Bhutan’s natural environment and rugged mountainous terrain provides an ideal landscape for adventure-based activities like hiking and trekking. Verdant forest and serene landscapes elucidate the hiking experience. Most of the hiking trails often lead to ancient sacred monasteries and the trails are well maintained by the monks who ascend and descend back and forth for acquiring rations and basic necessities from the town. These monasteries are located in the most remote parts of the country and deep into the jungle to protect its sanctity and to stay away from the worldly distractions. Hiking to these monasteries often inspire the hikers to rethink the lifestyle we deem normal.
Since Bhutan is small country with great influence from Buddhist values and is culturally a unique country. The tourism council of Bhutan mandates a strict policy to preserve its natural environment and negative effects on culture by mass tourism. Therefore, it is mandatory for the visitors to come in through an authorized travel agent in Bhutan. An all inclusive tariff of $250 per person per night is charged and rest all is taken care of by the Tour agent.
We have put together a list of top 5 hikes in Bhutan to help you plan your ideal holiday in Bhutan.
1. The Tiger’s Nest Hike
The Tiger’s Nest Monastery, also known as Paro Taktshang is a Buddhist monastery located above Paro valley. The monastery is one of Bhutan’s most revered and visited attractions in Bhutan. Visitors to Bhutan do not leave without hiking to the monastery. The monastery sits precariously on a rock face at about 900 meters above the valley. The monastery overlooks the entire Paro valley and provides the hikers with a deep sense of fulfillment upon completing the hike.
The founding of the monastery is credited to the great Buddhist saint Guru Rinpoche. According to the legends, the saint flew riding atop a flying tigress to the cliff where the monastery is currently situated in the 8th century. He meditated in the cave for many years. The monastery has been constructed enclosing the cave where he meditated.
It takes about 4 hours to reach the monastery from the base where the road ends. Horsemen along with their horses welcome the guest, where you can choose to hire one if the hike seems a bit daunting. But if you are healthy enough then hiking is more rewarding then riding a horse. The well-maintained trail will take the hikers through verdant pine woods, providing with shade and cool mountain breeze. All along the trail there are fluttering prayer flags leading the way all the way to the monastery. Upon reaching the monastery, the hikers will be graced with a panoramic view of the entire valley below.
2. Lungchutse Hike
The Lungchutse hike is the most popular hike among the landscape photographers as is also known for being the most refreshing hike. The trail starts off from Dochula pass taking the hikers through lush rhododendrons, Juniper and hemlock woods. The hike comes to an end upon reaching a small temple on a ridge. The most satisfying reward of the hike is the view from the temple as on clear days the hikers can enjoy a 360-degree view of the mighty Himalayan ranges. The hikers will also be able to see a small speck of Gasa Dzong in a sea of green vegetation far off in a distance.
3. Phajoding Monastery Hike
The Phajoding hike is a moderate hike starting off from Thimphu. The hike takes about 4 hours and comes to an end upon reaching a collection of old 13th-century monasteries. The hike kicks off from Sangaygang or popularly known as BBS tower where the blacktopped road comes to an end. The hiking trail takes the trekkers through lush blue pine forest. As the trekkers ascend higher towards the monastery, the houses in Thimphu can be seen as tiny dots and sometimes a huge blanket of clouds hovering over the city making it a beautiful sight. The hikers are often welcomed by the monks at the monastery with warm tea and snacks.
4. Chelela Ridge Hike
Chelela is one of the most picturesque passes in Bhutan. The pass is also the highest motorable road in Bhutan at 3990 m. The entire pass is decorated with vibrant colorful fluttering prayer flags. The ridge stands to divide Haa and Paro valley and incredible views of both valleys on either side of the pass can be seen from the ridge. The trail is flooded with exotic wildflowers like Blue poppies and rhododendrons adding value to the experience. After ascending for another 500 meters the hikers will reach the sky burial spot from where the hikers can choose to descend downwards to Kila Nunnery or complete the loop and return to the pass.
5. Hike to Kila Nunnery
The Kila Nunnery was established in the 9th century and is probably the oldest nunnery in the country. A cluster of cliff-hugging quarters makes up the nunnery complex. The center has been home to many nuns for a very long time. Presently about 70 nuns reside and pursue Buddhist studies at the center in complete isolation. The complex sits at about 3500 meters of elevation. The hike kick starts from the Haa-Paro highway taking the hikers through lush forest and takes about an hour. Sightings of mount Jhomolhari and Jichu Drakey can also be seen.