Duration of Trek: 6 Nights / 7 Days.
Highest Camp: 3500 m
Standard: Medium – Hard
Best Season: April, May, September and October
Start: Above Radhi (Trashigang)
Finish: Phongmey (Trashigang)
Merak-Sakteng stands out as a distinct attraction in Bhutan. Unlike anywhere else in the country, it offers a visitor to experience a unique semi-nomadic lifestyle, culture and vernacular in one of the most scenic pastoral valleys in the protected area of Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary (SWS) in Trashigang Dzongkhag (District), in Eastern Bhutan.
It is a moderate trek (between 1,500m and 4,100m) traversing through the semi-nomadic villages of Gengu (3400m), Merak (3500m), Sakteng (2800m), Thakthi (2200m), and Joenkhar (1700m). Tour operators are not mandated to use a particular trail but the most common trail usually begins from Chaling and ends in Phongmey. Both these Geogs of Merak and Sakteng is an important watershed for Ngere Ama chu and Gamri chu rivers respectively.
The campsites have been designed aesthetically to blend with local architecture and ambiance. Enclosed by a stonewall (with a gate to bring in the ponies to unpack trekking paraphernalia), the campsite is equipped with facilities such as tenting sheds, toilets, kitchens (in some), dining area and water supply. A signage describing the location, altitude, forest type, fauna, additional hiking trails in the locality, distance and time to next camp welcomes a visitor to each campsite.
Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary
The trek lies within the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary (SWS). It was created in April 2003 with a strong agenda for conservation and to protect the unique assemblage of biological and cultural diversity in the region. It covers an area of 650 km2 and is bordered by the Indian State of Arunachal Pradesh (Tawang) in the north and east, Phongmey Geog and Kangpara Geog in the west, and Shingkhar Lauri Geog in Samdrup Jongkhar. It is connected to Khaling Wildlife Sanctuary by a biological corridor, a part of the Bhutan Biological Conservation Complex (B2C2).
19KM | 7-8 HOURS | 2217M ASCENT | 230M DESCENT | CAMP ALT 3124M
From Trashigang, you will take scenic drive for one and half hours to Chaling passing through Rangjung town and Radhi village. Your trekking crew and pack animals will be waiting here for you. Trek starts with gradual climb towards Shaktimi meadow. You will see yaks and sheep grazing with yak herders’ huts dotted on the hills side. Climb further to reach Mendula Pass at 3354m. From this pass, you will descend through rhododendron forests to Donmong Chu camp at 3124m.
14KM | 5 HOURS | 396M ASCENT | CAMP ALT 3520M
The trail from Domong Chu to Merak mostly follows the river bends. The final stretch has gentle ascend before you reach Gangu village. After another 45 minutes walk from this village, you will arrive at Merak located at an altitude of 3520m. The campsite located before the village has spectacular views of nearby mountains and village. Visit the local village to experience the life of this people.
16KM | 5 HOURS | 633M ASCENT | 1073M DESCENT | CAMP ALT 3080M
Today is the toughest journey of the trek crossing the highest Nachungla pass at 4153m. From the campsite climb gradually to the first pass at 3900m from where you can have last glimpse of Merak valley. Continue the trek along the tree line of juniper and rhododendron forests and conquer the Nachungla pass. Then you will descend to your camp Miksateng at 3080m surrounded by rhododendrons.
14KM | 5 HOURS | 81M ASCENT | 310M DESCENT | CAMP ALT 2950M
Descend to the river, crossing it and then following the river bank for few hours, you will climb gradually to a hill adorned by small Chorten (Stupa) overlooking the Sakten valley. If you are lucky, you can spot red panda among the trees. Descend down from the ridge and camp on the outskirts of the Sakten village at 2950m.
You will visit Sakten village and explore the lifestyle and unique culture of this ethnic group.
17KM | 7 HOURS | 74M ASCENT | 1291M DESCENT | CAMP ALT 1800M
Today’s journey will be longer and so we will start early from the camp. Leaving Sakten, start with short climb to the small hill towards the west end of the village. Then descend down to the river and walk alongside it through the broad leaf forests. We camp in a beautiful meadow near the river by Joenkhar Teng village (1800m). Joenkhar Teng is situated on the hillside and its population comprises of Brokpa and Sharchopa with a community school and outreach clinic.
12KM | 5-6 HOURS | 346M ASCENT | 942M DESCENT
The trekkers are highly recommended to either stay in Phongmay or Radhi. This is because of many attractions and beautiful villages in these two places. Radhi, popularly known as the ‘Rice Bowl” of the east is also popular for wool textiles called Bura weaving.
A visitor can either choose to stay in Trashigang or make their way to Mongar if they are planning to visit central or western Bhutan or if they are to depart from Paro.
Also if visitors are exiting from Samdrup Jongkhar, they can choose to do so. However, a day in Trashigang is highly recommended as direct drive from Radhi or Phongmay may be possible but it will be very tiring.
Reversing the Entry:
However, if tourists decide to enter from Phongmay and do the Sakteng – Merak loop then the above same arrangement of residents taking over from the originating residents will be applied.
One day in Merak
A day in Merak recommended as a relaxation day. This will give visitors an opportunity to visit attractions of Merak village. There are many interesting local sites that the visitors can explore in Merak and Ganggu (a neighbouring village).
One day in Sakteng
Also a day is recommended to explore Sakteng village. Just like in Merak, Sakteng also has interesting myths surrounding its village. The Sakteng valley is little bigger than that of Merak and it has more adjacent villages then Merak.
Merak – Jomo Kumkhar – Merak
The visit or trek to palace of Aum Jomo is an interesting journey. It will be even more interesting if your trek coincides with their annual ceremony held just in front of Aum Jomo’s palace near a beautiful lake. The trek is for two days and one night. So this trek is recommended after one-day relaxation in Merak as it is an uphill trek.
Private guided tour
Visas for Bhutan
Daily 3 meals (B/L/D) at designated restaurants or hotels
Accommodation at 3 star hotels
A qualified & licensed English-speaking guide
An experienced driver
A tour vehicle
Entry fees & road permits
Government fee, royalty, taxes & surcharges
Mineral bottled water
Set of traditional costume (to be return at the end of your stay)
Full service & assistance before, during and after your Bhutan trip
Flight into Bhutan via Drukair (can be arranged with us)
Flight on other airline to catch Drukair Flight
Meals at 4-5 stars restaurants
Hotel stay outside of Bhutan
Expenditure of personal nature
Tips for the guide and driver