Bhutan will reopen sacred Trans Bhutan Trail for the first time in 60 years

The 403km trail will be officially inaugurated by the King of Bhutan in March with international visitors being allowed to walk the trail beginning from April. PHOTO: TRANSBHUTANTRAIL.COM

KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Bhutan will reopen the historic and sacred Trans Bhutan Trail for the first time in 60 years following two years of extensive restoration.

The 403km trail, which runs the length of the Buddhist country, will be officially inaugurated by the King of Bhutan in March with international visitors being allowed to walk the trail beginning from April.

Community tourism operator G Adventures has been selected by the Bhutan Canada Foundation, the non-profit organisation that led the restoration of the trail, as the first group adventure operator when the trail launches to the public.

The tours will focus on trekking selected parts of the trail and connecting with local people to learn about Bhutanese life and culture, said G Adventures vice-president (product) Yves Marceau.

"Trails have historically connected remote communities and helped distribute much-needed income to local people as travellers move across the landscape," he said.

"In today's world, the pandemic has encouraged people to spend more time in nature and now they are looking for similar experiences when they travel."

According to Mr Marceau, travellers can expect an average of three to four hours of hiking each day.

Bhutan Canada Foundation chairman Sam Blyth said the reopening of the trail will have a positive spillover effect for the local communities.

"As well as providing income opportunities for local people, especially youth, in rural communities, the restoration of the trail is a community-based project designed to preserve an ancient cultural icon and provide a sustainable experience for travellers," he said.

"Economic benefit will flow directly into the local communities as a result of community tourism, whether via homestays, the purchase of supplies locally for multi-day trips or the employment of local guides."

Mr Blyth also expressed hope that the trail will be considered one of the great walks of the world.

"Spanning the world's only carbon negative country, the Trans Bhutan Trail also reflects the country's philosophy of Gross National Happiness and enables the children of Bhutan to continue to walk in the footsteps of their ancestors," he said.

Bhutan is one of only two carbon-negative countries in the world, and also one of the 10 biodiversity hotspots today.

The Trans Bhutan Trail was used by messengers, monks, armies and traders for thousands of years. In fact, it was the only way to travel across the country until the 1960s.

When construction of the national highway began in the 1960s, stairways and footpaths at the trail gradually fell into disrepair.

The historic trail runs across mountain ridges and lush valleys. It also plays the vital role of connecting towns and villages with hundreds of historic and cultural sites along the route including nine Dzong fortresses.

The Trans Bhutan Trail is touted by outdoor enthusiasts as one of the most challenging routes in the world.

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