The Chomolhari trek is fantastic for trekkers looking for an off-the-beaten path, high altitude experience that isn't too long. And with Kandoo we make sure to build in enough time to soak in the cultural gems of the Tiger Monastery and the sites of Paro and the capital, Thimphu.
On the trek you will be treated to amazing scenery that ranges from the picturesque valleys of Paro and Thimphu, to the incredible mountain vistas of Chomolhari (7314m), Jichu Drake (6794m) and Tshrim Khang. Throughout the trek you will be weaving your way through rhododendron forests and over glacial streams.
The most challenging day of the trek sees us crossing the Yale Pass (4950m), where we are treated to awesome views of the surrounding peaks and valleys.
If you are looking for a relatively short trek that provides a great combination of the cultural and wildness experiences of Bhutan, this one is for you!
The Kandoo team will be waiting for you at Paro airport to transfer you to your hotel. If you wish, there is the option to join a tour of the city in the afternoon. Ta Dzong was inaugurated as Bhutan's National Museum in 1968. Built as a watchtower to defend Rinpung Dzong during the inter-valley wars of the 17th century, it is now home to a fascinating collection of art, relics, religious thangkha paintings and Bhutan's exquisite postage stamps. Afterwards, we will walk down a hillside trail to visit Rinpung Dzong, 'The Fortress of the Heap of Jewels'. Built in 1646 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the first spiritual and temporal ruler of Bhutan, the Dzong now houses the offices of the district administration and themonastic body of Paro. The approach to the Dzong is through a covered wooden bridge typical of Bhutan called Nemi Zam, which offers a great view of the architectural wonder of the Dzong.
Later you will attend a pre-trek briefing with your Lead Guide to prepare you for the journey ahead.
In the morning we will take an excursion to Taktsang Lhakhang, commonly known as 'The Tiger’s Nest Monastery'. This is without doubt the most famous of Bhutan’s monasteries, and one of the most breath-taking temples in the world. This Buddhist place of worship nestles on the side of a cliff at around 3,100m (10,000ft) above sea level. The main temple complex dates back to 1692, and is considered to be one of the holiest for the Bhutanese people. According to legend, Guru Rinpoche, an 8th-century Indian Buddhist master, arrived here on the back of a tigress and meditated at this monastery, thus the name ‘Tiger’s Nest’. The site was visited by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, who was a Tibetan Buddhist Lama and the unifier of Bhutan as a nation-state and has been recognized as a sacred place which is visited by all Bhutanese at least once in their lifetime. In 1998, the main structure of building was damaged by fire but now this Bhutanese jewel has been restored to its original splendour.
After lunch we will visit the 7th century Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the 108 temples built in the Himalayas by Tibetan King, Songtsen Gampo. The building of this temple marks the introduction of Buddhism in Bhutan. We will then visit the ruined fortress at Drukgyel Dzong, where Bhutanese warriors fought against Tibetan invaders centuries ago. In the 1950s, Drukgyel Dzong was almost completely destroyed by fire. It is now listed in Bhutan's Tentative List for UNESCO inclusion. In 2016, to celebrate the birth of His Royal Highness, The Gyalsey, the Prime Minister announced that the Dzong will be rebuilt and reinstated to its former glory. From the approach road to the Dzong, you will have a clear view of the snowy dome of Chomolhari (7326m) - ‘the Bride of Kangchenjunga' - the sacred mountain that is the focus of our trek. After our tours we will return to our hotel in Paro.
Following a 2 hour drive through rice terraces, fields of millet and apple orchards, we reach Shana Zampa from where we will start our trek. If the day is clear, we will have our first views of the summit of Chomolhari at the head of the valley. Soon the valley widens and we reach the army post of Gunyitsawa (2,810m). This is the last stop before Tibet, with a fork in the path leading across the Tremo La (Forbidden Pass) into Tibet. The trail follows the Pa Chhu (Paro River), ascending and descending through pine, oak and spruce forests. We enter the Jigme Dorje National Park, the largest protected area in Bhutan which extends to Lunana in the east and all the territory to the south. After crossing a bridge to the left bank of the river, we stop for lunch. We then continue along the river, and as we climb higher into the mountains, the forests are replaced with rhododendron, bamboo and ferns. We cross the river once more before reaching our campsite.
