Bumthang Owl Trek (11 nights/12 days)
On this trek you have the opportunity to see: Village life, in a very big village, like Dhur. The virgin temperature forest of blue pine, hemlock, fir, spruce, juniper with under growth of bamboo spices, rhododendrons, birch, maple, chestnut and many others. In spring the rhododendrons flowers are bloom that beautifies the whole trek route. The valley views and the Himalayan snow caped mountains in the north. Birds of different species, among them the big monal pheasants can be sighted around the second camp and Tharpaling area during mornings and evenings. The monastery life in Tharpaling, Choedak and Zhambala are yet very interesting.
Day 01: Arrive Paro (by Druk Air) – Thimphu.
The flight into Paro on our national carrier, Druk Air, is a befitting introduction to the spectacular beauty of our country . In clear weather, magnificent views of the world’s highest peaks give way to the lush green Paro valley as you land .First gift from Bhutan will be the cool, clean fresh air as you step out of the plane. After clearing customs and visa control you will be brief by our guide and transferred to Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan. The drive will take around 1 hour. Thimphu has a population about 100,000. The town is made up of just three lines of shops and is the only capital in the world without traffic lights. In the evening, we will visit the Handicrafts Emporium, where all types of Bhutanese handicrafts are made and sold, overnight at hotel.
Day 02: Thimphu – Wangdue – Gangtey.
In the morning, we will visit the folk Heritage Museum, which is dedicated to connecting people to the Bhutanese rural past through exhibition of items and artifacts used in rural households, Texile Museum, where the art of tradition weaving is still kept alive and preserved though exhibition and has a good collection of old textiles which are rich in its colors and design. Also visit to Bhutanese Handmade Paper factory. After lunch, depart for Punakha, where the road climbs steeply through a forest of pine and cedar, festooned with hanging lichen high up near Dochula pass (3,050 m). This pass often offers panoramic views of the Himalayan mountain ranges. After stopping for a tea and view, we descend along a series of hairpin bends to the fertile valley of Wangdue, one of the major towns and district headquarters of Western Bhutan, where we make a short stop to view the Wangdue Phodrang Dzong dramatically located on the spur of a hill at the confluence of the Tsang Chu and Dang Chu rivers. From here a gradual climb takes you into the valley of Gangtey (Phobjikha). Gangtey lies towards the East of Punakha and Wangdue on the flanks of the Black Mountain. These is and old monastery of Gangtey Gompa dating back to the 17th century. A few kilometers past the Gompa on the valley floor are the fascinating valley of Phobjikha. The gentle sloping hillsides of Phobjikha are described as “the most beautiful valley in the Himalayas”. This is winter home of black necked cranes that migrates from arid plains in the north to pass winter in milder and lower climate, overnight at hotel.
Day 03: Gangtey – Trongsa – Bumthang.
Today we start early for the fabulous drive to the central valleys of Bhutan. The drive to Bumthang via Trongsa is about six hours crossing over Pelela Pass (3,300 m) and Yotongla Pass (3,400 m). The Central road, across the Black Mountains was completed 30 years ago, and it bough about great changes to the people in central Bhutan. We then climb steadily passing through semi-tropical vegetation and then to Pelela Pass(3,300m) with an alpine environment of rhododendrons and dwarf bamboo. This pass is traditionally considered the boundary between west and east Bhutan. If the weather is clear, the Himalayan range can be seen, particularly the peak of Jhomulhari (7314 m) to the west. En route we cross Chendebji Chorten built many centuries ago to suppress a demon. After lunch, we go out to view the impressive Trongsa Dzong, ancestral home of the ruling dynasty. In olden days the Dzong commanded the passage between east and West Bhutan. We then drive to Bumthang valley (described as “one of the most beautiful spot in the Himalayas” across the Yotongla Pass (3,400 m), overnight at hotel.
Day 04: Bumthang.
This is one of the most spectacular valleys in Bhutan and also the heartland of Buddhism. The Guru and his lineage of Tertons (treasure finders), have led to the sprouting of many temples in the valley. In the morning we visit Jambay Lhakhang (one of the oldest temple in Bhutan built in 7th century) and visit Kurjey Lhakhang (where the Guru Rinpoche subdued a local demon and left his body imprint on a rock). Hike to visit the Tamshing Monastery (one of the oldest monastic schools built by Terton Pema Lingpa), After lunch, hike to Thangbi valley across the suspensions bridge and visit the Thangbi Lhakhang built in the 14th century, on the way back visit Jakar Dzong, (seat of the district administration).Evening stroll in Chamkhar Town. Dinner and overnight at hotel.
Day 05: Bumthang – Schonath (Start of Trek).
