Trans Bhutan Trail – Western Highlights 14 days

Arrival On : Kathmandu Nepal
Max Altitude : 3,140m/10,302ft
Accommodation Types : Hotel, Camping
Trip Duration : 14 Days
Maximum Group Size : 12
Meal Arrangement : Bed and breakfast in Kathmandu. All meals in Bhutan.
Difficulty : Moderate
Land Only Joining City : Kathmandu
Departure From : Kathmandu Nepal

Trip Overview

For centuries the path connecting the villages, fortresses and sacred sites across the kingdom of Bhutan was the only way to access this remote country. Running from the Haa Valley in the west to Trashigang in the far east it provided the only route for Buddhist pilgrims as well as for internal trade and communications. With the recent development of the National Highway the trail fell into disuse until 2018 when a restoration project was set up. Led by the Bhutan Canada Foundation, with the royal seal of approval of the King of Bhutan. Its aim was to make the old trail accessible once again and to establish a new long-distance path for enthusiastic trekkers.

Over the last two years, the work has gathered pace utilising Bhutanese workers furloughed in the Covid crisis to rebuild bridges, footpaths and thousands of steps linking towns and villages with historic and cultural sites. The result is the new 250 mile long Trans Bhutan Trail that traverses one of the most unique, culturally fascinating and environmentally conscious countries in the world. A true classic in the making!

To tackle the whole trail is a major undertaking for even the most ardent of trekkers, but for those who want to experience a small part of it, and to explore some of the main sights of the Thunder Dragon Kingdom, we’ve created this exciting new holiday. We’ve carefully selected sections of the trail that avoid the steepest, most challenging climbs, yet still offer good walking through traditional, scenic landscapes.

Starting in Paro, you head east on the trail on a series of day walks via giant Buddha statues, ancient dzongs, lush valleys and panoramic Himalayan views. You then embark on a three night camping trek along a delightful section of the Trans Bhutan Trail also known as the Samtengang Trek. This takes you through the beautiful hills and valleys of rural Bhutan, where you will meet local families and see them tending their fields and crops using techniques little changed over time. Walking is on a mix of footpaths, dirt farm tracks (locally called feeder roads), and occasionally, small country roads.

Leaving the trail behind, you return to Paro and your trip ends in fitting style with a walk up to the cliff-edge monastery of Taktsang – the iconic Tiger’s Nest.

Leader: Local leader, Bhutan

You will have an English speaking Bhutanese guide. Smart mountain Adventure have been working with the same partner in Bhutan. Their guides are some of the best in the Smart. They speak fluent English, as this is taught in all Bhutanese schools, and are fully qualified guides. The Tourism Authority of Bhutan insists that a Bhutanese trek or tour leader must pass his/her guiding exams in Thimphu before accompanying groups of foreign visitors. Guides receive regular ‘top-up’ training and 15 of our regular leaders have completed an extended training course run by Smart mountain Adventure in Bhutan.


  • Walk and trek the best sections of the western end of Bhutan’s new long-distance trail.
  • Experience traditional rural life, ancient cultural sights and beautiful scenery.
  • Avoid the toughest climbs of the trail with a carefully selected itinerary.
  •  Visit Taktsang Monastery, the Tiger’s Nest, and Punakha Dzong.

Short Itinerary

Day 01-03:

Fly to Kathmandu. Fly to Paro. Sightseeing

Day 04:

Walk along the Trans Bhutan Trail to Dopshari. Drive to Thimphu.

Day 05:

Sightseeing in Thimphu. Walk to Simtokha Dzong.

Day 06:

Drive to Dochu La. Walk trail to Toeb Chandana. Transfer to Punakha.

Day 07-09:

Trek to Samtengang along the Trans Bhutan Trail via Lingmukha and Chungseykha.

Day 10:

Drive to Dochu La. Walk to Hongtsho. Transfer to Paro.

Day 11:

Walk to Taktsang Monastery.

Day 12:

Fly to Kathmandu. Transfer to hotel. At leisure.

Day 13-14:

Time at leisure. Overnight flight to your Home.


Day 01 Fly London to Kathmandu
Overnight: In flight

Depart from your Home on your overnight flight to Kathmandu.


Day 02 Arrive Kathmandu. Group transfer to hotel.
Overnight: Hotel Shanker Or Similar, Kathmandu

You will be met on arrival and transferred to your hotel. You might like to venture out to Thamel for your evening meal, or eat in the restaurant if you are tired from your journey.

