Punakha Winter Trek (Season: Jan to May & September to December)

Number of days: 11days

Day 1: Arrival

The flight to Paro on a clear day is one of the most spectacular of all mountain flights. On can see Mt. Everest, Kanchenjunga, Makalu and other peaks in Bhutan such as Jomolhari, Jichu Drake and Tsering gang. Received by Bhutan Travelers representative and transfer to the hotel. Evening take a stroll around Paro market. Overnight at the hotel in Paro.

Day 2: Paro sight seeing

After breakfast drive up the valley to Drukgyel Dzong, built in 1646 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to commemorate his victory over the Tibetan invaders. Though now in ruins, its towering walls are still an imposing sight. On a clear day there is a splendid view of snow capped Mt. Jomolhari from the approach road to Drukgyel Dzong. Then visit 7th century Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the oldest and most sacred shrines in Bhutan.

In the afternoon visit Ta Dzong, built in 1651 as a watchtower to protect Rinpung Dzong, and in 1968 inaugurated as the National Museum. The extensive collection includes antique thangkha paintings, textiles, weapons & armor, folk arts, relics, coins, postage stamps and a small natural history display. Then walk down the trail to visit Rinpung Dzong, which has a long and fascinating history. Overnight at the hotel in Paro.

Day 3: Paro- Thimphu

After breakfast drive to Thimphu, stopping briefly en route at Chuzom (Confluence) where the Paro river joins the Thimphu river, to observe the three chortens on the riverbank at this place, each in a different style, which mark the confluence of the two rivers. Shortly before reaching Thimphu, we stop to visit Semtokha Dzong, the oldest fortress of the kingdom, built in 1627. The complex now houses the Institute for Language and Cultural Studies.

After lunch in Thimphu, we visit Tashichhodzong, the seat of government and summer residence of the Chief Abbot and central monk body, and the National Memorial Chorten, completed in 1974, which serves both as a memorial to Bhutan?s revered third king ("the father of modern Bhutan") and as a monument to world peace. In the evening we take a stroll around the town. Overnight at the hotel in Thimphu.

Day 4: Thimphu Sightseeing

Visit Simtokha Dzong. This is one of the oldest fortresses in Bhutan, which was built in 1629 A.D by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. Visit the woodcraft and painting school where traditional art and crafts are still kept alive. Visit the handicrafts emporium where Bhutanese textiles and other arts are displayed and can be purchased. After lunch drive 14 km to north of Thimphu to visit Tango Cheri Monastery. Early evening visit to DSB Books store the biggest big store in BHUTAN. Overnight at the hotel in Thimphu.

Day 05: Thimphu � Dopshing Pang 17km, 5-6 hours

We drive north up the valley towards Dechenchholing Palace, following the Thimphu river. We drive along a logging road for about an hour, passing through Kabesa village en route to Shong Pang where the trek begins. The trek trail ascends gradually to Sinchu-la (3,200m). If the weather is clear, you can see Phajoding monastery from the pass. After walking another 2 km., you can view Thinleygang village, Talo monastery and the road to Bhutan?s former capital, Punakha. The trail descends gradually from the pass till we reach our overnight campsite at 2,800m.

Day 06: Dopshing Pang � Chorten Ningpo 18km, 6-7 hours

The trail to Chorten Ningpo descends rather gradually, passing mainly through densely forested areas. We pass through rice fields before reaching our campsite at 2,700m.

Day 07: Chorten Ningpo � Kabesa/Punakha 5km, 1 hour

The trek trail takes us through villages for an hour until we reach the motor road, where Etho Metho transport meets us to transfer us to Punakha. We stop about 7 km. out of Punakha to visit Chorten Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal, situated on a hilltop across the river. Consecrated in Dec. 1999, this chorten dedicated to Bhutan?s protective deity Mahakala contains exceptionally fine sculptures and mural paintings. Overnight at the hotel in Punakha.

Day 08: Punakha � Limukha 15km, 5-6 hours

We follow the road to Punakha Dzong, and then cross the Pho Chu (river) which drains the remote Lunana region. After walking through rice fields for about 15 minutes, we start climbing gradually through scattered chirpine forest, and after about 3 hours enter deciduous forest. Further along the trail we will also enjoy a wonderful view of Punakha valley and Dzong, and if the weather is clear we will also see some of the snow-capped mountain peaks to the north. The campsite is near Limukha village at alt. 2,250m.

Day 09: Limukha � Chungsakha � Wangduephodrang 15km, 5-6 hours

The trek trail rises gradually up through oak and rhododendron forests, then descends gradually through thick forest to a small lhakhang dedicated to Lama Drukpa Kuenley, who used it as a winter residence in the 15th century. From Chungsakha, you can look across the valley to Samtengang. We walk downhill till we reach the road, where Etho Metho transport meets us for the 30 minute drive to Wangdue. Overnight at the hotel in Wangduephodrang.

Day 10: Wangduephodrang /Punakha � Paro

After breakfast, visit Wangdue Dzong, stretched along the hilltop above the confluence of the Punakha Chu and Tang Chu rivers. This fortress was built in the 17th century by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. Visitors may attend the Wangduephodrang Tsechu, an attractive festival held at the dzong in autumn each year. Then drive up the valley to Bhutan?s former capital, Punakha, and visit sacred Punakha Dzong. Damaged over the centuries by fire, flood and earthquake, this superb example of Bhutanese architecture has been fully restored in recent years. The Shabdrung died here, and his remains are preserved in a casket in Machen Lhakhang in the dzong.

After lunch, drive to Paro. Overnight at the hotel in Paro.

Day 11: Depart Paro

After early breakfast, drive to Paro airport for flight to onward destinations.