Get Happy: Bhutan’s Best Luxury Resorts
Wellness, culture and adventure come together at the kingdom’s most lavish lodgings.
Dubbed this year’s No 1 ‘wellness travel destination on the rise’ by travel specialists Virtuoso, the South Asian kingdom of Bhutan is attracting more and more attention not only from adventure seekers but also spa enthusiasts. And where better to indulge in a bit of both than in the country’s leading luxury resorts? Read on for our top five.
Bhutan’s first resort opened 16 years ago and now boasts five lodges across the central and western valleys. Each Kerry Hill Architects-designed sanctuary is unique, with traditional designs that blend into the remarkable Himalayan landscape.
Paro Lodge sits at an elevation of 2,250 metres with 24 suites, a glass-walled yoga studio, sauna and steam room. Thimphu Lodge is within reach of the capital with 16 suites, outdoor dining and archery facilities. Gangtey Lodge, in secluded Phobjikha Valley, has eight suites from which guests can visit a nearby monastery or relax in the library. Bumthang Lodge sits next to a palace in the town of Jakar, with 16 suites and various cultural activities, and Punakha Lodge incorporates a traditional Bhutanese farmhouse among its 12 suites.
Each lodge boasts its own Aman Spa, offering healing treatments using local herbs and inspired by Tibetan medicinal practices. Guests can also partake in forest bathing and prayer flag therapy as well as deeper spiritual experiences. Choose to stay in a single lodge or embark on a three-, seven- or 12-night journey that takes in all five lodges.
For more information visit aman.com/resorts/amankora
Bhutan Spirit Sanctuary
The kingdom’s only five-star, spa-inclusive hotel, Bhutan Spirit Sanctuary offers a variety of packages that include consultation with a traditional Bhutanese medicine doctor as well as excursions to cultural sites such as the famous Tiger’s Nest monastery and hikes through the pristine Neyphu Valley. Guests can enjoy a range of yoga and meditation classes, and access to saunas, steam rooms, herbal baths and an indoor heated pool.
The Sanctuary’s two in-house doctors offer herbal and hot oil compressions, moxibustion, Ku Nye massages and more. They can also design a complete programme to balance mind, body and spirit, and work closely with the Bhutanese executive chef on the daily menu of farm-to-table cuisine.
For more information visit bhutanspiritsanctuary.com
With two properties in the kingdom, Uma Paro and Uma Punakha, COMO offers intimate lodging alongside a variety of cultural experiences and outdoor adventures. Uma Paro features 20 rooms and nine private villas, plus seasonal dining at Bukhari restaurant and COMO Shambala’s signature well-being cuisine at Uma Bar. Wellness facilities include an indoor pool, yoga studio and two private Bhutanese hot stone bathhouses. For the full experience, try the six-night Himalayan Wellness Discovery combining yoga, meditation, daily massage and local excursions.
COMO Uma Punakha, located at a bend in the Mo Chu river in lush Punakha Valley, has just eight rooms, a single one-bedroom villa and one two-bedroom villa. It offers the same dining options as Uma Paro and a COMO Shambhala Retreat with Asian-inspired treatments as well as Ayurveda therapy. Guests can finish their day overlooking the valley with a hot stone bath and a signature massage.
For more information visit comohotels.com/en/bhutan
Dhensa Boutique Resorts
Also making its home in the lush Punakha Valley is Dhensa, with 24 suites spread across six cottages. The minimalist design and soothing colour palette add to the sense of peace and well-being at the resort, which is just a five-minute trek from Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang Nunnery.
Thick pine forests, paddy fields and miles of trails surround Dhensa, making it a great choice for active travellers. Guests can also enjoy cycling, river rafting and bird watching, and try their luck at a traditional Bhutanese dart game. Those looking for more leisurely activities can check into the Dhensa Spa for yoga, Asian-inspired treatments and an outdoor wood-fired bath.
For more information visit dhensa.com
Six Senses Bhutan
With four lodges and another opening soon, pioneering wellness brand Six Senses offers a wide range of options from a 645-square-foot suite to a 3,681-square-foot three-bedroom villa. Six Senses Thimphu is perched on a hillside overlooking the capital Thimpu with large outdoor ponds and an indulgent spa featuring a hot-stone bath and fitness centre. Six Senses Punakha is more rustic, with a pool, library, yoga and meditation huts.
Six Senses Paro, known as Stone Ruins, is arguably the most scenic of the lodges given the mix of villages, monuments and paddy fields in the Paro Valley. The newest of the bunch, Six Senses Gangtey is located in the Phobjikha Valley, which is famous for the black-necked cranes that arrive there from Tibet each October. Follow @asiaspa on Instagram for updates on Six Senses Bumthang, which is scheduled to open this spring.
For more information visit sixsenses.com/en/resorts/bhutan