One of the few remaining untouched corners of the world, Bhutan (འབྲུག་ཡུལ་) is a haven for naturalists, hikers, and adventurers. Encircled by the Himalayas, the spectacular scenery of the country lends itself to some of the best walking territories in the world.
The magical kingdom, best known for its traditional architecture that stands against dramatic mountainous backdrops, is also famed for its hiking, and with good reason. Located in the Himalayan foothills, abundant hiking routes take in stunning valleys, rolling hills, and jagged cliffs and peaks. To get the least-diluted, most pure form of Bhutan, dig out your hiking boots and head up rugged paths, soaking up not only the views but the various places of worship which cling to the cliff sides and hilltops. While there are tales, myths, and elaborate stories of how each monastery was created, the sheer feat of mankind to create these temples in a bygone era is enchanting in itself.
Of the gravity-defying temples, highlights include the famed Tiger’s Nest or Paro Taktsang, and less well-known Bumdra Temple, Cheri Monastery, and Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten. For those with better fitness levels and up for an adventure, the Bumdra hike is a must. Though the trek isn’t easy, it isn’t overly challenging either and is manageable for anyone who does regular exercise. Stops en route not only provide panoramic views of mountain peaks and verdant valleys during the summer, but also an opportunity to enjoy a tasty meal among fluttering prayer flags. With all treks and walks, however arduous, something important to note is the altitude, which is not to be taken lightly. Though most people are fine, please keep your guide informed of any altitude sickness symptoms— for example nausea and headaches—and take it at your own pace. As the famous Bhutanese road signs state, ‘life is a journey for completing, take it slow’.
Bhutan is touted as a “land of happy coincidences,” so along your journey, you will likely come across an array of flora and fauna, whether it’s a herd of yaks, mountain goats, or even an elusive tiger or leopard (though don’t hold your breath for these), each sighting will enrich your adventure further. For the horticulturally-inclined, Bhutan is perfect for spotting rare and endemic flowers. With each season comes different plants, shrubs, and trees which your guide will identify along the way.
A fascinating fact about Bhutan is that it is one of the world’s only carbon-negative countries. On average, Bhutan produces one-and-a-half million tonnes of carbon annually, but sequesters (capturing and storing) six million tonnes of carbon—a fact that is showcased throughout the countryside in its thriving wildlife population. For instance, lichen evident on the trees only grows in very clean air and black neck cranes return to the Gangtey Valley year on year thanks to its lack of wires and telegraph poles. These visible signs reiterate the beauty and sustainable commitments that the people of this country take up to preserve this compelling corner of the world.