Gangkhar Puensum Trek
Trek to the highest unclimbed mountain in the world, Gangkhar Puensum at 7,570 metres in altitude, on this remote and beautiful trip in the unspoiled Himalayan landscape of Bhutan.
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The Tiger's Nest
Warm up for the trek with the hike to the brilliant Tiger's Nest monastery, located 3,100 metres in altitude on a sheer cliff above the Paro Valley. This temple complex is set over a cave said to be where Guru Rinpoche, Padmasambhava, is said to have meditated after flying on the back of a tigress.
Lungchu Tsey Pilgrimage
Hike to the small temple on the Lungchu Tsey Pilgrimage, through rhododendron and daphne forest strewn with prayer flags. We gain almost 500 metres in elevation to reach 3,600 metres, as we acclimatise before our trek.
Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten
Hike to the relatively modern Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten, stunningly situated above the Punakha Valley. From here climb even higher to a privately owned 300-year-old monastery at Giligang before the long downhill walk to Punakha Dzong.
Ancient temples of Bumthang
Explore Bumthang on foot, visiting temples of great spiritual significance, including one of Bhutan's oldest temples, dating from the 7th century.
Flight from Bumthang to Paro
Experience panoramic views of the eastern Himalayas, including Bhutan's highest and second highest mountains Gangkhar Puensum and Jomolhari, as we fly from Bumthang to Paro.
The dzong, or fortress, at Punakha is considered the most beautiful in Bhutan and it's easy to see why: traditional architecture, ornate carved and painted woodwork, brilliant Buddhist artwork and gilded doorways. There's also the stunning location, at the confluence of two rivers. It holds a special place in the hearts of the Bhutanese as it is the site for the coronation of all of the country's highly revered kings.
Day 2: The Tiger's Nest
Location : Thimphu, Bhutan
Today's hike to the Tiger's Nest is a good warm up for our trek. It's a good two hours up to the monastery and temple complex, with a stop at the cafeteria for some tea, where we can appreciate great views. The location of the Tiger's Nest, clinging to a sheer cliff, is dramatic and awe inspiring. There are a number of small temples built around the cave where Padmasambhava, or Guru Rinpoche is said to have mediated, after flying to Bhutan on the back of a tigress.
In the afternoon we will drive to Thimphu, Bhutan's capital that is tiny by world standards. There are more hikes we can do if there is time.
Driving time: 1½ hours.
Overnight in Thimphu. Altitude: 2,320 metres.
Day 3: To Wangdue Phodrang
Location : Wangdue Phodrang, Bhutan
Today we drive to Wangdue Phodrang, via the Dochula, a scenic high pass that is made even more stunning by the 108 chortens on a gentle hill. It's a great place to stop and wander among the chortens. In clear weather there are wonderful views of the Himalayas.
Down the road from the Dochula is the Lungchu Tsey Pilgrimage track, leading up to a small monastery above the valley, at 3,569 metres in altitude. It's a beautiful 3 to 4-hour walk up through the daphne and rhododendrons that are strewn with prayer flags.
After lunch we will visit the magnificent Punakha dzong, considered the most beautiful in Bhutan. It is stunningy located at the confluence of two large rivers and is reached by crossing a wooden bridge from which large trout can be seen in the river below. The dzong was originally built in 1637 and then rebuilt several times after being damaged by floods and fires. It is the second oldest dzong (behind Simtoka Dzong) and the second biggest (behind Trongsa) in Bhutan and was the seat of government until the 1950s. It has many temples and courtyards to explore. There is great beauty in the carved and elaborately painted architecture and Buddhist artwork of the inner courtyards.
Driving time: 3 hours
Overnight Wangdue Phodrang. Altitude: 1,240 metres.
Day 6: Begin trek to Gophu
Location : Bumthang, Bhutan
Day 1 of trek.
We drive north of Jakar to reach the start of our trek at the army camp at Khaktang, where our horses and trekking crew will meet us. Our gear will be loaded on to the horses as we begin our trek through thick forest following the Chamkhar river. This is musk deer habitat but they are hard to spot. At times there are impressively steep cliffs lining the river.
Distance: 16 kms.
Camp altitude: 3,276 metres.