3 independent reviews for Western Bhutan walking vacation

Reviews for Western Bhutan walking vacation

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review 30 Mar 2019

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

There were so many memorable parts. First, the scenery is as amazing as everyone said it would be. There's just something so peaceful and serene in the valleys, mountains, rivers and farmlands of Paro, Thimphu and Punakha. The hike up to the Paro Taktsang was incredible. Beautiful views all around. In fact, all our hikes had amazing views. I liked one of the hikes where we ended up overlooking all of Thimphu, and also the hike up to Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten where we were greeted with a sweeping view of Punakha. Secondly, the temple designs are very intricate and they are all unique in their own way. Even though we visited a lot of temples during this trip, we didn't get tired of them at all, they were all so interesting! We also appreciated our guide's in-depth explanations about buddhism (we are not religious), the various buddhas and the meanings behind the common items we come across (the holy water, the 7 bowls of water, the prayer wheels and prayer flags etc). Lastly, we really liked the food there. The pink rice, the cheese and potatoes (kewa datsi), the cauliflower and cheese, some mysterious pork dish that was to die for etc - so simple yet so healthy and delicious. We also greatly enjoyed their amazing ginger tea and milk tea. I loved chewing doma (Bhutanese nut with lime paste and bitter leaf) too!

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Do plan at least 3 months in advance since flights and hotel rooms are limited and you need to allow time for the wire transfer and visa clearance as well. On this note I would like to express my huge thanks to Kinley who graciously and patiently dealt with my change of dates (at least twice!) as well as my difficulties with the wire transfer. We visited in mid-March and the weather was quite excellent for hiking. Also caught the Paro Tsechu (one of the popular festivals) during our stay and it was pretty fun to witness. The tour operator was great in giving advice on the different offerings of Bhutan during different months. Definitely bring a good pair of hiking shoes/boots, hats, and sunscreen!

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Yes. We were connected directly to a local tour agency, had a local guide and driver, stayed at locally-owned (versus chain-owned) hotels plus a homestay and had all our lunches at local restaurants which all offered healthy, natural and locally-grown food. Since Bhutan adopts a "high value low impact" tourism policy to conserve their culture and protect their natural environment from mass tourism, and a part of our visa fees goes towards their government for free healthcare and education, I believe that in a small way our trip supported their government's tourism policy (which should be adopted by more countries).

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

Loved it, it was a great experience and we were a bit sad to leave this wonderful country. For those who like hiking, this is a really nice hiking trip, not too strenuous and the trip was well-paced, we hiked every other day and had lots of time to relax in between. The itinerary itself is very flexible so we got to see a lot of things but it did not feel rushed at any point. Accommodations were comfortable and the staff were friendly and helpful. Our tour guide and driver were very nice too, it was a pleasure meeting them. Would love to visit again!

review 9 Dec 2012

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

Bhutan was just so beautiful. We travelled at the best time - end of November when the skies were blue and the nights not too cold. It enabled us to really appreciate Bhutan's scenery and natural beauty. The forested mountains and tumbling rivers were wonderful to experience - good for one's spirit. The apparent simplicity of life in Bhutan is admirable, and the Bhutanese people are really decent and hospitable to visitors. One feels very safe and at ease there.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

November was a lovely time to travel. Getting from one valley over into the next takes patience as roads are quite precarious and villages are remote from one another. Getting a real feel of this magnificent part of the world therefore has to be a key purpose for being there - one needs to relish the driving. Even when not doing organised hikes, build into the day as much walking as possible. We would stop at the top of a mountain pass and then walk downwards for half and hour or so - just to stretch our legs and enjoy the scenery on foot - before being picked up again by our driver. A half-day hike from one monastery to another, and to other places of interest in the vicinity of a village, is such a nice way to explore - rather than driving from one place to another.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Bhutan has so much to lose and it would be such a pity if visitors to the country helped this to happen. Tourism is (apparently) their 2nd largest contributor to the economy so there is no doubt our visit would have assisted in some way but one fears the country could become like much of the rest of the visited world. The country's leadership appears, however, to be strategic in its approach to managing this challenge. We relished the natural surrounds - it was wonderful for our appreciation of the world-as-it-should-be.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

Our trip was very well planned - structured without feeling rushed or impersonal. Our guide and driver were most reliable, caring and were good company. We loved our 9 days in Bhutan - we were able to gain insight into the country, its history and its current position in the world. We feel admiring of Bhutan and trust they chart their course forward with care and precision. It really is a special place and traveling there was a delight - slow paced, beautiful and inspiring. On my next visit I will build in an organised hike - within the distant mountains! They beckoned us.

review 3 Nov 2012

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

The Jakar Festival in Bhumthang Valley.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Definitely get the flight back from Bhumthang to Paro if its running as otherwise the return journey is very long and on the same route as the outward, so you miss out on extra walks/activities that could be enjoyed in that time. Also there is no need to upgrade the hotels form the basic government ones, Aman option outrageous and rather scoffed at by the locals. Worth one upgrade at the very end to the fabulous Zhwi Ling hotel in Paro.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Not sure of this apart form that by booking with a local tour operator, rather than using a UK travel agent, they get more of the little profit that is generated (as Bhutan has a set tourist price per day you can easily see how much is being creamed off the top!)

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

Excellent; loved the Buddhist culture of peace and tranquillity and want to bring it home with me!

Read the operator's response here:

With regard to Vicky's trip benefiting local communities I'd like to let you know that as indicated by her we used local accommodation all through the trip bringing direct income to local accommodation providers. All meals we arranged at small but tasty and clean local restaurants that serve traditional Bhutanese meals blended to western taste. Vicky wrote to tell me that the group enjoyed the meals a lot since they all loved chillies. The Bumthang community is a far away from Thimphu the capital city. it is a remote destination but very beautiful and is also the spiritual heartland of our country. Therefore we brought Vicky and group to Bumthang although it meant enduring long road journeys. The group sacrificed luxury for an authentic Bhutanese experience and they loved It. At Paro we have five star luxury accommodation in the international como chain of hotels as well as the aman hotels but we encouraged the group to stay at the Zhiwaling hotel which is the only Bhutanese owned and run luxury hotel in Bhutan. This we recommended at the end of the trip after 8 days in local hotels that come neat and clean but with very basic facilities and has been appreciated by guests tremendously, for after all most people travel to Bhutan not for an international experience but more so for true Bhutanese experience.

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