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Could this be Shangri-La?

First described in James Hilton’s 1933 novel Lost Horizon, the idea of Shangri-La has come to be associated with a mythical Himalayan utopia, a ... Read more
Could this be Shangri-La?

First described in James Hilton’s 1933 novel Lost Horizon, the idea of Shangri-La has come to be associated with a mythical Himalayan utopia, a valley isolated from the outside world whose inhabitants enjoy long and contented lives. In today’s fast-moving, hi-tech world it’s easy to see the attraction of such an idyll and in November 2016, KE founder Glenn Rowley thinks he got to experience it for real as he stayed as a guest of Drongthang village in Bhutan. Read on to find out more about one of our new adventures and just what makes this part of Bhutan so special. 




KE’s newest holiday in Bhutan, the Black-Necked Cranes and Royal Orchid Trek, promises to take you to a part of the country which has seen few outside visitors, where ancient customs and beliefs remain intact. It includes a 5-day hike into the valley of the Mangde Chu, a river which starts out beneath Gangkar Puensum (7570m) the world’s highest unclimbed peak. Here, we spend a day at Drongthang, the home village of Karma Lotey and Jamyang Choda from our Bhutanese trekking agent, Yangphel Adventure. This high and remote valley, home to the King of Bhutan’s favourite orchids and accessible only on foot for much of the year, certainly looks like Shangri-La to us.

Drongthang means ‘meadow of the takin’, the takin being a type of goat-antelope and the national animal of Bhutan. The 15th Century saint Drukpa Kuenley is said to have created this curious looking animal from the head of a goat and the body of a cow. Once numerous in the fields and bamboo forest around Drongthang, only a small number remain, still preyed upon by leopards and by tigers which are also found in the area.

In Drongthang we will be exposed to very traditional methods of farming, cooking and general merry-making! We lend a hand with rice husking and ploughing fields with oxen or simply chat with the villagers as they go about their daily chores. Then, in the evening, the villagers will come to our camp to welcome their guests.

Jamyang says… ‘Welcoming guests properly is an integral part of Bhutanese culture. It is usual for us to light a bonfire and perform traditional dances and folk songs. Each household of the village will be represented and will bring gifts, such as a bottle of their home-brewed rice wine, known as ‘ara’. It is customary to offer guests a cup of ara when they come into your home and a second as they leave, and it’s considered to be rude if you don’t drink it! Each household sets aside a portion of their harvest each year to make ara

and there is fierce competition to see whose is best. If ara is not for you, try ‘suja’ instead, which is Bhutanese tea made with melted butter.’ 


One of Glen's most enduring memories is a campfire conversation with a group of villagers about the moon landings. After some discussion, the villagers came to the conclusion that Neil Armstrong must be an incarnation of the Lord Buddha, as only the Buddha has the power to fly to the moon.

Feeling inspired to make the journey? You can find out more about our Black-Necked Cranes and Royal Orchid Trek here and don't forget - book before 30th April and you'll be entitled to a free single tent supplement, which means that if you fancy enjoying the luxury of a tent to yourself, you can, at no extra charge. 

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