Trekking the Trans Bhutan Trail

9 Days Starting and ending in Paro, Bhutan

Visiting: Thimphu, Dochula Pass, Trongsa, Bumthang, Punakha, Paro, Tiger's Nest Monastery Paro

Tour operator:

YellowWood Adventures

Tour code:

BHU-BT

Guide Type:

Fully Guided

Group size:

4 - 12

Physical rating:

Medium, 6: Intermediate

Age range:

18-90

Special diets catered:

Vegetarians

Tour operated in:
English
From:
$4150
$3963 Exclusive Tourhub Members Discount: -$187

NB: Prices correct on 27-May-2024 but subject to change.

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Tour Overview

Explore the Trans Bhutan Trail on this small group walking tour
Before the arrival of roads in the 1960s, traders, royal messengers and even army officials would travel to different regions of the country along routes criss-crossing valleys. Overgrown and largely forgotten, this network of precious trails was restored during the pandemic by a not-for-profit tourism initiative at the request of the king. Running across the country, it’s now one of the greatest long-distance treks in the world.

Our five-day section of the hike will take you through valleys sprinkled with wildflowers, along snow-melt streams powering prayer wheels and past a saw-tooth horizon of shining white Himalayan peaks.

There are stops at the royal cities of Trongsa and Bumthang – with their mesmerising dzong monasteries - before finishing in the enchanting town of Punakha. The final stop is a return to Paro for the unmissable hike up to the legendary Tiger’s Nest Monastery.

Great walking aside, the trail offers a unique way to see and experience the 'real' Bhutan and support local communities in rural areas inaccessible to outsiders for many years.

Incredibly friendly people, spectacular landscapes and magnificent cliff-top temples will spark a life-long love affair.

Highlights

  • Enjoy hiking along the Trans Bhutan Trail

  • Follow the Divine Madman Trail

  • Visit the royal cities of Trongsa and Bumthang

  • Hike up to the famous Tiger’s Nest Monastery

  • Immerse yourself in Bhutan’s unique culture in communities along the way

Itinerary

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Day 1: Arrival At Paro – Thimphu

Location: Thimphu

Accommodation Name: 3 star hotel

Meals Included: Dinner

On arrival at Paro International Airport, you will be met by your guide and driven by private vehicle to Bhutan’s capital, Thimphu. With elevations ranging between 2,248 metres (7,375 feet) and 2,648 metres (8,688 feet) above sea level, Thimphu is the fifth highest capital city in the world by altitude. The city offers a unique blend of the modern world with Bhutanese tradition.After checking in at your hotel and some time to rest, head out with your guide to explore. First, head to Buddha Point, home to Thimphu’s most recognized landmark, the Buddha Dordenma. Guarding the entry to the Thimphu valley, this 51 metre (167 feet) gilded bronze statue is filled with 125,000 miniature statues and sits atop a three-storey base housing a chapel and thousands of donated statuettes. The statue was commissioned to mark His Majesty the Fourth King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck’s 60th birthday and was originally made in China before being transported to Thimphu in pieces.Afterwards, you will make a stop at the Memorial Chorten, a Tibetan-style stupa built in 1974 and one of Thimphu’s busiest religious sites. Your guide will select a good local restaurant in Thimphu for dinner this evening, which will be your first chance to learn about and sample Bhutanese cuisine.Accommodation: Kisa Villa

Day 2: Thimphu – Dochula – Thinleygang – Lobesa

Location: Dochula Pass

Accommodation Name: 3 star hotel

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

After breakfast, head east out of Thimphu this morning to begin your first day of trekking on the ancient Trans Bhutan Trail. You will join the Trail this morning at Dochula Pass, some 3,100 metres (10,170 feet) above sea level. At clearer times of the year, you will be able to enjoy panoramic views of the Himalayas to the north from Dochula.From here, descend down into the adjacent valley and join what is known as the ‘Divine Madman Trail’. You will now be following in the footsteps of the Divine Madman himself, Drukpa Kuenley, when he came to Bhutan from Tibet in the 16th century to fulfil his legacy of suppressing evil energies through his dharma teachings. During your trek today, your guide will share some of the extraordinary stories which relate to the lama’s colourful life. Make a stop at Thinleygang Lhakhang (temple) before enjoying a traditional Bhutanese lunch cooked in a local farmhouse.After lunch, rejoin your vehicle and head east towards Lobesa, where you will check into your hotel and enjoy dinner with your guide.Accommodation: Hotel LobesaTrek Distance: 10.5 kilometres (6.52 miles), Estimated Trek Duration: 5 hours, Elevation Gain: 50 metres (164 feet), Starting Elevation: 3,100 metres (8,700 feet), Ending Elevation: Ending Elevation: 1,560 metres (5,100 feet), Maximum Elevation: 3,100 metres (8,700 feet)

