Join us for the Lunana Snowman trek, the ultimate trekking route in the Bhutan Himalaya!
The FULL Bhutan Lunana Snowman trek from Paro to Bumthang is considered the most challenging, and the most stunningly beautiful, trek Bhutan, a true adventure passing under eight of Bhutan's highest Himalayan peaks, including Gangkhar Puensum. The Lunana Snowman trek crosses ten high Himalayan passes, venturing through Bhutan's most far-flung valleys, villages and traditional nomadic regions, a timeless trek through a sacred, Buddhist land.
Our journey begins in idyllic Paro with a hike to the Tiger's Nest - Takstang Monastery - perched in the pine-covered cliffs, one of Bhutan's most photographed sites. Our Lunana Snowman trek begins following the Jhomolhari (Chomolhari), Lingshi and Laya trekking routes, passing through some of Bhutan's semi-nomadic regions and remote mountain villages. Jhomolhari is one of Bhutan's most exquisite sacred peaks, bordering Bhutan and Tibet.
From Jhomolhari base camp our trail parallels the Tibetan border as we head high into the Bhutan Himalayas, crossing the first of our many Himalayan passes, the Nyele La, to descend to remote Lingshi village. Our trail continues crossing Himalayan passes, with spectacular mountain views from the crests, following narrow ridges and steep-sided valleys until we reach Sinchey La (5005 meters), the highest pass on the trek. From the Sinchey La we descend to the remote village of Laya, one of the largest and most unique mountain villages in Bhutan with its own style of dress and a very unique pointed hat worn by the women. We've scheduled a rest day to explore Laya, and of course shop with the villagers ...
Leaving the Laya Lingshi route, the Bhutan Snowman trek becomes ever more remote as we head to Lunana, a remote valley of nomadic herders, who migrate with their yaks and sheep. Continuing to cross high, snow-covered passes we have 2+ more weeks of strenuous trekking along remote trails. The passes are often blocked by snowfall and the trek is one of the most difficult (and cold) in all of the Himalaya, so be prepared with a good attitude and warm clothes for lots of adventure! We'll be rewarded by sublime Himalayan scenery and encounters with some of Bhutan's most far-flung villages.
Enjoy this adventurous trek in the Land of the Thunder Dragon!
NOTE: Previous Himalayan trekking required for this very challenging and cold Bhutan Snowman Trek.
The Lonely Planet describes the Snowman Trek as one of the most difficult treks of the world, and we have TEN high Himalayan passes to complete!
The Great Lunana Snowman Trek
Day 1 - Arrive Paro
Day 2 - Paro | Hike Taktsang Monastery (Tiger's Nest)
Day 3 - Trek Drukgyel Dzong - Sharna Zampa
Day 4 - Trek Soi Thangthangkha
Day 5 - Trek Jangothang (Jhomolhari Base Camp)
Day 6 - Jangothang (Jhomolhari Base Camp)
Day 7 - Trek Lingshi (cross Nyele La 4890m)
Day 8 - Trek Chebisa
Day 9 - Trek Shomuthang (cross Gombu La 4400m)
Day 10 - Trek Robluthang (cross Jhare La 4780m)
Day 11 - Trek Limithang (cross Shinge La 5000m)
Day 12 - Trek Laya
Day 13 - Laya
Day 14 - Trek Rhoduphu
Day 15 - Trek Narethang (cross Tsema La 4900m)
Day 16 - Trek Tarina
Day 17 - Trek Woche
Day 18 - Trek Lhedim (cross Keshe La 4435m)
Day 19 - Trek Thanza
Day 20 - Thanza
Day 21 - Trek Tshorim
Day 22 - Trek Gangkhar Puensum Base Camp (cross Gophu La 5230m)
Day 23 - Trek Geshe Woma
Day 24 - Extra Day
Day 25 - Trek Warathang (cross Phorang La 4650m & Saka La 4820m)
Day 26 - Trek Duer Tsachu (cross Nephu La 4560m)
Day 27 - Duer Tsachu (relax at hot springs)
Day 28 - Trek Tshochenchen
Day 29 - Trek Duer. Drive Jakar | Bumthang
Day 30 - Jakar | Bumthang Sightseeing
Day 31 - Drive Punakha | Optional Rafting on Mo Chu
Day 32 - Drive Thimphu | Sightseeing
Day 33 - Drive Paro | Sightseeing
Day 34 - Trip Ends (Transfer to Paro Airport)
The trip starts and finishes in Paro, Bhutan. Flights to and from Bhutan are available from Delhi, Kathmandu, Bangkok, Calcutta + a few other destinations. You can book your own flights, or our agent can book the flights for you.
Kamzang Journeys Photos
Bhutan Lunana Snowman Trek
Day 1 - Arrive Paro 2390m
Fly to Paro from the departure city of your choice (see Druk Air schedule: Xplore Bhutan can book your flights for you). The flight into Paro from Kathmandu (and elsewhere) must be one of the most spectacular on the planet. The panorama includes Everest, Kanchenjunga, Shishapangma, Gauri Shankar, Cho Oyu, Nuptse, Lhotse, Chamlang, Jannu, Chomoyummo, Pauhunri, Shudu Tsenpa, Jhomolhari and Jichu Drake. You'll have an exciting descent into the Paro valley as the captain maneuvers the jet down through the narrow, steep-sided valleys, seeming to barely miss the forested walls on either side. The landings by experienced pilots are always smooth, and clear, blue skies with temperatures in the mid-60s are worth the anxiety of the landing.
You'll be pickup from Paro Airport by a representative from Xplore Bhutan and transferred to our hotel in Paro, the lovely Tenzinling Resort just outside of Paro town. The rooms here are beautiful, large with high roofs and large windows overlooking the houses of the Paro suburbs and the massive Paro Dzong in the distance. The international flights usually arrive by mid-morning, so after your first traditional Bhutanese lunch you'll have the afternoon to explore.
Bhutanese dishes are delicious if you like meat and chilis. Their national dish is ema dates, whole red or green chilis cooked with butter and cheese and served over rice. As a tourist you're fed far too many dishes, and you will hardly make a dent in the ema datsi, chicken, potatoes and cheese, cauliflower and cheese, Chinese vegetables and Bhutanese vegetables!
After lunch we'll head into Paro for some sightseeing, with time to visit some of the shops that sell everything from beetle nut to exquisite, hand-woven textiles. Time permitting we will explore the traditional Bhutanese architecture and visit Rinpung Dzong, or Paro Dzong, translated as 'Fortress on a Heap of Jewels’. Paro Dzong was built in 1644 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal on the foundation of one of Guru Rimpoche’s monasteries and was used to defend the Paro valley from invasions by Tibet. Although the dzong survived the 1897 earthquake, it was severely damaged by a fire in 1907. Like most dzongs in Bhutan, it is now the assembly hall as well as housing the monastic body, district government offices, and courts. We might also have time to visit the National Museum.
In the evening we may have the chance to watch the locals playing archery Bhutan's national game and a bit of an obsession in the country! Back at the Tenzinling Resort dinner is almost always at the hotel, showers are hot, and beers are always stocked! Welcome to Bhutan ...
