The Dagala Ancient Trail
14 NIGHTS BHUTAN TRAVEL WITH THIMPHU TO DAGANA TREK
14 NIGHTS BHUTAN TRAVEL WITH THIMPHU TO DAGANA TREK
“The Dagala Ancient Trail” is a trek route from Thimphu to Dagana. This trail connected the people in Thimphu and Dagana before the roads were built. With the construction of roads this trail was almost forgotten. Though this trek was researched a long before, very few tourists walked this ancient trail. Most of them did the popular Dagala thousand lake trek which followed the same route till Labatama and ended in Chamgang Thimphu instead of going to Dagana. The main reason being Dagana was not well promoted as a Tourist Destination despite being open for tourism. There is still confusion among the tourism stakeholders why this happened so.
This ancient trail from Thimphu to Dagana used to be an important highway during medieval Bhutan. It was one of the most used routes which connected the Southern and Western part of Bhutan. Hence the name “The Dagala Ancient Trail”. Dagala is the highest mountain pass between Thimphu and Dagana.
Mostly the people of Dagana used this route for the following purposes
1. Pay revenues to government
2. Travel to their summer farmland in Geneykha
3. Route for cattle and Yak herders searching pastoral land
4. Other businesses
The Daga Penlops who were one of the six powerful regional governors (17th – 19th Century) traveled to Thimphu via this trail. With some modifications the trail has been researched and reworked whereby it could again rise to its glory as in ancient times.
While on Trek
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(All nationalities other than regional travelers)
Mar, Apr, May, Sep, Oct, Nov:
1 pax – USD 4100 per person
2 pax – USD 3960 per person
3 pax & above – USD 3540 per person
Jun, Jul, Aug, Dec, Jan, Feb:
1 pax – USD 3400 per person
2 pax – USD 3260 per person
3 pax & above – USD 2840 per person
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Cost Inclusion: Refer above
Complimentary: Refer above
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Refer Trekking in Bhutan for more details >>
Driving Distance: 55 Km | Driving Time: 1.5 Hr | Altitude of Thimphu: 2300 m
You shall know that now you are flying above as soon as you start seeing the beautiful vies from your window. As the flight starts losing altitude and you see its wings glide past the mountain slopes, Bhutan welcomes you with and adventurous landing. As you come out of the exit you will find your guide from Ideal Travel Creationswaiting for you. Drive to Thimphu. On the way stop at places to photograph villages, people, and scenery. Highlights shall be the Tamchog Lhakhang and the Chuzomsa.
Afternoon, visit Kuenselphodrang, where stands the biggest statue of BuddhaDrodenma. In addition, a mesmerizing view of Thimphu Valley, biking and hiking trails and a picnic spot makes it worth a visit. Visit the National Memorial Chhorten. This Chhorten was built in the honor of the Third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, also known as “The Father of Modern Bhutan”. It is a center of worship for the people living in Thimphu. Lighting Butter lamps and circumambulating the chhorten can be a great experience and a good way to earn merits as per Buddhist beliefs. In the evening, visit the Tashichhodzong (Fortress of the Glorious Religion). A private traditional cultural show before dinner. Overnight in Hotel in Thimphu.
Altitude of Thimphu: 2300 m
After a leisure breakfast, drive to upper Thimphu and take a Hike to CheriMonastery. Initially named Chagri Dorjeden Monastery, this monastery was established in 1620, by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the founder of the unified Bhutan. After driving for about 20 minutes we have to hike a steep hill approximately for 1.5 hrs. The monastery is now a major teaching and retreat center of the Drukpa Kagyu order. You shall also see Mountain Gorals during the hike.
Packed lunch by the banks of Dodena River. Drive back to Thimphu and relax for some time.
In the afternoon, visit the Government Post office and make personalized stamps. Post a card to your home town. Then, visit the Centenary farmers market and a Painting studio.
A private interaction session with a Bhutanese Host in the evening. Dinner with your Bhutanese Host as you converse in regards to this new place and its cultures. Overnight in hotel.
Thimphu – Genekha
Driving Distance: 35 km | Driving time: 1 Hr
After a leisure breakfast, drive to Geyneykha via Thimphu Paro highway till you reach Charkilo, a name given during the construction of Thimphu Phuentsholing highway in the 1960’s since it is 4 kms from Chuzom (Char means four in Hindi and Kilo is kilometer in short) This junction is marked by a small Chhorten above the road junction and is originally known as Chhoeten Kharisumchi. Drive uphill the narrow road. You shall drive past the Bama village and then the Zangkher village whose inhabitant were once known for the art of potteries. Soon after you pass the Chizhing Samten Chholing Lhakhang which is right above the road. The local people call it Chizhi Goenpa. Drive further till you reach Genekha.
Genekha is a small cluster village under Genye Gewog. There was once a big fortress called Genye Dzong, a few meters from Genyekha. The ruins can be still seen. The dzong used to be the seat of Genye Drungpa (the local ruler of Genekha and surrounding villages). The Daga Penlop used to stop in this dzong for the night or a tea on the way to Thimphu from Dagana.
