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20 Days Merak Sakteng Trek

Destination : Merak and Sakteng Trek, Samdrupjongkhar, Trashigang, Mongar, Bumthang, Trongsa, Gangtey/Phobjikha, Punakha/Wangdue, Thimphu and Paro. (5/5) | 5 Reviews
  • temple
  • guide
  • meals
  • hotel
  • driver
  • hikes
  • camping

Description

Merak and Sakteng are among the least visited places in Bhutan. These villages of Merak and Sakteng is situated at 3000 m above the sea level in the eastern part of Bhutan and is inhabited by semi-nomadic yak herders who have one of the most unique and fascinating culture and way of life in the world. While Bhutan is unique the people of Merak and Sakteng are unique to Bhutan. They have a different way of dressing and way of life.

While Bhutan Tourism was opened in 1974, this legendary Merak Sateng trek was opened after three decades of commencement of tourism in Bhutan and a very few people travel to these places making it one of the most less visited places in Bhutan.

The “Merak Sateng Trekking” is a 20 days itinerary which includes the Merak Sateng Trek and sightseeing covering almost all the places from Eastern Bhutan to the western Bhutan allowing you to live and understand almost all aspects of Bhutan. This shall be a truly an amazing holiday in Bhutan. This trek explores region of the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary or Migoi National Park which covers 650 km sq in the remote eastern Bhutan. The place is believed to be Yeti (Migoi) Spotting region. The sic days trek shall allow you to experience the clean air and the beautiful mountains through one of the nine protected wildlife sanctuaries of Bhutan. The place is also home to endemic species like eastern blue pine, black-rumped magpie, snow leopard, red panda, Himalayan black bear, barking deer and Himalayan red fox including other species such as hoary-bellied Himalayan squirrel, Assamese macaque, blood pheasant, grey-backed shrike, grey-headed woodpecker, common hoopoe, rufus-vented tit and dark-breasted rosefinch.

This itinerary may be experienced with extensions to Haa and Trashiyangtse or other villages in eastern Bhutan with the increase in number of nights.


Outline Itinerary

DAY 1 – Guwahati to Samdrupjongkhar
DAY 2 – Samdrupjongkhar – Trashigang
DAY 3 – Trashigang – Rangjung
DAY 4 – Rangjung–Chaling-Damnongchu(Trek Starts)
DAY 5 – Damnongchu – Merak
DAY 6 – Merak – Miksateng
DAY 7 – Miksateng-Sakteng
DAY 8 – Sakten-Joenkhar Teng
DAY 9 – Joenkharteng–Phongmey-Tashigang (Trek Ends)
DAY 10 – Trashigang – Mongar
DAY 11 – Mongar – Bumthang
DAY 12 – Bumthang
DAY 13 – Bumthang – Trongsa – Gangtey
DAY 14 – Gangtey – Punakha/Wangdue
DAY 15 – Punakha/Wangdue
DAY 16 – Punakha – Thimphu
DAY 17 – Thimphu
DAY 18 – Thimphu – Paro
DAY 19 – Paro
DAY 20 – Departure


Detailed Itinerary

Driving Distance: 120 km| Driving time: 3 – 4 Hrs | Altitude of Samdrupjongkhar: 220 m

On arrival in Guwahati, you shall be received by your Bhutanese guide from Find Bhutan with Tashi khadar and then drive to Samdrupjongkhar. Your drive in the Indian plains shall bring you across small townships, vibrant villages of Assam and paddy fields. In nearing the Bhutan Border you shall also come across tea gardens from where famous Indian tea is made. On arrival in Samdrupjongkhar, complete the Immigration formalities at the Bhutan gate and then check in hotel. 

While in hotel, we shall first familiarize with the fellow travelers over a drink. In the evening, walk around the Samdrup Jongkhar town. It is one of the most important commercial hub for the people of eastern Bhutan. This is the place where main trade between eastern Bhutan and Indian state of Assam takes place.

Welcome dinner and overnight in hotel.