Day 3: Lobesa – Pelela – Chendebji – Trongsa

Location: Trongsa

Accommodation Name: 3 star hotel

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

After breakfast at the hotel, head to your vehicle for a transfer to Pelela, where you will rejoin the Trans Bhutan Trail.At 3,407 metres (11,177 feet) above sea level, the Pelela Pass is one of Bhutan’s highest and is traditionally considered to mark the boundary between west and central Bhutan. Local craftspeople often sell fine yak-hair products at the pass. As you descend through the meadows below Pelela, keep an eye out for the yak herder camps which can be seen scattered around the valley.Stop in a traditional farmhouse in the village of Rukubji to enjoy a hot lunch, before visiting Rukubji’s village Lhakhang (temple), also known as Kuenzang Choling. It is thought that this temple was built some 300 years ago by a Lama named Tshendhen Duelwa. Unlike most temples, it is not built on a ridge with a view out over a valley, but rather on an extended plateau and close to two rivers: the reason for this is that the Lama built the temple on top of the head of a snake-demoness which he subdued in the same location. Rukubji is also famous for its unique local language, and you will have the chance to learn about this during your time here.Afterwards, rejoin the trail for a gentle climb out of the valley then through a forest, before dropping back down the village of Chendebji. At Chendebji, visit the Chorten (stupa), which is built on the point on which it is believed that the three ridges and the three edges of the sky meet. The Chorten was built by Lam Ngedup Tshering Wangchuk in order to subdue a local demoness, Nyala Dudm, and bring peace to the Chendebji Valley.At Chendebji, you will rejoin your vehicle for a road transfer to the town of Trongsa.On arrival, check in to your hotel where you will have time to rest. Your guide will arrange for dinner either at your hotel or a good local restaurant.Accommodation: Yangkhill ResortTrek Distance: 21.5 kilometres (13.5 miles), Estimated Trek Duration: 8 hours, Elevation Gain: 500 metres (1,650 feet), Starting Elevation: 3,402 metres (11,162 feet), Ending Elevation: 2,276 metres (7,468 feet), Maximum Elevation: 3,402 metres (11,162 feet)

Day 4: Trongsa – Bumthang

Location: Bumthang

Accommodation Name: 3 star hotel

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

After breakfast at your hotel, enjoy a tour of Trongsa Dzong (fortress), which was first built by Ngagi Wangchuck as a small meditation room in 1541, after he discovered self-manifested hoof-prints belonging to the deity Pelden Lhamo on the same spot. Trongsa, which means ‘new village’ in the local dialect, soon sprung up around the site. The Dzong (fortress) was built in its present form in 1644 and then enlarged again at the end of the 17th century. It is home to some 450 district monks who spend their winters in Trongsa and their summers in Bumthang. You will visit a selection of the Dzong’s 23 lhakhangs (temples), before heading to the Trongsa Ta Dzong (watchtower), which now houses the interesting Royal Heritage Museum.Afterwards, join your vehicle for a transfer to the Yotongla Pass (3,436 metres, 11,270 feet), where you will rejoin the Trans Bhutan Trail. This section of the Trail is historically closely associated with the Royal Family, who would have used it regularly to transfer between royal residences in Trongsa and Bumthang. From Yotongla, the Trail descends through meadows and open forest until it meets Gyeltsachhu (Gyeltsa River). From there, enjoy a scenic walk along the river as far as Geytsa Village, where you will rejoin your vehicle for a transfer to Bumthang. A picnic Lunch will be served at a suitable point on the trail.On arrival in Bumthang, check into your hotel and relax for the remainder of the day. Your guide will arrange for dinner either at your hotel or a local restaurant.Accommodation: YugharlingTrek Distance: 9.5 kilometres (5.90 miles), Estimated Trek Duration: 5 hours, Elevation Gain: 50 metres (164 feet), Starting Elevation: 2,276 metres (7,468 feet), Ending Elevation: 2,574 metres (8,445 feet), Maximum Elevation: 3,425 metres (11,237 feet)

