Amankora has five lodges spread through the Kingdom and each lodge is a subtle suggestion of the white walled Dzongs. The Bhutanese architecture is very colorful and replicated in farmhouses, temples and local shops. Amankora has kept it clean and simple, why try to compete with the majesty of the Himalayas, the bedecked local homes and the elaborately painted Temples.Our pilgrimage begins with a Journey east into the booming metropolis of Thimphu.
Whether your interests are in seeing the traditional Bhutanese Buddhist sites – the splendid Dzongs and Monasteries, or simply hiking or walking every day on an array of relaxed or challenging trails, we will curate a bespoke Journey linking these amazing Amankora properties to ensure you make the most of your time in Bhutan.
Local activities include shopping and sightseeing in Bhutan’s capital and trekking into the region’s wilderness. Thimphu is home to many attractions including the National Textile Museum, Folk Heritage Museum and the bustling Changlingmethang Market.
Amankora uses local handmade paper at each property outlining the suggested activities. It includes hikes, spa treatments, unique activities at each property at Thimpu I was offered three pages of options of the Top Ten Suggestion including a Longevity Blessing (Tshewang Ceremony). Tshewang is a one-hour ritual performed by five to six monks to promote long life. It involves ample prayers, mantras and final blessings using Dorji (Thunderbolt) as well as sacred scriptures touched to the head.
This elaborate ceremony can be arranged in one of the monasteries in Thimphu valley. Meditation sessions. Hiking through Tokuenselphodrang, where wild boar and deer still roam and the flowers blossom with pride. It is an ideal place to go biking or for a leisurely walk. You will also be able to get a view of the tallest statue of Buddha in the world, a must-see sight in Thimphu, or play high altitude golf, situated at 7,700 ft. it is one of the highest golf course locations in the world. The altitude gives your strokes the extra mile as balls fly further in the thin mountain air.
Amankora Punakha – Traveling to Punakha through some of the Kingdom’s richest agricultural land and dramatic river valleys. Truly, if I had to pick, Punakha is one of my favorite properties, built around a charming traditional Bhutanese farmhouse, with tranquil views and stunning scenery. To begin, Amankora sets the stage with your arrival, crossing a dangling suspension bridge over the Mo Chhu river to reach the enchanting property. The lodge compound is arranged around a traditional Bhutanese white and hand-hewn wood beam farmhouse built as a residence by Her Majesty the Queen Mother to manage the surrounding rice fields and fruit orchards. This grand structure, featuring vegetable dye wall paintings, has several combined collective guest areas including the cozy ground floor dining room. The upper floors offer intimate casual reading areas and a traditional altar room for prayers or meditation. The tree covered courtyard of the farmhouse is used for alfresco dining in Punakha’s moderate climate. Adjacent to the courtyard is the intimate Tea Pavilion which was once the kitchen of the summer palace. The property feels ancient and authentic and one gains a true sense of Bhutanese farm life here.
Eight suites, located in three rammed-earth buildings, are surrounded by rice paddies and fruit plantations, and situated in an orange orchard with views across the fields to the Punakha Valley and beyond. The suites are cozy, featuring wood paneled interiors and a traditional wood burning bukhari stove. The four new Mo Chhu Suites are in a separate building and two feature separate living areas. The suites can be combined to offer two 2-bedroom units. Did I mention the swimming pool and the lovely courtyard of the communal dining space? Cows graze around the grounds, one in particular greeted me as I returned to my suite. I love the new suites, with sweeping views of the river below.
The Top Ten list of activities include morning yoga, cooking classes, rafting and kayaking and many day hikes some may take you to ancient temples. Visit Giligang, a 300-year old temple and a pleasing path to escape other travelers and see an authentic side to Bhutan. Needing a long 4-5-hour trek, add on a visit to the Khansum Yulley Namgyal Chorten and Butterfly Trail and the Giligang Temple, finishing up at Changyul Bridge.
Prayer Flag Hoisting at Chorten Nyeabu. A short and peaceful hike to this special 15th century temple to see the largest statue of Jowo Jampa– the Future Buddha, and Gum Shing– ‘the upside-down tree’ can be combined with hoisting of prayer flags and lunch on the temple’s scenic hilltop. Prayer flags are hoisted for happiness, long life, prosperity, luck and merit, to clear ones’ sins, and to offer karmic merit to all sentient beings. When the wind blows, it is believed that it carries the prayers on the flags, blessing all beings. Find the spot where you want to hoist your prayer flags, a local monk will accompany you to consecrate the hoisting. Chorten Nyeabu can be reached by a 40-minute car ride, or a combination of a 30-minute car ride and 30- minute walk uphill to the temple.
The Punakha Dzong is considered one of the most important and also one of the most beautiful Dzongs in the Kingdom. It was built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel in 1637 and was the seat of the government every winter until Thimphu was established as the permanent capital in 1955. It is still the winter residence of the Dratshang (Central Monastic Body). Take time to admire the impressive, colorful and detailed artistry of the surroundings, including huge statues of Buddha, Guru Rinpoche and Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, as well as paintings of one-thousand Buddha’s.
If you are feeling adventurous and looking for a little thrill, you can take a walk across one of the longest suspension bridges in Bhutan. A short walk from the Punakha Dzong the bridge is built over the Pho Chhu river.
Evening prayers at a Buddhist Monastery is something you should do at least once on a Journey of Bhutan. You will witness monks, young and old chanting traditional prayers, helping them prepare for meditation.
Every where you look in Bhutan, there is a celebration or religious event taking place, we happened on an enlightening experience several times a day. Amankora guides are aware of programs and celebrations in each community.