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TREK THROUGH BHUTAN
The trip: Sure, you could aspire to bag all Seven Summits, but why not look for a trek that's more spiritual and less goal-oriented? Bhutan is hidden among 22,000-foot peaks of the Great Himalaya Range, and the Buddhist kingdom bewitches hikers for its mix of hard-core terrain, beautiful scenery, and cultural gifts. (Researchers at the University of Leicester crunched the numbers to deem Bhutan one of the happiest countries in the world.) Trekkers who enter the valleys and villages around the sacred, 24,000-foot mountain of Chomo Lhari encounter gracious monks perched in nest-like monasteries, whimsical blue-colored sheep, and ravishing views around every corner. Expect up to 14 miles of hiking per day, with ascents of up to 13,382 feet. Afterward, were it not for the worn boot soles and phenomenal photographs, you might wonder if it were all but a dream.
Why go? Bhutan has allowed outside visitors only since 1974. When someone hands you the keys to a kingdom, you take them. You still have to go with an outfitter, however; independent travelers are still not permitted.
What to pack: Warm, windproof clothes. It's chilly up there, and in a a typical ten-day trip, you'll ascend some half-dozen 12,000-foot mountains.
Difficulty: 9.4 out of 10. You should be ready to handle high altitudes and extreme wilderness with no vehicle support.
Your guides: Mountain Travel Sobek, one of the earliest outfitters to receive permission to lead trips in Bhutan.
Mountain Travel Sobek
Tel: 510 594 6000
16-day, 15-night trip, including ten days of trekking, nine nights of camping, six nights in hotels, and all meals, around $5,780 per person