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Bhutan treks Kandoo | Trekking in Bhutan with the High altitude experts
Kandoo Adventures: January 19th 2021

Plan your perfect Bhutan adventure

Kandoo's View

Bhutan is the latest addition to Kandoo’s destinations and our advice is to go as soon as you can. Until very recently Bhutan has been cut off from the world - this has been due partly to geography and partly as a result of government policy. 

As a result, tourism has been controlled so that both the way of life and the environment has been protected, so trekking in Bhutan today is similar to the way it was about 40 years ago in Nepal. If you like pristine mountains all to yourself then this is the place to go.

And now is the time to go - book your adventure now and explore the 'Land of the Thunder Dragon' before the crowds arrive.

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Which are the best trekking routes in Bhutan?

Compared to Nepal, trekking in Bhutan is still very new and there are not many established trekking routes. The following routes are really great as they are still quiet with almost no commercial development.

All routes are trekked with fully supported camping teams. The only people you will meet on the trails will be nomadic shepherds. There are none of the posh lodges or the Illy coffee you can find on the Everest trek. 

We recommend three Bhutan treks. The Druk Path trek, the Chomolhari trek and the Snowman trek.  A brief summary of each route is below. For more detailed advice take a look at our route recommendations here.

Map of popular trekking routes in Bhutan

DRUK PATH TREK | A short trek through the Himalayan foothills from Paro to the capital Thimphu. A highlight of this trek in the Spring months is the huge fields of rhododendron.

CHOMOLHARI TREK Again a relatively short trek. It is a genuine high altitude trekking adventure which takes you deeper into the Bhutanese Himalaya. Starting in Paro, the trek also ends in Thimphu, but follows a more circular northern route. Although not quite reaching into the 8000m class, this section of the Himalaya boasts some real giants, including Mt Chomolhari itself at 7314m and Jichu Drake  at 6794m.

THE SNOWMAN TREK | The Snowman is one of a handful of treks that are famous worldwide among serious trekkers, and it fully deserves its place in that elite group. The Snowman trek is rated by Red Bull as one of the seven hardest hikes in the world. Forming the final leg of the Great Himalayan Trail, the Snowman trek follows the peaks of the Himalaya along almost all of Bhutan's northern border.

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When is the best time to trek?

There are two key things you should think about when planning when to trek in Bhutan. First is the weather, and second is the timing of festivals. These are so spectacular that it is well worthwhile tweaking your trekking dates a little to see one.


Bhutan rainfallBhutan, like Nepal, experiences the tail-end of the Asian Monsoon that moves up through India in late May. This brings high temperatures, very high humidity and crazily heavy rainfall.  

You should therefore write-off the summer months from June to August, as the trails will be very muddy and leech-infested.  

December to January should also be avoided as it generally gets very cold at at high altitude.

This leaves Spring - from February to early June - and Autumn - from September to late November - as the best months for trekking.

Festival time!

Festivals in BhutanBesides trekking, Bhutan is famous for its incredible festivals. Many of these involve massive, elaborate performances. For many people, the main reason they visit Bhutan is to see a festival. If you do have time it is definitely worth seeing if your trekking dates can fit in with seeing a festival. The Tshechu festival in Paro is the most popular springtime festival in Bhutan and this can easily be combined with a trek. See here for availability.  For more detail about festivals in Bhutan click here.

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Why trek in Bhutan with Kandoo Adventures

Safety is our top priority
Safety is our top priority

We have world-class risk assessment and safety procedure

Excellent guides
Excellent guides

Highly qualified and trained guides who have regular refresher training in first aid

Trekkers have more fun with Kandoo!
Trekkers have more fun with Kandoo!

A key attribute that we look for in our guides is the ability to make a trek fun

You book direct for great prices
You book direct for great prices

Because we sell direct with no middle-man we offer exceptional quality and great prices too

Frequently asked questions

Q1How do I get to Bhutan for a trek?

Getting to Bhutan is difficult as there are no direct flights, so you have to go via India or Nepal. This means flying via Kathmandu, Delhi or Kolkata and, unless you are lucky with flight timings, you probably need an overnight stop. None of the Bhutanese airlines are on the online flight search engines, so the flight into Bhutan has to be booked separately from the main international flights. If you need help booking your flights, speak to one of our adventure travel consultants. For more detailed information on flying to Bhutan see here.

Q2How do I get a visa for a Bhutan trek?

The short answer is you don't, we do. Only licensed Bhutanese tour operators can obtain visas, as unguided travel is not allowed in Bhutan. Once you have booked, we will apply for a visa on your behalf. See here for more information.

Q3What kit do I need for trekking in Bhutan?

