Trans Bhutan Trail
A HIGHER CALLING | Make a positive impact on Bhutan’s communities & environment with a trip to the NEW Trans Bhutan Trail
Trans Bhutan Trail (transbhutantrail.org) unveils a range of experiential tours ahead of the official September launch of the Trail – which will coincide with Bhutan’s borders fully re-opening for first time in over two years – that aim to promote sustainable tourism and support Bhutan’s local communities.
- Bhutan’s borders are re-opening on 23rd September, welcoming travellers to visit without quarantine for the first time in over two years
- Ancient pilgrimage Trail confirmed to re-open for the first time in six decades in September
- His Majesty, The King of Bhutan, to host opening ceremonies for citizens and international travellers
- The restoration of the Trail involved the rebuilding of 18 major bridges, 10,000 stairs and 250 miles of pathway
- Trail to support education, cultural and spiritual enrichment, plus experiential travel
- Commitment to plant one tree for each trail member and each international visitor
- Set to be one of the greatest trekking, mountain biking and trail running routes in the world
Join with likeminded travellers and set off on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure that will provide a positive impact to The Kingdom of Bhutan, ethical and sustainable engagement with local communities and true immersion into the unique culture of this magnificent country and some of its remotest, least-visited areas.
On Wednesday 28th September 2022, the restored historic 250-mile pilgrimage trail traversing Bhutan will be officially re-opened for the first time in six decades in a formal ceremony hosted by His Majesty The Fifth King. The Trail launch will take place within days of Bhutan’s borders fully re-opening to travellers on 23rd September.
The vision of his Majesty is for the Trans Bhutan Trail to restore a unique piece of Bhutan’s cultural heritage for the benefit of its people, including its health and wellness potential, its use as an educational and spiritual resource and the economic benefit to remote communities on its route.
Eighteen major bridges, more than 10,000 steps and 250 miles of Trail have been built or restored over the last three years, involving thousands of Bhutanese workers and villagers in a unique private/public partnership between the Royal Government of Bhutan, the Tourism Council of Bhutan and the Bhutan Canada Foundation (BCF), which has worked for many years to further the development of Bhutan and its people through programmes that support the country’s educational ambitions.
BCF was founded by Sam Blyth, an educator, global business executive, innovator and philanthropist, and the visionary behind the Trail restoration project.
Sam has always held a deep admiration for Bhutan and a whole-hearted belief in its commitment to prioritising quality of life through the four pillars of the country’s guiding Gross National Happiness philosophy. It was this belief which drove the initiative to create Trans Bhutan Trail (TBT), transbhutantrail.org, the game-changing, not-for-profit sustainable tourism enterprise behind the launch of the Trail.
“We are thrilled to officially launch the Trans Bhutan Trail and would like to now invite conscientious and responsible adventurers from around the world to walk a section of this, one of the world’s greatest walks, in the knowledge that proceeds from their journey will not only impact communities along the route, but will also help ensure a sustainable future for the Trail.
“The aim is to preserve the Trail, not only out of respect for Bhutan’s ancestors, but also as a connection between communities. For us, the TBT project is much more than just a new hiking trail: it is our gift to the future generations of Bhutan.” Sam Blyth
THE HISTORY & SIGNIFICANCE OF THE TRAIL
The Trail travels through Bhutan’s history, with some 400 historic and cultural sites identified along the route to date. Connecting fortresses – called Dzongs – it originally served as a pilgrimage route for Buddhists in the east, travelling to sacred sites in western Bhutan and Tibet.
With origins that go back at least 500 years, the new Trail will offer walkers and mountain bikers the opportunity to explore Bhutan’s rich culture and heritage and to see the country in an authentic and sustainable way. Spanning the world’s only carbon-negative country, the Trail not only facilitates the rediscovery of generations’ worth of ancient stories, but it also highlights the Kingdom’s core principles of sustainability by delivering a major project focused wholly on sustainable, community-based tourism.
For the first time in over half a century, the Trail has now reconnected its traditional communities, rekindling opportunities for cultural exchange and trade. Particularly in the east, the Trail provides a chance for smaller, more remote communities to reap the economic benefits of tourism, supporting local enterprises such as homestays, campsites and restaurants, and creating employment opportunities for local guides, drivers, and cooks. TBT will also rely on extensive local networks to supply food and other goods for travellers undertaking multi-day trips.
SUSTAINABILITY, RESPONSIBLE TOURISM & EDUCATION
The Trail will contribute to sustainable livelihoods for local communities along it, preserving and celebrating their traditional culture and protecting the delicate ecosystems which it crosses. In this regard, TBT aligns closely with the Tourism Council of Bhutan’s strategy for sustainable economic growth from ‘high-value, low impact’ tourism.
The Trail will encourage international guests to stay for longer (in 2019, only 32% of international visitors to Bhutan stayed for more than six nights, and less than 1% for over 15 nights); and to push further east into areas of the country which have historically attracted few visitors.
