valley are definitely rewarding. ➜ After hike, drive to Membartsho, so-called “Burning lake”, where this Pema Lingpa discovered treasure of Buddhist scriptures. ➜ Continue drive to Ura village over Shertong La pass (3400 m). Just before the pass you can see Gangkhar Punesum (7540 m), the highest mountain of Bhutan. ➜ From the pass we will descend by foot. The trail is initially steep, getting more gentle later. You will pass around some stupas and prayer flags, finally descending to Ura. ➜ The large houses are built close to each other, which is not common in Bhutan. ➜ Also visit Ura Lhakhang, the splendid village temple which frequently becomes venue of many religious events. ➜ After the village walk, get accommodation in local farmhouse or simple hotel, depending on your preference (will be determined while booking). ➜ For dinner, you should definitely try eating matsutake mushroom, the world-famous local delicacy.
10 Ura – Jakar In the morning we will drive slightly up to the Shingkhar village, another pristine settlement in the area. ➜ From here, you will make 2.5 hours hike up Shamzur gompa. This temple, which looks a bit like small Tiger's Nest, serves as hermitage for renouncers. Hike offer nice views of the valley too. ➜ Then drive back over the Shertong La pass, once again having chance to spot Gangkhar Punesum. ➜ Before driving to town, you might like to stop at the shop, selling the excellent locally produced Gouda and Emmenthal cheese. ➜ Then visit sleepy little town, which is retaining its rustic charm and have some rest.
11 Jakar – Paro (by flight) Taking domestic flight to Paro is extraordinary experience. In clear weather, you might spot many of the seven and six thousand meters high mountains on the border with Tibet, including Gangkhar Punesum, the world's highest peak never conquered by man. ➜ After landing in Paro, visit Paro dzong, castle where Bernardo Bertolucci’s Little Buddha film was shot. ➜ Then drive above the castles watch tower Ta Dzong and start hike to Zuri Dzong. Surprisingly scenic hike will take about 1.5 hour offering a lot of nice views of the Paro valley. Descent to Uma Resort where the car will be waiting. ➜ Explore the lively small town.
12 Paro Drive to castle-ruins of Drukyel dzong, from where you can see the summit of holy Jomolhari mountain. ➜ Then proceed for hike to Taktsang gomba (Tiger’s Nest), which is the highlight of the tour. Reaching to the temple requires about two hours of hiking up. After visiting the temple, climb further up to Zangto Pelri lhakhang for bird’s eye views of Tigers Nest. ➜ Continue hiking up even farther to Ugyen Tshemo temple and Yoeseling monastery in 3320 meters. From here, the narrow trail descends through dense forest steeply down. ➜ On the way stop for Shama lhakhang, the temple just adjacent to Tiger’s Nets on the cliff face, but inaccessible from there. ➜ Finally, descend to join main trail near to the parking. Please mind that last stretch of the trail is not regularly used or maintained, hence it might be difficult to follow at some point. Whole loop hike might require about 6 hours. ➜  Take a rest after demanding exercise.
13 Paro Drive to Chele-la pass (3890 m) which is the highest motorable pass in Bhutan. To the north you can see the holy peak of Jomolhari (7326 m) and to the west even Kanchenjunga (8586 m) in clear weather. ➜ Hike to 4000 meters high viewpoint will give you interesting high altitude experience. Before people did bring bodies of the deceased for sky funerals. ➜ Then descend to Kila Gompa, the oldest nunnery in Bhutan, hiking through the ancient forest. ➜ You can actually hike down all the way down to Paro or take a car and visit quite interesting Dzongdrakha monastery which is often equated to Tiger's Nest in its beauty. ➜ Enjoy evening in leisure or make another last one stroll up to the Zuri Dzong for nice views of Paro airport and town. ➜ Enjoy the last evening in Bhutan!
14 Departure Departure from Bhutan. Program subject to flight timing.
Tour variants, extensions and combinations: 
  • Extend with Gayzamchu hike (+1 day): When staying one more night in Ura, you can do Gayzamchuhike. Trail is around 10 kilometers long and leads over the 3800 meters high pass. Whole hike will take around 6-7 hours. After reaching the trail end, you can drive to Thrumshing-la pass (3750m) second highest motorable pass in Bhutan and also visit rhododendron park on the way with tens of different species of the tree which are endemic to the area.
  • Consider the shorter variant (-2 day): If you discard Ura on day 9 and optional Paro hikes on day 12, you might shorten tour by two day and still enjoy a lot. See Hiking Heart of Bhutan I, 12 days program for details.
  • Undertake Bumdrak Trek in Paro (0 to +1 day): 2 days / 1 night light trekking with luxury camping near Bumdrak monastery and finish at Tiger's Nest might be interesting optional addition. It can be done instead of days #12 and 13# or as one day addition. See Bumdrak Trek & Hikes program for details.
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