Day 5: Bumthang

Location: Bumthang

Accommodation Name: 3 star hotel

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

After breakfast, join your vehicle which will transfer you to the village of Babzur, where you will rejoin the Trail for a pleasant half-day excursion. The Trail will first take you past the Pema Choling Nunnery. Women and girls who enrol here follow a nine-year course in the Nyingma Peling Buddhist tradition and are known for a particular drum ceremony known as “chod”.After your visit to the nunnery, head south along the Trans Bhutan Trail towards the sacred Mebartsho (the Burning Lake), where, in the 15th century, the great treasure hunter Pema Lingpa is said to have discovered several of Guru Rinpoche’s hidden treasures. Lingpa had a dream in which he was summoned to this particular location on the Tang River and, when he arrived, he saw at the bottom of the river a temple with many doors, one of which was open. He then swam down into a large cave where he was handed a treasure chest by a one-eyed woman. He would later repeat the feat in the presence of the local people and whilst holding a lit butter lamp which did not go out underwater – and it is because of that that this pool was named “burning lake”.Enjoy a typical Bhutanese lunch at a local farmhouse in the nearby village of Phomdrong. During your visit, your host will show you how to make Bumthap Putha, a special type of buckwheat noodle traditional to the Bumthang region.After lunch, return to Bumthang, where you will visit the Bumthang Brewery, producers of Bhutan’s celebrated Red Panda Beer. Nearby is Bhutan’s only commercial cheese factory. Both the brewery and the cheese factory are legacies of a Swiss-run development project called Swiss Farm, which introduced distinctive European farming and production techniques into the Bumthang area. Dinner this evening will be at a local restaurant.Accommodation: YugharlingTrek Distance: 4.5 kilometres (2.80 miles), Estimated Trek Duration: 3 hours, Elevation Gain: 200 metres (656 feet), Starting Elevation: 2,800 metres (9,186 feet), Ending Elevation: 2,713 metres (8,901 feet), Maximum Elevation: 2,800 metres (9,186 feet)

Day 6: Bumthang – Punakha

Location: Punakha

Accommodation Name: 3 star hotel

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

After breakfast this morning, rejoin your vehicle for a transfer back to Trongsa. Alight at the Trongsa Ta Dzong (watchtower), where you begin your last section of trekking on the Trans Bhutan Trail. The Trail still heads right through the centre of Trongsa and today you will head through Trongsa Dzong (fortress), crossing the old bridge over Mangdechhu (Mangde River), before heading up the other side of the valley for a steep climb up to the Trongsa viewpoint: from here, enjoy fantastic views back over the Dzong (fortress).Rejoin the vehicle at the viewpoint and head to the town of Punakha, where you will check into your hotel and enjoy dinner with your guide at a local restaurant.Accommodation: Gatshothang homestayTrek Distance: 4 kilometres (2.49 miles), Estimated Trek Duration: 4 hours, Elevation Gain: 350 metres (1,148 feet), Starting Elevation: 2,050 metres (6,726 feet), Ending Elevation: 2,125 metres (7,956 feet), Maximum Elevation: 2,125 metres (7,956 feet)

Day 7: Punakha – Paro

Location: Paro

Accommodation Name: 3 star hotel

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

After breakfast, head to the Punakha Dzong (fortress), built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in around 1637 at the confluence of the Phochhu (male river) and the Mochhu (female river). Arguably, it is the most beautiful Dzong in the country. The Dzong guards Bhutan’s most treasured relic, the Rangjung Kharsapani, an image of Chenresig kept away from the public in the utse (tower). It has survived Tibetan invasions, numerous fires, floods and a glacial lake burst. The Dzong served as the capital and seat of the Bhutanese Government until the early 1950s; and the coronation of His Majesty the First Druk, Gyalpo Ugyen Wangchuck, took place here. The building currently serves as the winter residence for the monastic body.After your visit, you will be transferred west to the city of Paro (Approx 3.5 hours). On arrival in Paro, visit Ta Dzong or the ‘watchtower’, originally built in 1649 to protect Paro Dzong from the Tibetan military. In 1968, Ta Dzong became Bhutan’s National Museum, and is now home to a number of exhibitions including sculpture, painting and artifacts depicting Bhutan’s magical past. Afterwards, continue to the stunning Paro Rinpung Dzong (fortress), meaning ‘Fortress on a Heap of Jewels’. The original construction of this dzong is believed to have been completed in 1458 and it was restored to its present glory by His Majesty the Third of Bhutan, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, to mark his royal wedding in 1951.After your visits, head to your hotel, where we recommend you relax and unwind in a traditional Bhutanese hot stone bath before enjoying dinner with your guide at a nearby restaurant.Accommodation: Olathang Cottages

