Hidden in a hillside pine forest, Amankora Gangtey Lodge soothes world-weary travellers with its valley views, zen-inspired design and Himalayan holism. Set on a hillside in the Phobjikha Valley, the lodge overlooks an expanse of lush meadows and woodland that ascends into Black Mountains. Home to a 17th-century monastery and the rare black crane, it’s a place that can’t help but inspire, and this eight-suite lodge capitalises on its placating power with Japanese-influenced interiors, intuitive service and an emphasis on cultural immersion. Spends your days trekking to remote hamlets or meditating with monks, then return to the lodge for a sunset hot stone bath and long, leisurely dinner.
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from £1349.33 ($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 daily à la carte breakfast, lunch and dinner (including picnics for excursions); select wines and spirits; return airport transfers from Paro; laundry service. Guests staying seven nights or more get an English speaking guide, too.
Amankora was designed to immerse guests in the Bhutanese way of life, which is why you won’t find any TVs at the lodge. Here, you’re encouraged to spend your days exploring the landscape, village and monastery.
At the hotel
Spa, free WiFi throughout, laundry. In rooms: traditional Bhutanese wood-burning stove; air-conditioning; free bottled water; Aman bath products.
Our favourite rooms
All eight suites have the same zen-inspired design and are clad in the local Himalayan pine. The furnishings toe the line between Japanese minimalism and traditional Bhutanese styles, pairing modern shapes with traditional features like the bukhari wood-burning stove.
At Amankora, the process of unwinding begins long before you set foot in the spa. Guests are encouraged to go for meditative walks in the surrounding pine forest, which is all the more beautiful when the trees sway in the sun or are wreathed in a fine mountain mist – a sight that makes the perfect prelude to one of the treatments, yoga classes or hot stone baths. Drawing on Ayurvedic and ancient Tibetan medicine, Bhutanese hot stone baths are an important part of the national culture, used as far back as the 7th century. At Gangtey Lodge, the stone baths are filled with mountain spring water and scented with local khempa herb, which helps sooth weary limbs. Other treatments include foot reflexology sessions and Amankora signature facial, which uses homemade yoghurt, Bumthang honey and oranges.
Technical hiking gear and a cashmere scarf for breezy evenings. You’re at the foot of the Himalayas, after all.
The hilly terrain and lack of adapted rooms make the hotel unsuitable for wheelchair users.
All ages are welcome at the hotel, but the tranquil atmosphere means its better suited to adults and older children. Babysitting is available for US$20 an hour; two hours’ notice is needed.
You’ll want to be facing the window for the sweeping view of the valley floor.
People come here for the scenery, not to be seen, so guests tend to dress down. On your last day, the staff leave national dress in your room so you can go Bhutanese for your final meal.
The restaurant is in the same room as the lounge, separated by a large fireplace set into a wooden column. The entire room is flanked by floor-to-ceiling windows on the valley side, giving it some of the best views anywhere in the lodge. There are only two tables, both of them communal, encouraging diners to trade the day's stories over dinner. One menu is Bhutanese and the other Western; both are seasonal and change daily depending on the chef’s finds. You’ll have the chance to try lean yak, a Bhutanese staple, alongside other region specialities like hot ngaja, a sweet Bhutanese milk tea.
The bar is in the restaurant, giving it the same valley views; have the staff mix you a drink then settle on one of the windows seats to watch the sunset. There’s a selection of wines, spirits and house specials like hot kora toddy and pomegranate spritzers. A menu of bar snacks is available from 5pm.
The lodge doesn’t have specific meal times, so guests can dine at a time of their choosing (within reason, of course).
You can order anything from the menu while the restaurant is open.
The hotel is in the pine-clad valley of Gangtey, home to an impressive 17th-century monastery.
The closest airport is Paro, which most people reach via Delhi, Calcutta, Bangkok or Singapore. From Paro, it’s a five-hour drive to the hotel. The Smith24 team can arrange your flights and transfers; call anytime, day or night.
You’ll need to arrange all your transport through the hotel in advance, so it’s unlikely you’ll be doing any driving of your own. And if you were, you’d discover that Bhutan’s roads are often tight, winding and flanked by steep drops, meaning they’re best tackled by locals.
Worth getting out of bed for
Amankora encourage their guests to make the most of their trips with what they call a cultural safari. Visits to local schools, remote hamlets and ancient fortress monasteries can all be arranged with the hotel’s expert guides. If you’re the sporty type, hit the trails on a mountain bike, go white water rafting or try your luck at archery, the national sport. Overlooking the local village, Gangteng Goempa Monastery is an important outpost for Nyingma Buddhism, the oldest of all the Tibetan schools. If you go first thing in the morning, you can catch the monks – up to 200 of them – chanting their morning prayers. If the lama is in, the hotel can even arrange for a meditation session – who better to be your guide?. Aside from the monastery, Gangtey is known for another esteemed resident: the black-necked crane, an endangered species whose arrival is celebrated with a festival, held at the monastery on 11 November each year. To learn more about the birds, head to the Crane Information Centre, which is on the edge of the forest. Amankora essentially lets you link up four luxury Aman lodges to see the best of the Mountain Kingdom; stay at one, stay at them all – the choice is yours... Paro Lodge puts you in reach of the Tiger’s Nest Monastery, Thimphu Lodge transports you to a pine-forested hinterland, andBumthang Lodgeconnects you to a network of Himalayan hiking valleys.
All your meals are included and there are no restaurants for miles, so you’re unlikely to be eating out.
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 hotel in Bhutan and unpacked their recipe for ngaja tea, a full account of their Himalayan break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Amankora Gangtey Lodge in Bhutan…
It’s no secret that Bhutan’s population has been named the happiest in Asia. Ascend into the forested hills that hide Amankora Gangtey Valley, and you begin to get an idea of why this might be. Modern time – where each day is sliced and diced – doesn’t seem to have reached up here, where the air is so crisp it almost beseeches you to breathe – really breathe. Intuitively friendly staff wearing the gho and kira, Bhutan’s charming national dress, lead you to your wood-clad suite, where the simple modernist lines melt into the surrounding woods, always leading your eye back to nature. But it isn’t just its looks, it’s that Amankora gives you a real snapshot of local life. Expert guides can organise visits to schools, holy sites and traditional villages, where you’ll encounter people living by a philosophy that places wellbeing first. Wake early one morning to make the short walk into Gangtey village, home to the 17th-century Gangtey Goemba monastery, and you’ll be able to meet the monks and even meditate with the lama if he’s in.