Trek the Himalayas of Bhutan on the Jomolhari Circuit


Global Adventure - Trek the Himalayas of Bhutan on the Jomolhari Circuit

Experience the unique Tibetan Buddhist culture and history of Bhutan’s capitol city and its remote mountain villages, hike to the spectacular Tiger’s Nest Monastery clinging to its cliffside perch. Walk the challenging 7-day Jomolhari Circuit trek along the Tibetan border in Bhutan’s far northwest through beautiful valleys and over desolate high passes (highest 15,810’) under the towering Himalaya, with centuries-old Dzongs (fortresses) keeping lonely vigil, to the basecamp at the foot of sacred 24,035′ Jomolhari. Experience the impressive diversity of Bhutan's landscapes, flora and fauna, and traverse prime snow leopard and blue sheep habitat. Travel with knowledgeable local guides, stay in 3* hotels in town, carry only a daypack on the trek with supported camping every night. This trek is designed to link with the Sikkim Goecha La trek. NOTE: Fee shown is the final payment, due by Sept 18, 2018. (Please see ‘Trip Price Detail’ below to view full pricing details.)

  • Sun, Oct 21, 2018 — Wed, Oct 31, 2018
  • Global Adventures Committee
  • Backpacking, Global Adventures
  • Adults
  • Strenuous/Very Strenuous
  • Challenging
  • Mileage: 74.0 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 10,385 ft
  • High Point Elevation: 15,810 ft
  • Pace: Moderate

Arrive no later than Sunday October 21, 2018 in Paro Bhutan (limited connections - outfitter will arrange in- and out-going flights for us).  Explore two days around Paro (including a day-hike to the famed Tiger’s Nest Monastery) before transferring to the start of the trek.  Finish the trek at Thimphu, Bhutan’s capitol city, explore Thimphu for a day, and transfer to Paro on November 1 for flights home, or on to Bagdogra, India for the Sikkim Goecha La trek

NOTE:  Flight availability from Paro has not yet been announced for November 2018, so dates can't be finalized until flight schedules are confirmed.

Itinerary Highlights:  

We’ll fly into Paro, Bhutan and spend two days exploring and acclimatizing there including a long dayhike to Paro Taktsang, otherwise known as the Tiger’s Nest Monastery, clinging precariously to a cliff at 10,240’ altitude amid lush forest. 

Then we’ll transfer in a private vehicle about 2 hours to the small village of Shana to start our Jomolhari Circuit trek.  For 7 days (including one rest day) we’ll climb along deeply forested river valleys to high meadows to desolate ridges with the 7000m peaks of the Himalaya looming above, including sacred Jomolhari (24,035′) and the perfect pyramid of Jochu Drake (21,857′).  Midway we’ll reach Jomolhari Basecamp at Jangothang, one of the most spectacular camping places in the entire Himalaya under a chain of immense snowy peaks across the Paro River. Here we’ll take a free day to rest and explore this remote valley and surroundings, including options to hike toward the glaciers of Jomolhari, walk to the Tshophu Lake for magnificent views or fishing, or to explore nomad houses and meet the local yak herding people. 

After our rest day at Jangothang, we’ll continue our trek for 4 more days, over two high passes with steady panoramic views of the Himalayan peaks, before descending gradually to the trek’s end where we’ll meet our private transport for the ride to Bhutan’s capitol city of Thimphu.   We’ll spend a free day exploring historic fortresses, monasteries and religious sites in this lovely sprawling city (the third highest city in the world), before driving back to Paro for flights onward.

For a more detailed itinerary with photos, click here.  For daily distances and elevation gains/losses, click here.

NOTE:  As with any extended travel, but particularly in an area with unpredictable weather, our itinerary can change without notice and sections may be modified or dropped.  The priority will always be on safety for all participants. 

Time of Year:   We’ll be visiting during late October, when the summer monsoons have (usually) passed but winter snowfall has not yet started, meaning the best chance of clear skies for at least part of the day.  (Bhutan and Sikkim are in the eastern Himalaya which tend to be wetter than Nepal and the western Himalaya, so afternoon clouds and showers can happen even in October.)

Lodging:   Comfortable 3-star hotels in town, and 6 nights of supported camping (tents, sleeping gear and food will be carried for us, and camps and meals prepared for us by support staff).

Food:  All meals will be provided.   We will sample some of the tasty local dishes and drinks at restaurants in town. Food in the Himalaya, particularly that carried on supported treks, is usually quite simple but filling, heavy to potatoes, eggs, rice and lentils with some meat.  Vegetarian diets are easily accommodated but not many other specialized requirements.

