Bhutan |The Tiger’s Nest

I wouldn’t say we saved the best for last; every day of our trip was full of wonders. However, Paro Taktsang, or Tiger’s Nest, is certainly iconic.  World-renowned for its breathtaking beauty and its perilous perch, the temple complex sits 3120 meters above the valley floor. We were able to see it from afar and  our final day in the kingdom, we rose extra early to begin our trek to see it up close and personal. Continue reading “Bhutan |The Tiger’s Nest”

Bhutan | Expect the Unexpected

“Let the trip take us where it will” was the unofficial motto of our time in Bhutan and the advice our guides gave us on our first day.  Our travel from Gangtey to Bumthang was a case in point.  Not every visitor to Bhutan makes the trek to Bumthang and for good reason: the highway is not for the faint of heart.  Early and heavy rains meant that we encountered two major landslides and the five-hour drive from Gangtey to Bumthang (under 200 km) took almost 12.  Continue reading “Bhutan | Expect the Unexpected”

Bhutan | The Road to Phobjika Valley

Phobjika_Road2Gangtey
Driving over Pelela Pass

Maybe the Beatles had Bhutan in mind when they composed “The Long and Winding Road.” Certainly, the East West highway (and I use that term advisedly) lives up to that description.  We spent many hours on serpentine roads with steep inclines and precipitous drop-offs as we traveled up and over the Pelela Pass (11,200 feet) on our way from Punakha to the Phobjika Valley. Continue reading “Bhutan | The Road to Phobjika Valley”

Bhutan | Picture Perfect Punakha

108 Stupas Dochula Pass BhutanThe three-hour drive from Paro to Punakha crosses over Dochula Pass at 3100 meters – site of the Druk Wangyal Chortens. The 108 chortens (stupas) commemorate Bhutanese soldiers who died in the 2003 war against insurgents from India. Punakha Valley and Mo ChhuThe vast majority of photos I had seen prior to visiting Bhutan were of monasteries and mountains. The incredibly fertile valleys and lush landscapes were a total surprise. Punakha is located at 1200 meters which makes it an ideal first stop for flat landers (those who reside near or at sea level). There are two major rivers: the Mo (mother) and Pho (father) that provide ample water for irrigation.  Continue reading “Bhutan | Picture Perfect Punakha”

Bhutan | Preview of Coming Attractions

The Kingdom of Bhutan has been on my must see list for 25 years.  When I first heard about this jewel of a country nestled in the Himalayas between India and China, it had only recently opened to tourism.  While it took me much longer than expected to finally  make the trip, it was well worth the wait!  Continue reading “Bhutan | Preview of Coming Attractions”

Rapa Nui | More Moai and Some Wild Horses

Ahu Tongariki_15 Moai facing the Quarry
The Moai at Ahu Tongariki face their “birthplace”

After visiting the quarry at  Rano Raraku ( Rapa Nui | Seeing is Believing Pt I ), it’s time to explore the island to see how far and wide these monolithic statues traveled. No one knows for sure how the Moai were transported.  NOVA’s  Secrets of Easter Island  provides an excellent overview of prominent theories. Continue reading “Rapa Nui | More Moai and Some Wild Horses”

Rapa Nui | Seeing is Believing Pt I

Approaching the Quarry
Approaching Rano Raraku

Miles from nowhere – the nearest inhabited land is 1289 miles away – Rapa Nui (also known as Easter Island) is one of the most enchanting and remarkable places I have visited. In the tradition of great things coming in small packages, this 63 square mile triangular-shaped island has enough wonderful sites and activities to warrant spending at least a week. We barely scratched the surface with six full days of hiking, biking and exploring and hope to return one day.  Continue reading “Rapa Nui | Seeing is Believing Pt I”

Magnificent Machu Pichu – a Closer Look

I had to restrain myself from subtitling this post “A Llama’s Eye View”! They are so engaging (from afar) and I couldn’t get enough of them. However, the real attraction at Machu Picchu is the amazing architecture. The citadel at Machu Picchu (which means Old Peak in Quechuan) dates to the mid-15th century when it was built under the aegis of Inca Sapa Pachacuti. (NB: The term Inca applies only to the rulers and the civilization; the indigenous people are Quechua.)  Continue reading “Magnificent Machu Pichu – a Closer Look”

Machu Picchu – Getting There is Half the Fun

There are two main ways to get to Machu Picchu with variations on each. You can hike for four-five days along the Inca Trail or you can take the train to Aguas Calientes followed by a bus ride or a moderately challenging 90-minute trek to the sanctuary.

View from the train to Machu Pichu
Excuse the reflections and Admire the Exquite View from the Train!

After three days in the Sacred Valley, we opted for a hybrid route. We took the train  from Ollantaytambo to the prosaically named  Km 104 station (so-named because of its distance from Cusco).  If you blink, or nod off, you could definitely miss it! Continue reading “Machu Picchu – Getting There is Half the Fun”