Trekking in Bhutan amongst the lofty ridges of the Himalayas, breathtaking views abound as we witness a rich Buddhist culture, friendly people, and few other visitors.
Bhutan Trekking Tour Overview
The Kingdom of Bhutan is ancient Asia’s last enclave, hidden in the mighty Himalayas. It is a land that will captivate your senses and one where strangers are still treated as friends. Our 8-day adventure along Bhutan’s premier trekking route leads us into a breathtaking Himalayan valley, to the base of Bhutan’s most sacred mountain, Chomolhari (23,997’). We follow the path of nomadic yak herders, hiking through wild rhododendron forests and alpine meadows carpeted with wildflowers, over trout-filled streams, and into pure Himalayan grandeur. We catch a glimpse of nomadic life as we see locals making butter and cooking over open fires. In the days before and after our trek, our itinerary allows us to acclimate while we visit the cultural centers of Paro and Thimphu with their distinctive architecture, welcoming people, and fascinating sites.
Bhutan Trekking Itinerary at a Glance
THE PERFECT BLEND OF CULTURE AND MOUNTAINS
Bhutan is an off-the-beaten-path destination, and our trek steps even further into this magical Himalayan kingdom. Our eight-day trekking route allows enough time to immerse yourself in the mountain culture and offers spectacular Himalayan scenery, while not subjecting you to monotonous routes that some other companies offer. Time spent in the mountains, combined with explorations of the cultural centers of Paro and Thimphu, is the perfect adventure through Bhutan and the mighty Himalayas.
The Boundless Journeys Advantage
- A passion for travel. Simply put, we love to travel, and that is woven into every one of our journeys.
- Unique, award-winning itineraries. Our flexible, hand-crafted journeys have received accolades from the world’s most revered travel publications.
- Insider connections. There is simply no substitute for traveling with a knowledgeable insider.
- Small groups. We tread softly, and our average group size is just 6-8 guests.
- Flexibility to suit your travel style. We offer both small-group departures and Private Collection trips, so that you can choose which works best for you.
- Customer service that goes the extra mile. There is no request that is too big – or too small – for our staff to handle.
- Sustainability. We are committed to traveling responsibly – striving to preserve traditions and cultures around the world, and to protect fragile natural habitats.
Our tours often fill months in advance, and our maximum group size is smaller than most tour operators. It's very quick and easy to reserve a trip. Give us a call at 800-941-8010 or complete the online Reserve a Trip form. We will confirm your reservation with a $500 per person deposit, payable by check or credit card.
Trip Rating (1 Easiest - 5 Most Strenuous)
Traveling to and From
Most Convenient Airport:
Bangkok International Airport, Bangkok, Thailand (airport code BKK)
Meeting Place and Time:
Your Boundless Journeys guide will meet you at the Paro, Bhutan airport upon the arrival of your flight from Bangkok. Please be sure to be at the Druk Air (national airline of Bhutan) check-in counter at the Bankgok International Airport two hours before your scheduled flight on Day 1 of our trip. The airline tickets for your flight from Bangkok to Bhutan will be purchased for you in advance by Boundless Journeys.
Departure Place and Time:
Paro, Bhutan; in time for the departure of your flight to Bangkok.
What to Expect
Boundless Journeys’ trips are designed for energetic and flexible individuals who like to be active and have a spirit of adventure and a positive attitude. The Chomolhari Trek is rated 4+, strenuous, on a scale of 1-5 (with 5 being the most strenuous). The difficulty rating of this trek takes into account the distances hiked each day and the fact that on several days trail conditions can be very muddy, with rocky pitches that make progress difficult.
In addition, most hiking is done between 8,000 and 14,000 feet, which adds to the strenuous nature of the hiking. For the most part, you can hike at your own speed; the group will spread out along the trail during the day to cover about 6 to 13 miles per day (4-9 hours of hiking). There are significant elevation gains and losses each day, often 2,000 to 3,000 feet, as our trail contours up and down steep hillsides.
