Himalaya Karakoram Travel Bhutan

Snowman Trek

The Snowman Trek is a demanding trek for very healthy, fit and experienced trekkers. We will be trekking at an altitude between 3000 and 5345 meters for 26 days. Daily trekking times are between 4 and 10 hours. Patience, team spirit and flexibility are required at this trek.

From “Beneath Blossom Rain: Discovering Bhutan on the Toughest Trek in the World” by Kevin Grange: “Why is the Snowman considered so tough? Not only are trekkers hiking nearly 10 miles a day, they traverse 11 high-mountain passes, seven of them over 16,000 feet. In addition to the risks inherent on at times precarious trails and from unpredictable weather, the height of the mountain passes makes altitude sickness a very real – and potentially fatal – danger. More people have climbed Mount Everest than have completed the Snowman Trek, Fewer than 120 people a year attempt the trek; less than 50 percent finish. Or, as one of author Kevin Grange’s fellow trekkers put it, “Everybody cries at some point on the Snowman Trek.”

We start trekking at Drugyel Dzong at 2580 m and walk along paddy fields, pass through villages, pine forests and along crystal clear streams and wild rivers, until we reach high pastureland, where we get the first view of the high peaks. During the 26 days we will cross over 13 passes (La), with Gophu La, being the highest with 5345 m. We will trek through uninhabited land, meet the occasional herdsman and spend some time with the friendly people in the settlements of Laya and Lunana.

Our pack animals will be ponies, horses, donkeys and yak depending on our route and altitude. In low altitude we will be using ponies, donkeys and horses, whereas yaks are a must for the high passes. We have to be prepared for cold, heat, wind, snow and rain as well as for the crossing of several streams.

The following trekking itinerary is designed to ensure that you will get enough time for the necessary acclimatisation during the first days of trekking and a pace, which allows
you to fully enjoy your walk through the spectacular mountain scenery of Bhutan.

There are two possible variations of the Trek. Both start from Drukyel Dzong in Paro. Variation one and ends in Nikka Chhu, near Trongsa. Variation two ends in Dur Village in Bumthang Valley.

Day 1 – Paro

After arrival in Paro, your guide will receive you and bring you to your hotel to refresh. After lunch you visit Paro Dzong, known as Rinchen Pung or Rinpung Dzong, which means ‘fortress on a heap of jewels’. It is one of the most impressive and well-known Dzongs in Bhutan.

Ta Dzong was built as a watchtower to Paro Dzong. It was renovated in 1968 and converted into the National Museum.

Day 2 – Paro

Drive to Chele La Pass at 3988 m, the highest motorable pass in Bhutan. From here we will have an excellent view on the Bhutan Himalaya. We will have a picnic on the pass and will brief you for the Snowman Trek.

Day 3 – Paro

An early start is necessary today to climb to Taktsang Monastery, known as the ‘Tiger’s Nest’, which is one of the most famous and venerated places of pilgrimage in the country. It is perched on the side of a steep cliff about 900 metres above the floor of Paro valley. This day tour will get you into trekking mood for the next day.

After Taktsang you will see Drukgyel Dzong. The Dzong was named ‘Druk’ (Bhutan) ‘Gyel’ (victory) to commemorate the victory of Bhutan over Tibetan invaders in 1644. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal built Drukgyel Dzong in 1649.

Later in the afternoon visit to Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the oldest and most beautiful monasteries in the country built in the 7th century by the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo.

Trekking days 4 – 21 from Drukyel Dzong to Thanza

Day 4: Drugyel Dzong / Paro (2580 m) to Shana (2890 m) / 5 hrs.
Day 5: Shana to Soi Thangthanka (3575 m) / 6-7 hrs.
Day 6: Soi Thangthanka to Jangothang (Jhomolhari Camp) (4044 m) / 4-5 hrs.
Day 7: Rest Day at Jhomolhari Camp
Day 8: Jangothang to Lingshi (4010 m) via Nyile La (4890 m) / 5-6 hrs.
Day 9: Lingshi to Chebisa (3990 m) / 3-4 hrs.
Day 10: Chebisa to Shakyapasang (4000 m) via Gombu La (4440 m) / 5 hrs.
Day 11: Shakyapasang to Robluthang (4160 m) via Jare La (4785 m) / 7-8 hrs.
Day 12: Robluthang to Limithang (4160 m) via Sinche La (5000 m) / 6-7 hrs.
Day 13: Limithang to Laya (3800 m) / 4 hrs. / 9 km
Day 14: Rest day in Laya
Day 15: Laya to Rodophu (4215 m) / 7-8 hrs.
Day 16: Rodophu to Narethang (4940 m) via Tsemo La (4905 m) / 7 hrs.
Day 17: Narethang to Tarina (3938 m) via Karakachu La (5020 m) / 7-8 hrs.
Day 18: Tarina to Woche (3905 m) and Kesha La Camp (4163 m) / 5-6 hrs.
Day 19: Kesha La Camp to Lhedi (3900 m) via Keche La (4666 m) / 5 hrs.
Day 20: Lhedi to Thanza (4100 m) / 3-4 hrs.
Day 21: Rest day in Thanza

Trekking days 22 – 29 Variation 1: from Thanza to Dur in Bumthang Valley

Day 22: Thanza to Tsorim (4870 m) / 3,5-4 hrs.
Day 23: Tsorim to Saram (4900 m) via Gophu La (5345 m) / 7,5 hrs.
Day 24: Saram to Minchugang (4210 m) / 7 hrs.
Day 25: Minchugang to Uruthang (4455 m) via Phodrang La (4652 m), Sake Le (4820 m) and Uruthang La (4780 m) / 5 hrs.
Day 26: Uruthang to Dur Tsachu (3310 m) via Nephu La (4495 m) / 6 hrs.
Day 27: Dur Tsachu to Tsochenchen (3920 m) via Gongto La (4327 m) and Djule La (4550 m) / 7-8 hrs.
Day 28: Tsochenchen to Chuzombe (3290 m) / 6 hrs.
Day 29: Chuzombe to Dur (2688 m) / 4-5 hrs.
You will be received in Dur village by our vehicle and driven to Jakar, Bumthang.

