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Snow Leopard Trek

For the adventurous nature lovers

13 nights / 14 days

(10 days of trekking including a rest day)

Level of difficulty 3.5 out of 5

The Snow Leopard trek, which is also known as the Laya – Gasa trek, is a captivating trekking route that is renowned for its extraordinary natural beauty and immersive cultural experiences. It presents a thrilling challenge for the trekking enthusiasts as the trail winds through untouched and pristine high-altitude landscapes revealing breathtaking views of the magnificent Himalayan Mountain ranges. The trek begins in Paro and concludes in the village in Gasa, though the trek’s direction can be reversed based on your preference.


Encompassing 133 km (82 miles), the trek traverses lofty mountain passes, lush valleys, dense forests, and secluded settlements. Along the journey, you will have the remarkable opportunity to engage with local communities, immerse yourself in the diverse cultures of the different regions, and bear witness to their enduring traditional way of life.


This trek is open during the months of April – May – September – October – November.


Note: For the Snow Leopard trekking route, you can refer to the map included under the Snowman trek, as the Snow Leopard trek covers more than half of the famous Snowman trek.

Highest Altitude Trekked

Shinchen La 5010 m

Average Walking Distance per Day

15 km

Average Walking Time per Day

6 hours

Meals on Trek

B, L, D, Snacks

DAY 1: Paro (2250m)

Arrival & Welcome

Your friendly tour guide will be eagerly awaiting your arrival with your surname written on a plaque outside the exit doors at Paro International Airport. You will be driven to your hotel to unpack and enjoy a cup of tea then head out for some sightseeing if you wish. Note: Depending on the time of arrival, certain destinations below may have to be forgone if your arrival time is in the afternoon. This will be discussed during the booking process. We will take a short drive to see the Drukgyel dzong (fortress) with its stunning forest and mountain vistas. This dzong (the name literally translates to ‘the fortress of the victorious Drukpas’) was built after the victory over the Tibetan – Mongols in 1649. Then onto Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the oldest temples in Bhutan which is said to have been built in 7th century by a Tibetan King known as Songtsen Gampo. There is an orange tree in its grounds that quite miraculously perpetually bears fruit. After an early lunch we will visit the national museum known as Ta dzong which houses a fine collection of ancient thangka paintings, textiles, weaponry, and other artefacts. Then you are free to roam the quaint streets of Paro at your leisure as you acclimatise to the altitude. Overnight: Khangkhu resort (L, D)

DAY 2: Acclimatisation hike to Tiger's Nest Monastery 

Taktsang Monastery (3100m)

After breakfast we will embark on a hike to the renowned Taktsang monastery, famously referred to as ‘Tigers Nest’. The ascent to the viewpoint will take 1.5 hours, rewarding us with a breathtaking panoramic view of the monastery, which seemingly clings to the side of a cliff. Take a moment to rejuvenate at the Viewpoint cafeteria, soaking in the surrounding beauty. Subsequently, continue our journey towards the monastery, which entails an additional hour of walking. Legend has it that in the 8th century, Guru Rinpoche flew the distance from Tibet on the back of a tigress finally meditating in a cave here for three months. The main monastery within the present monastic complex traces its origins back to 1692. Despite suffering significant damage from a fire in 1998, Taktsang has been meticulously restored to its former grandeur. Once we have explored the monastery, we will retrace our steps, pausing for a satisfying lunch at the Viewpoint cafeteria, before continuing our descent towards the road point. Overnight: Khangkhu resort (B, L, D)

DAY 3: Shana to Thangthangka (trek begins)

21km | 7-8 hour | 770m ascent | camp alt 3500m

Prepare yourself for a challenging day of trekking with numerous ascents and descents. The trek begins by following the Pa Chu also known as the Paro River, as it winds through pine, oak, and spruce forests. After hiking continuously for 2 hours and crossing several streams we will arrive at a stone house (Shingkharap) situated at an altitude of just over 3000m. After lunch, the trek will be an uphill journey through rhododendron forests until we reach a junction at a chorten (a white inverted cup-shaped Buddhist structure). From there, we will veer left and continue along the designated trail. After 30 minutes, we will arrive at Thangthangka campsite, nestled amidst stunning alpine meadows at an altitude of 3500m. If weather permits, we may get a glimpse of Jomolhari (the best photograph can be taken from the right side of the toilets).

