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Uma Paro, Bhutan: You'll be on a Natural High

TravelPost Category - TravelTravel - Post Category - By CountryBy Country

Just 10 minutes’ drive from this remote Buddhist kingdom’s only airport, boutique hotel Uma Paro perches proudly on a Himalayan mountainside, flanked by thick pine forest. Overlooking the laid-back small town of Paro, this luxe lodge in Bhutan offers elegant interiors, gorgeous food, a pampering Como Shambhala spa and a cool pool amid mind-bendingly beautiful scenery. Kids can get active with fun-fuelled trekking, cycling and archery, or accompany you on cultural trips to temples and monasteries that are a throwback to a bygone age. At this altitude, you’ll all be on a natural high.

Style Mod-con mountain lodge
Setting Pine-lined Himalayan hills

Need to know

Rooms: 29, including nine villas which come with personal butlers.

Facilities: Lounge, Como Shambhala spa, private cars. In rooms: TV, DVD player, minibar. Superior Rooms, Deluxe Rooms and Como Suites have free internet access.

In the know

Sleeping: If you’re travelling with younger kids, you might prefer the centrality of the lodge rooms, which provide easy access to the restaurant and pool, as well as wow-worthy views. Just a short walk from the main lodge, the private One-bedroom Villas also work well for families, sporting a master bedroom, plus your own spa treatment space with a second sleeping area for kids, and dining indoors or out on the terrace – or bag the more spacious Two-bedroom Villa. Your own butler, in natty grey national costume-inspired uniform, will soon make you feel at home, drawing your bath, dishing up breakfast, cleaning your hiking boots or generally showing you the ropes. Under-12s stay for free and extra beds for older kids can be provided for US$50 a night.

Playing: Kids will love having a crack at archery, Bhutan’s favourite sport, in the hotel’s verdant grounds. Hitting the target’s trickier than it looks, but staff will patiently talk you through the technique. You’ll see local games breaking out all over Paro town. Older children should be able to manage some of the shorter treks on offer, including the challenging, but jaw-dropping, one-day walk up to mountain-perched monastery Tiger’s Nest, strewn with prayer flags. You’ll meet donkeys, horses and monks on the ascent, and guides can pack a delicious picnic tiffin box for en route snacking (there’s a vista-toting café halfway up if the hike proves too much for any of your party). If mountain biking’s more your speed, Uma Paro offers a freewheeling downhill ride through nearby villages that will be a buzz for all ages. Kids can also chill out toasting marshmallows by the fire at the hotel’s outdoor camp.

Splashing: Uma Paro’s heated, indoor pool has a fairly adult feel, as it’s sleekly stone-walled and compact, but kids can take a dip and then play outdoors as it gives onto an alfresco sundeck. Take time out from the smalls with a spell in the standalone Como Shambhala Retreat spa, known for its signature Bhutanese Traditional Bath. Heated river stones are used to warm up the flower-flecked water in your own softly lit pool, releasing minerals to soothe trek-weary muscles. The therapy is topped off with a relaxing massage.

Feasting: Eating is a treat at glass-lined circular restaurant Bukhari, in the main lodge, a striking wooden space set around a toasty woodburning stove (bukhari) with fab forest views. Local, seasonal ingredients are a highlight, from buckwheat pancakes with Bumthang honey to red-rice porridge, matsutake mushrooms and fiddle-head ferns with noodles. Choose between Bhutanese, Indian and western fare, or ask to have dishes tailored to suit childish palates. If you fancy ditching the kids, babysitting is available for US$5 an hour, with a day’s notice – we recommend private dining in the courtyard, before retiring to the seductive cocktail bar off the lobby.
No need to pack:
Yoga mats, which are provided at the free morning yoga sessions, where you can breathe in Himalayan views through the serene studio windows; walking sticks for trekking (bring your own worn-in boots, though).

Time-out For a culture hit, head into sleepy Paro, where there’s a museum, riverside dzong (monastery) and local stores for handicrafts shopping. Capital Thimphu is a few hours’ drive away if you fancy exploring further afield.

Uma Paro can organise all visas required for visiting Bhutan, ensuring you comply with the government’s tight tourism controls (which keep visitor numbers refreshingly low). There are regular flights on Bhutan’s carrier Druk Air to Paro from regional gateways including Bangkok, Delhi and Kathmandu.

To book a child-friendly Smith stay visit www.mrandmrssmith.com or call the expert Travel Team on 800 905 326. What’s more, if you sign up as a Smith member, you can enjoy exclusive offers at more than 850 hand-picked hotels around the world. Smith members booking a stay at Uma Paro get a Como Shambhala aromatherapy gift.

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