Trip members carry only a daypack for a jacket, water bottle, camera, and whatever else they like to have with them on the trail. Pack animals carry our camping equipment, and a camp cook prepares all meals. On the trek, we use modern Mountain Hardware tents for singles or doubles/twins.
A typical trekking day begins shortly after 6 a.m. with “bed tea” and warm washing water brought to each tent. We are served a light breakfast while the camp crew packs our gear. We begin walking by 7 to 8 a.m., stopping around 11 a.m. for lunch and a good rest. Our afternoon walk begins around 1 p.m., and we arrive at camp by tea time (about 4:30 p.m.). Dinner is served around 6:30 p.m. At each camp we provide a toilet tent (with seat) and the occasional shower tent for when time and water permits.
Preparing for this Trip
We recommend that you get in top physical shape for the trip. It is very important that you realistically assess your physical condition with regard to the demands of this trip. The more well-prepared you are for the activities on this trip, the safer you will be, and the more you will enjoy yourself! Please engage in moderate to challenging aerobic activities (hiking, jogging, or cycling) for at least 1-2 hours 4-5 times a week for 4-6 months before the trip. It is important that you get out on the trail for several months before your trip to get your hiking legs under you, as well as to break in your hiking boots (see more about hiking boots on page 24). If you live in a flat area, try to incorporate some stairs into your workout, or use a treadmill with varying incline capability. Consult your doctor before undertaking any new fitness programs.
We encourage you to speak with your physician and one of our staff if you have any doubts regarding your physical match with this tour.
As this trek is fully supported by the help of some local 4-legged friends, we need to urge those with any equine-related allergies to take caution when deciding if this trip is right for you. Your gear will be in constant contact with either support horses or trail mules, and in the event that you need emergency assistance, these animals will also be your transportation.
The mountainous areas of Bhutan have pronounced rainy and dry seasons. The dry season lasts from October through May. Days tend to be warm with nighttime temperatures dropping significantly. Please be prepared for extremely vacillating weather in this environment. At any time of year, dressing in layers is a good strategy, so that you can shed or add clothing as the day heats and cools.
At altitudes of 8,000 to 10,000 feet, daytime temperatures range in the 50’s and 60’s with nights dropping to the 40’s. Clouds often form in the afternoons, disappearing at night to reveal starry skies.
At altitudes above 10,000 feet, daytime temperatures can be in the 60’s but as low as the 30’s and 40’s if it is windy. Evening temperatures at these higher altitudes often drop to around 15ºF and sometimes lower. Rain and snow are not uncommon at any time of year making waterproof rain gear a necessity for any trek in Bhutan.
Our hikes on the Chomolhari route take us far into the Bhutanese wilderness, in and out of large valleys and up over remote passes; therefore no vehicle assistance is feasible during the trek. If possible for the day’s conditions, one or more of the gear animals with a member of the camp staff will be sent back to join the group after dropping off equipment at the next camp site to see if a hiker needs to take a break and ride for awhile. This option may not be available everyday, and should not be used as a replacement for the proper level of fitness for the Chomolhari Trek.
When to Reserve
It is important to reserve your trip early, as the Bhutanese national airline will only accept reservations with the full payment of the ticket. Therefore we are unable to hold group seats in advance of reservations. Space can only be confirmed upon receipt of your deposit, as well as the payment of $950 for these flights. Please contact our office with any questions regarding these important policies.
Trip participants have certain responsibilities to both Boundless Journeys and your fellow travelers. This includes understanding the conditions described in the trip itinerary and making sure it is appropriate for your interests and abilities, based on a review of the trip ratings, consultation with Boundless Journeys’ staff, and perhaps your doctor. In addition, trip participants are responsible for preparing for a trip by undertaking the proper fitness training. At the guide’s discretion, a participant may be asked to leave the trip if the guide feels that the person’s further participation may be detrimental to the individual or to other trip participants. If you have any questions about the difficulty level of the trip you have chosen, please contact Boundless Journeys to speak with one of our Destination Managers.
Small group travel affords us the opportunity to seek out the most remote and exotic destinations on the planet. Often we are exploring these locales with just 6-12 guests. The nature of active group travel is such that not all participants have the same ability level or interests. Traveling at a pace that is comfortable for the entire group, with a spirit of flexibility and adventure are all part of this shared experience.