The path ascends, passing a small army camp and chorten. We leave the forest behind and can fully experience the huge mountain vistas. We then follow the river above the tree line, enjoying the stunning views of the surrounding peaks - from here, the views of Mount Chomolhari (7326m) and Jichu Drake (6794m)are superb. Lunch is served at a yak herder’s camp followed by a short walk into the valley which takes us to our campsite at Jangothang (Chomolhari Base Camp), situated below the ice-covered east face of Chomolhari at 4040m.
The trail follows the stream for half an hour before we cross a bridge to the right bank. Now the climb starts up to the first ridge, where we can enjoy breath-taking views of Mt. Chomolhari, Mt Jichu Drake and Tsrim Khang. The trail then takes us across a fairly level valley floor until the climb to the Nyele La pass(4850m). From the pass we descend gradually through rhododendron forest to our campsite at Lingshi, enjoying the panoramic view of the mountain peaks and Lingshi Dzong as we walk. The Dzong was built in 1668 to protect villages in this region from Tibetan invasion, and continues to be used as an administrative centre.
Today is the toughest day of our trek, as we cross our highest pass. We begin the trek with a climb up towards a small white chorten on a ridge above the camp, then turn south into the deep Mo Chhu valley. The trail stays on the west side of this largely treeless valley, climbing steeply. It then crosses the river, and continues to climb steeply for two hours to Yale La pass (4950m). On a clear day, you can see Mt. Chomolhari, Gangchhenta, Tserim Khang and Masang Gang. We then descend alongside a stream to a rock shelter in the cliff face, and then continue on downstream until we reach Shodu (4080m), where we will camp in a meadow with a chorten in it.
Back below the tree line, our path follows the course of the Thimphu Chhu river, descending through rhododendron, juniper and mixed alpine forests. There are stunning views of rocky cliff faces and waterfalls along the way before we descend a steep stone staircase to the river and stop at the riverside for lunch. Then the trail takes us gradually upwards to the ruins of Barshong Dzong (3710m), where we camp for the night.
The trail descends gently through a dense forest of rhododendron, birch and conifers, then drops steeply to meet the Thimphu Chhu river. The trail runs along the left bank of the river, climbing over ridges and descending into gullies where streams run down into the river. The final stage of the trail climbs around a cliff face high above the Thimphu Chhu river, coming out onto pastureland at Dolam Kencho at 3,320m. Our transport will meet us here and we will drive (approx 1 hour) to our hotel in Thimphu.
We start this morning in Bhutan’s capital city, Thimphu, with a visit to the National Library, which holds a vast collection of ancient Buddhist texts and manuscripts, some dating back several hundred years, as well as modern academic books mainly on Himalayan culture and religion. We will also visit the nearby Institute for Zorig Chusum, an Arts & Crafts School where we may see the students being taught the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan. We will follow on to the Textile Museum, providing a fascinating insight into Bhutanese material culture and way of life, followed by a visit to Simply Bhutan, a living Museum and Studio encapsulating the cultural heritage of the Bhutanese people. The infrastructure portrays ancient Bhutanese architecture which is being lost to modernization, and the preservation and promotion of culture being one of the four pillars of Gross National Happiness (GNH). (Please note both the National Library and the Institute for Zorig Chusum are closed at weekends and government holidays, and the Textile Museum is closed on Sundays and government holidays). We finish our tour with a sightseeing visit to Tashichhoe Dzong, “the fortress of the glorious religion”. This impressive monastery and fortress has housed the seat of Bhutan's government since 1968, the throne room of His Majesty the King and various government offices. It is also the summer residence of the Chief Abbot and central monk body. Late in the afternoon we will drive to Paro, where we will spend the night in a hotel.
We will collect you from your hotel and transfer you to Paro Airport for your morning flight to Kathmandu or Delhi.