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Merak and Sakteng Trek

Merak and Sakteng Trek

Merak and Sakteng Trek offer a unique semi-nomadic lifestyle, culture and idiom experience to the trekkers in one of the most scenic pastoral valleys and in the protected area of Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary in Trashigang District, in eastern Bhutan.  The Sanctuary protects the easternmost temperate forest ecosystems in the country with endemic species like eastern blue pine, black-rumped magpie and many others found only in the east. Very few trekkers have experienced this trekking as it was opened only in 2012 after three decades of inception of tourism in Bhutan. It is a moderate trek that traverses through the semi-nomadic villages of Gengu, Merak, Sakteng, Thakthi and Joenkhar. 

Trip Highlights

  • Witness spectacular bird’s eye view of the Himalayas onboard flight in from Paro.
  • Visit significant spiritual & pilgrimage sites in Bhutan.
  • Hike to Taktsang Monastery ‘Tiger’s Nest’- one of the most famous monasteries in Bhutan.
  • Visit Punakha Dzong – the most beautiful monastery in Bhutan.
  • Explore Bumthang- the religious heartland of Bhutan and home to oldest monasteries & temples.
  • Visit Kurje Lhakhang, Jambey Lhakhang & Tamshing Lhakhang in Bumthang.
  • Visit Jakar Dzong - “the castle of the white bird”.
  • Explore the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary.
  • Experience the semi-nomadic lifestyle, culture and idiom of peoples of Eastern Bhutan.

Outline Itinerary

Day 01 : Arrive Guwahati-S/Jongkhar

Day 02 : Samdrup Jongkhar-Trashigang

Day 03 : In Trashigang

Day 04 : Commence trek to Donmong Chu ( Approx. 19km, 5-6hours)

Day 05 : Donmong Chu-Merak (Approx. 10.5km, 3-4hours trek)

Day 06 : Merak-Mitsateng (Approx. 16km, 6 hours trek)

Day 07 : Mitsateng-Sakteng (Approx. 6.5km, 2-3hours trek)

Day 08 : In Sakteng

Day 09 : Sakten-Joenkhar Teng (Approx. 17km, 6-7 hours trek)

Day 10 : Joenkhar Teng Tashigang–Mongar (Approx. 8km, 2-3 hours trek)

Day 11 : Mongar-Jakar, Bumthang

Day 12 : In Bumthang

Day 13 : Bumthang – Trongsa – Punakha

Day 14 : Punakha-Thimphu

Day 15 : Thimphu – Paro

Day 16 : In Paro

Day 17 : Hike to Takstang Monastery

Day 18 : Departure

What is Included

  • Airport pick-up and drop-off by private vehicle.
  • 3-star accommodation (4 & 5 stars may require an additional premium).
  • Bhutan visa fee - including all necessary processing
  • Route Permit
  • Three meals per day during your stay in Bhutan
  • A licensed Bhutanese tour guide
  • All land transportation by private vehicle
  • Camping equipment and haulage for trekking tours
  • Sightseeing as per itinerary
  • Monuments entrance fees where applicable
  • Drinking water
  • All internal taxes and charges
  • A sustainable development fee of $65. (This sustainable development fee goes towards free education, free healthcare, poverty alleviation, along with the building of infrastructure.)

What is Not Included

  • Airfare & Travel Insurance 
  • Expenses of personal nature, Tips to guides and drivers 
  • Expenses occurred due to unavoidable events i.e. road wrecks, flight delays etc.

Day 01 : Arrive Guwahati-S/Jongkhar

Arrive in Guwahati airport in Assam, India. Meet our representative and drive to Samdrup Jongkhar, a trade hub for eastern Bhutan. In the evening stroll around the town. Overnight at Hotel in Samdrup Jongkhar.

Day 02 : Samdrup Jongkhar-Trashigang

After an early breakfast, drive north to Trashigang. En-route we visit to a local weaving center in Khaling. Later in the afternoon, we visit Trashigang Dzong, administrative center for the valley. Overnight at Hotel in Trashigang.

Day 03 : In Trashigang

Drive to Trashiyangtse, visit Gomkora temple, Doksum village along the way. In Trashiyantse, visit Traditional Art School, Chorten Kora and stroll around the village and its small town. Return to Trashigang for overnight. Overnight at Hotel in Trashigang.

