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best hiking trails in bhutan

Bhutan Hiking Trails

Bhutan – Hiking the Five Valleys

Bhutan, the Land of the Thunder Dragon is a Buddhist kingdom landlocked by the Himalayas’ creating a breath-taking backdrop of landscapes rich in culture and popular for hiking the valleys and mountains.

 

Bhutan is a wonderful destination to explore on foot, with day hikes that take you to ancient dzongs, hill-top villages unchanged by time, serene monasteries, rice fields and remote valleys. The walking trails can vary from short treks or for the more experienced challenging hikes for the true adventure seeker. The varied seasons provide an opportunity to experience the diversity of nature in this truly unique kingdom.

 

From a day hike to an extended trek showcasing pristine mountain lakes, imposing glaciers, incredible vistas, nature and wildlife, Bhutan is an inspiring destination.

Paro

paro hiking trail in bhutan

The valley of Paro is blessed with lush green pine forests and surrounded by beautiful hills from all the sides. The famous Tiger Nest Temple is located in Paro. Hiking and walking is a must in Paro and offers many options for experienced and amateur adventurers wishing to explore this fascinating area on foot. The pristine Paro Valley remains a popular choice for year round hiking and trekking. The most famous treks in Bhutan such as Laya Gasa Trek, Snowman Trek, Jumolhari and Druk Path Trek all begin in Paro.

Places to visit

Rinpung Dzong

A great annual festival or tshechu is held at Rinpung Dzong from the eleventh to the fifteenth day of the second month of the traditional Bhutanese lunar calendar (usually in March or April of the Gregorian calendar). On this occasion, holy images are taken in a procession, this is followed by a series of traditional mask dances conveying religious stories which are performed by monks for several days.

 

Before the break of dawn on the morning of the fifteenth day, a great sacred thongdrel banner thangka depicting the Eight Manifestations of Padmasambhava is displayed for the public in the early morning hours, to keep to the tradition of not allowing sunlight to fall on it.

Taktsang Lhakhang

Taktsang Lhakhang is Bhutan’s most iconic landmark and religious site. The name Taktsang translates to “The Tiger’s Nest”. This temple is one of the most holy sites in the kingdom and clings impossibly to a sheer cliff face 900 meters above the Paro Valley.

 

It was first built in 1692 at a cave where Guru Rimpoche meditated in the 7th century A.D. Legend states that Guru Rimpoche flew to the site atop the back of a tigress and meditated in the cave for 3 years, 3 months, 3 days and 3 hours in order to subdue evil demons residing within it. The cave has been considered a sacred site ever since and many famous saints have traveled to meditate in it.

Drukgyel Dzong

Drukgyel Dzong was proposed to be built by Tenzin Drukdra in 1649 at the behest of Ngawang Namgyel, Zhabdrung Rinpoche, to commemorate victory over an invasion from Tibet. In the early 1950s, Drukgyal Dzong was almost completely destroyed by fire. Reconstruction works began in 2016 to celebrate the birth of The Gyalsey, as well as to commemorate two other significant events, namely, the arrival of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel to Bhutan in 1616 AD and the birth year of Guru Rinpoche. The dzong is rebuilt and reinstated to its former glory.

WHERE TO STAY?

SIX SENSES PARO

Designed to maximize what is surely one of the most scenic settings within the Six Senses Bhutan journey, this lodge, perched high above the valley floor, is known as Stone Ruins. Surrounded by pine forests and within walking distance of several ancient monasteries, Six Senses Paro offers views and authentic experiences at every turn.

six senses paro resort

Haa Valley

haa valley hiking trail in bhutan

Haa Valley is one of the best known valleys in Bhutan and first opened to tourism in 2002. It is above Paro and is wonderful for hiking, the popular Saga La Drukgyel Dzong trek is an easy trek of 23 kilometers and can be covered within two to three days. It begins in the upper reaches of the Haa Valley and passes through traditional villages, lush forests , offers picturesque scenery and ends near Drukgyel Dzong. The trek is easy and starts in the Upper reaches of the Haa Valley.