Leader’s Experience:   Primary leader Cheryl Talbert ( has led many Mountaineers hikes and Mountaineers and private backpacks, treks and cultural trips around the U.S. west and worldwide, including co-leading the Everest Basecamp/Three Passes Loop in Nepal in 2012, and high altitude treks in Peru in 2014 and 2015 .  She is an instructor for Wilderness Navigation and certified in Wilderness First Aid.   Co-leader Sharon Carlson has backpacked and climbed for 30+ years, has been a Mountaineers climb leader for 5+ years, and has trekked and climbed all over the U.S. and around the world including high altitude treks and climbs in the Andes and the Himalayas.  She is Chair of the Tacoma Branch Wilderness First Aid Committee and is an EMT, retired Firefighter and military flight nurse.

Strenuousness or Difficulty rating:  The Jomolhari Circuit trek is rated strenuous, because of the high altitude (2 passes over 15,000’ and 6 successive nights of camping between 10 and 13,500’), potentially severe weather, rugged terrain, 9-to-14-mile trekking days, and daily elevation gain up to 2855 feet.

Participant Requirements:   Must be a current Mountaineers member with an up-to-date waiver on file. This outing includes long strenuous days of hiking on rugged terrain including some steep moraine and scree slopes that can be wet and slippery, for multiple successive days without such amenities as showers or laundry.  The weather at these altitudes can change quickly from mild to very cold with rain or occasional light snow.  For these reasons, participants need to be in excellent aerobic condition with good balance and confidence traveling on rough trail, and with the experience and willingness to pack appropriately and to deal with some discomfort, cold and inclement weather for extended periods.  Recent experience with multi-day strenuous backpacking, scrambling or hiking, plus a positive attitude and a demonstrated ability to get along well with groups under demanding conditions and under the stress of an unfamiliar culture, will be very important.  Past good experience at altitude will be a plus.

NOTES RELATED TO ALTITUDE AND REMOTENESS:    The elevations reached for multiple days on this trek create an elevated risk of altitude illness including the potential for fatal pulmonary or cerebral edema. In addition, for multiple days on this trek the group will be more than 2 days from the nearest road with good medical facilities additional hours by car beyond that (helicopters are available but only for the most extreme emergencies). 

For these reasons participants will be expected to attend a seminar on altitude illness symptoms and prevention, and another discussion-style seminar on leadership and decision making in high-hazard outdoor situations.  In addition, participants will be expected to actively participate in advance planning of gear, trip logistics and navigation, to demonstrate good fitness and confidence on rough terrain, and under certain circumstances may be asked to get their doctor’s approval before being approved for the trip.  Participants will be expected to cooperate closely together as an expedition team and make decisions including daily route, start and end times and pace based on the safety and well being of the entire group.

Participants will be required to carry international medical insurance and emergency evacuation insurance sufficient to get them back to medical help in the United States if needed.   For guidance on how to choose the right travel insurance policy for your needs, click here.

Trip Price Detail:   Total price $3500 including all lodging, transport, excursions, guides, support staff and most meals, plus some leaders' expenses and a Mountaineers administration fee.  Your international and domestic airfare, travel insurance and tips for our guides are not included.   

Registration Instructions:    Please complete and submit the online application form .   Priority will not be based on date of application alone but rather to applicants with more group trekking and higher altitude experience and to those who want to sign up for both the Sikkim and Bhutan adventures.    For this reason there could be a delay of a few weeks after you apply before you find out if you are approved.

As soon as possible upon acceptance on the roster, participants are expected to complete and submit the Global Adventures Liability Release and a detailed Trip Agreement.

application          trip agreement          release

After the leaders' approval, click on 'register' from this trip listing and pay the 50% deposit online in order to hold your space on the roster. Registration will close on May 1, 2018 or whenever the roster fills. A place on the roster can only be secured with payment of the deposit.   The date when the balance of the trip payment is owed will be announced later.  

Cancellation Policy:  If you cancel because of an emergency, you may receive a refund less expenses incurred and a $100 administrative fee.


Trek the Himalayas of Bhutan on the Jomolhari Circuit

Required Equipment

Required Equipment

After receiving your deposit, the leader will send out a series of letters or emails providing information to help participants succeed on the trip, including recommended and required gear, recommended maps and guidebooks.

Participants will be required to attend a seminar on altitude illness symptoms and prevention, and another discussion-style seminar on leadership and decision making in high-hazard outdoor situations.  Dates of these seminars will be planned based on the schedules of participants.


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