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Bhutan Trekking with the high altitude experts Hike to the Tiger's nest in Bhutan
BHUTAN Trekking with the high altitude experts Kandoo | TREKKING IN BHUTAN with the high altitude experts
Bhutan Trekking with the high altitude experts KANDOO | Bhutan Trekking with the high altitude experts
BHUTAN Trekking with the high altitude experts KANDOO | BHUTAN Trekking with the high altitude experts
Bhutan Trekking with the high altitude experts KANDOO | Bhutan Trekking with the high altitude experts
Bhutan Trekking with the high altitude experts KANDOO | Bhutan Trekking with the high altitude experts

Trekking in Bhutan with Kandoo Adventures

Welcome to Kandoo's guide to trekking in Bhutan: we really appreciate the chance to explain how we can help you arrange a fantastic trip to this amazing country. Whenever you trek with Kandoo you know you we will be safe as we are almost unique in running our own treks with our own teams. This level of control over all aspects of our trips is what ensures we get the great reviews from our customers which has made us the number one tour operator on Trustpilot.

And Bhutan is an extremely special place to go trekking. Nestled in a high pocket of land between Nepal, Tibet and Northeast India, it was cut off until the 1970s from the rest of the world through geography and its own political desire. Doubly protected like this, the traditional way of life has survived largely intact, making it the perfect destination for a tailor-made holiday.

On this page we have summarised everything you need to start planning a trip to Bhutan, from when is the best time to visit to which trekking routes do we recommend, when is the best time to trek as well as advice on other things you can do while you are in Bhutan.  Also, read our blog on the top 5 trekking routes in Bhutan.  At the bottom there are answers to the most frequently asked questions but please email or chat to one of our experts.

Highlights of trekking in Bhutan


Trek in the beautiful, untouched Bhutanese Himalaya
Enjoy mountains with no crowds and no commercialisation, just stunning views
Visit the iconic Tiger's Nest monastery, clinging to vertical cliffs above Paro
Experience Bhutan's "National Happiness culture and its spectacular festivals

What are the best trekking routes in Bhutan?

Compared to Nepal, trekking in Bhutan is still very much in its infancy and the number of established trekking routes is limited. What Bhutan lacks in terms of number of trekking options though, it more than makes up for in terms of quality as the trekking experience in Bhutan is exceptional with quiet routes and almost no commercial development. All routes are trekked with fully supported camping teams as the only people you will meet on the trails will be nomadic shepherds. You will find none of the ever-more sophisticated lodges or the Illy cafe you can find on the Everest trek.

We offer three treks in Bhutan ranging from the relatively short Druk Path trek to the incredibly challenging Snowman trek which is  rated by Red Bull as one of the seven hardest hikes in the world.

A map of Bhutan showing the trekking routes we operate and a brief summary of each route is below.

Map of trekking routes in Bhutan

Map of Bhutanese trekking routes

Druk Path Trek

On the Druk Path

This is the shortest trip we offer and the trek itself is only four days. The Bhutan Tourist Board promote the Druk Path as a 6 day trek but having trekked this ourselves we believe this is overly conservative for our typical customer. Hiking at a steady pace we took 22 hours in total to hike this trail and even over 4 days this was very comfortable. 

The trek itself links Paro in the west of Bhutan with the capital Thimpu and offers interesting trekking through the foothills of the Himalaya with great views of the larger peaks to the North. A highlight of this trek in the Spring months are the huge swathes of rhododendron. 

In the total 8 day trip you also visit the Tiger's Nest Monastery (twice if you are lucky) and have a full tour of Thimpu.

Chomolhari Trek

chomolhari trek

Although this trek is still relatively short, it is a genuine high altitude trekking adventure taking you deep into the Bhutanese Himalaya. Starting in Paro the trek also ends in Thimpu but follows a more circuitous 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.

This is our favourite trek in Bhutan and,with time to visit the Tiger's nest and tour Thimpu,  it makes for a really great adventure in this amazing country.

Snowman trek

Snowman trek in BhutanThe Snowman is one of a handful of treks that is famous worldwide amongst serious trekkers and fully deserves it place in that elite group. 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.

This is the most difficult trek in Bhutan by far and, with three passes over 6000m, it is one of the toughest challenges we operate.  It is only available as a private trip and only in the best months of the year, late Spring and early Autumn, as outside of this period the route is impassable.  When you have done all the other classics and are really fit this has to be the next challenge.

When is the best time to trek in Bhutan?

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

Bhutan's weather

Bhutan, like Nepal, experiences the tail-end of the Asian Monsoon that moves up through India in late May bringing high temperatures, very high humidity and crazily heavy rainfall.  You should therefore pretty much write-off the summer months for trekking as, even on the lower routes that are open, the trails will be  very muddy and leach infested. 

Also, being in the Northern Hemisphere and entirely at altitude (Paro, the entry point for visitors is at over 2000m) the country experiences big swings in seasonal temperatures. Graphs of the average rainfall and average temperatures are below which illustrate these two key features of the Bhutan climate. And of course, the temperatures on your trek will be colder as you climb higher and will be a lot colder overnight. This means that, except for the very hardy, the months of December to January should not be considered for trekking (although for cultural tours they are actually quite good months. 

