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This Tour to Bhutan has been organized to give participants access to some of the exceptional flora of this small mountain kingdom, one of the jewels in the crown of Himalayan countries. Our ultimate aim is to see high alpine specialties but in order to reach them we shall also pass through several other habitats including some of the finest woodland remaining in the Himalaya.

The journey will take you through the most beautiful landscapes with abundant species of flora and fauna rewarding you profoundly.

You will arrive at the country’s only airport, in Paro, and if the weather is kind, will have had views of several 8000 m peaks including Mount Everest. Your first couple of days will help you to acclimatize to the altitude, visiting the world famous Taktsang, or Tiger’s Nest, Monastery, and botanizing.

Tour Information you will arrive at the country’s only airport, in Paro, and if the weather is kind, will have had views of several 8000 m peaks including Mount Everest. Your first couple of days will help you to acclimatize to the altitude, visiting the world famous Taktsang, or Tiger’s Nest, Monastery, and botanizing to nearly 4000m by vehicle and short walks on Day 2, but sleeping at about 2300 m by night.

On Day 3 you embark on the most important element of your trip when you start out on the Yaksa Trek. You will set out through rice paddies and other cultivations and then for three days you shall be walking through the wonderful woodland gaining height steadily as you follow the course of the Pachhu, the snow melt swollen river. By the end of the third day you are emerging from woodland into heath land. High pastures, screeds, rock and mountain tops coming in view, while beyond nearer ridges snow covered peaks beckon. The camps have been selected to allow a sensible pacing by distance and a measured increase in camp heights, but having attained 4000 m at the end of Day 4 you shall have two nights at this altitude to prepare yourself for the lift to come. The mountain scenery from the camp is stunning, with the great bulk of Jomolhari, 7314 m, sharply etched against a clear blue sky. From just down the valley, the fluted snow spire of Jichu Drake, 6989 m, was similarly stark. After a day botanising in the vicinity of this camp, you now turn uphill again, to camp for two nights in a high corrie at 4730 m where snow summits again peek over the rim. This is the ideal launch pad from which to spend a whole day exploring the varied habitats from wet meadow to rock outcrop. You shall reach the Nyile La, a pass whose screes hold many wonderful plants, and, in botanising which, you can probably climb to just over 5000 m.

You leave camp next day, at first retracing your steps then leaving the trail to contour round into another high valley whose screeds and gullies, and the wet areas by its twin lakes, hold yet more botanical gems. From there you go into exploration mode as you head south over three more high passes, Bonte La, the highest at 4980 m (called Pangte La in ‘A Quest of Flowers’), Takhung La and memla La to arrive back at your first camp site in the river valley before our final day’s walk out.

Pace:
On a typical trek day, you will be woken at 6.00 am, by a member of the camp crew bringing tent tea, followed shortly by a bowl of hot washing water. By 7.30 am, when breakfast is ready, you will have packed ready for the day’s activity (day pack, and main luggage if appropriate). You will leave with our guide just before 8.30 am and spend the rest of the day walking and botanizing at an unhurried but steady pace. You will stop for about an hour for a hot lunch and arrive back, or at your next campsite, at about 4.30 pm. On days when you are moving camp, the crew will pack up the tents, load the horses, overtake you and have the new camp ready for our arrival. A hot drink will be ready when you arrive, followed by washing water and your evening meal. After eating, you can discuss the route for the following day with your guide and have a brief plant session, before retiring to bed.

This will sound very familiar to anyone who has trekked in Nepal, the main differences being that the camp crew is much smaller in Bhutan and there are no tea houses or shops along the way. In Bhutan it is totally into the nature and beyond your imagination. It is simply unique and accelerating experience.  

Fitness:
It is essential that participants undertake regular walking in the months leading up to the start of the Tour so that you can enjoy to the full what this trip offers. The itinerary gives an indication of the distances involved but botanizing inevitably means that you exceed these. Previous experience of multi-day trekking as well as of extended periods camping and botanizing in mountains over 3000 m is preferable.

It is accepted practice in Bhutan for the Guide to assess trek participants as to their physical fitness, and their ability to undertake what is ahead. In the event of serious concern he will stop and possibly turn back those who, in his opinion, cannot complete the undertaking.

Acclimatization:
Every effort has been made to allow gradual acclimatization to the altitude, but this is a factor which is unpredictable for anyone, even those who on past trips have performed well. On this Tour you camp at over 4700 m and there is the opportunity to go to 5000 m so this must be borne in mind.

