Uma Bhutan Himalayan Explorer | Kingdom of Bhutan

BhutanHistory & Culture, Luxury

This 10D9N Uma Bhutan Himalayan adventure, the longest offered by Uma by COMO, allows you to totally immerse yourself in this Himalayan Kingdom. From the gravity-defying Tiger’s Nest monastery to the Temple of the Divine Madman, this comprehensive itinerary combines spectacular drives, unique nature walks and fascinating cultural visits. There are also opportunities for adventure with the option to include whitewater rafting and hiking. With 5 nights at Uma Paro, and 4 nights at our sister lodge, Uma Punakha, the trip combines the best of both locations.

We journey deep into the Kingdom’s heartland, exploring the bustling capital of Thimphu in a valley dotted with monuments, museums and markets. We visit the almost tropical Punakha Valley with its magnificent dzongs, and the emerald valley of Paro with its rice paddies and ancient temples. Throughout our adventure, we return nightly to the simple luxury and comfort of our Uma lodges.

We have a shorter 7-day Uma Bhutan Himalayan Explorer package departing Singapore every Tuesday (winter schedules only), Thursday and Sunday (returning the following Monday, Wednesday and Saturday).

9 Nights
From USD 5,501Per Person

Itinerary

10-day, 9-night Uma Bhutan trips can depart Bangkok for Paro daily, and depart Singapore for Paro every Thursday (returning the following Saturday).

Uma Paro staff will welcome you at the airport for the 10-minute transfer to the property. After settling in our first foray into the Kingdom begins with sightseeing in Paro town and a visit to a local temple.

This afternoon provides an opportunity to acclimatise to the rarefied air at this altitude and to get to know your guide, who will offer some additional sightseeing options for the rest of the day depending on your interests and energy levels.

Overnight Uma Paro.

The capital Thimphu itself sprawls up the wooded western hillside of the Wang Chhu and is the centre of government, religion and commerce.

You may wish to shop or drive to the town viewpoint at the Big Buddha statue. If time permitting to visit Thimphu, the sightseeing begin with a tour including some of the following (exact itineraries dependent on opening times and interests): National Memorial Chorten, Trashi Chhoe Dzong, the weekend market (Main market days are Friday, Saturday and Sunday), and Folk Heritage Museum.

This drive is truly awe-inspiring as it zigzags up to the 3,140m-high mountain pass of Dochu La with its forests of fluttering prayer flags, maze of memorial chortens and, on a clear day, sweeping views of the main Himalayan range.

Up river, deep in the verdant terraced hills past Punakha Dzong is our home for the next two nights, Uma Punakha.

Duration of drive: 3-4 hours (126km).
Guided with picnic or lunch at local restaurant.

Overnight Uma Punakha.

We have a full day for further exploration of the scenic Punakha Valley, which at 1,200m is low enough to allow bananas and oranges to grow.

This morning we walk up through whitewashed homesteads and farmland to Khamsum Yuley Namgay Chorten, a shrine recently built by the royal family (the chorten can be clearly spotted from our breakfast table).This ornate and elaborate structure has a rainbow of Guru Rinpoche images and superb views.

Heading down along the riverside the massive architectural edifice of the 17th-century Punakha Dzong soon looms into view. The fortress-monastery was built in 1637 by Shabdung Nawang Namgyal in a commanding position at the confluence of the Po Chhu and Mo Chhu (Father and Mother rivers). It once served as the seat of the Kingdom's government and is now the winter home of Je Khempo, the head abbot of Bhutan, along with a retinue of 1,000 monks.

In the afternoon a short walk across rice paddies takes us to Chimmi Lhakhang, a fertility temple dedicated to Drukpa Kuenley, a Tibetan Buddhist saint known popularly as the Divine Madman. The temple sits atop a picturesque hill surrounded by rice fields. Drukpa Kuenley built a chorten on the site in the 14th century, and it has long been a pilgrimage site for couples hoping to start a family.

Duration: 6-7 hours
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Guided with picnic or lunch at Uma Punakha

Overnight Uma Punakha.

