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Certainly a “trip of a lifetime,” this OutWest tour is one of the best all-around safaris offered in East Africa. You’ll travel by jeep-type vehicle across the savanna, spot for lions hunting for their prey, watch giraffes amble across the savannah, and kick-back in lodges and camps in the evenings and relax in the wide-open African spaces.
DAY ONE. ARRIVAL IN BHUTAN. The OutWest Global Adventures’ itinerary offers participants the famous sights of northern Tanzania plus the opportunity to get off the beaten path and into the bush! The Tanzanian guides are the key- enthusiastic, professional, and highly experienced. Throughout the tour are opportunities for walking and cultural interaction. Join OutWest for an awe-inspiring trip to Africa!
The scenic flight into Paro offers a spectacular view of the Himalayan ranges. If you’re lucky, you may even see Mount Everest and other famous peaks like Kanchenjunga, Makalu, and Chomolhari. OutWest Global Adventures will arrange your flight to Paro, Bhutan from Bangkok.
Upon arrival, you’ll be greeted by our local hosts and taken sightseeing in the Paro valley. We start with Ta Dzong, a monastery/fortress that was later converted into the National Museum in 1967. A Dzong is a fortress-like structure that functions as a monastery. Inside the museum you will find many antique paintings, carvings, status, textiles, and jewlery. We’ll drive to the Rimpung Dzong which was built in the 17th century. This dzong is now the administration center and school for the monks. In the afternoon, we’ll check into the hotel.
DAY TWO. PARO, DRUKGYEL DZONG, AND THE HIKE TO TAKTSANG (THE TIGER’S NEST). Today, we’ll visit the Drukgyel Dzong, a 17th century monastery ruin. This fortress was built in 1649 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in a location chosen for its control of the route to Tibet. The Dzong was name Druk (Bhutan) gyel (victory) to commemorate the victory of Bhutan over Tibetan invaders in 1644. On a clear day one can get a glimpse of Mount Chomolhari, the Mountain of Goddess (24,000ft).
Today’s hike will bring us to the Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest) Monastery on the side of a cliff 900m above the floor of Paro valley. As believed by the Bhutanese, Guru Padmasambhava (a very famous Buddhist saint) flew here on a Tigress's back in the 8th century and meditated for three months. Guru Padmasambhava was the one who later converted the whole Paro valley into Buddhism.
DAY THREE. THE START OF THE TREK- PARO TO JILI DZONG. On a trek in Bhutan, pack animals carry all of the gear while you just carry a daypack. There will be guides, cooks, and camp staff throughout the trek. You can relax and let the staff take care of the details while you just hike from camp to camp. If you’ve ever done wilderness backpacking, a fully supported trek will seem like a luxury.
You should be prepared to hike 3-6 hours a day with elevation gains of up to 600 vertical meters (about 2000 feet) in a day. The maximum elevation will be 4180 meters (13,700 feet).
We’ll start north of Paro town, up the Du Chhu Valley. Our camp will be close to Jili Dzong, a monastery mostly in ruins. On a clear day, we’ll be able to see Mount Chhomolhari and other snow-capped mountains in the distance. Below is the Paro Valley. 10 km, 3-4 hours, camp at 3450 meters.
DAY FOUR. JANGCHU LAKHA. We’ll climb through a thick alpine forest and rhododendron to a saddle at 3590 meters. The trail follows the ridges, making ups and downs, staying above tree line. There are views of Mount Chhomolhari and other snow-capped peaks. You may see yak herders. 11 km, 4-5 hours, camp at 3780 meters.
DAY FIVE. JIMILANG TSHO. The trail follows a ridge for about 1 1/2 hours to a saddle at 4040 meters. Then the path drops and follows the ridge back to Jangchu La at 4180 meters. We descend to the camp at 3880 meters. We’ll stay close to the large Jimilang Tsho (Sand Ox Lake), named for a bull that emerged from the lake and joined the cattle of a family that uses the area as a summer grazing ground. The lake is also known for its giant trout. To the west there are good views of 6989 meter Jichu Drake, the peak representing the protective deity of Paro. 11 km, 4-5 hours, camp at 3880 meters.
DAY SIX. SIMKOTA TSHO PHAJODING. The trail climbs through dwarf rhododendron to the lake of Janye Tsho, another yak herder camp. After a short climb, we’ll descend to camp, close to Simkota Tsho. We’ll pass a small lake then climb to Phume La (4210 meters) where we’ll be greeted by a vast array of prayer flags. Weather permitting there are views of Gangkhar Puensum and other Himalayan peaks. Below sprawls the entire Thimpu valley. The route then descends past Thujidrag Goemba, a precipitous rock face. The descent continues through juniper tees to a campsite beside a community hall near Phajoding Goemba, an important pilgrimage site. 21 km 7-9 hours, camp at 4040 meters
DAY SEVEN. PUNAKA. It’s all downhill 5 kilometers to the trailhead. The drive to Punakha takes three to four hours and crosses over Dochu La, a mountain pass. At the summit one gets a panoramic view of the Himalayas. Punakha Dzong is one of Bhutan’s most important historic and religious structures. Construction was started in 1637 and completed the following year. The Dzong is 180 meters long and 72 meters wide and stands six stories tall. For much of Bhutan’s history, Punakha was a center of political, social, and religious life.
That evening will be spent in Wangduephodrang, the site of another impressive fortress. Set atop a hill and above a river, the Dzong was strategically placed in the valley. The evening is spent at a hotel in the area.
DAY EIGHT. THIMPU. Continuing on the same roads we came, we’ll pass through Wangduephodrang and over Dochu La, and finally into Thimpu, Bhutan’s capital. Perhaps the only world capital without traffic lights, Thimphu keeps some of its traditions rather than adopting modern ways. In this case, they prefer traffic circle cops to the electric lights.
DAY NINE. THIMPU SITES AND PARO. Today the tour includes visits to a variety of types of sites- religious, political, intellectual, and commercial. The Memorial Chorten is a Tibetan-style shrine and a place of devotion for Buddhists. In the National Library the old and the new converge; Tibetan texts written on long strips of handmade paper are housed near recent English-language books. The Handcrafts Emporium is the market where you’ll find locally made crafts and souvenirs. In the late afteroon, we’ll drive down the valley to Paro and our hotel, which is close to the international airport.
DAY TEN. DEPARTURE. From the Paro airport, you will fly to Bangkok, Thailand. You may choose to fly to Kathmandu or Delhi, but please check with OutWest for Druk Air flight options. OutWest must arrange your flights to and from Bhutan.