DAY 4: Thangthangka to Jangothang (Jomolhari Base Camp)

12km | 5-6 hours | 290m ascent | camp alt 4100m

Today will be a relatively easy day of trekking but since we will be venturing above the tree line to higher altitudes over 4000m, we will take it slowly to enjoy the scenery. The trek takes us through the Paro Chu valley, where we’ll encounter alpine meadows and patches of forest. Along the way, we will pass an army checkpoint and enjoy breathtaking views of the mountain ranges and snow-capped peaks. The landscape will feature yaks and herders’ homes, adding to the scenic beauty. We will also trek through the villages of Soe, Takethang, and Dangochang where barley, potatoes, and turnips are grown. The highlight of the day is reaching Jangothang, also known as Jomolhari base camp, a stunning campsite at 4100m known for its panoramic views of Jomolhari, Jichu Drake and the ancient ruins.

DAY 5: Acclimatisation day and rest at Jangothang

Acclimatisation hike to the twin lakes called Tsho Phu & pass called Bonte La | alt reached 4450m – 5005m 

Today, we have an exciting acclimatisation hike planned to the twin lakes called Tsho Phu (adjacent to Nyele La), situated at an altitude of 4450m. Setting off from the camp, we’ll head northward, passing through charming small settlements before embarking on a challenging eastward ascent. As we progress, a long, hidden valley will gradually reveal itself, unveiling the mesmerising sight of two stunning ice lakes nestled at its base. We’ll have the opportunity to explore the first lake and, if the group is keen, venture further to the second, where we can have magnificent views of Jomolhari I, Jomolhari II (2 of the 3 peaks of Jomolhari), and Jichu Drake peaks. Keep an eye out for herds of blue sheep, which are commonly spotted in the area. For those seeking an additional adventure, it's possible to continue onwards to the Bonte La (pass) at an altitude of 5005m, then return. After immersing ourselves in the beauty of the lakes, we will descend back down to our campsite at Jangothang, allowing for a well-deserved rest as we prepare for the days ahead. Note: At this altitude, it is common for most trekkers to experience symptoms of mountain sickness, making it imperative that we pause and rest at Jangothang. Whether you prefer to take a break and relax at the campsite or opt to go for the acclimatisation hike, it will undoubtedly be a memorable day.

DAY 6: Jangothang to Lingshi (4100m)

21km | 6-7 hours | 840m ascent | 870m descent | camp alt 4100m

Starting from the camp, our journey begins with an ascent across gentle slopes of grassland and scattered vegetation, leading us to the Nyele La at an elevation of 4850m. This section of the trek is not excessively strenuous, and if this is your first Himalayan pass crossing, it’s recommended to take your time, especially during the final steeper stretches just before reaching the pass. Here, the terrain transitions from grassy slopes to loose scree and sand. The captivating views along the way, including that of Jichu Drake, will undoubtedly leave you with a feeling of total exhilaration. Upon crossing the Nyele La, we bid farewell to the sights of Jomolhari and Jichu Drake, embarking on a steep descent through dense rhododendron forests, eventually arriving at the outskirts of Lingshi village. A notable highlight in this area is the Lingshi dzong, constructed as a protective fortress against periodic incursions from Tibet, safeguarding not only Lingshi but also the surrounding villages of Bhutan.

