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Snowman Trek with Gangkar Puensum - Bhutan

27 Days / 26 Nights (Tour Code: PI-0451)
Paro-Thimphu-Punakha-Tashithang-Damji-Gasa-Chamsa-Laya-Rhodophu-Tarina-Woche-Lhedi-Thanza-Tshorim-Tashorim-Gangkar Puensum-Geshe Woma-Warathang-Dur Tshachu-Tshochenchen-Tshochena-Dur-Bumthang-Trongsa-Paro
This trek goes to the remote Lunana district and is considered to be the most difficult trek in Bhutan. The attributes those make it a tough trek are ; distances, altitudes, weather conditions and remoteness.A very fit trekking group could tackle the final stage from Tsochenchen to Bumthang (day 22 : 21 km, 13 hours) in one day, but the less fit should allow two comfortable days, and either reduce time allotted for past-trek sightseeing or else add a day to the total length of the tour.Season : The Snowman trek is frequently closed because of snow and is almost impossible during winter. The recommended season for this trek is mid June to mid October.

Day 1: Paro

On arrival at Paro airport, received by our representative and transfer to Thimphu, Bhutan'\s capital town. Overnight at the hotel in Thimphu.

Day 2: Thimphu

Today tour Thimphu visiting the following as time permits: National Memorial Chorten, Trashichhodzong, National Library, Institute for Zorig Chusum (Bhutanese arts and crafts school), National Institute of Traditional Medicine (outside only), Handicrafts Emporium and Folk Heritage and National Textile Museums. Overnight at the hotel in Thimphu.

Day 3: Thimphu - Punakha

This morning, we drive to Punakha via Dochula pass (3,088m), through magnificent forest of rhododendron and magnolia. From the pass, there is a far-reaching view of the eastern Himalayan peaks and the Lunana trekking route. We have our Picnic lunch by the riverside at Punakha. From here, there is a splendid view of Punakha Dzong, built in 1637. It now houses the offices of the district administration, and is the winter residence of the central mon body. After lunch, we drive up the valley, following the Mo Chu river to Tashithang, where we camp at the road end (1,600m).

Day 4: Punakha - Tashithang

The trek starts by the riverside, following a well marked path through sub tropical forest. There are many wild orchids growing in this rather damp area, but be on the lookout for leeches also! Today'\s walk is fairly gentle climb up to Damji village (2,400m) where we cmap for the night.

Day 5: Tashithang

The path continues through sub tropical forested areas and villages upto Gasa Tsachu (hot spring). The Tsachu is a famous place for its curative powers, and people come from all over the country come to bathe here. There are four pools, with temperature ranging from warm to hot. After a hot lunch near the spring, we ave a stiff climb of about two hours to Gasa Dzong (2,900m) where we camp overnight.

Day 6: Tashithang

After breakfast, we visit the Dzong, which was built in 17th century, to protect the valley against Tibetan invaders. Today'\s trek begins with a steep climb up to Bele-la pass (3,700m) through bamboo, rhododendron, juniper and fir forests. We then descend for about half an hour to our forest camp at Chamsa (3,650m).

Day 7: Damji

The trail descends to the bank of Mo Chu river. After crossing the river, we have lunch by the bridge. From here it is a gradual climb up to Laya (3,800m), passing by an army camp en route. We camp at Laya.

Day 8: Damji

One can go around the villages, visiting houses and the people. Laya people are very friendly and will happily pose for photographs. Women of Laya wear a special dress and typical bamboo hats, decorated with turquoise and silver ornaments. There will be an evening cultural programme by the camp fire, with dances performed by local girls.

Day 9: Gasa

From Laya, we descend to army camp and continue following the river till the turn off point for Rhodophu. After lunch, we continue climbing upwards through rhododendrons till we reach a hanging valley where there are yaks grazing (4,350m). We camp here by the river.

Day 10: Gasa

Today trek is the longest of the trip and it is important to start early, around 5am We first climb up to Tsimo-la (4,700m). After crossing the first pass and the little summit, we can have superb view of Lunana and the peaks Mt. Chomolhari and Mt. Jichu Drake. We walk over fairly level ground for the next four hours, before starting the climb up to Ganglapachung-la pass (5,080m). The view from the path is breathtaking, encompassing the whole mountain range, including the peaks Masagang, Tsendegang, after crossing the pass, it is very long descent to Tarina valley, where we camp at. 3,980m.

Day 11: Chamsa

The path descends through coniferous forests, following the upper reaches of the Pho chu river. The trail then climbs over a ridge and drops to Woche at 3,800m, the first village after Gasa. Camp at alt. 3,800m.

Day 12: Chamsa

Today'\s trek begins with a walk through juniper and fir forests and further ahead through rhododendron bushes. We climb up to Keche-la pass (4,480m) and pause to enjoy the wonderful mountain views. After the pass, we descend to a river, with stunning views of Table Mountains and other peaks en route. We walk upstream along this river,which is one of the main tributaries of the Pho Chu river, as far as Lhedi village (3,650m), whee we camp overnight..

Day 13: Laya

The route continues to follow the river, rising gradually to Choejong village (the biggest village in Lunana) where we stop for lunch. After lunch, we visit the village temple, then walk for some time through a sandy area till meeting the river, which we cross by a suspension bridge. Soon we reach our campsite at Thanza (4,000m), the second biggest village in Lunana.

