BHUTAN FREQUENTLY ASKED
There are two main trekking seasons in Bhutan. Spring season starts in March and carries on to the end of May. Autumn season starts in mid September and carries on to the end of November.
The most popular month to trek in Bhutan is October followed by November then April.
The daily weather pattern in Spring tends to have clear mornings with views of the mountains followed by cumulus clouds build up during the afternoon followed by clear skies at night and into the next morning. However of course one can get a cyclonic system causing stormy weather with precipitation at any time of year….
In Spring you will see flowers in bloom especially rhododendron. One can see rhododendron flowers from mid-March to mid-May depending on altitude and aspect of slope.
The main advantage of Autumn is the higher chance of getting clear skies that is best for mountain photography. The monsoon rains during June to September clears out the dust and pollution from the air. After the monsoon it is normal to get a blocking high pressure sitting over the Himalaya resulting in sunny weather and blue skies however the timing of this depends year to year.
For some years the monsoonal influence continues into the end of September and other years it winds down in early September. In Autumn it is possible to get sunny conditions with blue skies throughout the day whereas this is less likely in spring when cloud normally builds up in afternoon.
Winter is a superb time to visit Bhutan on a Cultural Tour as the weather is often usually sunny and stable as well as having far fewer other visitors around in December and January. The temperature would be too cold for most treks.
Any trip to Bhutan has to be organised through a travel operator as independent travel is not permitted in this country. The package price is inclusive and covers the full cost of your trip. The following services are included:
- tour or trek guide
- vehicle transport
- accommodation (minimum 3 star)
- all meals
- pack animal porterage while on trek
- contribution of US$65 per person per night into a government fund to finance schools and hospitals
- visa fee of US$50
The extras to budget for on a trip to Bhutan are as follows:
- Your flight to and from Paro
- Travel insurance
- Drinks and souvenirs etc
- Tips to your Bhutanese crew
Please see our Trip Dossier for the details of what is included and excluded for each itinerary.
There are many high end hotels and resorts available in Bhutan and if you wish you can upgrade your package to stay at one of these properties. We will add a surcharge to your invoice for the additional cost of your upgrade compared to staying at a three star hotel already included in your package.
We have inspected most of the higher end hotels in Bhutan so please get in touch if you would like further advice and recommendations on these properties. The best hotels in Bhutan are as follows:
Paro: Aman Kora Paro, Uma by Como, Zhiwa Ling and Naksel Boutique Hotel & Spa.
Thimphu: Aman Kora Thimphu, Taj Tashi, Terma Linca Resort & Spa and Le Meridien Thimphu
Punakha: Aman Kora Punakha, Uma by Como and Dhensa Boutique Resort,
Bumthang: Aman Kora Bumthang
Phobjika: Aman Kora Gangtey and Gangtey Goenpa Lodge.
You can fly into Paro from Kathmandu, Bangkok, Delhi, Singapore or Kolkata. There are only two airlines permitted land in Paro being the long established and government owned Druk Air and the private carrier Bhutan Airlines. You can book your flights to Paro through their websites at:
Our recommendation is to have at least one night in the transit city (i.e Delhi, Kathmandu and Bangkok) the night before the trip to Bhutan and one night after the trip to minimise the risk of missed connections for you and/ or your bag.
Once you have booked your flights to and from Paro for dates of the trip please email your e-ticket to us as we require this in order to issue your Bhutan visa.
This is a question we are quite often asked by people considering the pros and cons of a trek in Bhutan versus Nepal. Due to the daily visa fee treks in Bhutan are more expensive than Nepal, so is it worth paying this premium?
The main difference between trekking in Bhutan versus Nepal is the lower number of people visiting Bhutan. You are unlikely to see many other trekkers on the trails of Bhutan however having said this it is also possible to visit remote regions of Nepal with lower trekking traffic however the lodge based trails of Everest, Annapurna, Manaslu and Langtang will be busier.
You will notice in Bhutan that the population living in the hills is much lower than the higher density villages of the middle hills of Nepal. For example on the 29 day Lunana Snowman trek the only villages you see are: Jangothang, Lingshi, Goyok, Laya, Woche, Chozo and Thanza as well as a number of yak herders camps. The landscape in Bhutan is still heavily forested and is in an almost pristine state with many wild animals such as deer, blue sheep, Himalayan black bear, snow leopard.
Whereas in Nepal there has been significant deforestation in many parts of the country due to the higher population pressure of people living in large villages. There are certainly still pockets of untouched forest such as in the east of Nepal around Kanchenjunga and Makalu regions however there has been logging and hunting of wild animals in many places. Of course the scenery and landscape in Nepal is spectacular and well worth seeing however if you are looking for untouched wilderness then consider coming to Bhutan to join a remote trek like Lunana Snowman.