Day 2 - Paro | Hike Taktsang Monastery (Tiger's Nest) 3100m
Today is an acclimatization day as well as a chance to hike up through beautiful pine forests to Bhutan's most iconic landmark, Taktsang Gompa, clinging to a huge granite cliff above Paro valley. It is believed that Padmasambhava (Guru Rimpoche) came to Bhutan in the 7th century on a flying tigress and meditated in a cave for three months. The demons were subdued who were trying to stop the spread of Buddhism and converted the Paro valley into Buddhism. During the end of the 17th century a monastery was built on the spot where the saint meditated and it is a pilgrimage site for every Bhutanese to visit at least once in their life time.
The hike to Taktsang Monastery, including time at the monastery and lunch, takes a good five hours. We're at altitude, so hike slowly, watch the sometimes precipitous trail and stay well hydrated. Once back at the van we can either drive back into Paro or spend the afternoon back at our lovely Tenzinling Resort, finishing our packing for the trek.
Day 3 - Drive Drukgyel Dzong (2580m) + Sharna Zampa 2850m. Trek Shing Karap 3090m
We have a 20-minute drive along the Paro valley to Drukgyel Dzong (2580m), where the road ends and our epic Bhutan Lunana Snowman trek begins! Drukyel Dzong was built in 1647 to protect the Paro valley from invading Tibetans; unfortunately it was destroyed by fire in 1951.
We start the trek along a rough dirt road, climbing gradually, or we may be able to drive the first section to Mitchi Zampa by 4WD jeep. The trail follows the Paro Chhu, passing beautiful meadows, cow paddocks and traditional stone and wood Bhutanese farm houses with fields of rice, wheat, barley, mustard, potato and radishes. After about four hours of easy trekking we reach the army post at Gunitsawa where our trek permits will be checked. Our campsite is on the opposite side of the river, not far from Gunitsawa. (4-5 hrs, 17 km, 360m ascent, 80m descent)
Day 4 - Trek Soi Thangthangkha 3610m
We trek further north along the border of Tibet, heading uphill through the river valley until we enter the Jigme Dorji National Park, a park of 4350 square meters and the largest protected area in the country, extending past Laya into Lunana to the east. The forests in the park are predominantly oak, maple, birch, larch pine and alder, with rhododendron taking over as the parkland reaches higher altitudes.
The valley finally narrows gradually to a mere path which descends to a meadow camp. From here, if weather permits, we will have the first wonderful views of Jhomolhari, or Chomolhari (7314m), one of Bhutan's most well known and beautiful peaks. (7-8 hrs, 22 km, 770m ascent, 10m descent)
Day 5 - Trek Jangothang (Jhomolhari Base Camp) 4080m
Another chance for views of majestic Jhomolhari this morning! We continue to trek up the Paro Chhu valley which widens into alpine meadow and scanty growths of forest; Jichu Drake (6794m) dominates the right side of the skyline. Crossing an army outpost, we enjoy increasingly spectacular views of high mountain ridges and snow-capped peaks, and yaks, yak-hair tents and seasonal settlements become a regular feature of the landscape. Passing the villages of Soe, Takethang and Dangochang, we soon reach the nomadic pasturelands of Jangothang, one of the most beautiful campsites of the Himalayas. We've reached the high plateaus above treeline, more Tibetan in character, and are trekking through scrub juniper and dwarf rhododendron, both used for incense. We again have a spectacular view of Mount Jhomolhari from camp. (5-6 hrs, 19 km, 480m ascent)
Day 6 - Jangothang (Jhomolhari Base Camp)
An acclimatization day in beautiful Jangothang, with plenty of possibilities for day hikes with great views over lakes and snow-capped Jhomolhari and Jichu Drake, as well as some blue sheep spotting in the rocky outcrops. There hasn't been much mountaineering activity on these two peaks although Doug Scott reached the summit of Jichu Drake in 1988.
A side trip up the small valley heading towards Jhomolhari leads to a great viewpoint down onto the Jhomolhari glacier. Another hike heads up to Sopu Lake, near the Nyele La.
Day 7 - Trek Lingshi 4010m (cross Nyele La 4890m)
Just past our campsite the trail climbs rapidly for half an hour and then becomes a gradual ascent over rolling hillsides with low brush to the Nyele La pass (4870m). We may see herds of blue sheep grazing on the slopes of the mountains. From the pass we'll be treated to spectacular views of Jhomolhari, Jichu Drake and Tsherimgang, all of them rising above 7000 meters.
We have a steep descent through rhododendron to some yak-wool herding tents, where the herders take shelter while on the move to their pastures with their yaks. As we descend into the Lingshi basin we have a wonderful view of Lingshi Dzong, built to guard this valley from raids from Tibet. Tserimgang and its glaciers rising up at the north end of the valley. Lingshi is home to 500-year old Lingshi Dzong, with over a dozen resident monks, a lovely, interesting village to explore. Our campsite is next to a stone hut just before Lingshi Dzong. (6-7 hrs, 18 km, 840m ascent, 870m descent)
Day 8 - Trek Chebisa 3880m
Today is our shortest walking day, so we'll relax and enjoy the trekking. Shortly after starting we reach a chorten below Lingshi Dzong. Here, we have the choice of staying on the main trail or taking a diversion up to the Lingshi Dzong (4220m), which sits right at the top of a ridge. Besides a very special atmosphere of mystic silence, Lingshi Dzong provides a great view over the valley. After Lingshi Dzong you will be passing the villages of Lingshi and Goyul. In Goyul, the stone houses are clustered together to a small compact village that is unusual in Bhutan where village houses are normally scattered. On reaching the campsite at Chebisa, with a beautiful waterfall behind the village, we'll have plenty of time to visit the village. (5-6 hrs, 10 km, 280m ascent, 410m descent)
Day 9 - Trek Shomuthang 4220m (cross Gombu La 4400m)
A lovely trek through wide pasturelands towards Gobu La (pass). On the way, we'll pass yak herders and their yak-hair tents once again There is also a good chance of spotting large herds of blue sheep above the trail. After crossing the Gobu La (4410m) we descend to the valley, climbing again for a bit and then descending to Shakshepasa (3980m) where a helipad has been established. Climbing from here we finally reach the campsite at Shomuthang, just above a stream, a tributary of the Nochu River. (6-7 hrs, 17 km, 890m ascent, 540m descent)
Day 10 - Trek Robluthang 4160m (cross Jhare La 4780m)
We'll start a bit early today as we have a long trek ahead of us as we beging climbing up the valley with views of Kang Bum (6526 m), with edelweiss brightening the fields. After two hours of climbing we reach Jhari La (4750m) from where we catch our first sight of the Sinche La, tomorrow's pass. The big snow peak in the north is Gangchhenta (6840 m), better known as the Great Tiger Mountain. If the weather is clear, Tserim Kang and the top of Jumolhari will be visible. We pass a camp by the river called Tsheri Jathang, where herds of takin, the Bhutanese national nnimal, migrate to this valley in summer and remain for about four months; thus the valley has been declared a takin sanctuary. We climb up a little bit from this camp to reach our campsite at Robluthang, in a rocky meadow. (6-7 hrs, 18km, 700m ascent, 760m descent)
Day 11 - Trek Limithang 4040m (cross Shinge La 5000m)
After crossing Sinche La (5,005m), we descend to a little stone house where a few Laya women – dressed in typical Laya costume with long pointed bamboo hats on their head – live and offer their weaving products. Right behind the stone house you will see an impressive terminal moraine and a glacial lake at the foot of the valley. You can see classic examples of the lateral moraines where the glacier has pushed rocks up both sides of the valley. Below the moraine, you cross the Kango Chhu and soon reach the Limithang campsite. The peak of Gangchhenta towers over the campsite even though it’s quite a distance away. (6-7 hrs, 19km, 850m ascent, 870m descent)
Day 12 - Trek Laya 3840m
Today, you walk all the way downhill along a narrow winding river valley. After a long time, you again trek partly through deep forest. The trail leads you to the west side of Laya village. From the west of the village you will view Gangchhenta again and catch a glimpse of Masagang. In the village centre is a community school and a basic health unit with telephone connection. The campsite is below the school. (4-5 hrs, 10 km, 60m ascent, 340m descent)
Day 13 - Laya
Finally, a much needed rest day to recuperating from long trekking days and to prepare for the rest of this challenging but spectacular trek. It's also worth the extra day in Laya to admire the incredible views, and visit with its unique inhabitants. And of course the shopping ...