DAY 7: Lingshi to Chebisa

12km | 4-5 hours | 280m ascent | 410m descent | camp alt 3850m

Today’s trek is relatively short, allowing for flexibility in our activities. If the group is feeling energetic, we can embark on a morning side trip to the picturesque Chhokam Tsho (lake), located at an altitude of 4340m near the base camp of Jichu Drake. This optional detour will involve approximately 8km of additional hiking, with an ascent and descent of 450m, taking around 3 hours to complete. Alternatively, we can start the day’s walk directly from the camp, heading towards a junction marked by a chorten. At this point, we’ll have 2 options to choose from. The first is to continue on the main trail, while the second offers a detour leading uphill to the Lingshi dzong, situated atop a lofty ridge. The Lingshi dzong not offers a unique atmosphere of tranquil mysticism but also provides splendid views overlooking the surrounding valley. Following the Lingshi dzong, we will pass through the villages of Lingshi and Gonyul. In Gonyul there is a distinctive feature – the stone houses are clustered closely together forming a compact village, which is somewhat unusual in Bhutan where settlements are typically scattered. Upon reaching our campsite at Chebisa, we’ll have ample time to explore the village houses if the group is up for it. Additionally, behind the village, there is a beautiful waterfall worth visiting, adding to the natural charm of the area. Overall, today’s trek offers a combination of optional side trips, cultural exploration, and captivating scenery, allowing us to tailor the experience based on the group’s preferences.

DAY 8: Chebisa to Shomuthang 

15km| 6 hours | 950m ascent | 640m descent | camp alt 4130m

The day’s trek covers a distance of 15km and takes approximately 6 hours to complete. The route involves a 950m ascent and a 640m descent, with the campsite located at an altitude of 4130m. We begin the morning with a lengthy climb behind Chebisa village, taking around 2-3 hours. The trail leads us through expansive pasturelands, offering panoramic views as we make our way towards Gogu La at an elevation of 4420m. Along the way, it’s possible to encounter local yak herders tending to their herd just like their ancestors have done for centuries. Additionally, there’s an excellent chance to spot sizeable herds of blue sheep grazing on the slopes above the trail. After crossing Gogu La, we descend into the valley and then ascend a bit once again before descending further to reach Shakshepasa, a yak herders' camp situated at 3980m in a vast and flat valley. Shakshepasa serves as a potential campsite for us, but depending on the availability of water and the size of our group, we may choose to continue with an additional climb to the Shomuthang campsite at 4130m.

DAY 9: Shomuthang to Robluthang

14km | 4-5hours | 500m ascent | 760m descent | camp alt 4160m

The trek for today covers a distance of 14 km and takes approximately 4-5 hours to complete. It involves a 500m ascent and a 760m descent, with the campsite situated at an altitude of 4130m. Our journey commences by ascending the valley, granting us a breathtaking view of Kang Bum, standing tall at 6526m. After approximately three hours of climbing, we will arrive at Jhari La, positioned at 4750m. From this vantage point, we catch our first glimpse of Shinchen La, the pass we will traverse the following day. Towards the north, the prominent snow-capped peak of Tiger Mountain (6740m) dominates the horizon. If the weather permits, we may also be treated to the sight of Tsheringmigang and the majestic summit of Jomolhari. Given the relatively short duration of today's trek, you might consider embarking on a climb to Jhari Peak (4935m), located adjacent to the pass, for an enhanced panoramic vista. The round trip to the peak will take slightly over an hour. Following the descent, we will reach Tsheri Jathang, a herder's camp situated above the river, nestled within a scenic wide valley. This area serves as a migratory ground for herds of takin, Bhutan's national animal, during the summer months, making it a designated Takin sanctuary. Continuing a bit further uphill, we will finally arrive at our campsite, Robluthang, nestled on a rocky meadow. Today's trek offers a mix of captivating mountain views, encounters with Bhutan's unique wildlife, and the serene beauty of the valley landscapes.