Genekha – Gur
Distance: 7 km | Walking time: 5 Hr | Ascent: 550 m | Descent: 210 m | Campsite Altitude: 3290 m
Walk from Genekha till you reach the Geneyzampa. Cross the suspension bridge and keep right. Climb steeply, then more steadily, through beautiful oak forest. The trees are draped with lichen. Along the trail there are old stone steps and resting places. Indicating that it was once a busy route.
We reach Dophu Jasey Dokha, with a nice view of the valley and surrounding mountains at 3200 m. On top of the ridge, at about 3350m, when the trail takes a sharp corner, look for an unclear side trail going down for about 50 m to our campsite, Gur. Gur is about 1000 m higher than Thimphu. It takes 2 hours to get here from Geneyzampa. Gur is used to be a a tsamdo where travellers who could not reach Genekha would halt for the night. There is a ruin of a guesthouse (mgyon khyim) where a caretaker (neydag) was appointed to look after travelers’ welfare in the past. Neydag’s duty was to provide shelter, firewood and water for tired travelers.
Another option to Camp for the night is Kepchen (3645 meters) which is a little further from Gur. The tsamdo around it are known by the same name. From Kepchen, the alpine flora becomes dominant.
Distance: 12 km | Walking time: 5 Hr | Ascent: 1220 m | Descent: 110 m | Campsite Altitude: 4300 m
After breakfast start your trek for the day following the trail which ascends to the main trek route until we reach to Pagalabtsa la at 4170 m. This place is marked by four cairns. A beautiful high-altitude landscape opens up, with a fine view of Dagala range, including some rocky peaks. On the way we can find some yak herders camp. After travelling three hours, we reach Watshachen at 4100 m, a good place to stop for lunch. There is a stone house at Watshachen. It takes one hour from Watshachen to Labatama campsite. At the bottom is a beautiful big flat campsite. We can still see ruin guest house of Daga Penlop at Labatama.
Visitors can plan to walk to numerous lakes. A variety of wildflowers in full bloom including rhododendrons, and numerous lakes like Lang-Tsho, Tsho-Kharim, Rilang-Tsho, Ser-Tsho, Yu-Tsho and Bjagoed-Tsho. Dagala Trail is said to have 1000 lakes, whereby it has its name of the other Dagala Trek as Dagala thousand lake trek.
There is a legend for every lake. For instance, Langtsho, Bull Lake, flows down to the Sunkosh on the right side of the Dagana Dzong. The villages on the either banks of the stream that flows from the lake are mostly plagued with bull calves. Locals say only one-fourth of the total cattle birth in the villages bear female calf.
You may choose for a day excursion to these 3 lakes i.e. Relitsho, Hentsho and Jamatsho.
Excursion to Setsho and other nearby lakes. Hike to Setsho lake is easy and interesting. Afterwards walk over a small ridge and the down to Jagetsho Lake. You can also attempt to climb the Jomo, at 5050 m peak. Lunch at the summit with a spectacular view aroud, can be memorable experience. Return to camp by dusk and prepare for the next day.
Distance: 12 km | Walking time: 5 Hr | Ascent: 4426 m | Descent: 4070 m | Campsite Altitude: 4070 m
As you have a hearty breakfast with your trekking crew, you can feel your bond with Bhutan growing stronger. After breakfast walk the trail ascending until Lawagu at 4426 m. Past Lawagu, the trail descends. A steep descent follows into Dagana valley. Walk next to a small blue mountain lake, Langtsho (Ox Lake) on a well-maintained path: this has long been an important route. The path stays on the eastern slope of the mountainside and leads in a southerly direction. We can see ruin of Daga Penlop’s guesthouse. The campsite is near the ruin guest house of Daga Penlop.
Distance: 12 km | Walking time: 5 Hr | Ascent: 4000 m | Descent: 1500 m | Campsite Altitude: 4000 m
The trail starts slight descent through shrub and rhododendron forest. The trek runs through a range of varied ecological zones ranging from dry alpine scrubs, juniper, rhododendrons, fir, spruce, hemlock, blue pine forests to warm broadleaved forests, with an altitude ranging from below 1,500m to as high as over 4,000m.
We can see ruin of Daga Penlop’s guest house at Dompa and a few nomad’s camps along the trail. Wangrapang campsite will be potential spot for nature base tourism such as flora and fauna, bird watching and wildlife.
Distance: 12 km | Walking time: 6 Hr | Descent: 1310 m | Campsite Altitude: 2100 m
The trail now leads through broadleaved forest with masses of rhododendrons, becoming denser as the day progresses. Cross yak pastures to meet a good path through rhododendron forest. The first clearing reached is Pongukha, there is a small hut in the lower part. Keep left and descent in the forest. A steep descent follows through an oak and warm broadleaved forest.
A pasture with a ruined house on the right side, this is Bjitekha. Again descend steep down to Toepchu stream (1972m) through subtropical vegetation. The trail ascends slightly through the warm broadleaved forest until we reach to Kunga campsite.
