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Family Vacation in Bhutan?

May 29, 2011

family vacation Bhutan Tiger's nest photo


Is Bhutan a great place for a family vacation? Yes! We found Bhutan to be a wonderful place for a very special family vacation and it was one of our daughter's  favorite countries ( out of extensive family  travel to 42 countries on 5 continents so far).

  Bhutan Tiger's Nest Paro Taktsang Monastery

Trekking up 9000 feet to the amazing Tiger's Nest was a highlight for our kidlet, but she has a lot of energy and is very fit, so made it look super easy. She was the only kid and many were amazed at her gumption as some adults didn't make it to the top. This Taktsang Monastery, built in 1694,  is percariously perched on the edge of a 1200 meter cliff so breathtaking, and the iconic symbol of Bhutan. I have mobility challenges so had to be content to see it from the bottom and DaVinci happened to pick up a very bad cold that day, so found it very challenging and harder to breathe  with the altitude, but worth the effort nonetheless.

I explored some other areas in the enchanting valley while they were climbing and then took a sauna and just took in the peaceful beauty of the area. We're boomers in our late 50's so this would be easier for younger parents who are fit and Bhutan is a total paradise for those who like to trek and prefer pristine natural environments.

Bhutan beautiful view trekking up to Tiger's Nest, lunch spot

Taktsang Palphug Monastery or Tiger's Nest Bhutan

Bhutan is a fairytale place, but it is not Disneyland, or Legoland, ( nor are most countries) so don't expect that. Recently someone on Facebook who is planning a family trip to Bhutan asked me if it was worth it and what did we do with a kid there. This was my answer:

"Family travel is often about just doing ordinary things in extraordinary places...so that is mostly what we did and Bhutan is certainly an extraordinary place. There is no where else like it and it has only been open to world since the late seventies.

Bhutan -waking up to mist, sunshine, beautiful mountain & river views & hand painted architecture

My 10 year old found Bhutan to be one of her favorite countries and I think that was partly because the people are extraordinarily kind and generous. In Bhutan one always has a guide and driver and she really loved both of ours. It's a great place to learn about another culture and nature and Buddhism. Just going to the huge market at Thimphu was fascinating...foods we have never seen before like dried fish and Yak cheese etc. The dress, the food, the architecture, the culture, the beauty is very different than any where we have been...so that made it bewtiching for all of us.

Bhutanese kids and moms

Just learning about the simple traditional lifestyle there is interesting and educational, plus observing and meeting the kids ( all schools are in English). They don't get a lot of tourists so they are very open and happy to connect. Watching archery as they do it was intriguing  and part of the Bhutanese culture. Going to the ancient Buddhist temples and watching the monks..even child monks ...was very enlightening. There was sooo much about the culture in Bhutan that was fascinating.

school kids in Bhtuan in traditional school uniforms

littlest monk in Bhutan


Bhutan archery contest

American girl meets Bhutan school girl

Seeing a gigantic Buddha was fun for my child and she met a little girl who had a new adorable puppy that she enjoyed holding. Trying on Bhutanese celebration hats or blowing celebration horns was bliss for her. Seeing big  families of wild moneys ( some with babies) along the road and running into nomads with yaks and many baby yaks was very exciting  for her. The hotels and meals were very pleasing for her..even watching movies at night. She played in a park in Thimphu with local kids. Even visiting the ancient Buddhist temples was a joy for her..especially when she could do the prayer wheels which is fun for kids, going from one to another. Prayer in motion,something new to learn.

Visiting a 6th century Buddhist temple in Bhutan


meeting friends near giant buddha in Bhutan

Enjoying our terrace view from the beautiful Zhiwa Ling Hotel near Tiger's Nest in Bhutan

Bhutan food -One of our daughter's favorite meals

Bhutan horses on Tiger's Nest trail

My kiddo really loved dressing up in traditional Bhutanese clothes. Watching them do the weaving was intrguing. Going to small markets and just watching every day life and learning things like the special herbal treats that they all take that's good for the high altitude and makes their mouths red.
We found it such a compelling destination with wonderfully warm people that we found it ideal for our style of travel.

our girl in Bhutan trying on the elegant traditonal Bhutanese dress called Kiras

Bhutan woman with "doma" red smile from beetlenut/lime treats


Mozart meeting school kids in Bhutan market

I wouldn't recommend the very long, treacherous mountain rode ride out to the heart of Buddhism in Bumthang like we did as I mentioned above, ( especially if you have vertigo like I do) but we are all glad we did it and my daughter actually enjoyed that a LOT as well.( As did my husband).  She has vomited 3 times in her life I think, and twice it was in Bhutan on that long drive ( lost 2 lunches) but since it was such a novelty for her, she actually kind of enjoyed that too and luckily did it easily OUTSIDE of the car, then was fine again.

