Though Bhutan did briefly open up for mountaineering in the early 1980s, by the mid 1990s climbing peaks above 6,000m was prohibited and in 2003 Bhutan mountaineering was banned altogether.
This was done primarily to respect the beliefs of the local communities who 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 – the highest unclimbed peak in the world. As the ban shows no signs of being lifted, it is likely to remain unconquered for many years to come.
However if you want to go mountaineering in 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, you’ll have them all to yourself as well.
One of the most scenic treks is the Druk Path which links the capital Thimpu 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 4,000m, which may not be a mountain peak but will still give you some great views and give your legs a good work out.
The trek can be completed comfortably in around five days, but you can take more time if you want to make some detours on the way.
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.
If you want to go mountaineering however, Bhutan may not have a huge number of opportunities to conquer Himalayan giants, but what is has on offer is fairly spectacular and will more than make up for the lack of giant peaks.
Inspired to visit Bhutan? Have a look at trips Royal Mountain Travel can offer in this tiny Himalayan kingdom: