Bhutan, situated in the eastern Himalayas, is a country lost in time. Like Nepal, the climate is dominated by the Indian monsoon and the best time to trek is from September to November and late march to May.
Because of its isolation, much of Bhutan’s traditional and cultural lifestyle remains. The government puts Happiness ahead of Capitalism and environmental policies are part of the nation’s constitution. Over 60% of Bhutan must be forested by law.
Tourism only began in Bhutan in 1974 and the government still regulates the industry heavily, allowing only 40,000 visitors into the country each year. In stark contrast to this, the neighbouring nation of Nepal has well over a million tourists crossing her borders each year.
The advantage of this is that Bhutan offers a truly unique trekking experience. Trails are not crowded, tea-houses don’t dominate the treks and hikers are transported back in time to an age of untouched beauty.
Below we have provided what we believe are the top 5 best treks in Bhutan, three of which we offer at Kandoo (see here).
Druk Path Trek
This is one of the best introductory treks to Bhutan and takes only 6 days. The Druk Path trek begins near Paro and takes its trekkers over a small mountain range into the neighbouring valley where the capital city awaits. Hikers ascend over 2000 metres and reach a high point of 4200 metres (13776 ft). The trail winds up through the mountains where alpine forests and dwarf Rhododendrons dominate the landscape. In spring the rhododendrons come alive in colours! The trail also passes several alpine lakes that are famous for their enormous trout. At the highest point of your trek - Phume La Pass - you are rewarded with stunning views of Mount Gangkar Puensum 7570m (24,836 feet). Gangkar Puensum is considered to be the world’s highest unclimbed mountain. Many professional teams have attempted to climb the mountain but none were successful. In 1994 the Bhutan Government banned any climbing attempts on mountains over 6000 metres and the summit of Gangkar Puensum therefore remains untouched. After crossing Phume La Pass you begin your descent down into Thimphu Valley through lovely juniper forests before trekking on to Thimphu.
This is without doubt one of the most famous and difficult treks in Bhutan, if not the world! The Snowman trek takes roughly 25 days and hikers essentially traverse the mountainous border region between Tibet and Bhutan. The trek begins in Paro and ends in Lunana in northern region of Bhutan. The trail crosses over 11 passes, four of which stand over 5,000 metres, the tallest being Rinchenzoe La at 5332m. This is truly one of the most remote, beautiful and authentic treks in the world. The Snowman trek is ideal for experienced hikers who want a real challenge! You will have to do the trek in summer as snow covers many of the passes during non-peak period.
The Chomolhari trek is one of the most popular routes in Bhutan and gets trekkers off the beaten path at high altitude. Mount Jomolhari sits on the border between Tibet and Bhutan and is often referred to as the “Bride of Kangchenjunga”. The mountain is famous for its vertical relief that rises sharply for 2700 metres from the highlands below. The trek allows hikers to get up close and personal with the mountain and spend the night camping at base camp. The trail is one of stunning mountain views and hikers cross over both Nyele La pass, 4850m (16000 feet) and Yale Pass, 4950m (16,240 feet).
Dagala Thousand Lakes Trek
The Dagala Thousand Lakes Trek is a challenging week long trek that takes hikers up into the mountains to witness some of the fabulous alpine lakes. Here hikers can fish for the famously large trout and enjoy some lake based activities. During the trek you will get some wonderful views of both Kangchenjunga and Mount Everest in the distance! The trek passes over a number of 4,000 metre passes and there are several difficult ascents and descents of intervening ridges. The trek has a lovely cultural feel to it and you will pass many traditional villages and camps of yak herders on your path through the mountains.
Bumthang Owl Trek
This is the perfect trek for hikers who are short on time but still want to experience an authentic Bhutan trek. The trek takes only 3 days and you get some amazing mountain views during this short period. The trek begins in traditional village of Dhur and the trail heads up into the mountains to cross Drangela Pass 3600m (11,800 feet), the highest point along the trek. From Drangela Pass you receive stunning views of Gangkar Puensum 7570m (24,836 feet). You trek through lovely forests of bamboo and blooming rhododendrons as you descend down back down into the valley. You will also get the chance to visit several monasteries on your descent!