Trekking in Bhutan
22 multi-day treks including the Lunana 'Snowman' Trek, Jhomolhari, Druk Path and Dagala treks
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A guidebook to 22 multi-day treks in the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, including the Jhomolhari, Druk Path and Dagala treks. The trails vary from 2 to 23 days long. The routes are mostly in western and central Bhutan, and range from easy to strenuous depending on the length, altitude and difficulty. Includes advice on cultural awareness.
- The best seasons for most treks are spring and autumn. Low-altitude treks can be done in winter. Expect monsoon rains in the summer.
- Most treks start in the western part of Bhutan, in Paro. However, the guide also includes routes starting in other locations, such as Bumthang and eastern Bhutan.
- All treks in the guide are graded. Trekking routes in Bhutan are on good trails, though most cover ground at high altitude, meaning that extra time is needed for acclimatization. No specialist climbing equipment is required.
- Must See
- The classic Lunana 'Snowman' Trek; views of Gangkar Punsum, the world's highest unclimbed massif; birds and wildlife; the rich Bhutanese culture
Boasting soaring snow-clad peaks and tranquil valleys, and a rich Buddhist culture, Bhutan is an ideal destination for trekkers wishing to experience the magic of the Himalaya without the commercialism. Although independent trekking is not permitted, it can nonetheless prove difficult to obtain information. This guide describes 22 official treks and a handful of trek variants, with comprehensive advice about planning and preparation and plentiful cultural information to enhance any visit.
You will find thorough coverage of all the practicalities, with notes on trekking seasons, outfitters, transport, accommodation and food, ethics and etiquette, equipment and medical considerations (including safety at altitude). The guide also offers a fascinating insight into Bhutanese mountain life, from local superstitions and beliefs to plants, wildlife and yak husbandry. Route description is presented alongside sketch mapping and information on local points of interest.
Included are the classic Lunana 'Snowman' Trek, the Jhomolhari and Dagala Treks, and the Druk Path, as well as many other treks – both well-established trails and other routes of a more exploratory nature, venturing into remote and seldom-visited areas of the country. Visitors to Bhutan can expect breathtaking mountain scenery and unspoilt landscapes, a vibrant culture and genuine hospitality. Trekking here is a truly unique experience, promising memories that will last a lifetime.
The thrill of Bhutan
Preparations and practicalities
Climate and trekking seasons
Organising a trek
Getting there and getting around
Accommodation and food
Environmental and cultural awareness
Equipment and maps
Using this guide
All about Bhutan
Yaks and yak herding
The formation of the mountains
Rivers and glaciers
Mountaineering in Bhutan
Buddhism and local beliefs
The Haa Valley
Trek 1 Haa Planters’ Trail
Trek 2 Nob Tshona Patta Tsho and Rigona Tsho
Trek 3 The Lunana ‘Snowman’ Trek
Trek 3A Lunana to Bumthang
Trek 4 The Jhomolhari Bonte La Circuit
Trek 5 Shana to Thimphu via Lingshi
Trek 6 Masa Gang Base Camp from Laya
Trek 7 The Druk Path Trek
The Dagala (Thousand Lakes) Trek
Trek 8 Geynikha to Talakha
Trek 8A Geynikha to Dagana
The Phobjika Valley
Trek 9 The Original Gangte Trek
Trek 9A A Southern Gangte Trek
The Black Mountains
Trek 10 The Nabji Korphu Trek
Trek 11 The Nubi Chutey Trek
Trek 12 Trongsa to Dur Tsachu
Trek 13 Bumthang to Lunana
Trek 14 Gangkar Punsum Base Camp via Dur Tsachu
Trek 15 Gangkar Punsum southeast face via Thole La
Trek 16 Gangkar Punsum southeast face and Base Camp
Trek 17 Bumthang Cultural Trek, Tang valley and Lhuntshi valley
Trek 18 Bumthang Owl Trek and the Royal Heritage Trek
Trek 19 The Ura Buli Trek
Trek 20 Rigsum Gompa to Dechhenphodrang
Trek 21 The Merak Sakteng Trek
Trek 22 The Far-Out East Bhutan Trek
Appendix A Route summary table
Appendix B List of maps
Appendix C Useful contacts
Appendix D Useful terms and acronyms
Appendix E Bibliography
Appendix F Acknowledgements
Equipment and maps
Check out the internet for general lists of recommended equipment for going on trek (some of which is available in Bhutan). The most important items are:
- Backpack with waterproof cover: big enough to carry personal items such as a first aid kit; (two) water bottle(s); snacks; camera; jacket; fleece; warm hat and gloves; sun cream; umbrella; sunhat; lip balm; whistle; small torch; bird/flower book.
- Kitbag with lock (duffle bag) for storing personal items: these will all be packed into big plastic bags, only accessible at camp
- Walking boots: the most important piece of equipment. Wear them on the plane to make sure they don’t go missing in your hold luggage!
- Socks and inner soles: these can make a big difference to how comfortable you are.
- Light shoes/sandals/trainers: to wear around the campsite
- Underwear: it’s important that the material is thin and strong, fast-drying and very comfortable. They should not restrict movement in any way. Shorts are not considered sufficiently modest in some parts of Bhutan.
- Rain jacket and trousers: a Gore-Tex jacket-and-trousers combination is ideal for rain protection. Make sure the jacket has a hood. A poncho or umbrella is useful.
- Down jacket
- Sleeping bag and mattress
- Fleece pullovers/shirts: merino wool T-shirts make good walking tops but at camp you need a thicker, fleece pullover.
- Gloves/hats: make sure to bring spare gloves and hats. Put them in your pack: you never know when the weather will get cold. Wearing a hat (even while sleeping) can reduce your body’s heat loss by up to 35 per cent. Be sure to have a hat for protection against the sun (and a spare one).
- Sunglasses: it is important to have good UV protection. Bring along old sunglasses (and reading glasses) to give away to Bhutanese along the route.
- Walking pole: one or two poles? Two can take time to get used to. One pole is very useful for balance – crossing a stream or river, boulder hopping, helping yourself up – as well as pushing stray dogs and pack animals away or even as a spare tent pole or camera tripod.
- Flashlight or torch
- Personal medical kit: (see Spending money on trek
Organised treks tend to be ‘all inclusive’ and at any rate, there is not a lot to buy on route: maybe a yak rope, a Tibetan rug or some snacks in Laya. It is advisable to bring around $50 in Bhutanese ngultrum plus some extra cash for the staff tip at the end of the trip.A selection of available maps
- Jhomolhari Trek Comprehensive Trekking Map 1:200,000 (Bart Jordans, 2016 published by Nepa Maps) – covering the western part of Bhutan (other trekking areas to follow in the future).
- Bhutan 1:250,000 (Reise Know-How, 2016) – excellent map with general information and trekking routes.
- Bhutan 1:500.000 (Swiss Foundation for Alpine Research, 1996) – limited information.
- ‘North-western 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 Lunana Trek.
- Highly detailed sketch map of Lunana by Augusto Gansser. In The Mountain World (Swiss Foundation for Alpine Research, 1968/69).
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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
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