As with all of the Himalaya, there are big swings in temperature during the day and between seasons. Coping with this is all about layering - our recommendations on clothing and the other kit you will need are here.

Q4What is the hotel accommodation like in Bhutan?

Tourism in Bhutan is heavily regulated by the government. There is no 'Star' system but all hotels need to be approved by the Tourism Council of Bhutan. You can expect reasonably decent lodgings, which are clean and comfortable, in Western Bhutan and in the Southern town of Phuentsholing. Food and services are generally very good. There are a few international luxury hotel chains namely Aman, Taj and COMO, where we can offer upgrades, but these are incredibly expensive.

Q5Can I book additional nights?

We can arrange additional nights in Bhutan for you but they are expensive. The Tourism Council of Bhutan's has a policy of "High Value, Low Impact" tourism. Tourists can only buy a Minimum Daily Package. This can cost from $250-$350 per person per night. This covers standard hotel accommodation, all meals, all internal transport (excluding flights) and the services of a tour guide for each day of your trip.

Q6What is the local currency of Bhutan?

Ngultrum is the local currency of Bhutan. It is pegged to the Indian Rupee, which is frequently used in place of Ngultrum. All major currencies like US Dollars, Sterling Pounds and Euros can be exchanged at Paro Airport, or at Banks and Hotels in major cities. Nepalese currency is not accepted in Bhutan. Credit and debit cards have limited acceptability. There are ATMs in Bhutan but currently they only operate with their respective Bhutanese banks. Traveller’s cheques / cash are the best option for your travel monies.

Q7What is Bhutan's timezone, dialling code and electricity voltage?

Bhutan has only one time zone. It is six hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (+6 GMT), half an hour ahead of India (IST) and one hour behind Thailand. Bhutan is eleven hours ahead of New York City. The country dialling code is 975. Electricity runs on 220 / 240 volts, with circular two‐pin and three‐pin power outlets.

Q8What food options are readily available?

Most Bhutanese meals consists of steamed rice with a varied choice of spicy curries. These can be either meat or vegetarian. Most hotels provide meals in a buffet‐style setup. There are usually Continental, Indian, Chinese and Bhutanese dishes. The food in hotels is often the best in town, but in some of the main towns, other restaurants are becoming popular. All tourist hotels have a good selection of international and Bhutanese drinks.

Q9Are there any health precautions?

Yes, please make sure you have read our 'Important Planning' section on acclimatisation and altitude sickness.  We make sure to build acclimatisation days into your tour.  Elderly travellers, or anyone with high blood pressure / weak heart conditions should consult a doctor before trekking in Bhutan.

Avoid tap water and stick to mineral or filtered drinking water. If you suffer from motion sickness then you might want to take medication, as the roads between cities are winding. You should also pack an adequate supply of any prescribed medications you may require while traveling.

Q10Are there any do's and don'ts in Bhutan?

The Bhutanese  are very conservative and you must respect their traditions. Here are some do's and don'ts

  • In public areas avoid displays of affection (like hugging / kissing)
  • When visiting monasteries, temples and Dzongs do not take pictures inside
  • Please take off your hat when you enter religious sites
  • Sneakers, jeans, sleeveless t-shirts, mini‐skirts and shorts are not allowed
  • Smokers have to declare their cigarettes at the airport and pay 200% tax. You will be given a receipt to smoke. Smoking without a receipt is illegal in Bhutan and smoking is not allowed in public areas. There are designated smoking areas.
  • Always walk in a clockwise direction while visiting religious places or objects like temples, monasteries, Stupas, prayer flags etc.
  • Do not point a finger at a sacred object or place. It is considered being disrespectful.

Q11What travel insurance will I need?

For all our treks you will need a specialist trekking insurance policy that will cover you for emergency evacuation. Policies vary depending on the highest altitude you will reach.  Further information is provided on this here.

How are Bhutan treks operated?

Trekking in Bhutan - how Kandoo treks are operated

There are two big differences about trekking in Bhutan compared to our other destinations. First, is that Bhutanese people do not carry loads. They simply will not work as porters. All luggage and kit are therefore carried by mule, so several mules and a mule man are an important part of every team. Besides him, your crew will only consist of a guide, a cook and a tent boy. 

Second is that, unlike in Nepal, there are no lodges. All trips are fully-supported camping expeditions. And unlike in Tanzania, where our team have to fight to find a spot to put up tents, in Bhutan you will often find you are the only people staying on site.

Your camp will consist of a sleeping tent, a toilet tent, a mess tent and a cook's tent. The tents are all of a high standard, but the camping experience makes trekking in Bhutan very different  to Nepal.

