The Snowman Trek is our most challenging trek in Bhutan and it is arguably the most beautiful in the Himalaya. It is also billed the toughest trek in the world and is often referred to as the Everest of trekking. In fact, this can be considered an understatement as there are more Everest summiteers each year than trekkers who manage to complete the Snowman Trek!
It is the ultimate high-altitude trail following the spine of the Himalaya forming the border of Bhutan and Tibet and although you will be walking, not climbing, the paths are quite demanding. To add to the difficulty, the trail crosses eleven passes over 4500m and you are above 4000m for nearly the whole of the trek.
Our itinerary takes 26 days (including a couple of acclimatisation and rest days) to complete the entire trek. You will be rewarded with spectacular mountain views of Jomolhari, Jichu Drake, Masangang, Tiger Mountain, Gangkar Puensum and other impressive Himalayan peaks. If you have the experience and stamina to undertake it, we invite you to join us for a once in a lifetime adventure!
Important: The main reason for not managing to complete the Snowman Trek is altitude sickness. Only a few outfitters in Bhutan provide portable altitude chambers. As we put safety first, we always bring such on all high-altitude treks (including the Snowman Trek). Note also that the Snowman trek is subject to closure because of snow and is practically impassable during winter. The recommended seasons for this trek are March-May and September-November. We always operate it as a privately guided trek – group size minimum of 4 pax.
We highly recommend adding at least one of our Bhutan Discovery Extensions after the trek. You will visit Bhutan’s most interesting places and explore its fascinating culture and (on specific dates) its colourful festivals. Discover the secretive kingdom of Bhutan, a country nestled in the Himalaya and visited by only a lucky few. A land of deep valleys and dzongs perched on precarious peaks, Bhutan is one of the most isolated nations in the world; its traditional culture is strictly protected and visitor numbers are carefully regulated. Booking an extension before the trek is also strongly recommended as it will help you acclimatise better and fully enjoy the hikes.
Day 1: Paro
On arrival at Paro Airport, you will be greeted by our guide. If your flight is in the morning or afternoon you will have some time for sightseeing in Paro. Visit the Rinpung Dzong meaning “fortress of the heap of jewels”. It has a long and fascinating history. Along the wooden galleries lining the courtyard of the Dzong are fine wall paintings illustrating Buddhist lore. You will walk downhill till the road point crossing the traditional wooden bridge. In the evening, you can stroll freely in Paro town. Walking around the market and meeting with people will be an enjoyable experience. Overnight at a hotel in Paro.
Day 2: Tiger’s Nest Monastery Acclimatisation Hike
After breakfast, hike to Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest) Monastery, Bhutan’s most famous monastery, which stands at 3180m. The hike helps you acclimatize for the next days’ trek. The 8th century Spiritual Master, Guru Rinpoche is said to have flown on the back of a tigress to meditate in a cave where Taktsang Monastery now stands. It is perched on the edge of a steep cliff, about 900 meters above Paro Valley. Explore the Monastery and hike back to Paro. Overnight at a hotel in Paro.
Walking for the day: 5 km, 4-5 hours, 900m↑ 900m↓
Day 3: Drive Paro – Drugyel & Trek Drugyel-Shana (Start of the Trek)
First, we drive today (16km) to the Drugyel Dzong, in the northeast of the Paro valley. This dzong was built to commemorate a victory over Tibetan invaders. This is where you start the 7-day Soy Yaktsa trek. First, you follow an unpaved road to an army checkpoint (we need a special trekking permit as the trek skirts the Tibetan/Chinese border) where your trekking permit will be checked. Here, your trekking crew for the next seven days will be waiting (a cook, a porter, a horseman with the packhorses). The trail climbs gently traversing through well-maintained rice terraces and fields of millet. The route later enters an area of apple orchards and forests. Soon the valley widens and you reach the army post of Gunitsawa at 2,810m. Just beyond Shana Zampa, there are several good camping places in meadows surrounded by trees.
