A Trekker's Guide

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10 Feb 2012
17.2 x 11.6 x 2.2cm

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A guidebook for 27 multi-day treks throughout the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, including the Jhomolhari, Druk Path and Dagala treks. The trails are very clear and vary from 2 to 24 days long. The routes are mostly in western and central Bhutan, and range from easy to strenuous depending on the length, altitude and difficulty.

Seasons Seasons
Pre monsoon (March-May) and post monsoon (October-November) are best. Monsoon and winter trekking in Bhutan is much more challenging.
Centres Centres
Bhutan's capital Thimphu with airport Paro is the main access. Guide thoroughly explores Bhutan and many towns and villages.
Difficulty Difficulty
Normal Himalayan trekking challenges, particularly altitude and staying healthy. Bhutan organisation helps a great deal.
Must See Must See
The culture, the birds and wildlife of Bhutan, especially the spectacular mountains of this unknown region.
10 Feb 2012
17.2 x 11.6 x 2.2cm
  • Overview

    The Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, located between the two huge neighbouring countries of China and India, is a magical country of mountains and forest, which offers stunning scenery that really captures the beauty of the area. With its extensive natural border of high mountains to the north, rising over 7000m, and its virtually impassable jungle to the south, Bhutan has always been a place of mystery. Its lack of contact and influence from the outside world and untouched nature gives Bhutan it’s unique culture and appeal.

    This guidebook contains detailed route descriptions for 27 multi-day treks that range from 2 to 24 days in length and has routes that are suitable for trekkers of all levels of experience. The treks have been divided into four sections, covering West, Central, East and South Bhutan. In general, trekking in Bhutan includes long days with several ascents and descents each day with steep valleys.

    Every trek has to be led by a qualified Bhutanese guide but the Bhutan Himalayas do not require any special technical skills. The mountains are covered with a network of trails but, because of the sparse population, these are not heavily travelled. The trails are generally in a good condition, and fit experienced walkers should have no difficulty in navigating them, although natural obstacles such as snowfall and landscapes can require a change of plan.

    Each trek has been graded for difficulty as follows:
    Easy: lower altitude, good trails, shorter days, short treks, suitable for most people
    Moderate: a mix between low and high altitude and shorter and longer days, not always on a trail, basic fitness required
    Demanding: travelling at altitude, some high passes to be crossed, trails not always in the best state, possible river crossings, some longer days, higher level of fitness required
    Strenuous: high altitude, high passes, high camping, difficult trails, possible river crossings, long days, long treks, only for well-prepared trekkers (previous experience recommended).

  • Contents

    The thrill of Bhutan
    Climate and trekking seasons
    Organising a trek
    Getting there and getting around
    Environmental and cultural awareness
    Protected areas
    Flora and wildlife
    Geology: the formation of the mountains
    Rivers and glaciers
    Accommodation and food
    Medical considerations and fitness
    Other activities
    List of approved treks
    About this guide
    West Bhutan
    1 Haa Valley–Saga La–Drugyel Dzong
    2 Haa Valley–Nub Tshona Patta Tsho–Rigona
    3 Paro–Jhomolhari–Lingshi–Laya–Lunana–Nikka Chhu
    4 Jhomolhari Camp–Bonte La–Tagulun La or Lalung La–Drugyel Dzong Circuit
    5 Jhomolhari–Lingshi–Thimphu
    6 Jhomolhari–Lingshi–Laya–Gasa–Punakha
    7 Masa Gang Base Camp from Laya and back
    8 Drukpath
    9 Dagala Trek – and extension to Dagana
    10 Samtengang Trek
    11 Gasa Tsachu (hot springs) Trek
    12 Gangte Trek and southern variation
    Central Bhutan
    13 Nabji–Korphu Trek (The Black Mountains or Jigme Wangchuk National Park)
    14 Nubi/Chutey Trek near Trongsa
    15 Trongsa–Kasiphey–Dur Tsachu (hot springs) Trek
    16 Bumthang–Lunana (including the trek to Dur Tsachu)
    17 Gankar Punsum Base Camp below the South Ridge of Gankar Punsum – via Dur hot springs
    18 Gankar Punsum Southeast Face–Thole La–Bumthang Trek
    19 Gankar Punsum Southeast Face – crossing over to Gankar Punsum Base Camp
    20 Bumthang: Ngang–Tang Valleys Trek and Extension to Ura
    21 Bumthang: Tang Valley–Rodang La–Lhuntshi–T(r)ashi Yangtse Trek
    22 Royal Heritage Trek: Bumthang–Kiki La–Tungi La–Kuenga Rabten– Trongsa
    23 Ura–Buli/Zhemgang Trek
    East Bhutan
    24 Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary Trek (Bumdeling Iron Bridge Trek)
    25 Migoi (Yeti) National Park (Merak–Sakteng) Trek
    26 Kharungla Apeman Trek
    South Bhutan
    27 Manas National Park Trek

    Appendix 1 List of maps
    Appendix 2 List of Treks
    Appendix 3 Bibliography
    Appendix 4 Glossary

  • Maps
    Available Maps

    Note: Detailed trekking maps of Bhutan are unavailable (2011).

