Beautiful Laya-Lingshi Trek (17Days/16Nights).
Grade= Moderate. Time=13 Days. Distance=186.5kms. Altitude Gain=5,200m. Altitude Loss=7,010m. This trek is sometimes referred to as the Laya Trek and is one of the finest and the most beautiful trek in Bhutan. The route starts from Paro-Shana-and continues onwards to Jumolhari camp. It then goes via Lingshi to Laya and exists at Gasa. Making a halt at the Jumolhari Basecamp and another halt at Laya village. The trek offers great views of the snow-capped mountains like the Mt. Jumolhari(7,314m), Mt. Tsherimgang( 6,526m), Mt. Jitchu Drakey(6,850m), Mt. Gangchenta/Great Tiger Mountain(6,840m), Mt. Masa Gang(7,200m), Tsenda Gang(7,000m), Kangbum(6,500m). The trek ends with a night halt at the Hot springs of Gasa.
On a typical trek day, we will be woken at 6:00 am, by a member of a camp crew bringing bed tea (in your tent), followed shortly by a bowl of hot washing water. By 7:00 am, when breakfast is ready, we will have packed ready for the day’s activity (day pack and main luggage). We leave with our guide just before the camp crew at 8:00 am and spent the rest of the day at an unhurried but steady pace. We stop for about an hour for lunch, which will be carried by a camp crew and continue for our next campsite. The crew will break down the tents, load the horses, overtake us and have the camp ready for our arrival. A hot drink will be ready when we arrive, followed by wash water and our evening meal. After dinner, we will discuss for the following day with our guide before retiring to bed. This will sound familiar to anyone who has trekked in Nepal, the main difference being that camp crew is smaller in Bhutan and there are no tea houses along the way.
*Note: Use designated campsites only approved by the Tourism Council of Bhutan. No campfires and cooking fires at the campsites. Usage of LPG (liquid petroleum gas) is mandatory for cooking. Pack out solid waste (pack it in and pack it out), should not bring out flora and fauna products, respect the nature and the culture of the area. Most trekking routes are in the National Parks and Reserves.
It is essential that participants undertake regular walking and hiking in the months leading up to the start of the Tour so that you can enjoy to the full what the trip offers. The itinerary gives an indication of distance and elevations involved. Previous experience of multi-day trekking as well as of extended periods of camping over 3,000m is preferable.
Every effort has been made to allow gradual acclimatization to altitude, but this is a factor which is unpredictable for anyone. Many folks have their own ideas of how to combat the effects of altitude and we always carry Diamox (Acetazolamide) with us and use it if we 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 trail at home so that you understand what the effects is on you before administering it at height. If anyone were to suffer bad reaction to altitude and need to lose height the route of the trek allows us to do so at certain points of the trek.
At valley floor conditions are likely to be humid, even hot on sunny days, becoming less so as we rise towards the tree line. 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 some rain at some point on most days, that snow may fall on 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.
Day1. Arrive in Paro, Bhutan
The flight into Bhutan takes you over the Himalayas, offering glimpses of the highest glacial peaks. On arrival at the airport, after immigration and custom formalities, your local guide-for the whole trip, will receive you and transfer to the hotel. After check-in and refreshments, visit the National Museum housed in a 17th century watch tower which will serve as a great introduction to Bhutan before you delve deeper into the country.
Visit the Rinpung Dzong, the medieval provincial capital fortress the watch tower protected for three hundred years of civil strife.
O/N at Hotel in Paro. Elevation: 2,300m.
Day2. Paro Halt, Hike to Tiger’s Nest (Taktsang)
After breakfast, before the sun is too strong start the hike up to the Tiger’s Nest, perched 900m high above the valley floor. This temple is one of the most sacred pilgrimage sites in the world for Buddhist practitioners, many Buddhist masters have made their way into Bhutan to visit, meditate, and to offer their prayers to the great Guru. Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) is said to have flown to this place riding on the back of a tigress from Khenpajong in Eastern Bhutan. The hike covers a little over 6kms and it takes 5 hours to go up, visit the shrines inside and to come down.
Then visit the ruins of Drukgyal Dzong, in the northern corner of the valley. On the way back, visit the Kyichu lhakhang, a 7th century temple, founded by the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo.
O/N at Hotel in Paro. Elevation: 2,300m.