Driving Distance: 180 km| Driving time: 6 Hrs | Altitude of Trashigang: 1150m.

After breakfast, check out from hotel and get yourself ready for a 6 hour long exhilarating journey to Trashigang. Trashigang is the largest district in Bhutan.  As you ascend from 200 m to almost 1150 m you shall see the diversity in Flora and fauna. You shall also be able to witness how the plains become foothills and then to big Himalayan Slopes. Tiny villages and local people on the way shall add to you experience.  Stop at places for photography and sightseeing.During the Indo China war in 1962, this served as one of the most important routes and is the most important route for the people in eastern Bhutan.

On arrival, check in Hotel and then explore the Trashigang Town.

Dinner and overnight in hotel.

Driving Distance: 18 km| Driving time: 45 min | Altitude of Rangjung: 1150 m.

After a leisure breakfast, visit the Trashigang dzong which lies on the headland of the dzongkhag that gives us the confluence of the Drangme Chhu and the Gamri Chhu. In the early years, this dzong served as the main head quarter of whole eastern region.

Drive to Rangjung, a small town in the north of Trashigang. While in Rangjung, visit the Ranjung Monastery, founded by the His Holiness Garab Rimpoche and then explore the nearby villages in Rangjung.

Dinner and overnight at Guest House/ Camp.

Walking time – 7 Hr | Altitude of Chaling – 2145 m | Altitude of Damnongchu – 3120 m

After breakfast, take a scenic drive to Chaling, which is actually is pronounced as “Choling” meaning sadness. After the death Lama Ganapati (reincarnation of the Shabdrung’s son Jambay Dorji), who was killed by his rivals in the western Bhutan, this place came to be known as the village of sadness.The place was also known as ‘Yue Pema Chen’ and it was here the son of Khandro Drowa Zangmo, Kuentu Legkpa became the king and subdued the demon Lhacham.

The road passes to Radhi Village which is famous for the “Bura” a traditional Bhutanese textile.

The trek to merak starts above Chaling School. Your trekking crew and pack animals will be waiting here for you. Trek starts with gradual climb towards Shaktimi meadow. You will see yaks and sheep grazing with yak herders’ huts dotted on the hills side. After ascending for approximately an hour you shall come across the ruined house of Lama Ganapati, a few old stupas and a prayer wall. The route continues uphill until you can see the view of Thow-Mang Monastery.

After walking for approximately 4 to 5 hrs from here you shall reach Mon – Laptsa at an altitude of 3390 m. This place was discovered by the people from Tawang where they claimed the area before being repelled by the Bhutanese. Mon refers to the people of Tawang and Laptsa means Pass.

From this pass, you will descend through rhododendron forests till you reach Damnongchu which was the battlefield of Prince Kuentu Legkpa and the demon Lhacham. We can still see the Chhorten at the ridge called Merak Nagpotse from where the Prince shot arrows. There are also three chhortens at the battle field. The largest, at the spot where the demon Lhacham was subjugated, the next where the attendant, Zemarago, was subjugated and the smallest, where the horse of the demon was subjugated. The chhortens are never white washed as it is believed that the demon might arise if white washed.

Overnight in camp.

Walking time – 4 Hr | Altitude of Merak – 3520 m.

After breakfast, walk the trail from Domong Chu to Merak mostly following the river bends. The walk is easy along an old and wide trail, which is mostly used by local people with their animals.  The vegetation becomes quite dense with plenty of Juniper, Rhododendron, Larch, Hemlock, Barberries etc after moving onto a new established trail. The final stretch has gentle ascend before you Gangu village. After another 45 minutes’ walk from this village, you will arrive at Merak village.

The campsite has spectacular views of nearby mountains and village. Visit the village and meet with the local people. 

Overnight in camp.

Walking time – 7 Hr | Altitude of Miksateng – 3050 m

After breakfast, continue the trek uphill till you reach Nachung La Pass at 4153 marked by a prayer wall and prayer flags. It takes approximately 3 hours to reach here. On a clear day you will see the eastern Himalaya range.

