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Merak Sakten Bhutan Trek

Merak Sakten - the Wild Eastern Bhutan - Yeti trail

17

Days

TREK

Merak  Sakten Bhutan Trek Trip Map, Route Map
Trip highlights
  • Colorful festival.
  • Remote villages Meet the Brokpa tribe
  • Trekking off the beaten trail
  • National Parks
  • Cultural monuments
  • Takstang (Tiger’s Nest)
  • Local markets.

A visit to Merak and Sakteng is a truly incredible cultural and natural journey; into a region that was closed to foreigners for the past 30 years. Until now only a handful of researchers and tourists have been granted permission to enter this area. Merak and Sakteng has been closed to protect the unique cultural heritage of the Brokpa people and in part to give the mythical Yeti some peace, whose tales of wandering in the valley is very popular among the locals. The Brokpas of the Merak and Sakteng regions of eastern Bhutan are semi-nomadic yak herders who speak a unique dialect, wear unusual clothing and live in stone houses distinctive to this isolated region of Bhutan.
Your journeys goes through Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary, one of the protected areas in Bhutan. The Sanctuary is typical of the diversity of Himalayan terrestrial ecosystems, combining alpine meadows, temperate forests and warm broad leaf forests.
After visiting the remote Merak and Sakteng area, you will traverse across East to Central and then to Western Bhutan, passing through numerous villages, towns and crossing several National Parks. The Central and Western valleys are were you will see historical monuments, while the eastern part of the country is to access remote -off beat villages and people.

Outline Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive Guwahati-S/Jongkhar 
Arrive in Guwahati airport in Assam, India. Meet and take a drive to Samdrup Jongkhar, a frontier town in southeastern Bhutan. Along the way, you will pass through many small Assamese villages and tea gardens.  Complete immigration formalities and enter Bhutan. In the evening stroll around the town to see the locals. Samdrup Jongkhar is a trading town for eastern Bhutan. Overnight in hotel.  (Meals D)

Day 2: Samdrup Jongkhar-Tashigang
After an early breakfast, drive north to Trashigang. As the road ascends, we pass through a variety of vegetation zones in the Himalayan foothills. Looking back we should get a distant view of the Indian plains. The roadside is rich in plants including ferns, rhododendrons and primulas and we will pass though many small villages. If possible, we will stop in some of them, including a stop at a local weaving center in Khaling.  Late in the afternoon, we will visit Trashigang Dzong which houses the monastic institute for monks and administrative center for the valley. Overnight in hotel. (All meals included hereafter)

Day 3: In Trashigang (Free day or Excursion to Tashi Yangtse)
Today we plan to take it easy. Visit Trashigang Dzong, stroll in the market etc. If you wish, you can also drive to Trashiyangtse and return to Trashigang for the evening, visiting Gomkora on the way.
However when there is an event in Trashiyantse, we plan to drive and stay in Tashiyangtse in a simple Guest House.

Day 4: Drive to Merak  
From Trashigang, a short drive brings you to small town of Ranjung. Continue up the hill with terraced rice paddies to Radhi village, from where new cut dirt farm road starts towards Chaling village and continuing on, road snakes uphill 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 downhill through the rhododendron forests, and meadows of Donmong chu by the river at 3145m. The dusty, rocky farm road continues up the valley, gradually gaining height through the rhododendron forests and shrubs and arrive at the first village Gangu (3430m) and 15 minutes later arrive in large Merak village located at an altitude of 3520m. We will be using off-road 4WD vehicle and should take about 5hrs. Overnight in simple village Homestay.

