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How difficult is the Jomolhari Trek?

Jomolhari trek

The Jomolhari Trek offers you an excellent opportunity to challenge yourself and walk up to the base camp of a 7000-meter peak. It takes you close to Mount Jomolhari or Chomolhari, one of the most beautiful mountains in the Himalayas. The Jomolhari is known as the 'bride of Kanchenjunga’ (the third highest mountain in the world). The difficulty level of the Jomolhari Trek is similar to Nepal's Everest Base Camp Trek, ie, moderately challenging.  If you are used to high-altitude trekking and can tackle some steep ascents and descents this trek won't pose any problems for you.

Jomolhari Trek Route

Jomolhari Trek Route

The Jomolhari trail takes you inside the ecologically rich Jigme Dorji National Park, a treasure trove of rare Himalayan flora and fauna. The trek begins from Paro and goes up to the Jangothang Camp, the base Camp of Mount Jomolhari.

In the subsequent days, the route gets close to the Bhutan-Tibet border and veers towards the northwest direction. The trail goes up and down via mountain passes, deep valleys and glaciers. The highest pass on the route is the Yeli La Pass standing at an elevation of 4930 meters.

The overnight stop at the village of Lingzi, one of the highest villages in Bhutan, will give you a peek into the unique culture and tough lives of the inhabitants. The village is home to the ancient Lingzhi Yugal Dzong, which was once used to defend the country from Tibetan invaders.

The ascents and descents become gentler as one approaches Shodu and Barshong. The trek ends with a short walk from Barshong to Dom Shisa.

How long is the Jomolhari Trek?

Starting from your arrival in Paro the journey takes eleven days. But the actual trekking lasts for only seven days (excluding the rest day at Jangothang Base Camp). This 11-day Jomolahari Trek itinerary is the most popular.

One can also extend this trek and combine it with the Laya Gasa Trek for a far richer experience. As per this itinerary, you head towards Chebisa instead of Shodu from Lingzi. You walk through the valley of Shakshepasa and traverse several mountain passes above 5000 meters before ending your trek in Gasa, a village popular for its hot springs.

For those who don't want to trek the whole way through, one can choose to trek to Jangothang Camp and return via the same route. This short Jomolhari Trek itinerary only involves four or five days of trekking.

Physical Fitness Required for the Jomolhari Trek

The Jomolhari Trek is a high-altitude trek and includes several crossings of mountain passes. There are a lot of steep ascents and descents along the route which makes this trek challenging for novice trekkers. For this reason, this trek is not recommended for newbies or beginners and kids.

You are good to go if –

  • You are a seasoned trekker and have some have high altitude trekking experience
  • You have high endurance level and are physically as well as mentally fit. This trek is as much a mental challenge as it is physically grueling
  • You have no cardiac, respiratory, or lower limbs-related ailments
  • You love the mountains and can withstand any discomfort or lack of creature comforts to reach your goal.

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How to train for the Jomolhari Trek?

Although you have the required experience in trekking, you need to keep your body in good shape before embarking on any high-altitude trek. You can start training intensively at least nine weeks prior to your trek. Include brisk walking, jogging, cycling, and other intense cardio workouts in your daily regimen.

You can hike to the hills (if there are hills or mountains close to where you are staying) carrying a backpack. Squats are great for your legs and you can include squatting exercises to make your knees and legs flexible for those arduous ascents and descents you will encounter on the trail.

On average you will have to walk six to seven hours and cover a distance of at least nineteen kilometers each day during the trek. You can build up your stamina by trying to cover the daily walking distance on foot. You can record your progress on a tracking device for accuracy. 

Additionally, have a balanced diet and include healthy food in your daily diet. Muscles play a great role in any active physical activity so you can try to increase your muscle mass by including proteins in your diet.

Why should you choose the Jomolhari Trek?

Jomolhari Trek

The Jomolhari Trek lets you connect with nature in the best way possible. Taking this adventure will let you experience Bhutan's incredible forest landscape which is untouched and unexploited by humans. The trek takes you close to one of Bhutan's highest peaks – Mount Jomolhari or Chomohari which has remained unclimbed. The Bhutanese consider the mountains as guardian deities therefore no climbing activities are permitted on the nation's mountains, including Jomolhari.