Day 14 - Trek Rhoduphu 4160m
From Laya we begin our trek into mythical Laya valley, where we'll encounter nomads herding their yaks and sheep. These nomads search for yertsa gumbu (caterpillar fungus) every June, and have an extensive knowledge of medical herbs.
Fro Laya we descend to an army camp and continue following the river till the turn off point to Rhoduphu. After lunch the climb continues through rhododendron bushes until we reach our campsite at Roduphu just next to the Rhodu Chhu. (6-8 hrs, 19 km, 1030m ascent, 750m descent)
Day 15 - Trek Narethang 4900m (cross Tsema La 4900m)
After following the river for about half an hour you will have a steady climb to a high open valley at 4,600m and then further up to Tsomo La (4900m). Tsomo La offers a superb view of Lunana, Mount Jomolhari and Jichu Drake, and the Tibetan border. The route then crosses a flat, barren plateau at about 5000m. The campsite at Narethang is towered by the peak of Gangla Karchung (6395m). (5-6 hrs, 17 km, 740m ascent)
Day 16 - Trek Tarina 3970m
From the camp you will climb for about an hour to Gangla Karchung La (5,120m). The view from the pass is breathtaking and the whole range of mountains including Jekangphu Gang (7,100m), Tsenda Kang and Teri Gang (7,300m) can be seen. The pass descends along a large moraine. Again one has great views: a massive glacier descends from Teri Kang to a deep turquoise lake at its foot. Up here a glacial lake burst through its dam in the early 1960s, causing widespread damage and partially destroying Punakha Dzong. Finally, it is a very long descent through thick rhododendron to Tarina valley, where you will find several good campsites along the Tang Chhu. (5-6 hrs, 18 km, 270m ascent, 1200m descent)
Day 17 - Trek Woche 3910m
The walk leads down through conifer forests following the upper ridges of the Pho Chhu, passing some impressive waterfalls. The trail then climbs over a ridge and drops to Woche, a settlement of a few houses, the first village in the Lunana region. (6-7 hrs, 17 km, 270m ascent, 330m descent)
Day 18 - Trek Lhedi 3700m (cross Keshe La 4435m)
The trek starts through juniper and fir forests, and further ahead, through rhododendron bushes. Climb up to Keche La pass (4,650m) where one can have the great view of surrounding mountains again. After the pass, descend to the riverside walking through a village with a stunning view of Table Mountain and others. Follow up the river till Lhedi Village. Lhedi has a basic health unit, a school and a wireless telephone connection. (6-7 hrs, 17 km, 980m ascent, 1190m descent)
Day 19 - Trek Thanza 4150m
In clear weather , you will have great views of Table Mountain (7,100m).Around lunchtime you will pass the small village of Chozo (4,090m) which has a dzong still in use. Reaching Thanza again you will have a great view of Table Mountain which forms a 3,000m high wall of snow and ice behind the village. Although there are possibilities to camp directly at Thanza, most groups prefer to camp in Thoencha. (7-8 hrs, 17 km, 450m ascent)
Day 20 - Thanza
Another much needed rest day in Thanza to experience some village life, and to relax. Climb up the ridge for beautiful views of lakes and Himalayan peaks. We switch animals at Thanz, and it takes time to arrange new yaks (the yaks from Laya will not go further than Thanza) so the guides will also need the extra day.
Day 21 - Trek Tshorim 5120m
Heading along the Bumthang route, the trek starts by climbing a ridge with a great view of Table Mountain and Thanza valley below. The ridge altitude is 4500m and it rises gradually up to 4650m. After lunch, we ascend towards the left side of the bridge to enjoy the view of snow-capped mountains. We'll reach the campsite of Tshorim after climbing several more ridges, a long day (8-9 hrs)
Day 22 - Trek Gangkhar Puensum Base Camp 4970m (cross Gophu La 5230m)
An incredible Himalayan day as we trek for an hour up to Tshorim Tsho (lake), contouring around the banks for a panoramic view of the Gophu La ranges. Soon we start the relatively short ascent to the Gophu La, from where we have views of Gangkar Punsum (7540m), Bhutan's highest peak. After enjoying the views, we descend to the base camp, walking along the ridge to enjoy a great view of Gangkhar Puensum. If people are interested part of the group can divert to the left to climb up the pyramid peak for great views, or we can all trek directly down to the base camp nearby Sha Chhu. (6-7 hrs)
Day 23 - Extra Day
Just in case ...
Day 24 - Trek Geshe Woma
Today's trail further follows the Sha Chhu, we cross the Gophu La, then descend gradually to Geshe Woma. (6-7 hrs)
Day 25 - Trek Warathang 4000m (cross Phorang La 4650m & Saka La 4820m)
The path continues following Sha Chhu for two and a half hours until the stiff climb to Saka La begins. Visibility along the Saka La trail is poor so one must see top of the ridge for guidance. After having lunch nearby a yak herders’ camp you reach the Saka La (4820m). The path then descends to a couple of lakes and another short ascent is stunning. Scenery once again is beautiful with small lakes and the mountain peaks. (8-9 hrs)
Day 26 - Trek Duer Tsachu 3590m (cross Nephu La 4560m)
A one hour climb leads to Juli La (4,700m). After the pass, you descend to the riverside through dense rhododendron, juniper and conifer forests. After the bridge a short climb leads to Duer Tsachu. These hot springs, where Guru Padmasambhava is supposed to have taken bath, might be the most stunningly beautiful hot springs of the Himalayas. (5 hrs)
Day 27 - Duer Tsachu Hotsprings
A rest day at the hot springs, so soak, relax and enjoy. You've deserved it!
