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Gentle Walking Bhutan Traveller Reviews
Reviews of Gentle Walking Bhutan
Gentle walking in Bhutan - a fascinating introduction to a fascinating country
A perfect mix of walking, guided visits to temples and dzongs and a festival.
A perfect mix of walking, guided visits to temples and dzongs and a festival.Rating for tour operator:
Mountain Kingdoms provided esxcellent service and a thoroughly well-organised trip.
Excellent - glad you enjoyed Bhutan's magical atmosphere
Gentle Walking in Bhutan
A great two weeks spent exploring Bhutan with a great guide--Karma.This is my third visit to Bhutan and I was happy to be seeing new places. Everything went to plan and both Guide and Driver could not do enough to ensure we were well cared for.We had some super "spontaneous" experiences----came across the semi-final of an Archery competition; a darts match; and even met and spoke to the King!! Also stumbled upon a Buddhist ceremony involving ...
A great two weeks spent exploring Bhutan with a great guide--Karma.This is my third visit to Bhutan and I was happy to be seeing new places. Everything went to plan and both Guide and Driver could not do enough to ensure we were well cared for.We had some super "spontaneous" experiences----came across the semi-final of an Archery competition; a darts match; and even met and spoke to the King!! Also stumbled upon a Buddhist ceremony involving a bonfire and firecrackers. The walking was challenging, being at altitude, but there was always an alternative if you couldn't or didn't want to walk.Rating for tour operator:
Mountain Kingdoms organisation is first rate. From booking we were given all the information necessary to ensure we were well prepared for the trip. Everything went to plan, we were met and transported with no waiting around. Comfortable hotels and transport and information given at every point.
Excellent! So you met the king ........ lucky you!! Karma Tenzing is usually my Guide, so I know you had one of the best. Glad you had a great time
That's what I like to hear. Many thanks for your feedback
Bhutan itself was very different from India and Nepal, quite fascinating. I enjoyed the holiday and opportunity for some walking, even if I, along with others in the group, couldn't do all of it, rather than sitting in a tour bus most of the time.
Bhutan itself was very different from India and Nepal, quite fascinating. I enjoyed the holiday and opportunity for some walking, even if I, along with others in the group, couldn't do all of it, rather than sitting in a tour bus most of the time.Rating for tour operator:
Booking and communications efficient. Hotels of not so good to excellent. Not so good had bags of character but freezing bedroom. Bathroom so cold no showering. However, they did supply cosy blankets and hot water bottle. Excellent was Dwarika in Kathmandu. A real treat and helpful staff. All hotels provided kettles but limited supplies - take your own. Guide and driver were excellent and did a good job for us. Itinerary: Poor in that little or no account taken of some visits not being possible because it was student winter holidays, winter closing times and that it got dark earlier in winter. MAJOR GRIPE - 2 of walks were treks rather than walks and definitely not GENTLE. Brochure described holiday as suitable 'if you enjoy weekend walking in the British countryside' That is a complete misrepresentation. You need to be able to contend with steep, some long, hills, and get in some hill walking before you go.
Glad to hear you enjoyed the kingdom of Bhutan. Compared with the frenetic pace of life in India or Kathmandu Bhutan is a haven of peace.
Thank you for your feedback. We will beef up our Trek Dossier to warn clients that in mid December in can be very cold at night in the Himalaya, and although the hotels and lodges have wood-burning stoves or electric heaters rooms are cold. We appreciate that the ongoing roadworks across Bhutan caused delays. We sincerely are sorry about this, but had no idea of their extent until a visit by our MD in October/November. We will investigate winter closing times, though this has not been an issue in the past. Regarding your MAJOR GRIPE - we imagine you are referring to the walk up to Taksang monastery which everyone who goes to Bhutan does, and you have the option to go only as far as the cafeteria which is halfway. Of the other walks all are adjustable or optional. All walks are described in detail in our Detailed day-by-Day itinerary. If you would like to write to us with details of these two walks and why you felt they were so hard we will gladly look at this issue. In any event we are very pleased you appreciated the best 5 star hotel in Kathmandu and the pick of the best tourist standard hotels and lodges in Bhutan, and that your Guide and driver were excellent. I hope the memory of the magical kingdom will last always.