Day 03 Fly to Paro in Bhutan. Sightseeing.
Overnight: Hotel Olathang Or Similar, Paro

Transfer for the flight to Paro, the country’s main airstrip, 2,250m/7,382ft. The flight often gives fantastic views of the Himalaya including Everest, and particularly exciting is the section through the Bhutanese foothills and the thrilling landing. Try to sit on the left hand side of the plane. You will be met on arrival by your Bhutanese guide and then transferred to your hotel.

The Paro Valley has always had a great strategic importance for Bhutan and was historically an important staging post on the trade routes with Tibet. The spectacular Paro Dzong, situated on a rocky outcrop above the Paro Chu and with views down both sides of the valley was historically one of Bhutan’s strongest and most strategic fortresses. Before the rebuilding of the Tashidodzong in Thimphu, it was also the seat of Bhutan’s National Assembly.

Depending on the arrival time of your flight there should be time for some sightseeing in Paro in the afternoon. You might wander around Paro township or pay a quick visit to the huge dzong. Then if there is time and you feel like a walk you could stroll back to your hotel.

Day 04 Walk the Paro to Dopshari section of the Trans Bhutan Trail - 9.8km/6 miles, 3-4 hours. Drive to Thimphu.
Overnight: Phuntso Pelri Hotel or Similar, Thimphu

You will step out today, for the first time, on the Trans Bhutan Trail. Your walk begins from Lamgong Village in the Paro Valley, heading east, you will see the picturesque emerald green terraces and rice fields that characterise the valley. The path rises fairly gently this morning, following the northern ridge of the valley before descending to the village of Dopshari. The Dopshari Gewog (village group) covers an area of almost 37 square kilometres and comprises 24 separate villages. It is very much a traditional farming region with vegetables, apples and rice being its primary produce.

You will enjoy lunch at a farmhouse in the village of Dopshari where you will no doubt be treated to a typical Bhutanese meal made from local produce. After lunch you return to the trail and climb up and out of the valley to Upper Dopshari, 2,826m, from where there are far reaching views.

Your driver will meet you and you will continue east to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan, where you will spend the next two nights.


Day 05 Sightseeing in Thimphu. Drive up to visit giant Buddha. Walk to the village of Debsi - 3km/2 miles, 1½ hours walking. Short drive to Simtokha Dzong.
Overnight: Phuntso Pelri Hotel or Similar, Thimphu

Thimphu itself has an attractive valley location and is relatively small for a capital city, although it has grown greatly in recent years. It has various sights worth visiting such as the Textile Museum, the Heritage Museum, the late King’s Memorial Chorten, the National Library, the School of Painting and the silversmiths and pottery workshops. Thimphu Dzong houses the offices for the Ministers of Bhutan as well as their monks and their Head Lama, the Jey Khenpo.
In the afternoon you will drive up to the giant Buddha Dordenma statue which sits high above the town and offers excellent views across the Thimphu Valley. It is also the starting point of your next short section of the Trans Bhutan Trail. From the statue you descend into the Debsi Valley and eventually to the small village of Debsi. The trail ends with a small feeder road before crossing a bridge that leads to the highway. Your driver will meet you and take you to Simtokha Dzong.

Simtokha Dzong was built in 1629 and is the oldest dzong to have survived in the kingdom in its original form. It is also considered to be the first dzong in all of Bhutan to have combined both administrative and monastic functions, and as such it is of great historical interest. The interior of the dzong houses 300 slate carvings and many murals that are amongst the oldest in Bhutan. Today the dzong is home to one of the country’s most prominent language institutes but you may be able to see inside if there are no official events taking place. You will also need to be wearing trousers (rather than shorts) to enter.
After time to explore, you will be driven back to your hotel at Thimphu.

Day 06 Drive up do Dochu La, 3,140m/10,302ft. Walk the Trans Bhutan Trail to Toeb Chandana, 1,560m/5,118ft - 13.7km/ 8½ miles.
Overnight: Zhingkham Resort or Similar, Punakha

After breakfast you will leave Thimphu driving east and joining the east-west national highway. As the road climbs out of Thimphu you will get a good view of Simtokha Dzong where your walk ended yesterday. The road climbs via a series of zigzags to the Dochu La Pass, 3,140m/10,302ft. The pass is marked by a collection of 108 chortens which were built in 2005 and make for a very impressive and photogenic sight. Similarly the panoramic views of the eastern Himalaya from the Dochu La, are quite sublime. On a clear day you can even see Bhutan’s highest mountain, Gangkar Punsum, 7,550m/24,770ft. This still remains the highest unclimbed mountain in the world.

