Bhutan – the ‘Land of the Thunder Dragon’ – perched among the peaks of Eastern Himalayas has been described as the last Shangri-La. The tiny kingdom, second least populous nation in South Asia, shrouded in centuries of mystery, is only beginning to open up in recent years to welcome more visitors. Landlocked, it is bordered by the Tibet Autonomous Region to the north and the Indian states of Sikkim, West Bengal, Assam, and Arunachal Pradesh to the west and south. Being a Buddhist kingdom, it is well known for its monasteries and fortresses (known as dzongs) and offers a fascinating insight into Buddhist culture. Coupled with its dramatic Himalayan landscapes range from subtropical plains to steep mountains and valleys, Bhutan feels like a tranquil place, where time has stood still amidst landscapes of astounding and untouched beauty.
One of the best ways to experience Bhutan is to trek through one of its ancient routes or picturesque Himalayan mountain ranges. The first road in Bhutan was built only in the early 70s. Until then, people travelled along trails for over hundreds of years. Till today, some remote parts of Bhutan are still days away from the nearest road.
The black-necked cranes flock to Phobjikha Valley in Bhutan every winter from late October to mid February. They arrive in the valley from the Tibetan Plateau, where they breed in the summer. To protect the cranes, which have become endangered with dwindling numbers due to habitat loss, Bhutan has made Phobjikha Valley a protected area for the cranes.
The annual Black-Necked Crane Festival is celebrated at the courtyard of Gangtey Goenpa in Phobjikha Valley every November. The festival is an occasion for the locals to rejoice and celebrate the arrival of this endangered and majestic bird that has become an inseparable part of their daily lives during the winter months. The festival is also organised to generate awareness and understanding of the importance of conserving the endangered black-necked cranes. The festival includes cultural programmes such as folk songs and dances (some with black-necked crane themes) and mask dances performed by the local people, and environmental conservation-themed dramas and songs by school children.
We combine Haa Valley Sagala Trek with the Black-Necked Crane Festival for a unique way to experience the beautiful nature and rich culture of Bhutan. It also helps to generate greater awareness of the endangered cranes.
Haa Valley with its close proximity to Paro, is fast gaining popularity with tourists. Most tourists visit Haa Valley on a day trip and miss out on the scenic mountain trek.
The Sagala Trek is also called the “Haa Planters’ Trail”. In ancient times, this trail was used by the rice planters of Haa Valley to travel to Paro, on foot, to help the people of Paro plant and harvest rice.
The 3-day beautiful short trek follows part of the undulating mountain trail used by the ancient rice planters between the Haa and Paro Valleys. The average trekking day is between 3-7 hours. The trail starts slightly above Haa Valley (2670m), at Talung village (2740m) and ends at Chele La Pass (3990m). Chele La Pass is the highest road pass in Bhutan. The campsites are above 3000m, with one of them at Nyingung La (3850m). The trek traverses through beautiful meadows, across virgin forests rich in flora and fauna, with picturesque view of the Haa Valley and quaint villages. It crosses ridges and climbs up to a few high points – Sagala Pass (3550m), Kung Karpo Sky Burial (4350m) and Chele La Pass (3990m). These high points offer absolutely stunning panoramic mountain views of Mt Jhomolhari (7314m), Jitchu Drake (6989m), Drugyal Dzong and Taktsang Monastery on one side and Haa Valley on the other.
There are four seasons in Bhutan. The best seasons to visit Bhutan for trekking are spring (mid-March to June) and autumn (mid-September to early December). In winter, the temperature in higher altitudes becomes very low and snowfall starts. July to early September is the monsoon season when gloomy sky and heavy rain form the typical daily weather pattern.
Autumn (mid-September to early December): This is the most popular time for trekking in Bhutan. The sky is often clear blue with barely a wisp of cloud. Though the temperatures can be cold in the higher areas of the mountains, there is little or no snow in most places yet.
Spring (mid-March to June): While the spring season may not yet be ideal for trekking in the higher mountains (above 5000m), it is the perfect time for the lower altitude treks, such as the Druk Path Trek. The spring conditions are pleasant for trekking, with cool temperatures and rhododendrons blooming across the hillsides.
