Located deep in the eastern Himalayas, trekkers have long sought to explore the area that is known as Bhutan. With a unique history this incredibly isolate destination is famous for its preservation of culture and lifestyle of those who call the area home. The area puts the needs of its people first and foremost which is precisely why the tourism industry actually limits the amount of people who can visit each year to 40,000, whereas its counterpart, Nepal, welcomes upwards of a million every year. The limited amount of people who are permitted to travel to the area is precisely what makes Bhutan so remarkably untouched. Bhutan has long been a region that is quite difficult to visit, which is why the government has gone about setting minimum spending requirements and additionally also requires all planned treks to be arranged through a local agent prior to one arriving.
Careful planning and preparing for a trek in Bhutan is of the utmost importance. The region’s climate is mainly dominated based upon the impact of the Indian Monsoon season which provides visitors with the finest months to trek: March to May and September to October. Each pre-arranged trek will allow you the ability to be accompanied by a staff of which consists of your guide, a camping assistant, a cook, and horses with horsemen. If you are seeking to find the quiet solitude that is surrounded by unmatched the unmatched beauty of the Himalayas, trekking Bhutan and visiting various places here may certainly be something you will want to consider.
Here are some of the best treks in Bhutan that you may want to start planning for:
Trekking in Bhutan. Photo by Andy
The most popular trek in Bhutan is the Jhomolhari Trek. A decently challenging 8-day trek of which crosses over the Bhonte La pass (4,890m or 16000 feet) and the Takhung La pass (4,520m or 14829.4 feet) and draws in visitors for some of the most incredible views of Mt. Jomolhari (7,326m or 24000 feet). Mt. Jomolhari, lies between the border of Bhutan and Tibet, and is commonly referred to as the “Bride of Kangchenjunga” the northern face of the mountain juts out from the areas highlands with a striking vertical relief of (2700m or 9000 feet). If you are considering the Jhomolhari Trek, be sure to try and coincide it with the Jomolhari Mountain Festival, which is an annual event (the times vary each year so plan accordingly) that celebrates the unique local culture of all of the small villages that can be found close to the base of Mt. Jomolhari.
For a little bit shorter of a trek, you may want to consider the Druk Path Trek which is 6 days and is the perfect introduction to trekking in Bhutan. The trek begins by Paro and you will be guided through the mountains over to Thimphu, the next valley over. The Druk Path ascends to almost 2000m with the highest point being 4200m (or 13776 ft). The trek weaves throughout gorgeous alpine forests where you can take in a stunning mixture of dwarf rhododendrons and pine trees and you will also pass over many crystal clear alpine lakes of which are infamous for being home to huge trout. When you head back down from the trek into the Thimphu Valley you will find yourself surrounded by the incredible views of Mt. Gangkar Puensum, which is the tallest peak in Bhutan also is noted to be the highest unclimbed mountain in the world. Though many professional climbers attempted to conquer it, they never made it to the summit and in 1994, the Bhutan government stopped permitting climbers to reach any peak that is higher than 6000m.
The most difficult trek in Bhutan, albeit the most famous, is the Snowman Trek. The Snowman Trek takes about 25 days depending on which point you start at. The trek weaves through the mountains that border Bhutan and Tibet and crosses between 11 different passes with the tallest being Gangla Karchung La (5230m), then Jaze La (5251m), Loju La (5155m) and finally Rinchenzoe La (5332m). The Snowman Trek is incredibly challenging due to the fact that it is incredibly isolated. Meaning very few villages in between and if there is an emergency, a helicopter evacuation is incredibly slim. If you are considering pushing through this trek, the best time to go is during October just before the snows begin to fall and just after the end of monsoon season.
The Duer Hot Springs Trek is a 9 day excursion that actually overlaps parts of the Snowman Trek as well. One of the key highlights is that you will get to spend a rest day at the Duer Hot Springs which is one of the most breathtaking and pristine hot springs in all of Bhutan. The highest point on the trek is Juli La (4,700m) however you will not fall s and descents that follow throughout this trek. The ecosystem is also incredibly vast and diverse so you can be sure to be able to take in all of the incredible wildlife that the area has to offer, including black bears and musk deer. While the vast majority of the treks offered in Bhutan offer different starting and ending points, Duer Hot Springs begins and ends at the same spot.
Trekking in Bhutan. Photo by Andy
The Dagala Thousand Lakes Trek is quite a challenging 6 day venture of which provides you with the unique opportunity to take in the stunning sites of some of the most gorgeous alpine lakes in the Himalayas along with striking views on some of the highest peaks including Kanjenjunga and Everest, in the near distance. Fishing licenses can and must be obtained for a small fee, if you want to try your luck in scoring a trout in any of the lakes. The highest point on the Dagala Thousand Lakes Trek is roughly 4500m however the hardest part of the venture are some of the trying ascents and descents of the ridges which are about 100m (or 3300 feet) in relief. You will also have the opportunity to get a sense of what traditional life is like in the Himalayas as you will have the opportunity to pass through various villages and yak herder camps throughout the trek.
If you are short on time for your trek, you may want to consider taking the Bumthang Owl Trek which is a mere 3 days. Here, you will be able to experiences local culture, unbeatable mountain views and vast forests. The best time to take this trek is between April and May when everything is in full bloom and you can view a ton of wildlife including black bears and countless bird species. The trek begins close to Dhur village, which is a traditional Bhutan village that boasts a large population of nomadic herdsmen. On the second day of the trek you will find yourself at Drangela Pass (3600m or 11,800 feet) and is the highest point of the trek, where you will be able to take in some incredible views of Gangkar Puensum (7570m or 24,836 feet) and is the tallest peak in Bhutan. When you start your way back from the trek you will be able to visit some of the local monasteries including Chuedak monastery of which is the home to more than a hundred stoned carvings of one of the most honoured and respected bodhisattvas, Avalokiteśvara.
There are countless reasons why planning a trek to Bhutan is going to prove to be the experience of a lifetime for you. Just be sure to plan accordingly and take weather and local booking into consideration prior to making any final plans and decisions!
Other articles on Bhutan: