Snowlion Trek: ( Darjeeling/Bhutan)
Tiger's Nest ( Paro )
Enjoy captivating scenes of tea gardens and small villages as we drive four hours via back roads to Darjeeling. Check into the Hotel. The British originally established Darjeeling as a hill station in the mid 1800s. People come up here to escape the heat of the plains. Pleasantly surrounded by tea plantations on all sides, we can enjoy magnificent views of snowy peaks including Kanchendzonga. Overnight at hotel.
Day 02: Darjeeling:
Take an early morning trip to Tiger Hill to see the sunrise. Tiger Hill is the highest spot in the area at 8,500 ft and is famous for its dawn views of the Eastern Himalayas including on the clearest days Mt. Everest. On return, visit the famous Ghoom monastery which enshrines an image of the Maitreya Buddha ( the coming Buddha ).
A small donation is customary. The monks are friendly and will probably invite us to join them for a cup of salty yak butter tea ( think of it as a light soup or broth as you drink it ). We may take a short ride 4.5 miles back to Darjeeling from Ghoom on the famous toy train. Completed in 1882 the railway connected Darjeeling with the rest of British India. Our ride, although short, will give us a chance to admire the Batasia loop, one of four complete loops and five switchbacks maneuvered on this feat of engineering. After lunch visit the Himalayan Mountaineering institute, zoological park, Tibetan refugee self help centre which is a popular place to shop for arts and crafts. Overnight at hotel, Darjeeling.
Day 03: Darjeeling – Maneybhanjyang – Tonglu:
Drive about an hour from Darjeeling to Maneybhanjyang which is the starting point of our first trek and is a small village inhabited by Sherpas and Nepalis. We trek through evergreen forests and hillsides covered with wild flowers until we reach Tonglu. Camp at Tonglu ( 10,000 ft ) where one can get a breathtaking mountain view overlooking Darjeeling.
Day 04: Tonglu – Sandakhpu:
On the second day, the ridgeline leads one through bamboo glades and farmlands with quaint little villages habited by warm and friendly people. The route is fairly level while one reaches Gairabas about 9 kms from Tonglu. From here one encounters a steep climb which is adequately compensated by incredible scenic beauty. This 4 kms climb brings one to Kalpokhri. The dark Crystal Lake simmering in the breeze surrounded by alpine trees is a remarkable sight. Another steep ascent for 2.5 kms and a gradual walk downhill for 1.5 km bings one to Bikhebhanjyang ( 10,200 ft ). The final ascent of 4 kms which is the most challenging in terms of steepness, through thick rhododendron and magnolia forsts leads one to Sandakhpu, ( 11,800 ft ) meaning the height of the poison plant. It is here one encounter nature’s pristine glory at its magnificent best. The four of the world’s highest mountains all 8000 meters high towering over you at an incredibly close distance presents you with a sight you will never forget. The snow-clad arc of the Eastern Himalayas with Everest, Kanchendzonga, Makalu and Lhotse in all its majesty is worth every mile one has traversed to be here.
Day 05: Sandakhpu – Phalut – Ramman:
The fourth day is a relatively easy day of trekking 21 kms but in terms of scenic beauty, it is the most fascinating. All along, the route rhododendrons of different hues, magnolias, chestnut oak emerging out of the mysterious mists – the stately silver fir greet one. All along, the imposing Himalayas loom large on the western horizon. The final stretch is almost bereft of vegetation owing to the sweeping icy winds. The clusters of rhododendron trees standing at a maximum height of 6 feet look like magnified bonsai. Phalut or the denuded peak is the junction of Nepal, India, Sikkim. We continue with a knee wobbling descent downhill into the Rammam river valley. This trek through rugged terrain brings one to a spectacularly picturesque village Samanden, better know as the ‘lost valley’. A further walk of 2 kms brings one to Ramman ( 8,400 ft )- the campsite for the night.
Day 06: Ramman – Rimbick - Darjeeling:
The walk to Rimbick ( 7,400 ft ) is another picturesque trek of 19 kms. The first 9 kms is a level path through forest of flowering trees. Rare orchids present another wonderful sight. The rest of the way is a slow gentle descent as each turn and bend allows a glimpse into the rich biodiversity. On arrival drive to Darjeeling. Hotel.
