Bhutanese women of Laya

The remote village of Laya, the highest settlement in Bhutan, is only accessible to hikers. The traditional dress for women of Laya includes conical straw hats. Many of Laya’s residents are semi-nomadic.

Photo by David Robbins

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Bhutan: The Chomolhari and Laya Trek

A Unique Route to Bhutan’s Highest Village and Most Sacred Peak
Repertory Trip: Next Offered October 10-28, 2015

Bhutan: The Chomolhari and Laya Trek route-map

Trip Details at-a-Glance

Cost From: $7695  
Length: 19 days
Arrive: Paro, Bhutan
Depart: Paro, Bhutan
Lodging: 13 nights camping, 3 nights luxury hotels, 2 nights lodges
Meals: All meals included
Activity: Cultural Adventures, Hiking / Trekking
Trip Level: Strenuous hiking on steep trails, 5-8 hours a day, altitudes between 7,300-16,400 feet
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Highlights

  • Off-the-beaten-path trek to the base camp of Chomolhari, Bhutan’s “divine mountain”
  • Meet the yak-herding Layap people, with their unique dress and traditions
  • Pass through untouched villages that rarely see outsiders

Choosing the Right Trip

We work hard to help you choose the right trip for you, paying attention to your individual interests, abilities, and needs. If you have questions about the level of comfort or any of the activities described in this itinerary, please contact us.

References

We are proud to have an exceptionally high rate of repeat travelers. For more information, we would be happy to put you in touch with a client who has traveled with us.

Departure Notes

Once you have signed up on the trip, we send a complete packing list, relevant health information, and required travel documents.

Repertory Trip

This is one of our special Repertory Trips offered every two to five years.  It will be several years before this journey is offered again. Now is the time to go!

Join us for once-in-a-lifetime mountain adventure in the mystical Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan. Our challenging trek is one of the finest cultural and scenic routes in the Himalaya, bringing us to the magical village of Laya (12,610'), so remote it has its own traditional dress and culture, and to ethereal Lingshi, with its monastery clinging to the edge of a sheer hilltop. Along the way, we hike across two 16,000-foot passes and enjoy an immersion in a secluded Himalayan world of towering rhododendrons and serene Buddhist temples. The grand finale of our trek is the amazingly scenic spot called Jangothang (13,340'), the base camp right below Chomolhari (23,997'), the sacred peak that stands as a mighty sentinel on Bhutan’s snow-capped Tibetan frontier.

Itinerary at a Glance

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

Days 1-3
Paro / Thimphu / Punakha Valley

After arriving in Paro, we explore Thimphu, Bhutan’s tiny capital city, then travel to the subtropical valley of Punakha, where we hike to charming monasteries and visit imposing 17th century fortress-dzongs set beside rushing rivers.

Days 4-8
On Trek / Laya

We begin our trek, winding through rolling hillsides with views of villages and fields, then climbing up through bamboo, juniper, and rhododendron forests past cascading rivers and waterfalls. At Laya (12,610'), we have an Exploration Day to meet the Layap (local villagers), semi-nomadic yak herders whose distinctive dress, including the women’s conical bamboo hats with a center spike, sets them apart from other Bhutanese.

Days 9-17
Limithang Valley / Lingshi / Jangothang / Paro

Trekking into the Limithang Valley, set beneath the huge peak called Gangchen Tak (22,291'), “the Great Tiger Mountain,” we share the trail with the people of Laya as they bring their yaks here to graze. Passing through remote villages, with warm Bhutanese hospitality greeting us all along the way, we come to Lingshi (13,196'), whose ancient dzong sits atop a high hill in the middle of a wide valley. We cross a 16,000-foot pass with soaring views of the massive rock and ice peaks of Chomolhari, Jichu Drake, and Tsering Kang en route to Jangothang (13,340'), the base camp for sacred Chomolhari, Bhutan’s second highest peak, a stunning backdrop for our camp. An Exploration Day here allows us to visit the nearby ruins of an old fortress, built to guard Bhutan against invasion from Tibet, or to hike to a series of high alpine lakes. Our route descends through forests of oak, rhododendron, and fern and past occasional farmhouses. Our last trek day bringing us along the Paro River through cultivated fields and past beautiful villages to the famous ruin of Drukgyel Dzong, once a defensive stronghold against Tibetan invaders. From here we drive to Paro.

Days 18-19
Paro / Taktsang Monastery

The most famous temple in all Bhutan is the striking retreat of Taktsang Monastery, the “Tiger’s Nest,” built into a sheer cliff face above the Paro Valley. Our day hike takes us through pine forests festooned with Spanish moss to a splendid viewpoint of this magnificent structure. Depart Paro on Day 19.