TBT is committed to ensuring the Trail has only positive impact on Bhutan’s environment and ecosystems. A TBT Trail Code, the terms of which all guests must adhere to, outlines the basic principles which bind this sustainable trail community. Other current sustainability initiatives include:
- trail marker posts manufactured from recycled plastics;
- local Trail stewardship responsibility delegated to Gewogs (counties);
- bridges built using responsibly-sourced timber and sustainable community forestry practices;
- one tree planted for each international visitor;
- zero single-use plastics on TBT journeys; and
- reusable water bottles for all international visitors and provision of filtered water to refill.
Working in partnership with local schools, scout groups and Gyalsung (National Youth Service), TBT is also committed to providing exceptional experiential education opportunities, including curricula in flora and fauna, low-impact trekking and survival skills, first aid and cultural history.
NEW EXPERIENTIAL TOURS
All aspects of guided walking and biking on the Trail can be arranged directly via TBT (transbhutantrail.org) on a not-for-profit basis, with all proceeds flowing back into creating a sustainable future for The Trail and the communities along it. With its own sustainability fund to ensure that the Trail will be properly maintained for generations to come, visitors booking a journey directly with TBT will play a vital role in the Trail’s future.
Together with attracting hikers and bikers, the Trail presents a rich experience for birdwatchers and botanists, photographers, rafters and runners, as well as for those seeking a spiritual, wellness, or religious journey. The new itineraries include:
NEW: Swap the kids’ club for an enriching adventure – Seven nights | Let children walk in the footsteps of Bhutan’s ancestors on this new family adventure. Popularly known as the Land of the Peaceful Thunder Dragon, open the next generation’s minds to a completely different culture and a treasured natural environment with this new eight-day tour, which takes families into the heart of Bhutan. The tour costs £13,000 total for a family of four (two adults at £3,825 pp and two children aged 5-12 at £2,675 pp), including seven nights’ full-board, transfers, visas, excursions, and activities as per itinerary, entry fees, Trans Bhutan Trail passport and a local trekking guide throughout the trip. Children under five sharing a room pay only the visa fee ($40); children 13+ pay full adult price. Excludes international flights. Departures linked to UK school holidays. Flights extra.
NEW: Women’s Adventure Tour – 11 nights | Together with the opportunity to explore the Trans Bhutan Trail, this new 12-day tour led by female Bhutanese guides will offer an insight into Bhutan’s fascinating matriarchal society, meeting some of the country’s most inspiring female entrepreneurs and exploring creative industries run by Bhutanese women. The tour costs £6,690 pp, including 11 nights’ hotel and lodge accommodation, all meals, transfers, guiding and excursions. Flights extra
NEW: Mountain Biking Adventure – 14 nights | Visit some of Bhutan’s most important spiritual and historical landmarks on this 105.5km (65 mile) cycle and immerse yourself in Bhutan’s unique traditional culture in the communities which flank the trail. Take in Bhutan’s unique capital, Thimphu, the charming town of Punakha, and the royal cities of Trongsa and Bumthang, before rounding off with a rewarding hike up to Tiger’s Nest Monastery. The 14-night tour costs £7,865 pp (two sharing), including full-board accommodation (homestays and hotels), bike hire, transfers, visas, activities as per itinerary, entry fees, Trans Bhutan Trail passport, one year’s Trans Bhutan Trail Membership and a local guide throughout the trip. Flights extra.
NEW: End-to-End Trek – The ultimate bucket list challenge, 35 nights | For the ultimate trekking experience in Bhutan, complete the Trans Bhutan Trail end-to-end hike, one of the world’s greatest walks. Hike across the country from Haa in the west to Trashigang in the east, covering 250 miles of refurbished stairways, pathways and bridges and traversing several of the Kingdom’s different climate zones, with views of the Himalayas in some sections of the route. The tour costs £16,785 pp (two sharing), including 35 nights’ full-board accommodation (campsites, homestays and hotels), transfers, visas, excursions, entry fees, Trans Bhutan Trail passport, one year’s Trans Bhutan Trail Membership and a local trekking guide throughout the trip. Flights extra.
Additional activities are also available, including yoga, meditation, cooking demonstrations and mountain biking. All trips booked with The Trans Bhutan Trail include TICO financial guarantee.
For more information, visit transbhutantrail.org.
Press: A selection of high-resolution imagery can be found here.
Note to Editors:
About the Trans Bhutan Trail: For thousands of years, the Trail was used by pilgrims, armies and traders. The Trail spans 250 miles from the east to the west of Bhutan. Until the 1960s, it was the only way to travel across the country. It will re-open to visitors in 2022 for the first time in over 60 years. The Trail will maintain the principles laid out across the Bhutanese tourism industry, which will ensure all tours are run sustainably. The Trail is also a member of the World Trails Network Sustainability Committee. The Trans Bhutan Trail is committed to enhancing the route out of respect for Bhutan’s ancestors and as a gift to future generations. Its Trail Code can be found here. For more information, visit transbhutantrail.org.
About the Bhutan Canada Foundation: The Bhutan Canada Foundation (BCF) is committed to improving education in Bhutan in partnership with The Royal Government of Bhutan. Through the provision of teachers, materials and scholarships, BCF supports educational development across the country. The organisation was established in 2009, picking up a much longer tradition of cooperation between Canada and Bhutan, particularly in the education sector. For more information, visit bhutancanada.org/.
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