Day 28 - Trek Tshochenchen 3850m
From the hot springs it is a long and steady climb again with great views of the Lunana valley peaks. We will trek past stunningly beautiful turquoise lakes and yak herder huts. (8-9 hrs)
Day 29 - Trek Duer. Drive to Jakar | Bumthang 2700m
Sadly, the last day of our epic Bhutan Lunana Snowman trek! We say goodbye to porters and change from yaks to horses. Our trail follows the Chamkhar Chhu, descending gradually with a few climbs, and finishing in Duer village. From Duer we drive to Jakar (Bumthang) and stay in a hotel for the night, total luxury! (4 hrs trek, 1 hr drive)
Day 30 - Jakar | Bumthang
A free day for some sightseeing in Jakar. The majestic Jakar Dzong, built in 1549, is first on the afternoon sightseeing agenda. Next, the ancient and atmospheric Jampey Lhakhang, built it 659 by King Songsten Gampo on the same day as Kyichu Gompa in Paro in order to pin down the body of a Tibetan demoness. Here we'll notice older Bhutanese doing 'koras' and counting their prayer beads, praying for a good rebirth. Next to this is the wonderful Kurjey Lhakhang, the oldest temple of which was built in 1652. The next temple was built in 1900 by Sanpa Lhundrup, the first king of Bhutan, and the last in 1984 by the queen mother, Ashi Kesang Wangchuck. The last temple was built over a cave with the body print of Guru Rimpoche, so a sacred spot. In the eastern valley is Tampshing Lhakhang, built in 1501 by Pema Lingpa. Up another valley is the Tampshing Lhakhang, situated along a lovely country road, and the Red Panda brewery. Nearby you can buy delicious Guda cheese at the local dairy shop. A Swiss man was the force behind both the beer and the cheese. Local apple juice and apple brandy are also available, the juice being just like the apple juice in Manang, Nepal.
Back in the center of town are more shops, some owned by Tibetans, families whose refugee descendents fled Tibet in 1959. Also worth visiting are the woodcraft workshops, dying workshop, and the five water wheels behind Wangdicholing Old Palace. Overnight: Hotel
Day 31 - Drive Punakha 1250m
Phew, it's good to be in a car! It's a lovely and scenic drive to Punakha, and en route we'll stop to visit historic Trongsa Dzong. Once in Punakha we check into the lovely Damchen Resort, quite a ways above the Mo Chu (Punakha sits at the intersection of the Mo Chu and the Phu Chu, the mother and father rivers) and head out to Punakha Dzong, enjoying the rest of the balmy, tropical day. Punakha Dzong is perhaps the most impressive of Bhutan's dzongs, the second one built and the seat of the government until the 1950s. The afternoon light is perfect, illuminating the guilded rooftops. Cold beers on Kamzang Journeys! Overnight: Hotel
Day 32 - Drive Thimphu 2340m
We'll spend the morning doing some sightseeing in Punakha, with the option to do a half day rafting trip on the Mo Chu. We'll do the drive to Thimpu in the late afternoon and stay at a lovely hotel Thimpu, heading out for dinner in the evening. More ema datsi please! Overnight: Namgay Heritage Hotel
Day 33 - Drive Paro
We have time for sightseeing in Thimphu in the morning. Tashichho Dzong, the main secretariat building build in a traditionally Bhutanese style is notable for being built without nails or metal. Also worth a look are the large stupa built as a memorial to the late King HM Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, the founder of modern Bhutan. With a bit of extra time the Handicraft Emporium is worth a visit.
Again we have the option of a late afternoon drive to Paro where we'll be back to our lovely Tenzinling Resort for our last night in Bhutan. Xplore Bhutan has arranged a farewell dinner and cultural program, and cold beers will be flowing in celebration of our epic trek across the Bhutan Himalaya! Overnight: Tenzinling Resort
Day 34 - Depart
Transfer to Paro Airport for your international flight home.
Trip Advisor Reviews
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- The ultimate Bhutan trek & one of THE best Himalayan treks on the planet
- TEN high Himalayan passes
- Remote mountain villages such as Lingshi & Laya
- Spectacular Himalayan vistas
- Jhomolhari Base Camp
- Nomads, yaks and yak-hair tents
- Duer Tsachu hot springs
- Few other trekkers
- Sightseeing in Bumthang
- Sightseeing in Thimpu, Punakha & Paro
- Tiger's Nest hike out of Paro
- Trekking at the optimal time of year to complete the trek (October)
- Extra acclimatization days
- BONUS: 1/2 day rafting on the Punaka Chu
Kamzang Journeys Photos
Bhutan Lunana Snowman Trek
Photo Gallery | Trip + Trek Photos
Kim Bannister Photography
Himalayan Wildlife Photos
Himalayan Bird Photos
Himalayan Flowers Photos
Online Articles on Bhutan
Soaking in a Unique Bath Culture - BBC Travel
Bhutan, a Higher State of Being - New York Times
Bhutan's Dark Secret to Happiness - BBC Travel
Bhutan's Enlightened Experiment - National Geographic
Bhutan Rising - WWF
Bhutan: Travel Blueprint - Wanderlust UK
2019 Dates TBA
+ NO Single Supplement for Single Tents!
+ Hotel Single Supplement - $350
+ Flights to + from Bhutan NOT Included
+ Price based on 10+ Bookings
+ Maximum 12 Trekkers
NOTE: Price includes extensive safety measures. We carry 2 Thuraya satellite phones, our satellite inReach messaging system, a PAC (portable altitude chamber) &/or oxygen and a full medical kit. PLUS a Western, Sherpa & Bhutanese guide.
- Trek Support - Xplore Bhutan
- International Bhutan Flight Booking Services - Xplore Bhutan
- Bhutan Visa - Xplore Bhutan
- Hotel Accommodation | Sightseeing | Meals (Boutique Hotels)
- Sightseeing | Entrance Fees in Paro, Thimpu, Punakha & Bumthang
- Rafting on Punakha River
- Transportation | Airport Transfers
- 3 Guides | Western guide (Kim), Nepali guide (Lhakpa) & Bhutanese guide
- Kamzang-Style Boutique Trekking | All trekking logistics & permits, yak & horse porterage, fully-supported trek, the yellow Kamzang Dining Tent, camp chairs, trek library, delicious food, freshly brewed coffee, chai, herbal teas & other hot drinks. The tents are supplied by Xplore Bhutan (new Western dome tents)
Safety & Health Precautions | Included in Trek
- Thuraya satellite phone
- InReach satellite messaging system
- Updated route published on InReach site & Kamzang Facebook page
- Oxygen saturation monitoring system
- PAC bag (portable oxygen chamber)
- Full medical kit & stretcher
- Kayadyn filtered water
- Safe, sanitary, delicious & plentiful food and drinks
- Travel Insurance | Travel Health Insurance
- International Flights
- Equipment Rental
- Alcohol | Bottled Drinks
Tips & Extra Cash
We recommend $300 per trekker as tips for the staff, and approximately $300 for spending money on the trip.
NOTE: Mobile phones + wifi work throughout much of the Everest region.
We carry a satellite phone with us for emergencies. Send us a free message at the online Thuraya link below. We can call you back or email you back. If you want a return call or email include your contact info. You can send this in two SMSs if needed.
Kim Satellite#1: +88216 (21277980) – Nepal
Lhakpa Satellite: +88216 (87710076)
We have a MapShare page that works for sending emails to our InReach messaging device. Give this link to people who want to follow us and have them send us a message so we have their email in the system. We can email them back directly Please tell people not to expect updates every day. There is a ‘message’ button on the top left, and the message sender needs to put their EMAIL address instead of phone number to get a response. Messages are free, enjoy.
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I will post InReach updates to our Kamzang Journeys Facebook page if friends & family want to follow our progress.
Bhutan Health Information
Currency, Credit Cards + ATMS
Bhutanse Ngultrum = Indian Rupee ($1 = $66 Sept 2016). Although the national currency is the ngultum, the IC is accepted throughout Bhutan.
