22 Oct 2022 By May Ng

The Inauguration of The Trans Bhutan Trail, An Unparalleled Trail Opened to The World After Six Decades

His Royal Highness Prince Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck, Representative of His Majesty the King and the President of Bhutan Olympic Committee formally inaugurated the Trans Bhutan Trail on 28th September 2022 at a ceremony held at the historic Semtokha Dzong.

The restoration of the Trans Bhutan Trail was conceived by His Majesty the King to revive and promote Bhutan’s ancient trail, known as the zhung lam. The trail spans 403kms across the country through 9 Dzongkhags, 27 Gewogs, and 2 national parks – Phrumsengla National Park and Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park.

His Excellency The Prime Minister, Honourable Speaker of the National Assembly, Honourable Chairman of the National Council, Cabinet Ministers, and other dignitaries also joined the occasion. The Prime Minister led a hike from Semtokha Dzong to Punakha, covering over 35 kilometres of the Trans Bhutan Trail section.

The restoration of the Trail was supported by the Bhutan Canada Foundation and its founder Mr. Sam Blyth in partnership with the Tourism Council of Bhutan. Over 900 individuals across including De-Suups, Scouts, tourism sector professionals, villagers from the community and various government institutions and corporate agencies contributed to the effort.

Coinciding with the inauguration of the Trail, a group of 24 young Scouts are also hiking the entire length of the Trail – a feat that will take them 35 days. The Scout Walk will incorporate nature-based education experiences, develop leadership and teamwork skills, support local communities through voluntary activities, and contribute to nation building.

Besides being an important symbol of national unity and a living cultural heritage, the Trans Bhutan Trail also provides an opportunity to contribute to the tourism sector. Recently, the Trans Bhutan Trail was listed in TIME Magazine’s World’s Greatest Places to Visit in 2022 – highlighting unique travel destinations to visit across the globe. It has also won awards for sustainability and community engagement.

The Trans Bhutan Trail aims to help rebound Bhutanese tourism in the post-pandemic market. The Trail contributes to the expansion of sustainable and responsible tourism by encouraging repeat visits, community-based experiences, wider seasonality, and eco-tourism.

The Trans Bhutan Trail also launched its Membership Program, which contributes directly to the sustainability of the trail. There are two types of memberships – Institutional Membership and Individual Membership. Starting at only Nu. 300 per person per year, the membership allows every Bhutanese and all friends of Bhutan to become stewards of this important cultural heritage. As a part of the membership program, all members will receive a TBT Trail Passport to document and log their trail exploration and adventures. It will help members track their journey in the footsteps of their ancestors across the nation.

With over 70 TBT ambassadors across the trail, users can get their passports stamped for each gewog they pass through. In addition to stamping the Trail Passports, the ambassadors are also key to delivering an authentic local experience to all trail users.  Ambassadors belong to the local community and are shopkeepers, farmers, hoteliers and homestay owners,  ready to help all travellers and share their stories of local legends. “I am excited to welcome travellers to Chungseykha. We hope to not only share our stories, but also learn about the guests and their culture,” said Ap Passang Wangdi, a TBT ambassador in Phangyuel Gewog in Wangdue Phodrang.

Other benefits of membership include opportunities to plant trees along the trail, discounts on Trans Bhutan Trail partner locations and TBT merchandise, invitation to all TBT events, and members-only hikes along the trail.

“Together we can commit to maintaining and enhancing this ancient trail out of respect to the ancestors who built it, and as a gift to the future generations,” said Sonam Rinchen, the Senior Project Director. “Trans Bhutan Trail is an important part of our history. It is a national symbol of unity, it is our cultural heritage and it belongs to every Bhutanese. The membership program is an opportunity for all citizens to take ownership of this ancestral trail.”

For more information, you can visit www.transbhutantrail.com