WALKING & HIKING TOUR

Hiking in Bhutan

Explore Bhutan on foot, hiking and walking from city to city with minimal amount of hours spent sitting in the back seat of a car. Why drive to a city on a motorized tar road with scenes zooming past your eyes, when you can hike on rugged trails savoring the untouched nature of Bhutan? Trudge along ridges surrounded by majestic mountains, hike from one hotel in a city to the next while listening in on the ancient oral traditions of our unique culture. With walking and hiking the foci everyday speckled with cultural sightseeing in Thimphu, Punakha and Paro, this trip is a calling for active adventurers. 

There may be a disparity between the difficulty levels of hikes in Bhutan and those in your country. Easy hikes in Bhutan may be considered difficult in other regions because of the differences in terrain, air pressure, treeline and trail conditions. Easy hikes reach a maximum of 2500m which mostly start from valley floors and ascend into the high ridges. When hikers cross 2500m altitude and hike up to a whopping 4200m, we enter the moderate to difficult levels where we often cross the tree line which is 3700m.

The striking views that hikers get to see at the end of each hike isn’t short of the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Thimphu city can be seen nestled in the valley from Phajoding, a hike that ascends 4200m above the sea level. Kung Karpo hike is your best bet to absorb the majestic views of Paro and Haa Valleys. One distinction between the trails in Bhutan to those of others is the organic and untouched paths which occasionally cross cool streams from the Himalayas. Indulge in the natural forest, home for exotic birds, flora and fauna. With steep ascents and descents, hikers with some sturdy boots can achieve some great heights and with every few hundred meters gain in altitude, one can also witness the gradual change of vegetation and thinning of the air. Hiking in Bhutan is an adventure you must not miss.

Top experiences

6 most popular hikes to add in your itinerary

chele la-Kungkarpo

Chele La Hike

Walk along the ridge adorned with thick fluttering prayer flags. On the ridge is the breathtaking views of Paro and Haa valleys on the either side of the pass. Climbing higher up the ridge will take you to Gungkarpo (4600m), where you will find sky burial spot. 

Khamsum-yulley-namgyel

Khamsum Yuelley Namgyel Hike

Built by Her Majesty the Queen Mother in the late 20th century, this temple is dedicated to the Kingdom’s welfare as well as a long prosperous life of our Druk Gyalpo. The temple is the epitome of the finest Bhutanese craftsmanship and artistic traditions. 

Dochula-pass

Lungchutse via Dochula Pass

This is one of the most picturesque hikes in the Thimphu region. On clear days, one can enjoy 360° view of the breathtaking Himalayan mountain ranges from the top of Lungchutse goenpa to the extreme north. Once you are at the Dochula Pass (3140m), walk to the south of the mani wall and Chorten. Head up the ridge through cattle trails until you find recognisable Homo sapiens trail. 

Zuri-Goenpa-hike

Zuri Goemba Hike

As you walk along the trail you will have an opportunity to witness the landing and taking off of Drukair which would remind you of the exciting landing you had earlier. This beautiful hike serve as acclimatization and adaptation for the trek if you have to undergo the next day.

wangditse-hike

Wangditse Nature Trail Hike

Drive above Thimphu city, pass Mothithang area and drop by the Takin Reserve to see our national animal Takin, which is endemic only to Himalayan ranges. The view of Tashichodzong, Thimphu city, and Buddha statue is stunning from here. 

Thuji-dra

Phajoding/Thuji Dra Top Hike

With an end altitude of 4000m, Phajoding Hike falls under moderate-difficult. Hikers can expect breathtaking views of the Thimphu Valley and avid birdwatchers can catch glimpses of some exotic birds on the trail. The trail starts from the Broadcast tower (2200 m) and ascends up to Phajoding (3000m) and Thuji dra (3700m) and further up to the stone chorten (4000 m) and finally ends at Motithang.

Itinerary overview

The flight to Paro is an adventure to say the least. Catch glimpses of the sacred Jumolhari and Jichu Drake peaks as the plane crosses the Himalayan mountains. Before landing the plane zigzags between mountains surrounding the Paro Valley offering serene views of the charming town. You will be greeted by Bhutan Travelers and will be taken to your hotel. 
 
