Early records show that an historic trail cut across the centre of Bhutan as far back as the 16th century. The trail connected regional fortresses, known as dzongs, and came to be symbolically important as part of the establishment of Bhutan as a nation. After Bhutan initiated a process of planned development beginning in the 1960s, the trail fell into disuse with the construction of the national highway. The Bhutan Canada Foundation, in partnership with the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) and other local partners, is working to restore and reconnect this historic trail through the Trans Bhutan Trail (TBT) project. The TBT project will rejuvenate 430km of trail from Haa in the west to Trashigang in the east. In doing so, it will connect communities, provide educational opportunities for youth, stimulate local economic development, promote healthy lifestyles and reconnect Bhutanese to a heritage site of historic importance.
Work to date
BCF and its partners began initial work on the TBT in late 2019. By the end of 2020 the first phase of the project was completed with the physical trail restored. Restoration of the trail in 2020 also played a key role in responding to the coronavirus pandemic. With international borders closed and the subsequent collapse of Bhutan’s tourism industry, the TBT project worked with the Royal Government of Bhutan to provide work to over 700 people who had lost employment. Through their work on the trail, these people not only gained access to meaningful employment, they also accelerated to completion of the trail’s restoration and further connected TBT to the communities along its length.
Important work on the TBT project continues into 2021. A passport program and website are being finalized as are strategies to market the trail to both domestic and international tourists as we emerge from the pandemic. Work also continues on developing a local economic development strategy, educational materials and a long term sustainability plan.
If you are interested in donating to support the sustainable restoration of the TBT, please visit www.bhutancanada.org/donations. For more details about the development of the trail, visit the TBT blog at https://bhutancanada.org/trans-bhutan-trail-blogs/.