Bhutan — and its incredible trail — is open

(CNN) – The Central Asian nation of Bhutan will open to visitors today for the first time since the pandemic began.

This means that the country’s stunning Trans-Bhutan Trail is now accessible to travellers. It reopened in March 2022 after 60 years, and now foreigners can experience it for the first time as flights to the Thunder Dragon Land resume.

According to the Bhutan Canada Foundation — the main donor of the restoration project — the 250-kilometer route connects nine dzongkhags (districts), 28 gewogs (local governments), two municipalities, a national park and 400 historical and cultural sites.

Passengers following the entire route will cross 18 major bridges and climb 10,000 steps. It can also be done on foot or by mountain bike.

“This is a community-based project in both its construction and operation that will restore an ancient cultural icon and provide a sustainable zero-carbon experience in the country for pilgrims and travelers,” said Sam Blyth, president of the Bhutan Canada Foundation. in a statement

He added, “The Trans Bhutan Trail also reflects the country’s philosophy of Gross National Happiness and will enable the children of Bhutan to walk in the footsteps of their forefathers.”

The westernmost point of the route is the town of Haa, which is close to the border with Tibet. The easternmost point is Trashigang, near the border of the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.

Bhutan was the first country in the world to achieve carbon neutrality.

Trans Bhutan route

According to a representative of the Bhutan Canada Foundation, an ambitious hiker can do the entire trail in about a month, but most tourists will probably do shorter sections of the trail on three, four, or seven-day trips.

There are many accommodation options along the route, from rustic camping houses to three-star hotels.

King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, Bhutan’s 41-year-old monarch, has been the driving force behind the restoration of the path, which was once a Buddhist pilgrimage route before it fell into disrepair when Bhutan began building roads in the 1960s.

He officially opened the road in a ceremony in Trongsa, a sacred city in central Bhutan.

As part of its aim to prevent over-tourism, the country charges a mandatory $250 per day fee, which includes ground transportation, accommodation, food and guide service. The cost prohibits many people from visiting.

This “Sustainable Development Fee” was $65 per day before the pandemic.

Due to the relative difficulty of visiting, many travelers to Bhutan choose to join group tours or work with travel specialists.

“Covid-19 has given us an opportunity to reset – to rethink how the sector can best be structured and operated… while keeping our carbon footprint low,” the country’s foreign minister, Tandi Dorji, said in a statement earlier this year defending the high-ups. fee