We need to be aware of insects, leeches, mosquitoes and snakes
Distance: 12 km | Walking time: 5 Hr | Descent: 620 m | Campsite Altitude: 1790 m
The trail leads through a floral paradise. Many orchids can be spotted on the trees and you are surrounded by lush subtropical vegetation. The ponies have to go other path. The path is narrow and there are many cliffs. After 5 hours of hiking you suddenly climb and get a good view of Dagana Dzong. The trek end at Shetok(1790m).
Your vehicle will be waiting for you here. Drive to Dagana. Enjoy a relaxing hotstone bath at the village house. Dinner and overnight in a Village homestay.
After a late breakfast, relax for a while. You may choose to spend some time with the villagers experiencing the daily activities of the locals or simply relax enjoying a quite village life. After lunch, visit the Lho Darkar Trashiyangtse Dzong (Dagana Dzong) built in 1651 under the command of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. Then visit the Shathong Goenpa which was initially built by Drupthop Shawa Rinpa. The highlight about this place is the birds eye view of Dagana Dzong. Then drive to Kana Village to visit the Birthplace of Zhabdrung Sungtruel (Speech Reincarnation). This is an ancient house which is still in its original form. Visit a temple nearby and interaction with the villagers over a glass of local alcohol can be nice. Drive back to your village homestay.
Driving Distance: 170 km | Driving Time: 5.5 Hr | Altitude of Punakha/ Wangdue: 1310 m
After breakfast drive to Punakha. 40 kilometers from Dagana is Dagapela. Dagapela is small town which used to be a happening place before the road to Dagana was built. This place used to be the main place where the people from north and south used to meet for trade and business. This places also served as a night halt place for travelers traveling to and from Dagana. Explore the Dagapela town for a while. We will come across beautiful views and villages till we reach the Sunkosh River. This is the same river that flows in Wangdue valley as the Punatshangchhu. The road the leads you by the side of rivers with frequent sights of villagers from Tsirang district selling their farm products by the roadside. Lunch at Rilanthang.
Cross the Sunkosh river again at Wakletar bridge drive through the Punatshangchhu Hydro power project site till you reach Wangdue. The road shall take you through beautiful landscapes and experiences including the first road through a tunnel in Bhutan. The drive might be dusty in some places due to the project construction.
Dinner and overnight in hotel.
Altitude of Punakha/Wangdue: 1310 m
After a leisure breakfast, hike to Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chhorten. Take a short drive to the base and then walk through paddy fields before you climb a moderately inclined trail surrounded by pine trees. The hike is amazing and the views from the Chhorten are absolutely thrilling.
After Lunch, visit the Punakha Dzong, built by the Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1637 at the junction the Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu Rivers. Then, take a short and easy hike through paddy fields and villages to visit the Chhimi Lhakhang. This temple is also known as the temple of fertility and was built by Lama Drukpa Kuenley in the 15 century. Lama Drukpa Kuenley is also known as the Divine Madman. If you are interested in rafting, you could choose to do the same in Punakha at an extra cost.
Dinner and overnight in hotel.
Driving Distance: 130 Km | Driving Time: 3.5 Hr | Altitude of Paro: 2280 m
After breakfast, drive to Paro. On the way stop to visit the Royal Botanical Park at Lamperi. Further on the way visit the Tamchhog Lhakhang to experience the river, the iron chain bridge and to visit the temple.
Lunch at Paro. After lunch, the following activities awaits you.
Dinner and overnight in hotel.
Altitude of Paro: 2280 m
After breakfast, Hike to the Taktshang Monastery, the abode of gods and monks and a must visit sight while in Bhutan. Reaching the top shall be worth the climb; the touch of the Himalayan breeze, the views of the valley below and temple on the rocky cliff shall be fascinating. Taktshang Monastery was built surrounding Guru Rinpoche’s Meditation cave in the 1684 by Gyaltse Tenzin Rabgay. This incredible monastery clings to the edge of a sheer Rock cliff that plunges 900 meters into the valley below. Legend has it that Guru Padmasambhava flew here on the back of a tigress which gives its name “Taktshang” meaning Tiger’s nest.
While returning you may choose to volunteer to pick up the wastes with your guide (optional). Picnic Lunch among the woods shall be another great experience.
After lunch, visit the Kyichu Lhakhang. The Tibetan King, Songtsen Gompo miraculously built 108 temples to consecrate the entire region of Himalaya in the 7th century. Kyichu Lhakhang is considered to be one of them.Visit a village house. You shall be served with the local Bhutanese alcohol (Arra) and shall have the opportunity to understand and experience the life in a village in Bhutan. Right from the daily household chores to other works in the field. Also relax in traditional hot stone bath known as Dotsho in local language. It has been practiced in Bhutan for centuries as a medicinal soak. River stones are heated and then put in water to heat the water; sometime medicinal herbs are added to the water before it is ready for the soak. You may choose to have your dinner with the family. You can also have the option to spend overnight in the village house, however this will have to be confirmed during the confirmation of your tour to Bhutan.Overnight in hotel/Village House.
After breakfast, Drive to airport and bid farewell to Bhutan.