Thursday, 21 May 2009

Breakaway - Nearer my soul to Nirvana (the luxe way, of course)

Sometimes, we just need to have a bit of renewal for the soul, an injection of life back into our blah routines. 

This often takes the form of an activity that’s way out of the ordinary, which is different things to different people. Some go for a major change of hairdo, or a seriously shameless splurge, or even a pilgrimage. And there are also those who trek far away to distant lands and stand atop awe-inspiring vistas, soaking it all in with arms open wide and imagining they are either in an MTV video or hosting a National Geographic documentary. 

Ooh – wouldn’t that be nice! 

Well, if you have both the resources and time to spare, Como Hotels and Resorts’ Uma Paro in Bhutan is offering a series of Adventure Retreats, based on a set date and group departure (in other words, exclusive, high-class guided tours to equally exclusive destinations), where you can do just that. Nearer to the mythical Shangri-La and perhaps also to Nirvana, it must be good for the soul, too. 

Of these adventure trips, “Bhutan Through a Lens,’ which is scheduled for November, promises a unique seven-night sojourn for photographers of all levels and interests. 

Led by Philip Bowen, a 16-year Bhutan veteran, accomplished photographer and COMO Activity Director, the time is divided between Uma Paro and a new Uma-owned 11-bed lodge in the Paro and Punakha valleys. 

Photo opportunities abound, ranging from location shoots to meetings with friendly locals.

Other tours in the series include: 
The Flowers and Monasteries of Central and Western Bhutan (2-12 June)
Mountains and Monasteries – Bhutan by Bike (5-15 July)
A Multi-Activity Adventure in the Kingdom of Bhutan (1-8 Aug)
Central and Western Bhutan Journey and Bumdra Camp Monastery (22 Aug–1 Sept)
Blessings of Bhutan and the Druk Path Trek (7–17 Oct) 
Bhutan Through a Lens (3—15 Nov)
Shopping and Shangri La (1—11 Dec)

All these tours are conducted by experienced, English-speaking guides. For a touch of spirituality and exotic travel, the press releases promise “golden-roofed monasteries and fascinating temples including the spectacular ‘Tiger’s Nest’ perched on a mountainside above the clouds, prayer flag-covered hilltops, forgotten valleys and ancient forests.” 

Most itineraries feature nature walks to see Bhutan’s diverse flora and birdlife while the more challenging packages bring you trekking to remote mountain paths and biking along off-road trails. 

Rest assured it’s not all sweaty action. The people at Como promise lots of time for you to relax at the luxurious Uma Paro and enjoy the pool, sophisticated organic cuisine, the COMO Shambhala Spa and daily yoga classes. 

Ranging from seven to 12 nights, these tours include accommodation at Uma Paro and some may include stays in other locally owned hotels across Bhutan. Rates for these packages range from US$3,280 to US$6,112 for single occupancy in a Superior Room (forest views) or US$5,292 to US$10,054 for double occupancy, depending on the package selected.

Meals, excluding beverages, are included as well as picnics and mineral water on days out. Government taxes, royalties, visas and entry permits are all arranged by Uma Paro in advance; these costs are factored into the published rates along with all transport within Bhutan. Isn’t that just music to your ears?

For more details, visit


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