Chomolhari Trek

The Mountain Kingdom of Bhutan nestled in the Himalayas has stunning scenery and has a strong sense of culture and tradition. This sense of tradition and well-preserved profound teachings of Buddhism, distinguishes this tiny country from its neighbors. Due to the pristine environment and harmonious society, Bhutan is considered ‘The Last Shangrila’. This trip takes you into historical towns with valleys rich in sacred sites and ancient buildings, scenic mountain passes, and pristine wilderness in Paro, Thimphu, and Punakha. Chomolhari (24,035 ft) rises like a pyramid, known as the Matterhorn of the Himalayas bordering Bhutan & Tibet. The “Mountain of the Goddess” known as Jomolhari is a sacred mountain. Beginning and ending in Paro, spend the next couple weeks visiting Bhutan’s people and cultural treasures. Enjoy the ‘Tiger’s Nest’ Taktsang Monastery. A genuine Himalayan experience in high alpine settlements where herdsman graze their yaks on remote mountain slopes. Your trek travels through pristine valleys and rhododendron forests. A fully supported camp is set up every step of the way! A great way to experience the rich culture of Bhutan! Overall, an amazing experience in the Himalayas!

Chomolhari Trek Itinerary

A visit into beautiful valleys, Bhutan’s most famous monasteries, and a world class trekking experience.

On arrival you will be met and then you start two hours drive to Thimphu, the road winds along with the Paro River, until you arrive at the confluence of Paro and Thimphu River. From here we start north along the Thimphu River passing through paddy fields, villages and apple orchards until we see the Capital City from a distance. We check into our hotel, if time permits we will have sightseeing around Thimphu Valley. This will solely depend on the arrival time of the Druk Air flight.

Overnight Hotel Osel (Dinner)

After breakfast at around 9 AM we will stat our sightseeing of Thimphu by visiting Thimphu’s weekend market, which is in a permanent set of stalls. Vendors from throughout the region arrive on Friday afternoon and remain selling their goods until Sunday night. It’s an interesting place to visit, where village people jostle with well-heeled Thimphu residents for the best – and cheapest – vegetables and fruits. This is the only time that fresh produce is easily available and the shopping is enhanced by the opportunity to catch up on the week’s gossip. This market also has a collection of stalls called the indigenous goods and handicrafts section. Here you will find locally produced goods, including religious objects, baskets, fabrics and different hats from various minority groups. Continue your sightseeing to Zangdopelri temple, the Changlimithang where you can witness young Bhutanese practicing their favorite archery game. Return to the hotel for lunch, after lunch visit the Memorial Chorten built in honor of the late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, Dupthop Lhakhang (Monastery for the nuns) and other places of interest.

Overnight Hotel Osel (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

After breakfast we will start our drive to Punakha early before the clouds come in and block the views of Bhutan’s snowcapped mountains seen from the Dochula Pass. Leaving Thimphu the road climbs steeply through a forest of pine and cedar, festooned with hanging lichen high up near Dochula pass (10,460 ft / 3,140 m). This pass offers panoramic views of the Himalayan mountain ranges, as we descend along a series of hairpin bends to the fertile valley of Punakha (1,350 m / 4,162 ft). Before proceeding further to Punakha town we will hike up to the Chimi Lhakhang temple on a small hilltop. This temple is dedicated to the great Yogi in 14th century known as Drukpa Kuenley or popularly known as “Divine madman” to the westerners. It is believed that this temple blesses women who seek fertility; it is about 40 minutes of round trip walk. We proceed to hotel; check in, lunch will be served here. After lunch we will proceed to Punakha town to view the majestic Dzong (fortress), situated between the two rivers Pho Chu and Mochu (male and Female River). This fortress is now used as the winter seat of the Je Khenpo (the Spiritual head of Bhutan). In the past this Dzong was the capital seat of the Kingdom. We visit the dzong inside and will try to come out before sunset to take a picture of the majestic fortress when it is hit with the evening sunlight.

Overnight Dhensa Resort (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

After breakfast we start our journey to Thimphu back on the same lateral highway that we had come the other day. Once again we will stop at the Dochula Pass for a few minutes for a leg stretch and photographs; if we are lucky we might be able to view Bhutan’s 200 mile snowcapped peaks. Resume our journey, to Thimphu. After lunch we will visit the National Institute of traditional medicine, where we can observe the traditional method of curing diseases, also visit the small Museum on herbal medicine, here we will have an herbal expert to explain the method of extraction and use of the medicines in various chronic diseases. Next we will visit the Institute for Zorig Chusum (13 arts and crafts institute). Here we will witness the young Bhutanese being trained in the skill of 13 various arts and crafts of Bhutan. We continue our visit to the Folk Heritage Museum, this museum showcases the way of living for a middle class Bhutanese in the 19th century. Finally we visit the Textile Museum where we will witness various methods of weaving and ancient old dresses that are woven intricately into a colorful men and women dress. We will make final preparations for the trek.

