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The Tsaluna Trek is a moderate, five-day trek that also includes an in-depth cultural tour into the spiritual central valley’s of Bhutan. This popular trek offers beautiful views as you cross the chain of mountains that separate the Paro and Thimphu valleys. This route is also famous for its spectacular rhododendron forests and wonderful high altitude lakes teeming with fish.
2 Hours Before Flight Time
The flight to Paro is one of the most spectacular mountain flights in the world, with a constantly changing panorama of some of the highest mountains on earth. Our representative will meet you at Paro airport. After lunch enjoy afternoon sightseeing around Paro, including a visit to the National Museum, Ta Dzong. This museum houses many religious relics, works of art and handicrafts offering a great orientation into Bhutan’s historical and cultural past. Next, visit the Rimpong Dzong to see the painting of the great saint Milarepa, considered as the master of meditation by the Bhutanese and believed to have attained enlightenment in a lifetime. Dzong’s are large monasteries and district administrative centres, which were once strategic forts. Afterwards walk to the beautiful cantilever wooden bridge still in use. Overnight at your hotel in Paro.
After breakfast hike to Taktsang Monastery. The trail is broad and the walk of approximately 1.5 to 2 hours uphill takes you high above the Paro valley. The view of Taktsang Monastery built on a sheer cliff face 900 metres above the valley floor is a spectacular sight. The great Guru Rimpoche is said to have flown here on the back of a tigress when he brought the teachings of the Buddhist Dharma to Bhutan in the 8th Century. Nearby there is a teahouse where you can stop for lunch.
In the afternoon drive to the ruins of the 17th Century Drukgyel Dzong, an historic monument built by the Shabdrung to commemorate his victory against invading Tibetans in 1644. In fine weather the towering peak of the sacred Mount Jomolhari (7314m) appears as a stunning backdrop. On the return drive to Paro, visit 7th Century Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the 108 temples constructed by the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo. Kyichu is built in a manner similar to the Jokhang in Lhasa. Overnight at your hotel in Paro.
8km, 4-5 hours. 1090m – ascent
Today is a short trekking day. The journey starts with a climb up to Jele Dzong. The trek trail ascends gradually up to the camp, and if the weather is clear Paro valley can be seen surrounded by snow capped mountains. Above the camp is Jele La (3400m) and Jele Dzong. There is also a Lhakhang containing a statue of Buddha Shakyamuni. Overnight at campsite. Altitude 3480m
10km, 3 – 4hours. 310m ascent, 50m descent
Begin with a one and a half hour climb and then ascend more gradually upwards. The trail takes us through thick alpine forests of rhododendrons. We will have fine views of Mt. Chomolhari and other snow capped peaks if the weather is right. We may hear some pheasants calling during the day. We may also see yak herders around your campsite. Overnight at campsite. Altitude 3770m.
Today we ascend 330m and descend 310m. The trail begins with a short climb and follows a ridge. From the top on a clear day, we get amazing views of the beautiful Mt. Jumolhari and other Himalayan ranges. After a short descent, we arrive at Jimilangtsho Lake (3,700m) and take lunch. Then, the trail descends further down towards Langrithang through fir forests. Overnight at Tsaluna campsite.
We descent 800m. The trail passes through fir and rhododendron forests and follows a stream before reaching the Tsaluna Monastery, a sacred site of Guru Rinpoche from 8th century. Further down the trail is the Tsaluna Village with beautiful farms. Then we drive to Thimphu. Overnight at hotel in Thimphu.
Once a rustic village sitting in a broad, fertile river valley, Thimphu is today the nation’s bustling capital. Enjoy a full day of sightseeing, including a visit to the National Memorial Chorten depicting the Buddhist faith in the form of paintings and statues. This temple was first initiated by the Third King as a protection from the negative elements of modernization, and as a monument to world peace. The Royal Queen Mother completed it as a memorial stupa for the Third King who passed away in 1972. Continue on to 12th century Changangkha Temple and Drubthob monastery housing the Zilukha Nunnery.
Other sites to visit include: the School for Arts and Crafts where students are taught the 13 types of Bhutanese art, The National Library housing the collection of Bhutanese scriptures dating back to the 8th century, the Traditional Paper Factory displaying the Bhutanese paper making process, and a fascinating replica of a medieval farmhouse at the Folk Heritage Museum.
If there is time, you may visit the nursing pen for the Takin, the national animal of Bhutan, and Tashichhodzong, ‘the fortress of the glorious religion’. Initially erected in 1641 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, it was rebuilt in the 1960s during the reign of Bhutan’s third king in the traditional style, without plans or nails. Tashichhodzong houses some ministries, His Majesty’s secretariat, and the central monk body.
If your visit to Thimphu coincides with the weekend, you can walk through the Thimphu Market to see the variety of food of Bhutan, including basket upon basket of fiery chillies, fresh cheese and a variety of fresh greens. In addition, many stalls contain Bhutanese handicrafts and household items. (This market is open only from Friday until mid Sunday). Overnight at your hotel in Thimphu.