From here the trail descends past the stone throne where Lama Jarpa and Ama Jomo rested before crossing the Nyachung La. This is the spot where the older and weaker followers of Ama Jomo decided to stay back and these people then settled in Sakteng. Then you will descend to Miksateng at 3079m.

Overnight in camp.

Walking time – 3.5 Hr | Altitude of Sakteng – 2950m

Start you day with a descend to the river. Cross the river and follow the river bank for few hours. Then climb gradually till you reach the hilltop at an elevation of 3070m which is adorned by small Chorten (Stupa) overlooking the Sakten valley which is quite different from MerakIf you are lucky, you can spot red panda among the trees. Descend from the ridge till you reach the outskirts of the Sakten villageVisit Sakten village and explore the lifestyle and unique culture of this ethnic group. 

Overnight in camp.

Walking time – 7 Hr | Altitude of Joenkhar Teng – 1733m

Today is the second last day on trek and the journey is longer however quite easy. We will start early from the camp. Start with a short climb to the small hill towards the west end of the village. Then descend down to the river and walk alongside it through the broad leaf forests.

The camp shall be set in a beautiful meadow near the river by Joenkhar Teng village which is situated on the hillside and its inhabitants are the Brokpa and Sharchopa. The village also has a community school and an outreach clinic.

Overnight in camp.

Walking time – 5 Hr | Altitude of Phongmey – 2710 m | Altitude of Trashigang: 1150 m.

It shall be an uphill climb for few hours from Joenkhar Teng. Several ascents & descents continues until you reach Phongmay town. Your vehicle shall be waiting for you here. Bid farewell to your trekking team and continue your journey towards Trashigang. Spend some time in Phongmay and Radhi villages.

Drive to Trashigang. Evening for leisure. 

Dinner and overnight in hotel.

Driving Distance: 90 km | Driving time: 3 -4 Hr | Altitude of Mongar: 1600 m.
Road widening work is going on whereby in many places the condition of the road is not good.

After breakfast, start your onward journey to Mongar. You will drive through many small townships, villages and rivers. On the way visit the Drametse Monastery on top of a steep hill above the village, home to the origin of the famous Drametse Nga Chham, a masked dance with drums. Afterwards, the road ascents and passes through the famous turns of Yadi and then shall take you to Kori La Pass at an altitude of 2,450 m. finally arriving Mongar. In the evening, explore the Mongar town.

Dinner and overnight hotel.

Driving Distance: 198 km | Driving time: 7 -8 Hr | Altitude of Bumthang: 2600 m.
Road widening work is going on whereby in many places the condition of the road is not good.

After breakfast, visit the Mongar Dzong. This dzong was rebuilt in 1953 and it is unique as it has two entrances. There are about 60 young monks residing in this dzong. You will see the images of the Buddha of long life, as well as Guru Rinpoche and the Zhabdrung.

Then drive to Bumthang through a scenic journey of 198 km with stops for lunch and tea in nearby villages. The road descends till you reach Lingmithang at an altitude of 700 m. Crossing the Kurichu River, where the largest hydroelectric power in the eastern region is commissioned, stop at Namling and Sengor village, where you can view the breathtaking landscapes of the cascading waterfalls.

The road shall then ascent towards the second highest place of Bhutanese motorable road at Thrumsing La Pass at an altitude of 3,750 m. You shall enjoy a magnificent view of the Bhutan’s highest peak, Mt Gangkar Puensum at 7,500 m from the viewpoint of Ura Shelthang La. Drive further till you reach Ura Village. Stop for some time here and continue your journey to Bumthang.

Dinner and overnight hotel.

Altitude of Bumthang: 2600 m.

After breakfast, drive through Bathpalathang and Tamshing Village to visit Tamshing Lhakhang, one of the oldest Monasteries in Bhutan. Tamshing literally means the Temple of the good message. It was established in 1501 by Pema Lingpa and is one of the oldest monasteries in Bhutan. Then, take a short hike through villages crossing the Chamkhar Chhu (River) to visit the Kurjey and Jambay Lhakhang on the other side of the river.

