Jewel of the East – Merak-Sakteng Trek
Duration: 7 days
Difficulty rating: Moderate
Maximum elevation: 3480m
Season: Mid March – May, September – October
- New trek recently opened.
- Beautiful landscapes, lakes and peaks of north eastern Bhutan
- Takes you to nomadic villages of Merak and Sakteng, bordering Tibet and Arunachal Pradesh, India,
- Interact with nomads and learn their way of life.
- In your travel from western Bhutan to the east, see Bhutan’s diverse ethnic groups, flora, fauna, art and architecture.
Day 1: Trashigang-Chaling-Donmang Chu
19KM / 6-7 HOURS / 2000M ASCENT 230M DESCENT
On the first day, you will take a scenic drive through Rangjung town and Radhi village from Trashigang for about ninety minutes to Chaling. Your trekking crew and pack animals will join you at Chaling.
At the onset, the trek is a gradual climb towards Shaktimi meadow. Along the trail, you will see huts of yak herders dotted along the hill side and yaks and sheep grazing. As you ascent further, you will reach Mendula Pass, at an elevation of 3354m. After you cross this pass, the trek for the rest of the day is a gradual descend through forest filled with rhododendron trees till Donmong Chu, your camp for the night at 3124m.
Day 2: Donmong Chu-Merak
14KM / 4-5 HOURS / 396M ASCENT
Your destination is Merak, and the trail follows the river. Apart from the final leg of the trek, it is a fairly easy hike along flat landmass. Right after you ascnd, you will reach Gangu village. In another 45 minutes you reach Merak, located at an altitude of 3520m. From your campsite located before the village, you can have a spectacular view of the nearby mountains and village. You have sufficient time to visit the village and interact with the people.
Day 3: Merak-Miksateng
16KM / 5-6 HOURS / 633M ASCENT 1074M DESCENT
In what is the toughest day of the trek, you will need to ascend until you cross the Nachungla pass, the highest of the trek at 4153m. The trek begins with a gradual uphill climb as you move from Merak, until the first pass at 3900m. A spectacular view of the entire Merak valley can be sen from here. It is also the pass from where you see Merak for the last time. Having crossed the pass, you will be trekking through outgrowths of juniper and rhododendron forests, finally reaching Nachungla pass. You will then descend to Miksateng at 3079m, your camp for the night.
Day 4: Miksateng-Sakteng
14KM / 4-5 HOURS / 80M ASCENT 310M DESCENT
The trek starts with a gradual descend till a river. You cross the river and follow its banks for a few hours, before gradually climbing to a hill adorned by a small Chorten (Stupa) overlooking Sakteng valley. From this ridge, you will be descending and camp on the outskirts of Sakteng village, at an elevation of 2950m. You may spot red pandas along the trek, if you are lucky.
Day 5: Discovering Sakteng
It is a priceless day for you as you avail the opportunity to visit Sakteng village, interact with the people and get to know the lifestyle and unique culture of this ethnic group. The people are a friendly lot and would willingly pose for photographs.
Day 6: Sakten-Joenkhar Teng
17KM / 6-7 HOURS / 75M ASCENT 130M DESCENT
It is a slightly longer journey today and thus, you will be leaving the camp early. You climb up to a small hill at the western end of the village and then descend to the river, after which you will be walking alongside the river through forests filled with broad leaf trees. We will arrive at our camp for the night at Joenkhar Teng village (1733m), situated on a hillside. The village comprises of people belonging to the Brokpa tribe as well as people of eastern Bhutan (Sharchopas). It also has a community school and an outreach clinic.
Day 7: Joenkhar Teng-Phongmey-Trashigang
12KM / 5-6 HOURS / 350M ASCENT 950M DESCENT
The last day of the trek begins with a short climb through Joenkhar Teng. You will need to cross few suspension bridges and take short up-hill walks, until you reach Phongmay. Your vehicle will be waiting there and you will be driven to Trashigang. On the way, you will visit the Rangjung Monastery, founded by His Eminence Garab Rinpoche.
After reaching Trashigang, you can take a stroll along the town. The night halt will be at a hotel in Trashigang.