A spectacular trip to this colourful and hospitable kingdom, together with Six Senses Bhutan.
Bhutan is one of the few countries in the world that has remained independent throughout its history. It has never been conquered, occupied or ruled by other cultures and it has been able to preserve a really unique essence and cultural heritage in the world.
This small country (less than 40k square kilometres) conquers us with its isolated villages between mountains of more than 6,000m high, its trails full of flags, its beautiful valleys and the attractiveness of a place where calmness and peacefulness reign in its day to day.
When visiting it throughout four of its spectacular valleys, I have discovered landscapes, traditions and extraordinary people that will remain with me forever.
Although Bhutan can be accessed from different locations, we accessed it through Nepal. We did it both for its proximity and for the spectacular beauty of the flight from Kathmandu to Paro, the arrival point in Bhutan. Flying over the Annapurna on a clear day, Everest in the background, makes us presage that we are arriving at a truly unique place.
And our flight also surprises us upon arrival, since the location of the airport (in a gorge) requires a certain tilted position for the plane before landing. The adventure just began!
For centuries, the land of the “Thunder Dragon” has carried a sustainable way of life that protects its rivers, mountains, fauna and flora in an extraordinary way: its 700,000 inhabitants (mostly Buddhist) consider all beings as part of oneself. And this energy is perceived every single moment you spend in the country. Nearly a magical feeling.
And in the midst of all these emotions, Six Senses Bhutan has managed to combine perfectly some excellent accommodations, a really unique team of people and geographical locations that will take your breath away. It has been a trip full of experiences that will remain in my memory for a long time.
When you arrive at Six Senses Thimphu, the first thing that catches your eye are the spectacular views over the valley together with the 51-meter-high Great Buddha, built in bronze and gold, which dominates the small town of Thimphu.
Furthermore, its architecture is extremely respectful of tradition, emphasised by means of a beautiful temple for meditation and prayer that we find next to the entrance.
From the lodge itself, one of the most affordable and beautiful walks guests can do is the one to the Talakha Monastery. A walk that we enjoyed even more since the team of guides and staff of the hotel prepared nice surprises all over the way: snacks, cocktails, …
One of the essential visits in Thimphu is that of the “National Memorial Chorten”, a touching place where the elders and also some young people get together to pray around the stupa (type of Buddhist architecture made to contain relics) built in 1974.
Next, through the Dochula Pass, we climbed the 3,100m to a moving place where we found another 108 small stupas.
From there, the descent to the Punakha Valley is a wonder of landscapes that change radically to become a valley of subtropical climate. What a variety of surroundings!
The Punakha valley enables you to enjoy quiet walks between rice fields full of small stupas. One of the main visits here is the Fertility Monastery, known for its paintings and reproductions of phalluses, which represent fertility and protection against evil spirits.
From there, we crossed an impressive suspension bridge. We were almost alone in there, meeting only some monks and nomadic ladies of northern tribes there.
Enjoying a picnic alone next to the impressive Dzong of Punakha, the second most important in Bhutan, was an absolute luxury.
Then we arrived at Six Senses Flying Farmhouse, which hangs up from the mountains of the Punakha Valley. We had a wonderful welcome with great detail. It was absolutely amazing!
From there, we were able to enjoy again a beautiful hiking between fields, traditional houses and colourful prayer wheels, until we reach the beautiful Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten Monastery, which has views over the entire valley.
Although the monastery was closed upon arrival, the only monk in charge at that time (a young man of only 12 years!) was so kind to let us get in to enjoy a private visit. The beautiful place and the conversation with the 12-year-old monk were truly magical moments.
Our next stop was the Gangtey Valley, one of the highest points we climbed on this trip. From Six Senses Birdwatching Bridge we discovered an amazing valley both in its nature and in the traditional essence of its small towns.
It was a pleasure to enjoy walks among pine forests, traditional farms and, of course, more stupas (always present in the kingdom’s landscape).
On the next day, we did our hike prior to the Tiger’s Nest climb, which would take place in Paro.
Bhutan is an all-year destination, although it is mainly in spring, autumn and winter when we can see it in all its splendour. On this occasion, we were lucky enough to even see the fall of some snowflakes while we were crossing one of its “enchanted” forests. Have I said something about magic yet?
After each of these walks, it was really comforting to relax with one of the unique treatments at the Six Senses Spa. Wonderful!
And finally, the big day arrived! The ascent to Taktshang Monastery, known as The Tiger’s Nest. Located on a cliff at 3,120m, I can say that it is one of the most beautiful climbs I know.
Because of the beauty of the tour, the prayer mills along the ascent, the magic of the place and also, because we were lucky enough to be completely alone thanks to the expertise and experience of our guides.
The Tiger’s Nest is a surprising place. No matter how much you’ve seen it in photographs or publications, nothing like being there!
Paro is undoubtedly a very special place apart from being the cradle of The Tiger’s Nest. Its small main city and, above all, its shops and people which seem to be a journey back in time. Really unique.
While in Paro, we could not miss to practice one of their national sports: archery. Moreover, our hosts took care of every single detail so that we could wear the typical attire during the activity, what brought some laughter to the whole group.
During our last night at Six Senses Paro (was our return so close?) we had one last surprise at dinner.
Dressed in our best Bhutanese traditional costumes in the ruins of a nearby monastery, we indulged ourselves with an excellent cuisine while enjoying some typical festival performances of various local artists.
I expected this destination to surprise me, but Bhutan has exceeded all my expectations. In addition, the level of excellence achieved by Six Senses Bhutan and its new lodges is truly extraordinary.
A must in the bucket list of great trips!