It is a climb of 280m and takes about half an hour if you follow the steeper shortcut, or about an hour if you take the longer, more gradual trail. Lama Gyalwa Lhanampa founded the goenpa in the 12th century. The present building was built in the 15th century by the ‘divine madman’,Lama Drukpa kuenley. In 1616 Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyel visited Tango Goenpa and meditated in a cave nearby. The head lama, a descendent of Lama Drukpa Kenley, presented the cave to Zhabdrung, who carved a sandalwood statue of Chenresig, which he installed in the monastery.
Tango is the residence of an important young trulku (reincarnate lama) who is recognized as the seventh reincarnation of the highly respected fourth desi, Gyalse Tenzin Rabgye, whose previous incarnation passed away in 1830. Overnight at hotel in Thimphu.
After breakfast, drive over the Dochu-La Pass (3100 m), which on a clear day offers an incredible view of Himalayan peaks before descending into balmy Punakha valley (about 3 hrs total driving time). The drive through the countryside affords a glimpse of everyday life in this most remote of Himalayan kingdoms. In the Dochu-La area there are vast Rhododendron forests that bloom in late April/early May covering the mountains in a riot of glorious spring colour.
Punakha was the ancient capital of Bhutan. On arrival, visit Punakha Dzong, built in 1637 by the Zhabdrung, the ‘Unifier of Bhutan’ as predicted by the great Guru Rimpoche (Padmasambhava). It is situated at the confluence of the Mo Chu and Pho Chu Rivers and is the winter headquarters of the Je Khenpo and hundreds of monks who move en masse from Thimphu to this warmer location. The three story main temple of the Punakha Dzong is a breathtaking example of traditional architecture with four intricately embossed entrance pillars crafted from cypress and decorated in gold and silver.
After lunch, enjoy a walk to Chimi Lhakhang, temple of the Drukpa Kuenly who is also known as the Divine Madman. He inherited the Divine Madman title since he revolted against the orthodox Buddhism in his time. He taught the people that religion is an inner feeling and it’s not necessary that one should be an ordained monk. He is also considered a symbol of fertility and most childless couples go to his temple for blessing. Overnight at your hotel in Punakha.
In the morning drive to Yabesa village and hike to through rice fields and up to Khamsum Yueley Namgyal Chorten, built by her majesty the queen Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuk. Perched high on a hill on the bank of the river, the Chorten houses paintings belonging to Nyingmapa Traditions. Take a picnic lunch on a picturesque riverside. Overnight at hotel in Punakha.
Depart for Gangtey/Phobjikha. We cross the Punatsangchhu river and climb past the ruins of Wangduephodrang Dzong. Phobjikha valley is one of Bhutan’s few glacial valleys and the chosen home of the endangered bird species – black necked crane or grus nigricollis (Nov to Mar) migrating from the Tibetan plateau. Witness the Black Necked Crane festival. Overnight at hotel in Trongsa.
After breakfast proceed towards Bumthang (2.5 hrs), the spiritual heartland of the country. The road winds steeply up to Yutung La Pass (3,400m) before descending down through dense coniferous forest to Chummey valley. In Chummey visit Domkhar Palace, now used by the fifth king. Domkhar Palace was formerly the summer residence of the second king Jigme Wangchuk who had it constructed in 1937. The Palace is a fine example of authentic Bhutanese architecture.
The Bumthang Valley is home to some of Bhutan’s oldest Palaces, Buddhist temples and monasteries. The valley’s barley fields, apple groves and meadows lay below huge hills, which climb up towards the Himalayan mountain wall separating Bhutan from Tibet. On arrival, visit Wangdichholing Palace, built by Trongsa Penlop Jigme Namgyel in 1857 and later restored by his son, the first king Ugyen Wangchuck. It was the first palace to be built in Bhutan. After lunch continue sightseeing, visiting the 16th century Tamshing Lhakhang containing ancient Buddhist wall paintings, 7th Century Jambay Lhakhang and Kurje Lhakhang, one of the most sacred places in the kingdom where Bhutan’s patron saint Guru Rimpoche meditated. Overnight at your hotel in Bumthang.
Enjoy a day exploring some of the many sites around Bumthang. The 16th century Tang Ugyen Chholing Palace stands features a museum containing an excellent overview of traditional rural life in Bhutan. Continue on to visit the pool of Mebartso (The Lake of Fire). It is here that Pemalingpa (founder of the Nyingmapa sect) is said to have found treasure hidden by Guru Rinpoche. Overnight at your Hotel in Bumthang.
Depart for Wangdue, stopping along the way at Trongsa for lunch. On arrival, enjoy a stroll through the Wangdue town. Overnight at your hotel in Wangdue.
Before Departing for Paro, explore the Wangduephodrang Dzong which was built in 1639. The strategically located Dzong is perched on a spur at the confluence of two rivers. Overnight at hotel in Paro.
Breakfast in the hotel, then drive to the airport for flight to your onward destination. Tashi Delek!