Himalayan Short Hikes
What's the difference between a hike and a trek?
We get asked this question a lot, and for us it comes down to where you plan to spend the night. Will you be returning from your hike to a soft pillow and a bathtub at our favourite Paro hotel, or will your trek have you camping at altitude with views of the Himalayas at sunrise?
Not everyone has the time to follow a trekking route into distant lands. We enjoy doing shorter day hikes that get you off the well trodden path and steer your journey towards lesser known places. Many of our hikes visit towns and temples that you won't find on Google Maps. That is part of the charm in Bhutan, knowing that there are things which remain mostly unknown.
The sample itinerary below can be edited to suit your needs and schedule. One idea is to time your visit to align with one of the festivals in Bhutan so you can enjoy the richness of the cultural colours as well as immerse in Bhutan's pristine wilderness.
Day 1 / Arrive in Paro
As you enter the Bhutanese airspace, the flight offers scenic views of some of the Bhutan Himalayas. Mount Jomolhari,the highest peak in Bhutan at 7314m is also visible just before landing at Paro.The valley of Paro sits at an altitude of 2280m above sea level and this valley serves as an ideal area for rice, apple, wheat, potatoes and vegetable growing.
The Bhutan Scenic Tour guide will meet you at Paro airport, traditionally welcomed with traditional scarves and after completion of arrival formalities we take an hour long scenic drive drive to the capital (Thimphu ) past rice fields, pine forests and wayside mountain villages.
Thimphu is a fascinating combination of traditional and contemporary life. Thimphu has a population of about 100,000. The town is made up of just three lines of shops and is the only capital in the world without traffic light’s. After check in at your hotel in Thimphu and a brief rest- we embark on a leisurely exploration of Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan.
National Memorial Chorten : The building of the landmark was envisaged by the third king as a monument to world peace and prosperity. Completed in 1974 after his untimely death, it is both a memorial to the Third King and a monument to world peace. The paintings and statues inside the monument provide a deep insight into Buddhist philosophy.
Also explore Tashichhodzong : This impressive castle /monastery houses the throne room of His Majesty the King and various government ministries.It is also the summer residence of Chief Abbot and central monastic body.
Evening at leisure or enjoy a walkabout in the vibrant Thimphu Town to get a sense of the place.
Day 2 / Thimphu
In the morning we visit the Institute for Zorig Chusum (commonly known as Painting School) where students undertake a six-year course on the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan.
Folk Heritage Museum: The museum provides fascinating insights into Bhutanese material culture and way of life.
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. Bhutan – A visual odyssey conceived and printed by MIT USA , the biggest book in the world is displayed here.
Drive to the Thimphu viewpoint at Sangyegang , en-route we visit the preserve of the national animal of Bhutan i.e Takin.
Visit the Textile weaving center at changzamtog on the periphery of Thimphu town from where visit the “ Buddha Point ”, the site of one of the largest statues of Buddha in the world. There area also some walking trails in this area which offers unobstructed view of the capital city.
We also visit the local archery range where we will watch a game of the national sport ( archery).
Day 3 / Thimphu to Punakha
Today we drive to the ancient capital, Punakha. The road winds up 22 kms from Thimphu to the Dochula Pass (3150m) which often offers panoramic views of the eastern Himalayas.
We begin our hiking tour by setting off on an ancient trail at the Dochula pass after the earlier two days of acclimatization. The trail weaves uphill to the Lungchuzekha Monastery, this beautiful monastery is perched on a high hill at the Dochula Pass ( Total hiking time : 4 Hours ) Along the trail we will also put up some wish fulfilling prayer flags to usher in good travel and good wishes.
After lunch on the trail we experience a scenic descent across pristine forests and wayside villages into the sub-tropical Punakha valley. This district is also famous for its agricultural produce grown in its alluvial fields.
Depending on the availability of time and pace, there will also be options to enjoy other hike’s & walks in the Punakha valley.
In the evening there will also be time to explore leisurely Khuruthang town located just 5 minutes walk from your Hotel.
