Despite that it’s a relatively unknown trekker’s paradise in Southeast Asia.
Bhutan is a relatively unknown trekker’s paradise in Southeast Asia. Here are our top 5 reasons that you should consider Bhutan for the country of your next trek:
1. Nomad Shelters
It goes without saying that an entire culture of people who have no permanent residence and herd yaks over some of the most rugged terrain on Earth lead pretty extraordinary lives. If you do a little research you would find that the majority of trekking routes in Bhutan follow ancient nomad trading routes, but what the guide books don’t tell you is that there are huts, rumored to have been built by UNICEF a few decades ago, along these routes. These rustic stone huts are complete with vented roofs and open fire pits in the floor which offer a unique taste of the lives these people live. These won’t be the default places to stop, but many guides would be more than happy to skip the setting up camp and spend the night in one of these shelters if you make the suggestion. If you’re lucky, you may get to share the hut with a nomad family for the night and rise to the sound yaks outside.
Trekking above Thimphu in April of 2015, this shelter provided my group a warm refuge from the previous day’s snow storm.
Most people pay little attention to them except on the occasion that the sky is doing something mildly interesting. In Bhutan, it’s a different story altogether: maybe it’s the sprawling, layered valleys or maybe it’s the perfect combination of elevation and microclimatic conditions. Whatever the case may be, I never gave clouds a second thought until I started trekking in Bhutan, but once I started it is impossible to stop. The clouds flow like rivers down the valleys many mornings before burning off before noon in the sun. The picture below was taken while trekking in the Paro valley on a morning when we received a light snow fall.
Clouds roll through the Paro valley on a snowy morning in January of 2016.
If, like me, you have trekked in other countries, the relatively low number of tourists who trek in Bhutan will be a refreshing change. It is not uncommon to go days without encountering another party (yak headers notwithstanding). The solitude that the trails of Bhutan provide a fantastic opportunity to intimately enjoy nature and the company of your travel companions without any unwanted disturbances. In addition, the low volume of trekkers means that there is virtually no litter and that the trails and environment are the most pristine I have ever been on.
4. Getting High
While marijuana does grow wild in Bhutan and is abundant, albeit illegal, in late spring and summer, the high we are talking about here is strictly elevation. The altitude that many treks in Bhutan will take you to is incredible. Unless you are a hardcore mountaineer, your trek in Bhutan will likely take you to the highest point on Earth you will ever be. To put this in perspective, on the famed Snowman Trek you will reach a maximum altitude of 17,454 ft. (5320 m.) while the highest peak in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, Mount Elbert, is 14,440 ft. (2 m.) and even the Base Camp of Mount Everest only about 150 feet higher at 17,600 ft. (5,380 m.). Just below the altitude that supplemental oxygen is recommended at, the views and exhilaration of high elevation trekking in Bhutan will truly leave you breathless.
Taking in the high-altitude views while my guide seeks shelter from the sun under his umbrella on the Dagala Thousand Lake Trek.
5. The Bhutan Himalayas
The Himalayas are, without a doubt, a top contender for the most epic mountain range on Earth. While Everest and many of the well-known peaks of the Himalayas lay within the borders of Nepal, the Bhutan Himalayas boast six peaks above 22,000 ft. (6,700 m.) and the highest unclimbed peak in the world, Gangkhar Puensum. Depending on your route, your trek through Bhutan will give you views of these mountains which are impossible to get in any other way. There is no truly is no substitution for walking amidst these giants on a trek through Northern Bhutan. In addition, the biodiversity found in Bhutan will expose you to many unique species of plants and animals not found anywhere else on Earth. Notably, Bhutan has over 500 species of orchids, many of which are easy to spot while trekking.
The Bhutan Himalayas offers some of the most beautiful and rugged mountain vistas you will find anywhere on Earth.
So there you have it, these are just a few of the reasons why Bhutan should be at the top of your travel itinerary while planning your next trek!
Photos: Bryan Gensits
Have you ever been to Bhutan? Share with us in the comments.