Overnight Hotel Osel (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 5: SHANA
After breakfast we will drive to Drukgyal Dzong (2,580 m / 8,591 ft) 84 Kms from Thimphu, the drive takes a little more than 2 hours, built in 1647 by Shubdrung Nawang Namgyal, the Dzong was destroyed by accidental fire and left in ruins as an evocative reminder of the great victories it was built to commemorate. Explore the ramparts, village and on a clear day experience the spectacular view of Mt. Chomolhari (7,314 m / 23,990 ft). The trek starts from here with a short downhill walk on a wide trail. After descending about 100 m, you reach the river where a primitive stone bath has been carved into the bank. Look back and see how well positioned the Dzong was to keep watch over this valley. Continue your trek upriver through a narrow agricultural valley. Your overnight camp will be at Shana Zampa, Alt 2,850 m / 9,480 ft.
Walking: 4 hours.

Overnight Camp (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Today is a long day, so we start early. The trail continues its gradual climb alongside the Paro Chhu through conifers and rhododendron. In places it is quite close to the river; if the water is high you might have to climb over a few small hills to get around places where the water has flowed onto the trail. About 15 minutes beyond Shana Zampa are the remnants of an old bridge with a house and a Chorten on the other side. At this point the route enters Jigme Dorji National Park. The trail makes continuous, but gentle, climb on a rocky trail through Oaks, rhododendron and ferns, crossing several small streams. Your camp for tonight will be at Thangthangkha, elevation 3,630 m / 12,088 ft. There is a small stone shelter and a Bhutanese style house in a cedar grove at the edge of the meadow.

Walking: 7-8 hours.
Overnight Camp (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

After enjoying the view to Chomolhari and a good breakfast, we start our long day to the base camp. As we start the trek the view is gradually lost, but the mountain will be seen again in its full glory from Jangothang base camp. Today’s trail again follows the river and changes direction several times. Late in spring towards the tree line, the rare blue poppy, Bhutan’s national flower has been spotted. You will cross few villages, by now there should be a view towards the summit of the spiky peak Jitchu Drake about 22,470 ft / 6,850 m. Cross a bridge and suddenly the overwhelming snow – and ice covered east face of Chomolhari (23,995 ft) appears, with its massive 3,200 m high wall of granite, marble and quartzite. We have reached the Chomolhari base camp alt. 4,090 m / 13,415 ft.

Walking: 5-6 hours.
Overnight Camp (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 8: JANGOTHANG ~ day hikes
Sun reaches camp at 800 am in fall. Most people will feel the effect of ascending 6,000 ft in three days, so a rest day at the base camp will help with acclimatization. However, those who wish to explore the vicinity of Chomolhari, one can take a day hike. Although there are many good day hikes, with only one day rest here we will not be able to do all of them, we have furnished you two different day hikes for your choice.

DAY HIKES: The most challenging day hike is up the steep, grassy ridge located next to camp to the north. It takes 3-4 hrs to reach the final rocky summit (15,610 ft). The views get better and better, first of Jitchu Drake and, at one point, when crossing over a ridge Chomolhari is just opposite. The last part of the rocky summit can be tricky due to loose rocks and wind; bring a windproof jacket, gloves and hat. Another view point is the steep, grassy hill (16,334 ft) that starts from the second bridge at Jangothang. There is no real trail, just endless switchbacks uphill. It is about 3 hours climb to reach a prayer flag (clearly visible from camp) from where you get a superb view back to the Chomolhari and Jitchu Drake group and the campsite. If it is wet, be careful on the descent.

Overnight Camp (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Today is a tough day; we start early crossing the bridge, start a steep climb of about 1000 ft in a very short distance. There are breathtaking views of Mount Chomolhari (23,995 ft), Jhomolhari II (22,770 ft), Mount Jichu Drake (22,925 ft) and down the valley to Jangothang camp site. After the ascent we arrive at a flower carpeted meadow with several Yak herders tents (in spring), which indicates the end of the climb. This area is normally known for flocks of Himalayan blue sheep and its predator Snow Leopards. Look high up on the rocky slopes for blue sheep. Watch your footings; the ground is uneven and full of marmot burrows. After crossing the meadow you will find clear trail along the Tsho Phu River (Sometimes dry in spring). Continue further into the beautiful valley, with towering rocky peaks of over 16,500 ft, there are beautiful views back towards Jhomolhari and Jichu Drake, which slowly disappears. We continue walking along the shore of the lake, then begin to climb quite steeply. This steep part gains the top of the impressive rock face, with superb views of Jitchu Drake reflected in the lakes below. The trail winds up and into an upper valley, with snowcapped peaks in the distance, leading to the Bhonte La (The Pass is first visible at the last 45 minutes). Bhonte La Pass (16,040 ft / 4,890 m) is the highest pass of this trek. From the Pass there are views of the Basingthang peaks (around 18,500 ft) and a big snowy peak to the south called Chatarake (Dzo Drake, Jo Darkey; 18,300 ft). World’s Third highest mountain Kangchenjunga  (28,160 ft) is visible if you climb up the higher peak east from the Pass. From the Pass the trail drops through a steep narrow gully, continuing through small grassy hill topped with a cairn. It begins to drop quickly to a large, grass covered area tucked beneath an enormous rock cliff and waterfall. Leave this meadow and descend very steeply through a narrow gully, below the tree line. We finally arrive at our campsite, Dhumzo (12,460 ft).

