Overlooking a wide valley bounded by the Black Mountains, luxury hotel Gangtey Lodge, Bhutan,will vanquish worldly worries at the door, leaving you free to ascend into a serene, Himalayan-framed existence. Designed in harmony with the local village and its 17th-century monastery, the lodge looks like a traditional (albeit rather grand) farmhouse, showcasing ornate woodwork, Bhutanese-style pitched roofs and arched window frames. On the inside, national styles are mingled with international luxuries like Swedish log-burning stoves and English roll-top baths, ensuring a toasty viewing platform even when a winter mist rolls through the valley. Oh, and about that view: there’s so much space and light that even the busiest minds will soon feel unpacked, slipping into the pace of a country that still manages to defy the stress of the modern world.
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An in-suite bath experience; GoldSmiths get a cocktail each, too
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from £486.92 ($600), including tax at 20 per cent.
Rates usually include daily á la carte breakfast, lunch and dinner; mountain biking; archery; meditation classes; and laundry.
There are no TVs at the hotel, which fits perfectly with the atmosphere – one in which guests are encouraged to disconnect from the stressful everyday and embrace the mountain lifestyle.
At the hotel
Mountainous grounds; spa with a traditional Bhutanese hot stone bath; lounge; library; free WiFi throughout; laundry. In rooms: iPod dock; tea- and coffee-making kit; underfloor heating; free bottled water; Thann toiletries.
Our favourite rooms
All 12 suites are the same size and style, but we’d ask for one on the first floor for a loftier outlook.
A simple building of timber and stone, the bath house could be mistaken for a small farmer’s hut were it not for the large plate-glass windows set into the side, affording bathers a view that only increases the bath’s peace-bringing powers. Built in the traditional Bhutanese style, the wooden tub (which fits two) is filled with mineral-rich water and heated with stones drawn from the roaring fire outside. Drawing on Ayurvedic traditions and ancient Tibetan medicine, this bathing ritual puts you in contact with the oldest of Bhutanese culture, dating back as far the 7th century. A variety of massages and other treatments are also available at the hut or in the the comfort of your own suite.
Up here, we’ll wager that any thought of fashion will soon fade into the mountain air. Instead, pack with an eye on the climate, opting for things that are warm and comfy.
All of the common areas are wheelchair accessible; there’s a single step to get onto the terrace, but staff are always on hand to assist. There are no specially adapted bedrooms, but there are three on the ground floor.
The lodge is very eco friendly, designed to have minimal impact on the surrounding landscape. Local, recycled and eco-friendly materials were used in construction, the building is designed for maximum energy efficiency, wastewater is recycled and food waste is composted.
Providing it’s not too fresh outside, you can’t beat one of the tables on the terrace.
Mirror the Bhutanese, who are well turned-out but not showy. Guests are also encouraged to try out the national dress.
Sharing the same impressive room as the lounge, the restaurant has a hand-cut flagstone floor; a pitched ceiling criss-crossed with beams; and elegant furniture fashioned from dark wood, supple leather and locally-made fabrics. It’s the valley-spanning view that steals the show, however, on show in grand proportions thanks to the floor-to-ceiling windows running the entire length of the room. Two stone fireplaces keep the place toasty on cold nights, generating enough heat that even the terrace feels the warmth. There are two menus, one a set Bhutanese menu showcasing various national dishes, and another with more modern fusion cuisine.
There’s no bar as such, just a wine menu and a table of spirits set up in the lounge.
The restaurant opens for breakfast at 5.30am and stays open all the way through to midnight.
You can order anything on the menu while the restaurant is open.
The hotel sits in mountain-flanked Gangtey Valley, home to an important 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.
All visitors to Bhutan need to arrange transport with a tour operator, 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 often tight, winding and flanked by steep drops, meaning they’re best tackled by local drivers.
Helicopter transfers are possible.
Worth getting out of bed for
Dating from the early 17th century, Gangteng Monastery is an important outpost for Nyingma Buddhism, the oldest of all the Tibetan schools. From the hotel, you can reach it in five minutes, but it’s well worth heading there first thing to hear the monks – up to 200 at times – chanting the morning prayers. If the Lama is in, the hotel can arrange for a meditation session (you couldn’t really hope for a more qualified guide). Aside from its monastery, Gangtey is also famous for an esteemed winter resident: the black-necked crane, an endangered species whose arrival is celebrated with a festival, held at the monastery on 11 November each year. For the chance to spy on the rare birds through powerful binoculars, head to the Crane Information Centre, which sits by the edge of the forest. With mountainous terrain on all sides, the hotel can also arrange nature walks, hikes and mountain biking for all abilities. Archery is Bhutan’s national sport, and the hotel regularly hold lessons in the grounds with an adept instructor. If you’re looking to kill some time before dinner, go for a stroll around Gangtey Village, where you’ll get a glimpse of what everyday life looks like in rural Bhutan.
There are no restaurants for many miles, but we’re confident that you won’t feel the need to go looking once you’ve tried the food at the hotel.
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 hotel in Bhutan and unpacked their Ihazo paintings, a full account of their break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Gangtey Lodge in Gangtey…
Some hotels have the ability to relax muscles and lighten minds the moment you cross the threshold… and then there’s Gangtey Lodge, which gives you that feeling before you’ve even driven up the path from the valley floor. That’s because Gangtey valley (or Phobjikha, as its known formally) is a wide hollow of lush meadows and farmland, lined on one side by the forested foothills of the Black Mountains (which are actually a deep, mossy green). At the centre of it all is the hilltop village, an unspoiled rural settlement crowned by a 17th-century monastery. In other words, it isn’t that Gangtey is just serene in looks, it’s a place where the art of peace has been practiced for hundreds of years.
The hotel is in communion with all of this: with its high ceiling and red columns, the glass-walled lounge has a touch of the monastery about it. In the rooms, the baths set up by valley-facing windows promise what could be the most meditative soak you’ve ever had. A range of outdoor activities allows guests to experience the surrounding area and its culture: trekking in the wooded hills, biking through the valley or meditating at the monastery – with none other than the Lama as your guide. The experience is so immersive that some guests choose to go all the way, shaking off their western trappings in favour of a gho or kira (the men’s and women’s national dress). Whether or not you choose to do the same, we’ll wager that by the time you get to the door, you’ll be halfway to becoming a Gangtey convert, too.