+ In 1974, the ngultrum was introduced, replacing the rupee at par. The ngultrum is equal in value to the Indian rupee. India was key in assisting the Bhutanese government as it developed its economy in the early 1960s. When the ngultrum was introduced, it retained the peg to the Indian rupee which the Bhutanese rupee had maintained. The ngultrum does not exchange independently with other nations' currencies but is interchangeable with the Indian rupee.
You’ll want local currency with you on the trip and trek for drinks, snacks, beer, soda and general shopping. There are many chances to shop during the trip, especially in eastern Bhutan, and usually local crafts to buy en route. There are ATMs in Paro, Thimpu and other cities, and you’ll want some cash to change as well.
Most larger craft shops in Thimpu, Paro and Punakha will accept credit cards, although there is generally a merchant fee surcharge. Credit cards aren't as widely accepted in the central or east of Bhutan.
Tipping in Bhutan
Tips are best in local currency, the Bhutanese ngultrum. Guides and drivers will expect tips when you last see them, so for sightseeing sections before the trip, the drivers will expect small tips, and the same for the drivers after the trip.
For the longer Snowman trek, expect to contribute a tip of $250 (16,500 ngultrum) to the general pool. The guide (Kim) will distribute when necessary, to make things easier.
Tempartures + Dress Etiquette
The Snowman Trek is a high altitude trek, generally very cold, often wet, often muddy. Be prepared with a warm down jacket and sleeping bag, down booties, wind/waterproof jacket & pants, good hiking boots, Crocs to change into in the evenings, trekking poles, gaiters, a 35-45 liter daypack, layers for day, a cap or wide-brimmed hat, gloves and wool hat, thermals for evening, enough snack food and rehydration (electrolytes). See GEAR LIST on website for full gear list.
Much of Bhutan in the Spring and Autumn is warm during the day (t-shirt, sandals, light pants or skirt weather), cools down in the afternoon. Nights are often below freezing although they can also be much wamer. Layers are the key. Summer is hotter and wetter. The winter months (November – March) are chilly in the mornings, cold enough that you might start the day in a down jacket, but warm up to jeans and t-shirt weather by late morning. Nights require a down jacket if you’re sitting outside. It never hurts to have an umbrella as it can rain at any time of the year.
Trekking on a long trek is always a mixed bag of temperatures. Daytime temperatures can be very hot and muggy in the lower altitudes (below 2000 meters), so a wide-brimmed hat or baseball cap and light clothes are essential. LAYERS are the key as hot can change quickly to FREEZING crossing the passes and snowfalls are common. Have a wide range of layer-able trekking clothes for summer to winter temperatures. Be prepared! See GEAR LIST below.
Dress conservatively in the cities and on the trail as a rule. Shorts are OK if they aren't too short, NO shorts or tank tops in the monasteries. Use your good judgment!
See 'Bhutan' tab for the Bhutanese dress code.
Passport on Trek
You should carry your passport with you in your day pack at all times during the trek, not in your duffel bag.
Shopping in Bhutan
Bhutan is known for its crafts and textiles, and there are many local craft markets around Bhutan where you can pick up wonderful things to bring home. Your guide will help if you’re interested in shopping while in Bhutan!
Photo Gallery | Trip + Trek Photos
Kim Bannister Photography
Kamzang Journeys Photos
Bhutan Lunana Snowman Trek
General Bhutan Information
See 'Bhutan' Tab
You will be met at the Paro airport by a representative from Xplore Bhutan. Look for a sign with your name on it, they will be looking for you. You'll be driven to the hotel in Paro and briefed. Everything is included, so if you arrive early you'll have a driver, car and guide at your disposal, and all meals are also included.
Xplore Bhutan will issue your Bhutan visa and email it to you at least 10 days before your arrival in Paro. Xplore can also issue you a transit India visa once you arrive in Paro if you need one. Bring a copy of your passport and a photo.
Flights to + from Bhutan
Xplore Bhutan can issue your flight to Paro from various destinations, and can book your return flights, whether from Paro or from Guwahati in Assam, India. You can also book your own flights to Bhutan and from Bhutan or India. At the moment Druk Air is the only carrier flying into & out of Bhutan.
Notes on Itinerary
Although we try to follow the itinerary below, it is ONLY a guideline based on years of experience trekking in the Himalaya. At times local trail, river or weather conditions may make a deviation necessary; rivers may be impassible, snow blocks passes, and landslides wipe out trails. The trekking itinerary and campsites may also vary slightly depending on the group's acclimatization rate or sickness.
The Himalaya are our passion, and we take trekking seriously. Although everyone is here on vacation, please come with a dollop of patience and compassion added to your sense of adventure ...
This is a guideline, not a bible, for the gear you will need on the trek!
Your duffel bag can NOT be any larger than a North Face XL (140 Liter, 32" x 19" by 19")
ONE duffel bag per person.
20 kg (50 lbs) weight limit.
- Duffel Bag
- Day Pack (35-45 L)
- Sleeping Bag (-20F/-30C recommended)
- Air Mattress
- Down Jacket
- Trekking Boots
- Crocs (evenings & washing)
- Trekking Pants (2-3)
- T-Shirts (3)
- Long-sleeve Trekking Shirts (3)
- Trekking Jacket
- Wind & Rainproof Jacket & Pants
- Thermal Top & Bottoms (evenings)
- Lightweight Long Underwear (to sleep in or layer under clothes)
- Socks (5)
- Gloves (2 pairs, lightweight & heavier for passes)
- Wool Hat
- Baseball Cap or Wide-brimmed Hat
- Camp Towel
- Trekking Poles (optional, recommended)
- Down Booties
- Sunglasses (2)
- Water Bottles | Nalgenes (2-3)
- Bladder (optional, recommended)
- Toiletries, Sunscreen with SPF, Lip Balm with SPF
- Watch (with alarm)
- Extra Batteries
- Battery Chargers
- Head Lamp (2)
- Yak Trax or Micro Spikes (small crampons)
- Water Purifying Tablets, Small Water Filter or Steripen
- Camp Washing Bowl (optional, collapsible for clothes)
- Laundry Detergent or Bio-degradable Clothes Soap
- Hand Sanitizer
- Small Solar Panel (optional, recommended for music, phones, tablets)
- Zip-Lock | Plastic Bags
- Soft Toilet Paper | Tissues (we supply toilet paper but you will want something softer for blowing your nose)
- Baby-Wipes | Wet-Wipes (for personal cleaning)
- Handi-Wipes, J-Cloth or Chux (optional: easy for a quick daytime clean, fast drying)
- Rehydration | Electrolytes
- Personal Medical Supplies
NOTE: We have a 'dress code' for the evenings in the tent, which essentially means you'll be changing out of your trekking clothes and into clean, dry evening clothes!
We strongly suggest bringing Western meds with you as there are a lot of Indian fakes on the market!
Suggested: Diamox, Azithromyacin, Ciprofloxacin, Tinidazole or Flagyl & Augmentin. Bring COMPEED for covering blisters & good tasting electrolytes &/or rehydration salts (Emergen-C is a good American brand). The local versions aren’t very appealing.