Places to visit

chele la gompa in bhutan

Kila Goemba or Chele La Goempa

Kila Goemba nunnery or Chele la Gompa is the serene home of nuns who have dedicated their life to spiritual fulfillment, away from the hustle and bustle of the towns and located on the cliffs below Chele pass at about 3,500 meters. There are around seven small temples and several retreat huts built into the sheer cliffside. Trekking through the magnificent woods to reach the quaint Kila Goemba has increased the interest of many adventurers and nature lovers making it one of the must-visit destinations in Bhutan.

 

The hike up from the main road takes almost an hour each way, through forest and steep slopes. There is also another trail descending from Chele la pass down the slopes to Kila that takes between 1-2 hours. From here the view is spectacular of Paro valley below, Jele Dozing, Mt Chomolhari and Jichu Drake on a clear day.

Lhakhang Karpo and Lhakhang Nagpo

Lhakhang Karpo and Lhakhang Nagpo are among the 108 monasteries built in one day by the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century. It is said that the King released two pigeons, a white and a black one from his consciousness to select the sites to build the temples in Haa valley.

The Lhakhang Karpo is located at the foothills of the three towering mountains commonly known as Rigsum Gonpo to the south of the Haa Dzong as it was where the white pigeon landed.

 

The temple was then named Lhakhang Karpo the white temple, deriving from the white pigeon. The architecture of the Lhakang both exterior and interior depicts true Bhutanese art and culture. Inside the complex, the walls are adorned with paintings and murals of Buddhist masters, deities and great saints.

 

The Lhakhang Nagpo is situated a kilometer away from Lhakhang Karpo in Dumcho village in Haa valley. The black pigeon landed a little to the North of Lhakang Karpo indicating the destined site of the present Lhakhang Nagpo. The temple was named Lhakhang Nagpo or black temple as it was built on the site where the black pigeon landed. The Lhakang is built on a lake and an opening on the floor of the temple provides an access to the lake underneath.

 

These two temples are the guardians keeping watch over the valley.

WHERE TO STAY?

Amankora Paro

At an elevation of 2,250 meters, Paro Valley makes a beguiling start or an atmospheric end to an Amankora journey. Nestled amongst thick pine, Paro Lodge presents 24-suites, a two-storey spa and a glass-walled yoga studio. Meanwhile, keen hikers can take the 4-hour journey from Paro Lodge to Tiger’s Nest.

amankora paro resort in bhutan

Thimphu

haa valley hiking trail in bhutan

Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital, occupies a valley in the country’s western interior. In addition to being the government seat, the city is known for its Buddhist sites. The massive Tashichho Dzong is a fortified monastery and government palace with gold-leaf roofs. The Memorial Chorten, a whitewashed structure with a gold spire, is a revered Buddhist shrine dedicated to Bhutan’s third king, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck

Places to visit

Tashichho Dzong monastery in bhutan

Tashichho Dzong

Tashichho Dzong is a Buddhist monastery and fortress on the northern edge of the city of Thimphu in Bhutan, on the western bank of the Wang Chu. It has traditionally been the seat of the Druk Desi the head of Bhutan’s civil government, an office which has been combined with the kingship since the creation of the monarchy in 1907, and summer capital of the country.

buddha point in bhutan

Buddha Point

Great Buddha Dordenma is a gigantic Shakyamuni Buddha statue in the mountains of Bhutan celebrating the 60th anniversary of fourth king Jigme Singye Wangchuck. The statue houses over one hundred thousand smaller Buddha statues, each of which, like the Great Buddha Dordenma itself, is made of bronze and gilded in gold.

 

The Great Buddha Dordenma is sited amidst the ruins of Kuensel Phodrang, the palace of Sherab Wangchuk, and the thirteenth Druk Desi, overlooking the southern approach to Thimphu. Completed in 2015 it is one of the largest Buddha rupas in the world, at 169 feet (52 m) and contains 100,000 8-inch-tall and 25,000 12-inch-tall gilded bronze Buddhas.