Walking for the day: 17 km, 5-6 hours, 300m↑, camp altitude 2850m
Day 4: Shana-Soi Thangthagkha
The trail follows Pa Chhu (Paro River), ascending and descending through pine, oak and spruce forests. Hot lunch will be served after crossing the bridge towards the left side of the river. After lunch follows the river climbing up through rhododendron forests and finally crossing another bridge, you reach the campsite.
Walking for the day: 22 km, 7-8 hours, 900m↑, camp altitude 3750m
Day 5: Soi Thangthangkha-Jangothang
The path ascends for a while until you reach the army camp. Then follow the river above the tree line enjoying a stunning view of the surrounding peaks. Hot lunch will be served inside a yak herder’s camp. A short walk into the valley will take you to the camp at Jangothang at an altitude of 4,100m. From here, the views of Mt. Jumolhari and Jichu Drake are superb.
Walking for the day: 19 km, 5-6 hours, 300m↑, camp altitude 4,100m
Day 6: Jangothang Base Camp Acclimatisation Day
Today is a day of acclimatisation and rest to prepare for tomorrow’s demanding trek. But, if you have enough stamina, you can choose between a few day-hikes: a 3-4 hours hike up to a ridge that gives a good view of Jichu Drake; a hike up to the end of the valley, toward Jumolhari; a trek up the main valley towards Jichu Drake or a hike to Tsophu (4310m), a pair of lakes with a good supply of brown trout. Or you can just stay in the camp and ask the cook to make some extra pakoras.
Walking for the day (optional): 3-6 hours, camp altitude 4,100m
Day 7: Jangothang-Lingshi
The trail follows the stream for half an hour and crosses the bridge to the right side. Start the climb to the first ridge with a breathtaking view of Jumolhari, Jichu Drake and Tshering Gang. Then walk towards the valley, almost flat for a while until the climb to the Ngye La pass at an altitude of 4830m. After the pass, it is a gradual descent to the Lingshi camp, enjoying the panoramic view of the peaks and the Lingshi Dzong.
Walking for the day: 18 km, 6-7 hours, ↑800m ↓730m, camp altitude 4010m
Day 8: Lingshi-Chebisa
Proceed ahead passing Lingshi Dzong, perched on the hilltop with a commanding view of green hills, the winding river and magnificent peaks. It is an easy day and pleasant walk through villages and yak herders camp. After lunch, a short walk will take you to Chebisa village. Camp by the side of the stream at an altitude of 3,850m.
Walking for the day: 12 km, 5-6 hours, 100m↑, 250m↓, camp altitude 3850m
Day 9: Chebisa-Shomuthang
Today we begin our trek with a stiff climb up a ridge to Gubu La pass at an altitude of 4420m, taking nearly four hours. After the pass, descend to a lunch stop through rhododendron bushes. In the afternoon, after crossing the stream through rhododendron forests and yak herders camp, continue along the path often ascending and descending. You may see herds of blue sheep now and then.
Walking for the day: 17 km, 6-7 hours, 570m↑, 290m↓, camp altitude 4130m
Day 10: Shomuthang-Robluthang
The trek starts with a climb to Jere La pass at altitude 4,750m. Then descend to Tasharijathang valley, the summer residence of rare Himalayan Takins (national animal of Bhutan). From here we may have to cross the stream as most of the time the footbridge is washed away. After crossing the stream towards the left, the trail ascends till you reach Robluthang camp.
Walking for the day: 15 km, 5-6 hours, 620m↑, 590m↓, camp altitude 4160m
Day 11: Robluthang-Lingmithang
It is a long climb unto Shingela pass (5010m). The view of the mountains from the path is stunning. After the pass, descend to Lingmithang. The path is quite narrow and you may have to cross a stream again and get wet. The last part of the trek is very interesting with the view of Mt. Gangchey Ta. Arrive at the campsite.
