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Central Bhutan Challenge

Trip Duration
5 Days
Grading
Activity Level
Challenging
Ascent & Descent
5,974 m  
Max Elevation
3,402 m

Summary

This unforgettable Trek will lead you over soaring peaks and down into deep valleys, enjoying beautiful scenery all along the way. Follow in the footsteps of Garp Lunghi Khorlo and the famous Chamberlin Pemi Tshewang Tashi, and enjoy a stop at one of the oldest chortens in Bhutan, Sangay Tsepame.


Itinerary

You will begin your day walking through rice fields and then gradually ascend until Laptshakha. At Laptshakha, a Chorten marks the highest point on this trail. It is recommended that you take simple packed lunches such as sandwiches for this trail as there aren’t any shops or human settlements until the point of the destination. Do make sure to stock up with supplies for this part of the trail. The trail provides a scenic sight of the valleys on the north end. The traditional route through this section has been further developed by our friends from the Punakha Mountain Bike Club. Please watch for descending riders.

Towards afternoon you will reach the beautiful valley of Lingmukha after walking on the feeder road for about an hour for the last section of this trail. There are camping options in this valley but we recommend you to spend the night in the local farmhouse or homestay. We would recommend you experience the walk between the rice fields right in the heart of the valley surrounded by the ridges. The valley is known as Lingmup Sher gi Zhom (which translates to as the golden bowl). The golden rice fields right before the harvest season is a sight not to be missed. You should also stop for a quick visit to Lingmukha Lhakhang which according to legend was built by the Treasure Revealer Terton Dorjee Lingpa.

Lingmukha Lhakhang

The locals believe that the Lhakhang is the seat of the great Treasure Discoverer, Terton Dorjee Lingpa and his lineage. Oral history explains that Dorjee Lingpa arrived in Lingmukha in the 14th century, built the Lhakhang and settled there along with his disciples. The Great Master is said to have discovered many ters (Treasures) in the village. According to some historical records, King Gesar of Ling is also believed to have visited Lingmukha. The current structure was renovated in 2014 by the local community.

Trek Distance: 12.25 kilometres (7.61 miles)
Estimated Duration: 7 hours 
Elevation Gain: 1,123 metres (3,685 feet) 
Starting Elevation: 1,225 metres (4,019 feet)
Ending Elevation: 2,144 metres (7,034 feet)
Maximum Elevation: 2,190 metres (7,185 feet)

Ideal Lunch Spot: Laptsakha

Accommodation Recommendation: Homestay or Camp Service Providers

Meals Included: ZEN_HOLIDAY_NO_MEALS

Today you will be walking on the trail that is often used by the natives of Lingmukha and Phangyul. Although separated by the ridge in between, they consider themselves blood relatives believing that they share the same roots. The trail gently rises from deep within the valley and keeps ascending steeply through the dense forest until the Laptshakha. highest point, where a rest stop has been constructed. From there on, the trail sharply descends providing scenic views of the valleys of Shar passing through the Chungse Azhe Gyalzom Lhakhang. Trail keeps descending further all the way until Chungserkha where one can find a local restaurant serving hot meals. From there on the trail ascends quickly for the last section of the trail through farming villages perched on the steep slope taking you to Samtengang. You can also treat yourself to a hot stone bath by the river.

Chungse Azhe Gyalzom Lhakhang

During the 15th century, Lam Drukpa Kuenley, also known as the Divine Madman visited Azhi Gyalzom’s place in Chungserkha. It is believed that he threw a Chan-do (a flat disc-like stone) from Sha Kuenzangling on the other side of the valley. Afterwards, he went searching for the stone and is said to have come across it at the base of a cypress tree below Azhi Gyalzom’s house at Chungserkha. A small temple was later built on top of the ruins of Azhi Gyalzom’s house.

Trek Distance: 17.2 kilometres (10.69 miles)
Estimated Duration: 8 hours
Elevation Gain: 1,286 metres (4,219 feet)
Starting Elevation: 2,144 metres (7,034 feet)
Ending Elevation: 1,952 metres (6,405 feet)
Maximum Elevation: 2,535 metres (8,317 feet)

Ideal Lunch Spot: Chungseykha

Accommodation Recommendation: Homestay or Camp Service Providers

Meals Included: ZEN_HOLIDAY_NO_MEALS

Today, you will be walking in the footsteps of the famous messenger Garp Lunghi Khorlo and the famous Chamberlin Pemi Tshewang Tashi. We recommend you to carry packed lunch for this section as there aren’t any restaurants and human settlements along the trail. Before embarking on the trail, if time permits, do stop for a visit at the Lhakhang Thangkha. The trail from Samtengang is marked with a gradual ascend for the first part of the section and after a while the trail runs flat for some time offering you a pleasant walk and respite. Anywhere along this section is a good spot to have your lunch under the cool shade and a perfect view of the valley. After lunch, you begin descending into Razawo for the last section of the day. While on this trail, one can also see the historic Razawo Chorten.

Lhakhang Thangkha

Lhakhang Thangkha situated in Sha Kunzangling in Wangdi Phodrang is considered to be one of the eight lings (locations where he meditated on, taught and wrote the Dzongchen) of Künkhyen Longchen Rabjam. Born in 1308 to Tensung, a son of Lhalung, he was the incarnation of Thrisong Deutsen’s daughter, Princess Pemasal, to whom Guru Padmasambhava entrusted with transmission of Nyingthig, the Innermost Essence teachings of Dzogchen when she was dying. The exact arrival and return years are not known. However, it is believed that he arrived in Bhutan towards the end of 1350 on a self-exile because of the conflict with Tibet’s ruler Tai Situ Changchub Gyaltshen who became a ruler in 1349.