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

Optional Extensions

If you would like to continue your adventure, we offer the following extensions:

What the Trip is Like

This trek is Level 6, Very Strenuous. The rating takes into account the distances hiked each day and the fact that on several days, trail conditions can be very muddy, with rocky pitches that make progress difficult. In addition, most hiking is between 10,000 and 14,000 feet, with the crossing of two passes more than 16,000 feet, which adds to the strenuous nature of the hiking. For the most part, you can hike at your own speed; the group will spread out along the trail during the day to cover about 6 to 10 miles per day (4-8 hours of hiking). There are significant elevation gains and losses each day, often 2,000 to 3,000 feet, as our trail contours up and down steep hillsides. Trails may not be well maintained and conditions can be rough.

There are dangers inherent in any expedition traveling to remote wilderness regions, especially when they involve travel to high altitude. These dangers include everything from rock falls to the possibility of a serious fall, accident, or sickness without access to means of rapid evacuation, availability of medical supplies, or adequate medical attention once provided. Our Trip Leaders and support crew are experienced veterans of trekking in the Himalaya, but it takes cooperation and flexibility from each participant to ensure a successful trek.

Every participant must understand that this trek is truly challenging—you should be in excellent physical condition. Even though trip members carry only a daypack (with camera, jacket, rain gear, water bottle, and other small necessities you may need during the day), we recommend you make a special effort to get in top physical shape for the trip by hiking, running, swimming, bicycling, or engaging in other forms of aerobic exercise well beyond your normal routine. Many activities get heart and lungs into shape, but the most effective way of getting fit for hiking is to hike! Walking up and down flights of stairs is also an effective way to train for the steep ascents and descents in the Himalaya. Bending your knees as you go down stairs will help strengthen your quad muscles. At least two months prior to your trek, we urge you to go on weekend day hikes that involve long uphill and downhill walking.

For this trek, we require your doctor sign the Wilderness Travel Medical Form. Once Wilderness Travel has confirmed your place on the trip roster, no refunds beyond our standard fees will be made if your physician refuses to sign the form. It is very important that you and your physician fully agree that you are physically capable of undertaking a strenuous trek, and equally important that you undertake proper conditioning prior to the trek.

The Trip Leader has the right to disqualify any member from the trip at any time if it is medically necessary, to avoid endangering the group, or if the participant in question is physically unfit for the rigors of the trip. Refunds are not given under such circumstances.

Hiking distances on trek are normally measured in hours, not miles, since maps aren’t really accurate enough to assess how far we walk up and down winding mountain trails. The typical trekking day begins shortly after 6 am with “bed tea” and warm washing water brought to each tent. We are served a light breakfast while the camp crew packs our gear. We begin walking by 7:00 to 8:00 am, stopping around 11:00 am for lunch and a good rest. Our afternoon walk begins around 1 pm; we arrive at camp by tea time (about 4:30 pm). Dinner is served around 6:30 pm.

Explanation of Trip Levels

 

Departures & Leaders

This is one of our special Repertory Trips offered only every two to five years. This journey will not be offered again for several years. Now is the Time to Go!

2015
Oct 10-28, 2015  Khandu Dorji

Trip Cost

Prices are for 2015
$7695 (4-15 members)
Single supplement: $2295
Forced single supplement: $1995
Internal airfare: $995 (subject to change)
Bhutan Visa Fee (WT acquires visa for you): $40
more on pricing

Extension Costs
Temples of Angkor Extension
   from: $850
Laos: Luang Prabang Extension
   from: $860
Burma Extension
   from: $2595
Bangkok Extension
   from: $645
Phuket Extension
   from: $795
Chiang Mai Extension
   from: $490

Trip Cost Includes:

  • Expert leadership of a Wilderness Travel Trip Leader and local guides
  • Accommodations, with top quality tents on trek and lodges or hotels in towns; please note that rooms with double beds are usually not available in Bhutan. Other than the Taj Tashi and Zhiwa Ling hotels, most lodge rooms are twin-bedded.
  • All meals included
  • Government taxes and trekking fees
  • Land transportation, airport transfers for passengers as noted
  • Camp staff, cooks, and group camping and cooking equipment including dining tent, sleeping tents, sleeping pads, toilet tent (with toilet seat), and shower tent (for occasional shower, if there is time and availability of water). Sleeping bags for the trek are not included.

Trip Cost Does Not Include:

International airfare, hotels in Bangkok, sleeping bags, airport transfers for individual arrival or departure, any meals not specified after each itinerary day, airport departure taxes, optional tipping or gratuities to leaders or staff, additional hotel nights that may be necessitated by airline schedule changes or other factors, pre-trip expenses of medical immunizations (if any), travel insurance, or passports and visas; and other expenses of a personal nature (alcoholic beverages, laundry, etc.).

