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Bhutan: The East Opens Up

National Geographic Adventure picks the 25 best new outfitted trips.
Text by Bonnie Tsui   Photograph by Ami Vitale
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Rice harvesters in eastern Bhutan

WHAT'S NEW: In early 2007, Bhutan plans to officially open its eastern valleys of Merak and Sakten to the world; next April, Wilderness Travel will lead a three-week trip there, crossing the entire nation from Paro, in the west. Until now, these remote valleys—home to the seminomadic Brokpa people, who migrated from the Tibetan plateau centuries ago—have been visited by few Westerners. "This is a trek to some very distinct cultural areas, far from the standard routes," says Barbara Banks, director of new-trip development for Wilderness Travel. "The Bhutanese government has talked about opening the region for years, and it's finally happened."

After touring monasteries and cities in western Bhutan, you'll set out on a five-day trek into Merak and Sakten themselves—climbing to cross 13,500-foot (4,115-meter) mountain passes, stopping to explore traditional weaving villages, and visiting with monks who follow the Nyingma sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Along the way, you'll get firsthand experience of eastern Bhutan's distinctive knife-edged ridgelines and its semitropical climate; you'll also meet the Brokpa and observe their pastoral way of life.


Wilderness Travel (

22 days




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Our November 2006 issue features the best new adventure travel trips; an exclusive look inside Iran; a Greenland global warming report; backcountry spas; digital cameras; travel Web sites; weekend getaways; and more.

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