Royal Heritage Trek
Trekking is by far one of the most popular tourism activities in Bhutan. The diversity in nature and the range of exotic culture makes the country ideal for trekking. The Royal Heritage Trek is yet another tourism product developed to commemorate the past 100 years of the Monarchy’s royal heritage and historic travel route between the Bumthang and Trongsa Dzongkhags. Except for a few herders and the locals around, the trail has not been used for so many years as Bhutan moved into the modern era and so many roads were built throughout the country. It has now been rediscovered as a potential trekking route offering an invigorating adventure with every section of the trail contributing its own attractions.
The trail boasts of a blend of valued history, traditional mores and royal anecdotes which date back to as early as the 1950s. The trek traces the historical route King Jigme Wangchuck, the 2nd King of Bhutan, used when moving from his summer residence, Wangdicholing Palace in Bumthang, to his winter residence, Kuenga Rabten Palace in Trongsa. It was the first King who shifted the government seat from the old winter capitals in Punakha and Thimphu to Wangdicholing palace in Bumthang. In 1928, after the death of the first King, his successor built a new palace in Kuenga Rabten. With its warmer, more temperate climate the valley provided a welcome relief from the harsh winters of Bumthang. The Royal Family and its entourage moved in a majestic procession with hundreds of followers and riding horses trekking over the mountains. The journey took just three days then.
The second King died at his palace of Kuenga Rabten in 1952, after which his son King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk took over. The third King shifted the center of government back to the old summer capital in Thimphu. The Royal Heritage Trail presents the visitors a look at the history of monarchy with an opportunity to explore it first hand after the royal family treaded the same route more than 50 years ago.
In addition to the rich and the unambiguous historical experience it offers, the trail has an abundance of flora and fauna. Over 40 species of birds have been identified including the Yellow and Black Billed Magpies and the Spotted Nut Cracker. Along the trail, you’ll also enjoy the splendor of violet primula and other beautiful wild flowers.
The trail is a 4-day moderate hiking, which starts from Wangdicholing, Bumthang and ends in Kuenga Rabten, Trongsa or vice versa.
Day 01: Weaving through the valley, landing at the Paro Airport is like no other landings anywhere in the world. On arrival in Paro one of our professional guides will receive you and check you into your hotel. In the afternoon we will see the rich History of Bhutan exhibited in the 17thcentury National Museum. A tour of the beautiful Paro Dzong, a massive fortress built in the 17thcentury will introduce us to the unique aspects of the Bhutanese Buddhism. A short down hill walk from the Dzong over an old cantilever bridge wraps up an eventful first day in this magical Kingdom. Overnight in Paro / Altitude: 2200m
Day 02: Hike up to Taktsang or the Tiger’s Nest as it is popularly known. This magical temple clings to a vertical granite cliff 800m above the valley. It is believed that in the 8thcentury, Guru Rimpochee, a tantric master flew here on the back of a tigress from eastern Bhutan and meditated in a cave around which the temple is built. A hike to this temple will occupy most of our morning. In the afternoon we will host a special prayer ceremony at the beautiful 1200 year old Kichu Lhakhang Temple, to bring us good luck for the rest of our journey. Overnight in Paro
Day 03: Paro to Thimphu (Capital). 1 hour drive. We will check you into your hotel. After lunch we will visit the National Memorial Chorten, Textile Museum, Traditional Painting School, the Takin Zoo, National Library, Thimphu Dzong, Folk Heritage Museum and the weekend market etc. Overnight in Thimphu / Altitude: 2400m
Day 04: Thimphu to Punakha. 3 hours drive to Punakha over the Dochula pass at 3000m. If we are lucky we may catch glimpses of the Himalayas. Punakha is the ancient capital of Bhutan. Today, the Central Monk body moves to Punakha in the winter when it gets cold in Thimphu. With the climate almost tropical in the summer, the valley is blessed with abundance of fruits and rice. After lunch we will visit the magnificent Punakha Dzong which showcases the perfect example of Bhutanese arts and crafts. After touring the Dzong we will take a short drive in the lush upper Punakha valley and hike for 45 minutes to the Beautiful Khamsum Yuley temple on a hill. Overnight in Punakha / Altitude: 1250m
Day 05: Punakha to Jakar, Bumthang. Today we will start an early journey to central Bhutan. It should take us around 9 hours to get to Jakar, Bumthang. Though a long journey it will be worth it. The Bumthang valley lies at an altitude of 2600 meters. This valley is the religious heartland of Bhutan and home to some of the oldest Buddhist temples. Tales of Guru Padmasambhava and his reincarnates known as Lingpas, still linger around Bumthang.