    • Bhutan road map (1:500.000) by Berndtson & Berndtson (c$US10): a plastic-laminated road map with lots of information, including the main trekking routes with camps. Also includes a city map of Thimphu and Paro.
    • Bhutan country map with Jhomolhari trekking map (1:450.000) by Shangri-La Maps in Nepal. Some trekking information is included.
    • Bhutan Himalaya (1:500.000) by the Swiss Foundation for Alpine Research (1996). Limited information.
    • ‘Northwestern Bhutan’ by Michael Ward, The Geographical Journal, December 1966. Also published in Michael Ward’s book In This Short Span (London, 1972). Good details and interesting for the Jhomolhari–Laya–Lunana trek.
    • Sketch map of Lunana by Augusto Gansser. Published in The Mountain World by the Swiss Foundation for Alpine Research (1968/69). Well detailed.
    • Bhutan guidebooks (see Bibliography).
  • Updates
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    We are always grateful to readers for information about any discrepancies between a guidebook and the facts on the ground. If you would like to send some information to us then please use our contact form. They will be published here following review by the author(s).

  • Reviews

    'Bart Jordans has organized tours in Bhutan since 1984, knows the terrain and the people well, and has covered most of the ground described in the treks. Tourism and trekking in Bhutan has developed in recent years, but environmental and cultural concerns have rightly led Bhutan to control its growth carefully.

    The guide itself is packaged durably in a flexi-back cover and will fit into a rucksack or pocket easily. After introductory material, Jordans takes a trek-by-trek approach, and within each trek a day-by-day approach. Constantly alternatives are provided because weather can change and trails can be flooded or destroyed by rock-falls. Options for detours and additional extras are provided.

    Travel in Bhutan has to be done with a Bhutanese guide, but having a guide like this one will be invaluable if you seriously think of going there.'

    (Library Review - Feb 2008)

    In the three years since the first edition, there have admittedly been improvements in the infrastructure in Bhutan, a remoter Buddhist kingdom at the eastern end of the Himalayan chain, and the numbers of tour operators, hotels and restaurants have all increased, as have the numbers of tourists visiting each year, up from 9,249 in 2004 to 17,344 in 2006, only a small proportion of whom actually do any trekking.
    Some of the treks described in the first edition have been left out because they have either not been opened to trekkers or they have been replaced by new routes which are included in the new edition. The popular routes, such as the Druk Path and the trek to Jhomolhari Base Camp, remain unchanged.
    The book retains its user-friendly Cicerone format and its strong point is still the abundance of information that it contains about the culture and the environment in this enchanting country.

    (Irish Mountain Log, Summer 2008)

    Cicerone has issued a second edition of its delightful guide. Pocket-sized and clearly presented, it summarises the available treks in Bhutan and provides day-by-day commentaries. Some treks in the first edition have been left out because either they have not been opened or they have been changed substantially. In four cases they have been replaced by new treks.  Descriptions have been updated for changes, such as in the extent of feeder roads.
    This is a trekker’s book with entertaining pieces on conditions, kit and health. It will certainly assist those considering a trip to Bhutan. The reader gets an excellent feel of what’s on offer – 27 routes are described, ranging from 2 to 24 days in length – and of the demands and uncertainties of different routes. Bart Jordans has done well to explore the routes over many years but particularly while resident, with his family, in Bhutan for four years from 1999.

    (The Bhutan Society Newsletter, Summer 2008)

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Bart Jordans

Bart Jordans has been guiding and exploring treks and trekking peaks in the Himalaya, Karakoram, Hindu Kush, European Alps and on Kilimanjaro since 1984. Originally from the Netherlands, he lived in Bhutan for over four years and in Vietnam for two. He caught the bug for mountain activities early in life on annual family visits to the Alps. Bart is now a freelance trekking guide for several well-known companies. When not in the mountains he works in the outdoor gear business and writes articles on the mountains of Bhutan, for which he is a noted expert.

View Guidebooks by Bart Jordans