Day 04 : Commence trek to Donmong Chu ( Approx. 19km, 5-6hours)

Merak and Sakteng Trek Day 1: From Trashigang drive for about 2 hours to the road end at Chaling at 2135m. Then begin trekking with gradual climb towards Shaktimi meadow, with yaks and sheep grazing with some yak herders’ huts scattered on the hillside. Continue the climb to reach Mendula Pass at 3345m. After the pass it is all downhill through the rhododendron forests till campsite at a beautiful meadow known as Donmong chu by the river at 3145m. Overnight in camp.

Day 05 : Donmong Chu-Merak (Approx. 10.5km, 3-4hours trek)

Merak and Sakteng Trek Day 2: Today we trek along the Donmong Chu River through the rhododendron forests and shrubs. Today’s trail skips steep climbs and follows the river bends, gradually gaining the height. The first village we come across is Gangu (3430m) and after another 45 minutes, we arrive at a large Merak village at an elevation of 3520m. Overnight in Camp.

Day 06 : Merak-Mitsateng (Approx. 16km, 6 hours trek)

Merak and Sakteng Trek Day 3: We start early from the camp, towards the east with a gradual climb to the first pass at 3900m. Today we cross the highest pass along with some smaller passes and ridges so it might be toughest day this trek. We continue along the tree line till we reach Nachungla Pass at 4150m. Catch a glimpse of 360 views of Bhutan peaks, Arunachal and Tibet. From the pass, it is a long descent to Miksateng village campsite at 3060m. Overnight in camp.

Day 07 : Mitsateng-Sakteng (Approx. 6.5km, 2-3hours trek)

Merak and Sakteng Trek Day 4: After breakfast, we descend down to the river and then climb gradually towards a small pass with a small chorten (stupa) on the hill overlooking the Sakteng valley. From the ridge, we descend down to the valley, cross the river into Sakten village at an altitude of 2950m.
Overnight in camp.

Day 08 : In Sakteng

Today we rest at Sakteng exploring its beauty. In the morning, we visit the village, local homes, temple, meet with people and witness the lifestyle and unique living culture of this ethnic group. In the afternoon, we watch the cultural show performed by locals. Brokpas have a unique yak and ache lhamo dances. We can also try the local liquor with a special ceremony. Overnight in Sakteng.

Day 09 : Sakten-Joenkhar Teng (Approx. 17km, 6-7 hours trek)

Merak and Sakteng Trek Day 5: Today we trek for about 6-7 hours with a gradual descent. As the journey is seems long so we start early from the camp. Leaving Sakteng, we march forward for the Joenkhar Teng and camp right next to the river at an altitude of 1750m. Overnight in camp

Day 10 : Joenkhar Teng Tashigang–Mongar (Approx. 8km, 2-3 hours trek)

Merak and Sakteng Trek Day 6: Our last day of the trek begins with short climb through Joenkhar Teng and a long descent crossing suspension bridges and short climb to reach Phongmay (1770m). Afterwards, drive to Mongar town, which takes about 5hrs via Trashigang. Overnight at Hotel in Monger.

Day 11 : Mongar-Jakar, Bumthang

After breakfast, we begin a long and spectacular drive west to Bumthang, across Thrumshingla National park, witnessing the drastic vegetation and landscapes, rich in bird and other wildlife. We also pass through many small hamlets and villages along the way before arriving in Jakar in the evening. Overnight at Hotel in Jakar.

Day 12 : In Bumthang

In the morning visit Kurje Lhakhang, one of the most sacred places in the kingdom as Bhutan’s “patron saint”, Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) meditated here. From Kurje monastery, a tarmac road heads south along the right bank of the river to Jambey Lhakhang. This temple, erected by the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century, is one of the two oldest in Bhutan (the other being Kyichu Lhakhang in Paro). After lunch, hike to Tamshing Lhakhang, founded in 1501 by Pema Lingpa. It contains interesting and ancient Buddhist wall paintings. Later, visit Jakar Dzong, “the castle of the white bird”, and then take a stroll through Bumthang’s market area before returning to the hotel. Overnight at Hotel.

Day 13 : Bumthang – Trongsa – Punakha

After breakfast take a long drive to Punakha. From Jakar, cross into Chumey valley, then across Yontongla pass, we arrive in Trongsa, where we stop to peek at the Tower of Trongsa museum and also see the impressive Trongsa Dzong. Trongsa Dzong is one of the largest fortress in Bhutan. Traverse Pele la pass (through Black mountain national park) and descend into semi-tropical Punakha-Wangdue valley, where we arrive in the evening. Overnight at Punakha.

