DAGALA THOUSAND LAKES TREK (10DAYS/9NIGHTS)
This trip is combined with the Dagala thousand Lakes Trek and visit to some of the sacred temples and massive fortresses (dzongs) of the country. A short trek near Thimphu, to a large number of lovely, high- altitude lakes (far fewer than the name suggests).
Total distance: 37kms. Grade: Medium. Altitude gain: 2,381m. Altitude loss: 2,381m. Best Season: April, September-October.
On a typical trek day, we will be woken at 6:00 am, by a member of the camp crew bringing bed tea (into 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 camp crew and continue for the 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 produce, 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 distances and elevations involved. Previous experiences of multi-day trekking as well as 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 the effects on you before administering 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 day, becoming less as we rise towards the tree line. We all appreciate that mountain weather is unpredictable, and difficult in areas we visit only rarely but our experience is that we 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 to Bhutan takes you over the Himalayas, offering glimpse of the highest glacial peaks. On arrival at the airport, after immigration and custom formalities, your local guide-for the whole trip, will receive and transfer you to your hotel.
After check-in and refreshments/lunch, start exploring the Paro district. 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.
Then visit the Rinpung Dzong, the medieval provincial capital fortress the watch tower protected for three hundred years of civil strife. Then take a short walk down to the Cantilever bridge over Nyemi zampa, which connects the dzong to the valley.
O/N at Hotel in Paro. Elevation: 2,300m.
Day2: Paro Halt
After breakfast, before the sun gets too hot, hike up to Taktsang (literally translated as tiger’s Nest), it is one of the most sacred pilgrimage sites in the world. Guru Rinpoche arrived to Taktsang riding on the back of a tigress, flying from Khenpajong in eastern Bhutan. It takes about two hours to climb up on a steep footpath through beautiful pine forest festooned with lichens (old man’s beard), and an hour to visit the shrines inside and another hour and half to descend down back to the car park.
After the hike, visit the ruins of Drukgyal dzong, at the northern corner of the valley, on a clear day Mt. Jumolhari (7,315m) is visible in the far north. On the way back, visit the Kyichu Lhakhang, a 7th century temple founded by the Tibetan King, Songtsen Gampo. Legend has it that he built 108 of these temples throughout the Himalayas to overcome a giant ogress who was trying to stop the spread of Buddhism n the Himalayan region.
O/N at Hotel in Paro. Elevation: 2,300m.
Day3. Paro-Geynikha to Geynizampa. 3kms, 1-1.5 hours, 150m ascend, 150m descent.
Drive from Paro to the Geynikha primary school, where the horses and the crew meet you. And start the trek in the afternoon, start along the road for few meters, then leave the road and follow the trail that leads straight and level for half a kilometer to a chorten and through the Geynikha village. Descend down to Chokosen Chhu, and follow it down to a chorten with an excellent campsite in a forest of blue pines alongside the Geynitsang Chhu.
O/N in Camp/Tent. Camp elevation: 2,800m.
Day4. Genizampa to Gur. 5kms, 4 hours, 550m ascent, 60m descent.
After crossing the suspension bridge, the trail turns south along the east side of the Geynitsang Chhu (river left) to a side stream, the Dolungu Chhu. Cross the stream on a log bridge and start uphill on an eroded trail through an oak forest. The trail is used only by the yak herders, wood cutters and a handful of trekkers, but it was once a major trading route between Thimphu and Dagana. One can still see the walls, well crafted stone staircases and other developments along the route. A long climb leads to an outstanding lookout point at 3,220m. Another gentle climb brings you to the top of a ridge 3.550m, from here the trail slowly descends to the campsite at Gur 3,290m.
O/N in Camp/Tent. Camp elevation: 3,290m.
Day5. Gur to Labatama. 12kms, 5 hours, 1140m ascent, 110m descent.
After climbing back from the camp to the main trail the route continues gently up the ridge on a wide track. The trail crosses a stream at 3,870m and begins a long gentle climb through scattered birches and rhododendrons towards the pass, weaving in and out of side valleys and crossing several tiny streams. At Pangalabtsa, a small pass marked by cairns at 4,250m, there is spectacular view of the whole Dagala Range. Descend from the pass to the first yak herders camp at 4,170m down into the main valley floor, climb beside a stream to Labatama camp at 4,300m near Utsho Tsho Lake, known for its golden trout’s.
O/N at Camp/Tent. Camp elevation: 4,300m.
Day6. Labatama to Kiwi Tsowa . 11kms, 6 hours, 260m ascent, 520m descent.
There are two possible routes and the pack animals take the lower one. The trekking route is not well marked and is more of a cross country traverse. The trail climbs along the western side of the Dajatsho Lake to a saddle at 4,520m, where there are great views of Jumolhari and Kanchenjunga. If you opt for a better view, climb up to the peak 4,720m to the east. From the pass the trail descends past several yak herder’s camp to the Dochha Chhu, rejoining the trail at about 4,200m. Follow the trail as it climbs over three ridges and descends to Pankha. Several short climbs follow in and out of minor valleys to Kiwi Tsowa.
O/N in Camp/Tent. Camp elevation: 4,030m.
Day7. Pankha to Talakha. 8kms, 6 hours, 180m ascent, 1100m descent.
The route leads north to a crest at 4,100m where several trails lead off in different directions. The trail to Talakha climbs steeply up a slate slope to the ruins of a house. It’s then a long traverse to Tale La at 4,180m. From here, there is a view of the Dagala range and of Thimphu, far to the north. It is then a long descent through bamboo forest to the Goemba at Talakha 3,800m.
O/N in Camp/Tent. Camp elevation: 3,800m.
Day8. Talakha to Chamgang. 6kms, 3 hours, 440m descent.
There is a steep eroded trail that leads to Simtokha, but there are numerous fences surrounding apple orchards along the way and there is no longer a direct route. It’s best to walk three hours down the road, with few short cuts to avoid switchbacks, to Chamgang at 2,600m to meet your vehicle and drive to the hotel.
O/N at Hotel in Thimphu. Elevation: 2,320m.
Day9: Thimphu Halt
Today we spend the day visiting the highlights of Thimphu, the sites include:
. The National Memorial Chorten, built in 1974 in memory of the third King, His Late Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck.
. The giant Buddha at Kuenselphodrang (169ft/51m).
. Takin Preserve, which showcases the National Animal along with few species of deer and some mountain goats.
. Institute of traditional Medicine, where the ancient art of Bhutanese healing system called sowa rigpa is still practiced. The institute has an exhibition room that imparts excellent look into the tradition.
. School of Arts and Crafts, the school provides 3-8 years of training in the techniques of traditional art in religious and secular paintings, woodcarvings, clay sculptures, weaving and embroidery.
. Jungshi Handmade Paper Factory, to see the traditional way of making papers from bark of Daphne plants. Bhutan in ancient days was the biggest supplier of paper in the Himalayan region for printing religious scriptures and prayers.
. Textile Museum established in 2000, this is one theme museums in the city. It is dedicated to the rich skill of Bhutanese weaver, primarily women. The museum has good collection of samples including rare pieces and antiques, some belonging to the royal family.
Later in the evening, visit the Tashichoedzong, the summer residence of the je khenpo-the Head Abbot, and the central monastic body, it houses some ministries, the Golden Throne and the office of His Majesty the King.
O/N at Hotel in Thimphu. Elevation: 2,320m.
Day10: Thimphu-Paro Departure
Your trip to the mystical country ends today, after an early breakfast transfer to the airport for your onward destination.