Day 5: In Merak  

Merak is one of the most isolated valleys in Bhutan, with fresh farm road arrival in late 2017. We have a full day to explore; visit local families, school, farm, yak herding, see local weaving etc.
Like the people of Sakteng, Merak people (Brokpas) are said to have migrated here few centuries ago from the Tshona region of southern Tibet. They arrived here after several months of journey across treacherous passes, set the shrubs on fire and settled down to make it their home called Merak, which literally means “Set on fire”. The inhabitants of Merak are similar to those of Sakteng in their language, dress, lifestyle and spiritual affiliation. However the people from Merak are said to be better built and taller than their counterparts in Sakteng. The houses are built of stones with very small windows and in most cases the houses are one storied only. In Merak some still practice the custom of polyandry with brothers sharing the same wife. Overnight in Camp or simple guest house when available.

Day 6: Merak-Mitsateng-Sakteng
Approx. 22 km, 8 hours trek
Today’s trek is quite tough with the crossing of the several passes and ridges, so we’ll start early.
In order to avoid camping, we are covering two short day trek in one day.
Begin by climbing gradually to the first ridge crossing at 3900m, from where you can look back for a last glimpse of Merak. Continue thereafter along the tree line with juniper and rhododendron forest till we reach Nachungla Pass at 4150m. The views are incredible, endless, 360 view with peaks of Bhutan, Arunachal and Tibet are seen. Occasionally, you will come across Yak herders in their camp. We may also see caravans of yaks and horses moving their sites on this trail. From the pass, it is a long descent to Miksateng campsite at 3060m. Instead of overnighting here, we continue another 2+hrs. The trail follows the river basin for a bit. Than gradually make a climb towards a small pass with a chorten (stupa) on the hill, from where you can see Sakteng valley. From the ridge, a short descend brings you into the valley, and after crossing bridge, arrive in Sakteng. The area has cell phone towers and electricity since 2012. We overnight in a simple Guest House located at around 2950m.

Day 7: Sakten Exploration  
We have another day to explore Sakteng. Sakteng is broad valley located at about 3000m, surrounded by mountains on all sides. Sakteng literally means bamboo field. The inhabitants of Sakteng are similar to those of Merak in their language, dress, lifestyle and spiritual afflictions. It comprises of around 200 households. There are smaller villages like Tengma and Borang Tse, spread around the hillsides.
Every winter, Brokpas take on drukkor or grain journey to the lowland village, where they have their regular host family, with whom they have close trading and social relationship. They live together as one family for weeks and barter their Yak products with maize and grains. Learn about Brokpa lifestyle, their food, their weaving, visit local school, their shrines. People here are happy to have visitors, to chat with you.
Towards afternoon, there may be locals coming over to show off their dancing and singing and offer local liquor. This is a local custom and the visitors are expected to give some gifts in form of money etc.
Overnight in Sakteng

Day 8: Sakten-Radhi/Rangjung.
The new farm road to connect Sakteng is approaching fast. At the time this print, it takes around 2hrs of walk, which is mostly downhill to the road head from where our vehicle can meet and drive you to Trashigang. Note that as the road is new and if it is not accessible, you may have to even walk whole day. Otherwise the drive is around 2+hrs on the dirt farm and another 2hrs or so on the regular road to Radhi or Ranjung. We overnight in a Monastery Guest House in Rangjung or a decent Home Stay in Radhi village. We should have time to explore Radhi Village.

Day 9: Mongar – Yongkola  
After breakfast, drive to Mongar town, which takes about 3-4hrs. After lunch, spend sometime visiting Mongar. Then continue drive for another 2hrs to Yongkola, which will help to cover next days’ journey. At the same time, the areas around Yongkola is well known hotspot for birding in Bhutan. Besides birds you may also see Langurs and other wildlife. Overnight in simple family run lodge.

Day 10: Yongkola – Jakar, Bumthang
Begin a spectacular drive to central Bumthang, across Thrumshingla National park, through ever changing vegetation and landscapes, rich in bird and other wildlife. We also pass through many small hamlets and villages along the way and we will stop to visit few of them, arriving in Jakar by afternoon. Overnight in hotel.