After breakfast drive to Chorten Nibu, which dates back to 18th Century; the Chorten is a little-known treasure with a magnificent statue of Maitreya (the Future Buddha) and fine images of the great lamas of the Drukpa Lineage. This magical spot was once a dense forest inhabited by evil spirits. The great oak tree outside the monastery is said to have grown out of the blazing log that the Divine Madman threw and interestingly, its bark is still black from where it was burnt. In 2005 the Monastery began to house orphans from the nearby village and founded a small Buddhist educational institution for these monks, a place where the children can study both traditional Buddhist scriptures and texts, and also learn Western subjects too.

The hike back to Uma Punakha is around 45 minutes and passes through a Khabasa village and past Thodrup Lhakhang.

Duration: 3-4 hours
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

After lunch, there is the option to drive to try white water rafting (minimum age is 7 years). Alternatively, try a wellness therapy such as a traditional Bhutanese Hot Stone Bath.

White Water Rafting "Mo Chhu - The Temple Stretch"
(runs year round but up to 45 minutes shorter during monsoon July-August)

The Temple Stretch is another great introduction to rafting; the trip is the most leisurely with the rapids running up to grade II with long calm sections. After the exhilaration of the rafting, relax with the hour or so hike up to the temple at Nyezengong and then floating down the scenic Mo Chhu past the Punahka Dzong.

Difficulty: Easy
Cost: USD $450 plus taxes per boat (up to 5 people).
Duration: 2-4 hours on the water depending on river state.

Please Note
Rafting is subject to availability. While our outfitter takes all possible precautions insuring a safe journey (such as experienced guides on every trip and top of the line equipment) all whitewater trips entails an element of risk and it is recommended that all participants have the ability to swim and are in good health. All safety equipment is supplied - lifejacket, splash jacket and pants, helmet, dry bag for valuables, and professional, experienced guides.

Overnight Uma Punakha.

Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang Nunnery has one of the biggest bronze statues of Chenrigzig (Avalokiteshvara), which is the craftsmanship of local Bhutanese artisans.

The temple complex also houses a meditation center for nuns, where apart from religious training it also provides life skills training. Dating back to the 17th century, Nobgang monastery was built as the residence for Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. It's worth visiting the inside of the temple as you will see the statue of Lord Buddha and other relics from the 17th century.

Your morning hike will go through chir pine trees, passing the school, farms and farmers houses and offering magnificent views of Punakha Dzong with its prayer flags fluttering in the breeze.
During the hike you will see the tree that local people believe is the walking stick of Divine Madman used during 15th century and planted upside down.

Duration: 4–5 hours
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

After a lunch, there is the option to stretch your legs on the Riverside walk or perhaps trying a wellness therapy such as a traditional Bhutanese Hot Stone Bath.

Riverside walk.
This afternoon we walk up along Mo chu river. The large building we see to the north of Uma Punakha is called Botakha Palace. It was built during the 1950's by the late Third King as his residence but when the Capital of Bhutan was shifted to Thimphu it lay empty. The palace gardens are full of mature fruit trees and the local farmers still pay homage to a huge mythical serpent by offering it rice each harvest in the posthole of a huge prayer flag.

Our afternoon walk crosses the river at a suspension bridge downstream from “snake bend” and contours through lush farmland and homesteads up to Bale Lhakhang, a tiny local temple with sweeping views down the valley past Uma Punakha.

Duration: 2–3 hours
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Overnight Uma Punakha.

Time to retrace our steps over the Dochu La for a second view of the wonderful Himalayan range. Returning to the Chuzum (river confluence) we catch a glimpse of the three shrines in Nepali, Tibetan and Bhutanese style which were built to ward off evil spirits near the checkpoint.

Time permitting the journey can be broken with a visit to Tamchhu Lhakhang built by Thangtong Gyalpo, the so-called Iron Bridge Builder. This former saint from the 14th century introduced the art of building suspension bridges with iron chains and the only way to reach his temple is by one of these bridges.

On the final leg the road snakes alongside the Pa Chhu river, through apple orchards and rice paddies, past quaint homesteads to our home in the mountains, Uma Paro.

