Key information: Jomolhari trek
- Superb trek up a long valley into fabulous scenery under the beautiful 7,316m Jomolhari (Chomolhari), then across two high ridges with magnificent views, before dropping back down above another valley.
- Walk through populated valleys early on, witnessing Bhutan's unique culture.
- See virgin forest, soaring peaks, ancient dzongs (forts), yak on the high pastures and Lammergaiers soaring high above. Cross high passes, surrounded by splendid desolation.
- This is a high walk in mountains: be prepared.
- Walkopedia rating90
- Natural interest17
- Human interest8
- Negative points5
- Total rating90
- Note: Some high altitudes
- Length: 7-8 days
- Maximum Altitude: 4,900m
- Level of Difficulty: Difficult
The Jomolhari Trek in the far north-west is reputedly Bhutan's best walk, an eight-day horseshoe which follows ancient tracks beneath the spine of mountains separating Bhutan from Tibet, then turning eastwards to descend the valley high above Thimpu, the country's capital.
It takes you through unspoilt villages, in beautiful valleys which retain their ancient Tibetan Buddhist culture, then climbs through ravishing virgin forest before emerging to high summer pastures at the foot of magnificent, sacred Jomolhari (or Chomolhari). The route then crosses two high passes, passing two lonely dzongs (forts) in wild desolate landscape, before dropping back to the gentler delights of the cultivated valleys.
A devoutly Buddhist, semi-closed Himalayan kingdom, Bhutan has preserved its ancient, essentially Tibetan culture by avoiding the easy rush for western modernity. Its King speaks (famously) of pursuing Gross National Happiness rather than GNP. Its environment is largely pristine: 70% of the country is still virgin forest.
This is a demanding expedition, with four bitter nights spent at over 4,000m and two passes over 4,870m, but superlatives fail to do it justice and it fully deserves its high Walkopedia rating. It has everything one could want from a walk, including (unless you are very unlucky) a competent and charming Bhutanese support platoon.
The trail starts at the ruined Drukgyel Dzong (fort), perched amid trees on a spike above the Paro valley. The track meanders beside the river through terraced rice fields and villages of traditional Bhutanese houses.
The track gradually steepens, the forest takes over and the farms became more isolated. Distant peaks loom at the end of side valleys. Stands of prayer flags appear. This is gorgeous walking, cool shade alternating with sunny glades as you climb deeper into a cloud forest of oak and pine dangling trails of moss above a riot of ferns.
You will emerge above the treeline on the third day, into close-cropped meadows, [grassy hillsides, with snowy crags far above. Below, the river is now milky glacier melt. Prayer flags appear on a boulder in the distance, then a ruined dzong on an outcrop and then, up a western side valley, the white vastness of 7,316m Jomolhari. This is your fantastic third campsite.
You are now at 4,080m, and an acclimatisation day is sensible, making an expedition to a magnificent lake at the back of a side valley, or up towards the base of Jomolhari.
The fifth day is the first Big One: the crossing of the Nyile La pass. The path labours up to a hanging valley near the almost ridiculously jagged peak of Jichu Drakye (6,989m). A tough climb takes you to a yet higher valley and then the final scree-scramble to the pass at 4,870m. After a rapid descent of a steep shale slope, a long walk down the increasingly pretty valley takes you to a deep glacial valley, across which squats the lonely Lingzhi Dzong. To the left is a glacier tumbling from the back of Jichu Drakye. You will have a cold night here.
The next day winds steadily up the beautiful Mo Chhu valley. You will have a painful slog up to yet another hanging valley, splintered peaks to each side and a high, jagged ridge ahead. You will struggle through tumbled rock to an ancient path built into the final cliff to the pass, at 4,930m. From there it is a long descent down a series of valleys to a small, sloping campsite in a deep gorge.
The sixth day descends a ravishing gorge, gradually getting higher above the wild torrent. The trees get stronger and the bushes larger, and then you are in the forest again. You will need a good lunch before the long climb to the ruined Barshong Dzong, on its rock a thousand feet above the river. Thence a long downhill scramble to the final campsite in a riverside glade.
The last day consists of a long, rather weary, climb and then descent through beautiful, varied forest in dappled sunlight. It remains utterly peaceful and remote, bar the odd trader leading his ponies.
It is possible to do shorter version of the trek and it forms the start of the long Snowman Trek.
Kudu Travel do an excellent-looking expedition to Bhutan. Walkopedia partners, so recommended!
WILLIAM MACKESY'S ACCOUNT
of this walk
Bhutan does things differently. A devoutly Buddhist, semi-closed Himalayan kingdom, it has preserved its ancient, essentially Tibetan, culture by avoiding the easy rush for western modernity. Its previous King spoke (famously) of pursuing Gross National Happiness rather than GNP. Its environment is largely pristine: 70% of the country is still virgin forest, unlike the mess that is Nepal to the west; its rivers are green-blue-spumy, rather than carrying the muddy detritus of erosion.
The Jomolhari Trek in the far north-west is reputedly Bhutan’s best walk, an eight-day.....
Other accounts: share your experiences
Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.
Suggest books and maps
Lonely Planet: Bhutan - A decent section on this trek.
See a basic itouchmap map.
Stanfords: www.stanfords.co.uk. An excellent (and user-friendly) online specialist source of worldwide maps (it is also good for guidebooks).
Best times to walk/weather
Best times to walk
April to late October, but summer is cloudy and wet. September and October for clear skies and autumn colours – but colder nights.?
Generally fine in season, but come prepared for unpredictable mountain weather and cold nights.
For detailed weather information, have a look at: www.worldweather.org or www.bbc.co.uk/weather/world/country-guides
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Those on organised expeditions will be transported from/to arranged start/departure points.
Entry to Bhutan is expensive, and permission is needed to enter the country and do this walk. These must be obtained through accredited expedition organisers.
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See the Walk Summary above.
Possible problems, health, other warnings
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- Altitude: can affect some; potentially fatal. Acclimatize appropriately, come prepared to cope, be ready to evacuate people in extreme cases
- Mountain weather: snow, rain, severe cold and wind are possible at any time of year. Come prepared.
- Heat and strong sun. Carry enough water and protect yourself.
- Harmful animals of all shapes and sizes, including snakes, stinging/biting insects and plants. Take all appropriate precautions.
- This is remote country: you will have to carry all your food and other supplies and other supplies will not be readily available and help will be hard to get if things go wrong.
- Health risks: this is a relatively undeveloped country, and you will not get prompt medical help of a standard available elsewhere if you become ill. Come prepared, including getting all appropriate inoculations/medications.
See also the websites in our useful links page for more detailed, and up-to-date, information.
Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk. Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.
Make sure you have appropriate insurance.
Guided or independent?
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You can only do this walk through accredited organisers. Expedition organisers include:
- We used Bhutan Dorji Holidays - firstname.lastname@example.org - owned by the ebullient, alert and efficient Chambula Dorji.
- Kudu Travel do an excellent-looking expedition to Bhutan. Walkopedia partners, so recommended!
- Wilderness Travel – www.wildernesstravel.com
- World Expeditions – www.worldexpeditions.com
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Camping is the only option.
Other information and tips
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Useful websites and information
There are various websites with relevant information. Here are some that we think are useful or have been recommended to us.
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Other things to do in the area
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Bhutan is magical. There is monastery and fort visiting, wildlife, white water rafting. The opportunities are endless.
Shopping, if you must
We are not a shopping website. But, anything bought from local people must be of some help to this poor area. So, wallets out!
Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.
Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.
share your experiences
Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).
Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.
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