In celebration of the revived ancient East-West route that connects Bhutan’s past, present, and future, the Trans Bhutan Trail had its official opening ceremony on September 28th 2022.
The Trans Bhutan Trail is a 250-mile historic pilgrimage trail traversing Bhutan reopened in September 2022. Following years of extensive restoration, the Trail will welcome walkers and mountain bikers for the first time in over 60 years, allowing travellers and pilgrims to walk in the footsteps of their ancestors and providing international hikers and bikers the ability to explore and connect with the remotest parts of Bhutan, deep in the Eastern Himalayas. Offering the opportunity to explore Bhutan’s rich culture and heritage and see the country in an authentic and sustainable way, the now fully cleared trail crosses through nine dzongkhags (districts), 27 gewogs (local governments), one municipality and two national parks. The Trail meanders through pristine virgin forest, offering distant vistas of Himalayan peaks on its way, offering access to parts of Bhutan seldom visited by foreigners.
Opening ceremonies for the Trail were hosted by His Majesty The King in the ancient and sacred city of Trongsa, central Bhutan on September 24 through October 1.
The Trail is a path through Bhutan’s history, with 400 historic and cultural sites identified along the route to date. The Trail’s origins go back at least 500 years when it connected fortresses called Dzongs and served as the pilgrimage route for Buddhists in the east traveling to sacred sites in western Bhutan and Tibet. Garps (trail runners) worked the Trail and were legendary, traveling with mail and vital messages at great speed, without food or water; in addition, the Trail played a major role in uniting numerous Himalayan kingdoms which ultimately led to the birth of Bhutan as a nation in 1907. However, once the construction of roads began across Bhutan in the 1960s, the Trail’s stairways and footpaths gradually fell into disrepair.
Restoring The Trans Bhutan Trail
In 2018, with the vision of His Majesty, The Fifth King and supported by the Tourism Council of Bhutan, the Bhutan Canada Foundation led an initiative to restore the Trail to make it accessible again for locals, pilgrims, and travelers. This led to the deployment of more than 900 furloughed, local workers during the pandemic to work on the ancient route. 18 major bridges, 10,000 stairs, and 403km of trail were rebuilt and today for the first time over half a century, it is possible to walk across the country from Haa in the west to Trashigang in the east.
Guided Trail Opportunities
Trans Bhutan Trail can arrange all aspects of guided walking and biking on the trail from gateway destinations into Bhutan on a not-for-profit basis, with all proceeds going back into a sustainable future for communities along the route. Truly intrepid travelers can walk the entire trail in just over a month. Half-day and full-day treks are possible with three, four, or seven-day section hikes expected to be popular options for most visitors. The Trail presents a rich experience for birdwatchers and botanists, photographers, rafters and runners, as well as for those looking for a spiritual, wellness, or religious experience. Accommodation along the way will be offered in signature campsites, homestays, and hotels.
Community Based Tourism Initiatives
A core purpose of restoring the Trans Bhutan Trail is to create new socio-economic opportunities for the local community and make a significant contribution towards sustainable development in Bhutan’s rural areas. Economic benefit from will flow directly into the local communities whether via homestays, buying supplies locally for multi-day trips, or using one of the local guides.
Hikers and mountain bikers can book trips taking in all or some of the Trans Bhutan Trail now; Trans Bhutan Trail can arrange all aspects of a trip to Bhutan from gateway destinations including visas and guides.
For more information visit transbhutantrail.com
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