A quaint and intimate resort set in an old farmhouse along a lovely riverside, just outside Punakha.
The secret to travelling in Bhutan is to sit back and let your expectations be defied. Expect the unexpected in a country that believes in the middle-way philosophy to achieve happiness. Many decades ago, the King of Bhutan had impressed on the importance of Gross Domestic Happiness over the GDP, and the result is still visible for the traveller to experience at the Amankora Punakha lodge.
Not far at the confluence of Mo Chhu and Po Chhu is Punakha Dzong; strategically located in the centre to cover enemy approaches. We cross the suspension bridge on foot and are received by staff from Amankora Punakha lodge. The manager is there himself with a golf buggy to take us to the lodge which is not far. We prefer to walk, past paddy fields and smiling farmers.
Stay The Amankora lodge replicates the design of the Paro lodge but that is where the similarity ends. It was built by a former Chief Abbot of Bhutan as a residence to oversee the surrounding rice paddies and fruit orchards. The quaint, three-storey structure is now the combined common guest area. The Dining Room is situated on the ground floor, and the upper floors offer relaxation areas. The Courtyard of the farmhouse is suitable for outdoor dining and beyond is the two-storey Spa which provides a yoga/meditation room.
Eight Suites are located in three, rammed-earth buildings set in an orange orchard with views across the rice paddies and up Punakha Valley.
Dine As the morning sun hits the façade of the farmhouse, we eat breakfast outside on the courtyard. The light is beautiful and I can hear the birds and cicadas. Dining in Aman resorts is on demand. In most cases you have a suggested menu but the chef discusses with you what you like and the cuisine is tailored to your liking. There are no fixed timing and you can eat when you like and where you like.
Explore The day starts with rafting down the river, biking up the valley and then trekking down to the lodge. The good part is that we don’t have to worry about either cold or altitude. Punakha is as low as you can get in Bhutan.
Relax The Spa at Amankora Punakha emphasises on the spiritual path towards healing, with meditation and Reiki treatments. While the word is Japanese, the chakra system Indian and the therapists Bhutanese, the healing energy that flows through this treatment is universal. Additional healing with a range of massage therapies are also offered.
Flights to Bhutan are either from Bangkok or New Delhi. You will need to buy a return ticket before you can apply for a visa. We will arrange your flight tickets and visa clearance details and forward them to the Druk office at which the flight originates. All flights arrive at Paro.
From Paro it is a windy 3-4 hours’ drive past Thimphu to Punakha. Driving time from Thimphu is about 3 hours. Punakha lies east to the great Dochu La Pass and just north of the magnificent Punakha Dzong. Amankora Punakha lodge is accessed by a swinging bridge over the river Mo Chu that you cross on foot. Staff will meet you at the bridge and take you to the lodge on a golf buggy (additional cost).
Punakha Aman Villa Eight Suites are located in three, rammed-earth buildings set in an orange orchard with views across the rice paddies and up Punakha Valley.
Each Suite features a combined lounge and bedroom that is furnished with a king-size bed, banquette window-seat and reading chair. In one corner is the traditional bukhari, a wood-burning stove. Opening from the bedroom is the spacious bathroom which is dominated by a large terrazzo-clad bath, flanked on one side by twin vanities and hanging space, and on the other by a separate shower and toilet. Total: 8, Size: 52 sqm
Taxes and fees:
Check in & Check out
Experiences Samtengang Winter Trek: this three day low altitude cultural trek not exceeding an elevation of 8500 feet connects you to Wangdue District. The trek offers great scenic views of snowcapped mountains and pristine forest. There are various places for day hike, bird watching and trekking in Punakha.
Limbhukha: The track gradually climbs from the lodge towards Dompola Hills and in between during rests you will get some great views of the Punakha Dzong, the rivers and surrounding village. It takes about 2-3 hours to Limbhukha, known for its love of peace and tranquillity. The legend says that during the medieval wars the “limpus” or the people of Limbhukha always volunteered as peace negotiators. This is depicted during the yearly festival called “Serda” when the men are found carrying peace flags instead of swords and fireworks.
Astrology: In Bhutan, astrology plays a significant part in the everyday lives of the people. The learned lamas who understand these ancient diagrams, paintings or science are consulted by the locals for all major highlights in their life. Buddhist astrology is a mix of Indian and Chinese indigenous systems. For those interested in astrology can either study the huge Buddhist astrology painting in the Punakha Dzong or arrange to meet one of the learned lamas to understand it in more detail.
Archery: Almost every village has archery competition. Ask the concierge at your hotel and they will organise an archery lesson or allow you to participate in the local competition. You may have to wear the ‘Gho’, the traditional kilt like dress, dance and cheer like the locals.
Other Activities: Ask your hotel concierge to arrange any of the following activities: fishing, golf, white-water rafting and trekking.
What to See Punakha Dzong: Built in 1637, it was the seat of government when Punakha was the capital of Bhutan. The first king of Bhutan, Ugyen Wangchuck, was crowned here. Over the years it has been damaged by numerous fires, floods and earthquakes. Major renovation was carried out after the 1994 floods and it now one of the best Dzongs we recommend to see.
Fertility Temple: There are loads of thing to do, but we recommend the fertility temple called Chhime Lkahkang and the tales of the Divine Madman, who is popularly known as Drukpa Kuenley. He inherited the Divine Madman title since he revolted against the orthodox Buddhism because of his belief that religion is an inner feeling and it’s not necessary that one should be an ordained monk.
Every year hundreds of people from all corners of the Bhutan make pilgrimages to this ancient monastery, dedicated to fertility and founded by Drukpa Kuenley. They get blessed by a symbolic phallus which represents the sign of fertility.
Tipping Hotel and restaurant bills include service charges amounting to 20%. There is no need to add anything further to this. Tipping of your guide, driver and trek crew is a purely personal matter. The bottom line in determining whether or how much to tip is to ask yourself how much our representatives did to make your Bhutan travel experience more enjoyable.
Visa & Health British nationals require visa and this is generally arranged by our country agent in Bhutan. Individuals who are travelling to Bhutan from an endemic area will require yellow fever certificate. We recommend that you contact your doctor to check for any inoculations required.
When to go Winter in Bhutan is from mid-November till mid-March, and at this time of the year the climate is dry and sunny for the most part, temperatures peaking at around 15c. in the daytime and falling below zero at night. During the spring months of March, April and May, Bhutan offers warm days and cool nights. It is a great time for treks and to watch the flora and the many birds of Bhutan.
By the middle of June, clouds begin to build up for the monsoon that arrives in July. By mid-September the monsoon clouds have all but dried and the skies begin to clear. The two-month window between October and November offers clear skies but it can be cold in the night. It is also a good time for trekking deep into the Himalayas, sitting around a camp fire and seeing the high Himalayas in the morning and evening golden light.