Experience luxury that’s a class apart in this eight-suite Aman resort tucked in the serene environs of the Phobjikha Valley. Nearby is the 16th-century monastery, Gangte Goemba, with its predominant Bhutanese architecture and impressive history. Amankora takes on this local design for its lodges, each with sloping roofs and panelled interiors, to add that indigenous touch to your stay. This well-furnished love nest is ideal for couples and comes with a large bedroom, bathroom with a terrazzo-clad bathtub and twin vanities, and traditional wood-burning stove. The culmination of your getaway is reached at the spa, in which you can book a signature wellness therapy for two, such as the ‘Bhutanese Oil Massage’ that uses ancient Tibetan herbology on your pressure points to release tension. www.aman.com
The village of Gangtey is a prime spot for nature lovers and birders. The valley in which it is situated is part of the Black Mountain National Park where black-necked cranes flock every winter. The Black-Necked Crane Information Centre has a viewing platform that’s equipped with high-powered lenses for clear views of the cranes in the distance. Also, rising right behind the hotel is a four-hour hiking trail that takes you through the meadows of Shashi La Chorten to Khelikha, a vantage point at the very top.
Plonked in the middle of a sleepy little town, deep in the Paro Chu Valley, Zhiwa Ling is arguably the most luxurious Bhutaneseowned independent hotel in the country. Set in 10 acres, the hotel raises the benchmark for aesthetics of a local guesthouse with its hand-carved wood beams and cornices and some remarkable stonework, as well as modern comforts such as Swedish under-floor heating. Escape into the privacy of your Royal Raven Suite of two bedrooms, a dining area, a living space, and a large porch with a private shrine. When in need to detach and rejuvenate, let Buddhist healing take over your senses at the Menlha Spa. Choose from a lovingly crafted menu of spa rituals that invoke ‘Tara, the goddess of healing’ to help centre your mind, or opt for a sauna followed by a traditional Buddhist hot-stone bath outdoors. Zhiwa Ling brings your focus to good living, with the meditation house for peace, an elaborately built temple on the second floor for worship, and two restaurants offering classic and contemporary cuisine for gratification, conspiring together to heal you holistically. www.zhiwaling.com
Travellers with a penchant for a complete cultural immersion during their trip are in for a treat here. The neighbourhood is vibrant, and its main street, built as recently as 1985 and best explored on foot, is lined with quaint wooden shops selling knick-knacks. The town itself has access to three important tourist spots: the Taktsang Lhakhang, Paro Rinpung Dzong, and Drukgyal Dzong, besides providing the base for numerous hiking routes.
Some things are best experienced at a Taj hotel, including a mountainous capital city such as Thimphu. Expect a royal welcome; at Taj Tashi, luxury and wellness are synonymous. The quietness of your well-done luxury suite balances out the bustling city around and presents you with a selection of comforts – a pillow menu, a grand canopy bed, floor warmers, Abraham and Thakore bathrobes in a walk-in closet, handy bath salts next to your fabulous Cristina bathtub and a daily turndown service – all under the wise watch of the stunning view outside. The signature JIVA Spa tempts you to linger on in the comfort of the hotel instead of venturing out by offering more signature treatments than you can experience during a single stay. Request a ‘Sushupti’, an intensive body exfoliation massage and wrap with rice, honey and cream that is rinsed off with warm milk and flower petals. Power up with some delicious local cuisine at Chig-Ja-Gye, with some tea to follow at Rimps.
There are things aplenty to do in Thimphu. Visit the beautiful Changangkha Lhakhang, the oldest monastery in the city. A wildlife expedition will take you to the ‘takins’ at the Motithang Takin Preserve, while at the farmer’s market at Centenary, embrace local life as you get good bargains on your buys. Finish off with a long drive to the hills of Kuensel Phodrang that lead you to the gigantic Buddha Statue at the top.