Many folk have their own ideas about how to combat the effects of altitude and you can always carry Diamox and use it if you feel the need. If you plan to use such a drug for the first time, visit your doctor well in advance of the trip and ensure that you have a trial at home so that you understand what the effect is on you before administering it at height.

If anyone were to suffer a bad reaction to altitude and need to lose height the route of the trek allows this during the first nine days by which time a problem should have manifested itself, though even south of the Bonte La there is a downhill exit route.

Weather:
At valley level conditions are likely to be humid, even hot in sunny periods, becoming less so as we rise towards the treeline. We all appreciate that mountain weather is unpredictable, and difficult to forecast in areas we visit only rarely but our experience is that one should expect rain at some point on most days, that snow may fall on the high passes but not lie long, and that sunny, clear periods, usually from dawn into the mornings, when encountered, afford stunning views, memories and pictures.

Plants:
Approaching the highest levels on the trek there are extensive screes with pink flowered Eriophytum wallichii, Meconopsis horridula (with electric blue flowers, yellow anthers, in racemose and scapose forms), M.discigera in its deep blue flowered form, Corydalis cashmeriana, Saxifraga andersonii and Androsace tapete, the nodding yellow flowers of Cremanthodium thomsonii, Bhutanthera himalayana and many other exciting plants. Near the passes are Saussurea gossipiphora, S. tridactyla, Primula macrocalyx, Gentiana urnula, Tanacetum gossypinum and compact Fritillaria delavayi.

Along the paths between camp sites we will see Lamiophlomis rotata, Meconopsis primulina, Thermopsis barbata, Pedicularis siphonantha,   Primula sikkimensis, P. alpicola, P. calderiana, P. capitata, P. bellidifolia, P. walshii and Sausurrea obvallata. In slightly damper areas, Pedicularis longiflora var. tubiformis , P. integrifolia, Primula tibetica, P. sappharina, Saxifraga lychnitis and S. melanocentra occur.

On well drained slopes at high altitude may be found Soroseris hookeriana, macrocalyx, C. incanus, C.lobatus, Rheum nobile, Swertia multicaulis, Anemone rupicola, pink & white Arenarias and several species of Rhodiola, while in the protection of the bushes are Lilium nanum (inyellow and purple forms), Meconopsis sinuata, M.simplicifolia and Fritillaria cirrhosa.

In addition to these plants of open habitats, we shall see some of the most pristine Himalayan woodland, with a wealth of trees, and herbaceous plants such as Maianthemum oleraceum Primula geraniifolia, Thalictrum chelidonii, Cardiocrinum giganteum, Notholirion macrophyllum, Megacodon stylophorus and sevaral species of Arisaema.


TOUR OUTLINE


Day 01: Arrival
Day 02: Acclimatization Day 1.
Day 03: Acclimatization Day 2.
Day 04: Shana, 2850m, to Thongdu Zampa, 3250m. 6 hours.
Day 05: Thongdu Zampa, 3250m, to Gezampa, 3730m. 8 hours.
Day 06: Gezampa, 3730m, to Jangothang, 4090m. 6-7 hours.
Day 07: Static Camp. Acclimatization day, local botanising.
Day 08: Jangothang, 4090m, to Nyile La Shong, 4730m. 6-7 hours.alt
Day 09: Static Camp. Botanising corrie to Nyile La, 4890m.
Day 10: Nyile La Shong, 4730m, to Bonte La Shong, 4700m. 6-7 hours.alt
Day 11: Bonte La Shong Static Camp: Botanising to Nachuing La, 4830m.
Day 12: Bonte La Shong, 4700m, to Yaksa, 3800m. 6-7 hours.alt
Day 13: Yaksa, 3800m, to Thongbu Shong, 4120m. 6-7 hours.
Day 14: Thongbu Shong, 4120m, to Shana, 2850m. 6-7 hours.alt
Day 15: Deparature

DETAIL ITINERARY

Day 01: Arrival
Fly to Bhutan along the chain of the Great Himalaya and, if the weather is kind, you will have views of several 8000m peaks including Qomolungma, more commonly known in the West as Mount Everest, and Kanchenjunga, before our descent into Bhutan’s only airport at Paro. This is an exciting one as it is done on visual approach without radar, the final few kilometres along a narrow valley between forested ridges and passing Paro Dzong, the fortified centre of administration of the district.

