Snowman Trek

Trekking duration: 24 days

The Snowman Trek is the longest and most difficult Bhutan Trekking route which is an extension of the beautiful Laya Gasa Trek and leads from Laya into high altitudes of the Bhutanese Himalayas. IT IS ONE OF THE TOP 10 TOUGHEST TREKS IN THE WORLD. The Trek duration is 24 days, starts from Shana in Paro and ends in Nikachu, Trongsa.

The highest point of snowman trek is 5290 meters at Rinchen Zoe La pass. It takes tough and enduring trekkers into the Lunana region and further on to Gangkhar Puensum and Bumthang or down to Sephu in Trongsa district, depending on which route you choose. The Snowman trek leads through the most remote areas up to very high altitudes. Trekkers have to camp in altitudes above 5,000 Meters more than once and depending on the seasonal temperatures, the camps are sometimes on snow.

Detailed Itinerary:

Rinping-DzongDay 01. Arrive Paro:

Upon arrival at Paro airport, our guide from Yak Holidays will receive you and drive to the hotel.

After lunch, we visit:

  • Visit the Ta Dzong (built in1656 and renovated in 1968), an ancient watchtower, which now houses the National Museum. Below the museum is the Paro Rimpung Dzong (literally meaning “Heap of Jewels”, built in 1646 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the centre of civil and religious authority in this valley.

In the evening, free to stroll in the town for shopping and photography.

Dinner and over night in Hotel.

Day 02. Hike to Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest):

After breakfast, hike to the Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest).

  • A short drive to Satsam Chorten and start the hike. The trail climbs through beautiful pine forest, many of the trees festooned with Spanish moss, and an occasional grove of fluttering prayer flags. The primary temple was built around Guru Rimpoche’s meditation cave in the 1684 by the Penlop of Paro Gyaltse Tenzin Rabgay, this incredible monastery clings to the edge of a sheer rock cliff that plunges 900 meters into the valley below. Legend has it that Guru Rimpoche, the tantric mystic who brought Buddhism to Bhutan, flew here on the back of a flying tiger, Dorji Drolo, said to be his favorite consort.

After Lunch, visit to the ruins of the Drukgyal Dzong built in 1647 by the great Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, father and unifier of medieval Bhutan, the dzong was destroyed by accidental fire.

On the way back, visit Kichu Lhakhang, built in 659 A.D by the Tibetan king Srongsen Gampo.

  • Srongsen Gampo was a Tibetan king who married a Chinese princess, Wenchen in 641. In 659, He decided to build 108 Temples in a single day to pin the Ogress to the earth forever and, at the same time, convert the Tibetan people to Buddhism. Six of these Temples lie in Bhutan; most prominent of them are Jambay Lhakhang in Bumthang and Kichu Lhakhang in Paro. Kichu Lhakhang is said to hold the left foot of the Ogress and Jambay Lhakhang pins the left knee.

Dinner and over night in Hotel.

Drukgyal-DzongDay 03. Drugyal Dzong – Sharna – Thangthanka (Start of the Snowman Trek):

After breakfast, drive to Sharna (22 kms) to start your Snowman trek. From Sharna Bridge, the trail continues upriver and the route winds in and out of rhododendron and blue pine forests. When we enter Jigme Dorji National Park keep your eyes open for wildlife and changes in vegetation as we continue to climb in elevation. Tonight we camp in Thangthanka (3520 m). Distance: 22 kms, 7 to 8 hours walk.

Day 04. Thangthanka to Jangothang:

An hour out of camp this morning we leave the tree line and head into the high mountains. At the halfway point of our hike, we cross Tengethang, a winter home of the migratory yak herders. Arriving at Jangothang (4040 m / 13,250 ft), we can watch the sun set on Mt. Jhomolhari (7314 m) and Mt. Jichu Drake (6989 m). Distance: 19 km – 5 to 6 hours

Day 05. Rest day in Jangothang:

The first of our acclimatization days for the snowman trek, we have many day-hiking options. The first is a three to four hour excursion up the ridge to the north for great views of Jichu Drake. The second is to hike up towards the head of the valley in the direction of Jhomolhari. The third is a trek up the main valley towards the last house and onward toward Jichu Drake, this gives a great view of where we will be going in the next few days. The final alternative is a fishing expedition to Tshophu, a high-altitude lake about a two hour hike away.

Day 06. Jangothang – Lingshi:

We walk uphill from Jangothang we cross the first of many major passes. The Nyile La pass at 4890 m (16,135 ft) is about a four hour ascent. Descending the other side we will encounter sparse Juniper and Rhododendron and pass many Yak Herders’ camps. From this area on we start to see herds of blue sheep. Arriving in Lingshi we set up camp at 4150 m. Distance: 20 km – 6 to 7 hours walk.

Day 07. Lingshi – Chebisa:

This morning we will visit Lingshi Dzong, also known as Yugyel Dzong in the 17th century, it was used in the past to control travel between Tibet and Bhutan. Since today’s hike will not be as long, the pace will be more relaxed. Upon reaching the camp at Chebisa (3850 m / 12,600 ft), we will have time to visit Chebisa village and see a slice of Bhutanese village life. Distance: 14 km – 4 to 5 hours.