WHERE TO STAY?

Six Senses Thimpu

Situated within apple orchards and pine forests, yet still within reach of the capital’s attractions, Six Senses Thimphu is perched on an auspicious hillside overlooking the shimmering lights of Thimphu. With its grand design and outdoor ponds reflecting the clouds above, this is our very own Palace in the Sky.

six senses thimpu hotel in bhutan

Punakha

haa valley hiking trail in bhutan

Founded in 1577, Punakha is a town in the eastern Himalayas and was once the capital of Bhutan. It is known for the Punakha Dzong, a 17th century fortress at the juncture of the Pho and Mo Chhu rivers. The fortress hosts the Punakha Tshechu, a religious festival featuring masked dances and traditional music.

 

Tshechu, west-central Bhutan and lies at an elevation of about 5,000 feet (1,500 meters) above sea level at a point where several streams converge to form the Sankosh River. In the surrounding Punakha Valley, temples include the fertility-focused Chimi Lhakhang and the hilltop Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten, offering beautiful river and mountain views.

Places to visit

punakha dzong in bhutan

Punakha Dzong

The Punakha Dzong (the palace of great happiness or bliss), is the administrative center of Punakha District in Punakha, Bhutan. The dzong was constructed by Ngawang Namgyal, in 1637–38. It is the second oldest and second largest dzong in Bhutan and one of its most majestic structures.

Chimi Lhakhang monastery in Bhutan

Chimi Lhakhang

Chimi Lhakhang, also known as Chime Lhakhang or Monastery or temple, is a Buddhist monastery in Punakha District, Bhutan. Located near Lobesa, it stands on a round hillock and was built in 1499 by the 14th Drukpa hierarch, Ngawang Choegyel, after the site was blessed by the “Divine Madman” the maverick saint Drukpa Kunley (1455–1529) who built a chorten on the site.

WHERE TO STAY?

Como Uma Punakha

Como Uma Punakha is an intimate, luxury lodge located at the far western end of the lush Punakha Valley. From our picturesque base overlooking a snake-like bend in the Mo Chu river, Uma Punakha is ideally located for those who wish to explore this remote Himalayan Kingdom.

como uma punakha luxury lodge in Bhutan

Gangtey

gangtey black necked crane in Bhutan

The Phobjikha Valley is one of the most beautiful destinations in Bhutan. It is the winter home to a group of globally endangered black necked cranes that arrive every year from the Tibetan Plateau. Set close to the center of Bhutan, Gangtey is in a remarkably attractive glacial valley called Phobjikha. The region boasts various nature trails as well as a Crane Information Center to educate visitors.

 

Gangtey boasts its own important religious sites such as the Gangtey Gomba Monastery, situated at the head of the valley, from where you can take in exceptional views.

Places to visit

Gangtey Gomba

The Gangteng Monastery generally known as Gangtey Gomba or Gangtey Monastery, is an important monastery of Nyingmapa school of Buddhism, the main seat of the Pema Lingpa tradition located in the Wangdue Phodrang District in central Bhutan. The Monastery, also known by the Gangten village that surrounds it, is in the Phobjikha Valley where winter visitors, the black-necked cranes visit central Bhutan to roost. The cranes circle the monastery three times on arrival and repeat this when returning to Tibet. The Monastery’s history traces to the early 17th century and back to the prophecies made by the well-known Terton (treasure finder) Pema Lingpa in the late 15th century.

Phobjikha Valley

The Phobjikha Valley is a vast U-shaped valley in central Bhutan. The valley houses one of the impressive ancient Buddhist monasteries in Bhutan known as Gangteng Monastery of the Nyingma sect in central Bhutan.

WHERE TO STAY?

Gangtey Goemba Lodge

Award-winning Lodge, with its stunning design and sweeping views of the valley, offers the weary traveler the perfect blend of luxury through adventure, spiritual enlightenment and deep connections with the culture and community of rural Bhutan.

gangtey goemba luxury lodge in Bhutan

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