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Holidays

East Bhutan - Merak and Sakteng Trek

Bhutan
Walk & Trek
Guided Group
MODERATE MODERATE

Explore the rich cultural diversity of Bhutan from Sakteng in the East to Paro in the West

Trip Code: BMS
Holiday Grades

Our Holiday Grades Explained

To show the relative difficulty of our holidays, each trip is graded on a scale of 1 to 12, with 12 being the most challenging. Although we have tried to make our grading system as clear as possible, it cannot take into account your personal interests, abilities or experience. If you have any questions about the nature of a particular trip or its suitability for you, please read the 'Is this holiday for you?' section or contact us.

 1 - 3 LEISURELY
1 - 3 LEISURELY

Suitable for most people in good health, holidays at this grade include only limited amounts of activity.

View leisurely holidays
4 - 6 MODERATE
4 - 6 MODERATE

Suitable for reasonably fit individuals, such as weekend walkers and cyclists. There can be the occasional more difficult day.

View moderate holidays
7 - 9 CHALLENGING
7 - 9 CHALLENGING

Physically challenging holidays, where you need to be prepared before you go.

View challenging holidays
10 - 12 TOUGH
10 - 12 TOUGH

Our toughest holidays, involving many long days, often in isolated areas. A high level of fitness and previous wilderness and mountain experience is essential.

View Tough holidays

East Bhutan - Merak and Sakteng Trek

Highlights
  • Spend 5 days trekking in Far Eastern Bhutan combined with hikes in Bumthang and Paro
  • Meet nomadic tribes and visit the Brokpa villages of Merak and Sakteng
  • Stay in a historic family owned guesthouse and go birdwatching at Yongkola
  • Explore a lesser-visited region of Bhutan and see a way of life unchanged for centuries
  • Time your holiday to join the festivities at the Trashigang or Gomphu Gora festivals

At a Glance
  • Group Size 4 to 16
  • 9 days trekking
  • Max altitude - 4140 metres
  • Join In Kathmandu

Accommodation & Meals
  • All meals included
  • 9 nights Hotel
  • 1 nights Farmstay
  • 4 nights Camping
  • 1 nights Guesthouse
  • All meals included
  • 4 nights Camping
  • 9 nights Hotel
  • 1 nights Farmstay
  • 1 nights Guesthouse
Overview

This new trekking holiday to the villages of Merak and Sakteng in East Bhutan offers the unique chance to experience the semi-nomadic lifestyle of the Brokpa, a race of Tibetan origin with their own culture and dress, whilst walking through the beautiful pastoral valleys of the protected Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary. Visitors to this part of Bhutan have been few, partly due to the logistics of getting there but also because the villages have been off-limits to travellers until recently. A relaxation of the rules in 2018, a lower tariff for visitors to this area and new domestic flights from Paro to Trashigang has changed all that. East Bhutan is now the New Bhutan, for a while at least.



Our holiday begins with a domestic flight from Paro to Bumthang, where we walk through forest and villages, sampling a way of life unchanged for centuries. Continuing by road to Trashigang, we spend a night in an historic family owned guesthouse and visit the natural bird-sanctuary at Yongkola, before beginning our 5 day trek. The Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary is a lost world of biodiversity waiting to be discovered and just as fascinating are our overnight stays in Merak and Sakteng, where the Brokpas still practice a barter economy, trading cheese, butter and dried yak meat for grains and other goods, much as they have centuries past. We return to the west from the newly opened air-strip above Trashigang, enjoying a spectacular ‘fly past’ along the Himalaya to Paro. In Paro we will certainly have time visit Paro Dzong and hike to the incredible cliff-hanging Tiger’s Nest Monastery (either pre or post trek depending on departure).


BOOK EARLY for BHUTAN! Seats on internal flights are limited and in high demand. Book early to guarantee your place. 

Is this holiday for you?

This holiday is perfect for anyone looking for a mix of trekking and culture. On our 5 day trek you will be walking through a variety of landscapes; ranging from farmland, alpine pasture land, and some of the finest mixed forest in the world. We will be following well-used trails walked regularly by families from the villages. You should be comfortable with walking for up to 7 hours each day, inte …

This holiday is perfect for anyone looking for a mix of trekking and culture. On our 5 day trek you will be walking through a variety of landscapes; ranging from farmland, alpine pasture land, and some of the finest mixed forest in the world. We will be following well-used trails walked regularly by families from the villages. You should be comfortable with walking for up to 7 hours each day, interspersed with shorter days to allow for exploration time at the villages. Remember that you will be trekking at a moderately high altitude, which is more demanding than at lower elevations. This is a fully supported trek, and you will only be required to carry your day pack each day. Our friendly camp crew will take care of all the camp chores, so you can relax, rest, and enjoy the views.  We will spend some time driving on a newly surfaced mountain road to reach this remote area. However, by making use of the new internal flight service within Bhutan, we avoid the need for many long drives between the different regions of Bhutan.

Why KE?

We can't wait to show you East Bhutan, and with the introduction of flights from Paro to Yonphula, and a waiver on tourism fees for those heading East, there has never been a better time to visit!


Bhutan visa fees, all meals, and return flights from Kathmandu to Paro are included, and there’s even FREE sleeping bag and down jacket hire available too.

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Itinerary

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Arriving in Kathmandu you will be met outside the arrivals hall by a local KE representative who will arrange the transfer to the group hotel in the heart of the city; they will also supply you with a copy of your Bhutanese Visa, your ticket to Paro and details of the timings and where to meet the group the for the transfer back to the airport the following morning. The hotel is only a short walk from Thamel and flight time allowing you may have time for some independent sightseeing. We have also arranged for dinner in the hotel tonight, which you can take at your own leisure. KE Land Only package services begin with the airport transfer.

Accommodation

Hotel

Meals

D

After taking breakfast in the hotel, the group will meet in the lobby at a designated time and transfer together back to the airport in Kathmandu to check in for our flight to Paro, Bhutan. This is one of the most spectacular of all mountain flights. From the left side of the plane Everest, Makalu and Kangchenjunga, three of the world's highest mountains, are clearly visible. The total flying time is only 45 minutes and soon we are descending into the Paro Valley, enjoying views over forests, small monasteries, temples and flat-roofed farmhouses as we come in to land. On leaving the airport we will receive a warm welcome from our Bhutanese guides, who will most likely greet us in full traditional dress, before transferring the short distance to our hotel. There should be plenty of time this afternoon to take a stroll around Paro with our guide to help us acclimatise to the thinner air and to take care of any formalities, like obtaining local currency. Over dinner our guide will brief us on what to expect in the days ahead.