Walking for the day: 19 km, 7-8 hours, 850m↑, 870m↓, camp altitude 4140m
Day 12: Lingmithang-Laya
In the morning you wake up with a superb view of Gangchey Ta peak in front of you. The walk to Laya is very pleasant with wonderful views. You will pass through a damp forest, filled with moss and singing birds. Arrive at Laya village, the second-highest settlement in the country, at an altitude of 3850m.
Walking for the day: 10 km, 3-4 hours, 60m↑, 340m↓, camp altitude 3850m
Day 13: Rest day at Laya
A day of rest and relaxation. One can take a leisurely walk through the village or go for a short hike above the camp.
Day 14: Laya-Rhoduphu
From Laya, we descend to an army camp and continue following the river till the turnoff point to Rhoduphu. After lunch, the climb continues through rhododendron bushes till you reach the camp at Roduphu just next to the Rhodu Chhu (river).
Walking for the day: 19 km, 6-7 hours, 900m↑, 70m↓, camp altitude 4,160m
Day 15: Rhodophu–Narithang
The trail today also follows the alpine grassland where yaks bound in plenty. The path follows the river through rhododendron shrubs before turning right up the hill. You will then climb to a high open valley through meadows to Tshomo La Pass (4915m). The views of the Mount Jomolhari and Tibetan borders are absolutely breathtaking. Next, you will be hiking on the barren plateau intersecting several yak trails and after some time you will be arriving at Narithang, which is your camp for tonight.
Walking for the day: 17 km, 5-6 hours, 755m↑, 15m↓, camp altitude 4,900m
Day 16: Narithang-Tarina
From the camp, you will climb for about an hour to Gangla Karchung La (5,120m). The view from the pass is breathtaking and the whole range of mountains including Jekangphu Gang (7,100m), Tsenda Kang and Teri Gang (7,300m) can be seen. The pass descends along a large moraine. Again one has great views: a massive glacier descends from Teri Kang to a deep turquoise lake at its foot. Up here a glacial lake burst through its dam in the early 1960s, causing widespread damage and partially destroying Punakha Dzong. Finally, it is a very long↓ through thick rhododendron to Tarina valley, where you will find several good campsites along the Tang Chhu.
Walking for the day: 18 km, 6-7 hours, 220m↑, 770m↓, camp altitude 4350m
Day 17: Tarina- Woche
Your trail passes through the junipers down the Tangchu River on the left passing through amazing waterfalls. After a gentle climb out of the valley for sometime, you will be making a steep↑ to Woche Village, the first settlement in Lunana region at an altitude of 4450m. The Woche village marks the beginning of the Lunana region and above the village, you will see tomorrow’s route to Ledhi.
Walking for the day: 15 km, 5-6 hours, 100m↑, camp altitude 4450m
Day 18: Woche-Lhedi
The trek starts through juniper and fir forests, and further ahead, through rhododendron bushes. Climb up to Keche La pass (4,650m) where one can have a great view of the surrounding mountains again. After the pass, descend to the riverside walking through a village with a stunning view of Table Mountain and others. Follow up the river till Lhedi Village. Lhedi has a basic health unit, a school and a wireless telephone connection.
Walking for the day: 19 km, 6-7 hours, 300m↑, 450m↓, camp altitude 4200m
Day 19: Lhedi-Thanza
The trek is slightly easy today. We will follow the north bank of Phochu River (Male River) passing through several small farms and then reach Chuzo Village (4090m) sometime around lunchtime. Enroute visit the Chezo Dzong. We follow the trail along the riverbed and then climb a steep hill overlooking Thanza valley at 4250m.
Walking for the day: 19 km, 5-6 hours, 250m↑, camp altitude 4250m
Day 20: Rest day at Thanza
In Thanza walk around and experience some village life or climb up the ridge for fascinating views of lakes and mountains. But as it takes time to arrange new horses (the horses from Laya will not go further than Thanza) you might have to spend one day at Thanza anyway.
