Duration: 15 Days / 14 Nights
Destination: Paro and Thimphu
Merak Sakten Trek is one of the remote and isolated community trek located in the far-flung regions of Merak and Sakten under Trashigang districts. This beautiful trek last for seven days and takes trekkers through the newly founded Sakten Wildlife Sanctuary, which presents a wide diversity of Himalayan ecosystem. The highlight of the trek is that of the people and untouched traditions of Merak and Sakten, which is completely different from rest of the people especially in terms of their dress code – the local people in this region wear a felt hat made of yak hair with a long tail hanging down like a spider’s leg which serves as an umbrella to drain off rain. This nomadic indigenous group or Brokpas seasonally moves their herds of livestock from the lower valleys in the winter to the higher pastures in the summer.
Day 01: Arrival Guwhati (India) – Drive to Samdrup Jongkhar (Bhutan)
At your arrival at Guwahati airport, Wild Mountain Adventure’s Indian representative will be waiting outside to greet you. After short introduction drive all the way through the plains of India to the far eastern bordering town of Samdrup Jongkhar which lies at an altitude of 2000ft/610m. On the border being a non-Indian nationality you have to register for your exit permit and then just close to it entering Bhutan border your guide will ask for your documents and register your entry permit. Rest day at leisure.
Day 02: Samdrup Jongkhar – Trashigang
Today you will have a bit long journey uphill from the plain of the bordering town until you reach Trashigang. Your drive takes you from the thick vegetation through some of the finest landscape, tall bamboos and scattered settlement with bamboo houses. Your drive takes you via Deothang(2700ft/823m) and then to Wamrong which lies 82km away from Deothang. Enjoy the scenic landscape and the typical eastern settlement throughout. Climbing further 26 km from Wamrong the beautiful Khaling(6000ft/1820m) region lies tucked into the verdant mountain and has a National Handloom Development Project, make a short visit to the handloom centre for the production of traditional textile. Driving further through the lush green valley you will finally reach a top of Yonphu La(8200ft/2500m) the domestic flight fly in and out from here. Crossing the domestic airport at Yonphu La you will descent downhill to Kanglung which is known for the first university in Bhutan, a short stop may give you a glimpse of the university and if interested you can have a visit to the Zangtopelri Gompa opposite to the collage gate. From here your journey takes you around 22km to Trashigang the main centre of your stop which lies at an altitude of 1151m.
Day 03: Chamling – Damnongchhu
A scenic drive from your hotel for half an hour passing through Rangung and Radhi village takes you to the starting point of your trek to the village of Challing where your adventure begins. This village of Chamling means Choling which means sadness. There is a story that connect with this tiny village – It says that Lama Ganapati who was the reincarnation of Zhabdrung’s son Jambay Dorji was killed by his rivals in the western part of Bhutan and the locality were sadden because of his death, therefore, it was named Choling means sadness. The trek starts above the school through gradual ascent climbing towards shaktimi meadow. Passing through an open grazing pasture you will see yaks and sheep’s graizing around with yak herders camp dotted around the hilltop. Passing through the ruined house of Lama Ganapati and some old stupas and a prayer wheel at 2400m your trail continue uphill through Thow Mang temple, which is believed that those who have eaten pork, fish, onion and garlic are not allowed to get inside the temple. Reaching Mindru La Pass(3390m) you descent downhill passing through rhododendron forest till you reach Damnong Chhu(river) where your will settle for night at Damnong Chhu campsite at 10880ft/3316m.
Day 04: Damnongchhu – Merak 3499m
The trail from your camp to Merak is an easy and old wide trail and today this route is mostly used by local people for their animal trail. The trail takes you through the riverbank with a gradual up and down. Locally believe that Damnongchhu was a battleground of prince Kuentu Legpa and the demon Lhacham. It is said that the prince shot an arrow from the ridge of Merak Nagpo Tse and subdued Lhacham and later built a stup to pin down Lhachama. Your trail takes you through the old trail and then finally takes the new trail which the vegetation becomes quite dense with juniper, rhododendron, Larch, hemlock and barberry etc. and finally stretch gentle up hill to a tiny village of Gangu. From this village you will finally enter the village of Merak (3520m) which is negotiable in 45 minutes through an open grazing pastures. Your campsite is located just before the village of Merak offering a panoramic view of the surrounding high mountains and the scenic landscape. Your campsite lies at an altitude of 3499m. In the evening walk through the village and visit some of the local farm house and spent time with the local in chatting and sharing thoughts.
Day 05: Merak – Miksa Teng
The trek from Merak to Miksa Thang is quite a long and medium difficult. As you traverse above the Merak Village you trail take through an uphill task till you reach the beautiful top of Nagchung La which lies at an altitude of 13451ft/4100m marked by beautiful prayer flags fluttering in the air, if the weather is clear the Himalayan range will be at your site. From the pass the trail takes you downhill through loosen rocks. There is a story that gives you a blow when you descent passing by a stone throne where Am Jomo and Lama Jarpa rested when crossing the Nagchung La Pass. It also says that the spot is where the old and weaker followers of Am Jomo decided to stay back and this people then settle in Sakeng. Continue the trek through the tree line of juniper and rhododendron forest and finally descent down to Miksa Teng to the campsite at an altitude of 3079m.
