Bhutan

29-Day Snowman Trek

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Tour type

Tour Level: High level

Tour Comfort: Standard

Tour Period: 29 Days

Tour Highlight

  • Traverse beautiful landscapes from lush valleys and dense forests to high mountain passes
  • Witness yaks and their herders' homes dotted across the countryside
  • Enjoy the therapeutic properties of a relaxing hot stone bath
  • Camp overnight beneath some of Bhutan’s most impressive mountain peaks
  • Experience fabulous views of the snowcapped Jumolhari and Jichu Drake Mountains

tour details

The world-renowned Snowman Trek goes to the remote Lunana district and is considered to be one of the most difficult treks in Bhutan. This tough trek includes 25 days of challenges across long distances, high altitudes, difficult weather conditions and remoteness. you’ll be rewarded, however, with views and experiences that are only accessible on foot. Visit isolated stunning wilderness, rarely visited monasteries, remote and peaceful villages, as well as high passes offering breathtaking mountain scenery for a truly once-in-alifetime experience.

After arriving at the Paro International Airport, your guide will wait for you at the arrival terminal and welcome you in a traditional manner by offering a ‘khadar’ or greeting scarf. Afterwards, enjoy a sightseeing tour around Paro.

First, drive to see Rinpung Dzong, which was built in 1645 to defend the valley against Tibetan invaders. Today, this dzong is used as an administration centre and school for monks. Then, visit the Ugyen Pelri Palace, which was designed after the Second Buddha’s celestial paradise, Zangtopelri, and is considered one of the finest examples of Bhutanese architecture. Next, visit the National Museum, which is rated as one of the finest natural history museums in South Asia. It has a collection of precious works of art and fantastic costumes, armour and other handcrafted, culturally significant objects. There is also a gallery dedicated to exquisite pieces of thangkas. The thangkas depicting Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the first Je Khempo and first Druk Desi, are particularly significant. Enjoy the rest of the evening at your leisure exploring the town.

Dinner and accommodations at a hotel in Paro.
Enjoy an early breakfast and then take a brief drive back to Paro to begin the hike to Taktsang Monastery, which is also known as ‘Tiger's Nest’. It is famous for clinging precariously to a cliff 900 metres above the Paro Valley and is one of the holiest sites in the country. The climb will take approximately three hours to complete. Afterwards, enjoy lunch along the return hike.

In the afternoon, visit Drukgyal Dzong. Now in ruins, it was once strategically built over the only passage into Paro Valley and helped prevent numerous invasions throughout the course of Bhutanese history since 1646. In fine weather, the towering peak of Mount Jumolhari, which marks the frontier with Tibet and is believed to be the dwelling place of the goddess Jomo, appears as a backdrop to Drukgyal Dzong.

In the evening, visit a local farmhouse to see firsthand how rural Bhutanese live. The farmhouses are very decorative and are built and painted in a classical 3-story style. The ground floor houses the cattle, the top floor is reserved to dry hay and the family lives on the middle floor. While there, enjoy a hot stone bath known as a ‘dotsho’, which is an important part of Bhutanese family life and has been used to treat various diseases for centuries.

Dinner and accommodation at a hotel in Paro.
Today's trek begins at Gunitsawa Village. At the nearby army checkpoint, your trek permit provided by your tour operator will be checked and endorsed. The campsite is roughly one hour away on the opposite side of the river, not far from Gunitsawa.

Dinner and overnight camp in Sharna Zampa.

On this 22-kilometre trekking day, the trail continues with lots of small ups and downs. After going uphill through the river valley, it finally narrows gradually to a mere path which descends to a meadow where a camp will be set up. From here, if weather permits, you will have the first great view of Mount Jomolhari.

Dinner and overnight camp in Thangthangkha.
If you didn't see Mount Jomolhari the previous evening, you might experience grand views early this morning. This 19-kilometre trek continues up the Paro Chhu Valley which widens into patches of alpine meadow and scanty growths of forests. Pass through another army checkpoint along the way and enjoy a spectacular view of high mountain ridges and snowcapped peaks. In this area, yaks and their herders' homes become a regular feature of the landscape. Passing the villages Soe, Takethang and Dangochang is another asset on this day. After reaching Jangothang, one of the most beautiful campsites of the Himalayas, you will again have a spectacular view of Mount Jomolhari.