This trek is graded 1B+. It is a multi-day scenic trek with full camping support.
No trekking experience is required. Anyone with a good level of fitness can complete this trek. The trek will bring you to 2 high passes – Sagala Pass (3550m) and Chele La Pass (3990m) – and a high mountain ridge at 4100m. The highest ascend is to Kung Karpo Sky Burial (4350m). You will be trekking for 3 days with a 5-6kg backpack load in undulating mountain terrain and sleeping for 2 nights at above 3000m. The shortest day on Day 1 is around 4-5 hours and the longest day on Day 3 is around 7 hours.
You will need thermal base layers, a fleece jacket and an outer shell jacket. When at the campsite and after sundown, a down jacket will help keep you warm. A down sleeping bag is also needed and provided.
A packing list will be provided to all our participants. Please refer to our Resource Centre page for information on the layering system and how to choose the right gear/equipment for your trek.
Overnight: Paro hotel (2200m)
Acclimatisation hike to Taktshang Monastery a.k.a Tiger’s Nest (3120m). Transfer to Haa Valley.
Overnight: Haa Valley homestay (2320m)
Trek the Sagala Trek. Day 5 transfer to Thimphu.
Overnight: Tents at Sagala camp (3150m), Nyingung La camp (3850m) and Thimphu hotel (2330m)
Transfer to Punakha.
Overnight: Punakha hotel (1240m)
Transfer to Gangtey. Black-Necked Crane Festival.
Overnight: Gangtey hotel (2900m)
Transfer to Paro.
Overnight: Paro hotel (2200m)
Overnight: Paro hotel (2200m)
|(with a trek leader)||$4780 (SGD) / person|
1. Trip briefing and information kit
2. Gear list and gear discount from selected Singapore outdoor outfitters
3. Complimentary group training sessions
4. Rope skill workshop (for climbs that require rope up and/or fixed rope skill)
We carefully select and establish strong working relationship with our local trek operator to ensure safe participation by everyone.
Our local climbing guides have extensive experience in guiding treks in all regions in Bhutan, possess intimate knowledge of the local surroundings, conditions and culture. They carry a comprehensive first aid kit for emergency purpose.
Participants for Ace Adventure Expeditions’ organised trips, you will be assisted with your visa application.
With the exception of visitors from India, Bangladesh and Maldives, all visitors travelling to Bhutan need a visa.
Indian, Bangladeshis and Maldivian nationals can obtain a permit at the port of entry on producing a valid passport with a minimum of 6 months validity (Indian nationals may also use their Voters Identity Card (VIC)).
All other tourists must obtain a visa clearance prior the travel to Bhutan. Visas are processed through an online system by our licensed Bhutanese partner directly.
You are required to send the photo-page of your passport to us and we will then apply for your visa. The visa will be processed by the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) once the full payment of your holiday (including a USD40 visa fee) has been wire transferred and received in the TCB bank account. Once received, the visa clearance will be processed within 1 month prior to your travel date.
At your point of entry you will be required to show your visa clearance letter, the visa will then be stamped into your passport.
For latest updates and details of visa application, please visit https://www.mfa.gov.bt/?page_id=220.
The Bhutanese ngultrum (Nu) is pegged to the Indian rupee and not available outside Bhutan.
You can spend Indian Rupees in Bhutan. Bring US dollars, as they are the easiest currency to change. You receive better exchange rates for high value (USD100) notes and also in some of the luxury hotels. Euros and GBP are also accepted throughout. ATMs are located within all main towns throughout Bhutan, where money can be withdrawn using a Visa or MasterCard.
Major hotels, restaurants and handicrafts shops in Bhutan accept credit cards. Otherwise, in smaller shops, and in rural areas, it is best to use cash.
Bhutan’s electricity is 230V and 50HZ. There are mainly 2 types of plugs used in Bhutan. Two narrow round pins (Type F) is the most common, useable with most European plugs; and three-pronged thick round pins (Type D).
