Merak Sakteng Trek

Trekking through the Land of the Brokpa

Difficulty Level :

Duration : 12 Days

Maximum Elevation : 4,070 m

Merak and Sakteng is one of the highlights of Eastern Bhutan. The area has been closed to foreign visitors for many years and was opened for tourists only in 2010. The inhabitants, the Brokpa (which means herder) originate from Tibet and have maintained their own culture and traditions.

The Brokpa are semi nomadic herders with an economy solely based on yak and sheep products. The yak pastures are situated in the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary, which was established to protect the unique nature of the Sanctuary as well as the Yeti, called Migoi in Bhutan. The best time for a trek in M&S is from April to October when the Brokpa are grazing their animals in the higher pastures. During this time high altitude plants are blooming in abundance and the Tsechus (religious festivals) of Merak and Sakteng are taking place. During the winter months, the Brokpa are grazing their animals in the forests and pastures around Khaling, Kanglung, Shinghar Lauri and Radi.

Four days leisurely drive from Paro through fascinating Himalayan landscapes are necessary to reach Trashigang, the base to start the trek to Merak and Sakteng. After the trek, Bhutan can be exited through Samdrup Jongkhar, Bhutan’s eastern border town to India, and depart from Guwahati International Airport. This journey can also start in Guwahati and end with your departure from Paro International Airport.

Day 1 - Paro to Punakha

After arrival in Paro, your guide will receive you and before starting your journey to Eastern Bhutan, you will visit Paro Dzong, also known as Rinchen Pung or Rinpung Dzong, which means “fortress on a heap of jewels”, which is one of the most impressive and well-known Dzongs in Bhutan. And Ta Dzong, which was built as a watchtower to Paro Dzong. It was renovated in 1968 and converted into the National Museum. On the way to Punakha shortly after leaving Paro, you will visit Tachogang Lhakhang. Tachogang means “temple on the hill of the excellent horse”, build by the great master architect and yogi Thangtong Gyalpo. Thimphu still has no traffic lights but is a vibrant town with many attractions. We will stop to see the 108 Druk Wangyel Chorten on Dochu La Pass, which were built by the present Queen Mother of Bhutan, Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, to commemorate Bhutan’s victory over Assamese militants and to liberate the souls lost during the fighting. Enjoy the superb view of the snow-capped peaks. Arriving in Punakha Valley you will visit Chhimi Lhakhang. Perched on the hilltop overlooking the Punatsang Chhu, Chhimi Lhakhang was build in 1499 by the cousin of Lama Drukpa Kunley (The Divine Madman), in his honour, after he subdued the demoness of the nearby Dochula with his ‘magic thunderbolt of wisdom’. A wooden effigy of lama’s thunderbolt is preserved in the Lhakhang, and childless couples visit the Lhakhang to receive a Wang (blessing) from the saint to become fertile and also to seek protection for the children that they already have.

Day 2 - Punakha to Bumthang

We continue our trip towards the east and visit some attractions on the way. Punakha Dzong was the centre of the government until it was relocated to Thimphu Dzong. It was named Pungthang Dechen Phodrang, which means the Palace of Great Bliss. It continues to be the winter home of the central monk body. The Dzong contains the massive gold statues of Buddha, Guru Rinpoche and the Zhabdrung, dating back to the mid-18th century. Bhutan’s most treasured possession is the Rangjung (Self-Created) Kharsapani, an image of Chenresig that is kept in the Tse Lhakhang of the Dzong. While driving up to Pele La Pass you will have a chance to see Grey Langurs. Large groups usually forage on the side of the road. Later on the way to Trongsa, we will have a stop to visit the Chendebji Choeten, a replica of the Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu. Arriving in Trongsa, we will have lunch and visit Trongsa Dzong, an impregnable fortress high above the roaring Mangde Chhu River. Its official name is Chhoekhor Raptentse Dzong. Trongsa Dzong is the ancestral home of Bhutan’s royal family. The first two hereditary kings ruled from this Dzong, and tradition still dictates that the crown prince serves as Trongsa Penlop before acceding to the throne. We will reach Bumthang late afternoon.

Day 3 - Bumthang to Mongar

Tamshing Goemba is the most important Nyingma Goemba in Bhutan, established in 1501 by Pema Lingpa. Kurjey Lhakhang is a large and important temple complex and one of the most sacred monasteries in Bhutan. It was built by the Guru Rinpoche in 1652 and houses a rock with his body imprint. Beside the Monastery is a tall cypress tree, which is believed to have sprouted from the walking stick of Guru Rinpoche. Jambay Lhakhang built in 659 by the Tibetan King Sontsen Gampo to pin down a demoness who was obstructing the spread of Buddhism. The Jambay Lhakhang Drup Festival is one of the most colourful festivals in Bhutan, takes place in October. In the afternoon you proceed to Mongar on a very scenic road via the 3800m high Trumsing La and through the beautiful valley of Limithang.

Day 4 - Mongar to Trashigang

Today we will make a four hour drive to Trashigang. You can use the afternoon for a stroll through town and to prepare for the trek.

Day 5 - Trashigang to Nyeraama Chu Valley

A one hour drive will take us to the road head in Challing at 2145m, where we are awaited by our transport animals. Our route leads via Mon La (3390 m) into the Nyeraama Chu Valley and to our Campsite (3120 m).

Day 6 - Nyeraama Chu Camp to Merak

Todays trek leads along the Nyeraama Chu. In the late afternoon we start a gentle climb until we reach Gengo Village. After another hour trekking we will reach Merak at 3520 m.

Optional Side Trek

Day 1 - Merak to Jomo Kuengkhar

This is a beautiful walk to high yak pasture land and to the sacred lake of Ama Jomo.

Day 2 - Jomo Kuengkhar to Merak

Possible optional days in Merak for exploration and if dates coincide with the local festivals is possible.

Day 7 - Merak to Miksa Teng

From Merak we will gently climb up to Nakchung La at 4070 m, where we say good by to Merak Valley. We now have a steep descent through beautiful forest to our campsite at Miksa Teng 3520 m

Day 8 - Miksa Teng to Sakteng

We descent a little further and walk along the river until we have a last short climb before we reach Sakteng at 3002 m. Optional days in Sakteng are possible to explore Sakteng and to attend one of the local festivals if festival dates are coinciding with your travel.

Day 9 - Sakteng to Jyongkhar Teng

We say good by to Sakteng. After a short climb we enter the Gamiri Chu Valley, which we follow for the remaining day through lush forests. Our campsite is Jyongkhar Teng at 1859 m.

Day 10 - Jyongkhar Teng to Phongmay and drive to Trashigang

Today’s trekking starts with an uphill climb for few hours from Jyongkhar. There are several ascents & descents until we reach Phongmay town at 1981 m, where you meet with our vehicle. A one and a half hour drive will take us back to Trashigang where we stay for the night.

Day 11 - Trashigang to Samdrup Jongkhar

A 5-6 hour drive will reach us to Samdrup Jongkhar, the border town to India.

Day 12 - Samdrup Jongkhar to Guwahati International Airport

The transfer from Samdrup Jongkhar to Guwahati International Airport will take about 3 hours where you can board your flight to your onwards destination. You can also do some further travel in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, North Eastern India as per your desire. This journey can also start in Guwahati and end with your departure from Paro International Airport.