Shrouded by a pine forest that scents the crisp Himalayan air, Amankora Paro Lodge makes a serene starting point for wanderers looking to lift Bhutan’s veil of mystery. Hidden in the hills above Paro Town, this luxury lodge has the power to sweep guests from one world to another: once you’ve encountered the zen-inducing design, staff in national dress and the scent of cedarwood that hangs in the air, you’ll soon forget your phone and feel enfolded with the Bhutanese way of life. Set your mind’s clock to Himalayan time by meditating with monks or hiking to the iconic Tiger’s Nest Monastery, following up with a herbal hot stone bath, a Bhutanese staple that calls on centuries of Ayurvedic tradition. Once the day is done, install yourself on the fire-warmed terrace, sampling yak carpaccio under the moonlight filtering through the trees.
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from £1359.45 ($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 daily à la carte breakfast, lunch and dinner (including picnics for excursions); select wines and spirits; laundry service and return airport transfers from Paro.
Aman founder Adrian Zecha wanted Amankora to immerse guests in the Bhutanese way of life, which is why you won’t find any TVs at the hotel. Here, you’re encouraged to spend your days exploring the forests and mountains, meeting locals and visiting monasteries.
At the hotel
Spa with a sauna, free WiFi throughout, laundry. In rooms: wood-burning stove; air-conditioning; free bottled water; Aman bath products.
Our favourite rooms
All 24 suites are the same size and have sleek, minimalist furnishings carved from the local timber. Each one has a banquette window seat overlooking the forest, a traditional bukhari wood-burning stove and a terrazzo-clad bath tub. We’d book one on the first floor for a better view over the forest.
At Paro Lodge, the Himalayan landscape is made a part of the treatment process. Guests are encouraged to go ‘forest bathing’, revelling in the sight and scent of the sunshot pines, and the spa itself is clad in local timber and has woodland views. Everything from the incense – cedarwood, which is used in traditional remedies and temple ceremonies – to the herbs used in the baths is anchored to Bhutanese tradition, enfolding guests in pacifying rituals that have been practiced in the valley for centuries. Try their signature facial, making use of homemade yoghurt, Bumthang honey and oranges, or treat yourself to a soak in a khempa-herb hot stone bath.
Guests tend to dress down and on the sporty side – bring clothes that you’d wear to wander through a misty forest.
The mountainous terrain and lack of adapted rooms make the lodge unsuitable for wheelchair users.
All ages are welcome at the hotel, but the serene atmosphere means its better suited to adults and older children. Babysitting is available for US$25 an hour; two days notice is needed.
Ask for a private table to be set up on the edge of the grounds, where you’ll be veiled by the pines and have views over the dzong.
On your last day, the staff will leave national dress in your room so you can go Bhutanese for your final dinner.
The restaurant keeps things zen with simple wooden furniture, soft lighting and swirling cloud motifs in a traditional Bhutanese style. As always, it’s the view that takes centre stage; on warm days, guests will be invited to take a seat on the terrace, where the scent of the pines hangs in the crisp mountain air. There are two seasonal menus that change daily, one Bhutanese and the other Western, and an Indian menu served one night a week. You’ll have the chance to try lean yak, a Bhutanese staple, alongside other regional specialities like Bumthang honey (yes, it really is called that).
There’s a lounge area above the restaurant with a table decked with spirits and wines (some of which are included in your rate). Musicians provide a soft soundtrack of traditional Bhutanese music.
The full menu is available during restaurant hours.
The lodge is in pine-studded Paro Valley, a 30-minute drive from Paro Town.
You’ll almost certainly be flying into Paro, Bhutan’s only international airport. Most people get there by flying to Delhi, Bangkok or Calcutta, then hopping on a Druk Air or Bhutan Airlines service. Once you’ve touched down, it’ll take about 30 minutes to drive from the airport to the lodge; return transfers are free through the hotel. Call the Smith24 team to arrange your flights.
Bhutan’s tourism laws make it essential to arrange your transport in advance, so it’s unlikely you’ll be doing any driving of your own. And if you were, you’d need to take into account that Bhutan’s roads are mountainous, winding and often flanked by steep drops, meaning they’re best tackled by locals.
Worth getting out of bed for
Clutching a cliff that soars over the Upper Paro Valley, the Tiger’s Nest Monastery (also known as Paro Taktsang) is easily the most famous building in the kingdom. Built in 1692, this precariously perched retreat stands 3200 metres above sea level, meaning its often veiled with swirling mists, something that only adds to its mythic character. Down on the valley floor, fortress-like Paro Dzong cuts an equally imposing figure, and for good reason: for hundreds of years, this was Bhutan’s bastion against Tibetan invaders from the north. One of the most regal examples of national architecture, the dzong contains 14 chapels and temples, is home to 200 monks and is covered in intricate woodwork painted red, gold and ochre. Once you’ve had your fill, head into the centre of Paro Town for a browse of the shops. It’s no Regent Street, but you’ll find stores selling the gho and kira (the men’s and women’s national dress), jewellers selling expensive silver amulets and shops whose sole trade comes from supplying monks with their religious garb.
Amankora essentially lets you link up four luxury Aman lodges to see the best of the Mountain Kingdom; Thimphu Lodge transports you to a pine-forested hinterland, Gangtey Lodge gets you to Goempa Monastery and Bumthang Lodge connects you to a network of Himalayan hiking valleys. Stay at one, stay at them all – the choice is yours...
All your meals are included, so there’s no reason to eat out. The kitchen will prepare a picnic for your treks and excursions, too.
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 Bhutan and unpacked their gho and kira (the national dress), 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 Paro Lodge in Paro…
For nearly everyone that visits Bhutan, Paro is where you leave the world of notifications and rush hour behind, stepping from the plane into an ancient and otherworldly kingdom. And from the moment you do so, you’ll feel a yearning to lift the veil on this mysterious land and immerse yourself in its age-old traditions. The question is, where best to do so? The answer lies up the valley, swathed in a Himalayan forest revered for its ability to calm and refocus the mind – which is the very feeling that Amankora Paro Lodge channels. Everywhere you turn, wood-framed windows look out over forest that’s often overlaid with low-lying cloud – a constant reminder that you’ve ascended far above the crowds. Inside, Aman have worked their signature magic by combining restrained modernism with design that’s unmistakably Bhutanese: tall lattice windows, soaring beams and shallow pitched roofs that echo the country’s farmhouses. But it’s not just about looking the part. At Paro Lodge, guests are encouraged to get beneath the skin of the Bhutanese lifestyle by hiking the mountains, meeting monks, sampling national delicacies, donning traditional dress and soaking in Khempa-herb hot stone baths, something the locals have been doing for centuries.