The national language is Dzongkha, the native language of the Ngalops of western Bhutan. Dzongkha literally means the language spoken in the Dzongs, massive fortresses that serve as the administrative centres and monasteries. Besides this, Bhutan is linguistically rich with over nineteen dialects spoken, differentiated by the geographical locations of the various ethnic groups.
English is the medium of instruction in schools so it is widely spoken, especially those working in the tourist service industry.
It is not advisable to drink untreated water in Bhutan. Bottled water is provided in the car during the day of your travel. You can also buy bottled water for consumption in your hotel room. On the trek, boiled drinking water is provided at camp.
Tipping is not traditionally a culture in Bhutan. However, with the growth of tourism, tipping in Bhutan has become an expected thing among guides and drivers.
Your meals are included in the tour package, except drinks. You can tip a 10% to the drink bill (if any), or do not have to tip if there is a 10% service charge, along with 10% Bhutan sales tax added to your bill.
The Bhutanese are generally tolerant of Westerners and don’t expect that they will necessarily follow, or understand local customs, so they are not quick to take offence, but it is worth bearing in mind the following:
With evolving world situations that may occur unexpectedly due to natural disasters, pandemics/epidemics, conflicts and unrests, it is best to read up and keep tabs on news and developments at your destination country and region before the trip. Check on the country’s official website and/or your own foreign ministry website for any travel advisory or safety precautions to be taken while abroad.
As with traveling in anywhere in the world, regardless of the local crime rate, stay vigilant and take care of personal safety. Good to read up on any possible exposure in the country prior to departure.
It is a good practice to register with your respective foreign ministry if there is such a service provided to citizens, to contact you in order to make sure that you are safe and, if need be, assist you should an emergency (e.g. natural disasters, civil unrest, etc.) occur when you are overseas.
For Singaporeans, this is the link to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ eRegister:
It is highly recommended to purchase comprehensive travel insurance(s), upon payment of your trip, to cover adverse situations that may occur while you are overseas or even before departure. Ensure that the coverage is suitable for your destination and the activities that you are participating in. Be familiar with the terms and conditions before purchasing and travelling abroad.
There is no compulsory vaccine to be taken to enter Bhutan. You should, however, be up to date on routine vaccinations, especially vaccines against water-borne, food-borne, parasitic and other infectious diseases (examples: hepatitis, typhoid and tuberculosis) while traveling to any destination. You are encouraged to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition.
Recommended routine vaccinations for travellers in general:
Spread through consuming contaminated food and water or person to person through the faecal-oral route. Risk is higher where personal hygiene and sanitation are poor.
Spread through infected blood and blood products, contaminated needles and medical instruments and sexual intercourse. Risk is higher for those at occupational risk, long stays or frequent travel, children (exposed through cuts and scratches) and individuals who may need, or request, surgical procedures abroad.
Spread through the saliva of an infected animal, usually through a bite, scratch or lick on broken skin. Particularly dogs and related species, but also bats. Risk is higher for those going to remote areas (who may not be able to promptly access appropriate treatment in the event of a bite), long stays, those at higher risk of contact with animals and bats, and children. Even when pre-exposure vaccine has been received, urgent medical advice should be sought after any animal or bat bite.
Spread through contamination of cuts, burns and wounds with tetanus spores. Spores are found in soil worldwide. A primary series of 5 doses of tetanus vaccine is recommended for life. Boosters are usually recommended in a country or situation where the correct treatment of an injury may not be readily available.
Spread mainly through consumption of contaminated food and drink. Risk is higher where access to adequate sanitation and safe water is limited.
A vaccine specific for a given year to protect against the highly variable influenza virus.
For more information and professional advice on travel vaccinations, please consult your doctor or travel clinic.
For people residing in Singapore, you may visit The Travellers’ Health and Vaccination Clinic (THVC) at Tan Tock Seng Hospital:
Travellers’ Health & Vaccination Clinic
Address: Level 4, Clinic 4B, Tan Tock Seng Hospital Medical Centre
Contact number: 6357 2222
Website : https://www.ttsh.com.sg/Patients-and-Visitors/Medical-Services/Travellers-Health-and-Vaccination-Clinic/Pages/default.aspx.