Day 07: Darjeeling – Phuntsoling ( Bhutan ).
After breakfast drive to Phuntsoling which takes us approximately 5 hours as we prepare for our second trek in the magical Kingdom of Bhutan.. Stop for immigration at the border town of Jaigaon and then enter in Bhutan. Overnight in Phuntsoling ( Bhutan )
Day 08: Phuntsoling - Paro
Todays drive is approximately 6.5 hours as we leave the plains of India and start our climb up into the mountains. Along the way stop for lunch at a small cafeteria for some traditional Bhutanese food. On arrival to Paro, check into the hotel.
Day 09: Paro
Day excursion to Taktsang Monastery / Tiger’s Nest, the most spectacular monastery and probably the most photographed one in Bhutan, in a way a symbol of Bhutan. It is said that Guru Rinpoche arrived here on the back of a tigress and meditated at this monastery hence it is called “Tiger’s Nest”. The excursion to monastery’s view point takes about 5 hours for round trip. Lunch will be served at the cafeteria, followed by a short walk back. Evening at leisure. Overnight in Paro.
Day 10: Paro - Shana (start trek)
Distance 15 km/9.3 miles; Time 5 hour
Drive up to Drukyel Dzong (north of Paro) where the motor-able road ends. The ruins of Drukgyel Dzong with Mount Chomolhari behind – a wonderful vista for the start of this trek. Our trekking staff and the first group of pack animals are met here. The trek to Shana starts along a dirt road for 1 hour through a wide, rich, cultivated valley, beneath forest-covered mountains, following the Paro Chu (river). Beware of the sun, which can be very fierce at this altitude. The first small settlement encountered is Tsento Zampa, where the traditional Bhutanese farmhouses with bright red chillies drying on their roofs in season. Farmers in this upper valley mostly grow red rice, potatoes and wheat.
The trek continues on the east side of the river, gently through the forests alive with numerous birds and brightly colored butterflies. And after 2.5 hours the big military camp at Gunitsawa is reached. The camp has a school and some shops, and your trekking permit will be checked at the camp entrance. After 20 minutes through forest, you will suddenly see the camp in a big open field at Shana, near the river. Looking back from camp you can see a big snowy peak, Jo Drakey. Altitude of Shana: 2890 m/9480 ft.
Day 11: Shana - Thangthangka
Distance 22 km/13.6 miles; Time 7-8 hour
Today is a hard day, with a lot of distance to cover. The altitude gain is also above the limit. The trail after lunch is rough and stony with many rises and drops. Following the river upstream from the campsite about 10 minutes is the old ruined Shana bridge, destroyed by major flood caused by glacial lake outbursts in 1950’s. This bridge was used in the old days by travelers coming from or going to Phari in Tibet. The trail climbs steadily through a heavily forested area of oak, rhododendron, bamboo and ferns. After crossing a small house, Shing Karap is reached. Not far after Shing Karap, we pass a junction en-route, where another path leads up the easy, forbidden pass of Tremo La and onwards to the city of Phari in Tibet. This used to be the old trading route. Following the main river upstream, the trail makes a short steep climb and descent followed by a big bridge at 3250 m, crossing to the east side of the river is Thongo Zam, a possible lunch spot. The trek to Thangthangka continues for about 3-4 hours through the forest consisting of birch, fir,larch, maple, blue pine and rhododendron. After a short climb we reach Seyende Zam where there is a big chorten (stupa). On clear weather we can see Mt. Chomolhari to the North. We finally continue further up about 20-30 minutes until we reach our camp in a meadow. Altitude of Thangthangka: 3575m/11,730 ft.
Day12: Thangthangka - Jangothang
Distance 17 km/10.5 miles; Time 4-5 hour
After enjoying the view to Chomolhari and breakfast, walk for 1 hr until we pass a small army post. The trail slowly leaves the forest line and gradually climbs into a beautiful valley, passing Tegethang, a winter home of yak herdsmen. Lunch will be served in one of these huts. Lots of yaks will be seen today before we arrive at Jangothang, the Chomolhari base camp. This valley is wide, and high mountains like Chomolhari, Jichu Drake overlook the camp and visible nearby are the ruins of an old fortress. Altitude of Jangothang: 4044m/13,260 ft.
