Walk Western Bhutan (12 days)

Haa Valley

specialIn 2002 the Haa Valley, also known as the “Hidden-Land Rice Valley”, was opened to foreign tourism. On this tour you explore this steep north-south valley with a narrow floor where contrary to its name only some rice is grown the main crops being wheat and barley. Visit off the trodden path temples and rural family dwellings. By walking through Haa you see and feel its preserved nature as 78% of the land is trees and forests. Cross the Dochula Pass into the Punakha Valley. Walk Western Bhutan is your opportunity to be a part of Bhutan’s best kept secret–its natural treasures.

Day 1 – Paro
Upon arrival at Paro Airport, you are met by our representative and privately driven to your hotel.

Time permitting, visit on foot the nearby village of Lango taking a trail through the fields. Seet the 7th century Kichu Lhakhang and in the evening take a drive around Paro.

Overnight Kichu Resort in Paro

Day 2 – Paro/Ta Dzong/Paro
After breakfast, drive to Ta Dzong, an ancient watch tower over looking Paro’s Rimpung Dzong. The watchtower, converted to the National Museum in 1960, highlights various aspects of Bhutanese culture and history dating to 7th century. A short walk brings us down to Rinpung Dzong, the administrative and religious center of the region.

Walk across a traditional bridge. Drive back and relax a while after lunch at the hotel, then in the late afternoon, drive to the farther end of the Valley to the ruins of Drugyel Dzong, a 17th century fortress burned down in the early 50s. Here we will also see the beautiful typical farm houses nicely painted.

Overnight Kichu Resort in Paro

Day 3 – Paro/Taktshang/Paro
Hike to Taktshang (3100m 4-5hours walk up & down), the famous cave temple where the legendary Guru, Padmasambhava is said to have arrived on the back of a flying white tigress to meditate on the sheer cliffs. The uphill hike takes about 3 hours through pine forest. The temple clings to a side of a granite cliff about 900m above the Paro Valley.

A prime pilgrimage site, this marks the spot from where the Guru, taking the form of Dorji Drollo, overcame and suppressed the demons that prevented the spread of Buddhism. The Guru is depicted in his wrathful form, riding upon a pregnant Tigress. The first temple was built in the 17th century and was destroyed several times by fire, the last a devastating one in 1998. Since rebuilt, it stands restored and expanded in its entire ancient splendor. Afternoon we spend a little time preparing for our next day’s hiking program.

Overnight Kichu Resort in Paro

Day 4 – Paro/Haa Valley
Drive to the Haa Valley via Chelela Pass. A short walk to Kila Gompa a nunnery perched on a steep cliff face at 3500m. This staggering site manages to house 7 small temples and about 70 nuns. Views are magnificent and it is well worth the hour’s hike to get there. Llunch at Kila Gompa then descend back to the road head and drive over the prayer flag strewn pass at almost 4000m and down into the Haa Valley. Overnight will be spent at Haatoe, a farmhouse at Haa at 2955m. The Farm house is located nearby a local Temple, where you can relax and catch a glimpse of beautiful fields and the various typical farm Houses.

Haa Valley
The Valley of Haa lies on the western most edge of Bhutan, its northern boundaries with the Chumbi Valley of Tibet, dividing it from the Indian province of Sikkim. Haa is one of the 20 districts or dzongkhags of Bhutan and one of the least populated. Opened to tourism in 2002, its tourism resources remain largely undeveloped compared to Paro, Thimphu and Bumthang. Most of its landmass is covered by dense forest and the remainder under fields of wheat and barley, with a little rice towards its lower reaches and the accessible side valleys. Meadows support the raising of yak, cattle, chicken, pigs and horses.

Overnight at Lechuna Heritage Lodge

Day 5 – Haa Valley
Today’s program begins by driving to Yotong (2955m), a group of village homes clustered together in the valley by the Haa Chhu River. An old trail leads 150m uphill to the Gompa , dedicated to the Guru Rimpoche and his 8 manifestations. Standing among a few farmhouses, this 300-year structure was built by the 16th Je Khempo (Head Abbot of Bhutan).