Accommodation

Hotel

Meals

B L D

This morning we make the stunning hike up to one of the most important religious site in the entire Himalaya, the Tiger's Nest. The monastery has a most stunning location, perched on the ledge of a cliff 900m above the Paro Valley. Not just a cultural experience, this hike up to over 3000m will provide some excellent acclimatisation ahead of our trek. Around half way up the trail there is a classic viewpoint for Taktsang, looking across the gorge to the monastic buildings clinging to the cliff wall opposite. There is a small teahouse located here where we can stop for a rest and a drink with a truly unforgettable view. The final approach to the monastery takes us down to a sacred waterfall, surrounded by a thousand fluttering prayer flags, where every crack in the rock is crammed with tsa-tsas (small caskets containing the ashes of the dead), before climbing back up towards the monastery. Leaving our bags and cameras at the gate we should hopefully be allowed to take a look around inside. As we explore amongst the chambers and altar rooms our guide will be on hand to explain all about the Buddhist rituals and iconography. We return to Paro in the afternoon.

Accommodation

Hotel

Meals

L D

Ascent

790 M

Descent

790 M

Time

5 hrs walking

Distance

8 KM

We take the short drive to the airport and board the domestic flight to Bumthang. It's a spectacular flight with views of the highest mountains in Bhutan to the north. The landscape changes dramatically as we fly eastward to land in a wide, forested alpine valley. We drive into town and to our hotel before setting off on a walking tour of the Bumthang Valley, recognized as one of the most beautiful and sacred in Bhutan. The Bumthang Valley has a history hallowed by the frequent visits of Guru Rimpochey - the Patron saint of Bhutan when he was bringing the Buddha's message to Bhutan. He meditated in many local caves which now have temples and shrines associated with them. The valley is wide, filled with fields and villagers busy with their day's work. We visit the Jambay Lhakhang (Lhakhang means temple), along with Kyichu Lhakhang in the Paro Valley, is one of the two oldest temples in Bhutan. It was built circa in the 7th century by King Songtsen Gampo of Tibet as a part of his pledge to build 108 temples to the Buddha during his lifetime. One of the most holy of Bhutan's religious sites, we will have the special permission necessary to visit this sacred temple. We continue to Kurjey, a 17th century temple next to which a spectacular new monastery is being built in traditional style. From Kurjey, we begin our walk through the countryside, crossing a bridge over the rushing Chamkhar Chu (river) and through ripening paddy fields to Tamshing . This temple complex was founded in 1501 by one of Bhutan's most famous saints, Pema Lingpa - the treasure discoverer. It is a monastery with many young monks in training. We continue past Tamshing and end our walk with a visit to the Swiss Project, an industrious complex that produces cheese, beer, apple juice and honey! After the tour we return to the hotel for evening drinks and a traditional Bhutanese dinner.

Accommodation

Hotel

Meals

B L D

Our hike today is along a rarely visited trail normally used only by local farmers crossing with their livestock to the Tang Valley. We cross the Phephe La (3530m) on an ancient trail used by the villagers of Tang and Chokor which continues beyond to Eastern Bhutan. In earlier days, before Bhutanese currency was introduced in the 1950s, it was used to trade goods and labor between farms and households. It's a short drive to the starting point of our walk and our vehicle will drop us at the Ngang Lhakhang to see the ruins of the Dapham Dzong where archeological works are currently being conducted by the swiss government. Our climb to the pass will take us through beautiful natural forest and could take as long as three hours to reach the Phephe La with a few rest stops on the way but there is no hurry. We take a picnic lunch at the pass before descending into the beautiful valley of Tang famous for its sheep and growing buckwheat. As we reach the road head, the villagers will be surprised to see foreigners and will offer a warm welcome to their visitors. A highlight of this holiday will by our night spent at the family owned Ogyen Choling Manor, built in 1898, the manor is a historic, cultural site, with its origin going back to the 14th Century. The central tower of the manor was converted to become the first private museum in Bhutan. The guest house is located on the hilltop overlooking the Tang village just outside the Museum, the complex also includes a temple. During our stay we will meet the current owners who are 20th generation descendants of the original owners! We will help the family preparing dinner and participate in cooking Bhutanese cuisines and local delicacies, which we can enjoy eating together in the cosy restaurant whilst listening to stories of the local myths and legends.

Accommodation

Farmstay

Meals

B L D

Time

6 - 7 hrs trekking

Distance

8 KM

After a hearty breakfast, we board the bus to continue our journey to the medieval looking village known as Ura, comprising of around 50 farm houses. We take a short break from the bus when we reach the Serthangla Pass (3590m) to walk downhill to the village on foot. Ura is famous for its wheat, buckwheat and potatoes. After lunch in one of the farmhouses we set off driving again along the switchback road to the Thrimshungla Pass (3780m), the highest road pass in Bhutan and the gateway to the East. We descend from here on long meandering road encountering cliffs and waterfalls before reach Yongkola in the afternoon. Bhutan is a bird watching paradise and this valley has one of the highest concentrations of birdlife in this part of Bhutan. We'll take a stroll in the nearby forest to see if we can spot some rare birds. Afterwards we continue our drive to Mongar.

Accommodation

Guesthouse

Meals

B L D

Time

1 - 2 hrs trekking

Distance

2 KM

We wake early to the sound of bird-song and with a guide, take a stroll in the nearby forest where hopefully you will catch a glimpse of some of the very rare birds that habit this valley - Black Bulbul, Blyth's Pipit, Bronzed Drongo, Gould's Shortwings, Redheaded Bullfinch, Speckled Piculet, Grey Wagtail, White throated Munia, White browed Blue Flycatcher, Yellow bellied Flowerpecker, Blue-bearded Bee-Eater, Parrotbill, Honeyguide, Red-vented Bulbul, Lesser racket-tailed Drongo, to name just a few! In the late morning we drive towards Trashigang. passing through the village of Mongar below the Korila Pass (2280m). We descend to Ngatsang and stretch our legs with a short hike to the village of Sherizam, from where we continue by bus to our hotel above the village of Trashigang.

