17 days Ura Bulli Nature Trek

ura-bulli-nature-trek

The Ura-Buli trek is an exclusive trekking tour designed to take you to some of the least-visited areas in Bhutan to see some of Bhutan’s rural lifestyles combined with superb flora. Trekking through the Zhemgang region is characterized by deep-river cut gorges and valleys ranging from altitudes of 1400m to 3600m providing nature walks through both temperate and sub-tropical forests that makes this place a haven for birds. We often take our birding groups to this trek.

The Ura Buli trek starts from Bumthang and passes mainly through the upper Kheng region which is dotted with villages like Nimzhong, Thaashong, Zangling, Thrisa, Bardo, Lhomsar, Langdurbi, Digala, Radhi, Wamling and Shingkhar. While this trek can be done all year round, we recommend doing it in spring and autumn.. However, if you would like to do this trekking tour in December, then you will also have the opportunity to witness the Shingkhar village festival.

In summer, monsoon rains make this trek a difficult one because of leeches and mosquitoes, though the reward would be its stunning flora. This trek also features a cultural tour through the popular destinations of Paro, Thimphu, and Bumthang.

THE ANCIENT REGION OF KHENG

The region which stretches east to Mongar and south almost to Gelephu used to be divided into a multitude of little kingdoms. The most important were Buli and Nyakhar. The Nyingmapa saint, Pema Lingpa, who founded a temple there, visited Buli in 1478 and 1479. After the Drukpa conquest in the mid 17th century the kings lost whatever importance they may have formerly enjoyed, but their descendants still call themselves “king’ – a purely honorific title. In 1963 the region of Kheng was divided into the districts of Mongar and Zhemgang.

Day 1: ARRIVE AT PARO (L/D)

Upon arrival at Paro International airport, you will be met by your guide.

After lunch, we will visit Drugyal Dzong (a ruined fortress), 16km away from Paro. Although it is now in ruins, this dzong has great historical importance for the people of Bhutan. It was a place where the Bhutanese finally defeated the Tibetan invasion. On a clear day one can view sacred Mt. Jomolhari (Mountain of Goddess). We will also visit Ta Dzong (built in 1656 and renovated in 1968), an ancient watchtower, which now houses the National Museum. Below the museum is the Rinpung Dzong (literally meaning “Heap of Jewels”), the centre of civil and religious authority in this valley, built in 1646 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal.

Dinner and overnight at your hotel in Paro.

Day 2: TAKTSANG MONASTERY OR TIGER’S NEST (B/L/D)

After breakfast, we will drive you to the trail head to commence a climb through beautiful pine forest. We will stop for light refreshments at the Taktsang cafeteria before walking on to the famous, Taktsang monastery or Tiger’s Nest. The primary Lhakhang or main temple was built around Guru Rimpoche’s meditation cave in 1684 by the Penlop of Paro, Gyalse Tenzin Rabgay. This incredible monastery clings to the edge of a sheer rock cliff that plunges 900 m into the valley below. Legend has it that Guru Padmasambhava, the tantric mystic who brought Buddhism to Bhutan in 747 AD, flew here on the back of a flying tiger, Dorji Drolo from Kurtoe Singye Dzong in the east.

In the afternoon, you will have an opportunity to explore the beautiful town of Paro.

Dinner and overnight at your hotel in Paro.

Day 3: PARO – THIMPHU (53km, 1hr drive) (B/L/D)

A drive along the winding road by the Paro Chu (Chu means water or river) downstream to the confluence with the Wang Chu, then turn upstream and travel along the Wang Chu to Thimphu, Bhutan’s scenically located capital city. Lunch will be at your hotel. In the afternoon, you will visit the Memorial Chorten, dedicated to the late Third King of Bhutan, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck.

In the evening, visit the Tashichho Dzong, seat of the national government and the Central Monastic Body which includes the summer residence of the Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot of Bhutan).

Dinner and overnight at your hotel in Thimphu.

Day 4: THIMPHU – PUNAKHA (77km, 3hrs drive) (B/L/D)

Today, drive to Punakha via the Dochula Pass (3140m). On the way stop to see the spectacular array of chortens, to enjoy the superb view over the snow capped Himalayan Mountains and also to the Gasa Dzong at a distance if the weather is clear.

