Walking & Hiking
Bhutan offers a multitude of hiking opportunity ranging from easy, medium to difficult owing to its varied landscapes and terrain. 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, tree-line, 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 often crossing the tree line at 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 sea level. Kungkarpo 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 that occasionally cross cool streams from the Himalayas. Indulge in the natural forest, home to 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.
The trip is designed to 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 savouring 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 monastery 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.
8 best hiking trails in Bhutan
8 most popular hikes to add in your itinerary
1. Chele La & Kungkarpo Sky Burial - Paro
Highest Altitude: 4400m
Elevation Gain: 500m
You will begin by driving to Chelela pass, which is at 3990m the highest motor able road in Bhutan. Walk along the ridge adorned with thick fluttering prayer flags. You can also gain good merit by fixing your own prayer flag if you have brought one with you. On the ridge is the breathtaking views of valleys of Paro and Haa on the either side of the pass. Thick Rhododendron bush and many flowers adorn the mountain slope making your walk along the trail more enchanting. There is also an opportunity to spot Blue poppy and many more varieties of plants making this hike a botanical tour. Climbing higher up the ridge will take you to Gungkarpo (4600m), where you will find sky burial spot. The trail then descends abruptly through opened natural meadow and enters thick forest of silver fir and broad leaved Rhododendrons trees finally coming out to Khela Goemba Nunnery. These magnificent clusters of temples have been home for nuns for many years.
2. Zuri Goemba Hike - Paro
Highest Altitude: 2600m
Elevation Gain: 300m
3. Lungchutse via Dochula Pass - Thimphu
Highest Altitude: 3600m
Elevation Gain: 500m
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. You will then follow up the ridge through a forest of hemlock, birch and rhododendrons until reaching an open meadow, where yak herders camp in winter. Next, you will enter into forest of moss-covered rhododendrons, gigantic hemlocks, junipers, and bamboo undergrowth. A small trail leads you the last 50 meters past a row of fluttering prayer flags up to Lungchutse temple surrounded by prayer flags on heavily logged slopes. After a brief visit to the temple, you will descend through the trail to the left just 150 meters below Lungchutse, leading to 18th century Trashing goenpa an important mediation centre. The trail leading down from the front of the temple zigzags steeply down the side of the mountain until farm road which takes you up to the main road, where your car will drive you to Thimphu.
4. Trans Bhutan Trail
The Trans Bhutan Trail is a 403km route stretching from Haa in the west to Trashigang in east Bhutan. This ancient trail was used by the locals, merchants and chieftains before existence of modern road facilities in Bhutan. The route is recently been revived to use as a cross cultural route and repository of a rich Bhutanese culture. However for adventurous souls, it would be just a run-of-the-mill trip and other high altitude wilderness treks like Laya Gasa, Jumolhari, Yaksa Trek and Snowman should suffice your adventurous quest.
5. Phajoding / Thuji Dra Top Hike - Thimphu
Highest Altitude: 4084m
Elevation Gain: 1800m
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.
6. Khamsum Yuelley Namgyel Hike - Punakha
Duration: 2 hrs
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-storied 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.
7. Bumdra Hike - Paro
Highest Altitude: 4000m
Elevation Gain: 1200m
This spiritual hike to Bumdra starts from a monastery above Paro valley. The 2-hour uphill hike is through forests of pine, spruce and fir with an amazing views of valley below. The trail then undulates to a pretty temple, which offers commanding views of Paro and snowcapped Himalayas to north. We then come to a wide meadow dotted with sacred chortens and prayer flags, and a little further is a place where we camp for a night. Experience our luxury camp and delicious meals. The camp is tucked away just under Bumdra monastery, which is believed to have been blessed by one hundred thousand angels. Venturing further up for another 40 minutes above the camp will take you to the top at 4200m. From here you can enjoy unimpeded views of the Himalayan range.
8. Wangditse Nature Trail Hike - Thimphu
Highest Altitude: 2400m
Elevation Gain: 60m
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 unique animal supposed to have the body of a cow and head of a goat, is believed to have been created by Divine Madman out of his super natural power. The peace road finishes at broadcast tower, which further up is adorned by fluttering prayer flags. The view of south Thimphu from here is superb. The trail heads up for a while and detour to right through apple orchard and few farm houses above the trail. From here the trail drops down gently through oak, blue pine and rhododendron until you will reach Wangditse monastery. The view of Tashichodzong, Thimphu city, and Buddha statue is stunning from here. The trail from here switches back towards broadcast tower following a bicycle trail.
OTHER DAY HIKES
Gangtey Nature Trail - 2hrs
Longtey Longmey Hike - 5 to 6hrs
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