Accommodation

Hotel

Meals

B L D

Today we drive to Chaling to begin our trek. We break our drive with a visit to Rangjung Monastery, founded as recently as 1989 by a few monks and nuns to study Buddha Dharma and to carry out Buddhist activities to help the local community. After lighting several butter lamps, we continue to Chaling, where our camp crew will load the ponies ready to begin our trek. In 2018, less than 40 people completed this trek, so we are unlikely to see other trekkers. It's a steady climb to begin with, through broad leaved forest and later mixed conifer and fir as we gain altitude. After a short while, we turn a corner to find our cook crew waiting for us with a delicious hot lunch served in a beautiful ridge top view point overlooking the dotted houses, terraced farmland and rice paddies along the Trashigang Valley. Unfortunately, we must leave this beautiful spot and follow the last stretch of a new dirt road to reach our camp in Chuthapthrap (3100m). The view opens out even more, both to the highest peaks in the north, including Gangkar Puensum, and towards the mountains of Arnuchal Pradesh and Tawang in India. The locals in Eastern Bhutan have for centuries maintained cordial relations with the villagers just across the border and still today barter farm products for clothes and salt.

Accommodation

Camping

Meals

B L D

Ascent

1000 M

Time

5 hrs trekking

Distance

6 KM

After a leisurely breakfast at the camp, we ascend for an hour and half to the Labtsa La (3400m) which is marked by many small stupas and prayer flags. The view opens up even more towards the highest unclimbed mountain in the world, Gangkar Puensum (7570m). We descend into one of the most beautiful valleys of the trek, through Rhododendron and Juniper, into the yak grazing grounds of Merak. Following the Merak river, we pass a large rock face with paintings of the Buddha and a welcome sign from the villagers Merak. We join a section of the new road that is being built to Merak, but we are few years away from seeing a vehicle yet. As we enter the village, it feels like we are stepping back in time, witnessing life as is has been for centuries. We are greeted warmly but with interest and curiosity, children running out to meet their new guests. English is taught in the village school and the children often like to say "hello" but the elders speak in their own Brokpa language, originating in Tibet, which is unique to this part of the world. We camp nearby the local administration office and will be joined in the evening by the locals to be offered some of the local 'Ara', a traditional alcoholic beverage made from rice, maize, millet, or wheat - possibly served from pitchers of buffalo horn.

Accommodation

Camping

Meals

B L D

Ascent

800 M

Time

6 - 7 hrs trekking

Distance

14 KM

This morning we have time to look inside a couple of the homes of the nomadic people of Merak. They are welcoming and will offer you "po cha", Tibetan butter tea which is drank across the Himalaya. The homes are simple, often with only three rooms, the kitchen which combines as the bedroom, an alter room and small storage room for grain. Electricity has recently arrived as part of a development project instigated the king of Bhutan and has improved the health and well-being of the villagers but some of the elders are still very wary of change! The Nyuksang La, the highest pass on our trek, is the agreed boundary of grazing land between the village of Merak and Sakteng. The pass is marked by stone cairn and prayer flags and we may even encounter snow. After photos from the high point, we descend via a holy site marked by an ancient stone stupa where our crew and the horseman will say their prayers and walk around the stupa three times. After lunch in a small meadow, we descend through the forest of fir and mixed conifer to our camp in a meadow (3063m).

Accommodation

Camping

Meals

B L D

Ascent

650 M

Time

6 - 7 hrs trekking

Distance

11 KM

We descend to the valley below following the trading route between Merak and Sakteng, accompanied by villagers with yaks carrying goods from Arunachal Pradesh. As the forest changes from conifer and fir to board leaves and maple trees we must ascend again, albeit to a lower pass at 3,105m for our first views of Sakteng (2800m), a relatively prosperous village with around 500 households all depending on cattle and yaks for their living. Crossing a wide river bed (Gamri Chu) used by the yaks for grazing and drinking, we have the feeling of arriving in a special place that is still rarely visited by outsiders - there are still no roads to Sakteng. Lunch is at our camp in the village and in the afternoon, we can walk up to the temple above the village, play dart games with the villagers or simply sit and reflect in this beautiful place. In the evening, we will be welcomed by the locals presenting their traditional folk dances .

Accommodation

Camping

Meals

B L D

Ascent

300 M

Time

3 - 4hrs trekking

Distance

6 KM

The final day of the trek is a three hour walk to the road head at the village of Thakthrik where we will meet our transport be picked up by the vehicle. We say our good byes from the chorten above the village and although the new road is getting closer, there is still a lovely walk through the forest to reach it. When we meet the bus, there are more farewells from the local crew and we set off on the three hour drive back to Trashigang.

Accommodation

Hotel

Meals

B L D

Ascent

250 M

Time

3 hrs trekking

Distance

5 KM

Today's flight is from the recently opened Yonphula airport above Trashigang. Depending on the flight timing which changes, todays sight-seeing would include a day hike in the morning in Trashigang or in the afternoon, once at Paro. The flight is truly spectacular crossing ride after ridge with views across all the mountains in northern Bhutan. After arriving into Paro we transfer to the Bhutanese capital, Thimphu, and check into our accommodation. This afternoon we have the option to enjoy a walk from Buddha Point to Changangka. Buddha Point is the site of the the Great Buddha Dordenma, the world's largest seated golden Buddha. We wll visit the temple, before setting off on our walk. Our path will take us through pine and rhodedendron forest to Changangkha monastery. We will enjoy some fanastic panoramic views of the Thimphu Valley and back towards Buddha Point.

Accommodation

Hotel

Meals

B L D

We spend the day sightseeing in Thimphu. We'll visit the textile museum where we can see some amazing examples of intricately woven costumes from all over Bhutan and watch some of the weavers in action and the takin sanctuary to see Bhutan's national animal. As we pass the archery ground we will look to see if there is an archery competition taking place. Archery is Bhutan's national sport and is taken extremely seriously. The rules of archery in Bhutan are unlike those in other countries. Here arrows must be fired an impressive 140m to hit an extremely small target. Each hit, or miss, is accompanied by dance and celebration or by great teasing and derision respectively. There will also be time for souvenir shopping before we make the drive back to Paro in the afternoon. Tonight we will enjoy our last dinner together in Bhutan.

