Bhutan ? The Chomolhari Trek

Trip Length 12 Days
Group Size 4-16
Difficulty
Starting from
$4,799 for REI Members
$5,279 for non-members
Departures Apr 2020-Nov 2020

The untouched solitude and splendor of Bhutan is very much felt on this seven-day trek to Chomolhari, Bhutan's Mountain Goddess.

Nestled between India and Tibet along the southern slopes of the Himalaya range, Bhutan gives the sense of being a world away. Bhutan?s people and nature coexist in sacred balance, which we will explore on this world-class Himalayan trek to Chomolhari Basecamp and back. This challenging journey includes eight full days of trekking in the company of like-minded adventurers and knowledgeable, local guides.

We journey in search of the high Himalayas, trekking to over 16,000? through remote villages, virgin forests and crystal lakes. Explore ancient monasteries clinging to cliff sides, ornate temples and colorful fortresses?all while enjoying superb mountain scenery. Along the way, learn about traditional medicine and Bhutanese crafts in a unique cultural immersion. Bring the camera, capturing fluttering prayer flags amidst the swirling mountain mist is?much like this trip?a must.

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Trip Highlights

  • Trek to Chomolhari, Bhutan's Mountain Goddess
  • Be immersed in Bhutan's culture, balancing rich traditions with modernization
  • Take in spectacular vistas, ancient Buddhist temples, and colorful fortresses
  • Watch traditional archery practice and learn about ancient medicine
  • Explore Bhutan, a small country slowing opening to the outside world

Activities

This trip is rated Strenuous [5]. Trip members should be a strong, experienced hikers in excellent physical condition, capable hiking 6-14 miles (5-9) hours on most days over uneven, rocky and occasionally steep terrain with daily elevation gains of 1,000?-2,800?. A doctor's release is required to participate.

This trek spends considerable time at altitudes between 8,000? and 16,100?. At these altitudes, trekking can feel even more vigorous. We will very likely encounter freezing temperatures on several of the days. You will carry a daypack containing food, water, fleece jacket, raingear, sunscreen, ditty bag and camera (if desired).

  • Trekking

What's Included

Double-occupancy accommodations; meals as noted in the itinerary; all transfers noted in the itinerary; monument entrance fees and government taxes; group visa; all trekking equipment except sleeping bag; English speaking guide, trekking support staff; pack animals as needed.

Accommodations

Hotels, 5 nights; Camping, 6 nights

Your Adventure Itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Thimphu, home of the revered Royal Family.

Your trip begins today with an early morning flight from Bangkok, Thailand, to Paro, Bhutan. REI Adventures will make the roundtrip flight reservations for you at the time of your registration. The flight from Bangkok to Paro is beautiful and a befitting introduction to the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan. On arrival you are met by your Bhutanese leader and transferred to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan and home of the revered Bhutanese Royal Family. Overnight in Thimphu. Lunch and dinner included.

Drive time: 2 hours.

Day 2

Full day immersion in the history, culture and traditions of Bhutan.

We spend our first full day in Bhutan tapping into all aspects of Bhutanese culture in the capitol city. Our first stop is the fascinating Traditional Medicine Institute, a repository of over 300 herbs and minerals from all corners of Bhutan. Here traditional medical practitioners actively prepare treatments which are distributed out to regional health care units. Then we head to The National Institute of Zorig Chusum, where 13 different traditional arts are kept alive through the diligent practice of young Bhutanese. The remainder of the day includes several other stops including the Bhutanese Heritage Museum, National Library, Textile Museum and a traditional Bhutanese lunch. Overnight in Thimphu. All meals included.

Day 3

Begin the Chomolhari Trek following the Paro River Valley to Shana Camp.

We begin our trek at Drugyel Dzong (8,591') a short drive northwest of Paro. Now a ruin, Drugyel Dzong served as a fortress in the 17th century. If the day is clear, the view of Chomolhari is spectacular. Our Bhutanese staff loads gear onto ponies, and we begin our trek following the narrowing Paro River Valley past traditional farmhouses, chortens, prayer flags and up through blue pine and rhododendron forests. Arrive at Shana (9,480') for our first night of camping. All meals included.

Trekking 9.3 miles, 5-6 hours; Elevation gain: 1,020'; loss 260'.

Day 4

Enter Jigme Dorji National Park with forests of oak and rhododendron.

The trail continues its gradual climb alongside the Paro Chu and into the high mountain country. The rocky and sometimes muddy trail enters Jigme Dorji National Park and continues ascending through a beautiful thick forest of oak rhododendron, bamboo, and ferns. We cross bridges on several small streams, arriving at Soi Thangthangkha (12,088') where we camp tonight. All meals included.

Trekking 13.6 miles, 6-7 hours; elevation gain: 2,250'.

Day 5

Take in mountain vistas en route to Chomolhari base camp, Jangothang.

Today's trek is all about big mountain vistas, breathing crisp, clean air, and the immense beauty of the landscapes. Hiking at high elevation, we take it slow and drink plenty of water. Along the way we visit with yak herdsman, perhaps purchasing some of their hard and very tasty cheeses. Views of spiky Jitchu Drake (22,470') appear before us, soon to be joined by the massive ice-covered east face of Chomolhari (23,995'). We camp below a ruined fortress at Jangothang (13,415'), the Chomolhari base camp. From here the views of Chomolhari, the Divine Mountain, and other significant mountains are superb. All meals included.