Day 21: Thanza-Tshorim
Having taken the route to Bumthang the trek starts by climbing a ridge with a great view of Table Mountain and Thanza valley below. The ridge altitude is 4,500m and it rises gradually up to 4,650m. After lunch walk upwards towards the left side of the bridge to enjoy the view of snow-capped mountains. You reach the campsite of Tshorim after climbing more ridges at an altitude of 5,120m.
Walking for the day: 19 km, 8-9 hours, 870m↑, camp altitude 5,120m
Day 22: Tshorim-Gangkhar Puensum Base Camp
The day starts with a short climb to the Tshorim Thso (lake). You walk on the side of the lake enjoying a panoramic view of the Gophu La ranges. The last climb to the Gophu La pass (5,230m) is very short. After the pass, descend to the base camp, walking along the ridge to enjoy a great view of Gangkhar Puensum. If interested, one can divert to the left side to climb up the pyramid peak for a better view or you can go down to the base camp nearby Sha Chhu.
Walking for the day: 16 km, 6-7 hours, 110m↑, 260m↓, camp altitude 4,970m
Day 23: Gangkar Puensum Base Camp-Geshe Woma
The trail further follows the Sha Chhu and descends gradually to Geshe Woma.
Walking for the day: 14 km, 6-7 hours, 770m↓, camp altitude 4,200m
Day 24: Geshe Woma-Warathang
The path continues following Sha Chhu for two and a half hours until the stiff climb to Saka La begins. Visibility along the Saka La trail is poor so one must see the top of the ridge for guidance. After having lunch nearby a yak herders’ camp you climb up to Saka La (4,800m). The path then descends to a couple of lakes and another short ascent is stunning. Scenery once again is beautiful with small lakes and the mountain peaks.
Walking for the day: 18 km, 8-9 hours, 600m↑, 800m↓, camp altitude 4,000m
Day 25: Warathang-Duer Tsachu
After breakfast, we will start a short climb leading towards Ulila pass (4,400m). After the pass, descend to the riverside through dense rhododendron shrubs, juniper and conifer forests. A short climb after the bridge leads us towards Dur Tsachu (hot spring) where it is believed that Guru Padmasambhava is supposed to have taken bath. These hot springs might be the most stunningly beautiful hot springs of the Himalayas.
Walking for the day: 14 km, 5-6 hours, 400m↑, 810m↓, camp altitude 3,590m
Day 26: Duer Tsachu-Tshochenchen
From the hot springs, it is a long and steady climb with, of course, splendid views of mountains in Lunana. First, we climb the Gutong La Pass (4550m) before coming to several beautiful deep blue lakes with yaks grazing on the surrounding pastures and yak herder’s huts. We then ascend second pass, Jule La Pass (4685m) before the final↓ to our camp at Tshochenchen at 3850m.
Walking for the day: 18 km, 8-9 hours, 1100m↑, 835m↓, camp altitude 3,850m
Day 27: Tshochenchen-Gorsum
We trek downhill from Tshochenchen, following Yoleng Chhu river through thick forests of cypress, spruce, juniper, maple and hemlock. A short climb brings us to our campsite at Gorsum.
Walking for the day: 27 km, 9-10 hours, 660m↓, camp altitude 3190m
Day 28: Gorsum-Dur Village, drive to Bumthang (trek ends)
After a nice breakfast, we will follow the Chamkhar Chhu, descending gradually although few climbs are unavoidable. Finally, the long journey on foot ends here at the Dur village. From here, transport will pick us up and drive to our hotel in Bumthang. Overnight at a hotel in Bumthang.