Accommodation

Hotel

Meals

B L D

We have an early transfer to Paro Airport for the morning flight to Kathmandu. The flight takes only 45 minutes and on arrival we transfer to our comfortable hotel. The remainder of the day is free to explore the city or for shopping in the bazaars. An evening meal is included at the hotel, for those that wish to dine together, or you are free to head out into Thamel independently to a restaurant of your choice.

Accommodation

Hotel

Meals

B L D

KE Land Only package services end after breakfast. Transfers to Kathmandu airport are provided. There are lots of extensions that can easily be added to your holiday. Why not pre-book a simple full day-tour in the Kathmandu Valley, or a multi-day excursion to wildlife reserve at Chitwan. Contact the KE office for more details.

Meals

B

Arriving in Kathmandu you will be met outside the arrivals hall by a local KE representative who will arrange the transfer to the group hotel in the heart of the city; they will also supply you with a copy of your Bhutanese Visa, your ticket to Paro and details of the timings and where to meet the group the for the transfer back to the airport the following morning. The hotel is only a short walk from Thamel and flight time allowing you may have time for some independent sightseeing. We have also arranged for dinner in the hotel tonight, which you can take at your own leisure. KE Land Only package services begin with the airport transfer.

Accommodation

Hotel

Meals

D

After taking breakfast in the hotel, the group will meet in the lobby at a designated time and transfer together back to the airport in Kathmandu to check in for our flight to Paro, Bhutan. This is one of the most spectacular of all mountain flights. From the left side of the plane Everest, Makalu and Kangchenjunga, three of the world's highest mountains, are clearly visible. The total flying time is only 45 minutes and soon we are descending into the Paro Valley, enjoying views over forests, small monasteries, temples and flat-roofed farmhouses as we come in to land. On leaving the airport we will receive a warm welcome from our Bhutanese guides, who will most likely greet us in full traditional dress, before transferring the short distance to our hotel. There should be plenty of time this afternoon to take a stroll around Paro with our guide to help us acclimatise to the thinner air and to take care of any formalities, like obtaining local currency. Over dinner our guide will brief us on what to expect in the days ahead.

Accommodation

Hotel

Meals

B L D

This morning we make the stunning hike up to one of the most important religious site in the entire Himalaya, the Tiger's Nest. The monastery has a most stunning location, perched on the ledge of a cliff 900m above the Paro Valley. Not just a cultural experience, this hike up to over 3000m will provide some excellent acclimatisation ahead of our trek. Around half way up the trail there is a classic viewpoint for Taktsang, looking across the gorge to the monastic buildings clinging to the cliff wall opposite. There is a small teahouse located here where we can stop for a rest and a drink with a truly unforgettable view. The final approach to the monastery takes us down to a sacred waterfall, surrounded by a thousand fluttering prayer flags, where every crack in the rock is crammed with tsa-tsas (small caskets containing the ashes of the dead), before climbing back up towards the monastery. Leaving our bags and cameras at the gate we should hopefully be allowed to take a look around inside. As we explore amongst the chambers and altar rooms our guide will be on hand to explain all about the Buddhist rituals and iconography. We return to Paro in the afternoon.

Accommodation

Hotel

Meals

L D

Ascent

790 M

Descent

790 M

Time

5 hrs walking

Distance

8 KM

We take the short drive to the airport and board the domestic flight to Bumthang. It's a spectacular flight with views of the highest mountains in Bhutan to the north. The landscape changes dramatically as we fly eastward to land in a wide, forested alpine valley. We drive into town and to our hotel before setting off on a walking tour of the Bumthang Valley, recognized as one of the most beautiful and sacred in Bhutan. The Bumthang Valley has a history hallowed by the frequent visits of Guru Rimpochey - the Patron saint of Bhutan when he was bringing the Buddha's message to Bhutan. He meditated in many local caves which now have temples and shrines associated with them. The valley is wide, filled with fields and villagers busy with their day's work. We visit the Jambay Lhakhang (Lhakhang means temple), along with Kyichu Lhakhang in the Paro Valley, is one of the two oldest temples in Bhutan. It was built circa in the 7th century by King Songtsen Gampo of Tibet as a part of his pledge to build 108 temples to the Buddha during his lifetime. One of the most holy of Bhutan's religious sites, we will have the special permission necessary to visit this sacred temple. We continue to Kurjey, a 17th century temple next to which a spectacular new monastery is being built in traditional style. From Kurjey, we begin our walk through the countryside, crossing a bridge over the rushing Chamkhar Chu (river) and through ripening paddy fields to Tamshing . This temple complex was founded in 1501 by one of Bhutan's most famous saints, Pema Lingpa - the treasure discoverer. It is a monastery with many young monks in training. We continue past Tamshing and end our walk with a visit to the Swiss Project, an industrious complex that produces cheese, beer, apple juice and honey! After the tour we return to the hotel for evening drinks and a traditional Bhutanese dinner.

Accommodation

Hotel

Meals

B L D

Our hike today is along a rarely visited trail normally used only by local farmers crossing with their livestock to the Tang Valley. We cross the Phephe La (3530m) on an ancient trail used by the villagers of Tang and Chokor which continues beyond to Eastern Bhutan. In earlier days, before Bhutanese currency was introduced in the 1950s, it was used to trade goods and labor between farms and households. It's a short drive to the starting point of our walk and our vehicle will drop us at the Ngang Lhakhang to see the ruins of the Dapham Dzong where archeological works are currently being conducted by the swiss government. Our climb to the pass will take us through beautiful natural forest and could take as long as three hours to reach the Phephe La with a few rest stops on the way but there is no hurry. We take a picnic lunch at the pass before descending into the beautiful valley of Tang famous for its sheep and growing buckwheat. As we reach the road head, the villagers will be surprised to see foreigners and will offer a warm welcome to their visitors. A highlight of this holiday will by our night spent at the family owned Ogyen Choling Manor, built in 1898, the manor is a historic, cultural site, with its origin going back to the 14th Century. The central tower of the manor was converted to become the first private museum in Bhutan. The guest house is located on the hilltop overlooking the Tang village just outside the Museum, the complex also includes a temple. During our stay we will meet the current owners who are 20th generation descendants of the original owners! We will help the family preparing dinner and participate in cooking Bhutanese cuisines and local delicacies, which we can enjoy eating together in the cosy restaurant whilst listening to stories of the local myths and legends.