Dinner and overnight camp in Jangothang.
A rest day in Jangothang provides plenty of possibilities for day hikes with great views of lakes and the nearby mountains of Jomolhari and Jichu Drake. You'll also have a good chance of spotting blue sheep on the upper slopes of the valley. Jangothang is a perfect environment for your acclimatisation. Trek up to Tosoh or hike around the area if you wish or choose from short hiking trails in three directions. Jomolhari and its subsidiary mountain chains lie directly west, Jichu Drake to the north and there are a number of unclimbed peaks to the east.

Dinner and overnight camp in Jangothang.
This is one of the longest days of the trek, totalling 18 kilometres and 7 hours. The trail begins a short distance from the camp, climbing rapidly for about 30 minutes and then becomes a gradual ascent to the Nyilila mountain pass at an altitude of 4,870 metres. Whilst climbing, enjoy the stunning surrounding views. You might see herds of blue sheep grazing on the slopes of the mountains. From the pass, there are spectacular views of Jomolhari, Jichu Drake and Tsherimgang, all of them rising above 7,000 metres. Then, gradually descend to the camp whilst passing by some of the yak herders' woven wool tents. The herders use these tents as they travel in search of new pastures for their yaks. As you come down into the beautiful U-shaped Lingshi Basin, enjoy a wonderful view of Lingshi Dzong on clear days. Tserimgang and its glaciers rise up at the north end of the valley. The campsite is next to a stone hut just before you reach Lingshi Dzong.

Dinner and overnight camp in Lingshi.
Today's hike covers 10 kilometres, the shortest distance of the trek. Shortly after starting, arrive at a chorten below Lingshi Dzong. Here, you have the choice of staying on the main trail or taking a detour up to the Lingshi Dzong (4,220 metres), which sits right atop a high ridge. This dzong is under reconstruction from a 2011 earthquake that damaged its central building. In addition to having a very special atmosphere of mystic tranquillity, Lingshi Dzong has a fantastic view over the valley. Next, hike past the villages of Lingshi and Goyul. In Goyul, the stone houses are clustered together to form a small, compact village. This is unusual in Bhutan because settlements are usually scattered. On reaching the campsite at Chebisa, enjoy plenty of time to visit the village houses and the beautiful waterfall behind the village.

Dinner and overnight camp in Chebisa.
The morning starts with a 2- to 3-hour ascent behind Chebisa Village through a wide pastureland towards the Gobula Pass. On the way, spot large herds of blue sheep above the trail as well as the occasional yak herd. After crossing the mountain pass at 4,410 metres, descend into the valley and climb a little bit again before descending to Shakshepasa (3,980), a large U-shaped valley. After a total day's hike of 17 kilometres, reach the campsite at Shomuthang that is above the tributary of the Nochu River.

Dinner and overnight camp in Somuthang.
After breakfast, begin the day's 18-kilometre trek with a climb up the valley to view Kang Bum (6,526 metres) and surround yourself with white edelweiss flowers. After two hours, reach the Jharila mountain pass at 4,750 metres from where you'll catch your first glimpse of Sinchela, the pass you'll cross tomorrow. The big, snowy peak to the north is Gangchhenta, which is better known as Great Tiger Mountain. If the weather is clear, you'll also see Tserim Kang and the top of Jomolhari. Continue alongside the wide and remote valley of Tsheri Jathang. Herds of takin, the Bhutanese national animal, migrate to this takin sanctuary every summer. Then, climb a bit further before reaching the campsite at Robluthang in a rocky meadow.

Dinner and overnight camp in Robulthang.
The trek starts out with an initial 40- to 60-minute ascent before gradually rising for another 1.5 hours through a boulder field. It is then a 1-hour steep ascent before reaching the Sinchela Pass (5,005 metres), the final and highest pass on the trek - unless you intend to continue the Snowman Trek onwards from Laya. As you descend the far side of the pass, you'll see an impressive terminal moraine and glacial lake at the foot of the valley. This is a classic example of lateral moraines where the glacier has pushed rocks up both sides of the valley. Below the moraine, cross the Kango River and soon reach the Limithang campsite. The peak of Gangchhenta towers can be seen over the campsite even though it’s quite a distance away.