Day 14: Laya

A welcome day of leisure, for reading, catching up with the washing, or just strolling around. If you are feeling really energetic, you can climb up to the ridge for yet another splendid view of the mountains.

Day 15: Laya

Today'\s trek starts with a climb up to the ridge, from where there is a great view of Table Mountain and Thanza valley below. We cross the ridge, and enter a small valley with a stream running through it. WE follow the stream up the valley, enjoying the view of snow capped mountains and have lunch near the bridge. WE then climb up out of the valley, crossing some small ridges, to reach our campsite at Tshorim (5,125m).

Day 16: Rhodophu

Today'\s trek is one of the highlights of the trip. The day starts with a short climb up to the Tashorim Lake. We walk around the side of the lake, enjoying the panoramic view of Gophula ranges. The final stretch Gupho-la pass (5,230m) is very short. After crossing the pass, we descend to the base camp, walking along the ridge and enjoying a great view of Gangkar Puensum. According to choice, you can detour left and climb up a pyramid shaped peak for a better view, or you can go directly to base camp (4,970m) near the Sha Chu, where we will set up the camp.

Day 17: Rhodophu

Rest day at the base camp enjoying the great view.

Day 18: Tarina

The trek is not yet over. The trail follows along the Sha Chu river and descends gradually to Geshe Woma (4,200m) where we camp.

Day 19: Tarina

The path continues along the course Sha Chu for two and half hours until the stiff climb to Saka-la begins. Visibility is poor along this part of the trail, so we must keep watching top of the ridge in order to stay on course. We stop for lunch near a yak herder'\s camp, then climb up to Saka-la pass (4,800m). There are stunning views on the descent to the lakes and another short ascent leads to Wartangle-la pass (4,590m). Scenery once again is stunning with small lakes and the mountain peaks. We camp at 4,000m.

Day 20: Woche

A short half-hour climb takes us up to Juele-la pass (4,400m). After crossing the pass, descend to the riverside through dense rhododendron, juniper and conifer forests. We then cross a bridge and after a short climb rech Dhr Tsachu hot spring, where legend has it that Guru Padsambhava bathed in the 8th century.

Day 21: Woche

From the spring, it is a long and steady climb, with a great views of the mountain ii Lunana. Eventually the ground levels out, and we see several beautiful deep blue lakes, yaks grazing on the surrounding pastures, and yak herders'\ camps (3,850m).

Day 22: Lhedi

This is the last day of the trek where you change from yak to pack ponies. WE must set off very early in order to teach Bumthang before dark. The path follows the Chamkhar Chu descending gradually with few climbs. The trek ends when we reach Dur village where transport will pick us up and drive to Bumthang. Overnight at the lodge in Bumthang (Jakar) .Note : Unless very fit, it is best to spread this final stae over two days: Tsochenchen - Gorsum (7 hours):, Gorsum - Dur - Bumthang (6 hours)

Day 23: Lhedi

The Bumthang valley is the cultural heartland of the nation. The hills around valley are filled with monasteries dedicated to Guru Padsambhava. The valley is also the ancestral home of the great Buddhist teachers, Pema linga, from whose descendants the present monarchy traces its origin.Today, we explore the valley, visiting Jakar Dzong, Kurje Lhakhang, Jambey Lhakhang and Tamshing Lhakhang.Overnight at the lodge in Bumthang.

Day 24: Thanza

Our journey to Trongsa takes about 3 hours. Trongsa Dzong, built in 1648, was the seat of power over central and eastern Bhutan. Both the first and second kings ruled the country from this ancient seat All four monarchs were invested as Trongsa Penlop ('\governer'\) prior to ascending the throne, and the present Crown Prince now holds the post. The dzong is a massive structure with many levels, sloping down the contours of the ridge on which it is still. Standing above this fortress is Ta Dzong, a watchtower, which once guarded this place from internal rebellion. A visit to Ta Dzong gives further insight into the significance of Trongsa in Bhutan'\'\ history. Overnight at the lodge in Trongsa, from which there is a breathtaking early morning view of Trongsa Dzong and the blue hills and valleys beyond..

Day 25: Thanza

After breakfast drive to Paro enroute visiting Wangduephodrang town.. This place is also famous for its bamboo products, slate and stone carvings. Overnight at the hotel in Paro..

Day 26: Thanza

After breakfast visit Ta Dzong, the National Museum of the Kingdom. Originally built as Watch Tower since 1968 it is acting as the National Museum of the country and holding fascinating collection of art, artifacts, thangkha paintings and Bhutan'\s exquisite postage stamps. Then walk down the trail to visit Rinpung Dzong which has a long and fascinating history.After lunch drive north of Paro valley to ruins of Drukgyel Dozng. From this fort Bhutanese repelled several invasion by Tibetan armies. Nearby visit traditional Bhutanese Farm House which offers good insight into lifestyle of local people.While return to Paro town visit enroute Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the oldest and most sacred shrines of the Kingdom.Overnight at the hotel in Paro.

Day 27: Tshorim

After breakfast drive to the airport for flight to onward destination.

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