We also recommend bringing strong knee & ankle supports & braces, ACE bandages for sprains & strains, Tegaderm &/or other would coverings. Duct tape is always useful. We're happy to take excess medical supplies off your hands when you leave if you won't need them and pass them on to others. We use lots of the large amount we have with us to treat locals as well as our own trekkers ...
Comments on Gear
Layers are essential for trekking. Quality is more important than quantity. It’s worth investing in the great, newer lightweight trekking gear available in all gear shops, online or in Kathmandu.
Kim's Gear Suggestions: I generally wear a trekking t-shirt, light trekking pants, a mid-weight shirt, a lightweight synthetic jacket (instead of a fleece), a lightweight jacket and pants for wind and rain. If the weather looks stormy or it’s a pass day I carry a lightweight down jacket and a storm-weight jacket. I always have a pair of lightweight gloves (heavier ones additionally for pass days), a hat, a baseball cap and an extra pair of socks in my day-pack. I generally trek in low Merrill hiking shoes, and Keen boots on very cold days and over passes. I always carry Crocs with me in case of river crossings, or to air my feet at lunch. I carry a 38 L (although it looks larger) Black Diamond day pack although I also love Osprey packs. On pass days I carry Yak Trax and trekking poles, and I always have an extra pair of sunglasses, electrolytes, my camera, a medical kit, a Steripen, snacks and lots of water in my pack. My favorite gear brands available in Kathmandu are Sherpa Gear, Mountain Hardwear and Marmot. I wear lots of Patagonia gear although it's not available in Kathmandu.
Good trekking boots are essential. High boots are best, but you don’t need climbing or plastic boots (for mini-crampons or micro-spikes). You can also get away with low, sturdy trekking boot, which I wear quite often except for over the passes. Trekking poles are not required but strongly recommended, especially for going down passes which are often steep and icy and for treks with river crossings. Bring gators if you tend to use them but they’re not required if you don't own a pair. Micro-spikes (mini-crampons) or YakTraxs are almost always useful (or essential) for the pass crossings. We will have at least one ice ax with us. It’s also good (possibly essential) to have a pair of plastic Crocs for washing and to wear in the lodges in the evenings. Tevas take a long time to dry and are relatively heavy.
Good, polarized sunglasses are essential. Do bring an extra pair. Don’t forget a sun hat and/or a baseball cap, an extra headlamp and have plenty of sunscreen and lip balm with SPF!
The weather is changeable in the Himalaya, so again I recommend that everyone has a strong, WATERPROOF duffel bag for the trip (although they do tend to weigh more). We supply covers that go over the duffel bags to protect them from rain, dirt & rips.
Nights are cold, so a down jacket and a WARM sleeping bag are essentials. For your sleeping bag, we recommend a DOWN bag of 0 to -20 F (-18 to -28 C). Mine is -20 F. At lower altitudes I open it and sleep under it like a quilt and up higher am toasty warm during the cold nights. Campsites near passes can get COLD. Rentals available. The dining tent is a Tibetan style ‘yurt’, with blankets and camp chairs on the ground. It warms up in the evenings with the gas lamp but it is still important to have warm clothes for the evenings. I always use down booties which are great when it’s cold, but a pair of thick wool socks also work.
Bring extra large plastic bags or stuff-sacks in case of rain. You can pack electronics in them or stash your sleeping bag and clothes. The weather is changeable in the Himalaya, so again I recommend that everyone has a strong, waterproof duffel bag for the trip. We supply covers that go over the duffel bags to protect them from rain, dirt & thorns.
Everyone gets their own Western tent without a single supplement. Tents supplied by Xplore Bhutan
We recommend a 35-45 liter day pack (ask at your gear shop if you’re not sure of the capacity). Better to have it too large than too small as on pass days you’ll need to carry more warm gear. Most have internal water bladders built in, which are good for ensuring that you stay hydrated. Make sure it fits and is comfortable before purchasing!
In your day pack, you will be carrying your camera, 2+ liters of water, a jacket, wind & rain pants, hat, gloves, extra socks, sunscreen, snacks, electrolytes, water purifying tablets, filter, or Steripen camera, hand sanitizer, a pack-cover and often a down jacket. I slip my Crocs on the back in case of unexpected stream crossings or for lunch. Lhakpa & I carry small medical kits in our day packs.
We bring KATADYN expedition-sized water filters along on the trek for fresh drinking water, ecologically the best way to get water in the Himalaya’s fragile trekking regions. Bring your own filter pump, Steripen/UV purifier or iodine/chlorine tablets for fresh water while trekking. NOTE: To be extra safe with your drinking water, you can drop one purifying tablet into your water bottle after filling with our filtered water. Make sure you wait the required amount of time before drinking, and don’t add anything with Vitamin C as this negates the iodine.
Please bring at least TWO (and better three) Nalgene, Sigg or other unbreakable plastic/metal water bottles. Camelbacks and other bladder systems are good for trekking but can leak, so as a back-up it’s best to also bring a Nalgene or other water bottle.
NOTE: We do not provide boiled water for drinking on either our tea-house/lodge or our camping treks although there is endless hot water for herbal, black or green teas, hot chocolate, hot lemon as well as Indian chai and Kashmiri tea.
You will NEED snacks hiking at altitude, even if you’re not a snacker. People crave unusual foods at altitude! Energy bars, ‘GU’ gels, chocolate bars, dried fruit & nuts, beef jerky (or whatever) are important to have along for long days, pre-lunch bonks and passes. Lemonade mix, Emergen-C or similar drink mixes are great to have for hot days in your water bottles, and it is ESSENTIAL to bring electrolytes with you every day.
Bring something to share in the tent in the evenings if you want. Cheese is great as a treat on a cheese-board before dinner (Blue, Stilton, Yarlsburg, good Cheddar, Brie, etc). If you would like, bring a bit of your favorite and we’ll throw it on a cheese board for appetizers one night.
NOTE: Nothing besides your personal snack food is required, but it’s fun to see what everyone comes up with! Almost all basics available in Kathmandu, so no need to over-load.
Not available unless specifically requested for the Snowman trek. Please inquire early as we bring from Kathmandu.
Not available unless specifically requested for the Snowman trek. Please inquire early as we bring from Kathmandu.
Packing & Storage
It’s easiest to pack and unpack from a duffel bag, especially when the temperature drops, and easiest for porters to carry. Inexpensive and decent quality duffels are available in Kathmandu (if you're passing through) but it’s best to invest in a strong, waterproof duffel such as a North Face. You can store extra gear with Xplore Bhutan before the trek.
Shrouded for centuries in the misty serenity of the great Himalayas, the Land of the Thunder Dragon, or Bhutan, as now known to the rest of the world, developed its own distinct civilization. This deeply spiritual land is home to a unique identity, derived essentially from a fertile religious and cultural heritage. Bhutan brims with myth and legend. As a befitting testimony, a great Buddhist heritage of over 2000 monasteries and 10,000 monuments dot its peaceful open space and regal mountains. An ambience of near sacred tranquility permeates the land, fostering an environment of spiritual affluence that has shaped the foundation of that rarity that we know as Bhutanese life. All Bhutanese are required to wear their national dress, called gho for men, kira for women.