Dinner and overnight camp in Limithang.
Today's trek will take you on a long downhill walk along a narrow, winding river valley. Continue on a trail that takes you through a densely forested region for a combined hike of five hours and 10 kilometres. The trail leads you to the west side of the village of Laya, which grants you spectacular views of Mount Gangchhenta and Mount Masagang from the west side of the village. The village centre has a community school and a basic health unit with a telephone connection.

Dinner and overnight camp in Laya.
If you've trekked from Paro Valley, it's advised to spend a day recuperating from the trek to Laya to prepare yourself for the rest of this challenging but spectacular trek. If you've started from Gasa (Punakha), you should also walk up to Laya to acclimatise rather than staying at the trail junction to Lunana. It’s worthwhile to spend one day in Laya just for the great views and its extraordinary inhabitants.

Dinner and overnight camp in Laya.
From Laya, descend to an army camp and continue following the river until the turn off point to Rhoduphu. After lunch, the climb continues through rhododendron bushes for a total trek of 19 kilometres and eight hours before reaching the camp at Roduphu just next to the Rhodu River.

Dinner and overnight camp in Rhoduphu.
After following the river for about 30 minutes, make a steady climb to a high open valley at 4,600 metres and then further up to the Tsomola Pass at an altitude of 4,900 metres. Tsomola offers superb views of Lunana, the Tibetan border and Jomolhari and Jichu Drake. The 5-hour route then crosses a flat, barren plateau at about 5,000 metres for a total trekking distance of 17 kilometres. The campsite at Narethang is towered by the peak of Gangla Karchung (6,395 metres)

Dinner and overnight camp in Narethang.
From the campsite, climb for about an hour to Gangla Karchung La (5,120 metres). The view from the pass is breathtaking and the whole range of mountains including Jekangphu Gang (7,100 metres), Tsenda Kang and Teri Gang (7,300 metres) can be seen. The pass descends along a large moraine with stunning views of a massive glacier descending from Teri Kang to a deep turquoise lake. Here, in the early 1960s, the glacial lake burst through its dam causing widespread damage and partially destroying Punakha Dzong. The trek continues with a very long descent through thick rhododendron forests to Tarina Valley. You'll find several good campsites along the Tang River after a trekking a total distance of 18 kilometres for the day.

Dinner and overnight camp in Tarina.
The day's 7-hour, 17-kilometre walk leads down through conifer forests following the upper ridges of the Pho River and passes by some impressive waterfalls. The trail then climbs over a ridge and drops to Woche, the first small village in the Lunana region with a handful of houses.

Dinner and overnight camp in Woche.
The 7-hour, 17-kilometre trek starts through juniper and fir forests and further ahead through rhododendron bushes. Climb up to Kechela mountain (4,650 metres) where one can have the great view of the surrounding mountains again. After the pass, descend to the riverside and walk through a village with a stunning view of Table Mountain and other scenic peaks. Follow the river up to Lhedi Village, which has a basic health unit, a school and a wireless telephone connection.

Dinner and overnight camp in Lhedi.
In clear weather, enjoy spectacular views of Table Mountain, with a peak rising to 7,100 metres. Around lunchtime, pass by the small village of Chozo (4,090 metres) which still has a dzong used by its community members. Upon arriving in Thanza, you will have another grand view of Table Mountain, which forms a 3,000-metre-high wall of snow and ice behind the village. Although there are possibilities to camp directly at Thanza, most groups prefer to camp in Thoencha.

Dinner and overnight camp in Thanza or Thoencha.
In Thanza, walk around and experience village life or climb up the ridge for fascinating views of the nearby lakes and mountains. Since the yaks from Laya will not go further than Thanza, you might have to spend one day relaxing at Thanza while arrangements to get new yaks are being made.

Dinner and overnight camp in Thanza.
From Thoencha, the trail climbs up to a large boulder from where you will have excellent views of Thanza, Toencha and Choso village and the surrounding mountains. After a few hours and 8 kilometres of relatively flat and easy walking, arrive at a yak meadow with some yak herders’ huts. It is an excellent campsite with a great chance to spot blue sheep on the hills above. A trail junction near the campsite offers the choice of routes up to the Gangkhar Puensum base camp, to Bumthang or to Sephu (Trongsa).

Dinner and overnight camp in Danji.
After eating breakfast, begin the 5-hour, 12-kilometre trek to Sephu. This crosses a creek and then after a long climb you'll reach Jazela (5,150 metres) and be rewarded with spectacular panoramic mountain views. The path then descends between snow-covered peaks and a couple of small lakes to the campsite near the shore of Tshochena Lake.

