Though Bhutan did briefly open up for mountaineering in the early 1980s, by the mid 1990s climbing peaks above 6000m was prohibited. And Since 2003 there has been no mountaineering in Bhutan as it was all banned. While disappointing for climbers this is good news for the protected Himalayan peaks.
This move was primarily to respect the beliefs of the local communities. They attached strong spiritual value to the mountains, and wanted to protect the peaks for their own culture and for future generations.
As a result, Bhutan is home to Gangkhar Puensum which at 7,570 metres (24,836 ft) is the highest unclimbed peak in the world. And as the ban shows no signs of being lifted, it is likely to remain unconquered for many years to come.
However if you’re planning a trip to Bhutan, don’t despair, there are still plenty of high-altitude treks and high passes that you can explore. And as there are so few other visitors in this remote country, so on you’re likely to have Bhutan trekking holidays all to yourself as well.
And Bhutan is well worth visiting. The unique atmosphere of a country so steeped in history will charm you as soon as you step off of the plane. With every trip you take into its countryside and through its dramatic scenery only serving to reinforce the privilege of your trip.
One of the most scenic treks is the Druk path which links the capital Thimphu with the town of Paro in the east of the country. The route passes through traditional villages and some spectacular mountain scenery as well as passing beautiful monasteries, perched high up in the mountains on the way.
During the trek you’ll climb to an altitude of over 4000m, which may not be a mountain peak but will still give you some great views and give your legs a work out. The trek can be completed comfortably in around five days, but you can take more time off if you want to make some detours on the way.
If you are after something longer and more challenging then try the 34 day Lunana Snowman trek along the border with Tibet. Hiking among these remote protected Himalayan peaks knowing that there is no mountaineering in Bhutan somehow makes it more special.
Another great region for trekking is around the traditional valley of Gantey. Home to some of Bhutan’s most beautiful monasteries and religious sites, this area is ideal for exploring on foot.
So if you’d rather experience the true nature of a country instead of just planting your flag on its highest point, Bhutan is perfect. From the magical capital of Thimphu to Tiger’s Nest Monastery to the great trekking, Bhutan is full of surprises and all the better for not allowing mountaineering.
If you fancy climbing some of the highest mountains in the world, then you can plan Himalayas mountaineering trips here.