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

display information about this photo

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: TBA  
Length: 20 days
Arrive: Paro, Bhutan
Depart: Paro, Bhutan
Lodging: 14 nights camping, 3 nights 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
6

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 9-18
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 19-20
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 20.

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

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

Trip Cost

Prices for this trip are being finalized. Contact us and we'll send them to you as soon as they are available. more on pricing

Extension Costs
Temples of Angkor Extension
   from: $775
Laos: Luang Prabang Extension
   from: $720
Burma Extension
   from: $2395
Bangkok Extension
   from: $595
Phuket Extension
   from: $795
Chiang Mai Extension
   from: $425

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%
60 days prior to departure: Balance

Cancellation and Transfer Fee Schedule

Minimum fee: None per person
46-90 days prior to departure: 25% of trip cost
45 days or less: 100% of trip cost

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:

Chomolhari Trek Camps

Chomolhari Trek Camps

Days 4 to 17 (14 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 18 to 19 (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.

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