Today’s walk follows a section of the trail that is also known as the Divine Madman Heritage Trail. This is because it follows the journey of Drupka Kunley – a much loved and venerated figure in Bhutanese history. Known as ‘The Divine Madman’, Drukpa Kunley was a 15th Century lama and is Bhutan’s most popular saint and one of the most important figures in Bhutanese folklore. He is renowned for spreading the teachings of the Buddha through unconventional and often outrageous methods – including sexual antics. Despite the apparent conservatism of the Bhutanese people, Drukpa Kunley is a great favourite throughout the country – the phallus symbols painted on the outside walls of houses date back to his teachings.

From the Dochu La, the trail descends gradually through conifer and warm broadleaf forest. The area is home to many species of birds and mammals including the red panda – although you would be very fortunate to see one. You pass through several villages and pretty rice terraces with the path undulating but mainly descending. The temple of Thinleygang Lhakhang, now a school for young monks, makes a good place to stop for refreshments before continuing lower into the valley past farms and across a supension bridge to reach Toeb Chandana. This spot plays an important role in the legend of the Divine Madman as it is said that Drupka Kunley fired an arrow from Tibet to decide the course of his journey and the arrow purportedly landed on the house here. You can climb the steps to have a look inside the house and also visit the Chandana Lakhang next door which was built to mark the sacred spot and to ward off an evil demon. The murals inside the temple depict the tale. After time for a little exploration, your driver will take you into the nearby town of Punakha which was the old winter capital of Bhutan.


Day 07 Visit Punakha Dzong. Trek the Trans Bhutan Trail to Lingmukha, 2,144m/7,034ft - 12.5km/8 miles, 5-6 hours.
Overnight: Camp

After breakfast you make the short 10 minute drive up through Punakha to visit Punakha Dzong, one of Bhutan’s most celebrated sights. The main monastery/fortress in Punakha was the power base for the old system of reincarnate rulers. The remains of the original ruler of Bhutan, Nawang Namgyal, are kept in a small room at the top of the highest tower; only the King and the head of the Monastic Order are allowed to enter this room. Provided the head of the Monastic Order and his monks are in Thimphu it should be possible to view the inner courtyards of Punakha Dzong. In 1994 there was a major flood in the town as a glacial lake burst up in the Himalaya, causing tremendous havoc in the town and damage to the dzong, which has now been beautifully restored.

The dzong sits at the confluence of two rivers – the Mo Chhu and Po Chhu (mother and father rivers) in a particularly photogenic spot. If you are visiting in the spring, the whitewashed walls of the dzong will be lined with purple jacaranda blossom and the paths covered in purple petals. You will have time to visit the dzong this morning and no doubt take lots of photos before you head out on the Trans Bhutan Trail.

Over the next three days you will be walking a well-known Bhutanese trekking trail called the Samtengang trek which is also a section of the Trans Bhutan Trail. The trail starts upstream from the dzong where you cross the longest suspension bridge in Bhutan before climbing gently through terraced fields of mustard, rice and winter wheat. The route continues to ascend through forests of chir pine and oak until it reaches a clearing marked by a prayer flag. If the weather is clear you can enjoy beautiful views across the valley with perhaps a distant glimpse of the snow capped peak of Chomolhari. After a rest, you push on to a chorten that you can see on the skyline above – this marks the high point of today’s trek at 2,220m.

With the climb now behind you, the trail descends into the neighbouring Lingmukha Valley, also known as ‘the Golden Bowl’ due to the many rice fields which cascade down the sides of the valley. Eventually you reach a feeder road which leads you into Lingmukha Village. Here you will see several large houses and a small temple (lakhang). You will camp here tonight.

Day 08 Trek the Trans Bhtuan Trail to the village of Chungseykha - 14km/8½ miles, 5-6 hours.
Overnight: Camp

Leaving Lingmukha, the day begins with a steep climb out of the valley through shady oak and broadleaf forest, that leads to a ridge. You cross the ridge and then descend before climbing again for a couple of hours to a pass bedecked in colourful prayer flags – the Dochen La, 2,645m – where you can take time to rest and enjoy the expansive views. You then continue steeply downhill along a forest track that opens up giving views ahead to Samtengang Village.

Shortly before reaching Chungseykha, the path leads to an old temple, Dargyel Gompa, once again associated with the legend of the Divine Madman, Drukpa Kuenley. Several small meditation cells can be seen on the hillside above.