Day 30 – Bumthang Valley

Jakar, the main town of the Dzongkhag, lies in Chokhor valley at an elevation of 2580 m. Bumthang is an important centre of Buddhism and several significant Lhakhang, Goembas and Monasteries as well as the annual festivals are worth a visit.

Tamshing Goemba is the most important Nyingma Goemba in Bhutan, establishes 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 (see also Kyichu Lhakhang in Paro Dzongkhag). The Jambay Lhakhang Drup is one of the most colourful festivals in Bhutan, takes place in October.

Jakar Dzong is pitched on a high ground overlooking the town. It was built as a monastery in 1549 by the great-grandfather of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, Ngagi Wangchuck.

The Cheese and Beer Factory was established by a Swiss development project.

Day 31 – Bumthang to Thimphu

On our drive to Thimphu, we will have several stops to see some of the sites along the road.

Day 32 – Thimphu

The National Institute for Zorig Chusum, which means the “13 traditional arts” of Bhutan is commonly known as the Painting School. The students follow a comprehensive course that starts with drawing, painting, woodcarving, embroidery and statue making.

National Institute of Traditional Medicine: Established in 1978, there is a day care facility and clinic where traditional doctors diagnose patients and prescribe appropriate medicines or treatments. The traditional herbal medicines, ointments and medicinal teas consist of plants, minerals and animal parts, are manufactured in the production facility and distributed to regional health-care units within the country.

The Royal Textile Academy is worth a visit to experience Bhutan’s living national art of weaving. Techniques and styles of the local costumes and textiles made by man and women across Bhutan are on display.

The National Library collection ranges from traditional books and manuscripts, modern books about any kind of topic, an old printing press and wooden blocks for printing books and prayer flags to a the largest published book in the world, entitled “Bhutan”.

Changangkha Lhakhang is located in Motithang above Thimphu town. It was established in the 12th century and the central statue is Chenresig in an 11-headed, thousand-armed manifestation.

For the remaining day you can explore Thimphu town, shop some souvenirs and mingle with the people. You will enjoy the evening with a visit and traditional dinner at the Folk Heritage Museum. The museum replicates a traditional farmhouse and is designed and furnished how many rural Bhutanese still live today.

Day 33 – Departure from Paro

Early drive from Thimphu to Paro and departure to your next destination.

Trekking days 22 – 28 Variation 2: from Thanza to Nikka Chhu

Day 22: Thanza to Djundje (4540 m) / 4 hrs.
Day 23: Djundje to Tsho Chena (4960 m) via Jaze La (5150 m) / 5 hrs.
Day 24: Tsho Chena to Jichu Dramo (5060 m) via Loju La (5145 m) / 6 hrs.
Day 25: Jichu Dramo to Tsho Tsho Tshang (4450 m) via Rinchen Zoe La (5326 m) / 8 hrs.
Day 26: Tsho Tsho Tshang to Tampoe Tsho (4355 m) / 6 hrs.
Day 27: Tampoe Tsho to Maurothang (3698 m) via Tempe La (4665 m) / 5 hrs.
Day 28: Maurothang to Nikka Chhu (2627 m) / 5 hrs.
The vehicle will be waiting for you at Nikka Chhu and will drive to Punakha for the night.

Day 29 – Punakha to Thimphu

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.

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.

In the afternoon we will travel from Thimphu to Punakha via Dochula Pass. We will stop to see the 108 Druk Wangyel Chorten on the 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.[/elitetoggle][/eliteaccordion]

Day 30 – Thimphu

The National Institute for Zorig Chusum, which means the “13 traditional arts” of Bhutan is commonly known as the Painting School. The students follow a comprehensive course that starts with drawing, painting, woodcarving, embroidery and statue making.

National Institute of Traditional Medicine: Established in 1978, there is a day care facility and clinic where traditional doctors diagnose patients and prescribe appropriate medicines or treatments. The traditional herbal medicines, ointments and medicinal teas consist of plants, minerals and animal parts, are manufactured in the production facility and distributed to regional health-care units within the country.

The Royal Textile Academy is worth a visit to experience Bhutan’s living national art of weaving. Techniques and styles of the local costumes and textiles made by man and women across Bhutan are on display.

The National Library collection ranges from traditional books and manuscripts, modern books about any kind of topic, an old printing press and wooden blocks for printing books and prayer flags to a the largest published book in the world, entitled “Bhutan”.

Changangkha Lhakhang is located in Motithang above Thimphu town. It was established in the 12th century and the central statue is Chenresig in an 11-headed, thousand-armed manifestation.

For the remaining day you can explore Thimphu town, shop some souvenirs and mingle with the people. You will enjoy the evening with a visit and traditional dinner at the Folk Heritage Museum. The museum replicates a traditional farmhouse and is designed and furnished how many rural Bhutanese still live today.

Day 31 – Departure from Paro

Early drive from Thimphu to Paro and departure to your next destination.