Day 11: In Bumthang
Bumthang is justifiably regarded as the cultural heartland of the kingdom with its many temples, holy sites, languages and traditions. We spend the full day in and around Jakar visiting its important monuments and cultural sites and local villages.
Part of the today will be spent attending the festival for Nov trip.

Day 12: Bumthang – Trongsa – Punakha
After breakfast, begin 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 impressive Trongsa Dzong (fortress/monastery). Traverse Pele la pass (through Black mountain national park) and descend into semi-tropical Punakha-Wangdue valley. Overnight in hotel.

Day 13: In Punakha & Wangdue Valley
Punakha and Wangdue Phodrang are two separate towns located half hour away. The sultry, fertile and beautiful valley sits along the Punatsangchu river with terraced fields slopping the hillsides.
Visit the beautiful Punakha Dzong, a former winter capital of Bhutan, located at the confluence of two rivers. Drive short distance north through idyllic countryside and walk upto Khamsum Yuelley Chorten. Visit Chimi Lhakhang temple, local villages and towns.

Day 14: Punakha-Thimphu
Drive uphill for about 2hrs to Dochula pass(3050m). On a clear day, you can get the spectacular panorama of snowcapped peaks straddling along Bhutan and Tibet. Thimphu is only a half hour drive from Dochula pass and we spend the rest of the afternoon visiting Thimphu’s many monuments and attractions including traditional art school, Zilukha nunnery, Takin (national animal) sanctuary and Tashicho Dzong.
Overnight in Hotel Druk or similar

Day 15:  Thimphu – Paro
Spend the morning in Thimphu covering some of the sights that you may have missed yesterday, including the visit to Giant Buddha, and memorial Chorten.
Before noon, drive to Paro, which takes about an hour. Paro Valley is one of Bhutan’s most beautiful and most fertile valley. Numerous shrines, fortresses and farm houses dot the landscape and graceful willow trees grow along the edge of Pachhu river, which passes through paddy fields and farmlands. Visit National Museum, Rinphung Dzong and the 7th century Kichu temple complex. Overnight in hotel.

Day 16: Paro (Takstang monastery)
No journey to Bhutan is complete without a visit to Takstang monastery. Drive short distance from the hotel to the trail-head and climb for about 2-3hrs to legendary Takstang (Tiger’s nest) monastery. Option to hire riding horse for part of the way is available !   Return to Paro for any remaining tour or stroll around the town area. Farewell dinner.

Day 17: Departure
Departure transfer to the airport in time for your flight.

  • Group Size8 Pax maximum

  • MealsFull board

  • Trip Accommodation5 nights camping/village home stay combination, and rest in comfortable lodges.

  • Trip Type Trekking

  • Trip SeasonsSpring and Autumn are the best months to do this Trek, also some festival align during this period.

  • Best MonthsApril, October, November

  • Good MonthsMarch, May, September

  • Lean MonthsJanuary, February, June, July, August

  • Not RecommendDecember

Prices & Dates

Cost Information coming soon !!

Included

  • Bhutan Royalties, tourists fees, Visa fees and taxes.
  • Accommodations in listed or similar hotels (pleasant hotels 3-4 star type)
  • All meals, including evening tea/coffee etc through-out the tour in Bhutan.
  • All land transfers, sightseeing with entrance fees.
  • Experienced English Speaking Bhutanese Tour Guide.
  • Bottled water in the vehicle and other comp. services.
  • Full-service camping

Not included

  • Flights into and out of Bhutan
  • Optional Travel/Medical Insurance
  • Personal expenses such as bars, beverages in the hotel, telephone, laundry, trips, and other

Accommodations

For trek portion complete ranges of gears and accessories. They are fairly updated as we maintain upgrade regularly.


