The Buddhist Kingdom of Bhutan lies along the lofty ridges of the eastern Himalayas, bordered by China (Tibet) to the north and northwest, and by the Indian states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, West Bengal and Sikkim on the east, south and west respectively. With an area of 46,500 square km., Bhutan is comparable to Switzerland both in its size and topography. The mighty Himalaya have protected Bhutan from the rest of the world and left it blissfully untouched through the centuries. The Bhutanese people have protected this sacred heritage and unique identity for centuries by choosing to remain shrouded in a jealously guarded isolation.
The Druk Path trek is a four day trek, which leads from Paro to Thimphu, crossing stunning natural landscapes through blue pine forests, dwarf rhododendrons, high ridges and crystal clear lakes. There are many opportunities to view ancient lhakhangs, dzongs and quiet unspoilt villages.
Both Paro and Thimpu have the most amazing visually stimulating festivals, so if your trip timing allows we have included itineraries that put you in the right place at the right time to enjoy these incredible events. Trips can be arranged to suit.
The best times to embark on the Druk Path Trek are between March-June or September-November.
The Kandoo team will meet you at Paro airport and transfer you to your pre-trek hotel. Later in the afternoon there is the option to join a tour of the city. Once a watchtower, built to defend Rinpung Dzong during inter-valley wars of the 17th century, Ta Dzong was inaugurated as Bhutan's National Museum in 1968. It holds a fascinating collection of art, relics, religious thangkha paintings and Bhutan's exquisite postage stamps. The museum’s circular shape augments its varied collection which is displayed over several floors. Afterwards, we will take a walk down a hillside trail to visit Rinpung Dzong, which has a long and very interesting history. Built in 1646 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the first spiritual and temporal ruler of Bhutan, the Dzong houses the monastic body of Paro, the office of the Dzongda (district administrative head) and Thrimpon (judge) of Paro district. The approach to the Dzong is through a traditional covered bridge called Nemi Zam, which offers a good view of the architectural wonder of the Dzong as well as life around it.
Later you will attend a pre-trek briefing with your Lead Guide to prepare you for the journey ahead.
Overnight at the hotel in Paro .
In the morning we will take an excursion to Taktsang Lhakhang, commonly known as 'The Tiger’s Nest Monastery'. Undoubtedly one of the most famous of Bhutan’s monasteries, the Taktsang monastery is one of the most breath-taking temples in the world. This Buddhist place of worship is perched on a cliff-top at around 3,110m (10,000ft) above sea level. The main temple complex was built in 1692, and is considered to be one of the holiest for the Bhutanese people. Legend has it that 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 has been recognized as a sacred place and was visited by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, who was a Tibetan Buddhist Lama and the unifier of Bhutan as a nation-state and is now visited by all Bhutanese at least once in their lifetime. On 19 April, 1998, a fire severely damaged the main structure of building but now this Bhutanese jewel has been restored to its original splendour. We start our steep climb up to the Tiger's Nest Monastery from the car park at 2600 metres; from here the monastery looks like a small white dot on the cliff. As we ascend through rhododendron forests we will catch glimpses of the monastery. At the half way point we take a short rest break and are rewarded with awesome views of the Tiger's Nest coming closer into view. Another shorter steep climb and we reach the second viewpoint where the famous photographs of Taktsang Lhakhang were taken. We then descend down the stone steps to cross the narrow gorge before climbing up the other side to enter into the heart of the Tiger's Nest.
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 drive to Drukgyel Dzong, a ruined fortress where Bhutanese warriors fought Tibetan invaders centuries ago. In the early 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, as well as to commemorate two other significant events, namely the arrival of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel to Bhutan in 1616 AD and the birth year of Guru Rinpoche, the Prime Minister, Lyonchen Tshering Tobgay, announced that the Dzong will be rebuilt and reinstated to its former glory. The snowy dome of sacred Chomolhari (7326m), ‘the bride of Kangchenjunga', can be seen in all her glory from the approach road to the Dzong.
After our tours we will return to our hotel in Paro.