Food on all the treks is excellent, with plenty of freshly cooked food available for all meals. You will be amazed at what a good mountain chef can create on a simple primus stove.

A particular novelty is that lunch is always a cooked meal, but this is prepared in the morning and then carried in special thermally insulated pots.  When the weather is cold something hot is really great.

Leave No Trace in Bhutan

Bhutan rates Gross National Happiness as its most important goal, but the principle of Leave No Trace is not well established. All the main trekking routes are badly strewn with litter. Kandoo have agreed with the Minister for Tourism that we will adopt the Chomolhari route and work to clean up the whole route. So now on every trek we run, our team are not only working hard to look after you, but are also working to clean up all the rubbish. Check out our team on the trail with cleaned up trash above.


Other things to combine with your Bhutan trek

Interesting things to do in Bhutan

Bhutan is working very hard to preserve its own special culture. The official measure of national prosperity is GNH, Gross National Happiness, not Gross Domestic Product as in the West. The Gross National Happiness index covers sustainable economic development, environment conservation, maintaining the country's tradition and culture, as well as good governance. All government policies are tested against this criteria, which has led to some quite radical approaches. For example, Bhutan is the only country in the world that has completely banned smoking.

Wherever you are in the world, you will have travelled a long way to reach Bhutan. If you have time it is worth trying to fit in seeing more of the country. We have mentioned the festivals in "When to visit" above and, more generally, the areas we would particularly recommend visiting are the Tiger's Nest Monastery outside Paro and the cities of Thimphu and Punakha. 

If you are planning additional nights in Bhutan before or after your trek remember it will be expensive. The Tourism Council of Bhutan has a policy of "High Value, Low Impact" tourism. Tourists have to have a Minimum Daily Package which costs between $250-$350 per person, per night. The package rate covers standard hotel accommodation, all meals, all internal transport (excluding flights) and the services of a tour guide for the duration of your stay.

Visiting the Tiger's Nest Monastery

If there is a single image that people recognise from Bhutan, it is the Tiger's Nest Monastery. A day hike to visit this iconic destination is included in all our Bhutan treks. We have some useful tips to ensure you have the best experience at the Tiger's Nest here.  As you can imagine, the monastery is very popular, and the main trail is extremely busy at peak periods.

The Tiger's Nest Monastery was built on vertical cliffs and is situated just outside Paro. It is the holiest site in all of Bhutan.  The founder of Buddhism in Bhutan, the Guro Rinpoche, is believed to have arrived at this site flying on the back of a tiger. This is what gave the temple its name.  Amongst all the hype about bucket list destinations, the Tiger's Nest is one place that more than lives up to everyone's expectations.

Things to do and see in Thimphu

 It is very easy to incorporate a tour of Thimphu into most of our Bhutan treks, as it is the end point for both the Druk Path and the Chomolhari trail and for other routes you need to travel through the capital.

Once you are in Thimphu, the spectacular Tashichho Dzong is a must see. This is both the political and religious headquarters for the whole of Bhutan. It shows clearly how closely state, government and religion are intertwined. The King's palace adjoins the Dzong and he can regularly be seen walking the short distance between the two. 

Second on the viewing list should be the huge golden Buddha, Dordenma, which towers 50m over the Thimphu valley. From there, a visit to the Simply Bhutan Cultural Centre is definitely worthwhile. Completely uncommercialised, the centre provides lots of interesting background on the history and development of Bhutan.

And finally, no visit to Thimphu would be complete without visiting the archery arena. Archery is the Bhutanese national sport and it is incredible just how far they can fire an arrow accurately.

Things to do and see in Punakha

Things to do and see in Punakha

From Thimphu it is about a 3-4 hour drive to Punakha, but this is more than worth the effort. The journey takes you over the beautiful Dochu La Pass at over 3000m. From there you drop down, and before reaching Punakha you can stop off and have a look at the small village of Sopsokha, more commonly known as the Phallus village!!  

At some point, phalluses became associated with the strength and virility of a local Priest, (his interpretation of Buddhism was radical to say the least!) Following this, phalluses started to appear as decorations everywhere in town. As with the real thing, the competition to have the biggest and best got a little out of hand.

From Sopsokha, it is a very short drive on to Punakha, which has the second largest and probably the best, Dzong in Bhutan.  It sits where two major rivers meet, and dominates the valley.

After visiting Punakha it takes about 4 hours to drive back to Paro. If you have time and the energy we can arrange for you to visit the Tiger's Nest for a second time. It looks completely different in the afternoon sunlight and it is great to make the trek a second time.

Get in touch Start planning your next adventure by contacting one of our team
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