Accommodation

Farmstay

Meals

B L D

Time

6 - 7 hrs trekking

Distance

8 KM

After a hearty breakfast, we board the bus to continue our journey to the medieval looking village known as Ura, comprising of around 50 farm houses. We take a short break from the bus when we reach the Serthangla Pass (3590m) to walk downhill to the village on foot. Ura is famous for its wheat, buckwheat and potatoes. After lunch in one of the farmhouses we set off driving again along the switchback road to the Thrimshungla Pass (3780m), the highest road pass in Bhutan and the gateway to the East. We descend from here on long meandering road encountering cliffs and waterfalls before reach Yongkola in the afternoon. Bhutan is a bird watching paradise and this valley has one of the highest concentrations of birdlife in this part of Bhutan. We'll take a stroll in the nearby forest to see if we can spot some rare birds. Afterwards we continue our drive to Mongar.

Accommodation

Guesthouse

Meals

B L D

Time

1 - 2 hrs trekking

Distance

2 KM

This morning we drive to the Gomphu Kora Festival. No single event captures the prevailing Bhutanese culture better than the Buddhist festival or Tsechus, which honour the significant accomplishments of Guru Rinpoche, the 8th Century figure widely revered across the Himalayas as the Second Buddha. The festivals consist of a series of prayers and dances. Dancers in spectacular costumes perform to a cacophony of drums, horns and cymbals. Today we will join with the hundreds of locals who come together to celebrate this very social and religious occasion. The Bhutanese will be dressed in their finest, eating, drinking and making merry. The overall atmosphere is a rarified blend of devotion, conviviality and slight bawdiness! There will be time to relax and reflect her before transferring to our hotel in Trashigang.

Accommodation

Hotel

Meals

B L D

Today we drive to Chaling to begin our trek. We break our drive with a visit to Rangjung Monastery, founded as recently as 1989 by a few monks and nuns to study Buddha Dharma and to carry out Buddhist activities to help the local community. After lighting several butter lamps, we continue to Chaling, where our camp crew will load the ponies ready to begin our trek. In 2018, less than 40 people completed this trek, so we are unlikely to see other trekkers. It's a steady climb to begin with, through broad leaved forest and later mixed conifer and fir as we gain altitude. After a short while, we turn a corner to find our cook crew waiting for us with a delicious hot lunch served in a beautiful ridge top view point overlooking the dotted houses, terraced farmland and rice paddies along the Trashigang Valley. Unfortunately, we must leave this beautiful spot and follow the last stretch of a new dirt road to reach our camp in Chuthapthrap (3100m). The view opens out even more, both to the highest peaks in the north, including Gangkar Puensum, and towards the mountains of Arnuchal Pradesh and Tawang in India. The locals in Eastern Bhutan have for centuries maintained cordial relations with the villagers just across the border and still today barter farm products for clothes and salt.

Accommodation

Camping

Meals

B L D

Ascent

1000 M

Time

5 hrs trekking

Distance

6 KM

After a leisurely breakfast at the camp, we ascend for an hour and half to the Labtsa La (3400m) which is marked by many small stupas and prayer flags. The view opens up even more towards the highest unclimbed mountain in the world, Gangkar Puensum (7570m). We descend into one of the most beautiful valleys of the trek, through Rhododendron and Juniper, into the yak grazing grounds of Merak. Following the Merak river, we pass a large rock face with paintings of the Buddha and a welcome sign from the villagers Merak. We join a section of the new road that is being built to Merak, but we are few years away from seeing a vehicle yet. As we enter the village, it feels like we are stepping back in time, witnessing life as is has been for centuries. We are greeted warmly but with interest and curiosity, children running out to meet their new guests. English is taught in the village school and the children often like to say "hello" but the elders speak in their own Brokpa language, originating in Tibet, which is unique to this part of the world. We camp nearby the local administration office and will be joined in the evening by the locals to be offered some of the local 'Ara', a traditional alcoholic beverage made from rice, maize, millet, or wheat - possibly served from pitchers of buffalo horn.

Accommodation

Camping

Meals

B L D

Ascent

800 M

Time

6 - 7 hrs trekking

Distance

14 KM

This morning we have time to look inside a couple of the homes of the nomadic people of Merak. They are welcoming and will offer you "po cha", Tibetan butter tea which is drank across the Himalaya. The homes are simple, often with only three rooms, the kitchen which combines as the bedroom, an alter room and small storage room for grain. Electricity has recently arrived as part of a development project instigated the king of Bhutan and has improved the health and well-being of the villagers but some of the elders are still very wary of change! The Nyuksang La, the highest pass on our trek, is the agreed boundary of grazing land between the village of Merak and Sakteng. The pass is marked by stone cairn and prayer flags and we may even encounter snow. After photos from the high point, we descend via a holy site marked by an ancient stone stupa where our crew and the horseman will say their prayers and walk around the stupa three times. After lunch in a small meadow, we descend through the forest of fir and mixed conifer to our camp in a meadow (3063m).

Accommodation

Camping

Meals

B L D

Ascent

650 M

Time

6 - 7 hrs trekking

Distance

11 KM

We descend to the valley below following the trading route between Merak and Sakteng, accompanied by villagers with yaks carrying goods from Arunachal Pradesh. As the forest changes from conifer and fir to board leaves and maple trees we must ascend again, albeit to a lower pass at 3,105m for our first views of Sakteng (2800m), a relatively prosperous village with around 500 households all depending on cattle and yaks for their living. Crossing a wide river bed (Gamri Chu) used by the yaks for grazing and drinking, we have the feeling of arriving in a special place that is still rarely visited by outsiders - there are still no roads to Sakteng. Lunch is at our camp in the village and in the afternoon, we can walk up to the temple above the village, play dart games with the villagers or simply sit and reflect in this beautiful place. In the evening, we will be welcomed by the locals presenting their traditional folk dances .

