Beautiful Bhutan: A Himalayan Kingdom
Ellie has just returned from beautiful Bhutan, the Buddhist kingdom on the Himalayas’ eastern fringes. She spent a week gallivanting and exploring the very best this breath-taking county has to offer; from monasteries and fortresses, to dzongs and dramatic landscapes that range from subtropical plains to steep mountains and valleys. Here are her top highlights in a photoblog of her journey…
1). I loved the pared-back country cosy style of the Valley View rooms at Uma Paro.
2). On waking on my first day in Bhutan this was the view from Uma Paro – there is such a strong sense of place at this charming hotel.
3). The 108 memorial chortens, built by the eldest Queen Mother, at the Dochula Pass were surrounded by cloud when I visited, enroute from Paro to Punakha.
4). Jacaranda trees in full bloom decorated the mighty Punakha Dzong (or fortress), considered to be one of the holiest dzongs in the country.
5). Thangka painting adorning the entrance of Punakha Dzong. This famous quartet are called the ‘Four Friends’ and depict a well-known Buddhist mythological tale.
6). Bhutanese architecture at its best. A close up of the interior courtyard of Punkha Dzong.
7). The impressive and scenic courtyard of Punakha Dzong.
8). Fairy-tale landscapes as seen from the car on the way from Punakha to Gangtey – a different view greets you around every turn on the roads, making you feel as if you are in a real-life Disney movie.
9). Michael the yak, welcoming me to the Phobjikha Valley, after the scenic drive from Punakha.
10). My guide (Tashi) and I taking a break by a chorten (stupa) while doing the Gangtey Nature Trail walk. We are accompanied by Bagheera, the GM of Gangtey Lodge’s adorable puppy.
11). Paradise found: the terrace at Gangety Lodge is the perfect place to spend hours simply staring at the scenic valley below. The weather changes so frequently that the light is constantly changing and there is always something to watch, while the staff bring you hot drinks, blankets, hot water bottles and neck warmers.
12). An ‘abominable sight’: the collection noun for a group of monks. Snapped within the walls of Gangtey Monastery.
13). Only in Bhutan: taking in the view over 108 sacred prayer flags, fluttering in the breeze along the Gangtey Nature trail.
14). The hot stone bath at Gangtey Lodge, the perfect treat after a long relaxing massage.
15). Views that made me think of ‘The Land Before Time’ while walking the ‘Gangtey 360’ trail. This was the climb up, before we were treated to...
16). ...this view! Gangtey Valley seems to go on forever. My guide, Tashi, Mark (Gangtey Lodge’s GM) and Bagheera catch their breath after the climb.
17). Prayer flags and wild flowers colour the Phobjikha Valley, as seen from the summit of Gangtey 360.
18). Bhutan provides endless photo opportunities. Here prayer flags blow in the wind, spreading auspicious blessings over the valley below. The brightness of the colours mean these were strung recently.
19). Lunch with a view at Amankora Gangtey.
20). Blue skies light up Dewachan Hotel, a small locally-run property in the Phobjikha Valley, Gangtey.
21). Bidding farewell to Gangtey and driving to Thimphu with my trusted team, looking rather dashing dressed in their traditional Bhutanese ‘goh’.
22). The ‘dancing policemen’ of Thimphu. Thimphu is the only city in the world which doesn’t have traffic lights. Instead traffic is controlled by smartly dressed traffic wardens.
23). I stopped for lunch at Amankora Thimphu, which has a wonderful terrace overlooking lush green pine forests.
24). Looking out over Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital and largest city. Pictured is the Dechencholing Royal Palace and government buildings; all in the Bhutanese traditional architecture style.
25). I climbed Tiger’s Nest as the sun was setting, resulting in a gorgeous glow over the hills and pine forests.
26). After the climb it was time for a soak at the wonderful Amankora Paro, just a ten minute drive from the base of Tiger’s Nest. The suite’s baths all look out over the surrounding pine forest.
27). As I left Amankora Paro for the airport I was blessed by a monk, to wish me a safe journey home. He performed an elaborate ceremony, including prayer chanting and traditional musical instruments.
28). Bhutanese houses are decorated with charming traditional paintings depicting symbols of fertility, good luck and long life.
29). Even leaving Bhutan is a scenic affair: this was the view from my seat as we took off from Paro.
30). Views over the Himalayas on landing and take-off can be exquisite on a clear day: blue skies and snow-capped peaks spread below you for miles.
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