After check-in, we invite you to spend the rest of the day relaxing around the property, enjoying the facilities or trying an activity like the Bhutanese national sport of archery or a traditional Bhutanese Hot Stone Bath.

Duration of drive: 3-4 hours (126km)
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Guided with picnic or lunch at local restaurant

Overnight Uma Paro.

We wind through pine forests high above Uma Paro to the pretty grounds of the fortress-like monastery of Zurig Dzong. We traverse across to Ta Dzong, home to Bhutan’s National Museum, with magnificent views over Paro, and on down to Rinpung Dzong (Fortress on a Heap of Jewels). The trail then leads across Paro Chhu (river) via the traditional covered bridge Nyamai Zam, and then past the main archery ground, Ugyen Pelri Palace and into Paro town.

Driving a few kilometres north of Paro, we pay our respects at Kyichu Lhakhang; one of the oldest temples in Bhutan with its magical orange tree that bears fruit all year round.

Time permitting, we drive further up the valley to Drukgyel Dzong, built in 1648 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to control the northern route to Tibet.

Duration: 5–7 hours (depending on time spent in National Museum and Paro)
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Guided with picnic or lunch at a local restaurant

Overnight Uma Paro.

After a short drive from Uma Paro we start our 90-minute easy acclimatisation walk to Drakhapo Monastery, which has a small community of monks living nearby.

The main temple room is precariously perched on the edge of a rock cliff and there are some sacred sites to view, including the body-imprint of Vajrayogini and a stone boot belonging to Guru Rinpoche. The monastery is built on a mountain dotted with underground caves. Nearby, one of these caves has a small ladder for the not-so fainthearted, leading into a large cavern that soon turns into a very narrow crevasse.

In the afternoon, we invite guests to try Bhutan’s two most popular sports on Uma Paro’s own archery ground (Bha Cho).

Archery is the national sport of Bhutan, and every village has it own archery range. High-spirited competitions, usually accompanied by a banquet, are a part of all festive occasions. Using bamboo bows, teams of archers shoot at targets only 30 centimetres in diameter from a distance of 140 metres. Each team has a noisy crowd of supporters.

Kuru is another very popular traditional Bhutanese game played in most villages.

Duration: 5–6 hours
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Overnight Uma Paro.

One of the most amazing and important pieces of architecture in Bhutan is Taktsang Goemba, or Tiger’s Nest Monastery. Legend has it that this cliffside was where Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) landed on the back of a flying tigress, bringing Buddhism to Bhutan from Tibet.

We make an early start to avoid the hot sun during the two-hour climb to the Tiger’s Nest viewpoint. Descending steeply, we then climb up to the monastery, passing a waterfall and entering through the main gates which are decorated with murals.

We retrace our steps or if time and energy levels allow, head further up to several remote temples and monasteries.

Returning to Uma Paro in the afternoon there’s time to relax and enjoy the facilities including the steam rooms, swimming pool or a Bhutanese Hot Stone Bath.

Duration: 7-8 hours
Difficulty: Moderate to Hard
Guided with picnic or Taktsang cafetaria

Overnight Uma Paro.

Druk Air normally departs in the early morning to avoid adverse weather conditions so after breakfast, your transfer to the airport will be arranged for between 5am and 9am depending on the flight schedule.

This itinerary is intended as a guide only. Local conditions and weather may necessitate variations to the programme and can affect the availability of views and panoramas described.

Be aware that all times stated are approximate, and may vary with the individual and group fitness, inclinations and interests.

Land Cost

10D9N Himalayan Explorer; 5 Nights in Uma Paro & 4 Nights in Uma Punakha.

