This trek through beautifully unspoiled Haa district, in the far west of the country bordering Sikkim and the southernmost tip of Tibetan China, has as its destination a sacred lake: Nub Tsho Na Pata, literally translated as “the great lake to the west.” The trail follows an old trade route between Haa and Tibet and feels remote even to local Bhutanese.
On the way to the great lake, trekkers encounter high altitude meadows, alpine lakes, mountain passes, herdsmen and their yak, and a rich variety of wildlife — snow leopards, blue sheep, black bears, sloth bears, blood pheasants, and jara (a kind of deer). Along the way too are rare flora like the yellow umbrellas of Chukha Metho and the Himalayan Blue Poppy, national flower of Bhutan.
Trekkers often discover that the altitude — much of the trail is at elevations approaching 4000m — only hits after this first day. The altitude varies minimally after this elevation is reached, though. Starting from Janadingkha Lhakhang on a hill overlooking Haa Valley, the first day's trek is the easiest leg but is still 4 hours uphill through alpine forests to the campsite at 3700m, from where sacred mountain Jomolhari is first seen. Day two crosses two passes before descending to a valley campground near a yak herders' hut.
The 6-hour hike on day three traverses five mountain passes. The last, at 4500m, is the highest, and it's here that the remoteness really starts to hit. You are level with the clouds and all around you are barren mountainscapes. The day ends at turquoise Nub Tsho Na Pata with spectacular vistas of Kangchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world. To the west, you can see the roads of Sikkim. This is the very edge of Bhutan.
Day four cuts a new path around the mountain before recrossing three passes and ending at a campsite next to two lakes at 4200m. The last day is a relatively easy 7-hour hike and the most scenic, with magnificent views of Jomolhari all along the way and another turquoise lake, before the final descent to the lhakhang.
Duration: 5 days
Maximum altitude: 4,500m (14,765ft)
Vertical difference: 2,000m per day
Includes: Guide, meals, camping equipment, and horses/mules