Day 06: Miksa Teng – Sakteng
Today your trail from Miksa Teng to Sakteng is relatively easy. The trek begins descending downhill from your campsite and reaching a wooden bridge you will come across the new and the old route which finally leads you to your destination. The new trail takes you through mixed forest but will be muddy if it rains and the old trail takes your through the river bank. The trail gradually ascend uphill through lush and beautiful woods to the hilltop at an elevation of 3070m adorned with prayer flags surrounding the small chorten(stupa) overlooking the valley below. This beautiful spot offers you an insight into Sakteng village which is completely different from the previous village of Merak. The clustered houses here roofed with corrugated iron. On this trail if you are lucky there is a chance for you to spot red panda on the trees. Your campsite is located in the village of Sakteng which lies at an elevation of 2950m. In the evening explore the village.
Day 07: Sakteng – Jyonkhar Teng
Today you have a long journey with easy walk. As you leave Sakteng the trail begins with a short climb to the hill towering over the west of the village with beautiful two stupa. The trail can be of bit confusion if you don’t attach together with your local guide. The trail at your right hand takes one to the village of Sakteng and continues to Arnachal Pradesh (India). So always remember taking the left side descending downhill towards the stream and continue alongside the river through broad leaf forest. Finally you will reach a beautiful and wide meadow near the river in the village of Jyinkhar Teng at an elevation of 1859m where you will camp. The village of Jyinkhar Teng comprises of two different kind of people speaking different language like – Brokpa and Sharchokpa.
Day 08: Jyonkher Teng – Phongmey
Today is your last day of your trek taking you beginning with a short uphill climb from the valley. There are several ups and downhill climbs crossing several suspension bridges until you reached the beautiful village of Phongmey. The trail takes you via Rangung and we encourage you to make a short stop here in this village for a short visit to the beautiful and historical Rangjung Monastery which is founded by his eminence Garab Ginpoche. Reaching Phongmey you will be met by your transfer vehicle and drive you to Trashigang for your night halt in hotel.
Day 09: Trashigang – Mongar
Today at your early breakfast in the hotel drive to Mongar(1620) passing through several villages and settlement. We encourage you to visit Gom Kora on the way to Trashi Yangtse which is one of the well known temple in theeastern region. It is one of the sacred meditation site of Guru Rinpoche who came to Bhutan in the eight century. The Guru meditated here in this temple and left his body imprint on the rock. After the Gom Kora continue your drive heading towards Mongar. This journey is one of the best and finest one especially for those landscape enthusiastic. Mongar lies on the side of a hill and once was the home to the legendary fugure of the past. Mongar is also famous for the finest textile and it exist even today.
Day 10: Mongar – Bumthang
Today your drive is bit a long one and takes you takes you from east to the central Bhutan. The journey takes you through beautiful landscape and diverse flora and fauna through rushing waterfalls and sheer drops. Passing through thick forest you will finally arrive to the top most pass between Mongar and Bumthang the Thrumshing La Pass (12000ft/3659m). This beautiful pass is surrounded by beautiful prayer flags and gives you the panoramic view of the Himalayan peaks. The pass is usually wreathed in swirling vaporous mists. From the top your drive takes you downhill to entering the cultural heartland of the country, Ura village under Bumthang will be your first glimpse once entering the central region and lies at an elevation of 10168ft/3100m. Once reaching Bumthang if you are not tired make a short visit to the Wangduecholing Palace which in the past was the residence of the first and the second king. In the late evening stroll in the colorful tiny town of Bumthang.
Day 11: Bumthang – Punakha
After your early breakfast in the hotel drive to Punakha the winter capital of the monk body and has served as the capital of Bhutan until 1955. On the way stop at Trongsa which lies at an altitude of 2316m, the central hub and historically it is the place from where the attempts of unifying the country was launched, visit the giant fortress the Trongsa Dzong which is the ancestral home of the Royal Family. Both the first and the second king ruled the country from this ancient seat. Tis massive fortress was built in 1648. Continue you drive and on the way stop at Chendebj Chorten(stupa) on the bank of Nikar Chhu(river)This startling white stone stupa is built in the Nepalese style with eyes painted on all four sides. The trail ascends uphill through beautiful valley of Rukubji village, Sephu through wide array of yak pasture and finally arrive at 11070ft/3375m the Pelela pass which is marked by a chorten(stupa) and prayer flags. Though the clear days are rare if you are lucky you will be rewarded with view of Mt. Jichu Drakey (6794m) and Mt Gang Bum (6494m). From the pass the drive descend downhill till you reached Punakha which lies at a lofty valley of 4400ft/1342m).