In the afternoon you may visit the Paro Dzong built in 1646 which currently houses government offices and religious institutions, much like all other Dzongs (fortresses) presently. To get to the Dzong you will cross a traditional picturesque cantilever bridge. Kichu Lhakhang, your next sight, is the oldest temple of Bhutan. Then a short walk to Drugyal Dzong (Bhutan Victory Fort), you will learn of the rich history of Bhutan. This fort was built to commemorate Bhutan’s victory over Tibetan invaders in the 1600s. As evening comes take a stroll through the Paro market and town. Overnight stay at a hotel in Paro. 
The Chele La hike is jam-packed with epic highlights. Some hikers may complete the hike in 3 hours while others may take 4 to 5 hours. The hike starts at 3990m the highest altitude where motor road has reached in Bhutan. The trail tracks along a ridge adorned with prayer flags fluttering in the wind. If you wish you can add your own bunch of prayer flags here to gain some good merit. As you continue on, you will walk on 5 ridges each higher than the last. Each ridge affords even better views of Paro and Haa valleys nestled amid grand mountains. As you walk on higher ridges you may see Mt. Jumolhari and Jichu Drake to the right as well as Mount Kanchenjunga of Sikkim in the distant left, the third highest mountain in the world if clear weather prevails. If you complete the hike in August you may also spot the Blue poppy if you venture a few more meters to the left of the pass. As you walk further along, you will walk through meadows with a blanket of gentian flowers in full bloom in October, the staple vegetation of this altitude. Climbing further up will bring you to Kung Karpo, the last and the highest ridge (4400m) where a sky burial spot remains. Dead bodies of babies are sacrificed on this spot to be preyed on by vultures even today. 
 
If time permits, walking further from the sky burial on the lower ridges to the left towards Haa Valley will afford spectacular views of Haa and Paro valleys. You will then hike back to Kung Karpo and then to Chele La pass from where you will be transferred to a hotel in Haa. 
Lhakhang Karpo and Lhakhang Nagpo translated to White Temple and Black Temple were built by King Songtshen Gampo in the 7th century. It is said that rays of light once emanated from his body and where white light shone now stands Lhakhang Karpo and Lhakhang Nagpo was built where the black rays fell. According to another oral tradition, a white and black pigeon, manifestations of the King flew to the sights on where the temples are built. The lhakhangs are located on Meri Puensum hill and houses the district monastic body of Haa Dzongkhag. A 15 minute hike from the White temple is the Black temple. Near it are two houses beside a sacred oak tree where the local deity, Chungdue, once appeared as a winged creature. The residents of the houses gave offerings to the deity. The local deity, appeased, visited the upper house and neglected the lower house. Taken over by jealousy, the lower house started a feud and ended up taking the life of the other owner. Every year on the 11th lunar month, a series of special mystical practices are performed in the upper house for a week. 
Hiking on an unpaved motor road for less than an hour will take you on a gradual climb through a yak herders camp traversing through two different trails. You will follow the right hand side to make your climb up to Sagala Pass (3550m). A clear sky gives way to magnificent views of Mt. Jumolhari and Jichu Drake as well as the border shared with Tibet. Then descending down the pass through rhododendron and conifer forests hikers will have to cross a stream north of Paro Valley and after passing a few villages you will arrive at Balakha Chhu river. From here  you will be transferred to your hotel. 
 
After driving past the National Museum in Paro(2690m) and ending at Jishigang village, we start our hike on the unpaved motor road. Slowly walking past apple orchards, farmlands and farmhouses on a gradual slope upwards we arrive at a long stone chorten built beside the trail. Leaving behind the village we enter thick pine and fir forest. On our exploratory trip in June, just 30 mins into the hike we also spotted a male Tragopan Pheasant with beautiful red feathers with white specks throughout. Further on we spotted many other birds but the pheasant was the most rare one we caught sight of. This only gives substance to Bhutan being called a birdwatchers paradise.
 
