Merak-Sakten Trek

Merak-Sakten stands out as a distinct attraction in Bhutan. Unlike anywhere else in the country, it offers trekkers to experience a unique semi-nomadic lifestyle, culture and dialect in one of the most scenic valleys. This trek runs through the protected area of Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary (SWS) in Eastern Bhutan, which is home to endangered species like the snow leopard and red panda, and other animals like the Himalayan red fox and the Himalayan black bear.

Day 1: Arrive Paro

The flight to Bhutan provides during a clear weather the most fascinating view of Himalayan scenery. On arrival in Paro, you will be greeted by our representative and escort you to hotel. In the afternoon, visit the Rinpung Dzong, the 15th century massive fortress which now serves as administrative center of the valley. From the Dzong, you can walk down to the road head crossing a traditional wooden bridge. From here, you will be taken to Kichu Lhakhang, one of the oldest and the most sacred shrine in the country. In the evening, you can stroll in Paro town. Overnight hotel in Paro.

Day 2 : Tiger’s Nest Monastery hike, transfer to Thimphu

After breakfast, hike to Taktsang (Tiger's Nest) Monastery, Bhutan's most famous monastery, which stands at 3180m. According to the legend, it is believed that Guru Rimpoche, the 8th century Spiritual Master, flew to this location on the back of a tigress to meditate. Lunch will be served at Cafeteria Restaurant halfway up on the mountain. Explore the monastery and hike back to Paro. This evening, you will drive to Thimphu. Overnight hotel in Thimphu.

Day 3 : Thimphu Tour

Sightseeing in Thimphu includes King's Memorial Chorten (which was built in honor of late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck), nunnery temple, School of Arts and Crafts (also known as the painting school), National Institute of Traditional Medicine, a traditional paper factory, the majestic Tashichodzong (seat of the office of the King of Bhutan). After lunch, drive to Kunselphodrang where 169 feet bronze statue of Buddha is constructed overlooking the Thimphu valley. If it is weekend (Saturday & Sunday), you can visit the Weekend Market on the bank of river where villagers from nearly places come to sell their farm products. In the evening, you can enjoy walking around in Thimphu city. Overnight hotel in Thimphu.

Day 4 : Thimphu to Punakha

Enjoy scenic drive to Punakha. Stop at Dochula pass (3150 meters) where on a clear day you can get spectacular views of the Himalayas. When you arrive at Metshina Village, you can take 20-minute walk through rice fields to Chimi Lhakhang, the Divine Madman’s temple popularly considered to be a temple of fertility. Take lunch in one of the restaurants and continue drive to Punakha. On arrival, visit Punakha Dzong, which is noteworthy for being one of the most beautiful Dzongs in Bhutan. Overnight hotel in Punakha.

Day 5 : Punakha to Gangtey/Phobjikha Valley

About 30 minutes drive from Punakha; you will arrive at Wangduephodrang, the last town before central Bhutan. The district is famous for its fine bamboo work and stone carving. From Wangduephodrang, the road winds up through dense forests of oak and rhododendrons till Lawala pass, which is blanketed with dwarf bamboos. The pass offers panoramic views of the Himalayan Mountains. Drive downhill for little while and you will be awestricken by the stunning views of Gangtey Goenpa and Phobjikha Valley. Visit Gangtey Goenpa, the only Nyingmapa monastery in western Bhutan. Later in the afternoon, you can hike in Phobjikha valley, the home to the rare Black Necked Cranes, which migrate from the Tibetan plateau to escape the harsh winter. Overnight in hotel in Phobjikha.

Day 6 : Gangtey/Phobjikha to Bumthang

Today you will head Trongsa, the ancestral home of Bhutan’s the royal family and from where the first two kings ruled the kingdom. The route is along a spectacular winding road, where the popular Bhutanese film “Travellers and Magicians” was shot. Lunch will be served at Trongsa. After lunch, visit Trongsa Dzong, the masterpiece of Bhutanese architecture. You will then proceed to Bumthang, which is often described as the spiritual heartland of the kingdom. En route, visit the 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. Overnight hotel in Bumthang.

Day 7 : Bumthang Tour

A full day tour in Bumthang may include the historic Jakar Dzong, Kurjey Lhakhang (associated with Guru Rimpoche, who bought Tantric Buddhism to Bhutan and Tibet), Jambay Lhakhang (dating from the 8th century) and Tamshing Lhakhang (built in 1501 by the Buddhist saint Pema Lingpa). In the afternoon, you can walk around in Bumthang town and interact with locals. Overnight hotel in Bumthang.

Day 8 : Bumthang to Mongar

The long drive from Bumthang to Mongar lends itself to some spectacular views, sheer drops and rushing waterfalls. The road passes through beautiful Ura Village and then ascends to Thurmshingla pass (3800m) with spectacular mountain views. Then the road descends to Kuri Zampa (570m above the sea level) through ever changing vegetation. From here, you will climb again about 1100m to Mongar town located on the hillside. You can browse through Mongar town and see the lifestyle of the people, which is different from western and central Bhutan. Overnight hotel in Mongar.

