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Hiking the Tiger’s Nest in Bhutan

After an amazing three nights in Bhutan, exploring the paddy fields of Punakha and the capital Thimphu, we returned to the start of our journey in Paro (paying our respect to Simtoka Dzong, the oldest in Bhutan, enroute).  

We treated ourselves to a luxurious last few nights at the COMO Uma Paro. I had never stayed in a COMO property before and was excited to see what all the hype was about.  The small property (29 rooms) is perched above  Paro, hidden in the hillside.  We booked the Forest View Room which was the cheapest available (although not cheap at a whopping USD $570) although this did include breakfast, dinner at the Bhutan tourist tax.  I have to admit I was a bit disappointed by our room, given the COMO hype.  It was very small and the bathroom tiny, with no freestanding shower.  

That said, the facilities and dining are what gives this place the edge. There is a lovely pool and relaxation area, complimentary daily yoga and a beautiful spa.  The food at the hotel’s restaurant Bukhari is outstanding (especially the Bhutanese and Indian dinner sets).

The main focus for our last day was the famed ‘Tiger’s Nest’ hike, an iconic image for any who have researched Bhutan. Our amazing guide Tharchu from Happiness Journey Bhutan advised us the earlier we started, the better.  After a delicious breakfast at the Uma Paro we were on our way by 6.30am. The Tiger’s Nest is a sacred temple complex located in the cliffside of the upper Paro valley. It was built into the rock as this is where Padmasambhava (the Second Buddha) subdued a demon named Belgye Singye.

The hike is beautiful, winding up through the forest and over to the side of the cliff.  We saw people of all ages attempting the climb and you can hire a donkey to take you halfway. If you have a decent level of fitness, you will find the hike relatively straightforward.

It took us about an hour forty to climb up to the Tiger’s Nest and then we spent about 40 minutes wandering around the complex.  The descent took about 50 minutes. Earthtrekkers has a more in-depth review of the climb.

After we had finished the climb, we returned to downtown Paro and rewarded ourselves with a delicious feast of momo (Bhutanese dumplings). Picturesque downtown Paro is also a great spot for souvenir shopping and we ended up with some beautiful art and colourful handicrafts for the kids.

Tharchu then arranged for us to visit a traditional hot stone bath which was a sizzling experience. The stones are heated up on a bonfire and then added to a wooden bath prior to your visit.  Artemesia leaves are scattered in the water to provide extra healing.  Any time you want the bath heated up, you can just shout and they will add more scalding hot rocks although I probably spent more time cooling it down with the cold tap!  Following the bath we negated all the rejuvenating goodness by trying the local brew, ara which certainly added a few hairs to the chest!

Our last night in Bhutan was spent with more relaxation back at the Uma and a delicious Bhutanese feast at Bukhari.

The next morning, with a few hours to spare before our return flight home, Tharchu asked what we wanted to do. There was only one thing left… plane spotting at the amazing Paro airport. Aviation enthusiasts love the approach to Paro, Bhutan’s sole international airport. Only highly trained Bhutanese pilots are allowed to fly there and must use a visual approach.. We checked the flight schedule as there are limited flights in and out and set off for the designated birds-eye viewing spot on the nearby highway.  After quite a wait (they are prone to last-minute schedule changes), we got the chance to watch both a take-off and landing in the mountain valley. 

Finally the time had come to say goodbye and leave beautiful Bhutan. With a heavy heart we said goodbye to our amazing guide Tharchu Drukpa who really was the magic behind our trip. Visiting Bhutan is neither cheap nor easy but it is a place that should headline your travel bucket list. I feel incredibly honoured that we got the chance to spend five nights in this amazing kingdom and hope to return one day with Jetlag & Mayhem in tow.

 

For more on our Bhutan travel adventure check out:

Monasteries, nunneries & darts in Bhutan

Paddy Fields & Phalluses in Punakha

Visiting the nation’s capital, Thimphu in Bhutan

Flying to Bhutan

Planning a trip to Bhutan

 

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