Luxury Explorer Review

5-Star Hotel Review

Amankora Bumthang

Bhutan

Located in the spiritual nucleus of Bhutan

loading
Close
Special Offer
Close
Reserve via concierge
adults
+ -
check-in
nights
+ -
children
+ -
reserve book now

Amankora Bumthang
  • Reserve
  • Contact Concierge
  • Play Video
Amankora Bumthang

Location

Jakar, in the Choekhor Valley, Bumthang

Travel Information

The Amankora Journey is the best way to see Bhutan, and all travel is organised for you

Top Tips

You must visit the Kurje complex and its extraordinary temples

5-Star X-Factors

Understated luxury sensationally refined

Day 4 - 5 Blessings from Bumthang

This is a drive of a few more miles than one may think they may wish to tackle, but in fact, it is a few extra miles to an 'immeasurable' destination. By that I mean getting there feels like nothing compared with the reward of the experience once you've arrived. The drive, again, is speckled with surprises from the spiritual to the wonders of the elements, while time simply loses all relevance. Besides, Choki's flowing knowledge spills out over every valley, vale, pass, chorten, village, and monastery, and indeed, I believe, there is not a book that could enlighten you more than the journey itself.

Bumthang is only two hours from Trongsa, a sort of 'middle mark' of Western Bhutan, which boasts the longest dzong, dating back to the 15th century. It is here that we noticed several resident cockerels walking freely among the monks and dogs. Cockerels will bypass their fate in a dzong... the Cyprus trees here, also Bhutan's national tree, soar to heights that seem to defy their specie. Like so much of Bhutan's live-and-let-live style of nature it demonstrates a remarkable pulchritude together with an extraordinary determination. There are many scarlet-red rhododendrons on this journey during the spring, and year-round the acres and miles of wondrous ancient forest, prayer flags, waterfalls and unexpected members of exotic flora 'tropicana', never cease to dazzle the traveller.

Bumthang is the spiritual nucleus of Bhutan. Nowhere else has such an edifying wealth of auspicious monasteries and temples confined within such a small area. Much of your exploring, uncovering and discovering, can be done afoot from the Amankora lodge when you get here. Besides, some of the area's jewels are right beside you!

Bumthang, and the quaint village of Jakar in the Choekhor valley, where the lodge is situated, appear charmingly rural, and are bathed in a captivating allure, along with that ubiquitous feeling of 'peace' that cloaks the entire country. Rice, buckwheat, barley, wheat, and potatoes are the main crops here, as well as the rearing of yaks and cattle; there is even a dairy farm that produces delectable Swiss-style cheese. Orchards of fruit and almond trees bloom and blossom between farm dwellings, forests and monasteries, while dogs, ever present, lie around in order to soak up the sun's rays.

The Amankora lodge is quite staggering. It has a dramatic dzong quality, derived from its cathedral-sized proportions and exceptional vaulted stone-walkway that leads to the glorious suites. Dining is both inside and 'a la sensational terrace', which looks onto the First and Second Palace of Wangdichholing, now a residence for monks. By night a sunken tepee-shaped fire, surrounded by cushion-clad fitted-stone seating, roars beneath the dreamily unpolluted night sky. By day, the sounds of young monks chanting mantras, playing, laughing, praying and horn blowing, drifts around the lodge, together with the blissful melodies of songbirds along with the omnipresent caw of the raven. It is here, on this terrace, that you can soak up a meaningful slice of Bhutan's spiritual essence.

We visited two exceptionally profound and auspicious temples dating back centuries on the site of the Kurje complex. The first temple was built on the rock where Guru Rinpoche meditated, in 1652, while he was still Trongsa Penlop, before he became the third 'Desi' of Bhutan. On the lower sanctuary to this extraordinary temple there is a site with a cave of an imprint of Guru Rinpoche's head and body; a reminder of how long he meditated. In the next temple, built in 1900 by Ugyen Wangchuck, the 1st King, there stands the most awesome statue of Guru Rinpoche. This was built under the instruction of the great Nyinpmapa lama, and it is said that the Guru Rinpoche's image here would contribute to the stability and comfort of the whole country: so far, so good.

By the time you reach Bumthang, the complexities of Mahayana Buddhism are coming together a little more, and the four divisions namely, Ningmapa, Kajupa (the State religion), Galugpa and Sakyapa become recognisable through their individual iconic and elaborate interpretations. So too, does the understanding of the Past, Present and Future Buddhas, as well as the eight manifestations of the Guru Rinpoche and several of the deities. Lighting a butter lamp is also, by now, second nature, as is sipping a drop of 'holy' water from the palm of your hand, before brushing the remainder over your head. Without Choki and Sonam though, I don't believe we would have acquired this level of understanding. Their patience and genuine generosity of spirit is truly remarkable and our bond with them already felt life-long. This personal guide-driver-and-traveller relationship is unique to Amankora in Bhutan.

Another edifying and 'chance' experience for us while visiting Bumthang was at the Khodrakarchu monastery, which belongs to one of Bhutan's most revered trulkus, Namkhe Nyingp Rinpoche, a reincarnation of one of the Guru Rinpoche's disciples. On our day of good fortune, the Rinpoche was holding, together with hundreds of burgundy and red robed monks, a 24-hour 'blessing ceremony' in the golden-hued temple. While we sat on cushions near the back, in order to soak up the inspiriting ambiance, the monks recited their prayers from ancient-looking scripts on rice paper; chanted mantras; beat drums; blew the long telescopic looking horns, 'dhungs', and delivered their offerings. Before we departed we received a personal blessing from the Rinpoche.

Evenings at the lodge have a surreal quality to them and, after visiting the 'Burning Lake of Bumthang' before sunset, where it is said that the Pema Lingpa discovered the treasures of the Guru Rinpoche in the 15th century, we were ready for some 'song and dance' with our local 'tipple' around the blazing fire. While Choke plucked the strings of a lute-like hand painted wooden instrument called a 'dranyen', the sweetest treacle-tinged voices sung several 'folk' songs, some belonging to Bumthang and others to all of Bhutan.

Breakfast on the terrace is equally mesmerising and while we ate our organic muesli, fresh fruit and homespun yoghurt with a pot of expertly brewed coffee and freshly squeezed local orange juice; the young monks were scurrying between music and prayer lessons.

Magic and mystery, feast and fire, it all unfolds in Bumthang, and the newest Amankora lodge within the 'pilgrimage' has its understated luxury sensationally refined. That night, while Lu and I ate al fresco beside the comfort of the flames, beneath those dreamy stars, we looked across the way to the young monks, now in silhouette, practising a ritual dance before bedtime. With another wonderful spread before us, including our 'favourite' indigenous dishes, and a 'galactic massage' beneath our cashmere, we decided that the mileage was infinitesimal in comparison to the reward... and we would do it again, and again...

Sophie Marchant
Sophie Marchant