Day3. Paro-Shana-Thangthangkha (22kms/13.6miles, 8-9hrs, altitude gain=2,250ft/685m, altitude loss=0ft/0m).
Start hiking following the river on the right, crossing small tributaries for 2-2.5hrs till you come to Shing Karap. Another 20 minutes is the junction, the right trail leads to Thangdo Zampa, which is the lunch spot. Another 3hrs through beautiful forest consisting of birch, fir, larch, maple and rhododendron with small ups and downs will lead to Sendey Zampa(3,560m). Half an hour from here is the camp of Thangthangkha in a big meadow, the round tip of the Jumolhari is visible from the camp.
Camp altitude 3,575m.
Day4. Thangthangkha-Jangothang (17kms/13.5miles, 4-6hrs, altitude gain=1,530ft/469m, altitude loss=0ft/0m).
It’s an hour of walk through the forest following the river upstream, crossing a military camp at 3,730m. Then the trail passes a meadow with a chorten and then Tikithang and Dangochang before the campsite at Jangothang.
Camp altitude 4,044m/13,260ft.
Day5. Jangothang Halt (Acclimatization Day).
Most people will feel the effects of ascending 1,800m in just two days, so a rest day at Jumolhari Base camp will help with acclimatization. There are some good day hikes from the camp, and it is important to hike today so that you will acclimatize. Follow the standard rule: trek high, sleep low.
Hike to the Twin Lakes Tsho Phu 14,270ft/4350m, which are full of trout (2hrs to the lakes, 1.5hrs back to camp). From the lakes there is a spectacular views of the Jumolhari and jitchu drakey.
The most challenging day hike is up the steep, grassy ridge located next to the camp to the north. It takes 3-4hrs to reach the final rocky summit (15,975ft/4,870m), the views get better and better, Jitchu Drakey ( 22,470ft/6,850m), Jumolhari (23,995ft/7,315m). The last part of the rocky summit can be tricky due to loose rocks and strong winds, bring a wind proof jacket, gloves and hat.
Day6. Jangothang-Lingshi (21kms//845m, 13miles, 6-7hrs, altitude gain=2,780ft/845m, altitude loss=2,890ft/880m).
The walk is gradual ascend till the end of the village, after crossing the bridge over the Pa chhu it climbs steeply for some 100 mtrs to a ridge, where you get a clear view of last night’s campsite. Still climbing high to reach the Nyile La Pass (16,040ft/4,890m), the first pass of this trek. Today’s trek will test your level of acclimatization, if you are having problems this is the time to turn back; once you have crossed over to Lingshi you can only get out by crossing high passes.
The pass offers a great view towards the east-northeast into the trekking area covered over the next couple of days. Mount Tsherim Kang/Takayphu, 21,405ft/6,526m dominates the view towards the north. Great Tiger Mountain is the main mountain to be seen in the east.
After the pass, the trail descends down to a stream, after crossing it the trail is easy, flat and good till you see Lingshi Dzong, then it drops down on a steep slope to the campsite at Chazithang.
Camp altitude 13,150ft/4,010m.
Day7. Lingshi-Chebisa (16kms/10miles, 4hrs, Altitude gain/loss=0m).
From the camp the trail climbs after crossing the river to a ridge at 4,100m/13,450ft, from here you can climb up the ridge to the Dzong or to the ridge left of the Dzong for pictures. Just below the Dzong is the first village of Lingshi, along with the school. After the school the the trail is flat till the ridge before Gangyul village. Explore the village here and visit the Ja Goed Dzong, built by Phajo Drugom Zhigpo. Another hour walk leads to Chebisa village where your campsite for the day.
Cam altitude 13,090ft/3,990m.
Day8. Chebisa-Shakeypasa (14.5kms/9miles, 5hrs, Altitude gain=1,470ft/450m, Altitude loss=1,440ft/440m).
After the village a stiff, steep climb of 450m up a grassy slope leads to Gogu La pass (14,560ft/4440m. You may encounter with the Himalayan Blue Sheep and the Bearded Vultures(perhaps in connection with sky burial).
After the pass the trail drops to Chumiten, attractive lunch spot. Another hour of gradual downhill brings you to the camp of Shakeypasa.
Camp altitude 13,120ft/4,000m.
Day9. Shakeypasa-Tsari Jathang/Tsheri Yango (16kms/10miles, 7-8hrs, Altitude gain=3,100ft/945m, Altitude loss=2,575ft/785m).
