10 DAYS - SAMTENGANG WINTER TREK

The Samtengang Trek is one of the easier lower altitude treks in Bhutan. It explores some of the beautiful forests, many remote historical and religious sites and isolated villages in and above the Punakha & Wangdi Valley. Weather permitting, it also offers stunning views of mountainous peaks including Jumolhari (7315m), Kang Bum Peak located above Gasa (6300m) and Tiger Mountain (Gangcheta 6840m) north of Laya. Some of the climbs may be steep and challenging. This trek is especially recommended in winter as there is the possibility of leeches on the trail in summer.

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10 DAYS - SAMTENGANG TREK  (9 NIGHTS/10DAYS)

DAY 1:  ARRIVE PARO - THIMPHU

Your guide will receive you at Paro airport exit doors and help you check in to your hotel.     Afternoon sightseeing around Paro, including a visit to the Ta Dzong Museum housing many religious relics, works of art and handicrafts offering a great orientation into Bhutan's historical, cultural and religious past.  Next drive to 7th C Kyichu Lhakhang, one of 108 temples said to have been constructed in a single day by the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo.  The temple is built in a manner similar to the Jokhang in Lhasa and houses a great golden image of Buddha Shakyamuni.  Afterwards, drive to Thimphu.

Overnight at hotel in Thimphu (2400m)

DAY 2:  THIMPHU

We have a full day to tour and visit the capital of Bhutan as per interests.  Places of interest are Memorial Chorten, Takin Preserve, Zilukha nunnery, Traditional Art School, Hospital for traditional medicine, National Library, Textile Academy and Museum, Changlimithang ground where you may see Archery, Centennial farmers’ market, which is more vibrant over the weekend (Fri-Sun) or you can spend half day hiking to Cheri or Tango Monastery north of Thimphu.  You can decide these activities with your guide when you are here.

Overnight at hotel in Thimphu  (2,400m)

DAY 3:  THIMPHU PUNAKHA (Drive - 2.5hr)

Drive over the Dochu-La pass (3,100 meters), which on a clear day offers an incredible view of Himalayan peaks before descending into balmy Punakha valley (about 3 hrs total driving time). The drive through the countryside affords a glimpse of everyday life in this most remote of Himalayan kingdoms. In the Dochu-La area there are vast Rhododendron forests that grow to tree size and bloom in late April/early May covering the mountains in a riot of glorious spring colour.

Punakha was the ancient capital of Bhutan. On arrival, visit Punakha Dzong, the “Palace of Great Happiness” built in 1637 by the Shabdrung, the ‘Unifier of Bhutan’. It is the winter headquarters of the Je Khenpo and hundreds of monks who move en masse from Thimphu to this warmer location. The three story main temple of the Punakha Dzong is a breathtaking example of traditional architecture with four intricately embossed entrance pillars crafted from cypress and decorated in gold and silver. It was here in 1907 that Bhutan’s first king was crowned.

Afterwards enjoy a short walk to Chimi Lhakhang, temple of the Drukpa Kuenly who is also known as the Divine Madman. He inherited the Divine Madman title since he revolted against the orthodox Buddhism in his time. He taught the people that religion is an inner feeling and it’s not necessary that one should be an ordained monk. He is also considered a symbol of fertility and most childless couples go to his temple for blessing. 

Overnight at hotel in Punakha (1300m)   

DAY 4:  PUNAKHA – LIMBUKHA (9km, 4hrs. 940m ascent)

The trek starts upstream from the Punakha Dzong, over the longest suspension bridge in Bhutan (180m) across the Pho Chhu. Climb gently on the left side of the Pho Chhu through terraced field of mustard and winter wheat. The Punakha valley is low enough to enable two harvests, so there is plenty of activity in the field in the winter months. The valley also produces tropical fruits such as bananas and oranges.

After about a 2.5hr hike uphill through pine forest, fern, oak and some rhododendron, there is a nice clearing for lunch with a big prayer flag and a beautiful view over the valley. In the distance the huge chorten, Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal, can be seen.

A chorten and some prayer flags on the skyline at 2200m indicate the end of today’s climb. From the chorten you can see towards Wangdi and Limbukha where our campsite (2220m) is located just behind the village on a beautiful green area (1.5hr).

DAY 5:  LIMBUKHA – CHUNGSAKHA (10km, 4hrs. 375m ascent, 745m descent)

Today’s route climbs steeply (150m) up to a small ridge (2370m) through a cold dense forest. From here, we descend steeply into a small valley where we cross a small stream (2235m).