Your journey then continues through varying scenes of greenery all the way to Punakha. Visit Punakha Dzong. The impressive Punakha Dzong lies between two great rivers. The names of the rivers are Pho Chu (Male River) and Mo Chu (Female River). This dzong serves as the winter residence for the Je Khenpo, Chief Abbot of the Central Monastic Body and also the office of the district Administration.

Dinner and overnight at your hotel in Punakha.

Day 5: PUNAKHA – TRONGSA (120km, 4hrs drive) (B/L/D)

After early breakfast, drive about 7km from Punakha town and after crossing the suspension bridge over the Mochu River, it takes approximately 30-45 minutes to walk to the Khamsum Yuelley Namgyel Chorten (Stupa) which is perched on a strategic ridge overlooking the nearby villages under Kabisa geog. It was built under the sponsorship of Her Majesty the Queen Mother Ashi Tshering Yangden Wangchuck to remove evil forces and promote peace, stability and harmony throughout the world. As the first of its kind in the world to have been constructed, the details and the architectural designs were drawn from scriptures as visualized by Dudjom Lingpa.

Then drive to Trongsa via Wangduephodrang and later passing through Pelela pass at 3300m, the traditional boundary between east and west.

Dinner and overnight at your hotel in Trongsa.

Day 6: TRONGSA – BUMTHANG (68km, 2hrs drive)

After breakfast, visit Trongsa Dzong, an ancestral residence of Bhutan’s royal family. Then visit the Ta Dzong, an ancient watch tower built to guard the Trongsa Dzong. After lunch, drive to Bumthang.

Dinner and overnight at your hotel in Bumthang.

Day 7: BUMTHANG SIGHTSEEING

After breakfast, visit Me-bar Tsho (Burning Lake) and Tamshing Lhakhang.

In the afternoon, visit Jambay Lhakhang, Kurje Lhakhang, and Kenchosum Lhakhang and also visit the Jakar Dzong, built by Chogyal Minjur Tempa, the 3rd Desi in 1646 AD.

Dinner and overnight at your hotel in Bumthang.

Day 8: BUMTHANG – URA – GAYZAM CHHU (2660m) – BUMTHANG CHHU (Distance: 21km, 7hrs, altitude loss 888m, camp altitude 1772m) (B/L/D)

The long but beautiful Ura-Buli trek begins today. After breakfast, drive to Gayzam Chhu to begin the trek. Hike south through a steep dramatic gorge cut by waterfalls. At one of the falls, Bashja Dharma, water is forced through a hole like a jet stream. Today we will cross the Bumthang-Zhemgang district boundary. This area is beautiful all year round. Summer rain can make the trail rather muddy and slippery, but nature is at its best at that time of year. Look out for the spectacular rufous-necked hornbill. As the day wears on, you will see the mighty Bumthang Chhu also known as Chamkhar Chhu.

Dinner and overnight camping at an opening in the forest near by the side of the Chamkhar Chhu.

Day 9: BUMTHANG CHHU – SHINGKHAR (Distance: 13km, 4hrs, altitude gain 645m, altitude loss 435m, camp altitude 1400m) (B/L/D)

Follow the river downhill till the valley starts to widen. The trail then climbs out of a gorge. After 3 hours of hiking the maize fields of Changkhar village (1790m) come into view, the first sign of habitation. Break for tea at one of the local farm houses. From here, there is a 1 hour hike through agricultural land to reach the village of Shingkhar. Shingkhar and Changkhar are villages in the upper Kheng. The people here speak their own dialect, Khangkha. Shingkhar is still very Bumthang-oriented because of historic and religious ties. The royal family has grazing rights for their cattle in the Shingkhar area. Shingkhar has over 40 households, a school, several lhakhangs, wireless radio and basic veterinary services. There are plenty of options to make your stay at Shingkhar special.

Dinner and overnight camping at Shingkhar.

Day 10: REST DAY AT SHINGKHAR (B/L/D)

Besides relaxing, reading or writing, and catching up on laundry, take some time to look around the village. You could help to prepare some local dishes or drinks. Another option is to hike above the village to a viewpoint where Gangkar Puensum (7541m) is visible. Alternatively, visit one of the lhakhangs, bring some offerings and meditate with one of the monks, visit one of the local schools and talk to the children or watch an archery game. It is also possible to learn about the local medicinal practice and how certain diseases are treated. If visiting Shingkhar in December, the Tshechu or Festival is well worth attending.

Dinner and overnight camping at Shingkhar.            

