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Initial planning for Bhutan trip

Old Sep 19th, 2016, 10:01 AM
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Initial planning for Bhutan trip

We're starting to plan our trip to Bhutan and interested in other views on the length of time and locations we've selected. While we want to see temples and monasteries, we also want a lot of the focus to be on moderate hikes/walks (we don't want to do a trek but do want to do some ambitious hikes/walks). Along these lines, we aren't trying to see "everything" and don't want to be moving around nonstop.

Initial itinerary: 3 nights Paro (Uma Paro), 3 nights Punahka (Uma Punahka) and 3 nights Gangtey (Amankora). Do these nights sound about right and any particular order others would recommend?

Thinking we'll skip Bumthang and Thimphu as the above seem to fit more of what we're targeting but welcome thoughts otherwise.

A friend just had their hotel plan the itinerary/ trek when they were only staying at the one chain (COMO Uma) so not sure if easier to just have the hotels coordinate as we're not looking for anything too out there on itinerary? I saw good reviews for Snow White Treks but website wasn't working and not sure if she does high end or more moderate travel (we're looking for high end).

Excited to be planning and we'll either be going in the fall of 2017 or spring of 2018.
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Old Sep 19th, 2016, 12:22 PM
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You need to start by choosing your Bhutan agency. Any agency can book either high end or more moderate accommodations. You are required to have a driver and guide, which your agency will provide.Your agency will have more info than anyone else on what your options are.

Read a few of the Bhutan trip reports here. Go to the top of the page and choose view by country, selecting Bhutan from the countries list.
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Old Sep 19th, 2016, 12:45 PM
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Click on my name for my trip report.
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Old Sep 19th, 2016, 12:48 PM
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Thanks for the replies. Craig - did read your great post and that was one of the references I noted to Snow White Treks. Just interested in people's take on the right number of days in each spot and if the locations I'm leaving out are a mistake.

Regarding agent - Amankora and COMO Uma are both agents and can do everything for us which is somewhat my preference but since selecting two different "chains" not sure if they can do a hand off or would we need to go with a separate agent. Did like some of the personal touch Snow White added. Thanks
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Old Sep 20th, 2016, 06:30 AM
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I wouldn't visit Bhutan without including a festival in my itinerary. Snow White Tours can customize to your budget, including Aman and Uma. However, you can also book directly and Aman and/or Uma will provide their own guides and drivers. No need to stick with just one chain but do arrange transport between the two with one or the other. Your time in Paro is about right. Not sure why you would want to spend 3 nights in Gangtey or more than 2 in Punakha. You really should spend some time in the capital, Thimphu. It will help you to better understand the country. I wouldn't make the long trek to Bumthang unless there is a festival.
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Old Sep 20th, 2016, 11:13 AM
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Appreciate the thoughtful reply Craig as very helpful. Agree on trying to hit a festival in one of the spots and appreciate the rec on Thimphu. I couldn't tell from the blurbs you read on it if it was more of a city as we're focused more on the hiking/relaxing than typical sightseeing.

Regarding the three nights - I like the idea of settling somewhere a bit (not packing/unpacking all the time) so may reduce one or two of them a bit. Also figure while the "resort" may be a bit boring, we're looking forward to doing some good day hikes and having a consistent home base.

Thanks again for the reply as Bhutan board is a little less trafficked than Italy ;-)
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Old Sep 21st, 2016, 11:24 AM
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I've been to Bhutan several times and here are some of my favorite day hikes:

1. Around Paro: Taktsang-- I'd advise you to hike higher up above the temple to the yogini Magcig's temple. Take a picnic lunch and eat it by the waterfall and then come down to visit Takstang after 2pm when the temples reopen after a hour's lunch break. There will be fewer tourists then.
Cheli la. You can hike up to the top of the mt 4,000 meters (13,000 + ft). You can also take a side trip to the Cheli la nunnery. About hour from Paro. If the trails aren't too muddy the hike to nearby Juneydrak hermitage is also enjoyable.

Chumphu Ney An all day hike--an hour's drive outside of Paro (not far from the town but the road is very bad). Nice 2 hour easy hike along the river & through the forest--the last 45 minutes (all uphill) to the temple, waterfall & small lake, are more strenuous. A small temple with a beautiful statute of Dorje Phagmo (Vajravarahi).

2. Around Thimphu. Dochu la & the Lungchutse hike. Great views mt views at Dochula pass & from the temple on the mt top. . Around 3-4 hrs round trip hike. The temple at Lunchutse has a fine image of Guru Rimpoche. About an hour from Thimphu

Day trips from Thimphu: hikes to Tango and Cheri monasteries are worth doing.

Definitely, you should see one of the major monastery festivals--Paro and Thimphu both have large, crowded ones. In the off season (Dec) , I've enjoyed the less crowded one in Trongsa. You should ask your guide to see if there some local festivals, house blessings, etc. that you might see.

Thimphu is not my favorite city--in the midst of a construction boom, but it does have some interesting museums (handicraft museum, folk heritage museum), good coffee shops and restaurants. Bumthang is worth visiting only if you have the time for a long road trip or visit when the weather is good enough for flying from Paro.
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Old Sep 21st, 2016, 06:57 PM
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Thanks all. Think we're going to do 2 nights Uma Paro, 2 nights Uma Punakha, 1 night Bumdra Wilderness Camp (through Uma) and 2 or 3 nights at Amankora Gangtey. Will definitely do a festival and now just need to figure out order.

I'm sure there is some great history and learning in Thimphu but almost viewing this as more of a clear my head, hiking kind of trip. Very much appreciate the thoughtful replies.
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