Combining aman, the Sanskrit-derived word for ‘peace’, and kora or ‘circular pilgrimage’ in Dzongkha, the Bhutanese language, Amankora, a luxury hotel in Bhutan, is a unique circuit of lodges set throughout the Kingdom of Bhutan’s central and western valleys. Descending from 7,000-meter peaks in the north to the low-lying plains of the south, Bhutan’s rivers have forged deep valleys separated by high mountain passes. Historically isolated, each valley’s scenic beauty and topography affords visitors an opportunity for unique journeys of discovery between them.
The Amankora Lodge in Paro is nestled among glistening conifers in a 24-suite pine forest retreat. Thirty minutes from Paro’s international airport, the lodge features a mix of rustic and contemporary design. Amankora Paro is situated 2,250 meters above sea level and on clear mornings will reveal an uninterrupted view onto Mount Jumolhari, the home of the Gods of the Kingdom in the clouds.
Bhutan’s historic isolation has everything to do with the inaccessibility of its location, lying in the Eastern Himalayas between India and Tibet. From a narrow southern plain at an altitude of 300 meters, Bhutan quickly rises through the Himalayan foothills (1,600 meters) to the valleys of Central and Western Bhutan (2,600 meters) and the mountain chains of the High Himalayas (4,000-5,000 meters). These run both east-west and north-south, and serve to separate one region and valley from the next. Valleys such as Paro (2,250 meters), Haa (2,700 meters), Thimphu (2,350 meters), Punakha (1,300 meters), Phobjikha (3,000 meters) and Bumthang (2,580 meters) therefore each have their own unique customs and traditions.
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Suites feature 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.
The 24 suites are similar in design, with a king-size bed, a traditional bukhari (wood-burning stove) and a large terrazzo-clad bath.
Things To Do
At an elevation of 2,250m (7,382ft), Paro Valley is the entry point for most journeys through the Kingdom. Paro Valley has a number of monasteries and monuments but none as dramatic as the 8th century Taktsang, or ‘Tiger’s Nest’. A highly revered monastery built on a sheer cliff face at a height of 2,950m (9,678ft); it is widely visible from the valley floor.
From Amankora Paro, a return hike to Tiger’s Nest is four hours in duration. While the hike up is challenging, horses, mules and donkeys are usually on hand to ease the journey. In an excursion to the town of Paro itself, the National Museum, previously the watchtower of the valley, displays an intriguing collection of artifacts that illustrate the rich culture and heritage of the Kingdom. A short stroll away is the dominating Paro Dzong, a prime example of Bhutanese architecture. From the dzong, a leisurely walk back into town crosses over one of Bhutan’s traditional cantilevered bridges and continues on to the 15th century Dumtse Lhakhang town temple with its altar and beautiful wall paintings.
Just on the outskirts of Paro town lie the twin temples of 7th century Kyichu Lhakhang. It was one of the first Buddhist temples built in the country. Paro Valley is also the starting point for many of Bhutan’s treks that range from the short four-day Druk Path crossing the mountains between Paro and Thimphu, to the challenging 21 - 42 day Snowman’s Trek that is often considered the world’s most difficult.