Walking: 6-7 hours.
Overnight Camp (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

A small ascent from the camp through a forest of rhododendron, birch, and oak draped with mosses brings you to a meadow with a huge juniper tree. Continuing on the meadow, the trail descends and crosses a bridge. From here we continue our ascent through a forest, then another climb of about 700 ft where we will be greeted by a prayer flag where there are some cairns and a beautiful view of Soe Yaksa Valley and the surrounding mountains. A nice flat trail now skirts around the hillside covered with rhododendron bushes, changing direction slowly to the south. We continue for another one hour of climbing to arrive at Takhung La Pass (14,880 ft). The pass is decorated with several cairns wrapped in prayer flags. On both sides we can climb up small hills to get a good view of Jhomolhari, Jichu Drake, and Teri Gang, and in the distance Kangchenjunga  (28,160 ft) and even Makalu (27,760 ft) blocking the view of Mount Everest. The trail first stays high to the left with some exciting drop offs, then winds gently downhill to the campsite at Thombu Shong (13,510 ft).

Walking: 4-5 hours.
Overnight Camp (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 11: SHANA
We start our day by crossing the swampy area and then through a clear trail leading through the bushes of rhododendron and then climb steeply to Thombu La Pass (14,005 ft). Again the Pass is decorated with cairns and few prayer flags. One can get breathtaking views of Chatarake (Dzo Drake, Jo Darkey; 18,300 ft) at the southeast. Also with a little effort by climbing a small hill (14,270 ft) one can get great views of Kangchenjunga (28,160 ft) on the Sikkim-Nepal border as well as some smaller peaks of around 20,000 ft in North Sikkim. Nearer, on the Bhutan-Tibet border you will see Drake Gang (around 17,500 ft) the local male deity. The ridge walk from the pass is one of the best parts of the trek; the walk offers one with a good trail and beautiful views. After about an hour of walking we start our big descent. Edelweiss grows in abundance along the trail and huge lammergeyers or bearded vulture cruise on the warm uplifts of the valley below. The trail steeply descends for about 2-3 hours, be careful with your steps and your knees. We finally arrive at Shana campsite.

Walking: 5-6 hours.
Overnight Camp (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 12: PARO
A four hour hike through the lovely valley ends our trek at Drukgyal Dzong, where our vehicle will be waiting for us to shuttle back to Paro for a rest and hot shower. Rest of the day free or we can explore the Paro valley.

Overnight Raven’s Nest Resort (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 13: PARO
Today we will visit the world famous Tibetan Mahayana Buddhist pilgrim site. After breakfast our car will drop us at the starting point of the excursion to view the spectacular Taktsang monastery (Tiger’s Nest lair). The trail to the monastery climbs through beautiful pine forest, many of the trees festooned with Spanish moss, and an occasional grove of fluttering prayer flags. You stop at the cafeteria for a rest and refreshments and continue the hike for a short while until you see, clearly and seemingly within reach, the newly renovated Taktsang monastery. Originally built in the 1600s, this incredible monastery clings to the edge of a sheer rock cliff that plunges 900 m into the valley below. The history states that Guru Padmasambhava, the Tantric mystic who brought Buddhism to Bhutan in the 8th century, landed here on the back of a flying tiger. Looking at the monastery flying tigers doesn’t seem so impossible after all. We can further continue to walk the small narrow winding path down and then up till the upper level of the monastery if the path is dry and not slippery. Lunch will be served at the cafeteria or the Yak Herders Restaurant after returning from the monastery depending on the time. After returning to the road head we will drive down south to visit the Kyichu lhakhang, this small temple is believed to have built in the 7th century by a Tibetan King known as Songtsen Gompo. Continue our drive south to visit Dungtse Lhakhang, it has three floors representing the hell, earth and heaven. The paintings in this temple are very old and interesting; during our visit in this temple please do not forget to carry a flashlight, it is quite dark inside.  We end our day here and return to the hotel for a nice super.

Overnight Raven’s Nest Resort (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 14: DEPART
After breakfast you are transferred to Paro airport for departures.


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