Merak and Sakten Trek

Merak and Sakten Trek

Summary: Recently opened for visitors, this trek goes to secluded nomadic villages of Merak and Sakten in north east of Bhutan bordering Tibet and Arunachal Pradesh India.

Season: Mid March – May, September – October

Duration: 7 days

Start: Chaling

End: Phongmey

Difficulty rating: Moderate

Maximum elevation: 3480m

Detailed itinerary

Day 1: Arrive Paro

The flight to Paro crosses the Himalayan Mountains, affording spectacular views of the awesome peaks, including the sacred Jumolhari and Jichu Drake peaks in Bhutan. On arrival you will be greeted by the guide and transfer to the hotel. After lunch, visit the Ta Dzong, once a fortified lookout tower that is now the National Museum. Then walk down the trail to visit the Rinpung Dzong, meaning “fortress of the heap of jewels.” Next we visit Kichu Lhakhang, the oldest temple in the country. From there we proceed to the Drugyal Dzong (Bhutan Victory Fort), which was built in 1646 to commemorate Bhutan’s victory over Tibetan invaders during the 1600s. On a clear day you can see Mount Jumolhari, Bhutan’s second-highest mountain at 23,996 feet. Overnight hotel in Paro.

Day 2: Excursion to Chele La pass

After breakfast, you will begin an exciting excursion to Chele La Pass, which is at 12,500 feet elevation, and a scenic drive of 22 miles from Paro. Walking along the high ridges dotted with colorful Buddhist prayer flags offers us stunning views of Mount Jumolhari and other mountains, plus incredible vistas into the valleys below the pass. Enjoy a picnic lunch while walking at the pass. After lunch you will hike further down the ridges to the Kila Gompa Nunnery, which is nestled in a craggy patch on the mountain site below the pass and perched precariously along the rock face. Have an insight into lives of Buddhist nuns who devote their entire lives in dharma. Walk for few miles through the coniferous forests to the road head, where your vehicle will be awaiting to return you to Paro. Overnight hotel in Paro.

Day 3: Paro-Thimphu

This morning you will hike to Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest) Monastery, which is Bhutan’s most famous monastery. It is absolutely breathtaking, situated at 10,400 feet and perched on the edge of a steep cliff about 3,000 feet above the Paro Valley. Guru Rinpoche (great spiritual master) is said to have flown on the back of a tigress to meditate in a cave where Taktsang Monastery now stands. Lunch is served in the Cafeteria Restaurant, located about halfway up the mountain. Explore the monastery and, if you wish, you can sit for a short meditation before you hike back to the valley floor. This evening you transfer to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan. Evening is the free time for strolling and shopping in the town. Overnight hotel in Thimphu.

Day 4: Thimphu

After breakfast, you will visit Memorial Chorten (built in memory of the third King of Bhutan who reigned from 1952-1972), Nunnery temple, National Institute of Traditional Medicine, Textile Museum and Handicraft Emporium. After relaxing lunch, you will be taken to Gagyel Lhundrup weaving centre were you can see women weaving tapestry of textiles with their nimble hands. You will then visit traditional paper factory, majestic Tashichhodzong and giant Buddha statue on a hill overlooking Thimphu which is reputed to be the largest Buddha Shakymuni in the world. Overnight hotel in Thimphu.

Day 5: Thimphu-Punakha

After breakfast this morning, enjoy the scenic drive to Punakha with a stop for tea at Dochu La (3,100 meters), where on a clear day you can get spectacular views of the Himalayas. From the pass, drive downhill through the forests of rhododendron, fir and hemlock. You will arrive at Punakha after traversing through rice field and along the bank of Punakha River. On the way, you will stop at Metshina Village and take a 20-minute walk through the rice fields to Chimi Lhakhang, which is a fertility temple dedicated to the Devine Madman or Lama Drukpa Kuenley. If you wish, receive the blessing from the Lama’s wooden phallus! After lunch, visit the Punakha Dzong, which is stunningly situated in between the male and female rivers like an anchored ship. Overnight hotel in Punakha.

Day 6: Punakha-Bumthang

After early breakfast you will drive to Bumthang, the cultural heartland of the country. The route is along a spectacular winding road, crossing 3,300-meter-high Pele La pass, and at certain times of year it’s possible to see yaks. You will stop in Trongsa for lunch. After lunch you’ll visit Trongsa Dzong, the masterpiece of Bhutanese architecture. Then you’ll proceed to Bumthang with lush valleys and hilly forests. Along the way you will stop at a yathra (textile weaving) factory, where the yathras are designed with patterns unique to Bumthang, and you can even watch some of the weavers at their looms. Check into hotel on arrival. Overnight hotel in Bumthang.

Day 7: Bumthang

Today’s sightseeing in Bumthang includes Jakar Dzong, the administrative center of the valley; Jambey Lhakhang, one of the oldest monasteries in Bhutan, dating from the introduction of Buddhism in Bhutan; and Kurjey Lhakhang, one of the most sacred places, because Guru Rinpoche left his body imprint on the cave when he was meditating. After lunch, you will also have a chance to tour Tamshing Lhakhang, a treasure house of interesting religious Buddhist paintings. In the evening you can visit local shops. Overnight hotel in Bumthang.

Day 8: Bumthang-Mongar

You will begin your journey to eastern Bhutan, which is different from western and central Bhutan in terms of development and lifestyle. The steepness of the region lends itself to some spectacular views, with rushing waterfalls and sheer drops. The drive on this day is an exhilarating 6 hours, particularly the Thrumshing La (pass), which peaks at 3,750 meters. Stop for your picnic lunch at the Pass enjoying the great sceneries around. You can walk on the certain stretches of road to relax your muscles while your bus will be following behind you. Check into the hotel on arrival at Mongar. You can wander around Mongar town in the evening and sit down to a relaxing dinner. Overnight hotel in Mongar.

