Trekking in Bhutan
What is Trekking?
- Trekking is a form of walking, undertaken with the specific purpose of exploring and enjoying the scenery. It usually takes place on trails in areas of relatively unspoiled wilderness.
Concretely… this means?
- It’s a slow-paced journey
- It can have arduous moments
- It’s done by foot
- It’s done for the pleasure of exploring
- and enjoying the scenery
- It uses trails in areas of relatively unspoiled wilderness.
And this makes me happy?
- Trekking has a meditative effect on both mind and body: you are surrounded by nature with few materialistic disturbances.
- Being pampered by a local staff gives you time to concentrate on other things such as a good walk, a good meal, and a very good night's sleep under the stars
- Trekking is the ultimate experience of a quiet, healthy and active holiday. Once a trekker-always a trekker!
- The Bhutanese don't necessarily view trekking in the same way as visitors; for them it can mean:
- a trip to their home village
- a pilgrimage to a monastery high in the mountains
- placing prayer flags on mountaintops
- visiting one of the country's hot springs
Why is trekking in Bhutan different?
- Trekking in Bhutan is different from other regions in Asia. You are trekking in a country steeped in Buddhist traditions and culture, even high up in the mountains
- Bhutan Himalaya, with a forest/shrub cover of 72 percent and plenty of rain in the monsoon months, provides an enormously rich flora and fauna, unlike anywhere else in this region
- There are fewer villages in the high mountains of Bhutan than there are in places such as Nepal, and villagers often gaze at trekkers because they see so few
- The daily altitude gain in Bhutan is typically more than in other Himalayan countries, and trekking in the northern part often involves crossing more than one high pass of 5000 meters (16 500 feet)
- Trekking in Bhutan is also more costly than in most other Himalayan destinations. Part of the daily rate targets sustainable development (government tax about $US70) as an indirect development aid.
Who will guide me?
- Every trek is led by a qualified Bhutanese guide (we use transport animals)
- Trekking in the Bhutan Himalayas does not require any special technical skills
- The mountains are covered with a network of trails but, because of the sparse population, there are not heavily traveled.
- The trails are generally in good condition, and fit, experienced walkers should have no difficulty navigating them, although natural obstacles such as snowfall and landslides can require a change of plan
- You will also enjoy most of the treks for yourself! There are very few trekkers in Bhutan : 700-1200 each year, the majority of whom are on the Jumolhari trek
Trekking is not only for the super fit!
- Trekking in the Himalayas is often thought to be the preserve of the super fit, but there are treks catering for all different fitness levels: easy to tough, short to long, and from lower to higher altitude
- Of course, it helps to be fit and prepared for a trek
- Make sure you choose a trek that is not too difficult or hard
- It is never fun to have to give up and turn back, or to exhaust yourself and so be unable to finish the trek
- The most important thing is that you are happy to walk for several days and that you are enjoying camping.
- Trekking grades can be confusing. Each commercial operator uses their own grading system, so check them out carefully. A good trek description should enable you to make the right choice.
- In general trekking in Bhutan includes long days with several ascents and descents each day
- Bhutan's valleys are steeper than in neighboring Nepal
- The trails are less used simply because the population is more in Bhutan
Climate and Trekking Seasons
- The most popular period for trekking in Bhutan is spring and autumn
- However, with climate change the seasonal patterns are becoming less predictable
- The country is located in the eastern part of the Himalayas meaning it receives a good deal of rain
- The valleys experience strong winds, and each one has its own micro-climate
- Mountains tend to create their own weather patterns with storms, hail, snow and thunder
- Be aware of wind and rain, which can have a major effect on temperature
- Unlike other parts of the Himalayas, we do not have tea houses or any stalls along the trails, no food is sold along the trail, so trekking in Bhutan involves a lot of luggage
- Food products required for the entire trek has to be carried from the start until the end of the trek, but for longer treks like the Snowman trek, food supplies will be topped up half way
- Food will be served at camps and we will prepare your lunch. The crew consists of a professional licensed cook and assistant (2 or more) depending on the group size.
- Meals on trek are as good as the restaurants and hotel, sometimes even better
- Food is a mix of Continental, Chinese, Indian and Bhutanese
- Lunch is prepared at breakfast time and will be carried for you in thermos flasks and containers with hot water for tea and coffee along with sugar
- At the campsite in the evening, you will be served with a bowl of hot/warm water for cleaning and evening tea with snacks followed by dinner
- In the morning, you will be woken up by the assistant cook with a cup of tea/coffee/hot chocolate, whatever you prefer in bed. Then you be provided with a bowl of hot/warm water for washing followed by breakfast.
- On longer treks and during rest days, hot showers are also provided
* Please mention your birthdays if you happen to have one on the trekking trails so that the cook can plan for it in advance!
