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Bhutan, Land of the Thunder Dragon, is full of culture. A mystical place, lost in time, firmly holding onto ancient customs. However, it has changed over the years, with more development and the country slowly opening its doors to more tourism. It has not turned into mass tourism, as the country requires a minimum expenditure per person. By default, there is not much backpacker tourism and some of the most luxurious lodges have set up circuits to see the country in style. We landed in Paro and headed to Uma Paro: http://www.comohotels.com/umaparo A wonderful hotel in Paro with a full spa and great cuisine. Much of the produce comes from their own organic kitchen garden and there is a partnership with local farmers from the Paro Valley. Our next day was a hike to The Tiger’s Nest (normally itineraries are turned around from what we did!). This day was a steep hike to the famous Taktsang Monastery, what has today become a cultural icon for Bhutan. The temple is built on a cliff face 900 ft above the Paro Valley. A stunning and sacred temple, well worth the hike!
We were then off to Punakha via Duchu La Pass (10,334 ft). We were quite lucky in getting to see a festival and we got to meet the King, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck! Very nice guy and really revered by the country. The festival was colorful, full of masks, dancing, and instruments such as the long trumpet also seen in Tibet. From the Duchu La Pass we did an insane and long downhill on bikes! It was a really fun way to get some exercise. We rode into a stunning view as the sun was going down of Punakha Dzong. The following day we went to visit Punakha Dzong, one of the larger monasteries, very impressive. We had a wonderful stay for a few nights at Amankora Punakha: http://www.amanresorts.com/amankora/home.aspx A truly spectacular hotel with spa and well-appointed suites. The food and staff were fabulous in the Aman Resorts style. (Amankora has created a series of lodges, all creatively unique and sympathetically balanced to their environment, in order to discover and comprehend the extraordinary wonders above and beneath this treasured land. The lodges are created to provide a circular pilgrimage in Bhutan’s breathtakingly spectacular central and western valleys. Most journeys start at Amankora Paro or Amankora Thimphu. The lodge in Paro is nestled among glistening conifers in a 24-suite pine forest retreat. Amankora Thimphu, raised up in a blue-pine forest of the Motithang area, sits close to the capital’s intriguing sights and traditional shops. Amankora Punakha is set in sparkling verdancy east of the Dochu La Pass and just north of the resplendent Punakha Dzong. Amankora Gangtey, set in the remote wilderness of the Phobjikha valley, offers magical views across the bird-strewn gorge and to the empowering Gangtey Goemba, a 16th century monastery. Amankora Bumthang rests adjacent to First and Second King’s palace, Wangdichholing, within the town of Jakar in the Choekhor valley, a valley sprinkled with an exotic mix of sloping pine forests, apple orchards, and restful fields of farm produce.)
Our last stop was the capital of Thimphu, the epicenter of all of Bhutan. Here, we did some last minute shopping, got to see artisans, and discovered the world of herbs and their medicinal value. Herbal medicine is a long-lasting tradition and is highly valued over Western medicine. We had a nice stay at Taj Tashi: http://www.tajhotels.com/Leisure/Taj%20Tashi,THIMPHU/default.htm A well-appointed hotel in the city with a variety of food choices, and apparently the choice of the King of Tanga as we met him in the lobby! Bhutan is an extraordinary place, still young in its adventure travel offerings. We have traversed the country and are creating some exciting trekking itineraries. One on offer now which also incorporates all the sightseeing highlights is the Haa Valley Trek: http://www.adventure-international.com/trips/trekking/81/haa-valley-trek/ For more adventurous folks we are working on offering the Snowman Trek, known to be one of the toughest treks in the Himalayas. As standard, our services are bit more beefed up and we incorporate portable toilets and other items which most basic trekking operations just don’t use.