DAY 10: Robluthang to Limithang 

17km | 6-7 hours | 850m ascent | 870m descent | camp alt 4140m

Covering a distance of 17 km, today's trek will take approximately 6-7 hours to complete. With an ascent of 850m and a descent of 870m, the campsite awaits us at an altitude of 4140m. We embark on our journey with an initial 40–60-minute ascent, followed by a gradual climb for another one and a half hours through a boulder field. A one-hour steep ascent awaits us, thereafter, leading us to the pinnacle of our trek, Shinchen La (5010m) - the ultimate and highest pass on this remarkable adventure (this marks the highest point of the Snow leopard trek). As we descend the other side of the pass, an awe-inspiring sight awaits us - a remarkable terminal moraine and a glacial lake nestled at the foot of the valley. Along the way, we'll have the opportunity to observe prime examples of lateral moraines, where the force of the glacier has pushed rocks up both sides of the valley, creating a striking natural formation. Descending further, we cross the Kango Chu (river) and soon arrive at the Limithang campsite. Even though Tiger Mountain looms in the distance, its imposing peak still commands attention and adds to the grandeur of our campsite.

DAY 11: Limithang to Laya

10km | 4-5hours | 60m ascent | 350m descent | camp alt 3850m

Covering a distance of 10km, today's trek is expected to take around 4-5 hours to complete. With a gentle ascent of 60m and a descent of 350m, our campsite awaits us at an altitude of 3850m. Our journey today takes us on a captivating downhill path that winds along a narrow river valley. After several days of trekking, we find ourselves immersed in a densely forested region, which gradually opens up to reveal the western side of Laya village. From here, we'll be treated to breathtaking views of majestic peaks such as Tiger Mountain (6740m) and Masagang (7194m). As we arrive in the village centre, you'll notice a community school and a basic healthcare unit, serving as vital resources for the local community. Our campsite is nestled below the school, providing a serene setting to rest and rejuvenate. Take the opportunity to explore the village, immersing yourself in the unique culture of the indigenous Layap people. You may encounter Layap women donning traditional conical bamboo hats adorned with colourful beads, a distinctive feature of their attire. If you are welcomed into a local home, you may have the chance to savour their hospitality, including a taste of the locally brewed spirit known as 'ara' and other delectable delicacies.

DAY 12: Laya to Punakha via Gasa (trek ends)

11km | 4-5hours | 700m descent

As we embark on today’s journey, we leave the majestic mountains behind and begin our descent from Laya (3800m). Our path winds through enchanting mixed conifer forests, tracing the course of a glacial river adorned with graceful waterfalls. Upon reaching the road point, our memorable Snow Leopard trek concluded, and we bid farewell to our dedicated trekking crew. From here, we continue onward to Punakha (via Gasa), a picturesque destination of approximately 4 hours by road. Overnight: Zhingkham resort (B, L, D)

DAY 13: Punakha to Paro

Sightseeing & leisurely drive back to Paro

First thing after breakfast, we will visit the winter residence of the Central Monastic Body known as Punakha dzong. This dzong was built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel (in 1637) and was where he established his formal way of governing the land, known as the dual system of governance. Punakha dzong is one of the most breathtaking dzongs in Bhutan, situated at the confluence of two rivers. It is the second largest dzong in Bhutan after Trongsa dzong. We will enter inside the dzong as well as have time to stroll around the picturesque grounds. We will also visit the suspension bridge behind the dzong – a favourite amongst visitors. Lunch at Nobgang B & B restaurant (12:30 – 2:30pm) After lunch we will depart Punakha and move westwards to the Paro district, arriving in Paro town later in the afternoon. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the view. If we are lucky, we will come across the grey langur, one of several species of primates found in Bhutan. The Bhutanese believe that seeing one is a very auspicious sign. On the way we will stop briefly at the Royal Botanical gardens at Lampelri. You will be taken to a traditional homestay where you will be able to enjoy the famous hot stone bath and local hospitality. Our host will also serve us a sumptuous Bhutanese dinner. Overnight: Kyichu homestay (B, L, D)

Day 14: Paro (Departure)

Till next time

Free time to relax this morning before we leave for the airport and onward flights. In Bhutan we never say goodbye as we always believe we will have the good fortune of meeting again. So, from the team at Touch Bhutan Travel, we sincerely hope you enjoyed travelling with us. Take care until next time. (B)

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