Masagang Base Camp Trek, 11 days / 10 nights
1 Arrival, Paro Arrival to Paro. Visit to National Museum and Rinpung dzong, the castle where the Bernard Bertolucci’s Little Buddha film was shot. Walk in town. Sightseeing might be subject to arrival time.
2 Paro – Dochu-la Full day hike to Taktsang gomba (Tiger’s Nest). This famous monastery in 3015 meters is not only beautiful place to visit but also nice acclimatization hike before you start trek. For even better exercise of high altitude, you might optionally climb even above the main temple to Ugyen Chemo and Zangtopelri Lhakhang in 3350 meters. Have a light picnic lunch on the way. After visiting the temples, descend back to parking. Late afternoon visit to pristine Kyichu lhakhang is one of the two oldest temples built in Bhutan. Drive to Dochu-la pass (3010m) and accommodation in hotel. In clear weather you might see panorama of snowy peaks including Gangkhar Punesum (7540m), highest mountain of Bhutan which was never summited by man and of course your destination, the Masagang (7194m). Overnight in higher altitude will help with your acclimatization in coming days.
3 Dochu-la – Koina Trek 3km, 1.5h, ↗40m, ↘300m. Wake early for the sunrise on the mountain peaks. Mountain views, if the weather permits, should be quite stunning. Start early drive from to Gasa district, which was recently connected by road. First descend to Wangdue valley and again start ascending along the Mo Chu river through the dense forest. The last stretch of the road is very rough, so you will need to use hardy 4WD vehicle for this. After that, you will start driving by the rough road which will ultimately lead to Laya. As of now, it’s very hard and sometimes even dangerous but don’t panic and trust your driver. You will cross Bari-la pass (3,740m) and finally reach trail head below that. From here you’ll start your trekking, which is quite short for this day. You need just to descend down Koina camp through the trail along the road construction. Be careful on ice which might plague the path in colder season. In Koina, you can either stay in tent or sleep in the small house. Given that the campsite is usually muddy, the inside option is recommend. Overnight in 3200m.
4 Koina – Lungu Trek 15km, 6-7h, ↗1100m, ↘500m. Today will be longer day, ascending to higher elevation. The trail from Koina first ascends above the river again to descend to river bed. Continue along the Mo chu river further with some gentle up and downs. You might need to do another tiring up on down in case of high water level. After few hours you’ll reach to Takshikha military camp where you get your permits checked. From here there is final approximately 300 meters climb to village Lungu of village which is inhabited be Layap people. Layaps, also living in nearby village of Laya are mostly yak herders but recently they became quite rich due to harvesting of yarsa-gumba (cordyceps) fungus. Layap woman are famous for their antenna hat made of bamboo. Village is prosperous and you have option to stay in basis local house. There is also the shop here which is the last one for couple of days. Overnight in 3740m.
5 Lungu – Nulithang Trek 10km, 5-6h, ↗550m, ↘300m. Start hike from Lungu in direction to the east. Trail will be gently ascending offering nice view of the village with the snowy peaks at the backside. Trail will continue traversing the steep hillslope offering nice views including birds-eye perspective of Takshikha military camp. Finally the trail will connect to the trail leading from camp to Masagang BC. Hike along few hamlets and through the ruined old military camp. Cross the creek and continue hiking gently up, getting more views of the surrounding hills. Finally the stunning view of Tsenda Kanga to the right and top of Masagang on the left will open. That is Somji camp also called Masagang Base Camp. Unfortunately the place can sustain only few tents, so bigger groups need to continue some 30 minutes down to Nulithang. By evening enjoy the last touches of light on Tsenda Kang! Camping in 4010m.
6 Nulithang explore Today you have number of options of day hikes. Possibly the most rewarding trip is to climb to five thousand meters hight “Chethola’s view point”. This is quiet steep climb with no proper trail. You need start in Somji and start climbing the hill by your right side. It will take some 3 to 4 hours to summit. The effort will be rewarded by undisturbed view of Masagang and also 360° degree panorama of the high snowy peaks all around. Then you have to descend same way down.
Another less demanding option is to climb other hill, just above Somji. Partly slided trail will lead ascending on the hill ridge. The view of Masagang will be gradually opening. In some 2 hours you will reach to high herding campsite with undusurebed view of Masagang, Tsenda Kang, Kang Bum and other peaks around. From here you can continue to the valley below Masagang glacier. If you fee strong, you can even try to reach ice lake from which mighty stream flow. Descend through the valley is beautiful itself with many nice views. There is a lot of rhododendron which will blossom in string. The trail is sometimes difficult to follow so advance carefully. Whole trip might take about 4 hours.
Finally you can also hike north of the Nulithang to Phongmey. Going there by the right side of the river and get back by the trail leading on the left side. This 8 hours round trip offers quite nice views of the mountains and landscape without climbing too high. Going just half way, to ruined castle or monastery is also good and relaxing hike.
7 Nulithang – Taksikha Trek 12km, 4-5h, ↗150m, ↘750m, overnight in 3440m. Today you don’t need to hurry as the trek is not that long and goes mostly down. You can even make some trip around the Nulithang before you start going back. Climbing some way above Somji or brief exploration in direction to Phongmey as described above are the viable options. You will go back the same way but instead of climbing up back to Lungu, you will take direct way to Tashikha military camp. This place doesn’t get too much sunlight so be prepared for cold night. You might be invited by the Indian or Bhutanese soldiers to join them for tea or drink.
8 Taksi Kha – Gasa Trek 12km, 6-7h, ↗710m, ↘860m. This is the last day of the trek, following the same trail as the first day of trekking. Anyway you will reach the vehicle by the afternoon and continue drive to Gasa hot springs. Having a bath in the hot pools along with your staff or even visit a numerous local bars will be great tour conclusion. Overnight is in local guest house with very simple facilities.
9 Gasa – Punakha Visit the Gasa dzong (castle) in the morning. There are good views from there and few interesting chapels. The dzong is just completing reconstruction of the main tower. Then start drive to Punakha. Visit to Punakha dzong, which is one of the most intricately decorated castles in Bhutan. Relax in temperate Punakha.
10 Punakha – Thimphu Early monring hiek to Chimmi lhakhang. Then drive to Thimphu. First sight is gigantic statue of Buddha overlooking the valley and nice city viewpoint. See Memorial Chorten, always busy with devotees. Walk in Norzin lam street and see the traffic police signaling in junctions. Thimphu is only capital in the world without the traffic lights. Finish walk in main postal office to visit postal museum with exhibition of valuable Bhutanese stamps and philatelic shop where beautiful stamps can be bought. Afternoon in leisure or with option of some nice hikes (i.e. Motithang to Wangduecholing or other suggested by guide).
11 Departure Drive to Paro and departure from Bhutan to Kathmandu