It’s a steep climb of 3hrs to the Jharila Pass(15,695ft/4785m), the pass provides great views of Jumolhari 1 and 2, Tsherimgang, Gangchenta (Great Tiger Mountain) and also the pass for tomorrow, Shinche La Pass (16,400ft/5,000m). After the pass the trail descends on a steep slope to Tsari Jathang (4,000m/13,120ft). It’s another 40minutes of climb to the camp at Tseri Yango.
Camp altitude 4,160m.
Day10. Tseri Yango-Limithang (14kms/8.5miles, 7-8hrs, altitude gain=2,755ft/840m, altitude loss=2,755ft/840m).
Leaving the camp, the trail climbs a steep zigzag trail leading to a platform with some prayer flags at 4,400m. From here a large glacier valley opens up leading towards the east and finally to today’s pass. Shinche La Pass (16,400ft,5,000m), Gangchenta(Great Tiger Mountain) is visible to the northeast, Jejegangphu and Masgang(23,600ft/7,194m) and the Black Mountain Range(15,145ft/4,617m) in the east-south direction.
The trail descends on the other side of the pass with rocks and steep parts bringing you to an enormous moraine and glacial lake below the Tiger Mountain. Another hour downhill will bring you to an opening in the woods, which is the Limithang campsite.
Camp altitude 13,645ft/4,160m.
Day11. Limithang-Laya (9kms/5,5miles, 4hrs, altitude gain=nil, altitude loss=1,180ft/360m).
Today is an easy day of gradual downhill to Laya Gewog (county), though there are some small climbs and drops but no elevation is gained. Laya gewog consists of six villages namely; Toko, Pashi, Neilo, Lubcha, Tongra, Lungo. Tsenda Gang(23,160ft/7,200m), dominates the Laya village. Laya Gewog is still part of Jigme Dorji National Park.
Camp altitude 12,465ft/3,800m.
Day12. Laya Halt.
Explore the village and visit the school, or hike up to the lakes of Ongme Tsho and Kharkil Tsho.
Day13. Laya-Koina (16kms/10miles, 6-7hrs, altitude gain=0m, altitude loss=1,837ft/560m).
After the village of Laya the trail drops down to Zamto Nangi Chhu and Togtserkhagi Chhu leading to the army camp at Tashi Makhang. Continue on following the Mo-Chhu on the left till Tongshingna where you cross a cantilever bridge and then climb up a ridge 200m and drop down again to level with the river. Another 45minutes of gradual downhill will bring you to a final climb of the day to Kohi Laptsa (3,380m), and descend to Koina campsite.
Camp altitude 10,627ft/3,240m.
Day14. Koina-Gasa (12kms/7.4miles, 6hrs, altitude gain=2,165ft/660m, altitude loss=5,510ft/1,680m).
It’s a good 1.5hrs of climb to get to Chamsa, an optional campsite and another 1.5hrs to the Barila Pass(12,320ft/6,500m). Then descending through the broadleaved forest for an hour or so you can see the Gasa town peeking through the trees with Kangbum (21,320ft/6,500m) in the background.
Visit to the Gasa dzong is an option or continue downhill to the Hot Springs and relax, a hot shower well deserved.
Camp altitude 7,282ft/2,200m.
That brings you to the end of the Beautiful Laya-Lingshi Trek.
Day15. Gasa to Punakha (75kms, 4-5 hours drive).
After breakfast, drive to Punakha, it takes 4-5 hours to get to Punakha.
Visit the mighty Punakha Dzong, situated at the confluence of the Pho Chhu (male) and Mo Chhu (female) rivers.
O/N at Hotel in Punakha. Elevation: 1,280m.
· Hike to Chimed Lhakhang, a popular destination for locals and tourist alike, known for its fertility.
Then drive over the Dochula pass 3,150m, into Thimphu, after lunch;
· Visit the National Memorial Chorten, built in memory of the Third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, lovingly known as The Father of Modern Bhutan.
· Giant Buddha Statue at Kuenselphodrang, 169ft/51m.
· Mini Zoo, which showcases the Nation Animal, the Takin along with some Deer and Mountain goats.
· In the evening, visit the Tashicho Dzong.
O/N at Hotel in Thimphu. Elevation: 2,320m.
After an early breakfast, drive to the Paro International Airport for your onward destination.