Day 8: Paro - Tiger's Nest - Paro

Location: Tiger's Nest Monastery, Paro

Accommodation Name: 3 star hotel

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

After breakfast this morning, head northwest out of Paro by private vehicle for a visit to the iconic Taktshang Goemba, more commonly known as the ‘Tiger’s Nest Monastery’. Precariously perched on a sheer cliff face 900 metres (2,950 feet) above the Paro Valley floor, the Tiger’s Nest is undoubtedly Bhutan’s most famous religious building. It is built on the site where Guru Rinpoche is said to have arrived on the back of a tigress when he came to subdue the local demon, Singye Samdrup. After subduing the demon, Guru Rinpoche is said to have meditated in a cave here for three whole months.The Monastery is only accessible by foot via one and a half to two hour hike up the valley side. The trek offers spectacular views from the ridge and passes a small chorten, a basic monastery, and a waterfall on its way.Once you have reached the Tiger’s Nest, you will have a chance to visit the cave where Guru Rinpoche meditated, as well as the extensive network of Lhakhangs (chapels) which house images, murals, chortens, and a holy spring. You may also wish to make a diversion to the attractive Machig-phu Lhakhang (temple) on the way back down to the access road.After the visit, you will head back to your hotel in Paro, where you will be able to relax for the remainder of the day or do some last-minute shopping for souvenirs.In the evening, enjoy a farewell dinner with your guide at a nearby restaurant.Accommodation: Olathang Cottages

Day 9: Paro – Depart

Location: Paro

Meals Included: Breakfast

After breakfast today, you will be transferred to the airport for your international departure flight, rejuvenated by the Bhutanese way of life.

What's Included

  • Accommodation

  • Fully Guided

What's Not Included

  • Insurance

  • International Travel

Check out our Q&As

  • Physical rating

    The physical rating of this trip is: Intermediate. You need to have a good level of fitness and be a regular walker for these adventures, with ideally some trekking experience. You can expect to be walking for 3-6 hours per day, not including rest stops, normally on good trail paths but with some uneven surfaces at times.



    You will not be required to carry more than a day sack. You may be walking in more challenging temperatures. You will generally be walking at low altitude (below 3000m) but may walk at altitudes up to 4000m. The amount of ascent could be up to 800m in a day but will frequently be less. You may walk on consecutive days.



    Ensure you are aware of the weather conditions likely in the destination you are visiting and have suitable clothing for this adventure.You need to have a good level of fitness and be a regular walker for these adventures, with ideally some trekking experience. You can expect to be walking for 3-6 hours per day, not including rest stops, normally on good trail paths but with some uneven surfaces at times.

  • How long has the tour company been trading?

    Since 2015

  • Risk Assessment

    YellowWood operates a Safety Management System which encompasses a planned, researched, implemented and reviewed approach to your Health & Safety. A risk assessment is a careful examination of what could cause harm (hazards) and the assessment of likelihood of hazards occuring, as well as the severity of the outcome of a hazard.

  • What policies are in place for Covid-19?

    Please contact us for our latest Covid-19 policies

  • Experienced Leaders

    On all of our adventures you will benefit from the daily presence of an experienced, English speaking local guide. You will also have additional guides at various points during the trip (see itineraries for details).

  • What Ethical Travel credentials does the tour company have?

    As a visitor to a foreign country, we inevitably leave our mark. At YellowWood Adventures, we are determined that this ‘mark’ will be a positive one. Tourism is not always beneficial and we are conscious of treading lightly in the lands we explore.

Reviews of this operator

Ruth  

FANTASTIC TRIP TO EITHIOPIA!!

2020

From guiding us through the crowded alleys of Lalibela at Genna to clambering up the dizzy heights of Abuna Yemata this was a trip that surpassed all expectations! Yellowwood hits the right balance of organised small group travel with adventurous, 'off the beaten track' experiences all the while making you feel as if you've travelling with a small group of your friends. Ethiopia is truly a beautiful country with wonderful friendly and generous people throughout. I highly recommend this trip and am already planning for my next Yellowwood adventure!

Ethiopia Adventure, 2020
Sophie  

Absolute trip of a lifetime

2019

This trip was one of the best I've ever done. Getting into the Tian Shan mountains was really quite magical; experiencing the scenery and feeling isolated from the rest of the world, thanks to the personalised feel of the trek, was unrivalled. The quality of the food was also a highlight, and I was catered for as a vegetarian (in a very non-vegetarian place!). Kyrgyzstan is a relatively undiscovered gem, and it was lovely to do a road-less-travelled style trip. Thanks to Sam and YellowWood for taking us on a genuine adventure with a fantastic itinerary. I look forward to joining some more non-traditional trips when possible!"

Kyrgyzstan Adventure, 2019
Ken  

People and Landscapes of Oman Adventure

2022

Every day was a highlight for me, no specific favourite. Oman deserves all the superlatives it gets -magnificent scenery, safe, friendly environment, welcoming and engaging people. YellowWood delivers a winner on this trip! Kudos to all.

Oman Adventure, 2022

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  • Low Deposit

    YellowWood Adventures requires a minimum deposit of 400 GBP per person or the full booking value, whichever is less, with the final balance not due until 56 days before departure.

  • Cancellation Policy

    We don't charge a cancellation fee, here is a summary of yellowwood adventures charges.

    Up to 57 days before tour starts: Forfeit 100% of deposit.

    At 56 days before tour starts: Forfeit 100% of booking price.

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