THESE are some of the sensational scenes that will greet travellers along the ancient Trans Bhutan Trail when it re-opens this Spring for the first time in more than half a century.
The 250-mile pilgrimage trail will finally once again be passable after 60 years of disuse, thanks to restoration which has included rebuilding 18 major bridges, 10,000 stairs and miles of pathway.
Restoration began in 2018 and has more recently offered work for more than 900 furloughed local workers.
Such is the significance of the initiative that the King of Bhutan himself will host an opening ceremony, in the ancient and sacred city of Trongsa, of the trekking and mountain biking trail.
Travellers will now be able to see some of the remotest parts of this little-visited country, deep in the Eastern Himalayas – and the children of Bhutan can walk in the footsteps of their ancestors.
The Trail will offer the opportunity to explore Bhutan’s rich culture and heritage, and to see the country in an authentic and sustainable way. Some 400 historic sites lie along the route.
It will offer a rich experience for birdwatchers and botanists, photographers, rafters, mountain bikers and runners, as well as for those seeking a spiritual, wellness, or religious journey.
And, looking to the future, there’s a commitment to plant one tree for each trail member and each international visitor.
Connecting fortresses – they’re called Dzongs – the trail originally served as a pilgrimage route for Buddhists in the east, travelling to sacred sites in western Bhutan and Tibet.
For thousands of years, the Trail was used by armies and traders, stretching 250 miles from the east to the west of Bhutan. Until the 1960s, it was the only way to travel across the country.
All aspects of guided walking and biking on the trail can be arranged directly via the Trans Bhutan on a not-for-profit basis, with all proceeds flowing back to create a sustainable future for The Trail and communities who live along it.
Travellers can walk the entire trail in just over a month. Crossing nine dzongkhags (districts), 28 gewogs (local governments), two municipalities and one national park, you can walk across the country from Haa in the west to Trashigang in the east.
Along the way there are vast vistas of the Himalayas and stunning landscapes as you traverse several of Bhutan’s climate zones, which range from subtropical to high alpine.
Half-day and full-day treks are also possible, with three, four or seven-day hikes expected to be popular options.
Accommodation along the way will be offered in signature campsites, homestays and hotels. Flights to Bhutan from the UK are operated by two Bhutanese Airlines – Druk Air and Bhutan Airlines – via Bangkok, New Delhi, Kathmandu or Singapore.
Sam Blyth, Chairman of Bhutan Canada Foundation and lead donor to the Trans Bhutan Trail, says: “We are very proud of the huge efforts taken by all involved to re-open such an important and ancient cultural icon in Bhutan’s history.
“Spanning the world’s sole carbon-negative country, not only has the Trail allowed the Bhutanese to rediscover generations worth of ancient stories and their history, but it also highlights the Kingdom’s core principles of sustainability by delivering a major project focused wholly on sustainable tourism.
“The aim is to preserve the trail not only out of respect for Bhutan’s ancestors, but also to celebrate the Trail as a connection between communities.
“This restoration project is our personal gift to Bhutan.
“Our hope is that it will become known as one of the great walks of the world, and that it will give future generations of Bhutanese people great pride in their country and in its way of thinking.”
For more information, travel packages and advice, visit transbhutantrail.org.