Accommodation

Camping

Meals

B L D

Ascent

300 M

Time

3 - 4hrs trekking

Distance

6 KM

The final day of the trek is a three hour walk to the road head at the village of Thakthrik where we will meet our transport be picked up by the vehicle. We say our good byes from the chorten above the village and although the new road is getting closer, there is still a lovely walk through the forest to reach it. When we meet the bus, there are more farewells from the local crew and we set off on the three hour drive back to Trashigang.

Accommodation

Hotel

Meals

B L D

Ascent

250 M

Time

3 hrs trekking

Distance

5 KM

Today's flight is from the recently opened Yonphula airport above Trashigang. Depending on the flight timing which changes, todays sight-seeing would include a day hike in the morning in Trashigang or in the afternoon, once at Paro. The flight is truly spectacular crossing ride after ridge with views across all the mountains in northern Bhutan. After arriving into Paro we transfer to the Bhutanese capital, Thimphu, and check into our accommodation. This afternoon we have the option to enjoy a walk from Buddha Point to Changangka. Buddha Point is the site of the the Great Buddha Dordenma, the world's largest seated golden Buddha. We wll visit the temple, before setting off on our walk. Our path will take us through pine and rhodedendron forest to Changangkha monastery. We will enjoy some fanastic panoramic views of the Thimphu Valley and back towards Buddha Point.

Accommodation

Hotel

Meals

B L D

We spend the day sightseeing in Thimphu. We'll visit the textile museum where we can see some amazing examples of intricately woven costumes from all over Bhutan and watch some of the weavers in action and the takin sanctuary to see Bhutan's national animal. As we pass the archery ground we will look to see if there is an archery competition taking place. Archery is Bhutan's national sport and is taken extremely seriously. The rules of archery in Bhutan are unlike those in other countries. Here arrows must be fired an impressive 140m to hit an extremely small target. Each hit, or miss, is accompanied by dance and celebration or by great teasing and derision respectively. There will also be time for souvenir shopping before we make the drive back to Paro in the afternoon. Tonight we will enjoy our last dinner together in Bhutan.

Accommodation

Hotel

Meals

B L D

We have an early transfer to Paro Airport for the morning flight to Kathmandu. The flight takes only 45 minutes and on arrival we transfer to our comfortable hotel. The remainder of the day is free to explore the city or for shopping in the bazaars. An evening meal is included at the hotel, for those that wish to dine together, or you are free to head out into Thamel independently to a restaurant of your choice.

Accommodation

Hotel

Meals

B L D

KE Land Only package services end after breakfast. Transfers to Kathmandu airport are provided. There are lots of extensions that can easily be added to your holiday. Why not pre-book a simple full day-tour in the Kathmandu Valley, or a multi-day excursion to wildlife reserve at Chitwan. Contact the KE office for more details.

Meals

B
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Essential Information

We've compiled some of our Frequently Asked Questions to help you learn more about this amazing trip.

  • A professional and qualified tour leader plus support crew
  • Bhutan visa fee
  • Flights between Kathmandu and Paro
  • Internal flights from Paro to Bumthang
  • Internal flights from Yonphula to Paro
  • All transfers and land transport involved in the itinerary
  • All accommodation as described
  • All meals
  • Full service camping on trek including all camping equipment
  • 'Thermarest' inflatable camping mats whilst camping
  • FREE Sleeping bag and down jacket hire is available for this holiday on request

  • Travel Insurance
  • Nepalese visa costs
  • Tips for porters and other trek staff
  • Miscellaneous expenses - drinks and souvenirs etc

The group will meet at the group hotel in Kathmandu. Airport transfers are provided for all clients arriving Kathmandu on Day 1 and departing on Day 12 of the itinerary and all clients with additional nights booked through KE. Hotel contact details and an emergency telephone number will be provided with your booking confirmation.

All meals are included in the holiday price.

The Bhutanese love chillies; red, green, raw, cooked and flavouring their condiments – fans of spicy food will be in their element in Bhutan! Don’t panic if spicy food is not for you, all the hotels and restaurants in Thimpu and Paro offer a range of delicious dishes suitable for all tastes. Breakfasts whilst in hotels will consist of choice of cereal or muesli, eggs, toast, beans, sausage or bacon with tea, coffee and juices. 

You can expect to be fed very well during the trekking section of you holiday. Our trekking chefs are old hands at managing camps and meals whilst in the mountains. A senior trek cook and camp manager must have a minimum of five years of training and experience to qualify for the post! Our cooks have undergone training both on Bhutanese and continental dishes and can expect to be served a wide variety of delicious food on trek. Breakfast and dinner will be taken at the camp sites, whilst lunches will generally be carried on ponies and served mid-way on the trekking route for the day. Tea and hot drinks will be provided throughout the day and you will also usually also get a wakeup call from the camp crew with a nice cup of hot Chai! Whilst on trek drinking water will be purified by boiling and will be provided regularly. Whilst in Merak and Sakteng we are sure to be able to sample some traditional butter tea and also some 'Ara' or 'Arag', a potent alcoholic homebrew made by fermenting rice.

During this trip the group will spend 2 nights in Kathmandu at comfortable centrally located hotel. In Bhutan, we will also use comfortable tourist standard hotel accommodation, with the exception of our night in the Tang Valley we will stay in a family owned guesthouse, where there will be shared bathroom facilities.

Whilst on trek there will be a total of 4 nights full service camping where you will enjoy a full-service from our friendly camp crew. You will sleep in hardy 2 man dome tents and inflatable Thermarest mattresses are provided.

All the camp equipment and luggage will be transported between camps by ponies or yaks, you need only carry your day pack. Our camp crew will erect and dismantle the tents for you, cook, and take care of all the camp chores.

During walking days, having stayed behind to collapse camp, it is usual for the crew and the pack animals to overtake the group during the day and you will usually arrive into camp to find it already established, with your personal bags already placed into your pre-assigned tents and the kettle on!

