Amankora Bumthang Lodge is a resting place worthy of royalty – no easy feat when competing with the literal palace next door. Swathed in piercingly green pine forests – and with interiors that take design cues from Japanese minimalism – the lodge’s clean lines and muted palette might at first feel sparse. Once sequestered in your suite, though, you’ll discover it has its own sort of luxury. Floors are strewn with sumptuously soft rugs, logs crackle in the wood-burning stoves and deep soaking tubs peek coyly from behind sliding screen doors. Combine that with the lack of televisions and first-class service, and you’ve a time-stoppingly tranquil retreat that’s hard to leave.
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A 60-minute massage each at one of Amankora's lodges
Noon. Check-in, 2pm. Early check-in and late check-out are subject to availability, but if your room isn’t ready on arrival you can steam off the jet-lag in the spa while you wait.
Double rooms from £1318.45 ($1,860), including tax at 20 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional government tax of $60.00 per room per night prior to arrival and an additional government tax of $65.00 per person per night prior to arrival.
Rates include all meals, house wines and spirits, visa processing, return transfers, excursions and activities. Amankora Bhutanese journeys of a week or more also get a one-hour spa treatment, a unique itinerary, and a private car with a driver and guide.
Bhutanese milk-and-butter teas are something of an acquired taste, but sipping one in bed is traditional morning ritual in these parts, as well as a pleasant pre-hike wake-up call; ask the staff to have a cup brought to your room before breakfast.
At the hotel
Free WiFi throughout; a spa and steam room; free morning yoga; a library. In rooms: Aman bath products.
Our favourite rooms
They’re all the same, so you needn’t worry about choosing between anything other than where to while away your hours: a soak in the huge terrazzo-clad bath, perhaps?
Bumthang Lodge’s cedar-scented spa harnesses the life-affirming power of the Himalayas, infusing its treatments with local herbs and wild mountain honey. There are trekker-relieving treatments that make use of hot stones and herbal compresses – a must after a day exploring the surrounding mountains – but their facials, featuring masks whipped up from home-made yoghurt and fresh oranges, are equally essential for rescuing skin from high-altitude-induced dehydration.
Follow the hotel’s lead and leave electronics behind; bring, instead, a stack of the most philosophical books you can find – this is a hotel perfectly suited to pondering life’s big questions.
Early risers can start the day with a monk-led morning prayer session. The hotel has board games and puzzles to keep children (or competitive couples) occupied.
This secluded hotel is best suited to couples looking to logout of modern life, but children are welcome; under-12s stay free and extra beds can be added to rooms. Babysitting is available ($20 an hour), highchairs are available and dishes can be adapted.
On warm days, choose a table in the fruit tree–shaded courtyard, but chillier evenings call for closer proximity to the dining room’s inviting fire.
This isn’t the sort of place for elaborate eveningwear - you’ll want to cosy up against the cold in feather-soft fabrics – but that doesn’t mean dulling things down: take cues from Bhutan’s vibrant national dress and road-test your boldest threads.
The restaurant is just as zen-like as the rest of the hotel, done up in its signature nudes and neutrals. It’s lined by soaring floor-to-ceiling windows that look out onto the peaceful courtyard, with Wangdichholing Palace peeking out of the trees just beyond. In the evenings, fires roar both indoors and out and turn the sun-drenched space the colour of melting caramel. Like the decor, food is fit for a modern Bhutanese monarch – try the yak carpaccio – with plenty of soul-warming soups and stews to choose from, and an equally elegant Western menu.
The bar is combined with the restaurant, where you can spend wintery evenings sipping hot toddy by the fire, or summer afternoons reclining in the courtyard with a refreshing pomegranate spritzer.
The restaurant is open all day from 5am until 11pm; the bar is open from 2pm until 11pm.
Order anything from the full restaurant menu between 5am and 11pm.
You’ll find the hotel in Bumthang, the bucolic centre of Bhutan. Meaning ‘beautiful field,’ it’s one of Bhutan's most remote regions: a sweeping expanse of pastured mountains and forests, fringed by Himalayan peaks and dotted with ancient monasteries.
