Happiness, spirituality, unforgettable views—there’s a lot of good stuff waiting for you in the country of Bhutan, which is sitting pretty between India and China in the Himalayas. It’s also consistently ranked one of the happiest places on Earth according to the Gross National Happiness concept. If you’re wondering how to visit Bhutan from the U.S.A., Go Ahead is your ticket. We’re one of the only tour companies that can take you there on our brand-new tour, Bhutan Adventure: The Trans Bhutan Trail.
While everything in Bhutan shines (we’re thinking about those mountain views again), one gem to put on your bucket list is the Trans Bhutan Trail. This historic pilgrimage route is reopening for the first time in over six decades, and you could be one of the first to step foot on it—after the King of Bhutan, of course!
We connected with Go Ahead staffer Lael, who helps design all of our tours as the Vice President of our Market Innovation and Development department, to hear more about this expertly crafted adventure. Read on to get all the insider info about the wow moments you can look forward to on our new Bhutan itinerary.
EF Go Ahead Tours is one of the only tour operators able to run trips to this destination
As part of EF, we’re proud to be the world’s largest private education company with over 55 years of experience. It really never gets old to form connections with experts and suppliers around the world, and to share those connections with our travel community! Our new Bhutan tour is a celebration of the trust we’ve built with our global family. Not only are we one of the only tour companies offering this exclusive itinerary, but our expertly crafted, authentic experience is a notch above.
“We’ve been working with the Trans Bhutan Trail itself, and members of that organization, to curate an itinerary that highlights what we do in terms of responsible travel, immersive travel, and experiential activities,” said staffer Lael. “We’ve created a distinct itinerary in collaboration with them that differentiates our product.”
But why us, you ask? It all goes back to our commitment to education. “The Trans Bhutan Trail has wanted to partner with companies that have a similar mindset in terms of mission,” said staffer Lael. “Our background in education has been a very important factor in them deciding to work with us. Because they also have a background in education and educational travel, working with a company like EF was a natural fit in a lot of ways.”
Here’s how we make it easy to visit Bhutan alongside our experts:
- We organize and include all the activities to get you closer to culture
- We handle all your flights and connections, so that you can kick back while our experts coordinate the details
- We include every meal—and a beer and cheese tasting, too!
- We reserve comfortable, boutique hotels for your entire journey
The Trans Bhutan Trail is open for the first time in 60 years!
Of all the brand-new attractions open to travel in 2022, the Trans Bhutan Trail is one of the most historically significant—and scenic. This passage dates as far back as the 16th century, and played a major role in fostering the birth of Bhutan as a nation in 1907. But, the trail and all its history has been tucked away since the 1960s, which is when a national highway opened, and the Trans Bhutan Trail closed.
Luckily for Bhutan-bound travelers, restoration of the trail kicked off in 2018, and it will be opening again for the first time this year. Of all the unforgettable places to visit in Bhutan, this route is at the top. “The trail will open later this year, first at a domestic ceremony with the King of Bhutan, and then later internationally,” said staffer Lael. “There is a lot to celebrate with the opening of this pilgrimage route for the first time in 60 years.”
Our itinerary is full of educational moments
“One of the amazing things about Bhutan is it’s a place where it’s very easy to immerse yourself and interact with locals because there are fewer travelers,” said staffer Lael. Here are some of the ways that we share authentic Bhutanese culture with our travelers while visiting Bhutan on our new tour, Bhutan Adventure: The Trans Bhutan Trail.
- We support responsible travel every step of the way. “The trail was built in collaboration with all the local communities,” said staffer Lael. “Bhutan has some very clear objectives in terms of both sustainability and responsible travel, and these really show with how they built the trail, and how they’re working with all the local communities to maintain the trail and promote it. Everything that has been done really supports our mission in terms of responsible travel.”
- Each day is full of immersive moments. “Many people in Bhutan are very curious about visitors, and there’s a shared curiosity to both teach visitors about their culture, and also learn about our travelers and where they come from,” said staffer Lael. “There are many interactive moments on the tour, and we include activities like having a dinner at a local restaurant, where we invite local people in Thimphu to come in and interact with our travelers. We include an interactive chat with Buddhist monks at the Nalanda Monastery, and a visit to an NGO in Thimphu, where travelers meet local women who use the services of the Changjiji READ Center library.”
- You’ll return home with an understanding of the local people. “For our tours of Bhutan, we really strive for people to interact with locals, understand their lives, and go beyond the sites and the active element of it,” said staffer Lael. “What’s unique about our tour of Bhutan are those immersive elements. You really come back with a true understanding of the local people and their customs. Coming with an open mind and a sense of curiosity will open our travelers up to understanding something very different to their own lives in the U.S.”
