Travel Looking Forward

Over the next few weeks we will focus on inspiring escapes, four weeks of enticing travel encouragement. One of my most favorite Journeys was to the Maldives and despite the long trek, you will want to stay longer than planned! An overnight or two in Dubai to break up the travel, and off you go to the most gorgeous water in the world!

Four Seasons Kudaa Huraa, Maldives

If 2021 offers anticipation of escape, this is a time to dream, to explore and to savor the richness of international culture. Many of my most beloved Journeys over the last few years beckon me back for more. Life as we know it, slammed shut like an empty suitcase and the world is still far from normal. With the roll out of the Covid19 vaccine and super sanitizing procedures practiced by hotels and planes, it feels travel to distant lands will take off again. Travelers armed with Purell, wipes, masks, passports and packed bags will be ready to explore and create memories. The common cry: I can’t wait to escape, to return to favored hotels, yachts, islands and places I’ve always wanted to visit. Ostensibly, we will lose at least a year of tantalizing travel.

Are you ready to design inspiring Journeys? A few locations come to mind. We have adventure experts on hand as well if you need adrenaline based escapes! Private options may be the answer when you choose to fly, stay or sail next.

Maldives. It may sound exaggerated, but it is true: there aren’t enough superlatives to fully and accurately describe the staggering natural beauty of the Maldives. From the air, nothing prepared me for the extraordinary glimpse of the turquoise seas, the oval halo of atolls and islands, in the middle of the vast Indian Ocean, crystal clear seas in a thousand shades of indigo, accented by white sugar sandy beaches…it is breathtaking! The wonder of the Maldives is awe inspiring; nothing prepares you for the beauty.

The Maldives

Underwater experiences in warm gin clear sapphire waters – dive or snorkel, float with manta rays and swim with curious turtles! The Four Seasons Maldives properties offer the highest level of luxury, it’s time to begin plotting your 2021 summer and fall escapes!  Consisting of two hotel properties, Kuda Huraa and Landaa Giraaavru, I love both for various reasons, and if you need an exclusive Private Island amid the indigo seas, the Four Seasons also has a scrumptious private island home, Voavah. Oh and to top it off, a private yacht to follow the surf and the manta rays! The utmost pinnacle of experiences.

Stand alone bungalows and over water bungalows – mere feet from the sea, I loved both. Bike along palm lined baths to the spa or to your sunrise yoga. I filled my dance card with two weeks of activities and could have stayed longer! SUP, extraordinary surfing, fishing, SUP Yoga, yes I managed to do downward dog on a board and lived to share my experience! The overwater spa experience is lovely at sunset and at Landaa, the focus is on spa healing with the four pillars of Ayurveda, Yoga Therapy, Wellness and Planetary Wellbeing – it includes a multi award-winning team of Ayurvedic Doctors, Naturopaths and Yoga Therapists – discover individual and shared experiences designed to cultivate care for ourselves, others, the oceans and the entire planet. We could all use a week of healing after this dreadful year!

The Four Seasons Maldives

A heavenly hideaway, a sublime sanctuary offering the utmost in privacy and iconic Four Seasons pampering at the world’s first exclusive use UNESCO hideaway, Voavah. A seven-bedroom private island Maldives home, the sojourn includes a 62-foot luxury yacht: Voavah Summer and a marine territory that’s utterly your own! The private island is a welcome addition to the two luxurious Four Seasons Resorts in the Maldives. Idyllic Island experience, the days fly by and I would encourage you to add more time rather than less…paradise is far flung, but worth the Journey! Four Seasons Maldives one of many reports! Our Preferred Partner status benefits our clients.

The Four Seasons Maldives Suite Views

Bhutan. Bhutan has been ranked number one in the world for Gross National Happiness, we could all use a massive dose of Bhutanese infectious energy!  My visit with Aman Resorts to the Kingdom of Happiness was nothing short of extraordinary. Brilliant blue skies at dizzying altitudes in the ancient Kingdom of Bhutan, we explored the Amankora Resorts village by village with the most extraordinary guides. Renew your spirits and cast good wishes across the Himalayan mountain peaks via vibrant fluttering prayer flags. 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? Make a pilgrimage between Bhutan’s Amankora Lodges —it’s not only their unique locations, their distinct architecture and amazing guides, it’s a combination of the authentic inspired lodges, the genuine cultural offerings at each location and the warm Bhutanese people that make a trip to Bhutan so memorable. The Bhutanese people are particularly quick to laugh, share their culture and welcome visitors. Bhutan has been ranked number one in the world for Gross National Happiness. Hiking, cultural and religious ceremonies, ancient paper crafts, my two weeks could have been extended – every day we encountered indigenous dances, performances and traditional ceremonies.  See my exuberant posts on Bhutan. We would make certain our brilliant favorite guide would accompany you everywhere.

Bhutan Buddha Dordenma Statue

Blessings in the New Year!

 

 

Amankora Bhutan 2 by 2

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.

Amankora Thimphu, 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.

 Jungshi Handmade Paper Factory in Thimphu, Bhutan
Thimphu National Textile Museum, Bhutan

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.

Charming architecture includes the one ‘traffic signal’ policeman booth in downtown Thimphu, Bhutan

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.

Amankora Punakha, Bhutan

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.

Amankora Punakha archery range with view of snow capped Himalayas!

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.

The call to evening dance and song Amankora Punakha Bhutan

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.

Along the way – fluttering prayer flags sending prayers through the skies, Bhutan


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.

Dzong

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.