There are no direct flights to Bhutan from the UK, so you’ll need to connect through Delhi, Bangkok or Kathmandu; Drukair (www.drukair.com.bt) operates daily flights to Paro Airport from each. It’s also the only airline operating the 35-minute flight from Paro to Bathpalathang Airport in Bumthang, which you’d be wise to take – overland transfers from Paro can take in excess of 10 hours.
The hotel can arrange all transport locally and nationally, which is just as well – you’d need nerves of steel to navigate the country’s precipitous roads and hair-raising city traffic.
Amankora has five lodges spread across Bhutan and, naturally, you can zip between them all in a private helicopter.
Worth getting out of bed for
The sacred slopes and summits of Bumthang are the spiritual centre of the country; steeped in folklore, they’re home to some of Bhutan’s oldest palaces and most magnificent monasteries. The country’s traditions are enchanting and fascinating in equal measure, so put butter-lamp lighting, an astrology reading or evening prayers with local monks high on your to-do list (the hotel can arrange them all). Nearby, Burning Lake is one of Bhutan’s most beguiling and sacred sites with a setting straight out of a fairy tale; it’s hidden at the bottom of a deep gorge that’s lined by moss-covered boulders and towering evergreens strung with hundreds of fluttering prayer flags. Kurjey Lhakhang is perhaps one of the best places to discover more about Buddhist faith and traditions: it’s home to intricate paintings, immense statues and temples concealed inside caves. The legend behind it is also one of the region’s most intriguing, involving an 8th-century king, a vengeful deity and one of Buddhism’s most important gurus. Also intriguing – but for entirely different reasons – is Bumthang’s tiny Red Panda Brewery which, amazingly, turns out small batches of Weiss beer and must-try Swiss cheeses, which are sold in the shop next door. The short tours include a bottle of beer to enjoy in their idyllic garden, too. Presiding over Bumthang town, Jakar Dzong dates back to 1549 and is one of the biggest forts in Bhutan. Flanked by coniferous forest and accessible via a winding stone pathway, it’s a standout example of traditional Bhutanese architecture: a maze of walled passageways, precarious towers and tranquil courtyards. Another unmissable visit is within wandering distance of the hotel – Wangdichholing Palace has a stunning carved façade and is one of the most important manors in the history of Bhutan’s monarchy.
Spend your entire stay at Amankora Bumthang Lodge, or head to Paro Lodge to see the Tiger’s Nest Monastery,Thimphu Lodgeto experience pine-forested hinterland, or Gangtey Lodge to get a glimpse of Goempa Monastery.
Since all meals are included, there’s little reason to venture out for food. But if you’re in the mood for a change of scenery, it’s worth asking the hotel to arrange a delicious lunch of local produce on one of the nearby farms.
Though not renowned for its nightlife, the tiny town of Bumthang does have a fun collection of karaoke bars, if fancy a lively evening of kitsch entertainment.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this luxury lodge in Bumthang and unpacked their meditation mats, a full account of their adventurous escape will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Amankora Bumthang Lodge in Bhutan…
The town of Bumthang is nestled within a network of valleys that were carved from the Himalayas by glaciers centuries ago. It’s a long way from Asia’s traditional tourist trails and backpacking circuits: the monasteries that dot these pine-laden peaks feel untouched by time, as does Amankora Bumthang Lodge (not least thanks to the absence of televisions). It’s easy to feel that you’ve stepped back into another era entirely. Life at the lodge is about simple pleasures: a book, a hot cup of butter tea, an alfresco lunch with palace and pine-forest views… Days might be spent exploring Bhutan’s misty mountains or meditating with local monks, but you’ll find all the relaxation you need back in your stately suite, where you can pass dreamy afternoons curled up on a sun-splashed window seat. Head out into the surrounding countryside, full of invigorating Himalayan hikes that all wind their way back to the lodge: recover from your exertions with a steamy bath tub soak, perhaps, or a warming cocktail by the fire.