Kurjey Lhakhang: This temple was named after body print of Guru Rimpoche and is one of the most oldest and important temples in Bhutan.

Jambay Lhakhang: This Lhakhang was built by King Srongsen Gompo of Tibet. In October one of the most spectacular festival, “Jambay Lhakhang Drup” is staged here.

Then visit the Jakar Dzong which literally meaning the Castle of White Bird. The current structure was built in 1667. After lunch,

After lunch drive to Tang Valley. While in Tang valley, visit villages and explore the valley. Also visit the following:

Membarstho: Literally meaning, “The burning Lake”.

Ugyenchholing Palace: The Palace is another attraction in the Tang Valley. The Palace now houses the family Museum and was restored in the 19th century. The Palace contains the historic items of Tshokey Dorji (the then Trongsa Penlop (Governor)) and his household.

Tang Rimochen Lhakhang: The Lhakhang is located in the Tang Valley in a sacred place of Guru Rinpoche. In front of the temple is a rock which bears the body print of the Guru Rinpoche and two Khandoms (female celestial being). This site got its name from the tiger stripe markings on the cliff. There are two large boulders nearby the temple, which is said to be male and female Jachungs (garudas). Below the temple are the foot prints of the Guru and his consorts Mandarava and Yeshe Chhogyal.

In the evening drive back to Bumthang.

Dinner and overnight in hotel.

Driving Distance: 180 km | Driving time: 7 – 8 Hr | Altitude of Gangtey/Phobjikha: 2900 m.
Road widening work is going on whereby in many places the condition of the road may not be as expected.

After breakfast, drive to Trongsa. While in Chummey valley stop to visit the Yathra Weaving Factory. Interact with the weavers and you may opt to buy the most famous textile of Bumthang and also try the loom on your hands. Yathra is the most famous textile product of Bumthang. The Chhumey Valley is known for the beautiful Yathra woven by the locals. Yathra is a hand woven fabric made from the wool of sheep or Yak. The wool is first spun into threads and then dyed before they are woven into Yathra with beautiful flower patterns and colors. The Yathra cloth is made into scarves, jackets, table cloths, bags, etc. Most of the women in this valley, especially in Zungye village earn their lively hood by weaving Yathra which is supplied to various towns in Bhutan.

Drive further to Trongsa via Yotong La Pass at 3425 m, marked by a Chhorten and prayer flags. While in Trongsa, visit the impressive Trongsa Dzong and the Ta Dzong, an ancient watch tower. The chapel inside is said to be dedicated to the Trongsa Penlop Jigme Namgyal. Lunch at Trongsa.

After lunch drive towards Gangtey. A little further stop for the view of the impressive Trongsa Dzong. Further on the way you shall come across beautiful Landscapes, Yaks (Subject to season), villages and monuments until you reach the Chendebji Chhorten. It was constructed by Tshering Wangchuk son of Yon-Say and the Mahasiddha Zhidag in accordance with the prophecy of the Second Gangteng Tulku Tenzin Legpai Dhundrup. It was built to subdue evil spirits and it is built in the style of the great Boudnath Chhorten of Nepal.

Drive further till you reach the Pelela Pass at 3420 meters with the customary Chorten (Stupa) and long colorful flags covering the hilltops and then the Lawala Pass which looks stunning with the mountain slopes covered by dwarf bamboo.

Dinner and overnight in hotel in Gangtey/ Phobjikha.

Driving Distance: 78 km | Driving time: 3 Hr | Altitude of Punakha/Wangdue: 1310 m.
Road widening work is going on whereby in many places the condition of the road may not be as expected.

You could opt to take a private walk in the morning before breakfast. It could be beautiful to see the mists hanging low and the waking up of the valley. (Subject to weather conditions)

After breakfast, visit the Gangtey Goemba overlooking the large green expanse of the Phobjikha Valley. Gyaltse Pema Thinley, the grandson and mind reincarnation of Pema Lingpa founded the Temple in 1613, and Tenzin Legpai Dhendup, the second re-incarnation, built the temple.