Price per person in USD
Valid from Jan 01 - Dec 31, 2017.
Travel Season in 2017Room TypeDouble OccupancySingle Occupancy
Season 1
Jan 01 - Feb 28
Jun 01 - Aug 31
Dec 01-31
Valley View Room55018275
One Bedroom Villa687811029
COMO Villa
Sleeps 4 persons in 2 Bedrooms
466315925
Season 2
Mar 01 - Apr 04
Apr 14 - May 31
Sep 01-22
Oct 05 - Nov 30
Valley View Room60069285
One Bedroom Villa776612804
COMO Villa
Sleeps 4 persons in 2 Bedrooms
519918067
Season 3
Apr 05-13
Sep 23 - Oct 04
Valley View Room62369744
One Bedroom Villa822513722
COMO Villa
Sleeps 4 persons in 2 Bedrooms
542818985
There is an additional charge of USD $60 per room per night during the Paro and Thimphu Festivals, and USD $90 per person for festive dinner supplements when staying on Christmas Eve (Dec 24, 2016) and New Year’s Eve (Dec 31, 2016).
9DUMACOMOPPID297TT171004

Inclusions

  • Bhutanese Government Visa Fees and Royalties
  • Private airport transfers and transport in Bhutan
  • 05 (five) nights accommodation in choice of Room or Villa at Uma Paro
  • 04 (four) nights accommodation in choice of Room or Villa at Uma Punakha
  • Full-board meals throughout (excluding beverages), including picnic lunches during excursion days.
  • 08 and half days of privately guided walks and day excursions taking in the highlights of the Punakha, Thimphu and Paro Valleys
  • All museum and visitor centre entry fees and road permits
  • Services of an experienced English-speaking Bhutanese Uma Paro Guide
  • One COMO Shambhala massage (60 minutes) per person
  • 10% service charge and 10% sales tax
  • Complimentary scheduled one-hour daily Yoga class whilst at Uma Paro (except on Sundays)
  • Complimentary use of the library, internet facilities, swimming pool, steam room and gym at Uma Paro

Exclusions

  • Air passage to/from Paro in Bhutan.
  • Personal expenditure such as phone bills, laundry, hard/soft beverages, optional tours, tipping for guides/drivers, etc.
  • Travel insurance is mandatory
    • It is strongly recommended that you be insured against medical and personal accident risks (including repatriation costs, air ambulance and helicopter rescue services) and that you also take out cancellation insurance.
    • You should be aware that some policies restrict coverage or do not cover travel to Bhutan and may not cover activities such as trekking (and mountain bike).
    • Please ensure that your policy provides a sufficient level of protection and covers you for the activities involved.
    • You must carry proof of insurance (e.g. your insurance certificate) with you to Bhutan.

Terms & Conditions

  1. All offers are subject to the availability of air passage seats on Drukair, and rooms at Uma Paro and/or Uma Punakha, and may not be used in conjunction with any other offer.
  2. Flights arranged by Cango Travel must be paid in full at the time of booking.
    1. The airfare may be refundable, with administrative charge, subject to Drukair's fare rules, and terms and conditions of carriage
  3. Deposit comprising 30% of the resort booking is required on booking
    1. Deposit becomes non-refundable 30 days before arrival date for Season 1 bookings, and 60 days before arrival date for Season 2 & Season 3 bookings
  4. Balance Payment must be made 35 days before arrival date for Season 1, and 65 days before arrival date for Season 2 and Season 3
  5. Late arrivals, no shows and early departures will be charged in full
  6. All cancellations must be made in writing
    1. Refunds by Uma Bhutan will be subject to credit card and/or bank transfer fees incurred in fulfilling the booking with the resort
  7. A service fee of SGD $500 per booking will be charged by Cango Travel for any cancellations initiated by the customer, and will be deducted from any refunds given by Uma Bhutan
  8. Uma Paro and Uma Punakha reserve the right to substitute certain visits and excursions outlined in the itineraries as local conditions and weather may necessitate variations to the programmes
  9. Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve meal supplements are compulsory
  10. All stays at Uma Bhutan to be completed by Dec 31, 2017/2018 respectively.

Drukair flight schedules

Singapore (SIN) to Paro (PBH)

 TUE     KB501 SIN/PBH 06:30/10:50 (high season from March to May)
 THU     KB501 SIN/PBH 06:30/10:50
 SUN     KB501 SIN/PBH 06:30/10:45

Paro (PBH) to Singapore (SIN)

 MON     KB500 PBH/SIN 08:05 16:25 (high season from March to May)
 WED/SAT KB500 PBH/SIN 08:05 16:25