Why we love Six Senses Bhutan + who it’s right for
The kingdom of Bhutan is one of the most remote nations on earth, cloaked in mystery and intrigue. Living in relative isolation from the rest of the world until the mid-20th century, the country has kept its extensive heritage intact, even through its modernisation over the last half century.
From atmospheric guest houses and farm stays to incredible five-star lodges, this mystical mountain kingdom has a wide range of places to stay. All make excellent bases from which to explore the main valleys and further afield – but which is best for you? Our insider knowledge enables us to make the best choices for you to ensure you have the trip of a lifetime.
Until recently, Gangtey Lodge and Amankora‘s five properties – built between 2004 and 2007 – have been the country’s only real luxury options across the kingdom, but this has all changed with the arrival of the much-anticipated Six Senses.
Spanning the western and central valleys, Six Senses has lodges in Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Gangtey and Bumthang. I was lucky enough to be one of the first guests to stay at the Paro, Thimphu and Punakha properties. Gangtey and Bumthang are due to open later this year. Each one is perched high, with dramatic views of the rice fields, dzongs draped in prayer flags and yaks dotting the scenery for as far as the eye can see.
Arriving at Six Senses Thimphu, known as ‘the Palace in the Sky’, is the best welcome to this mystical mountain kingdom. I was completely overwhelmed by the views from the glass entrance hall, where you immediately have a sense of being on the roof of the world. We were greeted with local apple juice and shown to our suites, which were very chic, with natural colours and tones, blending in seamlessly with the surrounding environment. Massive bathtubs in the windows gave us panoramic views of downtown Thimphu twinkling hundreds of metres below. From my room, I could even catch a glimpse of the giant golden Buddha in the distance. Perched away in a peaceful corner of the valley, we felt miles away from the hustle and bustle of city life, but close enough to dip in and out for some sightseeing and shopping, which would offer our clients the best of both worlds.
A couple of hours’ drive east, we arrived at Six Senses Punakha, which has been named ‘the Flying Farmhouse’. My first impression was how much this place replicates the feel of a rural farmhouse, symbolising the position of the Punakha Valley as the ‘farm’ of the kingdom, where fresh produce grow and flourish year-round in this warm and lush landscape. The lodge’s aesthetic was inspired by the iconic bridges all over the country, designed to feel as if it were suspended above the verdant green paddies.
Trekking in Bhutan is fantastic, allowing you to experience the country’s breathtaking mountain wilderness. Some of the best trails are in the beautiful Punakha Valley. We went on a wonderful hike here, snaking across the lowland with views back towards the lodge across the river. When we reached a particularly scenic spot, the most incredible surprise picnic awaited us, using eco-wood utensils and with items wrapped in banana leaves. After finishing our lovely lunch, we continued along the trail, amazed at the bright-green colour of this valley, and eventually arrived at an opening in the river, overlooking the Punakha Dzong. As we sat gazing at this incredible monastery, learning about its prominence here, we enjoyed the most delicious pomegranate cocktails. This was a memorable experience that we would definitely set up for our clients.
At the end of our journey through Bhutan, we arrived at our final stop, Six Senses Paro, affectionately called ‘Stone Ruins’. Nestled among pine trees and apple orchards, and overlooking the whole Paro Valley, the location is spectacular. My suite was so comfortable, with sweeping views and enormous windows so you can peer over all the villages, paddy fields and temples dotted below.
After a day hiking up to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery, something we strongly recommend in Bhutan, we enjoyed relaxing foot massages and fresh ginger tea in the huge, quintessentially Six Senses spa, which is a good example of how the country as a whole has become a fabulous wellness destination.
When the time came for us to leave Paro, we were led up to a small temple above the lodge and met by some monks who gave us blessings of health and prosperity for our onward journey. Bhutan is a very spiritual country and we can arrange many experiences similar to this, such as spending a night in a monastery and joining monks in morning prayer or sharing milk tea with a head lama. These special encounters will make your journey in Bhutan even more extraordinary.
Six Senses’ collection of lodges has been a wonderful addition to Bhutan’s luxury hotel scene. We would certainly suggest these retreats to spa lovers and those looking for a truly spoiling experience in this magical destination.