Hotels in Thimphu

Hotels in Paro

Hotels in Punakha

Hotels in Phobjikha

Hotels in Trongsa

Hotels in Jakar

Hotels in Mongar

Hotels in Trashigang

Hotels in Samdrup Jongkhar

Trip Guide/Leader


  • Sonam Loday

    Sonam Loday

  • Kezang Norbu

    Kezang Norbu

  • Yeshi Dorji

    Yeshi Dorji

  • Penjor Lhendup

    Penjor Lhendup

Reviews / Testimonials

  • Jeff L
    Tahoe City, California
    May 09-26, 2015
    I understand that Bhutan is changing and that the roads are good for the local economy. ( I understand that Bhutan is changing and that the roads are good for the local economy.)
    4 " " Hi Anand, - I think the trip went well.  I did get sick at one of the hotels from food being incorrectly described.  Pema said he told the hotels in advance of my Celiac condition, and I asked the woman serving the food if there was any wheat in a vegetable

    I understand that Bhutan is changing and that the roads are good for the local economy. Hi Anand, - I think the trip went well.  I did get sick at one of the hotels from food being

  • Geraldine & Ronald L
    Spiritwood, Saskatchewan, Canada
    March 26 - April 13, 2015
    Bhutan is an amazing country, whose people, beliefs, kindness and true caring is hard to find when travelling nowadays. ( Bhutan is an amazing country, whose people, beliefs, kindness and true caring is hard to find when travelling nowadays.)
    5 " " Bhutan is an amazing country, a country whose people, beliefs, kindness and true caring is hard to find when's travelling nowadays. It is a country that is a perfect holiday for anyone with the right tour company to make the arrangements, we travelled with Wind Horse Tours, they are amazing!!!,

    Bhutan is an amazing country, whose people, beliefs, kindness and true caring is hard to find when travelling nowadays. Bhutan is an amazing country, a country whose people, beliefs, kindness and true caring is hard to find when's travelling

  • Claire W
    Denmans, Elstead, UK
    Oct 21- Nov 7, 2014
    The communities of Merak and Sakten were so special – I will never forget my time there. ( The communities of Merak and Sakten were so special – I will never forget my time there.)
    5 " " TID - 772 (Oct 21 - Nov 07, 2014) Guide - Dorji Tshering Dear Anand, Apologies for such a delayed reply. The Merak and Sakten trip was incredible, I daydream about my time in Bhutan all the time now when I should be working! The driver, Chimi, and guide, Dorji, were friendly and welcoming

    The communities of Merak and Sakten were so special – I will never forget my time there. TID - 772 (Oct 21 - Nov 07, 2014) Guide - Dorji Tshering Dear Anand, Apologies for such a delayed reply. The Merak

  • Leo J.M.
    Rue du Valentin, Vaud, Ireland
    Oct 21 - Nov 7, 2015
    The festival in Jakar was certainly a highlight ( The festival in Jakar was certainly a highlight)
    5 " " TID 772 Merak & Sakten Trek (21 Oct to 7 Nov, 2014) Guide Dorji Tshering Hi, Well I enjoyed the trip a lot. The trek was excellent and the staff were fantastic. They were always helpful, kind and patience and on top of that they were a lot of fun too! In general

    The festival in Jakar was certainly a highlight TID 772 Merak & Sakten Trek (21 Oct to 7 Nov, 2014) Guide Dorji Tshering Hi, Well I enjoyed the trip a

  • Sherley y
    Philadelphia,United States Of America.
    Oct 8 -25, 2013
    I didn’t realize for many days that the windhorse is one of the symbols on the prayer flags. ( I didn’t realize for many days that the windhorse is one of the symbols on the prayer flags.)
    5 " " Merak Sakten trek TID 694 (8th to 25th Oct 2013) STAFF:Excellent, good natured, attentive to needs of us, remembered individual likes and dislikes, very professional. (See below re Kili)A treat to have Ugen with us!!!!!!He was very tactful about our dislike of the tradition of the Brokpa people coming to our

    I didn’t realize for many days that the windhorse is one of the symbols on the prayer flags. Merak Sakten trek TID 694 (8th to 25th Oct 2013) STAFF:Excellent, good natured, attentive to needs of us, remembered individual likes