Your trek ends today at the village of Chungseykha where you will camp for the night.

Day 09 Trek the Trans Bhutan Trail to Samtengang, 1,952m/6,404ft - 13km/ 8 miles, 5 hours. Explore the village and drive back to Punakha.
Overnight: Zhingkham Resort Or Similar, Punakha

From Chungseykha you initially follow a road that descends to cross a suspension bridge over the Bae Chhu river. On the other side you leave the road and climb to a pass through several small farming villages and gorges before eventually arriving at Samtengang.

You will have time to explore the village and surrounding area before being driven back to your hotel in Punakha and a very welcome hot shower.

Day 10 Drive to the Dochu La. Walk the Trans Bhutan Trail to Hongtsho - 6-9½km/5-6 miles, 4-5 hours. Transfer to Paro.
Overnight: Hotel Olathang Or Similar, Paro

Your vehicle will drive you to the top of the Dochu La pass, where you will walk a spectacular portion of the Trans Bhutan Trail in a westerly direction, back towards the capital Thimphu.

You have another opportunity to visit and photograph the 108 chortens of the Dochu La pass before starting your walk. The trail starts to gradually climb and contour along the ridge in a south easterly direction, initially past many prayer flags. The path winds upwards through a fabulous old forest of rhododendron, hemlock and spruce. There are superb views in every direction. After about two hours you reach the small meditation centre and gompa at Lungchuzekha, situated right on top of the ridge and, weather permitting, with wonderful views of many Himalayan peaks. The path then descends gradually through forest (again with great views) and yak herder’s clearings. After about an hour the small settlement of Trashigang is reached. The route then descends through further beautiful mixed forest, and passes two old chortens before joining a track which leads back to the main road at Hongtsho. Here you will be picked up by your vehicle and driven to Paro.

Day 11 Walk to Taktsang Monastery - the Tiger's Nest.
Overnight: Hotel Olathang Or Similar, Paro

A short drive beyond Paro town takes you to the trail head for the walk up to the famous Tiger’s Nest, Taktsang Monastery. The monastery is perched some 600m/2,000ft up on a cliff overlooking the valley and was said to be where the legendary Indian saint, Guru Padma Sambhava, flew from Tibet on the back of a tiger to defeat five demons, who were opposing the spread of Buddhism in Bhutan. It’s a steep uphill walk through woods, of about 1½-2hrs, to reach a tea house (an ascent of 340m/1,115ft.) Apart from offering welcome refreshment this tea house is one of the principle viewpoints of Taktsang, and those who prefer not to climb any further can relax here whilst others continue on. If there is a particular religious gathering or VIP visit in progress, you will not be able to enter the monastery but the further half an hour’s ascent is well worth it in any case, as it brings you to another viewpoint directly across from Taktsang. If you are able to make a visit, the final section of the walk takes you from here steeply down 100m/330ft into the gorge that separates you from the monastery and then climbs back up again to reach the monastery gate.

Once you have walked back down you will have lunch and then the rest of the day can either be used to do any further sightseeing your guide suggests, or to do a little last minute shopping before you leave

Day 12 Fly to Kathmandu.
Overnight: Hotel Shanker Or Similar, Kathmandu

This is normally an early morning flight which takes you out and over the Bhutanese mountains and past Kangchenjunga, Makalu and Everest, finally dropping down into Kathmandu Valley. Sit on the right if you can for the very best views. You will be met and transferred to your hotel, after which there will be plenty of time to relax or for some shopping or sightseeing.

Day 13 Time at leisure. Transfer to airport for flight to your home.
Overnight: In flight

You have most of the day free to enjoy some final souvenir shopping or sightseeing, or to simply relax and enjoy the facilities at your hotel. Later in the afternoon there will be a group transfer to the airport for your overnight flight back to your Home.

Day 14 Arrive from your Home.


  • Arrival & Departure Transport By private Car/Van/Bus.
  • Three meals a day during the Trekking (Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner).
  • Accommodation in Tea House during the Trekking.
  • Trekking Guide with Insurance.
  • Kathmandu city and trekking maps.
  • Free use Company's duffel bag.
  • Day sightseeing around Kathmandu Valley, car/van/bus and tour guide.
  • All needed Government fees.
  • Food in Kathmandu(City) lunch and dinner.
  • Tips for Guide and Porters.
  • Extra night accommodation in Kathmandu (late departure or early arrival from the mountains.
  • Donation Items of personal expenses like hot shower, battery charge, telephone etc.




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