Day 9: Mongar-Trashigang

After breakfast, you will head to Trashigang, passing through several villages. You will visit the Gom Kora temple, behind which is a large black rock. It is said that Guru Rimpoche meditated in a cave in the rock and that you can see the impression of his thumb, his hat, and his body on the rock. You will arrive Trashigang after driving for a while. Check into your hotel on arrival. In the evening you can stroll through Trashigang town to learn the life style of the people. Overnight hotel in Trashigang.

Day 10: Trashigang-Chaling-Donmang Chu (Trek starts)

19KM / 6-7 HOURS / 2000M ASCENT 230M DESCENT

From Trashigang, you will take scenic drive for one and half hours to Chaling passing through Rangjung town and Radhi village. 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. Climb further to reach Mendula Pass at 3354m. From this pass, you will descend through rhododendron forests till Donmong Chu at 3124m. Overnight in camp.

Day 11: Donmong Chu-Merak

14KM / 4-5 HOURS / 396M ASCENT

The trail from Domong Chu to Merak mostly follows the river bends. The final stretch has gentle ascend before you Gangu village. After another 45 minutes walk from this village, you will arrive at Merak located at an altitude of 3520m. The campsite located before the village has spectacular views of nearby mountains and village. Visit the local village and meet with the people. Overnight in camp.

Day 12: Merak-Miksateng

16KM / 5-6 HOURS / 633M ASCENT 1074M DESCENT

Today is the toughest journey of the trek crossing the highest Nachungla pass at 4153m. From the campsite climb gradually to the first pass at 3900m from where you can make last glimpse of Merak valley. Continue the trek along the tree line of juniper and rhododendron forests and conquer the Nachungla pass. Then you will descend to Miksateng at 3079m. Overnight in camp.

Day 13: Miksateng-Sakten

14KM / 4-5 HOURS / 80M ASCENT 310M DESCENT

First, you will descend to the river, cross it and then follow the river bank for few hours. Then climb gradually to a hill adorned by small Chorten (Stupa) overlooking the Sakten valley. If you are lucky, you can spot red panda among the trees. Drop down from the ridge and camp on the outskirts of the Sakten village at 2950m. Overnight in camp.

Day 14 (11 Oct, Tuesday): Explore Sakten

You will visit Sakten village and explore the lifestyle and unique culture of this ethnic group.

Day 15: Sakten-Joenkhar Teng

17KM / 6-7 HOURS / 75M ASCENT 130M DESCENT

Today’s journey will be a longer and so we will start early from the camp. Leaving Sakten, start with 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. We camp in a beautiful meadow near the river by Joenkhar Teng village (1733m). Joenkhar Teng is situated on the hillside and its population comprises of Brokpa and Sharchopa with a community school and an outreach clinic.

Overnight in camp.

Day 16: Joenkhar Teng-Phongmey-Trashigang (Trek ends)

12KM / 5-6 HOURS / 350M ASCENT 950M DESCENT

The last day of the trek begins with short climb through the Joenkhar Teng. Cross few of suspension bridges and short climbs to reach Phongmay. Meet your transport and drive to Trashigang. On the way, stop at Rangjung and visit the Rangjung Monastery, which is founded by His Eminence Garab Rinpoche. Overnight hotel in Trashigang.

Day 17: Trashigang-Samdrup Jongkhar

After breakfast, you will drive to Samdrup Jongkhar en route visit Sherubtse the only premier college in the country. On the way at Khaling, you will see the National Institute for the Disabled (School for the blind) and the Handloom Development Project, were you can see women weaving tapestry of textiles and you can also witness the techniques of Bhutanese dyes. You will have your lunch in one of the local restaurants on the way. You will arrive at Samdrup Jongkhar after passing through varied villages, landscapes and forests. Overnight hotel in Samdrup Jongkhar.

Day 18: Samdrup Jongkhar-Guwahati

After early breakfast, you will drive to Guwahati, the capital city of Assam. You will be driving through tea gardens, transparent rivers interspersed with quiet villages, and small townships of vibrant culture. Our representative will bid you farewell

Packing list for trek

Daypack
Duffel for gear (if not weatherproof, bring lg. plastic bags)
Warm sleeping bag (negative 8-10 degrees centigrade)
SM first aid kit (blister kit with specifically 2nd skin, aspirin & / or ibu, cough drops, tape)
Headlamp
Camera & extra batteries
2-liter water bottles (if you bring a camelback, bring a nalgene, also)
Water purification (iodine or chlorine to carry in daypack)
Insulated drinking mug
Lightweight toilet articles (shampoo, soap-travel size is best for trekking!)
Sunscreen & lip screen
Small towel
Suggested clothing list
Down parka
Gore-Tex shell & pants
Warm fleece jacket
Comfy trekking boots (we like lowa)
Lightweight shoes
4 pr trekking socks
2 long sleeve capilene shirts
2 capilene bottoms (mid & heavy weight)
2 trekking shirts (non-cotton is best!)
Trekking pants (zip off shorts are nice!)
1 pr shorts
1 bandana
1 pr winter gloves (ie: ski)
1 pr lightweight gloves (ie: fleece)
Flip flops (or similar around camp shoes)
Warm hat Sun hat
2 pair sunglasses

Miscellaneous Items
Anti bacterial wipes or lotion (for face and hands)
10 or so energy bars (we do provide 3 meals per day on the trek!)
Prescription medications

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