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Friday, October 7, 2022

Bhutan Trekking: The Druk Path Trek, and the New Trans Bhutan Trail

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How is trekking in Bhutan like? You can go on a Himalayan adventure, with open landscapes, snow-covered mountains peaks, Buddhist Temples, prayer flags and high altitude camping. Our Druk Path Trek experience gives you a glimpse of Bhutanese trekking. It includes what you will experience each day, difficulty, packing and organizing a Bhutan trek, as well as what to expect from a winter trip. We also explain why this is one the most popular treks of Bhutan. Information about the Trans Bhutan Trail will be shared in 2022.

You will travel approximately 36-45km (22-28 mi) on the Druk Path Trek or Thunder Dragon Path through pine forests, rhododendron thickets and mountain ridges to reach Druk Path Trek. It also passes alpine lakes in the lower Himalayan Mountains of western Bhutan. In the summer, yak herders can be found in this area. The ancient mule route connects Paro and Thimphu. Labana Pass, at 4,200m / 13,800ft, is the highest point on the trek. The Druk Path Trek is considered to be a moderate-difficulty trek because it includes many campsites at similar altitudes.

Trans Bhutan Trail: New Trekking Route in Bhutan, Starting in 2022

The history and significance of the Trans Bhutan Trail goes back thousands years. It was an ancient trading and pilgrimage route between Bhutan and Tibet. It was used by Buddhist pilgrims to access sacred sites and temples in Tibet and western Bhutan.

The trail was used extensively for centuries, as it was the only route to remote areas of the country. However, it fell into decline and disuse during the 1960s. The trail was repaired in 2018. However, the restoration of Trans Bhutan Trail began in 2018, and the Covid-19 pandemic saw 900 furloughed workers rebuilding bridges and creating hundreds of miles of footpaths.

In April 2022, the Trans Bhutan Trail will be open to the public. This allows pilgrims, locals and travelers to retrace their steps along this historic trail. The Trans Bhutan Trail’s total length is 403km/250 miles. It runs from Haa (in the west) to Trashigang (in the east). You don’t have to complete the entire trail. You can choose shorter sections to experience specific mountain landscapes or culture.

The Trans Bhutan Trail’s goal is to allow you to experience the breathtaking landscapes and beauty of the high Himalayan Mountains. It also allows you to interact with the local culture, people and communities through village homestays. The Trans Bhutan Trail also focuses on several sustainability efforts to preserve the natural environment. This includes a zero-plastics policy that runs along the trail, which also includes refillable water bottles and filtered drinking water, as well as planting trees for every international visitor.

G Adventures currently offers two active tours that cover selected sections of the Trans Bhutan Trail. The G Adventures Camp Trans Bhutan Trail tour (11 days) is similar to the one we took. It includes four days of trekking and several nights of camping. Highlights Of The Trans Bhutan Trail (12 Days) includes several days hiking the Trans Bhutan Trail but offers more homestays and guesthouses to stay over than camping. The tours offer both trekking and visits to some of Bhutan’s most famous monasteries, temples, and sites. This gives you a great balance of experiences as well as immersion into Bhutan’s culture, history, and cuisine.

G Adventures was our partner and the first group adventure tour operator that will offer trekking tours once the trail opens in 2022. This is a sign of the alignment between values in community tourism and sustainability.

What to Expect on a Bhutan Trek? The Druk Path

There were many tour itineraries that I found when I was researching the Druk Path Trek, particularly regarding winter trekking and conditions. But I couldn’t find any photos or details about the landscapes and experiences along the trek.

This section aims to give you an overview of the trek and help you to understand what you might see and experience along the way, including camping, difficulties on the trail, and landscapes. You will find a variety of views, landscapes and trails on the Druk Path Trek.

Ta Dzong to Jele Dzong Temple for Tshokam

Distance: 13.7km / 8.5miles

  • Time spent hiking : 5 1/2 to 6 hours

The majority of Druk Path Treks start from Paro in the morning. For approximately 30-45 minutes, you will travel by van transfer up a dirt road that rises into the hills. This section was part of the trek before the road was built. ). After the short ride, you will meet your trekking support group: an assistant, cook, mule handlers, and a group mules to transport your tents, your trekking and camping gear, as well as all the cooking gas and the kitchen, dining, and bathroom tents.

Tshokam to Janytscho to Simkotra Lake

Distance: 8.5 km / 5.3 miles

Number of hours hiking: 4 hours

Although this trekking day is shorter than the previous, it still has some steep inclines that make it quite challenging. Due to the snow and ice on our trail, our guide had to make some adjustments. We didn’t follow the longer, more dangerous trail to Jimilang Tsho because it was too dangerous for our mules.

The first section of the day is fairly flat. It takes you along a forest trail that runs alongside a stream and crosses a bridge. You will then reach Narithang, a clearing where you can enjoy mid-morning tea or snacks.

The real uphill begins. It was a slow climb that took a few hours through the forest. Slow and steady is the key to climbing up the steep slopes. This will ensure that you keep a steady pace while you gain altitude. From the forest, the trail leads to Janytscho, which overlooks the lake. We stopped here for lunch and rest. However, we have heard that other groups may camp there for the night.

Simkotra Lake to Labana Pass, Phajoding Monastery

Distance: 5 miles / 8 km

  • Time spent hiking: 4.5 Hours

This was my favorite day on the Druk Path Trek. It took us to Labana Pass, at 4,200m / 13,800ft. It was filled with beautiful landscapes, experiences, and breathtaking views. Note: Sometimes, trekking groups camp prior to Labana Pass, making it part the fourth day. Simotra Tsho was covered in snow when we woke up. The clouds obscured some views that we had of the high Himalayas that morning. We were able to enjoy some stunning landscapes in their winter stillness and quiet as the snow fell for the first few hours.

Thimphu: Phajoding Monastery

Distance 5km / 3 Miles

  • Time spent hiking: 2 to 2.5 hours

The final day is easy with only a short hike downhill. You will continue on the dirt trail to the monastery through the forest. It can be steep at times so make sure you have your walking sticks handy.

thimphu

The elevation drops, and the trees and flowers begin to change. As cars and trucks travel up the mountain roads, you can hear signs of civilization.

Bhutan Trekking Conditions and Difficulty Level

Given its length, altitude and inclines, we would give the Druk path Trek a medium difficulty rating. It is important to be comfortable with or prepared for steep, uphill climbs at a moderately high altitude. Several people felt that the steep ascents and hills of the first day were difficult. However, this helped them to get used to the rest of their trek.

How to deal with altitude when trekking in Bhutan

You can trek the Druk Path up to 4,200m / 13,800ft at its highest point. The first two campsites are located just below and just above the 4,000m / 13,100ft elevation. You need to be ready for hiking and sleeping at high altitude. Talk to your guide if you have never been to altitude before.

The Best Time to Trek in Bhutan

When the rhododendron trees and bushes are in bloom, the spring months of April or May are the best time to trek in Bhutan. Because it is dry, warm, and clear, September, October, and early November are good times to trek.

It is not recommended to trek in the summer months between May and July because of the rainy season. You will likely experience muddy conditions and clouds that block views of the mountains.

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