Our experience at AMAN Punakha, Bhutan
Penny Buckley finds relaxation and adventure in equal measure in Bhutan’s central valleys.
The Punakha Valley sits at 1,200 metres – it is the lowest of the five central valleys of Bhutan. Located there is one of the AMAN group’s five lodges, Amankora. The name is derived from AMAN, the Sanskrit for peace and kora, a Dzongka word used to describe a sacred circular pilgrimage. Although the Suite rooms at all of AMAN’s lodges are almost identical, each lodge is beautiful in its own way. They personify the distinct sophistication and simplicity, Adrian Zecha’s AMAN became known for.
For me, Amankora Punakha sits in total harmony with the valley and the experience of staying there, adds to one’s own experience of the beauty and spirituality of Bhutan.
The eight exclusive suites and spa are built around a central farmhouse and courtyard, which is at the heart of the hotel. The farmhouse itself was built in the 1950s and belonged to a former Je Khenpo, the Chief Abbot of Bhutan. Every window looks out to the valley and, the Mo Chhu River, which snakes its way through Punakha and makes this valley a great place for white water rafting and kayaking.
The Farmhouse still reflects many of its original features, but now contains Amankora’s dining room, offering a family style dining experience, with either Bhutanese or Western dishes for everyone to share. There is also a small tea pavilion, which was formally the kitchen of the farmhouse, and next to that, a spa and yoga pavilion.
Amankora recently completed its outdoor infinity pool, which lies at the lowest point of the property surrounded by farmland, which makes it a lovely spot to soak up the quintessential Bhutanese landscape. Punakha’s subtropical climate means that this is the perfect valley for it. This pool is one of very few in Bhutan and the fact that it is heated means that in the high season in Autumn and Spring, guests will still be able to swim, which makes this hotel even more special.
The suites have open-plan bedrooms and bathrooms, with huge tubs that occupy one half of the room. There isn’t a partition between the bathroom and bedroom, which may not be for everyone but the rooms are big enough that there is space and privacy. Each has all the amenities you could possibly need, but are in keeping with the almost monastic simplicity and feel of Amankora.
Punakha’s Himalayan mountain sides make it a fantastic place to explore the outdoors, from very gentle walks, to full day treks. Then there’s mountain biking, and jogging trails. What could be better than ending a day spent out in the wilderness with one of AMAN’s healing massages, followed by a swim and then a private BBQ dinner down by the river.