Bhutan in October 2017


We and our friends have planned for a while to go on vacation together.  After a short discussion, we decided to travel to Bhutan.  (You can read at the end of the post how to select your tour operator, it could be confusing.)


Our group of six has arrived to Paro, Bhutan, from Delhi and from Bangkok (a few hours apart) and after meeting the driver and the guide from Chen-Ray Travel & Tours, we have proceeded to Thimphu for the overnight stay at our hotel.


If you plan to travel during the high season, then it is advisable to pre-book your hotels as soon as you select the tour operator.   We stayed three nights in Thimphu at the Thimphu Tower Hotel (highly recommend), then two nights in Punaka (Zhingkham Resort, hotel was very good with stunning view of the Punakha valley, but the food at the restaurant was below the average, especially for the vegetarian).  Then we stayed three nights in Paro at the Khangkhu Resort, a little bit away from the town’s center, but again, the view compensated everything.  The room was excellent; the food was much better.  All hotels are highly recommended.

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Attractions and hikes.

We saw everything what we have selected plus what was offered to us by our tour operator.  If you are in good physical condition, incorporate as many hikes into your trip as possible. You can’t say that you experienced Bhutan without being in nature.

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All tourists do the hike to the Tiger’s Nest.  Be prepared: sun screen, water, hat, snacks, start early, wear the layers and the trekking boots and ask your guide to rent a trekking poll(s) for you if you do not have your own.  Bring the camera and small change for the toilet(s).


Our favorites are:


  • Tashichho Dzong (Thimpu Dzong or Fortress) during the day and at night

IMG_2017-10-19_20-18-46 Thimphu dzon IMG_2017-10-19_20-17-10_Thiphu dzon

  • National Folk Heritage Museum
  • Hike to the Dodeydrak Buddhist Institute (We liked the hike even we did not make to the final destination – got lost and tired after the 5+ hrs of hiking)

  • Buddha Dordenma


  • Dochula Pass

  • FnB restaurant – a fusion cuisine restaurant

IMG_2017-10-21_08-17-59 FnB Thimpu

  • Ambient Café – the best desserts, many of them vegan, good coffee (don’t go to the café on the Clock Tower Square)

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  • Punakha Dzong

  • Punakha Suspension Bridge

  • Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup nunnery

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  • A hike to Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten


  • Taktshang Goemba (Tiger’s Nest) (don’t do it on the first or on the last day of your trip)

  • Brioche Café (excellent desserts, some of them vegan, great coffee)
  • Chele La Pass

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  • Tachogang Lhakhang Iron Chain Bridge an d Tachog Lhakhang Dzong

You can read all my Bhutanese reviews on TripAdvisor:

Thimphu (17 reviews, 48 photos)

Punakha (14 reviews, 55 photos)

Paro (14 reviews, 43 photos)

Selecting a tour operator.

We all completed a thorough research on the Internet and read at least a hundred reviews of the tour operators. Finally, we selected six finalists and send them our proposed itinerary and requested a quote.

Our group had a specific requirement – the short hike (2-3 hrs) must be incorporated into daily activities, a new hike almost every day! This means that we can’t buy a standard sightseeing package.  The hike difficulty should be from a light to a moderate; therefore we can’t go with the trekking tour operator because they hike 8+hours per day.   It should be a really customized tour.

For those who are just started thinking about Bhutan, please be aware that unless you have the Indian citizenship, you must travel with the tour operator. And you must pay US$ 250 per day per person during the high season, and if you travel in a group less than 3 persons, you have to pay a “small group penalty”.  Plus visa cost, plus air tickets, plus etc, etc, etc.

After interviewing six finalists and analyzing their responses, prices, response time, how they listening our requirements, we selected the Chen Ray Travel and Tour Company.  Clear and prompt responses, useful suggestion to modify itinerary, flexibility with the hotel selection to accommodate our preferences…  Even the cost of the trip is somehow fixed, Mr. Sonam was able to give us a small discount.

Our driver was excellent. The car was comfortable, clean and well maintained.  (We were told that all drives must past the yearly tests in order to stay in business.  Also, we were told that the majority of the tour operators in Bhutan select or sub-contract their guides from the “pool” unless you are a huge tour company and have permanent guides as their staff.)   This means that most likely, you will not know who your guide is.   The guides also have to pass the exams in order to obtain the license.

Our guide has the four years of the tour industry experience. He was knowledgeable to provide a standard set of information about the major tourist’s attractions, although his knowledge about the trekking/hiking was not as good as we would expect.  Our guide is a wonderful person and we greatly appreciate how he took care of all our demanding needs. We saw other guides during the trip – some were better and some were not.  Now, looking back, we realized that our guide was much better than other.

During our tour, Mr. Sonam, the owner of the Chen-Ray Travel & Tours, has visited our group in Thimphu and in Punakha to ensure that all is as planned.  We really appreciate his customer focus and recommend Chen-Ray Travel & Tours without any hesitation.


Almost forgot to mention, that Chen-Ray has a wonderful little shop next to the Le Meridian hotel in Thimphu. The quality of the goods is excellent.  So even if do not travel with Chen-Ray, still plan to do the souvenir shopping at the Chen-Ray store.

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