Kadriche

Today is my last day in Bhutan so I say Kadriche or “Thank you” to the true Shangri-la! The surreal beauty of the landscapes, the warm hospitality of her people (from offering biscuits to weary hikers like me or to farmers graciously inviting me to their homes), their strong focus on environmental responsibility, and the introduction to the philosophical banner of Gross National Happiness instead of Gross National Product. (A revolutionary philosophy that places real value on things such as cultural heritage, health, education, ecological diversity and individual well-being instead of economic measures.) All the people I have met along…

Tiger’s Nest

Located in the Upper Paro Valley is the Taktshang Goemba, or the Tiger’s Nest Monastery. The most famous monastery in Bhutan that is perched on the side of a cliff 900 m above the floor of Paro Valley. Tiger’s Nest (elev 3200 m) was built in 1692 and considered a very holy place by locals and Buddhists. Many travellers into Bhutan consider this as the highlight of their journey to this Kingdom. This is my last hike in Bhutan that will take a total of 6 hours. The only way up is to walk or ride a horse. It took…

Paro

Paro Valley (Elev 2280m) is one hour west of Thimphu and is my last stop in Bhutan. Several treks begin in or near Paro. The charming small town of Paro lies on the banks of the Paro Chhu (river). My two-hour hike today started from where I am staying at Uma, Paro – up along the forested hillside of a narrow path to Zuri Dzong and slight downhill to the National Museum.

Punakha

One of the reasons I visited Bhutan this time of the year is to catch the Punakha Domchoe Festival. Part of the difference with other Domchoe festivals is that of the dramatic recreation of a 17th century battle scene of a Tibetan army invading Bhutan and eventually withdrawing. Quite unfortunate as it was raining today – but the “show” went on, albeit with less crowd in attendance. It was held at Punakha Dzong, a postcard perfect dzong that is serenely monastic. Built in 1637, this is the winter home of the Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot) and is the venue for…

Kuzuzangbo la

That’s “hello” in Dzongkha, the official language of Bhutan. It took me some time to learn it. I say goodbye to the surreal and ethereal Punakha Valley today (and the stunning Uma by COMO,Punakha lodge that I stayed at for three nights) as I travel to Paro through Thimphu. The UMA by COMO lodge is by no exaggeration a slice of heaven. Genuinely warm, thoughtful and friendly service, subtle but gorgeous architecture and the excellent food served. The hotel even packs my lunch for my daily outings. And did I mention the breathtaking¬†views?

Punakha Valley

Punakha served as Bhutan’s capital for over 300 years, before it was moved to Thimphu, with the first king crowned here in 1907. It sits in a fertile and beautiful valley at the junction of Mo Chhu (Mother River) and Pho Chhu (Father River). The 4-hour hike through rice and mustard fields started by crossing the river over a suspension bridge and ended on top of the mountain to visit a temple. The guides call this “Deep Trekking” — journeys that takes one under the surface and given with the opportunity to interact and connect with people, landscape, religion and…

Bhutan

Often referred to as “The Last Shangri-la”, Bhutan (meaning the Land of the Thunder Dragon) is a Himalayan kingdom with a population of 700,000 people and landlocked between Tibet, China and India. Only the national airline, Druk Air, flies into the international airport at Paro, where all landings and take off are by visual flight rules, which means that the pilot must be able to see the runway before landing. First stop on the way to Thimphu is the Tamchhu Lhakhang, a temple accessible only through an iron suspension bridge.