Day 9 : Mongar to Trashigang

Today you will drive to Trashigang passing through several villages. When you reach Chazam Bridge, you will take a turn-off road, which goes to Gom Kora temple. You will visit this temple. It is said that Guru Rinpoche meditated here and you can see the impression of his thumb, his hat, and his body on the rock near the temple. You will then drive to Trashigang and visit the town area. Overnight hotel in Trashigang.

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

8Km | 6 hours | 1554m Ascent | 230m Descent | Camp altitude 3124m

Today, you will drive to Chaling passing through 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.

Day 11 : Donmang Chu to Merak

10Km | 4 hours | 36m Ascent | Camp altitude 3520m

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.

Day 12 : Merak to Miksateng

14Km | 6 hours | 633m Ascent | 1074m Descent | Camp altitude 3079m

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.

Day 13 : Miksateng to Sakteng

14Km | 5 hours | 81m Ascent | 310 Descent | Camp altitude 2950m

First, you will descend to the river, cross it and then follow the riverbank 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.

Day 14 : Explore Sakteng

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

Day 15 : Sakteng to Joenkhar Teng

17Km | 7 hours | 74m Ascent | 1291m Descent | Camp altitude 1733m

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 to Phongmey to Trashigang (Trek ends)

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. En route you can visit Radhi and Tsangkhar Villages, which are renowned for “bura” gho and kira, a textile made from raw silk. Little further is Rangjung and you can visit the Ranjung Monastery, founded by the HH Garab Rimpoche. Check into hotel on arrival. Overnight hotel in Trashigang.

Day 17 : Trashigang to Samdrup Jongkhar

After breakfast, you will drive to Samdrup Jongkhar. Few miles drive from Trashigang is Sherubtse the first premier college in the country. The impressive clock tower and green surrounding give this college the feel of a Himalayan hill station. You will stop at Khaling to visit some of the shops and interact with locals. 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 to Guwahati, India

After 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. From Guwahati you will fly to other destination.

General info

  • Passport (with at least 6 months’ validity from the date of your exit from Bhutan)
  • Photocopy of picture page of passport showing number, etc. Keep this in a separate place in your baggage. If for any reason you lose your passport, this will expedite the process of applying for a new passport.
  • Print out copy of the visa & International air tickets.
  • Temperatures will fluctuate greatly depending on elevation and time of day. You should be prepared for a minimum temperature of 04 degrees and a maximum of 35 degrees. You have to plan for layered clothing to be prepared for such a wide-ranging temperature fluctuations.
  • Drink only bottled water, sodas, beer, etc.
  • Stay away from any cold salad! These are normally rinsed in tap water before or after being sliced and are a major cause of traveler’s gastro-intestinal distress.
  • All tipping is optional and by no means mandatory, however if you feel that your staff and drivers have performed at a good or excellent level, it is a great way to let them know you appreciate their efforts.

A few items to keep in mind:

  • Accept or offer items with the right hand or, more politely, with both hands. Using both hands to give or receive signifies that you honor the offering and the recipient or giver.
  • When you visit Buddhist shrines or temples, it is appropriate and a sign of respect to walk around the building in a clockwise direction (so that the structure is to your right side). This is also true for mani walls (walls built of stone tablets with Buddhist mantras carved on them) and Chorten (small Buddhist shrines.)
  • Your guide will give you additional tips along the way, when in doubt, check in with them. You will be travelling into areas that have had relatively few foreign visitors. Your positive attitude and interaction is needed and welcomed to maximize this adventure.

What should I bring with me for the trip?

  • Good walking shoes
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen (highest possible)
  • Headgear for sunny days
  • Bug/Insect repellent
  • Cotton clothing for summer days, light woolen clothes for evenings. Heavy woolens for winter.
  • Shorts for hiking and walking around town are fine. Out of respect, please don't wear shorts in public buildings or monasteries. Have a pair of long pants or longer skirt for these locations.

Starting from USD 3865

All meals, tea and snacks, complementary bottled water in car, hotels, transport, guide, government levy, visa fee, entrance fees, permits and sightseeing. On trek includes – sleeping tents, dinning tents, toilet and shower tents, toilet seats, mats, duffle bags, cooking utensils, all meals, guide, trek chef assistants and horses.

Flight tickets, insurance, tips, drinks and beverages, sleeping bag on trek, laundry, internet, phone and other bills of personal nature.

Bhutanese type 3 star hotels (possibility of upgradation) during city tour. Tented campsite accommodation on trek.

Package does not include insurance of any kinds, and that you are required to obtain separate coverage from your home country before your trip begins.