Trekking in Bhutan

Without doubt, a trip to Bhutan is incomplete without a visit to the sacred Buddhist site, Tiger’s Nest Monastery, also known as Paro Takshang

January 2020 • Laura Kelly, Head of Commercial

Trekking in Bhutan

The scope for trekking in Bhutan is immense - from short walks to arduous treks. The very moment you step off the road you are immediately distanced from the sights and sounds of urban life. Instead, you will encounter views of snowcapped peaks, densely forested hillsides and river valleys, you can enjoy the sounds of birds and gushing streams flowing through temperate valleys from the melting snows of the mighty Himalayan peaks.

Trekking provides an excellent opportunity to experience the real heart of Bhutan, enabling contact with people in remote villages and an opportunity to get an insight into the rural culture of the kingdom as you explore the untouched territory, as your journey on foot takes you through remote and deep forests with scattered settlements and high alpine grazing lands. In fact, you will find yourself a curiosity for isolated villagers - locals may stare, but you will note the open and friendly faces that greet you warmly.

Trekking is a year-round activity, but most routes are best undertaken in autumn and spring. Late spring is warm and the blooming season for endemic varieties of the Himalayan rhododendron, but there is a possibility of rain. During the autumn, nights are cold but the days are clear, so you will enjoy spectacular views presenting great photo opportunities. Trekkers can enjoy several pleasant and not too taxing low altitude walks in the hills around the Punakha andWangduephodrang valleys where the weather is very settled with clear, sunny days and deep blue skies.

Without doubt, a trip to Bhutan is incomplete without a visit to the sacred Buddhist site, Tiger’s Nest Monastery, also known as Paro Takshang. Probably Bhutan’s most iconic site, this small collection of buildings precariously perched on a cliff at 900m is quite extraordinary - stunning in its beauty and location.

Visited by The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2016, where else but in the happiest country in the world could you trek among the Himalayas, blessed by the beauty of the temples and landscapes around you? Constructed in 1692, around the cave where Guru Rinpoche first meditated and introduced Buddhism into Bhutan, it is a functioning monastery consisting of four temples with residential accommodations for the monks. The main structure was severely damaged by fire in 1998, but after many years of restoration work, the complex has now been fully restored to its former glory.

The hike starts at the bottom of the mountain. You can hire hiking poles and if necessary a pony and guide to take you part of the way (one way only). Once you clear the trees you are rewarded with your first glimpse of the complex, perched on the cliff, high above the valley floor. The trail is a wide, uphill dirt track, mainly through coniferous forest, uneven underfoot in place, and in some parts, it is a little steep. Enjoy splendid views over the valleys as you climb through hillsides adorned with streams and streams of prayer flags.

At the midway point the trail levels out, you can take a break at the cafeteria enjoy the views and spin the prayer wheels. This journey will take around an hour and a half to two hours and you will be rewarded with the most beautiful view of the monastery. Some people choose to finish the trek here, electing not to make the final climb. Tea and coffee are arranged, and you can stop for lunch and relax before you head back to the base of the mountain.

For those that chose to continue, the second half of the climb is a little easier and the terrain is a little more varied with a super view of the monastery from the viewpoint. From here you are nearly there! A short walk down a stone staircase, a journey across a prayer flag covered bridge and then a final push for the last 700 step climb to the monastery.  Without a doubt the highlight of my trip to the Land of the Thundering Dragon!

After your tour of the Tiger’s Nest, you will return from whence you came, with a welcome tea stop at the cafeteria on the way down. You will be grateful for those hiking poles on the descent.

  • Distance: 4 miles round trip
  • Elevation Gain: 1,700 feet
  • Highest Elevation: 10,232 feet
  • Time: Allow 5 to 7 hours for the entire visit
  • The trek is more than achievable for most, as long as you are prepared to take your time.
  • Starting point approx. 25 mins drive from your hotel
  • Walking poles can be hired for 50R – and is recommended for all
  • Ponies can be hired with a guide for 600R – (should be booked in advance)
  • Long trousers and long sleeves are required to enter the monastery