Hiking Bhutan’s Druk Path at the end of winter

Nature
The wow factor for nature - does it show nature at its best? Doesn't need to be the wilder-beast migration or diving with hundreds of hammerheads. Rather make you pause as you realise just how awesome the natural world can be
10
Culture
How much does this experience showcase some of the better and finer things that us humans can offer? Sure, it can be ancient ruins and renaissance churches, but it can also be festivals or soaking up some of the great modern cities of the world
4
Fun factor/activity
Very simple - was it fun? This is usually linked in with doing some kind of activity - i mean, walking along some cliffs is nice, but paragliding from them, now that is fun. Its a vastly underrated factor in a truly great experience
7
Avoid the crowds
Big tour groups and being surrounded by loud fellow tourists can sap the life out of even the greatest of travel experiences. This score is to reflect just how much you can avoid this. But. . . The score also takes into account if the crowds actually add to the experience, such as with a party town or a bustling food market
10
World famous
How world famous is the experience?
3
unique
How hard is it to have a similar experience in other places round the world?
6
Overall Score
The highest score of nature or culture, + fun factor, + avoid the crowds, + the highest score of world famous or unique. Then turned into a score out of 100. More details at the bottom of the page
82 *What the scores mean and where do they come from
continent
Asia
country
Bhutan
Length of time
3-4 days
Rough cost
Obviously people have different tastes, so this will depend on those tastes, but this is a rough idea of price of the whole experience based on 2 people able to split the accommodation costs and excluding travel there and back
$ 1,150
Time of year visited
March
Primary Tags
Click on any of the tags to see all travel experiences with the same tag
RANKING
How this travel experience ranks compared to all the other experiences on this site
23rd/359 This travel experience's ranking compared to all the other experiences on this site
Top 10% SUMMARY RATING: Unmissable

Summary

Hiking the Druk Path is a wonderful experience.  The Himalayan scenery, with the valleys from Paro to Thimphu and views of nearby Mt Jomalhori and Mt Gangkhar Puensum, is stunning; the Bhutanese culture and friendliness of the hiking party makes it fun; but more than anything, it is because Bhutan effectively limits the number of international visitors, that you’ll find you have the whole trek largely to yourselves, especially if visiting in winter.  A wonderful experience

 

highlights

#1 Waking up in the morning and being welcomed with beautiful crisp views of this Himalayan World

#2 Those incredible views of the valleys and surrounding mountains

#3 Trekking through the fresh snow, with (hopefully!) clear blue skies

#4 Passing the highest point of Labana La Pass at 4,235m, and knowing the altitude sickness is only going to get better from now on!

#5 The splashes of colour from the Buddhist flags that give the real mountain vibe

#6 Camping in some beautiful spots along the way

Travel Tips

  • It’s a moderately difficult hike, particularly due to the altitude as you pass over the likes of Labana La Pass which is 4,235m / 13,900 feet and a long hard climb.  Overall the hike is 54km which is usually spread over 5/6 days, but is very easily managed in 4 days (which we did).  For an idea of difficulty, it was 82,000 steps and 600 flights climbed according to the iPhone
  • For the altitude, you’re most likely to feel something around the 3,500m / 4,000m mark.  You can do various things to help, such as take pills (we took Acetazolamide and felt like it helped), drink coca tea, take pain killers to help with the headache etc, but the best way is simply to give your body time to get used to the altitude.  2 days for the Tiger’s Nest Monastery (see here for tips on visiting) and generally around Paro should be enough
  • Going in winter does not guarantee snow, which is relatively rare on the path.  There’s pros and cons to snow.  It does look stunning, but trudging through the snow makes the hiking much harder and, if your boots aren’t 100% waterproof, you’re going to get some cold feet
  • It gets bloody cold in the evening – it dropped to around minus 10ºC / 14ºF – so consider bringing an extra super high quality sleeping back, or sleeping in some very warm clothes.  I was fine but others in our group were cold even with all the gear and hot water bottles
  • The guides will bring everything you need and generally be super stars at looking after you.  In fact, with 5 staff and 11 horses / donkeys, you’ll feel like you’re in an episode of Entourage
  • To state the obvious, you won’t be able to buy anything on the way.  Other a few mountain huts, this is all nature

 

Some points on travelling in Bhutan:

  • You have to go with a Bhutanese agency, with a minimum tariff of USD250 per day.  This sounds restrictive and expensive, but bear in mind that this includes all food, accommodation, transport, visas, entrance fees etc in the country and official guides, plus you don’t have to travel as part of a group and can arrange your own itinerary
  • Bear in mind why this minimum tariff is enforced – Bhutan is focused on environmental and cultural preservation, and this extends to tourism.  Low volume, high value is their target; and it really does add to the experience being able to explore without the usual hoards of fellow tourists and the commercialised downsides we often bring
  • Bhutan focuses on Gross National Happiness, rather than an economic Gross National Product.  You’ll see this reflected in the cleanliness and quality of places you visit, and the general friendliness and pride of the local people
  • We had a 7 day / 6 night trip through Bhutan with Bhutan Swallow Tail Travels and they were awesome, would recommend.  USD1,400 per person, which, again, includes everything other than flights and discretionary spend.  For the full details on the itinerary see this travel entry for – A week in Bhutan

Experiences nearby

The below map shows experiences nearby with a colour that reflect the Overall Score of those experiences

Score Detail

Background - how many times have you asked someone what a travel experience was like and the response was "amazing" or "awesome"?  That response is nice to know, but it makes it hard to differentiate that experience compared to others.  That is exactly what these scores are trying to do - differentiate the experience by giving a score out of 10 based on 6 categories and then giving an overall experience score

This overall experience score is calculated by:  take the highest of the "Culture" or "Nature" score (1-10) + "Fun factor" (1-10) + "Avoiding the crowds" (1-10) + highest of the "Unique" or "World Famous score" (1-10).  Then convert into a score out of 100

Extra detail - the logic being that I find all of the 6 individual scores important, but I don't want to mark an experience down just because it doesn't cover both "Culture" and "Nature", or because it isn't both "World Famous" and "Unique".  Take the examples of Safari in The Serengeti and walking through Rome - they both appeal at opposite ends of the nature / culture spectrum, and you can have a fantastic time without needing to appeal to both sides.  So, their overall scores aren't penalized for their lack of one or the other, and I've done the same for "World Famous" vs "Unique".  But . . . I do think that the "Fun factor" of an experience is important, irrelevant of other factors, and so is "Avoiding the Crowds" (or where there are crowds that add to the experience).  So, both of these scores are standalone