Soon they will have an airport there so you can fly to Bumthang and the East to avoid the long drive or just plan to stay more around Paro and Thimphu where there is plenty to do and see. The long ride has advantages ( pros and cons)  but is for a more adventurous traveler and not for kids who hate car rides.

enjoying the spectacular views of Bhutan by car on high mountain cliff roads



Our family is REALLY well traveled..so our kiddo enjoys it all and is usually quite the trooper, but we also only have one. So I would also say you probably will be impacted by how well traveled your kids are and how harmonious you travel together. If possible, I'd time it for the festival season, which we missed, so will have to return again. ;)

If you stay at the wonderful high end hotels ...and you will also have a driver and guide as everyone does there...and you like something different than any where in the world ..interested in Tibetian style  Buddhism and a place that has been closed to the world  ...a true shangri La ..I think you will enjoy it. BUT you know your self and your family better than me...so it's hard for me to advise. I will be doing more posts with photos and videos so maybe that will help your decision as well."

Any other questions about family travel in Bhutan?

Our trip to Bhutan was sponsored by The Touism Council of Bhutan but our opinions, photos and words are our own. We're very honored that Soultravelers3 was the first travel bloggers invited!

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Becca

I am so fascinated by this country! I have just spent a great deal of time on their tourism website. Maybe someday...!

Jeanne @soultravelers3

You have very good taste Becca as it is indeed a fascinating country!

That's a good place to start! ;)

Shamis @ Gawaya Travel Blog

Some of the places in Bhutan sure loos like fairytale places. Reminds me of an old cartoon I used to watch as a kid called Monkey Magic. Maybe someday I will go there too...

Odette Lemay

Your blog is amazing and inspiring! Bhutan is near the top of my must-see places and now with your posts even more so. I hope to get there while the kids are still young. You mention "festival season" - when is that?

Jeanne @soultravelers3

Odette, Thanks so much for your kind words. The festivals are at different places and times, but from the photos that I have seen, look spectacular. I do wish we could have seen at least one, but it is a good excuse to return someday! ;)

You have to go into Bhutan through a tourist agent, so they could help you line it up with a festival or two. Or you can look on the Bhutan Tourism boards link that I left at the bottom that has all the information about visiting Bhutan.

Odette @schoolinasuitcase

Hi Jeanne, As I am new to this blogging stuff, I did not realize that my full name would link to my blog. Is there any way that you can change the "posted by", to Odette @schoolinasuitcase instead? Don't worry about not approving this comment but I didn't know how else to contact you! Thanks so much! p.s. your last post makes me want to move to Spain!

jeanne @soultravelers3

Hi Odette,

I can't do that, but did the 2nd one so that should work.

You can always get a hold of us via our contact page on this blog. BUt when we are on the move I can't keep up with email so this was a good choice! ;)

tshewang Rinzin

Great to know that you have enjoyed your trip to BHUTAN..and glad to go through this beautiful write-up about BHUTAN..so on behalf of all BHUTANESE i would like to thank you all for coming to BHUTAN and contributing towards the Bhutanese economy directly/indirectly...Now because of your coming to BHUTAN, we Bhutanese could proudly say that we have free education and free health services provided here in BHIUTAN..:)

Taryn

Beautiful post! Bhutan is at the top of my list of dream places to visit. But now we have a little one... she's well-travelled... am wondering how young is too young for Bhutan, in your opinion?

Jeanne @soultravelerd

Taryn- Hard question as I think it really depends on the parents and the child when it comes to travel. One certainly could bring a baby to Bhutan in the high end hotels. BUT I think an older child would get much more out of it.

Andrea Chisholm

Hi, I was so pleased to find your writing about taking a child to Bhutan, the colour in the photos makes it look like an amazing destination. We are contemplating a possible opportunity to go and live in Bhutan for a year with our children (will be aged 3 and 5. Is it a great destination for travel and for living too?

Jeanne @soultravelers3

Andrea - Cool! I don't really know about living there and I imagine like most places it really matters on WHERE and HOW exactly you live. HUGE difference from a poor life deep in the countryside and a luxury life in the main city.

I'd read books and such from Western expats who have lived there to get a better understanding. I just read one which was quite enlightening.

lisa

which tour operator do u suggest I contact to plan trip ?

Andie

Hi, we are looking to take our 2 children to Bhutan. Can you recommend a reliable tour operator?

Jeanne @soultravelers3

Sorry Andie and Lisa, I have no experience with that since we were invited by the Tourism Council of Bhutan, so I don't really feel clear in recommending anyone. I would contact them though and see who they recommend: http://www.tourism.gov.bt/

Everyone I know who has been to Bhutan has loved it, and they all did it through tours, so I am sure you will have a wonderful time!

susan

hi,
I found this on the Lonely planet site. We are planning to go to Bhutan in April with our 10 year old. Any advice? How did your daughter handle the altitude? Thanks for any info you can give me.
Thanks,
Susan

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