DRUK PATH TREK: The Most Popular Bhutan Trek
Druk Path Trek is the ancient trail used by the dwellers of Paro and Thimphu valley before the coming of the motor road in Bhutan. It is one of the most popular treks in Bhutan. You can complete this path in 4 Days, 5 Days, or 6 Days. The trekkers usually start their trek from Paro and end in Thimphu valley.
The six-day trek passes through a gorgeous natural landscape of blue pine forests, high ridges, Gothic rocks, and pristine lakes while at the same time offering the opportunity to visit some ancient monasteries and ruins.
The Druk Path Trek is also a fairly easy hike to undertake as the distances between rest camps are fairly short. The trail takes you through forests of fir, blue pine, and dwarf rhododendrons at altitudes ranging between 2400–4200 meters. You may come across beautiful Lakes, whose crystal clear waters are home to gigantic trout. This Bhutan trek also offers hikers stunning views of Mt. Gangkar Puensum, the highest unclimbed peak in the world. The best times to embark on the Druk Path Trek are between March-June or September-November.
Before venturing into the treks you can equip yourself with Do and Don’ts of Trekking in Bhutan.
Day 01: PARO TO JELA DZONG
You will be met by your potter and Trekking crew at Damchen village above Paro Ta Dzong. After packing rations and gear, on short yet very strong ponies, we follow the farm roads that lead to Mani wall stupa. We further hike through the forest of blue pine and hemlock before stopping for lunch.
Resumed climbing much steeper until the hilltop opens up to the riot’s wildflowers. During winter one can also see nomads with their Yaks grazing. The view of Paro valley and Jela Dzong is picturesque from here.
If you are looking for a short trek you can halt one night at Jele Dzong and on the next day exit towards Tshaluney above Jigmena Industrial Estates in Southern Thimphu. If the weather is clear you can see Mount Jomolhari, Jichu Drakey from here. It is much easier and a short one night two days trek.
Day 02:JELA DZONG TO JANGCHU LAKHA
You can wake up early to the sound of ponies bells and chirping birds. After enjoying warm tea and a heavy breakfast. While the trekking crew carries on with packaging gear, pick your gears and take the opportunity to explore Jele Dzong as it lies on the route to today’s destination Jungchuk Lakha.
After paying homage and Offering at Jela resumed our journey hiking along the high pass with the view of Paro and there is a newly bulldozed road leading to Jigmena industrial estates of Thimphu on the right side of the Jela Dzong. This newly under construction road was once used by the people from Southern Thimphu to commute which would only take one day to reach Paro.
Trek further climbing up along the treeline ridges and rhododendron forest. Get a wonderful view of Jigmena and surrounding Dagala pass on the horizon. Pass by ancient juniper's forest and keep eyes and ears wide open to spot Himalayan Monal busy scanning the floors of the junipers Forest. Just before the campsite at Jungchulaka, past the open yak herders camp and small streams to reach a great spot to enjoy lunch.
Right after the yak herders camp, there are two paths right side trails leading to Tshokam meaning Dried up the lake, and to Narithang campsite at the base of adjoining ridges. This trail is used by trekkers who spend 3 nights 4days trekking and doesn’t take you to Jigmelang Tso.
Follow the left side trail which will take you to the campsite at Jungchulaka and towards Jigmelang tsho considered sacred by the people of Jigmena. This route is considered to be the longest yet most beautiful route of the DrukpathTrek.
It takes almost 5 hours to 6 hrs to reach the campsite at Jungchulaka from Jela Dzong. Once at Jungchulaka located at the elevation of 3600msl above the Treeline where you only see Rhododendron shrubs and junipers surrounding a variety of wildflowers depending upon the season. Settled with a wonderful view of the whole alpine ridges and open pasture ground below which is supposed to be dried lake Tshokam.
The next morning I woke up early and started to explore Jungchulaka to get the best of it. During my last trek To my surprise, I was greeted by the sight of Red fox scavenging by our campsite. It was such a wonderful sight as I have never seen a red fox, such a welcoming sight for me and our team early in the morning. I followed his trail, keeping my distance to ensure the red fox is not threatened by our presence. As I kept following the fox he would disappear and reappear from rhododendron Bush.
Day 03:JANGCHULAKHA TO JIGMELANG TSHO
The long and most challenging task ahead of us is to cross over the Langala pass 4200msl before the campsite at the sacred Jigmeling Tsho. Eat well and resume climbing uphill along the ridge. Take opportunities to enjoy the view. As you climb uphill, vegetation and the view are so mesmerizing that you can even see all the major passes and the next day’s route as you scan along the horizon.
Once at Langala pass, hoist prayers flags pray for safety passages through this ancient trail to the mountains Deity. View of majesty Jomolahari, Jichu Drakey, and surrounding rocky mountainous pass always linger as you hike along this trail. Enjoy the aerial view of Paro Dopshari valley and the sacred Chumphu ney. Great spot to enjoy lunch. Mr. Dorji was kind enough to show us Do namkhai kaw meaning Stone pillar from the sky above which stood out amongst the hammock forest below. So kindly look for that mysterious huge Rock pillar when you reach the Langgay la pass.
From Langala pass it's all about going downhill with the view of the sacred lake. On route, we also get to appreciate some ancient ruins mostly used by the herder. It is a long tiresome day trek but very much worth it. Camp right next to the lake, enjoyed the rest of the day walking along with the lake feeding snow trout and appreciated the calmness surrounding of the sacred lake.