Trek day 01: Start at Manchugang and visit the biggest village in Bumthang, called Dhur at an elevation of 2,900 m above sea level. The village consists of about 75 households with a recorded population of around 800 people. The single village has three types of inhabitants, the Kheps (tax prayers) having cattle and farmland, Brokpas (nomads) having Yaks and a third group having either. This village has two different dialects, the usual Bumthang kha and the Brokke (nomadic dialects). A walk above the village to get the overall view of the village and is interesting. Climb down to the river where the traditional water – driven flour mill can be visited. This traditional water driven flour mill used to be a source of livelihood for the people of Dhur village. It has been abandoned after the intake channel was washed away by flashflood. The programme has been rehabilitated as it symbolizes an authentic Bhutanese tradition. Continue the trek uphill through the blue pine forest and reach the camp at Schonath (3,450 m) in hemlock and juniper forest. The hauling of owls through the night is quite common, hence the name Owl Trek.
Day 06: Schonath – Kitiphu.
Trek day 02: Trekking through the virgin forest of huge temperature trees like spruce, hemlock, fir, birch and many species of rhododendron makes you breathe the real wilderness of Bhutan. Bamboos are the main under growth of the wild forest. During the month of April and May, the rhododendrons are full bloomed. In about two hours, you will arrive at Drangela Pass (3,600 m). Ascending the Kikiphu ridge brings you an altitude of 3,870 m for the night camp. If weather favors you, have a wonderful view of the valley and the panoramic snow caped Himalayan Mountains. The highest mountain of Bhutan Gangkarpunsum (7,541 m) stands right in front of you when you are on the peak of Kikiphu (4,000 m).
Day 07: Kikiphu – Jakar/Bumthang (End of Trek).
Trek day 03: The Magnificent sun rise in the morning is a new experience in Bhutan. Climb down to monasteries of Zambhalha, Chuedak and Tharpaling which brings you to the religious life of monk hood, the historial Buddhist learning centre. Chuedak monastery has 100 Avoloketeshvaras in the form of Chukchizhey (eleven heads) that you will see nowhere else in the country. Afternoon, walk along the ridge of Kikila and finally follow the raditional trek route between Trongsa and Bumthang (the Royal Heritage Trail). The best view of Jakar Dzong will end your three day trek with many interesting and unforgettable memories. In Jakar your car will be waiting to drive you to hotel in Bumthang. Dinner and overnight in hotel.
Day 08: Bumthang – Wangdue – Punakha.
The drive to Punakha via Wangdue takes about seven hours over the Pelela Pass and Yotongla Pass. Lunch served at Chendebji Chorten. Dinner and overnight at hotel.
Day 09: Punakha – Thimphu – Paro.
After breakfast, we drive to visit Punakha Dzong, winter seat of the Je Khenpo and the Monk Body, remarkably located between the rivers of the Mo (Female) Chu and Pho (Male) Chu. The Dzong is open to visiters only in summer when the Je Khenpo and the monk body are in Thimphu. After visiting Punakha Dzong drive to Thimphu over the Dochula Pass. Check in at hotel in Thimphu. After lunch visit National Memorial Chorten, built in the honor of our late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck; visit the Zilukha Nunnery; visit the National Library stocked with ancient manuscripts and coollecetion of books and pay a visit to BBS tower to view Thimphu City and Takin Zoo (National Animal of Bhutan). Evening drive to Paro. Dinner and overnight at hotel.
Day 10: Paro valley sightseeing.
Drive to Drukgyal Dzong (a ruined fortress – 16 km away from town). The Dzong, although in ruins, holds great historical significance. It was from this fortress that the Bhutanese repelled many Tibetan invasions. The name means the victorious Bhutanse. This spot offers a magnificent vista of Mount chomolhari “Mountain of Goddess” (7,329). Visit a typical Bhutanses farmhouse on the way back. A short distance south of the road is Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the oldest temples in Bhutan, built in 7th century. This temple is said to have been built in 659 by King Songtsen Gampo of Tibet. It holds down the left foot of an ogress whose body is so large that it covers Bhutan and most of eastern Tibet. Also visit Rimpung Dzong, built in 1646 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the first temporal ruler of Bhutan, it is now house of Paro monastic body and the office of the Dzongda (governor) and Thrimpons (judge) of Paro district. It is the venue of the Paro Tshechu(festival) held once in every year. Then visit Ta Dzong, an ancient watch tower. This Dzong was converted into National Museum in 1968. The museum boasts antique Thangka, textiles, weapons and armour,household objects and rich assortment of natural and historical artifacts. Evening stroll through the main town of Paro. Dinner and overnight at hotel.
Day 11: Paro, hike to Takshang
Morning drive till Satsam Chorten to hike up to the Taktsang monastery (Tiger’s nest). The hike up to the cafeteria will take around two hours of average walking speed and is located above 2,950 meters (9,678 feet) above sea level. At the view point enjoy the stunning view of the monastery where Guru Padmasambhava landed on the back of a tigress in the 8th century. After lunch at cafeteria walk back to the road point where your car will pick up and then drive to your hotel. Evening, do some last minutes shopping. Dinner and overnight at hotel.
Day 12: Paro – Departure (by Druk Air).
In the morning ABC escort will bid farewell at Paro airport. Good-bye and happy journey back home.