Walking for the day: 18 km, 6 hours, 540m↓
Day 29: Bumthang – Trongsa, 68 km, 2.5-3 hours
Drive to Trongsa. Check into hotel on arrival. After lunch, you’ll visit Trongsa Dzong, the masterpiece of Bhutanese architecture, and you’ll also see Ta Dzong, the watchtower built to defend this Dzong. You can browse through Trongsa shops and town in the evening. Overnight at a hotel in Trongsa.
Day 30: Trongsa – Thimphu, 192 km, 6 hours
Drive to Thimphu on a picturesque road. You can stroll the busy streets of Thimphu in the evening. Overnight at a hotel in Thimphu.
Day 31: Thimphu
You will visit the King’s Memorial Chorten (dedicated to world peace and prosperity), the giant Buddha Statue at Kuenselphodrang overlooking Thimphu valley and the Folk Heritage Museum. In the afternoon, you can visit the traditional paper factory and the Tashichhodzong, the beautiful medieval fortress which houses most of the Government’s office and Kings’ Throne Room. If it is the weekend, you will head over to the weekend market where farmers come together to sell their farm produce.
At the Memorial Chorten, a white stupa in memory of King Jigme Singye Wangchuk, you can see Bhutanese from all walks of life doing their daily, ritual circumambulations. Very much worth a visit is the School of Thirteen Crafts, where young artists are taught the traditional (religious) art of Bhutan, as well as Buddha Point, where the largest gilded Buddha statue in the world is located. Overnight at a hotel in Thimphu.
Day 32: Departure or Optional Discovery Extension
After breakfast, you will be taken to Paro airport (1.5h). You can also book more nights in Thimphu or our extensions as detailed below (so this will be Day 1 of your chosen extension).
Optional Bhutan Extensions
Optional Acclimatisation Extension Before the Tour: Haa Valley & Thimphu
Day 1: Arrive Paro, Overnight in Paro (= Day 1 of Main Itinerary)
Day 2: Chele La Pass and Haa Valley, 70 km, 2.5 hours
After breakfast, we will drive to Kila Goenpa, a nunnery monastery set dramatically at the foot of a steep cliff and then hike up to to the nearly 3900m high Chele La pass (3-4 hours). This is the highest car-accessible pass in Bhutan. On top of the pass, you will take a short walk on which you will get fantastic views of the Himalayas. After spending some time on the top, you will continue your drive to the Haa Valley for overnight.
Day 3: Haa Valley / Thimphu, 105 km, 3 hours
Today you will explore the Haa Valley. You could start with a visit to the Lhakhang Kharpo, the largest temple in the area and also Haa’s monastic school. A short walk from here leads to the small but fine temple Shek Drak. In the afternoon you can choose from several short walks to beautiful villages, such as Talung, and hidden temples, such as Yangtho and Tsenkha Goemba. Afternoon transfer to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan, and overnight.
Day 4: Thimphu Sightseeing / Paro, 50 km, 1.5 hours
Explore vibrant Thimphu and stroll its narrow streets and busy markets. Afternoon transfer to Paro and overnight. On next day you continue with Day 2 of the standard programme.
Optional After Tour Extension: Western & Central Bhutan (5 nights)
Day 1: Thimphu-Punakha, 76 km, 3 hours
After breakfast, we will drive to Dochula La (3100 meters) where there are 108 memorial chortens (also known as stupas). On a clear day, you can get spectacular views of the Himalayas here. After spending some time you will continue your drive downhill through the forests of rhododendron, fir and hemlock. After traversing through rice field and along the bank of the river you will soon arrive at Punakha. Visit the Punakha Dzong, which is stunningly situated in between the male and female rivers like an anchored ship. Overnight at a hotel in Punakha.
Day 2: Punakha
After breakfast, we drive a few kilometres and then walk to Khamsum Namgyel Chorten. This stupa was built by the Queen Mother of the 5th King of Bhutan. After visiting Khamsum we walk part of the way back to Punakha through the fields, along Yebasa village to Sonagasa where the car will be waiting. After lunch, we’ll visit a newly built nunnery temple not far from the hotel. Overnight at a hotel in Punakha.