Overview: Accommodations in Bhutan are somewhat basic and this itinerary includes the standard hotel options available in Paro, a 4-star hotel in Thimpu, and full-service camping for the trekking portion; hotels have private baths.Although the hotels in Bhutan cannot be compared to international standards, they are clean, comfortable and offer all of the necessary facilities. We believe that any inconveniences due to these modest accommodations are far outweighed by the unforgettable experience of visiting Bhutan.
Confirming hotels: Due to the unique tourism policy in Bhutan, we are unable to confirm which hotels we will be using until four weeks prior to departure. The above accommodations will most likely be what we can expect, but may alter due to availability.
Nights 1-2: Janka Resort
Nights 3-9: Chomolhari Trek Camping
Full service camping.
Nights 10-12: Hotel Druk
Bhutan Trekking Detailed Itinerary
Arrival in Paro, Bhutan; visit Kyichu Lhakhang, the Paro Dzong, and Bhutan’s National Museum
Walking – easy to moderate, 1-3 hours.
We are greeted with a warm Bhutanese reception and transferred to our first hotel where we enjoy a light lunch and afternoon tea. After lunch, we set out on a walk that meanders through the countryside by farms and fields of rice, mustard, buckwheat, eggplant, and, of course, chilies (ubiquitous in Bhutan). Eventually our walk brings us to Kyichu Lhakhang. Kyichu Lhakhang, meaning “twin temples,” is believed to have been built in 659 AD by King Songtsen of Tibet, and marks the introduction of Buddhism to Bhutan. Local legend has it that he temple is one of 108 that were built throughout the Himalayas in one day in an effort to subdue a mighty ogress; it is still believed to hold her left foot in place.
We then make our way by vehicle to the National Museum (closed on weekends and holidays), housed in the round, multi-storied Ta Dzong, built in 1775. The Ta Dzong was once the watchtower for the massive Paro Dzong, built in the 17th century by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. The museum’s collection includes ancient artifacts, weapons, a collection of antique thangkha (painted or embroidered religious pictures), textiles, and stamps.
We then head (either by foot or vehicle, depending on timing) to the valley’s magnificent Rinpung Dzong. If we are fortunate we may have the opportunity to explore within the dzong’s mighty walls. However, if the Administrative Body is in session, we must admire from the outside.
We return to our hotel for an orientation meeting and welcome dinner of Bhutanese cuisine.
Cheli La Pass to Kila Gompa
Hike - moderate, 2-3 hours on hiking trails and dirt roads; approximate elevation loss of 1,300 feet.
Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest) Monastery - Shana
Hike – moderate, 4-5 hours on hiking trails; approximate elevation gain 1,650’.
This morning we enjoy a hike to the famous cliffside hermitage called Taktsang - “Tiger’s Nest” - a monastic retreat built into a sheer cliff face high above the Paro Valley. Our hike begins on the valley floor and is a steady uphill climb on a wide hiking trail that switchbacks through pine forests, with glimpses of Tiger’s Nest along the way. We pass water-powered prayer wheels and mani stones (sacred stone walls with Buddhist prayers etched into them), as well as a shrine where a high lama was supposedly born - all reminders that this is not just a hike, but a spiritual pilgrimage for many.
As we near the monastery, we stop by a small teahouse for snacks and tea and take in our first up-close view of Taktsang. From here our hiking trail levels out for a short while, before we begin climbing down steps and cross a bridge, eventually leading us to this most impressive sacred site.
Legend has it that the Tibetan Buddhist saint, Padmasambhava, flew across the Himalayas on the back of a tiger and landed here, bringing Buddhism to Bhutan. Entry into the monastery feels like stepping back in time and we have the chance to visit several shrines that comprise the temple complex. During our exploration, our guide brings Tiger’s Nest to life with the tales of Buddhism that make this one of the most famous pilgrimage sites in all of Bhutan.
After a trailside picnic lunch, we return to the valley floor, where our vehicle and driver meets us for our drive to Shana, where we begin our trek. We pass the Drukgyel Dzong (8,514’) en route and drive through countryside dotted with rice terraces, fields of millet, and orchards. As the valley widens, we reach the army post of Gunitsawa (9,273’) - the last stop before Tibet. We continue on to Sharma Zampa (9,471’), where we make our first camp in meadows surrounded by trees.
Full-service camping, Chomolhari Trek
Day hike from base camp; rest and acclimate.
Today, at the base camp of Chomolhari, we take advantage of some of the most spectacular views we will encounter on the trek, and spend the day exploring our surroundings. We can sleep in and enjoy a leisurely morning at our camp and then embark on an excursion to find even better views of the mountains or perhaps visit Tshophu, a high-altitude lake. There is a chance we will spot some grazing yaks, and perhaps blue sheep, which effortlessly navigate the rugged terrain. After a second night at Jangothang, our lungs should be ready for our ascent of Nyele-la pass the following day.
This evening before dinner, we will enjoy a Bhutanese cultural teaching delivered by an expert from Thimpu.
Hotel Druk, Thimpu
Hike – easy to moderate, 3-4 hours on dirt roads and trails.
Our walk begins in the small village of Dodena. The trail starts by crossing a covered bridge over the Wang Chu, and climbs steadily on switchback trails to Cheri Goemba, a small monastery perched on a hill with a view of the Thimphu Valley. Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal built this monastery in 1620, and this is where the first community of monks in Bhutan was established. The monastery is considered very sacred, as it contains the ashes of Tempi Nima, the father of the first Shabdrung of Bhutan, and beautiful frescoes of Buddhist saints.After our visit to the monastery, we descend on the same route, keeping our eyes open for the goral (wild goat) that are often spotted on the nearby cliffs. Back at the village of Dodena, we follow a riverside trail via Begana to Cabesa, home to the Choki School of Arts (closed on weekends and holidays). The Choki School is private and provides free, skills-related education in the traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan to Bhutanese children who are unable to complete their formal education. After visiting the school, we continue along the riverside trail, passing through small rural villages before returning to Thimphu.
If time allows this afternoon, you may explore Thimpu on your own before we gather for a farewell dinner and celebrate our journey through the Himalayas.
Hotel Druk, Thimphu
Departure from Paro
This morning our guide brings us to the Paro airport and we say goodbye before our early morning departure for Bangkok.
Please note that this is a typical itinerary, and actual activities may vary to take advantage of weather conditions, local events, and to allow serendipity to play a hand in your experience. We try to plan our trips at a time that offers the most favorable weather conditions. However, if poor weather conditions persist at the time of your departure, such as snow on the high passes, we reserve the right to change the itinerary described here and offer an alternative to the trek. This may be a decision that is made once you are already in Bhutan or after setting out for the trek. Accommodations are as outlined in the itinerary, although we reserve the right to change these should the need arise.
- Oct 05–17, 2015
- Apr 25–May 06, 2016
- Oct 17–28, 2016
2016 Land Cost
$4,995 per person
Accommodations (hotels, tents, cruise cabins) are based on double occupancy. A single supplement is paid by participants who specifically request single accommodations, subject to availability. If you reserve at least 120 days prior to departure, you may be eligible for a reduced or free single supplement.* This is generally limited to the first one or two solo travelers to reserve, and the reduction is outlined in the pricing for each trip. Please note, free or reduced single supplements are not combinable with other offers or promotions.
If you are traveling alone and wish to share accommodations, we will try to match you with a roommate of the same gender. If you reserve at least 120 days ahead and a roommate is not available, you will only be charged a “forced” single supplement in the amount of 50% of the standard single supplement* (unless otherwise noted in the detailed itinerary). Single accommodations are limited so you are encouraged to reserve early!
*This does not apply to cruises in the Galapagos Islands. Please see these trip pages for more details.
- All accommodations
- All meals
- All transportation during the tour
- Expert local guides
- All activities as noted in the itinerary
- Bhutanese visa fees and departure taxes
It is compulsory that all participants have the necessary insurance to cover emergency evacuation and all associasted medical and hospitalization expenses. Boundless Journeys also strongly recommends that you purchase comprehensive trip cancellation insurance in addition. Boundless Journeys reserves the right to deny participation to any guest who chooses to not purchase the required insurance for this journey.
