(CNN) — The Central Asian nation of Bhutan is reopening to visitors today for the first time since the pandemic began.
This means that the country’s breathtaking 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 Land of Thunder Dragon restart.
According to the Bhutan Canada Foundation – the main donor of the restoration project – the 250-mile route connects nine dzongkhags (districts), 28 gewogs (local governments), two municipalities, a national park and 400 historical and cultural sites.
Travelers following the entire route of the trail will cross 18 major bridges and climb 10,000 steps. It is also possible to walk or go mountain biking.
“This is a community-driven project in its construction and operation that will restore an ancient cultural icon and provide a sustainable, carbon-free experience in the country for pilgrims and travelers,” said Sam Blyth, President of Bhutan Canada. Foundation. in a report.
He added, “The Trans Bhutan Trail also reflects the country’s philosophy of Gross National Happiness and will allow the children of Bhutan to walk in the footsteps of their ancestors.”
The westernmost point of the trail is the town of Haa, located near 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 Trail
According to a representative of the Bhutan Canada Foundation, an ambitious walker could cover the entire trail in about a month, but most tourists will likely enjoy shorter segments of the trail on three-, four-, or seven-day trips.
There is a range of accommodation options along the route, from rustic campsites to three-star hotels.
Bhutan’s 41-year-old monarch King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck was one of the driving forces behind the restoration of the trail, which was once a Buddhist pilgrimage route before falling into disrepair when Bhutan began building roads in the 1960s.
He officially opened the trail at a ceremony in Trongsa, a holy town in central Bhutan.
As part of its goal to avoid overtourism, the country charges a mandatory fee of $250 per day, which includes ground transportation, accommodation, food, and guide service. The cost makes it somewhat prohibitive for many people to visit.
This “sustainability fee” was $65 a day before the pandemic.
Due to the relative difficulty of visiting, many travelers to Bhutan choose to join group itineraries or work with travel specialists.
“Covid-19 has allowed us to reset – to rethink the best way to structure and operate the sector … while maintaining a low carbon footprint,” said Tandi Dorji, the country’s foreign minister, in a statement later. earlier this year, defending the highest fee.