Our Experience at COMO Uma Paro in Bhutan
Penny Buckley finds a home away from home at Uma Paro in Bhutan
Uma Paro sits nestled in Paro’s dense forest and yet, is just a short drive from the airport. As I experienced on a recent trip to Bhutan, Uma Paro makes for a memorable and relaxing introduction to the magical mountain kingdom of Bhutan, or an equally perfect finale before flying home. For a first-timer to Bhutan, Uma Paro wonderfully encapsulates everything that Bhutan is, whilst adding that bit of luxury and service, some might welcome on a trip to the Himalayas. There is no doubt that Bhutan is reminiscent of Switzerland wherever you go, with its rolling valley scenery, dotted with quant wooden houses and dairy farmland. It is the quintessential scene of the Alps in summer, except in Asia and with the friendliest locals to be found in this part of the world. Upon getting out of my car at Uma Paro’s beautiful and traditional main building, the smell of pine trees is so beautiful and familiar, I instantly feel at home.
Uma Paro is really more of a retreat than a hotel, and the fantastic General Manager, James, a Malaysian who fell in love with Bhutan many years ago, runs the property like a family enterprise, in so much as the atmosphere is supremely cosy and welcoming, albeit utterly serene. It’s the sort of hotel you would feel completely comfortable bringing children, or enjoying just two of you. The style of the hotel is relaxed: you could come to dinner in your trekking gear from earlier in the day and feel at ease. Whilst the hotel imbues a low-key luxury style, the service is exceptional. No request to any staff member is too great – everything is executed with care and genuine attention.
There is one restaurant at Umo Paro, which has lovely views out to the Paro Valley and an exciting menu that fuses healthy COMO Shambhala dishes with fresh veggies straight from their organic garden, and a choice of Western and Bhutanese or Indian for dinner. The food is all of an excellent standard.
A stay at any COMO property is incomplete without trying one of their signature massages or facials, and the spa here is no exception. You will want to spend a few hours enjoying the typically brilliant offerings including the spa of course, a length-worthy indoor pool, sauna and yoga pavilion. This is the place to recover from a long journey, or nurture tired limbs after a holiday spent walking Bhutan’s land-before-time landscapes.
All the rooms are very nice at Uma Paro, but the standalone villas are the real stars. The spacious villas comprise of 1-3 bedrooms – built entirely from wood, with Bhutanese textiles and big bathrooms with standalone tubs. A little bird told me that dozens of celebrities have found solace and privacy in these villas and it’s easy to see why.
Paro is one of Bhutan’s more developed valleys, which makes Uma Paro’s secluded location even more desirable. You can walk out from the hotel to explore Paro’s main sights on foot and there are some lovely, gentle hikes to warm up, as well as many challenging treks nearby.
With the forthcoming openings of half a dozen luxury hotels in Bhutan, Uma Paro stands humbly as somewhat of a grand-dame in Bhutan. It is no less synonymous with the Bhutan of today, as it was when it opened over ten years ago. And you could never tell it has been around for that long as it looks fresh and contemporary in the Bhutanese context. Suffice to say, that it remains a cazenove+loyd favourite.