years many experts and botanist visited Bhutan and their accounts & collections are one of the greatest sources of information in Bhutanese botanical studies as well as in any natural studies. Many of their collections have made the way to many European Gardens. Bhutan still remains largely unexplored. So far, about 4500 species of flowering plants has been documented. About 46 species of Rhododendrons grows wild in Bhutan and most of them blossom during the months of April, May and June. For the detailed itinerary and other information please contact us.
The Bhutan Botanical Tours will visit some of the prime botanical sites in Bhutan Himalayas, a source of many of the highly prized plants introduced to horticulture. Over the
Day 01: Arrival
We fly to Bhutan along the chain of the Great Himalaya and, if the weather is kind, we will have views of several 8000m peaks including Qomolungma, more commonly known in the West as Mount Everest, and Kanchenjunga, before our descent into Bhutan’s only airport at Paro. This is an exciting one as it is done on visual approach without radar, the final few kilometres along a narrow valley between forested ridges and passing Paro Dzong, the fortified centre of administration of the district.
To begin our explorations we set out by vehicle upstream along the course of the Pachhu, the river which runs through Paro, and along which we may see Ibisbill. Crossing the river we rise through forest to a car park from which we look up to the Taktsang Monastery, also known as the Tiger’s Nest, one of Buddhism’s most venerated pilgrimage sites. This is our destination for the day, an acclimatizing steep walk of 3 hours or so, with the first section on forest paths to a tea room, another forest section to a much closer second viewpoint and then by steep stone paths down and up to the Monastery itself. After this wonderful experience we retrace our steps to the vehicle and with a possible stop at a local farmhouse for an inside look at the daily life of a traditional rural family we return along the valley to our hotel in Paro.
Day o3: Shana, 2850m, to Thongdu Zampa, 3250m. 6 hours.
For the next couple of days we shall have the Pachhu, the river of the Paro valley, as our companion as we follow its course to its source. We drive North, with views across to Taktsang Goemba, to the roadhead at Shana to begin our trek. Here all our main bags are loaded onto ponies while we carry just our cameras, water bottles, wet weather clothing and umbrellas, and any other personal gear in our small day sacks.
We set off upstream heading North to enter the Jigme Dorji Wildlife Sanctuary, the largest of the protected areas within the country. The list of mammals it harbours is very impressive but close to our path, the main trade route through the area, we would be lucky to catch sight of them. We shall see a good selection of birds, and as with the flora, woodland species on this and the next day. We follow the river closely and cross by bridge to our camp at Thongdu Zampa.
Day 04: Thongdu Zampa, 3250m, to Gezampa, 3730m. 8 hours.
From Thongdu Zampa we continue to follow the river and cross back again to have it on our right as we gradually rise. The valley narrows and a bridge takes a path off to link towards where we shall be in a week’s time. Our path takes us through thinning woodland with interesting river flats to a camp on a meadow from which we can look up to high pastures with grazing yaks, high rock ridges and corries. On our approach to Gezampa camp, 3730m, we may see the snow dome of Chomolhari, 7314m, beyond this green and brown foreground. We are high above the river and the pastures between us and it are full of flowers which we can begin to look at this evening if time allows.
Day 05: Gezampa, 3730m, to Jangothang, 4090m. 6-7 hours.
Setting out through the broad expanses of Primula sikkimensis and the plants of the nearby meadow even the first kilometre will be time consuming, such is the number of botanical distractions. Our lunch stop on a broad flat meadow, with the river below, has more surprises in store and we begin to become accustomed to seeing yaks and the herders’ dwellings as well as seeing the new hospital under construction. We finally reach a bridge to take us past a huge boulder adorned with prayer flags, beyond which is the stone building at the heart of the Jangothang campsite. Close by, overlooking it, is the ruined Dzong, on which our 2008 party’s prayer flags should still be fluttering and beyond which the enormous snow covered South East face of Chomolhari fills the side valley head. At this time of year we are unlikely to have other trekkers for company but as this is a main supply route there is a movement of traders and carriers coming by on horses and mules.
Day 06: Static Camp, local botanising.
As we have two nights at Jangothang, to aid acclimatization now that we have reached 4000m+, this can be taken as a Rest Day if required, with opportunities for botanising close by. There are other options, with an approach towards Chomolhari probably the most appealing. Whatever we choose we shall all probably take the chance to catch up with washing and drying laundry at some point.
Day 07: Jangothang, 4090m, to Nyile La Shong, 4730m. 6-7 hours.
Leaving the campsite we lose our view of Chomolhari as soon as we depart, but in less than 15 minutes the main valley opens out to our left with the Pachhu, which we have followed all the way from our starting point, issuing from the terminal moraine. Beyond this is a huge cirque with Jichu Drake, 6989m, a shapely spire of snow and ice at its head and we should have wonderful views as we cross the Pachhu for the last time and rise quite steeply up the opposite valley side to the shoulder. We enter a long gently rising hanging valley, along which our progress will be punctuated by botanising stops and photography, with the lure of the screes on our left throughout its length. Passing yak herders’ tents, and aware of the beasts themselves, we look across the river to huge side valleys beyond before turning uphill steeply again for the short rise to Nyile La Shong campsite. The trail to camp and welcoming tea is good, but taking a short cut can be very time consuming as the wet pasture in the last half kilometre is full of delectable plants. Our camp is at 4730m in a huge corrie, over the rim of which the snow top of Tsherim Kang, 6526m, appears and, with a waxing half moon at this time, clear night skies would give us a wonderful experience.
Day 8: Static Camp. Botanising corrie to Nyile La, 4890m.
We are camped in the realms of the Tibetan Snowcock and in the first hints of light we shall hopefully be aware of their eerie calls as they feed in the heath above. After breakfast we shall begin our search of the corrie, at first across yak pasture and then moving into an incredibly rich low heath with many sentinel Reum nobile at its upper edge. These are collected for medicine but we should be ahead of the collectors. Continuing round at various levels the screes and outcrops will give us continuing botanical interest until we reach the Nyile La itself, the pass at 4890m, and from which we shall walk up again amongst the cushions of Androsace tapete. Throughout the day the camp is almost continuously visible below and our lunch will catch up with us wherever we are at the appointed time, such is the tremendous service which our crew gives us. We aim to stay high for as long as possible but the wet pasture in the bowl will also be explored before we return to camp late afternoon.
Day 10: Nyile La Shong, 4730m, to Bonte La Shong, 4700m. 6-7 hours.
Today we turn downhill from our high camp to retrace our steps through the hanging valley along which we walked on Day 6. Having already botanised these slopes we should try to avoid too many diversions as we go along here because there is much new ground to explore later. At the end we turn South and contour round, with Jichu Drake to our right and our previous campsite at Jangothang way below us. Once we enter the Tso Phu valley we look along its length to the two lakes at its head and the screes on the slopes on our left as we approach them hold much interest for us, while the damp meadows by the lakes hold a different flora. We rise up at the valley head on the route to the Bonte La and to our campsite at Bonte La Shong, another high camp.
Day 10: Bonte La Shong Static Camp: Botanising to Nachung La, 4830m.
We are now in exploration mode as we have found no records to show that anyone has botanised this area. As at Nyile La Shong our high camp here gives us close access to high alpines and we shall spend as much time as possible seeking out its treasures.
Day 11: Bonte La Shong, 4700m, to Yaksa, 3800m. 6-7 hours.
The information for the next three days of the trek comes from our Guide, Sonam, as we now embark, in the opposite direction, on the route taken by Ludlow in 1949, and apparently not botanised in the last 60 years. A short steep ascent will take us to the Bonte La, 4890m, the highest pass which we cross by trail on this trek. We will spend time botanising at the top and if it is an auspicious day, we may help the crew to put up some prayer flags as well. On the other side of the pass, we descend past the rocky cliffs of Yaksathang, traverse the wildflower meadows at their base, and camp at a picturesque site with a waterfall at the far end of the valley, just below the tree line.
Day 12: Yaksa, 3800m, to Thongbu Shong, 4120m. 6-7 hours.
We start with a gradual climb above the tree line, past hillsides covered with rhododendron and azalea thickets, before a further lift takes us up over the Tagilung La (Windhorse Pass), 4540m. In very clear conditions Kanchenjunga, 8586m, the third highest mountain on earth is visible from the peak to the East of the pass, and in exceptional air, Makalu, even further off in Nepal. Beyond we descend to grassy meadows where herds of yak graze during the summer months. The campsite is surrounded by snow-streaked peaks.
Day 13: Thongbu Shong, 4120m, to Shana, 2850m. 6-7 hours.
A steep but relatively short climb takes us above the valley to the Thongbu La, 4270m, beyond which we traverse an incredibly beautiful garden of wildflowers. It is intriguing to speculate on what this might contain. Thereafter we begin the steep descent to Shana where our vehicle will be waiting to take us to our hotel in Thimphu so that we can have a shower or bath, or both, before our evening meal.
Day 16: Departure
After another night in the hotel we make the drive to the airport, say goodbye to our friends from Bhutan Excursions, and proceed to go through formalities, although this word belies the relaxed nature of the process Bhutan style. Take off is exciting with its rapid ascent and the possibility of views to Jomolhari from the starboard side as the plane clears the cloud layer.
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