The airport is one of the most attractive in the world with the terminal buildings being built in distinctive Bhutanese style where the staff are dressed in national dress and have a genuine pride in visitors taking pictures of them.
Once you have completed formalities you will meet our Guide Chenda, the owner of Lonely Bhutan Tours and Trek, who will accompany you to your hotel in Paro. During the transfer you look up to Paro Dzong and appreciate its fortress structure as you follow the valley, past the archery ground into the town. From the hotel you can walk out into this small town to get a feel for daily life and to visit shops.

Day 02: Acclimatization Day 1.
To begin your explorations you can set out by vehicle upstream along the course of the Pachhu, the river which runs through Paro, and along which you may see farmlands and farm houses. Crossing the river to right you rise through more farm lands and blue pine forest to a car park from you look up to the Taktsang Monastery, also known as the Tiger’s Nest, one of Buddhism’s most venerated pilgrimage sites. This is your destination for the day, an acclimatizing steep walk of 3 hours or so, with the first section on forest paths to a tea room, another forest section to a much closer second viewpoint and then by steep stone paths down and up to the Monastery itself. After this wonderful experience you will retrace your steps to the vehicle and with a possible stop at a local farmhouse for an inside look at the daily life of a traditional rural family you will return along the valley to your hotel in Paro.

Day 03: Acclimatization Day 2.   
Today you will drive steadily up the valley side to the South West en route for the Chele La, at 3750m the highest road pass in the country, from where you shall walk through the mixed tree and shrub layer out into more open areas. The varied habitats, including rock outcrops, provide an interesting introduction to the flora of Bhutan.  After your first Bhutan picnic lunch you shall make a slow descent through the forest, with time for botanising, back to Paro.      
Day o4: Shana, 2850m, to Thongdu Zampa, 3250m. 6 hours.

For the next few days you shall have the Pachhu, the river of the Paro valley, as your companion as you follow its course to its source. You will be driven to North, with views across to Taktsang Goemba, to the roadhead at Drukgyel Dzong and  to Gunetsawa on a dirt road for about one hour to begin your trek. Here all our main bags are loaded onto ponies while we carry just our cameras, water bottles, wet weather clothing and umbrellas, and any other personal gear in our small day sacks.

Immediately after a short trek you leave behind the settlements of Shana and enter Jigme Dorji Wildlife Sanctuary, the largest of the protected areas within the country. The list of mammals it harbors is very impressive but close to our path, the main trade route through the area, you would be lucky to catch sight of them. You shall see a good selection of birds, and as with the flora, woodland species on this and the next day. You follow the river closely and cross by bridge to your camp at Thongdu Zampa.  The sound of the river lulls all so well that everyone enjoys it misses it later. 

Day 05: Thongdu Zampa, 3250m, to Gezampa, 3730m. 8 hours.
From Thongdu Zampa you will continue to follow the river and cross back again to have it on your right as you gradually rise. The valley narrows and a bridge takes a path off to link towards where you willl be a week’s time. Your path takes you through thinning woodland with interesting river flats to a camp on a meadow from which you can look up to high pastures with grazing yaks, high rock ridges and corries. On your approach to Gezampa camp, 3730m, you may see the snow dome of Chomolhari, 7314m, beyond this green and brown foreground. You are high above the river and the pastures between is full of flowers which you can begin to look at this evening if time allows.

Day 06: Gezampa, 3730m, to Jangothang, 4090m. 6-7 hours.   
Setting out through the broad expanses of Primula sikkimensis and the plants of the nearby meadow even the first kilometrealt will be time consuming, such is the number of botanical distractions. Your lunch stop on a broad flat meadow, with the river below, has more surprises in store and you begin to become to seeing yaks and the herders’ dwellings as well as seeing the soe community settlements nearby.  Finally you reach a bridge which takes you past a huge boulder adorned with prayer flags, beyond which is the stone building at the heart of the Jangothang campsite. Close by, overlooking it, is the ruined Dzong, beyond which the enormous snow covered South East face of Chomolhari fills the side valley head.

Day 07: Static Camp. Acclimatization day, local botanising.
As you have two nights at Jangothang, to aid acclimatization now that you have reached 4000m+, this be taken as a Rest Day if required, with opportunities for botanising close by. There are other options, with an approach towards Chomolhari probably the most appealing. Whatever you choose you should probably take the chance to catch up with washing and drying laundry at some point.