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

Festivals in Bhutan

Bhutan festivalsBesides trekking, Bhutan is famous for its incredible calendar of festivals many of which involve massive, elaborate performances that for many people is the primary reason they visit Bhutan.  If you do have time though it is definitely seeing if your trekking dates can be coordinated with a visit to a festival.

To combine with trekking the Paro Tshechu  festival is without doubt the most popular springtime festival in Bhutan.  This festival re-enacts one of the most famous Buddhist legends and is a vibrant explosion of colour, music and dancing. For details of other festival dates in Bhutan see our blog article here.

Other things to do in Bhutan

Bhutan is a truly unique country which is working extremely hard to preserve its own very special culture. The official measure of national prosperity it GNH, Gross National Happines, not Gross Domestic Product as in the West.  The Gross National Happiness index implemented by Bhutan was built on four pillars –sustainable socio-economic development, environment conservation, maintaining the countries tradition & culture and good governance. All government policies are tested against these criteria  leading to some quite radical approaches. For example, Bhutan is the only country in the world that has completely banned smoking.

Given that where-ever you are in the world you will have travelled a long way to reach Bhutan if you can spare the time it is certainly 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 Thimpu and Punakha. 

Things to do and see in Thimpu

 Tashichho DzongThe spectacularTashichho Dzong is a must see in Thimpu. This is both the political and religious headquarters for the whole of Bhutan and demonstrates vividly 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 Dordenna which towers 50m over the Thimpu 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 Thimpu 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

Sopsokha, the village of the PhallusesFrom Thimpu it is about a 3-4 hour drive to Punakha but this is more than worth the effort even just for what you can see on the journey which 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) and 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.

 

Punakha DzongFrom Sopsokha, it is a very  short drive on to Punakha which has the second largest and  probably the most stunning Dzong in Bhutan. Sitting on the confluence of two major rivers it dominates the valley.

After visiting Punakha it takes about 4 hours to drive back to Paro and 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 rewards the effort in making the trek a second time.

FAQs about trekking in Bhutan

Q1What is the accommodation like in Bhutan?

Tourism in Bhutan is heavily regulated by the government. There is no 'Star' system as such, 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 (Thimphu, Paro, Punakha, Wangdue phodrang) and in the Southern town of Phuentsholing. Food is delicious and service very attentive. As one ventures further East (Mongar, Trashigang & Samdrup Jongkhar), accommodation gets more rudimentary. There are a few international luxury hotel chains namely Aman, Taj and COMO, where we can offer upgrades.

Q2What 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 (except large bills of the Indian currency Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000). All major currencies like US Dollars, Sterling Pounds and Euros can be exchanged at Paro Airport, or at Banks and Hotels in major cities. Please note: 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. Traveler’s cheques / cash are the best option for your travel monies.

Q3What 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. Please make sure to carry the appropriate adapters for your electrical appliances.

Q4What food options are readily available?

Most Bhutanese cuisine consists of steamed rice (red and white) with a varied choice of spicy curries, both vegetarian and non 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 restaurants are increasingly becoming popular. All tourist hotels have good selection of international and Bhutanese beverages.

Q5Are there any health precautions?

Yes, please make sure you have read our before you trek section on acclimatisation and altitude sickness. We make sure to build acclimatisation days into your tour, but for elderly travellers or those with high blood pressure / weak heart conditions, please consult a doctor before trekking in Bhutan. Please 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.

Q6What are some do's and don'ts in Bhutan?

The Bhutanese by and large are conservative in their thinking. Here are some do's and don'ts 1. In public areas please avoid displays of affection (like hugging / kissing) and do not wear sleeveless t-shirts or mini skirts. 2. When visiting monasteries, temples and Dzongs you are not allowed to take pictures inside (you can take pictures in courtyards though). 3. Please take off your hat while entering religious sites. Sneakers, jeans, mini‐skirts and shorts are not allowed. 4. For smokers, you have to declare your 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. 5. Always walk in a clockwise direction while visiting religious places or objects like temples, monasteries, Stupas, prayer flags etc. Please do not point a finger at a sacred object or place. It is considered being disrespectful.

Q7What kit do I need for trekking in Bhutan?

As with all of the Himalaya you will experience huge swings in temperature during a day and between seasons. Coping with this variation is all about layering and our recommendations on clothing and the other kit you will need are here.

Q8How do I get to Bhutan?

To put it mildly, getting to Bhutan is difficult as there are no direct flights, and all routings go via one of the hubs is India or Nepal. This means flying via Kathmandu, Delhi or Kolkata, probably with an overnight stop en-route. For more detailed information on flying to Bhutan see here.

Q9How do I get a visa?

The short answer is you don't we do. Only licensed Bhutanese tour operators can obtain visas- there is no unguided travel allowed in Bhutan. Once you have booked we will apply for a visa on your behalf. See here for more information.

Q10What 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 more and more information is provied on this here.

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Rachel Miller

Destination expert

Phone: +44 (0) 1283 499 980

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