Dinner and overnight camp in Tshochena.
In the morning, follow the bank of the blue-green lake before arriving at a ridge at an altitude of 5,100 metres, where there are breathtaking views in all directions. After going up and down over small hills, you'll reach a glacial lake and then the route descends first before climbing again to the next pass, Lojula (5,140 metres). Finally, after crossing a small saddle (5,100 metres), enter a wide glacial valley from where the trail descends gradually to the campsite at Jichu Dramo. The total trek is 14 kilometres and six hours long.

Dinner and overnight camp in Jichu Dramo.
Right after leaving the camp, climb through a moraine to Rinchen Zoela (5,320 metres), the highest pass on this trek route. You'll be rewarded with spectacular mountain scenery including views of Gangkhar Puensum Rinchen Zoe Peak (5,650) towers above the pass to the west. Descending from Rinchen Zoela, the route leads into a wide valley with several lakes and goes steeply down along a moraine to the Thamphe River. Here the vegetation begins to thicken again and you will see the first real trees since Lhedi. After a couple of hours, reach the campsite at Chukarpo after a total hike of seven hours and 18 kilometres.

Dinner and overnight camp in Chukarpo.
The descent continues along the river until you reach the yak herder huts at Gala Pang River at an altitude of 4,010 metres. From here, the trail climbs steeply towards Thampe Tsho, a beautiful clear turquoise lake, with the campsite next to it. You’ll trek a total of 18 kilometres before reaching the campsite.

Dinner and overnight camp in Thampe Tsho.
Begin the day's 14-kilometre trek from the lake, climbing steeply to the last mountain pass on your trek, Thampela (4,600 metres), and spotting blue sheep on the way. Then the path descends to the sacred lake, Om Thso. After passing a waterfall, reach a smaller lake one hundred metres below and then the trail descends steeply to the Nikka River. The path finally leads through mixed forests to a large clearing on the banks of the river with a few yak herder huts.

Dinner and overnight camp in Maurothang.
On the last day of this extraordinary trek, your porters will change from yaks to horses because the yaks are not willing to go further down. The path follows the Nikka River and ends at large grassy area overlooking the road and the village of Sephu. Finally, reach the road at the Nikka River Bridge at Sephu after trekking for six hours and 18 kilometres. There, you will find several stores mainly selling bamboo products and several small restaurants. In the evening, drive to Punakha for an overnight stay.

Dinner and overnight stay at a hotel in Punakha.
After breakfast, drive through the spiralling mountain road through the Dochula Pass toward Punakha Valley. On a clear day, Dochula offers stunning views of the snowcapped Himalayan range. With powerful binoculars, you can view Jejekangphu Gang, Zongophu Gang (Table Mountain) and Gangkhar Puensum. Afterwards, visit Druk Wangyel Chorten, a new landmark for travellers as you cross the first mountain pass within the country. Arrive in Paro and enjoy the rest of the evening at your leisure exploring the town.

Dinner and accommodations at a hotel in Paro.
After breakfast, your guide will accompany you to the airport and bid you "Tashi delek!" for your onward flight.

Includes

  • All private transfers, Hotel accomodation and transportation inclusive of taxes during the entire tour
  • Meals as stated in the programme B= Breakfast, L= Lunch & D= Dinner
  • Transfers and tours with English-speaking guides in private air conditioned vehicles
  • All entrance fees as mentioned in the programme
  • Mineral water available in the vehicles
  • Visa fees at US$40 per person

Excludes

  • Domestic airfare (quoted separately, if requested)
  • International airfare to / from Lao (quoted separately, if requested)
  • Optional tours
  • Surcharges for other language guides
  • Surcharges for Lao Pimai (New Year)
  • Personal travel insurance
  • Personal expenditures, such as drinks, souvenirs, laundry, camera fees, communications, postage, gratuities, etc.
  • Meals and services other than mentioned in the programme
  • Drinks with meals
  • Compulsory gala dinners during festive seasons and peak season surcharges which will be advised at the time of booking or when available
  • Early check-in and late check-out at hotels, if not mentioned in the programme

Notes

Upon request, a licensed French, German, Spanish or other language-speaking guide can accompany participants for the whole duration of the trip at an additional cost.

Tour code: SMT29

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