In camp, as well as the tents used for sleeping, there will also be a mess tent, with chairs and tables, where the group will dine (and socialise into the evening), a toilet tent and even a shower tent where a bucket of hot water can be provided for you to wash with. Hot water for washing will also be provided to you in the mornings and when you arrive at the camp each day. On cold nights we'll even provide hot water bags/bottles to keep you warm when it is time for you to retreat to your tents for the evening.

All accommodation is allocated on a twin sharing basis. If you are travelling by yourself, you will be paired up with another single client of the same sex. Single hotel rooms and/or single tents are available for a supplementary cost. If you are planning on extending your holiday additional nights at the group hotel are available on request.

The group will be met and escorted in Kathmandu by a local KE representative. Once in Bhutan the group will accompanied throughout by a professional and qualifed tour leader.

This holiday involves going to high altitude. During the course of your trip you will reach altitudes in excess of 3500 metres. This is not something that you should worry about; the human body is quite capable of adapting to a very wide range of altitudes, but it is important that we follow some simple rules in order to acclimatise successfully. Before coming on this holiday you should read the advice on trekking at high altitude. You can also talk to one of our trekking experts if you have any concerns about altitude. On this trip we carry a portable altitude chamber (PAC-bag) and/or bottled oxygen for use in emergencies.

Approximately $200 - $250 should be allowed for miscellaneous expenses including porter and trek crew tips and soft drinks etc. We recommend that you carry your travel money in the form of cash, since you will exchange the majority of this on arrival (into Nepalese rupees in Kathmandu, and Bhutanese Ngultrum at Paro Airport). Sterling and US Dollars are equally acceptable in Nepal and in Bhutan. If you are intending to buy expensive souvenirs, you should budget accordingly (credit cards can be useful in this respect). You can withdraw cash from ATM's in Kathmandu. In Bhutan money can be easily exchanged but you cannot rely on withdrawing money from ATM's.

Tips are the accepted way of saying ‘thank you’ to your local guides and porters. They do not form part of their wages. KE always pays local crews the best rates of pay, no matter what country they are in and any tips they receive are seen as a personal thank you from group members. For our part, we advise local teams that tips are not a duty or a prerequisite but are a bonus and entirely dependent on the service that was given. For your local guide and trek crews we recommend that you give a tip if you feel that their services have met your satisfaction. We recommend that these tips are given by the group as a whole rather than individually and you should decide as a group on how much you wish to give. As a rough guide we suggest that each group member contributes US$60 - 100 (in local currency equivalent) to a group tipping pool.

Our holidays are normally designed with minimal 'down time' at the start of the trip, but having a day or two at the beginning will have the additional benefit of allowing you time to get over the stress of a long journey or travelling across time zones, leaving you refreshed and ready for your holiday. We can easily arrange for you to have additional nights and airport transfers.

For this holiday you should take one piece of luggage, which should be a soft duffel bag and a daypack. Your bag on trek will be carried by porters or pack animals and should not weigh more than 15kg. It is possible to leave extra baggage at the hotel in Kathmandu and also in Paro. For international flights please check your baggage allowance with your airline.

 

For each holiday there is a minimum number of participants required to enable it to go ahead. Once the minimum number is reached, the trip status will change from 'Available' to 'Guaranteed to run'. You can check the trip status for each departure in ‘Dates and Prices’ table. Other than in exceptional circumstances, we will not cancel a trip once it has achieved this guaranteed to run status and so you are free to proceed with your international flight booking and other travel arrangements.

The information that we provide is for UK passport holders. A passport with 6 months remaining validity at the end of your stay is generally required, and you should have at least 2 blank pages for each country that you visit.

It is your responsibility to ensure that you have the correct travel documents and visas for your holiday. Please ensure that you check for the latest advice before travel. For the most up to date information on entry requirements, please visit the UK Government website.

Visa Nepal

All nationalities require a visa. The visa process is partly automated and the fee is $30 for 15 days, $50 for 30 days, $125 for 90 days. The visa is FREE for children under 10 years. The visa allows multiple re-entry. Payment must be made in cash and USD, GBP or Euros are accepted.

Part of this on-arrival visa process involves filling in a ‘Tourist Visa Application Form’ and you can simplify the procedure at Kathmandu Airport by filling this form in online (within 15 days of travelling) at this link. This generates a receipt which you present (hard copy or saved on your phone) on arrival. This should allow you to go straight to the cashier to pay for your visa and has the potential to save you time in the visa queue.

Whilst these are not now needed for the visa process, we recommend that you travel with at least 2 spare passport photographs.



Visa Bhutan

All nationalities require a visa. KE will apply for the visa for you and the visa fee is included in your holiday cost.

Please note that this will be a group visa and will list the names, date of birth and passport details for all members of the group. A copy of this visa will be issued to each member of the group in Kathmandu prior to your check-in for the flight to Paro in Bhutan and your passport will be stamped on arrival in Paro.

We require a copy of the information page of your passport in order to make the arrangements for your Bhutan Visa. A colour scan must be emailed or posted to us at the earliest opportunity.

If you have a severe allergy please inform the KE office before you travel. We will do all we can to help, but we cannot guarantee an allergy free environment on KE trips. You will need to carry your own treatment for the allergy with you, as 'adrenaline auto-injectors' are not carried as standard by KE leaders and staff. You should inform your leader on arrival of your allergy, and let them know where you keep your adrenaline pen.

Dengue fever is a known risk in places visited. It is a tropical viral disease spread by daytime biting mosquitoes. There is currently no vaccine or prophylaxis available and therefore the best form of prevention is to avoid being bitten. We recommend you take precautions to avoid mosquito bites.

Vaccinations

You should contact your doctor or travel clinic to check whether you require any specific vaccinations or other preventive measures. You should be up to date with routine courses and boosters as recommended in the UK e.g. diphtheria-tetanus-polio and measles-mumps-rubella, along with hepatitis A and typhoid.

Malarial prophylaxis is not usually required for trips in the mountains, however if you are visiting rural and remote low lying areas then they might be necessary.

On holidays to more remote areas you should also have a dentist check up. A good online resource is Travel Health Pro.

The unit of currency in Nepal is the Nepalese Rupee.

The unit of currency in Bhutan is the Bhutanese Ngultrum.

The currency of India is the Indian Rupee.