Day 14 : Punakha-Thimphu

After breakfast, visit Punakha Dzong crossing the bridge. It’s the ancient capital of Bhutan connecting the Mo Chu & Pho Chu Rivers. It is also the winter capital for the monks and the Je Khenpo (chief abbot). Afterwards, drive to Lobeysa for lunch. After lunch hike another 20 minutes to Chimi Lhakhang, temple of the “Divine Madman” built in 1499 and today mostly visited by the women who couldn’t bear Children, thus also known as the temple of fertility. Afterwards, drive to Thimphu. Overnight at Hotel in Thimphu.

Day 15 : Thimphu – Paro

Full day at Thimphu for touring, it has many monuments, attractions such as Textile Academy, Farmer’s Market, Changlimithang, Handicrafts workshops, Giant Buddha statue and others if time permits. In the evening, drive short distance to Paro (1 1/2 hr)
Overnight at Paro in Hotel

Day 16 : In Paro

Spend the full day around charming Paro valley, where we will visit National Museum, Rinphung Dzong and beautiful 7th century Kichu Lhakhang temple, Dumtse Lhakhang, Dzondrakha cave temples and local farm houses by short walks and drives.
Overnight at Paro in Hotel

Day 17 : Hike to Takstang Monastery

Early in the morning, make an excursion to Taktsang Monastery – this has to be the monastery with the most outstanding setting in Bhutan. Set on a vertical cliff face at 2950m above sea level, it defies all engineering logic. For the energetic, hike 2 hours up to get a more dramatic view of the monastery. (The hike demands a certain level of fitness and a pony ride to the monastery can be arranged at additional cost). Just on the outskirts of Paro town, visit Kyichu Lhakang, one of the oldest temples in Bhutan and have the opportunity to meet the local villages in a local farm house. Overnight at Hotel in Paro.

Day 18 : Departure

After breakfast, transfer to the airport to catch the onward flight. Bid farewell to the remote and legendary Dragon Kingdom disappearing again behind its guardian mountains.

Bhutan Visa Information:
The citizen of Bangladesh, Maldives and India do not require VISA to enter Bhutan. People from other countries except from Bangladesh, Maldives and India need a VISA permit while traveling to Bhutan. The VISA processing for Bhutan requires a readable color copy of passport via email that has at least six month of validity from the date of exit from Bhutan. The file Scan Copy should be forwarded to via email in JPEG or PDF format. The passport number and picture of the applicant should be visible in the e-document.

The application should be processed at least 10 days prior to the date of entry to Bhutan. The tourism council of Bhutan then issues a VISA clearance letter and fax or email it to the local travel agent. Please note that the VISA service is not offered in Bhutan, travelers have to buy full service package from the local tour operator. Travelers traveling by air are required to produce a printed VISA clearance copy at the time of check-in for Druk Air flight. People traveling by land to enter Bhutan via Phuentshoking or Samdrup Jonkhar are required to produce a VISA clearance letter at the immigration center. The actual VISA is stamped in your passport on your arrival in Bhutan.

Flights to Bhutan:
There are several cities that have direct flights to Bhutan. There are two airlines Druk air and Bhutan airlines running the flights to Bhutan. Druk air is the national carrier of Bhutan. With its fleet of Airbuses A319-115 and ATR 42 the airlines fly from different Asian countries to the Paro international airport, Paro (PBH); which is only the international airport in Bhutan. There are daily direct flights from Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu to Paro International Airport.

The flights from Indian cities to Paro International Airport with the airport name and their codes are listed below: 
Bagdogra Airport, Bagdogra (IXB)
Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi  (DEL)
Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport, Kolkata (CCU)
Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai (BOM)

Likewise, there flights from other countries with the codes are as follows:
Suvarnabhumi Airport, Thailand (BKK)
Shahjalal International Airport, Bangladesh (DAC)
Singapore Changi Airport, Singapore (SIN)

Note: The flight schedule and timings are subject to change. If you want to know more about the flight schedules and tour to Bhutan please feel free to contact us. We can also help to find you the cheapest fares available.

Best time to visit Bhutan:
The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan lies in south Asia between China and India. Climate and weather vary according to the altitude, season and place of visit. Bhutan is open all year around for the visitors but it is better to make the travel arrangements as per your preference and nature of visit.

The ideal time to visit Bhutan is spring (March-May) and Autumn/fall (September-November). These are considered to be the best time to visit Bhutan to get the maximum adventure and trouble free experience. Summer and winter also have their own specialties that could draw the attention of tourists during these seasons.  During the spring the weather mostly remains clear and climate is fantastic. It is also the best time to visit for the nature lovers to experience the mystifying beauty of nature. Varieties of flowers and plants bloom in this season that makes your adventure an exotic one. The route opens for Jomolhari and Druk Path treks from mid-April to May. 