Gradually ascending and tracking through rugged trails, some covered with the sturdy roots of the long standing trees, we slowly gain elevation. From pine forests to spruce and hemlock trees we also see a progressive change in vegetation. Soon enough we will be treading through meadows marking our arrival to the Jela Pass (3525m). The pass has some stacked stones and from here you can see Jela Dzong perched majestically on the edge of a mountain. There are two trails from here, one leading straight to the Dzong and further and the other descending down to the camping area. A 15 min walk from the pass will bring us to Jela Dzong from where you can get amazing views of the mountains around and clear weather may afford hikers the view of Mt. Jumolhari and Jichu Drake in the distant extreme. 
 
After some rest we will move on with our journey to Thimphu. After walking across a meadow, we once again slowly enter the forest. We noticed how rhododendrons were in full bloom, rightfully so as May and June months are blooming seasons in the higher altitudes. In the lower altitudes however, rhododendrons bloom early on in March and April. Then as you further descend through rhododendron and pine forests we walk downstream occasionally crossing the streams back and forth. We will slowly reach a community school and then we come out of Tshalunang village. After an hour drive we will reach Thimphu city where you will be taken to your hotel for some good rest. 
 

To start your day in Thimphu you will visit the National Textile Museum followed by the National Institute of Zorig Chusum (School of Arts and Crafts). After lunch in the city you may visit the Jungshi Handmade Paper Factory and Nado Poizokhang Incense Factory to witness some interesting traditional practices. To end your day we will drive to Kuenselphodrang or Buddha Point where the biggest bronze statue in the world stands — a 169 feet Buddha state overlooking Thimphu Valley.

With an end altitude of 4000m, Phajoding Hike falls under moderate-difficult. Hikers can expect breathtaking views of the Thimphu Valley and avid birdwatchers can catch glimpses of some exotic birds on the trail. The trail starts from the Broadcast tower (2200 m) and ascends up to Phajoding (3000m) and Thujeydrak (3700m) and further up to the stone chorten (4000 m) and finally ends at Motithang. 
 
The trail from Broadcast tower is lined with colorful prayer flags and right across on the next mountain is the Buddha Dhodhenma. For quite some time you will be hiking parallel the statue, uphill for an hour to Chokhortse marked by a cluster of three temples. From here the view of Thimphu Valley is exquisite. The trail from Chokhortse is a gradual slope with no steep ascents. From here on to the trail junction (from Motithang and the Broadcast tower) is heavily forested by blue pine trees and thick undergrowth which is the best strip of land to enjoy birding. Birdwatchers can identify birds such as the magpie, common nutcracker and many more. Exotic butterflies and wild mushrooms were common sightings along the trail. After a steep ascent from the junction you will reach Phajoding – with a monastery, a monastic residence and small houses serving as refuge for practitioners of Buddhism, it appears a small settlement. 
 
A further climb will bring you to Thujeydrak monastery, a small architecture contoured into the cliff. You can catch Thimphu Valley in its entirety from here. Drink some refreshing holy water falling from the cliffs and with another 30 min hike further up we will reach the Stone Chorten at 4000m the highest point of this hike. Once here you will get clear views of the surrounding mountains, Thimphu Valley below. On the other side mountains covered in dwarf rhododendron bushes spreads over the horizon with views of the distant passes. You will see a trail leading off this stone chorten. This trail leads to the Druk Path Trek which ends in Paro. Hiking an additional 3 hours would bring you to the Dungtsho lake, another gem of a destination in Thimphu. You will see local hikers who usually spend a night in Thujeydrak and hike up to the lake the next day. It is a two day journey to the lake and if you wish to visit this tucked-away lake you would have to reschedule your time for a customized trip. 
 