Apart from the close-up views of Jomolhari, you can enjoy stunning views of snow-capped Jichu Drake, Tserim Kang, and Gangchhenta from the trail. Additionally, you get glacier views and walk by mesmerizing mountain lakes and roaring Himalayan rivers. Most of the trail goes through the Jigme Dorji National Park, which is home to some of Bhutan's rare Himalayan wildlife and vegetation.

As the trail touches the Bhutan-Tibet border one will come across ancient dzongs or traditional forts built by Bhutanese warriors in the olden days to ward off attacks by the Tibetan army. You will also get an insight into the Bhutanese lifestyle and culture in the high-altitude villages.

Trekking in Bhutan also offers a great opportunity if you love the traditional style of camping. You set up camp outdoors and sleep in tents.

Wildlife on the trail

During your trek, you can expect to encounter the majestic Himalayan Griffons, Himalayan Blue sheep, yaks, Red Pandas, Takin, barking deer, etc. If you are lucky you may get a glimpse of the elusive Snow leopard, Royal Bengal Tiger, or the Himalayan Black bear.

The national animal (Takin), the national bird(raven), the national flower(Blue Poppy) and national tree(cedar) of Bhutan are all visible along the trail.

What's a typical day like on the trail?

Jomolhari Trek

You will be accompanied by an entourage of trekking guide, assistant guides, cook, kitchen helpers, and horse and yak handlers. The heavy equipment and supplies will be carried by horses and yaks. As there are no hotels or lodges en route everything (from food supplies to tents) will have to be carried to the campsites.

Your day will start with a bed tea delivered to your tent by the kitchen helper. Hot water will be provided in a basin for you to wash up. Later you can have your breakfast at the dining tent. Afterward, you pack your daypack and start your trek. You follow your guide, while the rest of the crew will dismantle the camp and catch up with the rest of the team later in the day.

Around noon you will stop by a grassy meadow for a picnic lunch. The kitchen crew will serve the pre-packed meal to the team. After eating and resting for a while you will continue your trek till you reach your destination. The camp would already have been set up by the time you reach the campsite. The kitchen crew will serve you tea and snacks while you rest outside taking in the views. If there's still daylight you can explore the surrounding area.

Dinner will be served after sunset. If the weather is clear you can sit outside and enjoy a bonfire with the local crew before heading to your tent for a good night's sleep.

Food on the trail may include rice, porridge, Indian flat bread (chappati), yak cheese, dried meat, vegetables, bread, muesli, soup, tea or coffee, juice, seasonal fruits, etc.

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Are there any special permits required for the Jomolhari Trek?

Once you book your trek with a trusted Bhutanese trekking agency, the agency will arrange all the permits required for the trek.

It is illegal to travel independently in Bhutan. Therefore it's mandatory that you book your trek through an agency recognized by the Bhutanese Government. A trek package will include all the costs (permits, accommodation, food, guide fees, transportation, etc.) required for your trek in Bhutan.

Ideal seasons for the Jomolhari Trek

The best seasons for the Jomolhari trek are spring and autumn. The spring months of April, May, and June are warm and pleasant, while the fall months of September, October, and November will offer clear skies and sparkling views of snow-covered peaks.

But irrespective of the season, be prepared to experience inclement weather when you trek. Pack waterproof gear and have a good pair of hiking boots that is waterproof and provides good traction. You can expect mud and ice on some stretches of the trail.

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Tiger's Nest Monastery

Most travel agencies include side trips to Paro and Thimphu together with the Jomolhari Trek. Before the start of the trek, you can enjoy an acclimatization hike to Taktsang Monastery or Tiger's Nest. Perched on the side of a rocky cliff, this ancient monastery is a popular spot for day hiking as well as a sacred pilgrimage site. To reach the monastery you will have to take a steep ascent through a forested hill. You can enjoy panoramic views of Paro valley and the Bhutanese mountains from the top. Visits to famous cultural sites also add local flavor to your Bhutan trekking adventure.

Final Note

The Jomolhari Trek is the best trek in Bhutan for you if you are looking for a moderately challenging trek in Bhutan. For a seasoned trekker, this trek can be as effortless as a walk in the park. During the trek, you can experience nature in the raw. Untouched and unspoiled by human hands, the raw beauty of Bhutan's natural landscape is heavenly and worth experiencing. One can enjoy a total disconnect from the modern world and revive and rejuvenate one's spirit. This trek is perfect for you if you love mountains, nature, and exploring wild terrain on foot.

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