Day 3: Punakha – Phobjikha, 78 km, 3 hours
In the morning, we drive to Phobjikha. Phobjikha is one of the most beautiful regions of Bhutan. It is a conservation area, protected because of the black-necked cranes that come here in winter from Tibet. The black-necked crane is the national bird of Bhutan and is very well protected by both the government and the local population. Overnight in a hotel or guesthouse in Phobjikha.
Day 4: Phobjikha
We walk down to the black-necked crane information centre. Here, you can learn all about this bird, which is the national bird of Bhutan. With some luck, you can observe them through telescopes from the centre. From the Centre, we’ll follow a nature trail through the valley along marshy dwarf bamboo and blue pines decorated with long ‘old man’s beard’ (lichens), leading up to Gangtey Goemba (monastery). On this lovely walk, chances are good that you will see the cranes while they forage on the harvest remains in the potato fields (the cranes are usually there between the end of September and mid-March). Gangtey Goemba is the only Nyingmapa monastery in western Bhutan and the biggest one in Bhutan as well. The Nyingma form a Buddhist sect that is older and different from the Drukpa sect, to which the vast majority of Bhutanese temples, monasteries and dzongs adhere. Overnight in a hotel or guesthouse in Phobjikha.
Day 5: Phobjikha – Thimphu, 134 km, 4.5 hours
Today a beautiful drive awaits you. Spend some more time strolling the streets of Thimphu. Overnight in a hotel in Thimphu.
Day 6: Departure (Transfer Thimphu – Paro Airport)
After breakfast, you will be taken to the airport for your flight (1.5h drive).
Accommodation is either in the best 3-star hotels available in town, charming traditional guesthouses where there are no hotels, and two-person tents in the high mountains during the treks. All places have been carefully hand-picked by us, and their quality is regularly monitored. We have tried to choose accommodations that offer friendly service, clean and comfortable rooms and local flavour.
Sample hotels we use in Bhutan:
- Thimphu: Hotel Namgay Heritage, Hotel Tashi Yoedling, Hotel Migmar
- Paro: Tashi Namgay Resort, Galing Resort, Khangkhu Resort
- Haa: Risum Resort
- Punakha: The Four Boutique Hotel, Drubchhu Resort, Punatsangchhu Cottages
- Phobjikha: Gakiling Hotel
- Gangtey: Phuntsho Yangkhil Lodge, Dewachen Hotel & Spa, Wangchuk Lodge
- Bumthang: Yugharling Resort & Spa, Jakar Village Lodge, Hotel Peling
- Mongar: Druk Zhongar Hotel, Wangchuk Hotel
- Trongsa: Yangkhil Resort, Puenzhi Guest House
- Trashigang: Druk Deothjung Resort
All meals (breakfast, lunch or picnic lunch and dinner) are included during the holiday and the optional extensions, as well as dinner on arrival day and breakfast on departure day. Meals when trekking include:
- Breakfast will include toasts, eggs, fruit juice, tea and coffee, sausages and hams. Oatmeal, drinking chocolates, baked means, peanut butter are also served.
- Hot packed lunch consists of rice, noodles, vegetables, meat, fruits and boiled egg or potatoes.
- Evening tea/coffee is served with biscuits and at times with peanuts or salted popcorn.
- Dinner begins with soup, followed by a main course including meat (chicken, pork or beef) and vegetables accompanied by either white or local red rice. Other side dishes may include dumplings, Indian lentil and ‘ema datshi’ – the famous Bhutanese local dish made of chilli and cheese.
Delhi is the most convenient international airport. Flying in from Kolkata, Kathmandu, Singapore and Bangkok also possible. You can optionally book all flights with Druk Air (Royal Bhutan Airlines) through us.