There are two routes for this hike – one from Motithang and the other from the Broadcast tower. Some outfitters start from Motithang, hike till Phajoding and back to Motithang, taking a total of 5-6 hours. However, we believe that hikers miss out on the amazing views of Thimphu Valley and the surrounding mountains one can get from Thujeydrak and the stone chorten. We recommend to start from the Broadcast tower as the trail here offers amazing opportunities for birding and gives stunning views of Thimphu Valley. Descending down and ending the hike at Motithang marks the end of the hike, after nearly 10 hrs on foot. This way we cover both routes of the Phajoding hike.
Drive 12km north of Thimphu Valley passing through the town of Dechencholing and past the vast village of Kabisa. After driving for a while through pine forests we get to Chambina (2665m) the hike start point. The hike starts with a gradual ascent for 10 minutes along an unpaved motor road. Then making a left climb for an hour brings you to Barnakepa at 3135m, a large meadow. Spot pines, spruce, oak and maple trees as you hike up to Sinchula Pass (3315m). 
For birders, you may spot yellow-billed blue magpies and common nutcrackers. Another hour on the trail will bring you to Sinchula Pass marked by an antique Bhutanese chorten and some prayer flags. After some well-needed rest we will take the trail on the right to get to Dochula Pass (3050m). This pass is one of the most beautiful in Bhutan with 108 stupas. From Dochula the road descends to the valleys of Punakha and Wangdi. Then drive past the junction of Lobesa passing villages and farmlands of Punakha.
After breakfast, you will visit Punakha Dzong, which is noteworthy both for being one of the most beautiful Dzongs in Bhutan and also for having been built by the first Zhabdrung in 1637. You will then drive north of Punakha valley to hike up to Khamsum Yulley Namgyel Chorten, positioned strategically on a ridge above the Punakha valley. Built by Her Majesty the Queen Mother in the late 20th century, this temple is dedicated to the Kingdom’s welfare as well as a long prosperous life of our Druk Gyalpo. The temple is the epitome of the finest Bhutanese craftsmanship and artistic traditions.  From the base of the hill on which the temple stands you will cross the suspension bridge, walk through rice paddies and hike up a slightly inclined trail. You will be greeted with the best view of Punakha valley from the 4-storeyed temple. The hike totals up to an hour and is followed by a short hike down of approximately 30 minutes. The walk can be slightly muddy and slippery during summer. Enjoy the hike and the view.
After visiting Chimi Lhakhang the trail follows the irrigation channel and slowly passes by the Chasa village houses. With no steep ascents or descents, the trail from Chimi Lhakhang to Siluna is very pleasant over 1500m maximum elevation. Walking for 2 hours covering a distance of 4kms will bring you to the Mineral water plant with a feeder road leading to the main highway of Siluna. On your hike to Thinleygang, you will be walking through sub-tropical forests. Visit local temples and heritage houses where Lam Drukpa Kuenley’s arrow landed. He is also popularly known as the Divine Mad Man. Listen to the cultural history of this Tibetan saint through paintings and artifacts here. From Chandana (1600m) we will end at Thinleygang (1700m) covering a total of 1.4kms.
You will once again be driven to PWD camp where you can rest and enjoy some warm tea. Visit and enjoy the Botanical park with a wide variety of flowers in full bloom (March – May). Then at your own pace, we can start the next leg of the hike to Dochula Pass. A car will be waiting here to transfer you to Thimphu. Overnight stay at a hotel in the capital city.

Today you will start early from Thimphu and drive to Paro for your hike to Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest) Monastery. It is Bhutan’s most famous monastery situated at 3180 meters. Guru Rinpoche (spiritual master) is said to have flown on the back of a tigress to meditate in a cave where Taktsang Monastery now stands. Lunch will be served in the Cafeteria, located about halfway up on the mountain. The monastary is perched on the edge of a steep cliff, about 900 meters above Paro Valley. Explore the monastery and hike down to the valley floor. Overnight at a hotel in Paro.

Today we will bid you farewell as you catch your flight from Paro to your next adventure.

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OTHER DAY HIKES

Gangtey Nature Trail - 2hrs

Longtey Longmey Hike - 5 to 6hrs

Buddha Circuit Trail - 1.5hrs

Suspension Bridge & Samdingkha - 2 to 3hrs

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