Paro to Shana Zampa (2,850m/9,348ft): 15 km, 5 – 6 hours
The journey along this magnificent trail starts out on the road as you drive past the magnificent Drugyel Dzong (2580m). The Dzongs, spread out across all of Bhutan, are the mortar in which history is steeped. Drugyel Dzong was built in the 1960’s after Bhutan had won a victory over the invading armies of Tibet and still stands to guard further transgressions. It caught fire in 1951 and a shingled roof erected in 1985 has been the only repair made to the building. It now stands as reminder of the past, quiet and cold.A military checkpoint just outside Gunetshawa checks your permit and you’re on way through rice terraces for about two hours till you reach meadows just beyond Shana Zampa.
Shana Zampa to Soi Thangthangkha (3,750m/12,300 ft): 20 km, 7 – 8 hours
Most of the day is spent gradually climbing alongside the Paro River with it’s forests of pine, ferns, oaks and spruce which form the part of the Jigme Dorji National Park. After a tough muddy, rock hopping day of walking the valley eventually narrows to a small path on which you should have your first great view of Mt. Chomolhari – weather permitting.
Soi Thangthangkha to Jangothang (4,040m/13,250 ft): 19 km, 7 – 8 hours
You could arise in the morning with the most beautiful and exquisite views of the area or be pelted with rain as you climb nearer to Jangothang. One thing is for sure, herd homes and yaks dot the scenery more frequently as you pass the villages of Dangochang, Soe and Takethang. The warm and friendly nature of the Bhutanese will be on full display as they will glady offer up supplies for the rest of your journey – butter, meat, cheese and if you’re lucky, some dried yak cheese. Who knows, you could attempt the highest wine tasting ever. You’d certainly have the view as the wind parts prayer flags to give a spectacular view of Mount Chomolari.
Rest Day in Jangothang
This could be a day resting the legs after the rocky ups and downs, or you could take the opportunity to hike to find the great views of Jichu Drake Peak. If you’re lucky you could have some blue sheep following you along the way. But if you’re feeling really adventurous, your option could be a hike to Tshopu, a trout filled lake high in altitude with the most amazing landscape views.
Jangothang to Lingshi (4,000m/13,120ft): 18 km, 7 – 8 hours
Embarking from Jangothang is essentially leaving the last settlement for quite some time, and within half an hour of leaving you’d swear you were the only person around for miles as there are views of Jichu Drake and Tshering Gang (Tserim Kang). Mother Nature probably put them in your way to placate your legs as after those views you are on enroute to Nyile (Ngye) Pass – 4 hours away. Luckily afterwards you are on a gradual descent to Lingshi.
Day 6: Lingshi to Shodu (4,100m/13,450ft): 22km, 8 – 9 hours
Up until now you’ve been following both the Chomolari and Laya Gasa routes. Today that changes with the Chomolari route climbing towards a chorten situated on the ridge above the camp and then south towards the Mo Chhu valley. For a large part you’re trekking through a treeless valley until the trail crosses the river and climbs towards Yele la Pass (4,820m) which yields amazing views of Mount Chomolhari, Gangchhenta, Masang Gang and Tserim Kang and then down to Shodu.
Day 7: Shodu to Barshong (3,600m/11,810ft): 16km, 6 – 7 hours
From Shodu the trek follows the steep-walled canyon alongside the Thimphu Chhu, working it’s way down from juniper and alpine forest towards waterfalls. Don’t be confused if its seems like a groundhog day – you’re gonna end up crossing the Thimpu River at least 6 times before reaching Barshong.
Day 8: Barshong to Dolam Kencho (3,600m/11,810ft): 15km, 5 – 6 hours
Another forested day of trekking with dense conifer, birch and rhododendron surrounding you as you make your way down a steep descend to Thimpu Chhu River crossing over streams till you cross over a steep cliff to Dolam Kencho, a huge pasture at 3,600m.
Day 9: Dolam Kencho to Thimpu (2,350m /7,710ft): 8km, 3 – 4 hours
The last day of trekking sees you climbing about 500m and descending 940m as you make your from Dolam Kencho to Dodena then onto Thimpu completing one of the most breathtaking treks Bhutan has to offer