Next Run - Royal Highland Festival and 25k trail race (Oct. 2023) - Visit remote Laya, Bhutan

Royal Highland Festival and 25k trail race (Oct. 2023)

Bhutan is a special place. Less well-known, and far less visited than neighboring Nepal, Bhutan is a land of pristine Himalayan peaks, welcoming people, a carbon-positive footprint, and a unique sect of Buddhism. To visit this magical kingdom, travelers must obtain a visa from the Bhutanese government, which welcomes discerning visitors to tread lightly, protecting the environment and respecting their unique culture.

We first visited Laya in 2019 and our runners were the only group from outside of Bhutan to join the race. The experience was very special and we would go back again and again.

On a clear day flying in on Druk Air, the National Airline of Bhutan, you will be treated to a spectacular view of the great Himalayan peaks and your first glimpse of Bhutan. As you descend into Paro Valley at 7,400 feet, you arrive in a world apart. Crystal clear Himalayan air, the scent of pines, beautifully crafted traditional buildings, and the greetings of the Bhutanese people in their distinctive centuries-old woven robes signal that your journey, rare in time, place and spirit, has begun.

The trip is a mix of cultural tour, running, hiking, and an unforgettable festival. The first day will be relatively easy and we’ll check out Paro. The next day begins early. You will hike 3+ hour to the Taktshang Monastery or Tiger’s Nest, the most famous monastery in Bhutan. Over the next two days, we drive to Punakha, then the hot springs at Gasa. We’ll see some of the sights along the way as the altitude continues to climb. Our campsite at Gasa is next to packet pickup for the race. The next morning, runners will caravan to the starting line. Trekkers will drive up past the starting line to where horses are waiting for them. The Royal Highland Festival is a gorgeous celebration of highland culture, yaks, dogs, horses, dancing, and people. On the morning after the last bonfire has gone out, we will pack up the horses and head back to Gasa. You may be tired and it’s a hike, but you will look forward to the hot springs waiting for you back at camp. We will then drive to Punakha and Thimpu. We will explore the capital city for a day before driving back to Paro and our flight to Bangkok.

    Exertion Level (3+)

    Runners and travelers should be prepared for a trip that goes up to 13,800 feet of elevation with distances of up to 15 miles in a day. The trails are steep, but non-technical.The trail conditions will vary according to weather and horse traffic.


    3* Hotel, 5 nights. Tent camping, 4 nights

    What’s included:

    This trip is an all-inclusive package that includes all in-country transportation, guides, drivers, guide gratuities, hotels, meals, camping fees, visas, race entries, and festival fees. The listed price also includes the flight from Bangkok to Paro. The price does not include alcohol, trip or evacuation insurance, or any souvenir purchases.

    About Bhutan

    The Kingdom of Bhutan is a landlocked country of approximately 700,000 people in the Eastern Himalayas. India is to the West, South, and East. China is to the North. The Buddhist country has defied globalization and even today remains a hidden treasure among travel destinations. Monasteries and Dzongs overlook lush countrysides high in the Himalayan mountains.

    Rather than look to GDP or other economic indicators, Bhutan is a pioneer in measuring Gross National Happiness - an index which is used to measure the collective happiness and well-being of a population. The country is a democratic, constitutional monarchy. The king and princes are often seen at the country’s festivals and sporting events including our running races. As a visitor to this very special country, you will feel the influence of the national emphasis on core values that include education and contentment for its people, social justice, and environmental protection.

    Bhutan strictly limits the number of tourists into the country each year. Visitors wishing to be granted admission to the country must obtain an invitation and visa i, unless they carry a passport from India, Bangladesh, or the Maldives. Visas and invitations are included in our travel packages.

    We look forward to sharing with you the truly unique experience of traveling and running in Bhutan.

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