Trekking in Bhutan is not only unique it is also challenging. So if you plan to trek in Bhutan, train extensively before coming. Training would mean walking up and down hills and slopes as much as possible with a backpack weighing about five kgs. You could also take long walks, bicycle, jog or walk extensively on a treadmill.
Trekking in Bhutan
Many visitors coming to trek in Bhutan assume that since they have trekked in other parts of the world, it would be the same in Bhutan. This is not true.
Trekking in Bhutan is an experience in complete wilderness. Treks are guided and nights are spent in tents at a designated spot. Equipment and supplies are carried by pack animals at higher altitudes. Trekking in Bhutan is physically demanding and involves vigorous long walks up and down rugged and harsh terrain where elevations can change drastically. The average daily walk is between 8km to 12 km and ascents can go up to 500 metres to a 1,000 metres. Generally it may be just three to four hours of brisk walking but sometimes camps are spaced out requiring seven to nine hours of walk in a day.
What to pack Bring all personal equipment since trekking gear is not readily and widely available in Bhutan. Try and limited your trekking baggage to 15 kgs. One pack animal normally carries the gear of two trekkers.
Please bring your own sleeping bags that fit your specifications and needs.
Other requirements such as a two-person tent, form mattress, kitchen equipment and kitchen, dining and toilet tent will be provided.
You will often come across rocky terrain and long stretches of round river rocks, which is hard on your feet. Trails could also be muddy, and diversions are quite common. On high passes, it’s always possible to encounter snow.
A trekking crew consists of a guide, trek chef, a helper and a horseman with the pack animals. The guide arranges and coordinates the trek with the other crew members.
A trekking group of two-persons will have a guide, a chef, a helper, two horsemen and 16 pack animals to carry supplies and gear.
In Bhutan trekking is arranged as a camping trip. Trekkers sleep in a tent with foam pads placed on rubber mats. Guides and helpers will have their own tent.
Campsites will be at designated places with water supply to cook meals. Some locations have stone structures that can be used for cooking and dining and as a shelter during emergency.
Trekkers are supplied with an assortment of food items. Trekking chefs are trained and certified by the Tourism Council of Bhutan to prepare a variety of western and Asian dishes. All food supplies are carried from the start of the trek, and food is cooked using gas burners.
Horses and yaks (at higher elevations) are used while trekking in Bhutan to food, gear and equipment leaving trekkers only with their daypack, which consist of batteries, camera, toiletries, energy bars, and water bottles.
Be prepared for unforeseen events that could disrupt your trekking plan. Sometimes unforeseen events can severely disrupt your itinerary such heavy snowfall blocking the route or a bridge being washed away because of a heavy downpour. Sometimes the trail can become too icy and dangerous for horses because of sudden drop in temperature.
Losing your way
Although escorted by an experienced guide, trekkers are cautioned not to stray from the group. Keep an eye out for signs such as fresh lug-sole footprints of other trekkers, arrows drawn on the trails or rocks by guides and dung and hoof-prints of horses. All major trekking routes have well defined trails. If a trail vanishes slowly, or you find yourself ahead of the others call out to your guide or friends.
Health and safety
If you exercise and train before you embark on a trek in Bhutan there should be major risks. However, if you already have a known heart disease and your exercise is already limited by symptoms at low altitude, you must consult your doctor before coming for a trek to Bhutan.
Some trekkers suffer from altitude sickness after arriving in Bhutan. Altitude Sickness is the result of your body’s failure to adjust to higher altitudes because of the rate of ascent. For 99% of travelers the elevation of the country and passes between the valleys does not create problems. For trekkers we need to know whether they have any former history of altitude sickness. Headache, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, insomnia, shortness of breath and tingling on hands or feet are symptoms of altitude sickness.
Your tour operator must be notified of any pre-existing medical condition.
There are usually few instances in year where visitors have to be rescued because of altitude. Horses and men will carry a trekker hit by altitude to a lower place, but in higher passes a chopper is used for evacuation. The rescue chopper will come from the Indian Air Force base in Hasimara, near the southern Bhutan border after receiving a request from the guide sent to the tour operator and relayed to the Indian air force through the tourism council and the royal Bhutan army.
With most places in Bhutan covered by the cellular network it is now much easier to communicate during emergencies.
The government of Bhutan does not check for vaccinations upon entry into Bhutan. Being up to date with usual Asian vaccinations is recommended.
It is recommended that travellers to Bhutan visit their doctor or a specialised Travel Medicine Clinic at least eight weeks prior to departure. At this appointment trekkers can seek up-to-date advice on vaccinations and medications for the prevention and treatment of altitude sickness and travel-related infections such as diarrhoea, vomiting or cystitis. Vaccination certificates should be taken with trekkers. You purchase comprehensive Travel insurance is strongly recommended, especially for medical and evacuation expenses. Please inform us of any pre-existing medical condition.