Beautiful Winter Travel in Bhutan Spoilt by Operator's Poor Performance
Bhutan is a country of superb beauty, culture, devotional art and lovely, generous people; thankfully, the general itinerary of this trip, the sites visited and walks programmed, gave a fine introduction (but be advised that many of the walks on this trip are not "gentle" but moderately strenuous, especially when taking altitude into account). BUT... this was a winter departure (Dec 2015) which imposes complicating seasonal constraits, e.g., ...
Bhutan is a country of superb beauty, culture, devotional art and lovely, generous people; thankfully, the general itinerary of this trip, the sites visited and walks programmed, gave a fine introduction (but be advised that many of the walks on this trip are not "gentle" but moderately strenuous, especially when taking altitude into account). BUT... this was a winter departure (Dec 2015) which imposes complicating seasonal constraits, e.g., fewer daylight hours, early closings of some venues as well as hotel closures, and, frequently, overnight temperatures below freezing; these factors, or their consequences, were not made sufficiently clear (or not within adequate time to cancel without losing our money) - SO BEWARE! This is true also of road conditions which due to construction are, and will be for some time, awful throughout almost all the area travelled: from Dochu La Pass to Punakha, and especially from there to Trongsa; thence on to the entrance to the Bumthang valleys; and then going over to Phobjikha/Gangtey. These factors combined to cause frequent delay and discomfort, including some accommodations having very little heating; and several programmed activities to be cancelled. There is, however, very real benefit to visiting Bhutan in winter: the skies were mostly brilliantly clear during the day (nights tended to be socked in with cloud, so sadly, few stars seen); our group was small, only 8; and there were very few other tourists around so the pricipal sites - dzongs, temples and monasteries (except Taktsang) - as well as the Trongsa Tsechu (exceptional, an unforgettable experience) were blissfully uncrowded. But overall, and in significant details as recounted here, this trip with Mountain Kingdoms was unsatisfactory. It can clearly be splendid to visit Bhutan in winter IF you're aware of these limitations AND are confident that your tour operator has done the work needed to minimise problems!Rating for tour operator:
Of greatest concern and consequence were Mountain Kingdoms’ inaccurate representation of, and inattention to basic details in the planning and preparation for this winter trip to Bhutan. Winter weather conditions (freezing temperatures, reduced hours of daylight), available accommodation, winter opening hours as well as general road conditions (throughout the year) – matters that Mountain Kingdoms should be very well aware of – seem not to have been taken into proper account. Consequently, some site visits and walks had to be omitted, heating at lodgings was frequently inadequate and we were often rushed in what we did do; and, there was insufficient time for other activities such as shopping. In addition, I do not believe the trip's grading, as "gentle", their lowest level of difficulty, is accurate; the trip has several quite challenging walks and when high altitude is taken into account I felt the trip was overall moderately strenuous, especially given this operators numerous levels of grading. To be completely fair, the especially strenuous walks are noted in their detailed itinerary, but the general rating is what people see when initially evaluating the suitability of the trip; it's all too easy to minimize bits of walks; and this results in some people pushing themselves too hard or having to omit walks or portions thereof. Together these issues left me, and others I believe, too often frustrated, uncomfortable, stressed and potentially at risk.