Trekking 10.5 miles, 5-6 hours; Elevation gain: 1,530'.

Day 6

Choose from a variety of spectacular hikes or rest up at camp.

A welcome layover day to rest. Or, with the help of our guides, choose from a variety of impressive day hikes. Chomolhari and its subsidiary is directly west, Jitchu Drake is to the north, and unclimbed summits and rip-saw ridges are to the east. All meals included.

Day 7

Pass sacred Tsophu Lakes on the way to Bonte La, our highest pass.

An exciting, full day as the trail leads north to the last settlement in the valley and drops to the Paro Chu. We cross a bridge over the river and ascend more steeply to a large cirque and the turquoise blue Tsophu Lakes (14,270'). The views of Chomolhari, Chomolhari II and Jitchu Drake are breathtaking! The trail continues alongside the Tsophu Lakes and another steep push takes us to the breathtaking scenery of Bhonte La (la means "pass"). At 16,040' this is the highest point of the trek and it is marked by cairns and prayer flags. Take time to enjoy the scenery! There are views of the Basingthang Peaks (18,000') and a big snowy peak to the south called Chatarake. The trail drops down a steep narrow gully to a large grass covered area. We then wind our way through yak pastures before descending very steeply through a narrow gully to Dumzo (12,464') where we camp for the evening. All meals included.

Trekking 13 miles, 8-9 hours; elevation gain: 2,790', elevation loss: 3,600'.

Day 8

Cross the Takang La with distant views of Kanchenjunga and Makalu.

This is an "up and down and up" kind of hiking day. Our trek takes us across Takhung La (14,880'). The pass has several cairns wrapped in prayer flags. Looking back you can see the Bonte La and looking down the other side is tonight's campsite. Climbing up the small hills on either side of the pass you get distant views of Kanchenjunga (28,160') and even Makalu (27,760') in Nepal, weather permitting. The trail stays high to the left and then winds gently downhill to camp at Thombu Shong (13,510'). All meals included.

Trekking 7 miles, 5-6 hours; elevation gain: 2,420'; elevation loss: 1,370'.

Day 9

Crest Thombu La pass and enjoy a ridge walk with big views.

We begin with a climb out of the valley to a crest at Thombu La (14,005'); here we enjoy our last views of the high peaks and a delightful ridge walk. Edelweiss grows in abundance and the huge lammergeyers (bearded vultures) soar in the warm thermals of the valley below. Then it's a steep two- to three-hour descent to conclude our trek of the Chomolhari. We bid farewell to our wonderful Bhutanese trekking crew and return to Paro with our guide. All meals included.

Driving: 2hrs; Trekking: 8 miles, 6 hours; elevation gain: 495', elevation loss: 4,525'.

Day 10

Discover Paro on a full day of exploration.

After breakfast join our full day sightseeing excursion or simply relax and recover from the long trek. Our morning visits include Kyichu Lhakhang, the National Museum of Bhutan and the Sangay Center where we learn woodworking techniques from a skilled Bhutanese craftsman. After lunch, we drive south and visit the scenic Rimpung Dzong. Walk across a traditional covered bridge to visit this classic 15th-century fortress. We return to spend the remainder of the day souvenir shopping at the Paro market before returning to our hotel. All meals included.

Day 11

Hike to Taksang Monastery, the Tigers Nest, high above the valley floor.

A short drive from Paro bring us to the trailhead at the base of Taktsang (Tiger's Nest), Bhutan's most famous monastery. Built in the 1600's, this incredible monastery clings to the edge of a sheer rock cliff that plunges 2,700' into the valley below. It is said that Guru Rinpoche flew on the back of a tigress from Singye Dzong in Lhuntse to meditate in a cave where Taktsang now stands. A two- to three-hour steep hike through the forest brings us to a famed viewpoint overlooking the monastery. In the afternoon we visit Kyichu Ihakhang, a small temple believed to have been built in the seventh century by a Tibetan king, as well as Dungtse Lhathang which boasts three floors of paintings representing hell, earth and heaven. We return to Paro for our farewell dinner. All meals included.

Hiking 3-5 hours; elevation gain/loss: ~2,000 feet.

Day 12

Say a final goodbye to this tiny Himalayan Kingdom.

We depart Paro on a flight to Bangkok, Thailand. A hotel stay in Bangkok is not included; please make reservations if needed. Breakfast included.

Note: Bhutan requires all passports to be valid for six months beyond the last day of your trip (Day 12 of this itinerary).

Gear List

The key to staying comfortable on an active trip is layering.�To get maximum comfort with minimum weight, you need versatile layers that mix and match to create the right amount of insulation, ventilation and weather protection.� This gear list was created to help you choose your clothing and gear for this trip.�Try to bring only what is necessary, this will help you and the field staff.

What to pack

You might also consider

Travel documents

  • Airline Tickets (Confirmation and Itinerary)
  • Bhutan Visa Form
  • Copy of Passport (2 Copies, First Page Only)
  • Final Bulletin (Emailed Prior to Departure Date)
  • Valid Passport

Contact Us

Feel free to give us a call at 800-622-2236 should you have any questions regarding the gear list. The staff at our stores and Direct Sales (800-426-4840) will also be happy to help you with gear questions. Or check out REI Expert Advice , which has great information to help you prepare for your trip.