Trip Payment Schedule

At time of reservation: $500
120 days prior to departure: 20% of trip cost
60 days prior to departure: Balance

Cancellation and Transfer Fee Schedule*

More than 90 days prior to departure: No charge!
90-46 days prior to departure: 25% of trip cost
45 days or less: 100% of trip cost

Internal Airfare Payment, Change, and Cancellation Fee Schedule:* Payment for Internal Air will be collected from each trip member approximately three to six months (or even more) prior to departure, depending on flight availability and seasonal ticketing deadlines. Once issued, internal air tickets are subject to a $100 per person fee for any changes or cancellation until 60 days prior to the trip. Within 60 days of the trip, all tickets are non-refundable. The name on your tickets must match your passport exactly, and any name changes are subject to these same fees. We therefore request that you send us a scanned copy of your passport photo page immediately upon reserving your trip. Internal Air payments and cancellation fees are in addition to Trip Cost payments and cancellation fees as noted above.

*Please note that this differs from our regular catalog departures.

Taj Tashi Hotel

Taj Tashi Hotel

Day 1 (1 night), Thimphu, Bhutan

Part of the venerable Taj group of hotels in India, this 66-room hotel has all the conveniences of a luxury hotel, while at the same time reflects ...
Click here for full description and more photos

Hotels in the Punakha Valley

Days 2 to 3 (2 nights), Punakha Valley, Bhutan

In Punakha we stay at one of the following properties based on availability and choice of accommodation:

Chomolhari Trek Camps

Chomolhari Trek Camps

Days 4 to 16 (13 nights), Himalayas, Bhutan

We make hiking and camping in Bhutan as comfortable as it can get! On the trail, you are accompanied by our experienced team of trail guides, and ...
Click here for full description and more photos

Zhiwa Ling Hotel

Zhiwa Ling Hotel

Days 17 to 18 (2 nights), Paro, Bhutan

Located on 10 acres in a serene setting in the green Paro Valley, the deluxe Zhiwa Ling is a wonderful example of traditional Bhutanese ...
Click here for full description and more photos

Extension Accommodations

If you would like to view the accommodations offered with our extensions options:

Note: Listed above are our signature accommodations for this trip. Although it is highly unlikely, we may make substitutions when necessary.

Khandu Dorji

Khandu Dorji has been guiding since 1983 and joined the WT Leader Team in 1998. Over the course of his exciting career, Khandu has trekked nearly every route in Bhutan. Formally educated in Thimphu, he also participated in a three-month intensive mountaineering course conducted by the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, and led a mountaineering expedition with Junko Tabei, the first woman to summit Everest. With his cheerful spirit and expert knowledge of Bhutan's ancient culture and rich natural history, Khandu is a marvelous guide, whether for a trek to breathtaking Jangothang, base camp of sacred Mt. Chomohari--he has trekked the route 60 times and counting!--or our cultural and hiking adventures throughout the sacred kingdom of Bhutan. He subscribes to the philosophy of "Gross National Happiness" and thoroughly enjoys the role of Trip Leader, sharing his pristine homeland and fostering cross-cultural connections for his trip members by visiting with Bhutanese families inside their homes. Khandu's own travels have taken him to many places outside Bhutan, including Switzerland, the UK, Japan, Singapore, and Thailand, but he's equally happy at home with family, or playing a friendly match of dha (archery), Bhutan's national sport.

Upcoming Trips:

Festivals of Bhutan, September 20-29, 2015
Bhutan: The Chomolhari and Laya Trek, October 10-28, 2015

Client Testimonials:


Khandu was beyond amazing—knowledgeable, caring, passionate about Bhutan. It was a privilege to have him as our leader. Felice Z., Stamford, CT
The Chomolhari Trek
No extra job too much No question too silly Jeff J., Saint Helena, CA
Festivals of Bhutan

Optional Extensions

If you would like to continue your adventure, we offer the following extensions:

Burma

Burma Extension

Yangon and Bagan

Cultural Adventures
6 days  -  Level 2

Cambodia

angkor wat cambodia temples

Temples of Angkor Extension

Exploring the Glories of a Bygone Khmer Civilization

Cultural Adventures
4 days  -  Level 2

Laos

Laos: Luang Prabang Extension

Gilded Temples and Traditional Buddhist Culture of Laos

Cultural Adventures
3 days  -  Level 2

Myanmar

Burma Extension

Yangon and Bagan

Cultural Adventures
6 days  -  Level 2

Thailand

wat arun bangkok thailand

Bangkok Extension

Discover the Beautiful Cultural Monuments of Bangkok

Cultural Adventures
3 days  -  Level 1

Chiang Mai Extension

Explore the Wonders of Northern Thailand

Cultural Adventures, Walking, Wildlife & Natural History
3 days  -  Level 2

Phuket Extension

Explore a Jewel Set in the Andaman Sea

Cultural Adventures, Sea Kayaking
4 days  -  Level 2