Please complete the following information to request a reservation. A trip deposit of $500 per person is required to confirm your reservation (payable by check or major credit card). Once we receive your request we will contact you within one business day to confirm availability and answer any questions you may have.
About our guides
With a Boundless Journeys guide, your experience is that of friend and local adventurer. We believe strongly in working with local guides, experts in the areas to which we travel, and they hold the keys to unlocking the hidden delights of your chosen destination. Although you will never know they are at work – the mark of a truly great leader – our guides make magical things happen and add a dimension to your trip that you could not experience on your own.
Over the years we have forged bonds with some of the best guides in the world, and we typically work with a small team of guides in each region. You will be informed of the guide for your trip one month prior to your departure.
Dawa Tashi: Dawa has led a variety of Boundless Journeys tours, from treks in the mountains to festival celebrations in the valleys. His local knowledge and amicable personality make him a real treasure to have on the trail. Whether hiking at high altitude or exploring local towns in the lowlands, Dawa ensures that our guests come away with an outstanding experience, providing them with a a deep appreciation of his country and culture.
Kinley Tshering: Kinley (or Kelly, as he is known among his Bhutanese coworkers) joined our local staff of guides after completing extensive training in 2006, and has led many tours for Boundless Journeys, becoming a favorite among our guests. Very friendly and down to earth, Kinley is extremely knowledgeable and always determined to make your trip special.
Leki Phuntsho: Leki is a well-educated local guide who has lived his whole life in Bhutan and who currently resides just outside of Thimphu. He completed his extensive Guide Training from the Tourism Council of Bhutan in 2006, and enjoys trekking when not leading guests on cultural tours of his homeland. With his infectious love and passion for the country, Leki carries the adventurous spirit of a true Bhutanese guide. Very friendly and down to earth, Leki is always determined to make your trip special.
What other guests have said about our guides in Bhutan:
“It is truly impossible for me to express in words my gratitude and appreciation for the professionalism, dedication, and hard work of your team in Bhutan. Dawa was so accommodating and flexible throughout the entire tour. He certainly went out of his way to make sure the experience in Bhutan was both memorable and enjoyable for everyone in the group.” – S.G., East Rochester, NY
“Dawa was excellent, especially on the walks and hikes; very helpful. He was also extremely knowledgeable about Buddhism. We were very fortunate to have Dawa!” – S. M., Cambridge, MA
“Kinley Tshering was the most amazing guide. I have traveled to many places around the globe and been around a lot of guides. Kinley is truly outstanding. His patience, knowledge and good humor made every day special for us. He never tired to explain details to us or find a cup of tea. He is full of life and his love for his country showed greatly.” – G.M., Baltimore, MA
“Kinley was amazing in his knowledge and command of English in order to pass along information. If someone mentioned one thing or asked a question about something, he incorporated that into the next day’s activity or found it for us. For example, we had read about how incense is made and about momos in the DrukAir magazine on the flight over. We mentioned those things to Kinley and sure enough he found a small incense manufacturer for us to visit and made sure we had plenty of momos!” – G. M., Greenwich, CT
Picture Yourself Here:
Challenging 8-day trek to a spectacular base camp below Chomalhari, the snowcapped “Divine Mountain”
Visits to the cultural centers of Paro and Thimphu
Hike to the famous Tiger's Nest monastery
Full-service camping with top quality equipment, leaving you to carry only your daypack
- Oct 05–17, 2015
- Apr 25–May 06, 2016
- Oct 17–28, 2016
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It is important to reserve your trip early, as the Bhutanese national airline has a new ticketing policy and will only accept reservations with the full payment of the ticket. Therefore we are unable to hold group seats in advance of reservations.
What others have said...
Sangay was such a pleasure to have on our trek - friendly, knowledgeable, open, and upbeat! He was amazing, sharing stories of his culture and the promise of things to come.
- K. Liebhold, Engelwood, NJ
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