Then explore the Phobjikha and Gangtey Valley. Phobjikha Valley is of immense beauty. It is one of the most beautiful glacial valleys in the Himalayas and the winter roosting place of the endangered black necked crane.

After lunch, drive to Punakha/Wangdue. Evening for leisure.

Dinner and overnight in Hotel.

Altitude of Punakha/Wangdue: 1310 m.

After a leisure breakfast, excursion to Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chhorten.  Take a short drive to the base and then walk through paddy fields before you climb a moderately inclined trail surrounded by pine trees. You shall be hiking for approximately 1 hr. to reach the temple. This Chhorten is built on a ridge above the Punakha valley. It took around nine years to build the Chhorten. It is said that the Bhutanese craftsmen consulted Holy Scriptures to construct this 4 storey temple. The temple was built by Her Majesty, the Queen Mother Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuck. You could choose to have a picnic Lunch or at the hotel.

After Lunch, explore the remote villages in upper Punakha. Visit villages and village Houses, interact with people and experience the village life in Bhutan. Walking through the paddy fields from a village to another and reliving with nature shall be another bigger experience.

If you are interested in rafting, you could choose to do the same in Punakha at an extra cost. 

In the evening return to Hotel. Dinner and overnight in hotel.

Driving Distance: 78 km | Driving time: 3 Hr | Altitude of Thimphu: 2350 m.
Road widening work is going on whereby in many places the condition of the road may not be as expected.

After breakfast, visit the impressive Punakha Dzong. This Dzong was built by the Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1637. It is built at the junction the Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu Rivers. The annual Punakha Tshechu (Festival) is held here. The monk body resides in this Dzong in winter. Then, take a short and easy hike through paddy fields and villages to visit the Chhimi Lhakhang. This temple is also known as the temple of fertility and was built by Lama Drukpa Kuenley in the 15 century. Lama Drukpa Kuenley is also known as the Divine Madman. Lunch at Punakha.

After Lunch, drive to Thimphu via Dochula Pass. Stop at Dochula Pass to view higher Himalayas and the visit the Druk Wangyal Chhortens. You can hang your own prayer flags here. Dochula pass is the most known pass in Bhutan located about 30 km drive from the Capital City Thimphu on the way to Wangduephodrang/Punakha. It is at around 3150 m height. On a clear day, spectacular view of the mighty Himalayas mountain ranges can be seen. The pass also has 108 Druk Wangyal Khangzang Chhortens which is believed to bring multi fold merit to all sentient beings and which make the pass a must visit place. Drive to Thimphu. While in Thimphu, explore the Thimphu town.

In the evening, visit the Tashichhodzong (Fortress of the Glorious Religion). The Dzong is the seat of the national government and the Central Monastic Body, including the summer residence of the Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot of Bhutan) at present.

A private traditional cultural show before dinner. 

Overnight in Hotel.

Altitude of Thimphu – 2230 m.     

After a leisure breakfast, visit the Takin Preserve Centre. Takin is the national animal of Bhutan can be seen here. This particular animal is found only in the Himalayan region. Then visit the Changangkha Monastery built on a hill overlooking the Thimphu valley. It was built in 15th Century by Lama Phajo Drugom Zhipo. Many parents of Thimphu take their new born babies to this monastery to be blessed by a high lama. Drive down towards Kawazangsa to visit Simply Bhutan. Simply Bhutan is a living museum and a photo studio aimed at preservation and promotion of culture which is one of the four pillars of Gross National Happiness. It involves Bhutanese youth as the core group thereby generating employment opportunities to young job seekers and opportunities to learn skills through trainings and workshops. It also has an objective to raise funds to support YDF in conducting the many youth related programs, now and in future. Then drive to Folk Heritage Museum Restaurant for a typical Bhutanese lunch. Tasting the local “Arra” (Bhutanese Local alcohol) is a great experience.