Jigmelang Tsho 3100msl
Is a sacred lake for the dwellers of Jigmena and herders who worshiped this lake as sacred. Even today people from Jigmena get their cattle to graze around this Sacred lake every summer looking for pastures. Every time they get their cattle to graze around this sacred lake. Cattle nos. would increase drastically while there cattle were grazing around this lake. Thus it is believed by the herder that the deity of the lake would send a bull from the lake who impregnated their cattle every time they brought their cattle to this site. Therefore, as a gratitude even today these people from Jigmena still pay their tribute and respect to the lake by offering prayers, performing ritual and rites to appease the lake Deity. Today Jigmelang Tsho is one of the most popular lake among pilgrim and trekkers. It not only provides water to the Jigmena and Wangchhu but also Shelter Snow trout and brown trout
Day 04:JIGMELANG TSHO TO SIMAKOTA
It’s a great spot to enjoy your day exploring the lake. You can also catch snow trout however you need to get a permit from the park office in advance. Or start your day by Offering your prayers to the sacred Jigmeling Tsho lake and resume your journey after crossing the river that overflowed from the lake into the valley below. It is much easier as they have already made a hopping stone to cross over it. Today’s trek is all about climbing. I will see Langala Pass and yesterday’s trail on the opposite side. Views of the surrounding pass and valley below where the lake water menders are spectacular. One hour later after passing through herder camp will reach Jagay tsho another lake but a bit small compared to Jigmelang Tso. One could see more of Herders camp and another trail towards descending at right that takes you to Narithang campsite which is used by trekkers if they are not visiting Jigmelang Tsho.
This lake is related to Himalayan griffon or vulture that’s how its name Jagay came into the picture. To complement the name stay alert to spot a flock of Himalayan monal and rarely spotted blood pheasant as you climb up through this rocky trail. Along the route, you will come across more carnies of different size and shape made by the trekkers who had added more landmarks to this trail with the great view of Jagay Tsho below us. You can also have your own cranies here.
After climbing for another 2 hrs you will be greeted by the sight of another beautiful lake Simakota. After climbing the whole day, Simakota lake offers the best campsite surrounded by alpine meadows and wildflowers.
Day 05:SIMAKOTA TO PHAJODING MONASTERY.
Today we have the option of visiting Dung Tsho conch lake which sits right above Simakota lake about 1hour hike towards the lake from Simakota. Mostly visited by local pilgrims who hike this ancient trail to pay homage and prayers to the lake Deity. Otherwise, we can head towards Phajoding monastery. It’s an undulating trail but in between will have to climb a few pass. As you climb and tackle the steep climb enjoying the view and alpine vegetation.
Climbing up and down passing a few lake pang Tsho small pond Tsep Tsho resembling the shape of a heart is considered to be the lake Deity of our Fourth King as this lake water flows into a beautiful stream through our Kings palace and Baybena near Indian Embassy. Pass through dried-up lakes which are decorated with more crannies in the shape of Bhutanese stupa. The highest point of the trek is Labana pass at 4200msl from this pass one can view the whole Trekking route including Jela Dzong where we camp on the first day, Jungchulaka, and ridges that home Jigmelang Tsho and Simakota.
From labana descent and climb until we reach at the base of the spur where it is said the sky burial was one practiced by the locals and yak herders. Descend to reach yet another pass decorated with prayer flags and big stone stupa with gold painted spire. From this point we have a wonderful sight of the Thimphu valley below us. One can enjoy the one of the best spectacular views with busy bustling Thimphu city below. Right below us are the adjoining monastery of Phajoding. Take a chance to enjoy Bhutan’s capital view, replenish our energy and enjoy our lunch before descending further.
If time permits, take a chance to explore Tujhe dark which is the last of many monasteries Phajoding has to offer. This monastery overlooks Thimphu valley and is very sacred to the National Religion of Bhutan as the founder of Drukpa Kagyu in Bhutan, lama Phajo Drukgom Zhigpo has spend lots of time meditating with his spiritual consort Sonam Pelday followed by many more Drukpa Kagyu masters. There are many Blessed water sources dedicated to lam Phajo, Dakini Sonam Pelden, and chief abbot Je Shacha Rinchen who later expanded the existing site where Lam Phajo had mediated by building more shrines and retreats centers.
After paying our homage and prayers for all sentient beings, we climbed down towards the campsite at Phajoding. At Phojoding we have options to camp as usual or to take a Guesthouse built for the tourists and pilgrims by the Monastery. Experiencing a guest house is great if available after camping for long days as it is spacious and warmer compared to cold weather outside. The principal and the young monk are very kind to welcome all guests with warm tea and snacks. They also provided pilgrims and tourists with mattresses and room heaters. We can also charge our phones and contact our friends and family as the network was great. It also reminded us of how hard our parents had survived before the modernization of Bhutan by our Great leaders.
Day 06:PHAJODING TO THIMPHU
Unlike other days in the wild, we can take enough rest and enjoy the last day of the trek as we are not far from human civilization now. Enjoy your breakfast leisurely with the capital view and pack your belongings. Whatever rations are left please offer to Lama and young monks who were undergoing their Buddhist Studies at the monastery. However, we cannot explore all the monasteries as there is major renovation work going on. So visit the monastery where monks are undergoing their studies and where you are allowed to pay your homage and offering as a Buddhist cultures
After visiting the monastery resumed final journey back to civilization. The final route from Phajoding to Thimphu is all Downhill With a handful of Stupa and few monasteries along the route. After descending for less than an hour there is a divergent road ahead. One which was much gentle but longer, another towards our right was shorter yet very steep and challenging to our knees by now.
To be honest, to enjoy the view I would recommend taking the longer route as the view from the longer route is majestic compared to the shorter route towards the right and the trail is much more gentle. Moreover one can also visit Chokortse Lhakhang or shrine along that route and the view from Sangaygang is Spectacular for someone who is Trekking Drukpath for the first time.