Day 08. Chebisa to Shakshepasa:

Crossing the Gombu La pass at 4350 m (14,300 ft), we descend into a rhododendron filled valley, and continue past some yak herder camps to Shakshepasa where we camp at 3980 m (13,100 ft). Distance: 13 km – 4 hours

Yaktsha TrekDay 09. Shakshepasa – Robluthang:

An early morning start will get us on the way to Jhari La pass at 4747 m (15,600 ft). Decending to Tsharijathang, the valley where herds of Takin (the national animal of Bhutan) are normally seen. From here we climb to our camp at Robluthang at 4160 m. Distance: 18 km – 7 to 8 hours

Day 10. Robluthang – Limithang:

Starting early a strenuous hike leads to the Shinge La pass at 5005 m (16,650 ft). Descending to Lemithang we’ll see Mt. Gangchenta (6840 m) and the glacially carved Gangchhenta valley. Gangchhenta means Great Tiger Mountain. We camp at 4140 m. Distance: 19 km – 7 to 8 hours

Day 11. Limithang – Laya:

A shorter hike follows a trail in and out of a heavily wooded, uninhabited valley. Climbing up out of the forests we will be rewarded with some great views of Gangchhenta and Masang Gang (7165 m) mountains. We camp at Laya at 3840 m. Distance: 10 km – 4 to 5 hours

Day 12. Rest day in Laya:

Staying in Laya for the day to acclimatize for the second part of snowman trek. We will get a chance to see the village with its community school, hospital, archery field and the first shop since the Paro Valley. Laya is a unique village of about 800 people with their own language, customs and distinct dress. The women keep their hair long and wear peculiar conical bamboo hats with a bamboo spike at the top. They wear a lot of silver jewellery on their backs; on many women this display includes an array of teaspoons.

Day 13. Laya to Rodufu:

The trek leads gradually downhill to the Lunana trail junction, and then makes a gradual climb to the camp through a forest of conifers, maple and rhododendron. The trail improves and becomes wider as we climb out of the river valley. We camp at Rodufu near a small stream at 4160 m. Distance: 19 km – 6 to 7 hours

Day 14. Rodufu to Narethang:

It is a long hike, first crossing the Tsimo La pass at 4950 m (16,200 ft). Descending to Narethang we pass some dwarf Rhododendron and hike in the shadow of Gangla Karchung peak (6395 m). We camp at 4900 m. Distance: 16 km – 8 to 9 hours

Jomolhari TrekDay 15. Narethang – Tarina:

Climb to Karchung La pass at 5240 m (17,187 ft) and down to the glacial lakes that are the source of the Tang Chhu river. Above the lakes are the mighty peaks of Jejekangphu Gang (7300 m) and Tsenda Kang (7100 m). We camp at Tarina, 4020 m. Distance 18 km – 5 to 6 hours

Day 16. Tarina – Woche:

The walk leads down through conifer forests, following the upper reaches of the Pho Chhu river. The trail then climbs over a ridge and drops to the village of Woche at 3940 m. The trek has now entered the Lunana region. Distance: 15 km – 5 to 6 hours.

Day 17. Woche Lhedi:

It’s a gradual climb from Woche to the Keche La pass at 4580 m (15,100 ft), then downhill to Thega village. The hike continues to Lhedi village where we camp at 3600 m. Distance: 19 km – 7 to 8 hours

Day 18. Lhedi – Thanza:

The trail climbs gradually following the main source of the Pho Chhu to Chozo village. At the small Chozo Dzong there are some lay monks. Above Chozo the valley opens as we approach Thanza village near the foot of 7100 m Zogophu, which is also known as the Table Mountain. We camp at Thanza, 4080 m. Distance: 19 km – 6 to 7 hours

Day 19. Rest day at Thanza 4080 m (13,300 ft):

This is the biggest and last village you will come across before you end your snowman trek. This day is a fantastic opportunity to interact with the hospitable local villagers, and explore the beautiful surrounding area, our farthest point in the Lunana valley. Alternatively you can relax around camp and rest up for some of the tough days ahead. As Thanza is a transfer point for horses and yaks, it is important to have a day here for our staff to ensure all the necessary yaks are rounded up by the local herders.

Day 20. Thanja – Danji:

Today is a relatively short, although somewhat steep, climb to a campsite called Danji, part way up to the Jaze la pass. It will allow us to have some extra time in the morning and make a later start. The camp is around 4600 m, with spectacular views of snow-capped peaks! It is an important acclimatization spot. Distance: 8 km – 4 hours.