Lunana Snowman has a reputation as one of the most difficult treks in the world, is this really true and in practice how challenging is this trek?
The Snowman trek is a long trek of 29 days and is our second longest trip after Kanchenjunga to Makalu GHT trek in Nepal. Of course being away on the trail and camping for this length of timing is tough as the cumulative physical and mental tiredness builds up over a month. There are eight high mountain passes to cross however it is worth pointing out that Snowman is a non-technical trek therefore mountaineering skills are not required to cross the passes. The overall difficulty of this trek will depend on the conditions and weather experienced during the trek, if there is no snow on the passes (quite often the case in September/ October) then it will be much less strenuous than walking through deep snow (as experienced on our Lunana Snowman group in 2013 with Cyclone Phailin depositing significant snow on Saga La pass). We have included in our kit list micro-crampons, trekking poles and gaiters in case there is deep snow or icey conditions.
The overall success rate of groups attempting the Snowman trek is quite low although it is worth pointing out that so far we have 100% record. The reason for failure among other groups is less due to the strenuous nature of the trek and more to do with poor logistics and planning. The main logistical challenge is to have sufficient number of pack animals to carry their trek luggage. Most groups will change their pack animals two or three times during the trek so having reliable animal contractors in place is key for a successful trek.
Lunana Snowman is a tough and challenging trek that should not be underestimated however there are more technical treks (such as Makalu to Everest GHT) and longer treks (Kanchenjunga to Makalu GHT) in the Himalaya. The Snowman should be a suitable objective for fit hill walkers with previous experience of trekking at high altitude in Himalaya and for people who are happy to be away camping in the wilderness for a month.
Yes it is possible to wash on trek in Bhutan. On a Camping style trek, you will get a bowl of warm water once a day either in the morning or in the afternoon after arrival to camp. This will be provided from our kitchen and you can take the bowl inside the vestibule of your tent for privacy if you wish. On rest days you should have the chance to wash properly as we set up a shower tent for your privacy.
For all treks I suggest you bring wet wipes as these are useful for keeping clean on days when you cannot wash properly. It is also worth bringing a bottle of hand sanitiser to use for cleanliness and hygiene when required during the trip.
You should be careful when washing to avoid getting a chill especially if you are washing long hair as this can be difficult to dry. At high altitudes the air temperature is cold even on a sunny day so you have to be careful to warm up quickly afterwards, either by sitting outside in the sun or in front of a heater in the dining room.
If you are reading this and still feel like you would prefer to trek while enjoying the comforts of a hotel then please take a look at our Cultural Tours of Bhutan where you stay in a hotel for every night and during the day we organise activities including both sightseeing and day walks.
It is important you are aware of what toilet facilities will be available on our treks in Bhutan so you have the right expectations and know what items to pack for your health and hygiene.
On a Camping style trek, after arriving to camp one of our Bhutanese crew will dig a hole in the ground then erect a toilet tent around it for privacy. We also bring a toilet seat that helps if you are not used to squatting. We brief our guides to locate the toilet tent away from water sources and on departure the next morning the hole will be filled and covered with earth. For our larger groups we bring two toilet tents as otherwise there will be a long queue after breakfast! It is worth pointing out we provide toilet paper for our Camping treks. Like for Teahouse Lodge treks we recommend you carry a roll of toilet paper in your day pack in case you get the call of nature along the trail.
For Camping style treks you need to be self-sufficient for power.
If you have a compact digital camera then the best way of retaining your battery power is to keep the camera warm by putting in your pocket before switching it on. Otherwise if you turn your camera on at sub-zero temperatures the battery will be depleted in minutes. Bring three or four pre charged batteries and this should last for even the longer treks while taking lots of photos along the way.
There is always a risk of getting sick when travelling in a developing country like Bhutan and even more so when trekking at high altitude when personal hygiene is less easily manage. Having said this on the vast majority of our trips there are no issues with sickness as we allow sufficient time for acclimatisation to the high altitude and most people follow our guidelines regarding health and hygiene.
In Thimphu there are a number of international standard clinics and hospitals where you can go for treatment. However when trekking in remote areas there will be only very basic medical facilities available (or none at all) so it is for that reason we bring along a comprehensive expedition medical kit with each group. In most cases we can treat in the field with our medical kit, the most common are mild altitude sickness or traveller’s diarrhea.
For more serious illness or accidents then we would arrange a helicopter evacuation back to Thimphu for treatment therefore it is essential you have trekking insurance that covers rescue and evacuation.