Summer (June-August) in the other hand could get tricky at times due to the early arrival of monsoon. The month of June would be great for traveling if the monsoon is pushed further. Usually monsoon is in full swing by early July. Travelers who would strive to get some trekking experience on muddy trail while witnessing swollen rivers, green forests and flourishing paddy field could choose late summer to plan their adventure. The view of open clear blue sky after the rain is something that strikes you with its mystifying beauty.

Fall (September-November) is another favorable and crowded season after spring. The weather gets mild despite cold mornings and evenings. Tourists from all around the world thong to Bhutan during this season to witness Black-Necked-Crane festival. The month of October has its own significance and the valley turn into a shade of gold as the farmers prepare to harvest their rice crops during this month.

Winter season (December to February) is not that crowded with tourists in comparison to other seasons. Planning your adventure during the winter could be a better idea if you want to avoid the hustle-bustle of the peak season. During the winter Bhutan may see some snow fall. The temperature level goes down (even below freezing point) during some winter days.

VACCINATION FOR BHUTAN:
No vaccinations are presently required However, the following vaccinations are recommended:
Hepatitis A: Hepatitis A is a virus that infects the liver. The disease is distinctly unpleasant, with profound nausea, loss of appetite, and weakness.
Tetanus: Tetanus bacteria can infect small wounds and cause a fatal infection. 
Typhoid Fever: Typhoid fever is caused by infection with Salmonella typhi bacteria, passed in human feces and acquired by eating contaminated food or water.
 
WEATHER IN BHUTAN:
Bhutan lies in South Asia between China and India in the Himalayas, weather in Bhutan depends upon the altitude. In the northern parts of the country where mountains rise up to 7,000m, weather conditions are similar to arctic. Southwards, closer to India, the weather is hot and humid in the summer and cool in winter. The monsoon rains are usually heavy. Winters can be a good time to visit the lower parts, but then the highest areas are freezing. 
 
The best times to visit Bhutan are spring (March-May) and autumn (late September – November) when the weather is warm, dry and sunny but always throw in a couple of warm clothes into your travelling gear when you travel to Bhutan regardless of the season.
 
WHAT TO WEAR AND BRING:
Layering Clothing
Bring your clothes according to the season and region of your travel. Based on your activity and the weather, you can make quick adjustments, by putting on more clothing if it is cold or taking off layers as it warms up. In the summer time, days can be quite warm, especially in the lowlands of Punakha and Phuentsholing, light cotton clothing is recommended for day time. But in most of the tourist and trekking areas, light woolen clothes for evenings and heavy woollens / down jackets for winter are necessary. A waterproof windbreaker is important for trekking and outdoor activities.
Comfortable and Sturdy shoes.
You have a lot of opportunity to walk around in Bhutan, you will be glad you wore sturdy shoes that keep your feet comfortable. Good shoes will let you explore the rural and allow you to have a long day walk. Bring sandals or slip ons to take off easily when entering temples.
Long pants / skirts
Wear particularly conservative clothing in the towns, women should wear long pants or long skirts, men should wear long pants and shorts are not appropriate for anyone. In the dzongs and temples, the legs and arms must be covered, and even threequarter-length capri pants are not acceptable for women.
Rain gear
Be prepared for occasional shower. A folding umbrella is a good idea to bring with.
Hat, Sunglass, Sunscreen & lip protection.
The sun can be scorching in Bhutan. Be sure to apply sunscreen in the morning and throughout your day.
 
Other requirements:
  • A quality sleeping bag.
  • Waterproof gators.
  • A headlamp torch and a normal torch. (Including spare batteries.)
  • Binoculars and Camera.
  • Small day pack.
  • Water bottle
  • Towel
  • Small medical kit that includes aspirin, motion sickness tablets, diamox.(The guide carries a larger Medical kit but please bring own travel medications)
  • Antiseptic hand gel for disinfecting hands without water.
  • Mini-flashlight
DIFFERENT CURRENCY ACCEPTED BY BHUTAN BANK:
Credit cards are accepted only in major international hotels and high-end shops in Bhutan.
 
Click here to know more about Bhutan Information.