Day 11: SHINGKHAR – NYIMZHONG (Distance: 12km, 6hrs, altitude gain 616m, altitude loss 319m, camp altitude 1500m) (B/L/D)

Today’s walk will be through beautiful, mixed conifer forest. You will pass through largely untouched forest covers of fir, blue pine, chirpine, oak and rhododendron – one of the most diverse collections not only in Bhutan, but in the World. You may also get an opportunity to see Flying Squirrel and Cap Langur.

A steep 30 minutes descent leads to the river below the village. Cross the Chamkhar Chhu on an old bridge (1081m). Walk below enormous cliffs to a spot where nearly 20 rock bee nests are located. Climb steeply for 1.5 hours to the village of Radhi (1500m). In Shingkhar porters and pack animals will be exchanged while you rest and enjoy lunch.

After Radhi the trail climbs to an amazing viewpoint with a 400m drop down to the river. In the distance, the last village of the Shingkhar gewog (Sangling) can be seen. On the opposite side of the river the villages of Wamling, Thriso, Bardo and Khomshar are visible. In the future these villages may be connected to the National Highway network-coming from Ura in the north, Mongar in the east and joining the road in the south from Zhemgang – Tingtibi-Panbang (Manas National Park).

After a steep descent to the river, cross a side stream (Sibdi Gong) and pause at this beautiful spot for a swim. Climb again for 2.5 hours to Nyimzhong village at 1697m to camp.

Dinner and overnight camping at Nyimzhong village.

Day 12: NYIMZHONG – BULI (Distance: 25km, 7hrs, altitude gain 839m and altitude loss 846m, camp altitude 1690m) (B/L/D)

Soon after leaving Nyimzhong, the next village, Thazong, appears below the trail. At this point the trek changes from a southerly to a westerly direction. After crossing a bridge over Rongdi Gang Chhu or Raidi Gong Chhu (1965m) there will be 2.5 hours of easy climbing. Water bottles should be filled at the river because no water is available until camp is reached after Malaya La pass (2536m), approximately 5 hours later. From the pass, descend to Buli (1690m) in 2 hours on a good trail through forests. Buli is a large, rich village with more than 70 households and an old impressive lhakhang. Buli is supported financially by ex-residents who have moved to Thimphu. Camp at Buli or drive along the farm road to Zhemgang in 3-4 hours.

Dinner and overnight camping at Nyimzhong.

Day 13: BULI – TALI (Distance: 8km, 4hrs, altitude gain 200m, altitude loss 390m) – ZHEMGANG (B/L/D)

After breakfast, explore the area and if you wish, visit some houses in Buli to see how the local people live. From Buli, descend to a bridge crossing the Bokum Chhu River (1390m). This is followed by a steep, steady climb to Gorilla La pass (2035m), with a beautiful old mani wall. About 30 minutes walk after the pass the trail turns to the north to the village of Tali where a visit to the important Tali Lhakhang can be arranged. From Tali it will take 1.5 hours to drive to Zhemgang (1904m). Zhemgang is situated on an open ridge, which provides an unbroken view over the entire region. Despite its low altitude it is a fairly cold and windy place.

Dinner and overnight at your guest house in Zhemgang.

Day 14: ZHEMGANG  – GELEPHU (115km, 4hrs drive) (B/D/D)

Today the trip takes you further south to one of the bordering town of Gelephu sharing borders with the Indian state of Assam..

In the evening, walk around and explore the Gelephu the main commercial hub for south-central districts of Bhutan.

Dinner and overnight at your hotel in Gelephu.

Day 15: GELEPHU – WANGDUE (165km, 6hrs drive) (B/L/D)

After breakfast, drive to Wangdue via Tsirang, one of the beautiful districts in southern Bhutan.

After lunch in Tsirang, continue driving to Wangdue. The drive is a scenic one that takes you north and eventually arrives in the beautiful valley of Wangdue. You will also see many hydro-power projects along the highway.

Explore Wangdue town in the evening.

Dinner and overnight at your hotel in Wangdue.

Day 16: WANGDUE – THIMPHU – PARO (100km, 4hrs drive) (B/L/D)

After breakfast, drive to Paro via Thimphu. Explore Paro town in the evening.

Dinner and overnight at your hotel in Paro.

Day 17: PARO – PARO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (B)

In the morning drive to Paro International Airport where your guide will accompany you to bid you farewell.

Cost Information

Cost on request.

Trekking Dates

Any date on a private basis