The Bhutanese have deliberately and zealously safeguarded and preserved their rich culture and traditions, its ancient way of life, in all its aspects. And it is perhaps one of the world’s last strongholds of unspoiled wilderness. It is a part of the earth that represents a fabled realm. Bhutan is a land where the past and the contemporary co-exist in harmony, a recipe that makes a journey undeniably amazing. A trip through Bhutan, in many ways, is still a journey into the past. In this small tract of land, one of the most rugged terrains in the world frames one of the world’s richest vegetation. It is a land of about 700,000 people who believe that Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross National Product. Bhutan is a country with a different face. And a different story to tell.
Apart from trekking along the northern frontier, you will be also visiting the main western towns of Thimphu, Paro and Punakha. Western Bhutan is comparatively more developed than the rest of the country. Thimphu, the capital, has all the important government offices, including the King’s Secretariat. Paro has the only airport and Punakha is the ancient capital of Bhutan.
The yeti, locally known as 'migoi', is still talked about in the high, Himalayan regions of Bhutan. From a BBC article "It's widely believed in Bhutan that the yeti walks backwards to fool trackers ... Another common belief is that the yeti cannot bend its body, a feature it is thought to share with evil spirits.
According to author Kunzang Choden, this explains why most traditional Bhutanese homes have small doorways. In her book, Bhutanese Tales of the Yeti, she describes how the raised threshold and lowered lintel force anyone who enters to lift their leg and bend their head."
+ All below information from Wikipedia +
Culture of Bhutan
Cradled in the folds of the Himalayas, Bhutan has relied on its geographic isolation to protect itself from outside cultural influences. A sparsely populated country bordered by India to the south, and China to the north, Bhutan has long maintained a policy of strict isolationism, both culturally and economically, with the goal of preserving its cultural heritage and independence. Only in the last decades of the 20th century were foreigners allowed to visit the country, and only then in limited numbers. In this way, Bhutan has successfully preserved many aspects of its culture, which dates directly back to the mid-17th century.
Modern Bhutanese culture derives from ancient culture. This culture affected the early growth of this country. Dzongkha and Sharchop, the principal Bhutanese languages, are closely related to Tibetan, and Bhutanese monks read and write the ancient variant of the Tibetan language, known as chhokey. The Bhutanese are physically similar to the Tibetans, but history does not record when they crossed over the Himalayas and settled in the south-draining valleys of Bhutan. Both Tibetans and Bhutanese revere the tantric guru, Padmasambhava, the founder of Himalayan Buddhism in the 8th century.
Religion in Bhutan
Bhutanese society is centered around the practice of Buddhism, which is the main religion. Religious beliefs are evidenced in all aspects of life. Prayer flags flutter on hillsides, offering up prayers to benefit all nearby sentient beings. Houses each fly a small white flag on the roof indicating the owner has made his offering payments to appease the local god. Each valley or district is dominated by a huge dzong, or high-walled fortress, which serves the religious and administrative center of the district. Approximately 23% of the population is Hindu. There is a small Muslim population in Bhutan, covering 0.2% of the whole country's population. Overall, 75% of the population is Buddhist, and 0.4% other religions.
Once every year, a dzong or important village may hold a religious festival, or Tsechu. Villagers from the surrounding district come for several days of religious observances and socializing while contributing auspicious offerings to the lama or monastery of the festival. The central activity is a fixed set of religious mask dances, or cham, held in a large courtyard. Each individual dance takes up to several hours to complete and the entire set may last two to four days. Observation of the dances directly blesses the audience and also serves to transmit principles of Tantric Buddhism to the villagers. A number of the dances can be traced directly back to Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal himself, the founder of Bhutan, and have been passed down essentially unchanged since the mid-17th century. Prior to dawn on the final day of the tsechu a huge tapestry, or thongdrel, is unfurled in the courtyard of the dzong for several hours. The mere sight of it is believed to bring spiritual liberation. The thongdrel is rolled up before the rays of the morning sun can strike it.
Monks join the monastery at six to nine years of age and are immediately placed under the discipleship of a headmaster. They learn to read chhokey, the language of the ancient sacred texts, as well as Dzongkha and English. Eventually they will choose between two possible paths: to study theology and Buddhist theory, or take the more common path of becoming proficient in the rituals and personal practices of the faith.
The daily life of the monk is austere, particularly if they are stationed at one of the monasteries located high in the mountains. At these monasteries food is often scarce and must be carried up by the monks or their visitors. The monks are poorly clothed for winter conditions and the monasteries are unheated. The hardship of such a posting is well-recognized; to have a son or brother serving in such a monastery is recognized as very good karma for the family. A monk's spiritual training continues throughout his life. In addition to serving the community in sacramental roles, he may undertake several extended silent retreats. A common length for such a retreat is three years, three months, three weeks and three days. During the retreat time he will periodically meet with his spiritual master who will test him on his development to ensure that the retreat time is not being wasted.
Each monastery is headed by an abbot who is typically a Lama, although the titles are distinct. The highest monk in the land is the chief abbot of Bhutan, whose title is Je Khenpo. He is theoretically equivalent in stature to the king. The Central Monk Body is an assembly of 600 or so monks who attend to the most critical religious duties of the country. In the summer they are housed in Thimphu, the nation's capital, and in the winter they descend to Punakha dzong, the most sacred dzong in Bhutan, where Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal's mortal body has been kept under vigil since the late 17th century.
Music of Bhutan
Bhutanese music has traditional genres such as Zhungdra, Boedra, and a modern genre called Rigsar. Bhutanese musicians include: Jigme Drukpa, who is also a leading Bhutanese musicologist.
Official Behavioral Code
The Driglam Namzha is the official behaviour and dress code of Bhutan. It governs how citizens should dress in public and how they should behave in formal settings. It also regulates a number of cultural assets such as art and Bhutanese architecture. In English, driglam means "order, discipline, custom, rules, regimen" and namzha means "system," though the term may be styled "The Rules for Disciplined Behaviour."
It is a manner and etiquette as what to wear, how to eat, talk and bow down before the government officials and the clergy. The Driglam Namzha was imposed on all citizens from 1990. The people of different ethnic heritage for example the Lhotsampas (Bhutanese citizens of ethnic Nepali origin – they were not Bhutanese citizens and they were not Lhotsampas) resented this and revolted against this imposition, thereby getting kicked out of Bhutan to the refugee camps. About 20% of Bhutan's population currently live in exile because of this Bhutanization policies of the Royal Government followed by land expropriation and persecution.
To preserve the indigenous Buddha's Teachings as their long-guarded culture and tradition, Menjong Chöthün Tshogpa, a charitable organization was established in 2002 by The Supreme Dharma King or Trulku Jigme Chöda Rinpoche 70th Je Khenpo of Bhutan. The chairman at present is Trizin Tsering Rimpoche who also happens to be the founder of Buddha Dordenma Image Foundation, another charitable organization in Bhutan.
National Dress Code
Previously all Bhutanese citizens were required to observe the national dress code, known as Driglam Namzha, while in public during daylight hours. The rule was enforced more rigorously in some districts (dzongkhag) than others. Men wear a heavy knee-length robe tied with a belt, called a gho, folded in such a way to form a pocket in front of the stomach.
Women wear colourful blouses over which they fold and clasp a large rectangular cloth called a kira, thereby creating an ankle-length dress. A short silk jacket, or toego may be worn over the kira. Everyday gho and kira are cotton or wool, according to the season, patterned in simple checks and stripes in earth tones. For special occasions and festivals, colourfully patterned silk kira and, more rarely, gho may be worn.