Day 21. Danji – Tsho Chena:

The first part of the day involves a climb up over three false summits to Jaze La pass at 5050 m (16,570ft). From the pass it is a short downhill trek to the campsite at the lake of Tso Chena at 4800 m. Keep your eyes open for blue sheep during the hike. Distance: 12 km – 5 hours.

snowman trekDay 22. Tsho Chena – Jichu Dramo:

The trail has a series of gradual ups and downs between the snow-capped peaks and across the Loju La pass at 4940 m (16,300 ft) before descending to camp at Jichu Dramo at 4880 m. Distance: 14km – 4 to 5 hours

Day 23. Jichu Dramo – Chukarpo:

We start with a hard climb to Rinchen Zoe La pass at 5290 m (17,350 ft), the highest on the trek. It is then all downhill to Chukarpo, which is just above the tree line at 4950 m (16335 ft). Distance: 18 km – 5 to 6 hours

Day 24. Chukarpo – Thampe Tsho:

It is a long mostly downhill walk along the river, followed by a climb up to the Um So lake at 4230 m (13,950 ft). In this lake Pema Lingpa found a number of religious treasures. Continuing downhill we camp by the lake of Thampe Tso at 4200 m (13,860 ft). Distance: 18 km – 5 to 6 hours.

Day 25. Thampe Tsho – Maurothang:

It is a short walk to the base of Thampe La and a steep climb to the pass at 4580 m (15,100 ft). The trek is then all downhill through rhododendron bushes to the Yak pasture of Maurothang where we camp at 3550 m. Distance: 14 km – 5 hours.

Day 26. Maurothang – Nikachu (End of Snowman Trek) – Gangtey:

A long final day of trekking will descend through the lovely village of Sephu to finish at Nikachu Chazam, the road head. Distance: 23km – 7 to 8 hours.

The vehicle will pick you up here and drive to Punakha. We may also stop at the top of the Pele La pass (3400 m).

While in Gangtey, visit to Gangtey Gompa Monastery. Gyaltse Pema Thinley, the grandson and mind reincarnation of Pema Lingpa founded the Temple in 1613, and Tenzin Legpai Dhendup, the second re-incarnation, built the temple. The present Abbot, Kunzang Pema Namgyal is the ninth re-incarnation.

  • Explore Phobjikha valley at an elevation of 3000 meters, the most beautiful glacial valley in the Himalayas and the roosting ground of the Rare Black- necked Cranes in winter.

Dinner and overnight in Hotel.

Punakha-Dzong-in-PunakhaDay 27. Gangtey – Punakha: (74.7 kms – 1 ½  hours):

After breakfast, visit to the Crane information center. We then drive to Punakha.

  • On the way, take a view Wangdiphodrang Dzong built in 1638. Legend relates that as the people were searching for the site of the Dzong, four ravens were seen flying away in four directions. This was considered auspicious sign, representing the spread of religion to the four points of the compass. The Dzong is situated at the confluence of Mo Chu and Tang Chu rivers.
  • Chimi Lhakhangalso called the “Temple of Fertility” built by Lama Drukpa Kuenley also popularly known as “Devine Mad man” in the 15th Lama Drukpa Kuenley (1455 – 1529) was one of the Bhutan’s Favorite Saints who was born in Tibet, trained at Ralung Monastery and was a contemporary and a disciple of Pema Lingpa. He Travelled throughout Bhutan and Tibet as a “Neljorpa” (Yogi) using songs, humour and outrageous behavior to dramatise his teachings of Salvation through sex.

After lunch, visit to:

  • The Punakha Dzong was built in 1637 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and is situated between Pho Chu (Male River) and Mo Chu (Female River). For many years until the time of the second king, it served as the seat of the Government. Punakha is still the winter residence of Je-Khenpo and King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck convened the First National Assembly here in 1952.

In the evening, hike to Khamsung Yulley Namgyal Choling Monastery.

  • Built by Her Majesty the Queen Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuck. Perched high on a hill on the bank of the river, the Chorten houses paintings belonging to Nyingmapa Traditions.

Dinner and overnight in Hotel.

Day 28. Punakha – Thimphu: (76 kms – 3 hours):

After early breakfast, drive to Thimphu. We stop at Dochula pass (3140 meters) with 108 stupas at Dochula pass and you can see the great views of the Higher Himalayas bordering Tibet. You can see Table mountain, Mt. Masagang (7158 meters), the highest mountain in Bhutan.

  • Visit to the National Memorial Chorten (1974) built in honor of our 3rdKing, late His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck (The Father of Modern Bhutan). The paintings and statues give a rare insight into Bhutanese culture.

After Lunch at Simple Bhutan Museum restaurant, where you can enjoy typical Bhutanese dishes, Ara (Local wine), witness Folk dances, visit to the Folk Museum and many more.

  • Tallest Statue of sitting Buddha (51.5 meters) at Kuenselphodrang,
  • Visit to the Craft Bazaar where you can buy Bhutanese Handicrafts and Art works.
  • Visit to the Tashichho Dzong, seat of the national government and the Central Monastic Body including the summer residence of the Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot of Bhutan).

In the evening, free to stroll in the town for shopping and photography.

Dinner and overnight in Hotel.

Day 29. Thimphu – Paro (Departure):

After breakfast, drive to the airport and farewell.