Legend has it that when the Lamas assembled to decide on a site for Jakar Dzong, a big white bird rose suddenly in the air and settled on a spur of the hill and it was here that `Castle of the white bird` was built. The building itself is surrounded with an impressive wall approximately one mile in circumference, in its centre a tower soars nearly 150 feet into the air. Overnight in Jakar, Bumthang / Altitude: 2600m
Day 06: Today we will explore Jakar, Bumthang.
Jambey Lhakhang : This monastery was built in the 7th century by the Tibetan king, Songtsen Gampo. It is one of 108 monasteries which he built to subdue evil spirits in the Himalayan region. Its present architectural appearance dates from the early 20th century.
Kurje Lhakhang : Located further along the valley, Kurje Lhakhang comprises of three temples. The one on the right was built in 1652 against the rock face where Guru Padmasambhava meditated in the 8th century. The middle temple is built on the site of a cave containing a rock with the imprint of the Guru’s body, and is therefore considered to be the most holy. The temple on the left was built in the 1990s by H.M. Ashi Kesang, the Queen Mother. These three temples are surrounded by 108 chorten walls.
Tamshing Lhakhang : Located across the river from Kurje Lhakhang, this temple was founded in 1501 by Terton Pema Lingpa, a re-incarnation of Guru Padmasambhava. There are very old religious paintings around the inner walls of the temple, which was restored at the end of the 19th century.
Day 07: Royal Heritage begins today.Wangdichholing Palace – Domkar Tashichholing Palace.The trek starts from Wangdichholing Palace (2600m), climbing up to Jakar Dzong, and then ascending towards Kikila pass (3948m). Depending on time, one can make the historical tour of the Wangdichholing Palace and visit the Jakar Dzong. The Lunch spot (Seou Zheysa) is 4 ½ hrs walk from Wangdichholing Palace. This was the actual lunch spot used by the Royal family. The campsite (Makhagthang) on the bank of Duegang Chhu is 3 hrs downhill from Kikila and stands at an elevation of 2908 m, about ½ a km away from Domkhar Tashichholing Palace.
Day 08:Domkar – Jamsapang.The hike begins with the crossing of the Duegang chhu. The trail is mostly uphill and after climbing for about 3½ hrs you reach a place called Dungmai Jab at an altitude of 3678m which can be used as the lunch spot.
The campsite (Jamsapang) is about 2hrs ascend from the lunch spot and stands at an elevation of 4019m. Tungli La (pass) is just a few minutes away from the campsite.
Day 09:Jamsapang – Bjobshisa. The day begins with a slight ascend towards Tungli La which is about 1hr walk away from the campsite. One can enjoy the majestic view on the snow peaked Black Mountains sandwiched between Bhutan’s southern foothills at the left and the greater Himalayan range at the right. Tungli La stands at an elevation of 4039m from where the trail descends and takes about 2hrs to reach the lunch spot. Another 2 hours brings you to the third campsite, Bjobshisa. During the summer/monsoon season, this place is used by the local cattle herders.
Day 10:Bjobshisa – Kuenga Rabten Palace. The trail from Jobshisa descends on its way to Kuenga Rabten Palace, the royal winter residence of the 2nd King and his junior consort. It takes about 4hrs from the campsite and stands at an elevation of 1774m. There is an ideal camping ground at the back of the palace overlooking the valley and Mangdue River.
Day 11: Today after breakfast we will drive back to Thimphu. Driving time(6-7 hours). Over night in Thimphu.
Day 12: Early morning flight from Paro International Airport
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