Day 13: Jangothang
A rest day at Chomolhari camp will help with acclimatization. There are some good hikes from Chomolhari camp, and is important to hike today so that you will acclimatize. The best hike is towards east up to the twin lakes of Tsho Phu. From the lakes there is a spectacular view back to Chomolhari and Jichu Drake mountains. Watch out for a herd of Himalayan Blue Sheep in this valley.
Day 14: Jangothang - Lingshi
Distance 21 km/13 miles; Time 6-7 hour
After breakfast walk north to the last of the three houses and cross a log bridge crossing the stream. A steep switchback trail starts climbing out of the valley into another that leads to the final climb and pass. It is a long climb about 3-4 hours to reach the first high and very windy pass of this trek, the Nyelela Pass “sleepy pass” (4890m/16,040 ft). From Nyelela Pass one can see far towards the east-northeast into the trekking area covered over the next couple of days. The Mt. Takaphu dominates the view towards the north. Gangchen Ta “Tiger Mountain” is the main mountain to be seen looking east.
From the pass, descend a short, steep section with loose stones. Less than 30 minutes down is a flat, more sheltered area – a good lunch spot. Continue to descend and after passing a narrow gorge with a small river crossing, the trail is easy, leading to a viewing point from which Lingshi Dzong can be seen - a powerful, solitary structure in the middle of an enormous wilderness. Campsite is located next to a river. Altitude of Lingshi: 4010m/13,150 ft.
Day 15: Lingshi - Shodu
Distance 22 km/13.6 miles; Time 8 hours
A long and a hard day to cross another beautiful pass. Start early through the rhododendron forest on the ridge above the camp in an easterly direction towards a small chorten (stupa). Turn a corner and go south into a valley with few trees. Below flows the No chhu (Blue river). The climb rises steadily to reach an altitude of 4450 m and crossing the main river to its right into a big side of the valley. The last part of the climb is through an area with large boulders and several switch backs. Finally after 4-5 hours (after leaving camp) reach the big cairn on the top of the Yale La Pass (4,950m/16,235 ft), with views of the snowy mountains around Lingshi and the Basingthang Peaks to the south. The descent joins the Jaradinthang Chhu, which becomes the Thimphu river. The trail takes an easterly direction following the river until the camp Shodu. Altitude of Shodu: 4080m/13,380 ft.
Day 16: Shodu - Barshong
Distance 14 km/8.7 miles; Time 4-5 hours
In the morning pass a deserted military camp and follows the trail to the river through the limestone valley. Monks use the caves in the rocks in the old days for meditation. Cross the bridges over the main river, which offer good views of giant rockfaces and water falls. Towards the end of today’s trek the trail is gradually ascends 130 m to the Barshong Dzong ruins. The Park rangers recorded a tiger and a snow leopard moving in this same area for the first time. You could opt to carry on for 1.5 hour to a better campsite. Altitude of Barshong: 3720m/12,200 ft
Day 17: Barshong - Dodiana (trek end) Thimphu
Distance 22 km/13.6 miles; Time 7-8 hours
The trail is steep descent on a rocky trail ending at the Thimphu Chhu river. There are several ups and downs until Dolam Kencho 3290 m. The trail continue up to a cairn at 3450 m and descends to a side stream and several switchbacks to descend a vertical cliff finally reaching the last stretch to Dodina. The trail descends through bamboo forests, following the mule trail high above the river until it finally meets it again at Dodina, where our transport will be waiting to take us to Thimphu, capital city of Bhutan. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 18: Thimphu - Paro
Sightseeing of Thimphu valley includes the National Library, Traditional Medicine Institute, Arts & Crafts School, Textile and Folk Heritage Museum, National Memorial Chorten, Zilukha Nunnery, Traditional paper factory, Zilukha Nunnery, Takin mini Zoo, Handicrafts Emporium, local shops. Finally visit to Tashichho dzong, houses most of the Government's office and King's Throne room. Evening depart to Paro. Overnight at the hotel in Paro.
Day 19: Depart Paro (by Druk Air)
After early breakfast in the hotel, drive to the airport for flight to onward destination.