It makes a lot of sense to spend some time before coming on a trekking trip getting some additional exercise. The fitter you are, after all, the more enjoyable you will find the experience. For this trip you should be comfortable with walking up to 6 - 7 hours per day. We would suggest that you take part in some regular exercise leading up to your trip. Hill walking is the best training, but running and swimming are also good for developing cardio vascular fitness and stamina. Before departure we suggest that you try to fit in a number of long walks with a reasonable amount of ascent and descent.

In general the climate of Bhutan is a little colder and damper than one would expect to find in the Himalaya of India or Nepal. The monsoon usually arrives in June, and lasts until mid September, bringing with it the heavy rainfall which is responsible for the lush vegetation which carpets much of Bhutan. March and April, as well as late September through to December are the best months to visit Bhutan. Outside of the monsoon season the weather is generally very good, with bright, sunny mornings and sometimes a moderate build up of cloud in the afternoons. Day-time highs of around 20°C / 68°F can be expected at altitudes around 2000 metres.

As a reputable tour operator, KE supports the British Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office's ‘Travel Aware campaign to enable British citizens to prepare for their journeys overseas. The 'Travel Aware' website provides a single, authoritative source of advice for all kinds of travellers and we recommend that prior to travel, all KE clients visit the official UK Government website at travelaware.campaign.gov.uk and read the FCDO Travel Advice for their chosen destination. North Americans can also check out the U.S. Department of State website: www.travel.state.gov for essential travel advice and tips.

KE treat the safety and security of all clients as the most important aspect of any trip we organise. We would not run any trip that we did not consider reasonably safe.  Should the FCDO advise against travel for any reason, we will contact everyone booked to travel to discuss the situation.  We receive regular updates direct from the FCDO and are in constant touch with our contacts on the ground.  If you have any questions about government travel advice, please call our office.

KE do not encourage the use of single use plastic items. We are ensuring that our agents all over the world are working together to reduce the problem and educate those around them. We are leading by example in our KE office by reducing our plastic use.

  • Bhutan. A Trekker's guide. Bart Jordans. Cicerone Press.

  • Bhutan. (Lonely Planet Guide). Stan Armington.

  • Bhutan, Land of the Thunder Dragon. Owen Edmunds.

Bhutan Himalaya. 1:380 000. ITMB Publishing

Indexed general road map with street plans of Thimpu and Paro.

It is an essential condition of joining a holiday with KE Adventure Travel that you have a valid travel insurance policy to cover the cost of medical treatment and to protect the value of your holiday in the event of cancellation.  When taking out insurance please ensure the policy you choose covers you for the activities and altitude included in your itinerary.

For appropriate insurance cover we recommend Campbell Irvine Direct.  Please go to our Travel Insurance page for further information and to get a quote.

Please note that a paper copy of your travel insurance is required if you are travelling to Huaraz and the Huayhuash region.

The following checklist should help you with your packing. As a general rule, you should always try to keep the weight of your equipment to a minimum.

The packed weight of your kit bag while trekking should be no more than 15 kgs.

You must bring the following items:

  • Hiking boots

  • Socks

  • Trekking trousers

  • Waterproof overtrousers

  • Baselayer shirts

  • Casual shirt and/or T-shirts

  • Fleece jacket or warm jumper

  • Waterproof jacket

  • Sunhat

  • Warm hat

  • Sunglasses

  • Gloves or mittens

  • Headtorch

  • Sun protection (including total bloc for lips, nose etc.)

  • Water bottles 1 Litre x2

  • Washbag and toiletries

  • Antibacterial handwash

  • Small towel

  • Selection of dry bags (to keep kit bag contents dry)

  • Small padlock (to lock kit bag)

  • Daypack 30 litres

  • Sleeping bag (comfort rating to -10°C)*

  • Warm jacket (down)*

  • Basic First Aid Kit including: Antiseptic cream, throat lozenges, diarrhoea treatment (Imodium), altitude (Diamox), painkillers, plasters and blister treatment, and re-hydration salts (Dioralite). Glucose tablets and multi-vitamin tablets are also a good idea.

The following items are optional:

  • Training shoes or similar for camp use

  • Spare laces

  • Shorts

  • Baselayer – thermal leggings

  • Sleeping bag liner

  • Scarf or buff

  • Swimwear (for the hotel pool in Kathmandu)

  • Travel clothes

  • Trekking poles

  • Binoculars (for bird watching/festival)
  • Gaiters (highly recommended due to muddy conditions)
  • Insect repellent – (DEET)

  • Camera

  • Pen-knife (remember to pack sharp objects in hold baggage)

Notes

*Available for hire/rental through KE Adventure Travel

Please make all requests at least 6 weeks prior to the trip departure date. Please note all hire / rental equipment is issued in Bhutan. Please remember to allow room in your trek bag for these items.

‘Thermarest’ inflatable camping mats are provided

 

FESTIVAL DRESS CODE

The Bhutanese always come dressed in their absolute finest clothing for a festival and so you may want to bring a smarter set of clothes with you to use on the days you are attending the festivals. Long sleeves and long trousers (no jeans) are best, women might want to bring a scarf, and trainers, dirty boots or open toed sandals should not be worn where possible, hats should also be avoided and umbrellas are not acceptable. 

FESTIVAL ETIQUETTE

Bhutan’s Tshechus (festivals) are religious events. The festival grounds are purified and consecrated by lamas, so when you are watching a festival you are, in essence, on the perimeter of an outdoor religious ground. The dancers, whether monks or laymen, are in a state of meditation. They believe that they transform themselves into the deities that they represent on the dance ground, generating a spiritual power, which cleanses, purifies, enlightens and blesses the spectators.We should conduct ourselves with this in mind. Out of respect, whilst watching the dances, we should not eat, drink, smoke, talk or laugh loudly at inappropriate times. You should not use flash photography or encroach on the dance space. Please be respectful when photographing dancers or onlookers.The festivals are not tourist attractions. They are genuine manifestations of religious traditions thousands of year’s old, which we are fortunate to be able to witness.

Cotswold Outdoor Red PantonMany of the Equipment items listed above are available from Cotswold Outdoor - our 'Official Recommended Outdoor Retailer'. When you book a holiday with KE you will receive 12.5% discount voucher from Cotswold Outdoor and other retailers.
>> Find out more

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