Today our trek begins with a short climb up through forested hillsides to Jele Dzong at 3540m, a small fortress perched on the first of many ridges that we will cross. The Dzong is currently being refurbished, with local artists carefully repainting the traditional intricate designs for which Bhutan is famous. If the weather is clear the Paro valley can be seen, with snow-capped mountains rising behind. There is also a lhakhang containing a statue of Buddha Sakyamuni. Women who come to the monastery to seek blessings of children get hit on the head by the presiding Lama with a 10 inch ivory, wood and bone phallus, so be careful!
After lunch we continue to climb up again through the forest to a wonderful viewpoint which affords dramatic views of the valleys on both sides and the Himalaya to the north. The trail takes us through thick alpine forests and rhododendrons. Weather permitting, we will have beautiful views of the Black Mountains and Chomolhari and other snow-capped peaks. Monal pheasants can be heard calling during the day and we may see the nomadic yak herders moving along the trails.
The trail continues to follow the ridge, and on a clear day the views of the mountains and valley are sensational. There will be a lot of ascent and descent today as we climb up the main ridge again before dropping down to cross over to the other side of the valley as we make our way towards Thimphu. We will enjoy a great view of Jichu Drake (6,989m), the peak representing the protective deity of Paro, before settling for the day at our camp, close to the second glacial lake of Jimgelang Tsho, famous for its giant trout. If we're lucky we may get to see herds of yaks cooling off.
We leave the campsite and the trail climbs up steeply through dwarf rhododendron trees as we follow a succession of ridges to reach the second lake, Janathso. We may come across a yak herder's camp and will spend some time seeing how they live. A final climb will bring us to our campsite by the third lake at Simkota, with the possibility of catching a lake trout for dinner!
Today begins with a gradual climb up to the Phume La Pass, the highest point of our trek at 4210m. From here we can enjoy majestic views of Mt. Gangkar Puensum (7570m), the highest peak in Bhutan and the highest unclimbed peak in the world. The trail descends, winding through juniper trees to a campsite beside a community hall near Phajoding monastery. From here it is downhill all the way to Thimphu, passing through a forested area of mostly blue pine. Taking a leisurely pace, we will reach Thimphu with sufficient time to enjoy an afternoon city tour.
Our city tour will visit King's Memorial Chorten, continuously circumambulated by people, murmuring mantras and spinning their prayer wheels. Construction of this landmark was the idea of Bhutan’s third king, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuk (“the father of modern Bhutan”). Completed in 1974 after his untimely death, it serves both as a memorial to the late King and as a monument to peace. We will also visit Trashichhoe Dzong, “fortress of the glorious religion”. This is the centre of government and religion, site of the monarch’s throne room and seat of Je Khenpo or Chief Abbot. Built in 1641 by the political and religious unifier of Bhutan, Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, it was reconstructed in the 1960s in traditional Bhutanese manner, without nails or architectural plans.
We will stay overnight at a hotel on Thimpu
We start this morning in Bhutan’s capital city 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 in closed on Sundays and government holidays).
After lunch we will leave Thimphu and drive up a series of zigzags to Dochula Pass (3,088m) stopping briefly here to take in the view and admire the chorten, mani wall, and prayer flags which decorate the highest point on the road. Magnificent vistas are all around including the following peaks: Masagang (7,158m), Tsendagang (6,960m), Terigang (7,060m), Jejegangphugang (7,158m), Kangphugang (7,170m), Zongphugang (7,060m), and finally Gangkar Puensum, the highest peak in Bhutan at 7,570m. After crossing the pass, the road descends into the Punakhu Valley.
Overnight at the hotel in Punakha
Before we leave Punakha we will visit the majestic Punakha Dzong. Built strategically at the junction of Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu rivers in 1637 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, it serves as the religious and administrative centre of the region. Damaged by four catastrophic fires and an earthquake, the Dzong has been fully restored by the present King. Later we will drive back to Paro, taking a short excursion to Chimi Lhakhang, dedicated to the Lama Drukpa Kuenley, also known as the 'Divine Madman' for his humourous and often outrageous methods of teaching Bhuddism. The temple is also well known as a temple of fertility, and women will come here to pray for children.
Upon arrival in Paro, we will check in at the hotel, before taking an evening stroll around the market streets of Paro.
Overnight at hotel in Paro
We will collect you from your hotel and transfer you to Paro Airport for your morning flight to Kathmandu or Delhi.