Bhutan is ranked one of the happiest places on Earth, and the spirituality you’ll encounter on the Trans Bhutan Trail plays a part in that
Did you know that Bhutan is the birthplace of the innovative Gross National Happiness concept? Or that according to this measurement, the country is consistently ranked one of the happiest places on Earth? There are a lot of cultural factors that contribute to this collective joy, and the beautiful way Buddhist spirituality intertwines with daily life is one of them! On our new Bhutan tour, you’ll make stops as you hike the Trans Bhutan Trail to chat with local monks, students, and villagers. These authentic interactions with locals are sure to give you a broader understanding about why this country is so, well, happy.
Here are some of the joyful moments to look forward to while hiking the Trans Bhutan Trail:
- Cross the suspension bridge in the Punakha Valley, which is adorned in prayer flags, and continue into a beautiful valley surrounded by mist mountains.
- Meet local villagers at a traditional farmhouse, and say hello to students at the Rukubji Lower Secondary School, as you hike from Pelela to Rukubji.
- Hike through a dense, pine forest until you reach the famous Tiger’s Nest, and admire views of the ravine nearly 3,000 feet below as you share lunch with your group.
Hiking the trail will be an experience for intrepid travelers—and we’ve designed it so that it’s within your reach!
Wondering what it will be like to actually hike this historic trail on our expertly designed tour, Bhutan Adventure: The Trans Bhutan Trail? If you have an adventure mindset and are up for a bit of a challenge, this trip is just the ticket. Staffer Lael shared all the details of our exclusive new itinerary.
We make it easy to travel to this difficult-to-visit location. “We want to make travel to Bhutan as easy as possible,” said Lael. “It’s almost impossible to travel to on your own. It’s a place that’s highly immersive and highly authentic because they limit the number of visitors each year. It’s highly controlled by the government. We want to make it as easy as possible to get there, so we organize everything. We include all the flights in Bhutan, all the meals, all the activities. It’s a highly inclusive itinerary and takes all the guessing and difficult planning work away from our travelers.”
Your accommodations will be top-notch. “We stay in four-star hotels, and unique, boutique properties throughout Bhutan,” said Lael.
The hikes will be challenging, but accessible. “All the hikes are designed to be between two to six miles, and a lot are designed to be downhill,” said Lael. “There are definitely some more challenging ones, but there aren’t any multi-day treks.”
Our experts bring you beyond the trail into culture. “We know that there’s a market for people who want to experience something like this, but still want comfort, and something that’s less strenuous,” said Lael. “But, they also want to experience other parts of Bhutan, like the culture, the local communities, and the hands-on activities. We really wanted to create that mix where our travelers get to visit the Trans Bhutan Trail, do sections of it, learn about it, but also do so much more. And that is one differentiator of ours.”
“There are not many companies offering this,” said Lael. “They are doing Trans Bhutan Trail itineraries, but they tend to be more strenuous, with more multi-day trekking, and are really geared toward a different audience. They also offer much lower hotel quality in terms of comfort.”
We’re the only company taking travelers to the eastern part of Bhutan. “Most other companies that you see out there really focus on western Bhutan, in the Thimphu, Paro, and Punakha region, but we really wanted to do more than that,” said Lael. “We wanted to bring travelers not only to the more beaten path area of Bhutan—even though Bhutan itself is a very off-the-beaten-path destination—but also bring them into eastern Bhutan where they get to experience the full country, and different portions of the Trans Bhutan Trail.”
“This is the best way to see the country,” said Lael. “We’ve designed all of our tours to run during the dry season, so it’s a perfect time to get out on foot and see the country.”
The Trans Bhutan Trail weaves through some of the most sacred places in the Himalayas
Bhutan and Buddhist spirituality go hand-in-hand, and stepping foot on the Trans Bhutan Trail is one way to step directly into the spiritual soul of the country. The trail has served as the pilgrimage route for Buddhists in the east traveling to western Bhutan and Tibet, and passes more than 200 sacred sites (many of which are rarely visited and often closed to other visitors). On our new tour, you’ll walk past ancient fortresses, dramatic mountain landscapes, and charming local villages on a series of breathtakingly beautiful hikes.
“The trail was used by Buddhist monks and connected villages, and was historically used by the King of Bhutan to control troops defending Bhutan against Tibet,” said staffer Lael. “There’s a long history around this trail. The goal is for it to be known as a trail similar to something like the Camino de Santiago, which is a pilgrimage route for Catholics in northern Spain. Or the Kumano Kodo, which is a very famous pilgrimage route in Japan. Or, the Inca Trail, which goes through the Sacred Valley of the Incas and ends at Machu Picchu.”
“All of those long-distance trails historically have such power and significance, as well as beauty,” Lael continued. “But, the Trans Bhutan Trail is the most exclusive in terms of the type of experience. There’s an authenticity to the trail due to the destination and remoteness of the location.”