Day 08: Jangothang, 4090m, to Nyile La Shong, 4730m. 6-7 hours.alt
Leaving the campsite you lose your view of Chomolhari as soon as you depart, but in less than 15 minutes the main valley opens out to your left with the Pachhu, which you have followed all the way from your starting point, issuing from the terminal moraine. Beyond this is a huge cirque with Jichu Drake, 6989m, a shapely spire of snow and ice at its head and you should have wonderful views as you cross the Pachhu for the last time and rise quite steeply up the opposite valley side to the shoulder. You enter a long gently rising hanging valley, along which your progress will be punctuated by botanising stops and photography, with the lure of the screes on your left throughout its length. Passing yak herders’ tents, and aware of the beasts themselves, you look across the river to huge side valleys beyond before turning uphill steeply again for the short rise to Nyile La Shong campsite. The trail to camp and welcoming tea is good, but taking a short cut can be very time consuming as the wet pasture in the last half kilometre is full of delectable plants. Your camp is at 4730m in a huge corrie, over the rim of which the snow top of Tsherim Kang, 6526m, appears and, with a waxing moon light at this time, clear night skies would give you a wonderful experience.

Day 09: Static Camp. Botanising corrie to Nyile La, 4890m.
You are camped in the realms of the Tibetan Snowcock and in the first hints of light you shall hopefully be aware of their eerie calls as they feed in the heath above. After breakfast you will begin your search of the corrie, at first across yak pasture and then moving into an incredibly rich low heath with many sentinel  Reumnobile at its upper edge. These are collected for medicine but you should be ahead of the collectors. Continuing round at various levels the screes and outcrops will give you continuing botanical interest until you reach the Nyile La itself, the pass at 4890m, and from which you can walk up again amongst the cushions of Androsace tapete. Throughout the day the camp is almost continuously visible below and your lunch will catch up with you wherever you are at the appointed time, such is the tremendous service which your crew gives you. You aim to stay high for as long as possible but the wet pasture in the bowl will also be explored before you return to camp late afternoon.

Day 10: Nyile La Shong, 4730m, to Bonte La Shong, 4700m. 6-7 hours.alt
Today you turn downhill from your high camp to retrace your steps through the hanging valley along which you walked on

Day 8. Having already botanist these slopes you should try to avoid too many diversions as you go along here because there is much new ground to explore later. At the end you turn South and contour round, with Jichu Drake to your right and your previous campsite at Jangothang way below. Once you enter the Tso Phu valley you look along its length to the two lakes at its head and the screes on the slopes on your left as you approach them hold much interest for yourself, while the damp meadows by the lakes hold a different flora. You will assend up at the valley head on the route to the Bonte La and to your campsite at Chazhi thang, common habitat of elusive snow leapord, another high camp, though.

Day 11: Bonte La Shong Static Camp: Botanising to Nachuing La, 4830m.   
You will be in exploration mode as you have found no records show that anyone has botanised this area. As at Nyile La Shong your high camp here gives you close access to high alpines and you can spend as much time as possible seeking out its treasures.

Day 12:Bonte La Shong, 4700m, to Yaksa, 3800m. 6-7 hours.alt
A short steep ascent will take you to the Bonte La, 4890m, the highest pass which you cross by trail on this trek. You will spend time botanising at the top and if it is an auspicious day, you may help the crew
to put up some prayer flags as well. On the other side of the pass, you descend past the rocky cliffs of Yaksathang, traverse the wildflower meadows at their base, and camp at a picturesque site with a waterfall at the far end of the valley, just below the tree line.

Day 13: Yaksa, 3800m, to Thongbu Shong, 4120m. 6-7 hours.
altYou start with a gradual climb above the tree line, past hillsides covered with rhododendron and azalea thickets, before a further lift takes you up over the Tagilung La (Windhorse Pass), 4540m. In very clear conditions Kanchenjunga, 8586m, the third highest mountain on earth is visible from the peak to the east of the pass, and in exceptional air, Makalu, even further off in Nepal. Beyond you descend to grassy meadows where herds of yak graze during the summer months.  The campsite is surrounded by snow-streaked peaks.

Day 14: Thongbu Shong, 4120m, to Shana, 2850m. 6-7 hours.alt
A steep but relatively short climb takes you above the valley to the Memla 4270m, beyond which you
traverse an incredibly beautiful garden of wildflowers. It is intriguing to speculate on what this might contain. Thereafter you begin the steep descent to Shana, where you started the trek. Your trek ends here and you will be drive to your hotel  in Paro.

Day 15: Deparature
You will be driven to paro airport for onward departure.

ACCOMMODATION


Hotel / Resort