We are pleased that you enjoyed the magical kingdom of Bhutan and that you thought our itinerary was well constructed to include not only the main sites but to take you to all sorts of places not so well traveled. We are sorry however, that the roadworks currently in progress in Bhutan made the road journeys longer than usual. These roadworks started in the summer of 2015 but we were not aware of their extent until November when I returned along the roads myself. As a result we redesigned your itinerary to allow more time for the drives and informed all clients in advance. I see you stayed in excellent hotels and lodges in every place in Bhutan, and had the best 5 star hotel in Kathmandu. We provided you with a comprehensive Tour Dossier that advised you to take warm clothes as you would be traveling to the Himalaya in the depths of winter. This was reinforced in a phone conversation you had with your dedicated Operations Manager. You could not have been under any illusion that it would be cold at night. I have stayed in all the hotels you used and know that they have wood burning stoves or electric heaters. I am pleased you enjoyed the amazing spectacle of the Tongsa festival. I am sorry to hear though that you tripped and injured your hamstring. We are at pains to emphasize that our Grades should not be interpreted in a literal sense but by reference to our own definitions of the Grades. The walks are described as accurately as we can in our detailed itinerary. This walking holiday allows clients to pick and choose which walks they want to do. The Guides are flexible in this regard. There is no very high altitude in this program and the visit to Taksang (hardest day) is at the end, by when there has been time to adjust to the minor effects of relatively low altitude, and by when clients would be fit after a 10 day walking holiday.
It is interesting to note that 2 other clients on the holiday wrote to warn us that there was a client for whom nothing was ever right and who complained the whole time. One said 'I could not fault Mountain Kingdoms'. We are indeed sorry about the roadworks but we were genuinely unaware of the works between Punakha and Jakar. As soon as we became aware we immediately reacted and carried out some redesign and informed the group. You had a top Guide, a good minibus for the journey, the pick of the best tourist standard hotels and lodges in Bhutan (5 Star upgrades are available), the best 5 Star hotel in Kathmandu, a festival that is rarely visited by westerners, excellent weather, and some really lovely walks. The itinerary was followed but with minor adjustments which were handled well by our Guide. We are at pains in our literature to point out that Bhutan is a small and remote Himalayan kingdom only recently emerging from centuries of isolation. European standards do not always apply and anyone traveling there must go with a sense of adventure and ready to accept the unexpected.
SPECIAL INSIGHT INTO THE LAND OF THE DRAGON
Bhutan is one of those secret places tucked up high in the Himalayas. Who goes there? Well me for a start. I travelled in early November 2014 and took the long flight to Kathmandu. There are various ways of getting to Bhutan, either via Delhi or Kathmandu and depending on what flight you take, there can be a long transfer time. I took one of the longer options but wanted to overnight in Kathmandu both ways mainly because on the way back ...
Bhutan is one of those secret places tucked up high in the Himalayas. Who goes there? Well me for a start. I travelled in early November 2014 and took the long flight to Kathmandu. There are various ways of getting to Bhutan, either via Delhi or Kathmandu and depending on what flight you take, there can be a long transfer time. I took one of the longer options but wanted to overnight in Kathmandu both ways mainly because on the way back I would have more time to go shopping in Thamel and visit Kilroys famous bar and restaurant. Whatever option you decide, Mountain Kingdoms are very flexible. The best entry into Bhutan must be the flight from Kathmandu to Paro. I begged the check in lady at the airport to give me a window seat on the left hand side. I wasn't disappointed - the whole range of the Himalayas stood before my eyes and there above them all was Everest. Then you enter the Kingdom of Bhutan and life will never be the same. What a beautiful country steeped in its Buddhist traditions. Everyone smiles a welcome and nothing is too much trouble. I was with a select party of four. All of us good friends who have travelled together for many years. We had a guide Tashi who was marvellous and a driver who used to chauffer the Royal Family until he retired. Good job as the roads are apt to be unmade, very windy and strewn with avalanche debris. I won't give details about my holiday in Bhutan as it is waiting there for anyone to enjoy. I just want to say that Mountain Kingdoms came up trumps. This is the first time I have used them and it won't be the last.Rating for tour operator:
Right from the beginning when this trip was just an idea, Mountain Kingdoms came up with suggested itineraries until everything came together. They have been very supportive and provided top quality staff. They have always been available to answer last minute questions. I think they are an excellent company.
Brilliant and thanks for your compliments!!
That's what I like to hear. Steve Berry, M.D. Mountain Kingdoms