Day 4 / Punakha
We begin the tour today with a visit to the Punakha fortress/castle which is situated on a spur at the confluence of pho chhu and the mo chhu rivers. The Punakha Dzong is often known as the “castle of great happiness” due to its architectural splendor and its deep connection with the bhutanese history. Punakha was the capital of Bhutan until 1955 and has played a host to many historic events in the country including the Royal Wedding of our current King and Queen. The Dzong serves as the winter residence of the central monastic body.
Later we also take some time off to enjoy a brisk walk across the longest suspension bridge in Bhutan over the pho chu river (adjacent to the castle of Punakha ).We enjoy a picnic lunch spread by the picturesque riverside before we enjoy a short hike to Khamsum Yulay Namgyal Chorten. This beautiful temple is situated on a hilltop and offers magnificent views of the valleys to the south and the mighty Himalayas in the north.
In the evening there will also be options to visit a nearby nunnery or enjoy a quiet evening at the hotel.
Day 5 / Punakha to Gangtey
In the morning we enjoy a short walk ( rating : easy with no gradient / one hour round trip) to Chimmi lhakang, a temple dedicated to the divine madman / saint of fertility. We will be walking past villages and rice fields to the temple and this walk often offers an ideal opportunity to observe the local folks at work or go about their lives.
We then drive into the Black Mountain’s, the traditional boundary between the east and west of Bhutan.
To enjoy the journey properly we will be making stops along the wayside markets, panoramic landscapes or simply to stretch out or grab some photo opportunities . We arrive at the enchanting valley of Gangtey in the early afternoon.The valley is protected as a conservation area due to its ecological significance and rich natural heritage.
Day 6 / Gangtey
Gangtey valley is famed for its scenic walking trails and upon consulting your guide you may choose any of the easy or moderate nature trails.
The trail traverses through the ecologically diverse roosting grounds of the endangered black necked cranes and therefore there will be ample photo opportunities to train your camera on the magnificent birds. The cranes flock to this valley during the months of November and stay until April before flying back to the Tibetan plateau.
After enjoying a picnic spread in the alpine meadows, we explore a village towards the southern end of the valley before returning to the hotel in the evening. we will also take a peek inside a local farmers home and observe activities around the farm house to understand more about the traditional way of life in the valley.
Day 7 / Gangtey to Paro
In the early morning we leisurely retrace the drive across the scenic vistas and mountain villages into the Paro Valley.We break the journey at the Dochula Pass Cafeteria for refreshments and to take in the stunning view of the eastern Himalayas.
In Paro we explore the National Museum.TheMuseum with its extensive collections interprets the history, environment and culture of Bhutan through its exhibits.
After the tour of the Museum, we drive to visit the Paro Rinpung Dzong (fortress/castle )built in 1646 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal,the first spiritual and ruler of Bhutan, the Dzong houses the monastic body and district administration . The fortress of Paro is the most visible landmark of the valley. On the way back we walk across the 16th century cantilever bridge which was the only access to the Dzong during the former times.
In the early afternoon depending on the availability of time and your interests we can also enjoy a short hike to Zuri Monastery which is located close by the Dzong. The monastery is perched on a small hill overlooking the alluvial Paro valley. The vantage here offers a panoramic view of the valley in its entirety. The hike takes an hour even at a leisurely pace.
Evening at leisure, explore Paro town area or visit a local farmers home for refreshments & also observe the traditional way of life and living.
Day 8 / Paro
Today marks the much awaited hike to the “Tigers Nest Monastery”. It takes approximately about 4 hours on ascent and about an hour on descent.
The Tigers Nest Monastery (3000m) is among one of the most popular spiritual heritage sites and a cultural landmark in the Kingdom of Bhutan. This sacred site is precariously perched on the side of a cliff 900m above the Paro valley floor. Guru Rinpoche, the patron saint of the country arrived at this spot on a back of tigress and meditated here in a cave and hence it is called ‘Tiger’s Nest’. The site has been recognized as the most spiritual of sites in Bhutan and many eminent saints have meditated in this area.
Lunch and refreshments will be served at the cafeteria which offers an imposing view of the cultural landmark.
Evening at leisure or enjoy a walkabout in Paro Town or a quiet evening at the hotel.
Day 9 / Paro to onward destination
After breakfast in Paro, we transfer to the airport for your onward travel.
Note : Additional sightseeing,modifications, extensions or activities will/can also be incorporated depending on individual interests, local events etc.