After about 2hrs of climbing we reach a small pass, Dochen La (2645m) littered with prayer flags and on clear days, a good view of Dochu La, Jumolhari, Kang Bum, Tiger Mountain, as well as Talo Lhakhang and Nobgang Lhakhang down in the valley. From this pass, the trail descends steadily along a forest trail.

The forest opens after reaching Dagegon from where can see Samtengang village and Chhuni Gompa, and we traverse past Dargyel Gompa, an old monastery of Drukpa Kinley, the` Divine Mad Madman’, whose teaching methods often shocked monks and lay people. On the hillside above the monastery are several small meditations cells.

At 1850m Chungsakha (Chhungsekha) is reached. The village has one temple with a simple yet sacred chapel on the first floor. The monastery has a festival every three years with masked dances and songs.

Overnight at campsite near Lhakhang (1850m)

DAY 6: CHUNGSAKHA – SAMTENGANG (4km, 2.5-3hrs. 550m ascent, 350m descent)

Descend to the road in 45min and find a suspension bridge crossing the Bae Chhu 1500m. The trail from here is clear, and moderately steep passing through several villages. The trail goes through small deeply eroded gorges.  In December, the daphne flower blooms in abundance.

The climb ends for the day when you pass Samtengang High School. Walk through a narrow gorge to the other side at 2000m and look down towards a holy lake, Lutshokha (Tsho Shokha). Afterwards continue to the campsite, located a little further on the other side of the lake, in the forest below the village of Samtengang.

After lunch there will be plenty of time either to visit Samtengang or relax at camp enjoying the fresh wind blowing through the pines.

Overnight at campsite (2050m)

DAY 7: SAMTENGANG – TIKA ZAM/CHHUZOMSA (1.5-2km, 3hrs. 495m descent)

Starting near camp, the trail today is steep and challenging. It passes through endless agricultural fields, heading into the valley of the Dang Chhu. The road will be reached next to the bridge at Tika Zam (5100ft/1555m) where your transport will be waiting to drive you to Wangdue.

Overnight at a hotel in Wangdue (1300m) 

DAY 8:  WANGDUE - PARO

This morning visit Wangduephodrang Dzong. The fortress built in 1639 is strategically perched on a spur at the confluence of two rivers. In the 17th century Wangduephodrang played a critical role in unifying the western, central, and southern regions of the country.  Drive back to Thimphu where you will enjoy lunch and have an opportunity to visit handicraft and souvenir stores.  Afterwards proceed to Paro.

Overnight at  hotel in Paro (2300m)

DAY 9:  PARO

After breakfast hike to Taktsang Monastery. The trail is broad and the walk of approximately 1.5 to 2 hours uphill takes you high above the Paro valley. The view of Taktsang Monastery built on a sheer cliff face 900 metres above the valley floor is a spectacular sight. The Monastery is also an important pilgrim site for the Buddhists. The great Guru Rimpoche is said to have flown here on the back of a tigress when he brought the teachings of the Buddhist Dharma to Bhutan in the 8th Century. Nearby there is a teahouse where you can stop for refreshments before returning to Paro for lunch.

In the afternoon drive to the ruins of the 17th Century Drukgyel Dzong, an historic monument built by the Shabdrung to commemorate his victory against marauding Tibetans in 1644.  In fine weather the towering peak of Mount Jomolhari (7314m) appears as a stunning backdrop.  On the return drive to Paro, visit 7th Century Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the 108 temples constructed by the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo. Kyichu is built in a manner similar to the Jokhang in Lhasa. Inside there is a great golden image of Buddha Shakyamuni.

Overnight at  hotel in Paro (2300m

DAY 10:  DEPART PARO

Breakfast in the hotel, then drive to the airport for flight to your onward destination.

INCLUDED IN OUR TAILOR MADE BHUTAN TREKS

  • Bhutan Tourist Tariff Royalty & Visa fees.

  • Vehicle for all private excursions and transfers

  • .Local English speaking trekking guide/tour leader.

  • Cook and camp hand to take care of camp chores and provide wholesome meals.

  • Services of horsemen who will look after the yaks & ponies that transport luggage and camp gear.

  • Experienced driver.

  • Accommodation in high standard government approved hotels & guesthouses.

  • All meals in Bhutan.

  • All entrance fees and permits

NOT INCLUDED

  • All personal expenses such as bars, beverages, laundry, telephone and tips.

  • Medical / Travel Insurance.