After lunch visit the the Institute for Zorig Chusum. Zorig Chusum means the thirteen traditional arts and crafts. Students are taught the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan in this institute. Then drive towards Kuenselphodrang. A place for refreshing with a huge statue of Buddha Drodenma. The area gives a very good view of the Thimphu Valley. The place also has biking trail and a picnic spot. Afterwards the National Memorial Chhorten. This Chhorten was built in the honor of the Third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, also known as “The Father of Modern Bhutan”. This Chhorten was built in 1974 in a typical Tibetan style and is a center of worship for the people living in Thimphu. Lighting Butter lamps and circumambulating the chhorten can be a great experience and a good way to earn merits as per Buddhist beliefs.

Then explore the Thimphu town and valley for a while.

In the evening visit a local resident’s house for a relaxing and communicative evening. You could also learn to prepare a Bhutanese dish here. Enjoy wine and feel like a local. Enjoy the dinner in the home with the family. 

Overnight in hotel.

Driving Distance: 65 km | Driving time: 2 Hr | Altitude of Paro: 2280 m.

In the morning, visit the Government Post office and make personalized stamps. Post a card to your home town. This could be a good memory of Bhutan.

Then drive to Paro. On the way stop the Tamchhog Lhakhang to experience the river, the iron chain bridge and to visit the temple.

Check in Hotel in Paro. Lunch at Paro. After lunch, visit the Ta Dzong overlooking the Rinpung Dzong. It was built in 1951 as a watch tower. This Dzong is round, more like parts of a European castle. The Dzong was established as the National Museum of Bhutan since 1967 and holds fascinating collection of arts, relics, religious thangka, etc.

Then participate in an Archery or Khuru Match with the locals. 

Dinner and overnight in hotel.

After breakfast, hike to the abode of gods and monks, the Taktshang Monastery. It shall be taken care of that the time shall be yours for the hike, no hurries and no worries. Reaching the top shall be worth the climb; the touch of the Himalayan breeze, the views of the valley below and temple on the rocky cliff shall be fascinating and shall let you feel the real freedom of mind and happiness.

Taktshang Monastery: The primary lhakhang was built surrounding Guru Rinpoche’s Meditation cave in the 1684 by Gyaltse Tenzin Rabgay.  This incredible monastery clings to the edge of a sheer Rock cliff that plunges 900 meters into the valley below. Legend has it that Guru Padmasambhava flew here on the back of a tigress which gives its name “Taktshang” meaning Tiger’s nest. It is a two to three hours excursion uphill; however, one feels truly blessed reaching the monastery.

While returning you may choose to volunteer to pick up the wastes with your guide (optional)

Picnic Lunch among the woods shall be another great experience.

After lunch, visit the Kyichu Lhakhang. It is one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Bhutan. The Tibetan King, Songtsen Gompo miraculously built 108 temples to consecrate the entire region of Himalaya in the 7th century. Kyichu Lhakhang is considered to be one of them.

Then we have a special program for you to feel the pure Bhutanese hospitality.  Drive to a village house. You shall be served with the local Bhutanese alcohol (Arra) and shall have the opportunity to understand and experience the life in a village in Bhutan. Right from the daily household chores to other works in the field. Also relax in traditional hot stone bath.

Hot stone bath: The traditional Bhutanese hot stone bath, known as Dotsho in local language has been practiced in Bhutan for centuries as a medicinal soak. Many Bhutanese believe that the bath helps in curing joint pains, helps in relaxing and other medical problems. River stones are heated and then put in water to heat the water; sometime medicinal herbs are added to the water before it is ready for the soak.

You may choose to have your dinner with the family. You can also have the option to spend overnight in the village house, however this will have to be confirmed during the confirmation of your tour to Bhutan.

Farewell dinner with the Bhutanese hosts. 

Overnight in hotel/Village House.

After breakfast, a small Bhutanese ritual shall be held by a monk for a safe journey home wards. Drive to airport and bid farewell to Bhutan. Take back home the priceless memories, photographs and cherish the new found friends in Bhutan.


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