Luggage transfers are included as per itinerary, and we will arrange them from your current hotel to your next hotel (or tent camp). Porters (horse porters) will transport your luggage in the mountains, so please limit your main luggage to 15 kg per person and put it in a soft duffel bag.
Bhutan is an extraordinary country, and after visiting Bhutan you will surely come back with unique
travel experiences. It is a Buddhist Kingdom that strives to protect its cultural and natural heritage
like no other country in the world. Up-to-date travel advice on Bhutan is available here. Detailed travel information and hints will be provided in your holiday information pack.
Whilst visiting Dzongs, monasteries, temples and festivals ensure you dress neatly and modestly (covered arms, no shorts, three quarter length trousers, short skirts or tight or skimpy clothing). Do not wear a hat in the precincts of Dzongs or religious complexes.
Walk clockwise around Chortens (stupas) and Mani (prayer) walls and refrain from smoking on the premises. If you see a prayer flagpole on the ground waiting to be erected, do not step over it, as this is considered extremely disrespectful: walk around it instead. Never stray onto the dance ground at festivals in search of the perfect spot – this is the height of bad manners and will definitely give offence to all Bhutanese who see you.
Tipping in Bhutan is not compulsory. Hotels and restaurant bills include service charges of 20%; there is no need to add anything further onto these bills. The tipping of your guide, driver and trek crew is purely a personal matter. However, we would suggest a tip per day of 10 USD for your guide and 5-6 USD for your driver. If you are trekking in Bhutan then other trek staff (such as horsemen/cooks) should be tipped around 7-8 USD per day for a short trek, for treks over 5 nights we recommend 5 USD per day. Obviously this is very much a rough guide and you are completely free to give whatever you feel is appropriate.
For Bhutan, we will arrange the visa for you. The cost of the visa is included in the tour price. The Bhutanese visa is issued to your passport on arrival. No passport photos are currently required for this, but it’s always good to travel with a couple of current photos.
In order to arrange the Bhutan visa, you must provide us with the following 35-40 days before departure:
- Arrival and Departure flight details for Paro (unless you have booked your Paro flights through us)
- Scanned colour passport copy, which must meet the following requirements: the image must be extremely clear with no obstructions covering any part of the passport; it must have all details (including background letters) on the passport page in readable print, and there must be absolutely no reflections (due to flash photography) on the image itself.
We will then arrange the Bhutanese visa for you. The visa letter will be forwarded to you 2-5 business days before departure. We cannot get the visa letter issued any sooner, as it is issued by the Bhutanese government. Please print out the visa letter, you will be required to show this before boarding your flight to Paro.
Important: If you are planning to extend your stay in Bhutan, pre- and post-tour accommodation or extensions MUST be booked through us in order for us to issue a valid visa for the duration of your stay.
Difficulty Grade: Strenuous+
The Snowman Trek is our most challenging trek in Bhutan. It is also billed the toughest trek in the world and is often referred to as the Everest of trekking. In fact, this can be considered an understatement as there are more Everest summiteers each year than trekkers who manage to complete the Snowman Trek! The trek follows the spine of the Himalaya forming the border of Bhutan and Tibet and although you will be walking, not climbing, the paths are quite demanding. To add to the difficulty, the trail crosses eleven passes over 4500m and you are above 4000m for nearly the whole of the trek. And sometimes even if you are fit, the weather conditions will not allow us to complete the trek – as safety is our primary concern, the decision whether to continue or not is entirely at the discretion of our tour leader.
You should be in an excellent physical condition and have solid experience of multi-day high-mountain trekking before undertaking this trek (we might ask you to prove your experience before confirming your booking). The effect of altitude should not be underestimated (read more about difficulty grades)!
Acute mountain sickness
AMS is a significant concern when trekking above 3500m and although our itinerary is designed to minimise the chances of you suffering from AMS by providing enough acclimatisation days before the actual trek and ensuring a gradual increase in altitude, each individual is affected differently by height. If you have any pre-existing health conditions that you think may make you more susceptible to AMS, we recommend that you consult your doctor before booking this trip.