The Stupa of Razawok

The chorten at Razawok is one of the oldest chortens in Bhutan. The chorten is believed to have been built during the time of Buddha Kashyapa. According to “Druk Gyi Choten Selshe, the explanation of the Stupas of Bhutan” states that this Stupa was built by Gyalsey Arjun, the disciple of Arya Nagarjuna. 

Trek Distance: 19.75 kilometres (12.27 miles)
Estimated Duration: 8 hours
Elevation Gain: 1,333 metres (4,374 feet)
Starting Elevation: 1,952 metres (6,405 feet)
Ending Elevation: 1,986 metres (6,516 feet)
Maximum Elevation: 2,795 metres (9,170 feet)

Ideal Lunch Spot: Viewpoints

Accommodation Recommendation: Camp Service Providers

Meals Included: ZEN_HOLIDAY_NO_MEALS

After following the river for a short distance, the trail ascends for the remainder of the day. The trail initially follows farm road for a short distance before crossing into open meadow, walnut and oak forest and then rising up through hamlets. The Rida village is the perfect spot and time for you to have your packed lunch. For this trail it is recommended you carry packed lunch. If time permits, you might want to visit the Rida Goenpa. From Rida, you climb through the Rhododendron forest until Pelela Pass. Tonight, you will be sleeping at an elevation high of 3,407 metres above sea level. This might be a perfect stop to shop for products made out of yak hair sold by the highlanders.

Rida Goenpa

There is no historical record of when Rida Goenpa was built but according to the locals the Lhakhang was built some 100 years back. The main relic of the Lhakhang is Sangay Tsepame, Buddha of Longevity. The structure that stands today was renovated in 2012. According to the locals, a Tsampa, a Buddhist hermit, came here to meditate a long time ago. A couple living there at the time offered him meals during his mediation. Before he left, he blessed the barren couple with a child in return for their kindness to him. The Tsampa prophesied that a son will be born to the couple the following year and he must join the monk body at the Punakha Dzong. To their surprise, the very next year a son was born and at the age of eight he became a monk at Punakha Dzong. People believed the boy was the reincarnation of the Tsampa and it was he who built a statue of Tsepadme suppress all negative energies. 

Trek Distance: 14.1 kilometres (8.76 miles)
Estimated Duration: 9 hours|
Elevation Gain: 1,630 metres (5,348 feet)
Starting Elevation: 1,986 metres (6,516 feet)
Ending Elevation: 3,402 metres (11,162 feet)
Maximum Elevation: 3,402 metres (11,162 feet)

Ideal Lunch Spot: Rida Valley

Accommodation Recommendation: Hotel or Camp Service Providers

Meals Included: ZEN_HOLIDAY_NO_MEALS

After a warm breakfast at 3,407 metres above sea level, you will start descending slowly through the meadows where one can see yak herders’ camps taking you all the way to the clustered village of Rukubji. Here, there are a handful of homestays and farmhouses that offer warm local food. So, it is not necessary for you to carry packed lunch. If you have time do consider spending the night in this beautiful village or at least, visit the village Lhakhang, Kuenzang Choling. After lunch the trail gradually ascends from the valley through the forest and after a while drops gently down to Chendebji village to end your day. A short walk along the road will take you to the Chendebji Chorten; a beautiful spot to visit as the sunsets.

Kuenzang Choling

The Kuenzang Choling Lhakhang in the valley of Rukubj is believed to be built some 300 years ago, by a Lama named Tshendhen Duelwa. Unlike other Lhakhangs which are normally built on hills or a ridge overlooking the entire valley, this village is situated on an extended plateau with the edges dropping down to the two rivers below, which converge together towards the end of the settlement area. The reason behind it was that when the Lama visited the Rukubji valley, he saw that a big snake-demoness was causing harm to the people. So, he subdued the snake-demoness and built the temple on top of the head of the snake-demoness. If you look from the other side, the village is supposed to have settled on the neck and the fields of the people on the belly of the snake.

Chendebji Chorten

The Chendebji Chorten is located beside the Wangdi Phodrang-Trongsa highway at Chendebji. The Chorten is based at the point believed to be where the three ridges and the three edges of the sky meet. This iconic Chorten is recognizable by its roundish shape and the eyes painted at the sides. Lam Ngedup Tshering Wangchuk constructed the Chorten after he brought a model of the stupa from Nepal. The Chorten was constructed to subdue Nyaladudm, the demoness of the Chendebji area and bring peace to the valley. 

Trek Distance: 21.5 kilometres (13.36 miles)
Estimated Duration: 8 hours
Elevation Gain: 500 metres (1,641 feet)
Starting Elevation: 3,402 metres (11,162 feet)
Ending Elevation: 2,425 metres (7,956 feet)
Maximum Elevation: 3,402 metres (11,162 feet)

Ideal Lunch Spot: Rukubji Village

Accommodation Recommendation: Homestay, Hotel, or Camp Service Providers

Meals Included: ZEN_HOLIDAY_NO_MEALS

Additional Activities

Looking for something more? These activities are examples of excursions or activities that are available to travellers that are not included in this trip fee. These activities can be subject to availability. Contact us with any questions regarding these additional activities.

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