Where is Bhutan?
Bhutan is tucked away in the folds of the mighty Eastern Himalayas. It is a land locked country surrounded by on three sides by Indian states – Arunachal Pradesh in the east, Assam and West Bengal in the south and Sikkim in the West. The Tibetan autonomous region of China is in the North. The country lies between latitude 26 40? and 28 20? north and longitude 88 45? and 92 10? east.

Do I need to use a tour operator to book my travel?
It is a government regulation that you must use a Tour Operator to book your travel to Bhutan or one of their international partners.

Do I need a visa to enter Bhutan?
All International tourists wishing to enter Bhutan require a visa which must be pre-arranged through a license Bhutanese Tour Operator or one of their international partners. Visa clearance must be obtained through your tour operator prior to travel. For Indian passport (or VIC) holders, Bangladeshi nationals and persons from the Maldives may obtain a visa on entry.

How much does the visa cost?
International tourist visas a cost of USD $40 applies. This can be paid in advance to you tour operator or travel agent. For Indian passport (or VIC) holders, Bangladeshi nationals and persons from the Maldives there is no cost incurred.

How do I get to Bhutan?
There are a number of airports where you can fly into Bhutan from (Thailand – Bangkok; Nepal – Kathmandu; Singapore and India – Delhi, Kolkata, Bodh Gaya Dacca, Guwahati). At present Drukair, the national airline, is the only airline to operate flights in and out of the country. Also, there are three land border crossings which you can travel into the kingdom overland. All crossings are along the Indian border only – Phuentsholing, Gelephu and Samdrup Jongkhar. All travel arrangements to Bhutan must be made through a tour operator. We will make all the necessary arrangements.

What does the $200/$250 per day minimum daily package include?
The $200 per day (low season) and $250 per day (high season) package includes a minimum of 3 star accommodations, costs for food, an experienced guide and transportation (with driver) within the country. Also included in the price is a $65 per day royalty that goes towards free education, free healthcare and poverty alleviation. All of these services will be arranged by your tour operator.

What currency is used in Bhutan?
Bhutanese currency is known as the Ngultrum. Its value is tied to the Indian Rupee which is also accepted as legal tender. However Indian notes in 500 and 1000 denominations are not acceptable.

Is there a limit on the number of tourists that can enter Bhutan each year?
There is no limit on the number of tourists admitted into the country each year. In order to protect our culture, traditions and natural environment the government has adopted a strict policy of “High Value, Low Impact Tourism”. This policy is aimed at attracting discerning tourists that will respect the unique culture and values of the Bhutanese people while also providing the visitors with an unforgettable one of a kind experience.

What’s the food like in Bhutan?
The most distinctive characteristic of Bhutanese cuisine is its spiciness.  Chilies are an essential part of nearly every dish and are considered so important that most Bhutanese people would not enjoy a meal that was not spicy.
Rice forms the main body of most Bhutanese meals. It is accompanied by one or two side dishes consisting of meat or vegetables. Pork, beef and chicken are the meats that are eaten most often. A wide selection of western and Indian food is also available in many of the restaurants around the country.

When is the best time to go?
Go anytime – you won’t be disappointed. However If you are prepared to travel outside of the peak season periods (APR-MAY and mid SEP-NOV) there are fewer tourist visitors & you will enjoy a more rewarding experience. We especially recommend June – July (Summer) and December-March (Winter/Spring). If you are trekking you will need to generally travel in the peak season months for suitable conditions.

Can I travel totally independently in Bhutan?
It is not possible to gain an entry visa for Bhutan unless you pre-pay for a pre-arranged land package itinerary with a licensed and approved inbound operator and pay the appropriate nightly tariff. Bhutan prohibits independent backpacker style visitors to maintain its strict cultural and ecological values. However please be aware you can enjoy a degree of flexibility during each day to hike, visit markets & villages and interact with locals as you wish.

Is it possible to join an archery game and also visit the villages and farmhouses?
Yes, you can join in an archery game and also visit the villages and farmhouses.

I am a vegetarian, is this a problem?
If you are vegetarian, there is no problem. Though there are very limited varieties of vegetables available, most of the hotels will serve you good vegetarian dishes.

Important Note

If the above itinerary does not meet your needs, we can design individualized travel plans based on your preferences.

Trip Facts

Destination: Nepal

Duration: 18 Days Day(s)

Trip Grade: Moderate

Max Altitude: 4090 m (13,500 feet)

Activities: Sightseeing/Hiking

Best Season: March to June / September to November

Transportation: Private vehilcle

Accommodation: Government approved 3 stars and Above/Tent during camping

Meals: All meals (Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner)

Trip Type: Sightseeing & hiking tour

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