Portable hyperbaric bag
Only a few outfitters in Bhutan provide portable altitude chambers. As we always put safety first, we bring such on all high-altitude treks (incl. the Snowman Trek). A portable hyperbaric bag (of which we use the reliable Australian TrekSafe brand), is an inflatable pressure bag large enough to accommodate a person. The patient can be placed inside the bag, which is then sealed and inflated with a foot pump. Within minutes, the effective altitude can be decreased by 1000 m to as much as 3000 m (3281 to 9743 feet) depending on the elevation. All our trekking guides are well trained in using this equipment. Once inflated, the Gamow bag simulates a descent to lower altitude. At 3000m, the Gamow bag can simulate a descent of 1,500m. Once the patient is taken out of the bag, the acclimatization will last up to 12 hours. This gives enough time to the patient to descend to a lower altitude and allow for further acclimatization.
Qualified guides make the difference between a regular trip and an unforgettable experience. Our certified Bhutanese English-speaking guides are qualified and trained. All have many years of experience of guiding trekkers in the area. They will bring a wealth of knowledge to your journey, opening your eyes to the legends, culture, food, flora and fauna of the regions.
We strongly advise you to follow only marked trails and never try to shorten the path through the unknown and unmarked terrain. Your private guide is highly experienced, and you should always follow their advice.
When to Go
This trip is available between April and November. The flexibility of the privately guided holidays means that there are no fixed dates and you can start your holiday on any date in the season. The best time to travel to Bhutan if going on a discovery tour or a lower trek is between March and late May and between mid-September and November. In these two periods, the weather is relatively dry and the daytime temperatures are generally pleasant. In addition, in spring nature is at its most abundant with flowering floral carpets and rhododendron forests. Autumn offers the best view of the high peaks.
The Snowman trek is subject to closure because of snow and is practically impassable during winter. The recommended seasons for this trek are March-May and September-November.
What to Bring
While trekking you will only have to carry a day bag with water, snacks, spare clothes and your camera. Your main bag will be moved by a porter. We will provide a detailed equipment list as part of your pre-departure information pack. You will need quality walking and travelling gear as well as a sleeping bag and warm clothes. The sleeping bag should withstand negative 10-12 degrees Celsius/14-10 Fahrenheit.
Camping/trekking equipment provided by us:
- Sleeping tents (twin sharing; optional single tent supplement)
- Spacious dining tents
- Kitchen tents
- Toilet tents with chairs
- Air mats
- Compressible pillows (we find them much comfier than the inflatable ones)
- Hot water bags to keep you warm in the tent
- Tables and chairs
- Qualified English-speaking guide and porters during the trek and experienced English-speaking guide/driver during the transfers/in the lowlands
- Overnight stays in private rooms and tents as listed in the itinerary (the best government-approved 3-star hotels in towns, quality tents during the treks)
- All breakfasts, lunches and dinners during the holiday; dinner on arrival day and breakfast on departure day; bottled water
- Visa for Bhutan, compulsory contribution to the Bhutan Tourism Development Fund and all related bank costs
- All car transfers as listed in the itinerary
- All entrance fees as per the itinerary
- Luggage transfers by car and (horse) porters during the trek
- Pre-departure travel and tour documents
- 24/7 phone assistance by our local representative in Thimphu (certified by the Bhutanese government)
Options and Extras
- This holiday is NOT available for solo travellers. Minimum group size: 4 pax.
- Optional extra nights are bookable on request
- International flights (bookable on request)
- Visa fees other than Bhutan needed for connecting flights (e.g. India)
- Travel insurance
- Sleeping bag for camping during the trek (4-season or quality 3-season)
- Personal expenses such as drinks, snacks, phone calls, extra transfers, tips, etc.
- Tips for the guides and porters
- Any items not specifically mentioned as ‘included’ in the programme