A rough road by the monastery will take us back by vehicle to Yotong. There After lunch in one of the typical farm house, a gentle walk along the riverside brings us into Haa town in about 2 hours. Explore the towns Lhakang Karpo and Lhakang Nagpo.

Overnight at Lechuna Heritage Lodge

Day 6 – Haa Valley
Today follow an old trading trail that leads to the Tibetan border via an Army Camp and Yak herders’ huts that should take about 2 hours to an elevation of 3250m. A light lunch will be served here so we shall have enough time to study the lore of a herder’s life, the raising of yak, their grazing habits, the milking and the process of churning of butter and the making of cheese.

Overnight at Lechuna Heritage Lodge

Day 7 – Haa Valley/Thimphu
After breakfast hike the lower road along first the Haa Chhu and after the confluence with the Wang Chhu, along the latter towards the capital at Thimphu, Drive 3-4 hours onward. Enroute stop at Dogar Dobji Dzong, a 16th century structure, built by the brother of the Divine Madman, Drukpa Kinley. Legend has it that the statue of the Guru Landrachen housed here, complained when the apostate Tibetan monarch Langdharma tried to smash it with a hammer. This dzong became Bhutan’s first jail in 1976 but has since returned to its monastic origins. It’s a good place to stop for a picnic lunch.

Overnight at Thimphu

Day 8 – Thimphu
Visit the Indigenous hospital where traditional old art of healing is still practiced, Art & Craft school, National library, Royal goldsmith workshop and Handicraft centers. PM visit the Memorial chorten built in the memory of the late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, 15 century Changangkha monastery, Motithang mini zoo to see the rare “Takin” national animal of Bhutan and drive further up for a good view of the Thimphu valley. Visit the new Drupthob nunnery temple and free time in the market.

Overnight at Thimphu

Day 9 – Thimphu/Punakha Valley
Drive towards the Dochula Pass at 3100m and descend to the Punakha Valley. Down in the Valley, follow the Punatsangchhu River to its origins at the confluence of the Mo and Pho Chhu rivers, between which stands the Punakha Dzong. In this spectacular dzong, across a reconstructed traditional bridge, the remains of the first Shabdrung are enshrined and this is the most important of dzongs in the country.

Here the first king was crowned and since then, all coronations and royal events, such as weddings are conducted here. The Punakha Dzong, presently serves as the winter residence of the Central Monastic body. Each winter beginning in November, the monastic body headed by the Je Khenpo, moves to this warmer location. We continue downriver to Wangdiphodrang along the Dang Chhu River to your accommodation.

Overnight at Kichu Resort at Chuzomsa

Day 10 – Punakha/Phobjika Valley
Today’s drive will bring you to the Phobjika Valley at 2900m, a turn off from the Main Highway. This wide and scenic valley brings the black-necked cranes to winter here. Visit the Gangtey Gomba and from here begin your hike along the Gangtey Nature Trail from which you might spot the black necked cranes in season, grey langur monkey and varied birdlife. You end approximately 2 hours later at the far end of the Valley. Lunch will be at one of the local restaurants at the trail’s end after which you drive back to Kichu.

Overnight at Kichu Resort at Chuzomsa

Day 11 – Paro
Today you return to Paro, starting out early enough with the hope of catching a glimpse of the Himalayan peaks from the Dochula Pass. Its about 3hrs drive to Thimphu. As lunch will be at a restaurant in Thimphu, we shall have a little time to further explore the Capital’s sights then continue on to another 45 mins drive to Paro & en route visiting Tamchoe Monastery built by Iron Bridge Bulider in 14 century.

Overnight Kichu Resort in Paro

Day 12 – Depart Paro
Transfer to the airport for departure flight.

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