Day 12: Punakha – Thimphu
Today before heading towards Thimphu, in the morning drive further north of your hotel crossing the newly founded town of Khuruthang with a central attraction being the Zangtopelri Monastery with its large Nepalese style chorten(stupa), around four kilometer you will reach the Punakha Dzong saddle on the two river Pho Chhu (male river) and Mo Chhu (female river). This extreme fortress is built as far as 1637 and was the second of the mightiest dzong built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel. Returning back a thirty to forty minutes walk takes you to the Chhemi Lhakhang which means “No Dogs Temple” this temple dates back to 1499 and was built by Lama Ngawang Chogyel in honor and memory of his brother Lama Drukpa Kinley (divine mad man). After lunch drive to Thimphu. Reaching a top of Dochula Pass which lies at 10150ft/3100m, the top is unlike that of any other pass. If the weather is clear beside this magnificent one hundred and eight striking chorten(stupas) in an amazing setting the panoramic view of the majestic Himalayan mountain range are visible like – Mt. Masa Gang(235012ft/7165m), Mt. Tshenden Gang(23288ft/7100m), Mt. Teri Gang(23944ft/7300m), Mt. Jeje Gangphu(7100m), Mt. kangphu Gang, the “Table Mountain” (7100m), Mt. Zongaphu Gang and Mt. Gangkhar Puensum(24735ft/7541m). from the top to Thimphu(7700ft/2320m) is only twenty-two kilometers and can be negotiable within half an hour.
Day 13: Thimphu Sightseeing
The bustling city of Thimphu lies on the bank of Thimphu Chhu(river) at an elevation of 7700ft/2320m, and set gloriously in the hill of the Thimphu valley. It is unlike most capital in the world consisting around 80,000 souls. In Thimphu visit the National Institute of Zorig Chusum “the Thirteen Arts and Craft” or the painting school which offers a six years course on Bhutanese thirteen arts and crafts. Clost to the painting school visit the three storied National Library which was opened in 1967 and consist of repository for thousands of old religious books and manuscripts and a wooden block for painting. Proceeding a short uphill through the nine-hole golf course, you will pass by Drubthob Gompa, a small monastery which now house the Zilukha Nunnery. From here a few minutes dive uphill takes you to the large outdoor enclosure that holds one of the strangest animal ”Takin” the National Animal of Bhutan and returning back drive to visit the big golden statue of Buddha Dodrelma, the magnificent valley view of the capital city can be explored. In the evening visit the National Memorial Chorten(stupa) built in 1974 in memory of the third king of Bhutan His Majesty King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk by his mother. At late evening drive to visit the giant fortress of Thimphu ‘Trashichhoe Dzong” which lie stretch the valley floor. This massive fortress was rebuilt by Zhabdrung in 1641 and later the present incarnation was consecrated in the year 1964. Mark it down that Trashichhoe dzong, can be visited only after five in the evening or if you are here on the weekend Saturday and Sunday opens to visitor in the daytime. In the evening stroll around the main downtown of Thimphu.
Day 14: Thimphu – Paro – Tiger’s Nest Hike
This morning commence on a road trip to Paro through a scenic drive through small settlements and hamlets. The drive to Paro from the capital is only 55 km and can be negotiable in half an hour. Reaching the village which was turned into a small town, the Paro lies at an elevation of 2280m. This beautiful valley of Paro is home for many Buddhist temple and monasteries and the country’s only airport is in Paro. From the main town the drive to Taktsang Goempa(retreat centre) is only 11 km and takes 30 minutes. Reaching the Taktsang parking lot you will then walk uphill to the magnificent monastery that lies at an altitude of 3000ft/915m from the valley and 9700ft/2950m from the sea level. You need to remember that the trek to the Goempa is quite an uphill task and it takes around three to four hours walk for an average speed. The trail takes you through a fairy speed up through the meadow and a teashop. The monastery perched cliff aside, was believed to be the meditation site of Guru Rinpoche, who flew on the back of a pregnant tigress in the eight century and meditated here in the cave for three months in subduing a demon through his magical power. After exploring the monastery descent downhill to the cafeteria for lunch, continue your downhill trail following the same path to the parking lot. From here drive to the further northern end of Paro through the narrowing valley to Drukgyel village and visit the ruined Drukgyel Dzong, which means the “Victorious Fort” built in the seventeenth century to commemorate the victory over the Tibetan Invasion with backdrop view of Mt. Jomolhari (24000ft/7314m) towering over the northern end valley and revered by the local people as the abode of goddess Jomo. On your way back to the town or hotel make a short visit to the ancient and historical Kyechu Lhakhang (temple). This seventh century temple is highly revered not only of its antiquity but its religious important. After the temple drive to Paro.
Day 15: Depart/Sensational Take-Off