By Dian Hasan | August 12, 2009
Amanresorts are nothing if not exclusive; relatively modest in size, if not in the scope of their comforts, they’re priced well out of the reach of the undiscerning traveler, and situated in locations that are highly desirable, yet less than obvious.
Aman’s expansion into the rarefied air of this tiny mountain kingdom, with its sumptuous Amankora, fits the pattern to a tee — Bhutan strictly limits the number of visitors admitted, and has taken great pains to avoid the everyman-backpacker fate that has befallen nearby Nepal, and to protect at all costs the pristine natural environment and ancient Bhutanese culture.
Instead of a single hotel complex, Amankora is a slight departure. It’s a series of lodges, five at last count, spread across the valleys of central and western Bhutan — with locations near the towns of Paro and in the capital Thimphu, and the even more remote locales of Punakha, Gangtey and Bumthang.
A tour of all five lodges can be arranged, but no single one stands out; each offers seclusion, spectacular views and a tranquil atmosphere, with interiors in the spare Eastern-contemporary Aman style and the same traditional Bhhutanese rammed-earth architecture. Accommodations are slightly more Spartan than the typical Aman resort — televisions and room service are notable in their absence — but the suites compensate with such charms as wood-burning stoves, palatial beds and luxurious terrazzo baths. Spa treatments are available at all the lodges, and all five are ideal home bases for a guided mountain trek or a jeep excursion.
One caveat: plan ahead regarding visa requirements. Bhutan’s quota system makes entry a bit complicated. Amanresorts recommends traveling via Bangkok, where their staff can sort out the visa details, eliminating any inconvenient surprises on the ground at Paro.