Additional rules of protocol apply when visiting a dzong or a temple, or when appearing before a high-level official. Male commoners wear a white sash (kabney) from left shoulder to opposite hip. Local and regional elected officials, government ministers, cabinet members, and the King himself each wear their own colored kabney. Women wear a narrow embroidered cloth draped over the left shoulder, a rachu.
The dress code has met with some resistance from Lhotshampa, people of Nepali ancestry, living along the Indian border who resent having to wear a cultural dress which is not their own.
Bhutanization | The Darker Side
Despite living in Bhutan for up to five generations, the Lhotsampas retained their highly distinctive Nepali language, culture, and religion. They participated in public life and politics, even attaining positions of significant leadership. The Lhotsampas coexisted peacefully with other ethnic groups in Bhutan until the mid 1980s, when Bhutan’s king and the ruling Druk majority became worried that the growing Lhotsampa population could threaten the majority position and the traditional Buddhist culture of the Druk Bhutanese.
The government therefore initiated a campaign, known as “One country, one people,” or “Bhutanization” to cement Bhutanese national identity. The policies imposed the Druk dress code, religious practices, and language use on all Bhutanese regardless of prior practices. These changes negatively impacted the Lhotsampa people, because they did not wear the same traditional dress, practice the same religion, or speak the same language as the northern Bhutanese. The use of the Nepali language was prohibited in schools, many Lhotsampa teachers were dismissed, and textbooks were burned.
Men + Women in Society
Men and women work together in the fields, and both may own small shops or businesses. Men take a full part in household management, often cook, and are traditionally the makers and repairers of clothing (but do not weave the fabric). In the towns, a more "western" pattern of family structure is beginning to emerge, with the husband as breadwinner and the wife as home-maker. Both genders may be monks, although in practice the number of female monks is relatively small.
Marriages are at the will of either party and divorce is not uncommon. The marriage ceremony consists of an exchange of white scarves and the sharing of a cup. Marriages can be officially registered when the couple has lived together for more than six months. Traditionally the groom moves to the bride's family home (matrilocality), but newlyweds may decide to live with either family depending on which household is most in need of labour.
Except for royal lineages, Bhutanese names do not include a family name. Instead two traditional auspicious names are chosen at birth by the local lama or by the parents or grandparents of the child. First names generally give no indication if the person is male or female; in some cases the second name may be helpful in that regard.
As there is a limited constellation of acceptable names to choose from, inevitably many people share the same combination of first and second names. To resolve the ambiguity an informal nicknaming system comes into play which recognizes where a person is from. If a certain "Chong Kinley" is from Chozom village in the Paro valley, she is called "Paro Kinley" when she is travelling outside the valley. In Paro valley itself she is identified by the name of her village, thus "Chong Kinley Chozom". Surprisingly, multiple children in a small hamlet of a few houses may have exactly the same name, reflecting the inspiration of the local lama. In this case, she is identified by the name of the house she was born in, thus "Chemsarpo" Kinley.
Food of Bhutan
The staple foods of Bhutan are red rice (like brown rice in texture, but with a nutty taste, the only variety of rice that grows in high altitudes), buckwheat, and increasingly maize. The diet in the hills also includes chicken, yak meat, dried beef, pork, pork fat, and lamb. Soups and stews of meat, rice, ferns, lentils, and dried vegetables, spiced with chili peppers and cheese, are a favourite meal during the cold seasons.
Zow shungo is a rice dish mixed with leftover vegetables. Ema datshi, made very spicy with cheese and chili peppers (similar to chili con queso), might be called the national dish for its ubiquity and the pride that Bhutanese have for it. Other foods include: jasha maru (a chicken dish), phaksha paa, thukpa, bathup, and fried rice.
Dairy foods, particularly butter and cheese from yaks and cows, are also popular, and indeed almost all milk is turned into butter and cheese. Popular beverages include: butter tea, black tea, locally brewed ara (rice wine), and beer. Popular spices include: curry, cardamom, ginger, thingay (Sichuan pepper), garlic, turmeric, and caraway.
When offered food, one says meshu meshu, covering one's mouth with the hands in refusal according to Bhutanese manners, and then gives in on the second or third offer.
Sports of Bhutan
Archery is the national sport in Bhutan, and competitions are held regularly in most villages. It differs from Olympic standards in technical details, such as the placement of the targets and atmosphere. There are two targets placed over 100 m apart and teams shoot from one end of the field to the other. Each member of the team shoots two arrows per round.
Traditional Bhutanese Archery is a social event, and competitions are organized between villages, towns, and amateur teams. There is usually plenty of food and drink complete with singing and dancing. Attempts to distract an opponent include standing around the target and making fun of the shooter's ability. Darts (kuru) is an equally popular outdoor team sport, in which heavy wooden darts pointed with a 10 cm nail are thrown at a paperback-sized target 10 to 20 m away.
Another traditional sport is digor, which resembles shot put and horseshoe throwing.
Football is the most popular sport in Bhutan. In 2002, Bhutan's national football team played Montserrat in what was billed as The Other Final; the match took place on the same day Brazil played Germany in the World Cup Final, and at the time Bhutan and Montserrat were the world's two lowest ranked teams. It was held in Thimphu's Changlimithang Stadium, and Bhutan won 4–0. Cricket has also gained popularity in Bhutan, particularly since the introduction of television channels from India. The Bhutan national cricket team is one of the most successful affiliate nations in the region.
+ Below information from WWF +
Tucked between the Tibetan Plateau to the north and India to the south, west and east, Bhutan lies entirely within the Eastern Himalayas. It's just half the size of Indiana. But 51% of its land is protected—the highest percentage of any nation in Asia. Equally striking, the Bhutanese constitution requires at least 60% of the country’s forest cover to be permanently maintained (the country is currently at more than 70%).
Those percentages reflect the value of protected areas—and more broadly, nature—to multiple facets of Bhutanese society. One is spiritual: Bhutan's culture is rooted in Buddhism, which emphasizes the interdependence between humans and nature ... Wildlife delivers revenue as well. The country's mountains, alpine meadows and thick forests shelter more than 5,600 vascular plant species and 200 mammal species. There are tigers, snow leopards and Asian elephants—as well as bird species like the beautiful nuthatch. Tourism showcasing Bhutan's biodiversity and nature-inspired culture is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the country's economy ...
Renewable hydropower sold to India currently generates more than 45% of national revenue, and the country must diversify its economy to address its evolving needs. At the same time, Bhutan's leaders are keeping a close eye on Gross National Happiness—the country's holistic approach to prosperity that includes social, environmental and political priorities alongside economic ones."
+ Below information taken from The New York Times +
"The majority of Bhutanese still live off the land, practicing subsistence agriculture and animal husbandry. Bhutan is the only country in the world whose state religion is Mahayana Buddhism. Its official language, Dzongkha, is spoken in few other places on earth — but all Bhutanese schoolchildren, even in the deepest countryside, are taught English. Bhutan only got television in 1999. There are no plastic bags allowed in Bhutan, and 72 percent of the country is under forest cover. In 2013, the government announced its intention to become the world’s first 100-percent organic-farming nation ... Gender equality is a work in progress; fewer than 9 percent of the country’s nationally elected officials are women."
Kamzang Journeys Photos
Bhutan Lunana Snowman Trek