- Unlike Nepal, we do not use porters instead we use pack animals like mules, horses and yaks at higher altitudes (especially in the snow) for transporting your luggage
- If you do require a porter (example: carrying filming materials) please mention this during booking so it can be arranged in advance. Please note that this would be charged separately
- The animals bring your luggage from camp to camp. Other animals might take the relay in different regions. By doing so, your trek helps local economies by letting different people support your trek with their animals.
What is provided by the Travel Agent?
The following will be provided by the travel agent as part of the trekking equipment
- Sleeping Tents (two men tent)
- Dining Tent, with chairs and table
- Toilet Tent
- Shower Tent
- Kitchen Tent for the Cook
- Cooking pots and pans, including plates and cups
What equipment do you need to bring as a trekker?
- Backpack with a plastic bag for keeping everything dry, or a rain cap to put around the backpack
- The backpack should be big enough to carry personal items such as a
- first-aid kit
- windproof jacket
- fleece or down jacket
- warm hat and gloves
- sun cream
- umbrella or rain gear
- sunhat; lip balm
- small torch/flashlight
- The backpack should be big enough to carry personal items such as a
- Kitbag/Duffel bag with lock for storing personal items, only accessible at camp (this will be carried for you on packed animals)
- Bring some big plastic bags to keep spare clothes and other items such as sleeping bag dry.
- Foot gear, the most important piece of equipment
- These should be all leather, all Gore-Tex, or a combination of the two. Make sure the boots have been broken in before the trek
- Socks and inner soles can make a big difference to how comfortable you are. Make sure you have good socks (and enough to allow for regular changes)
- Take spare shoelaces and show wax/polish - against water - with you
- Bring plasters (moleskin) for blisters. Because many trekkers in Bhutan begin or end in muddy areas, consider bringing an old pair of hiking boots to use and leave behind
- Light shoes/sandals/trainers to wear around the campsite
- Gaiters can be very useful for coping with snow at higher elevations and to protect from leeches at lower elevations
- Under-layer trousers/skirts
- It's important that the material is thin and strong, fast-drying and very comfortable
- They should not restrict movement in any way
- Pants with zip-off bottoms are very handy
- Shorts are not considered sufficiently modest in some parts of Bhutan
- Fleece pants are great if you get cold easily or are on one of the treks in higher elevations; they can also double as sleep pants
- Rain Jacket and Trousers
- A very good Gore-Tex jacket and trousers combination is ideal for rain protection
- Make sure the jacket has a hood (but that it's not too big to stop you from seeing where you are going)
- A nylon poncho or umbrella is useful
- Down (warm) jacket
- Sleeping Bag
- Please make sure it can stand temperatures of -50 degrees Celsius/Centigrade
- A fleece material inner liner would be smart
- Mattress, bring a waterproof inflatable one, at least 2 inches thick when inflated
- Fleece pullovers/shirts. Cotton shirts are inexpensive but you stay wet in them and they get smelly. On a trek, it is always better to bring a thinner one along in your backpack
- Make sure to bring spare gloves and hats. Put them in your pack: you never know when cold weather will show up
- Wearing a hat can reduce your body's heat loss by up to 35 percent
- Be sure to have a hat for protection against the sun (and a spare one)
- With adequate UVB protection and full coverage of the eyes (side shades)
- Wearing dark glasses reduces light sensitivity to your eyes
- At high altitudes like Bhutan the Ultra Violet Rays are very high so wearing dark glasses can reduce the Ultra Violet Rays and even prevent your eyes from wind and dirt getting into the eyes
- Snow glasses if possible
- Walking Pole
- One or two poles?
- Two can take time to get used to
- One pole is very useful for balance while crossing a stream or river, boulder hopping, helping yourself up
- Two poles are useful on descent: they take an enormous pressure off the knees
- One or two poles?
- Flashlight or torch
- A small led head torch in your pack is very handy
- Very good when you are reading in your tent
- Personal medical kit, ask your doctor
- Pocket Knife with tools (swiss army knife) including scissors and can opener for example
- Towel, an easy to dry one
- Sun cream and lip balm
- Sun creams are rated by their sun protection factor (SPF). SPF is the length of time a person can spend in sun
- Without suncream if a person can spend 30minutes safely, with sun cream of SPF 10 should spend 10 times more (300 minutes/5 hours).
- Soap, biodegradable washing liquid/powder
- Cash for tipping according to recommendations from your guide or company
- Trekking clothes you don't use anymore and you want to give away at the end of the trek
- Swimming costume for hot springs.
- Portable water filter (hand pumped) - We will provide sufficient boiled water each day as well.
- Water bottles (two per person), Drinking water is very important at higher elevations