Six of the best in Bhutan lodgings

BELINDA JACKSON
Last updated 11:26 23/09/2013
Bhutan Landscape

ZHIWA LING HOTEL: The country's first Bhutanese-owned five-star hotel is built from local stone.

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ZHIWA LING RESORT, PARO

The country's first Bhutanese-owned five-star hotel is built from local stone. It's a colourful showcase of Bhutanese artwork, knotted rugs and hand-made furnishings.

Its 45 suites are near the Taktsang (Tiger's Nest) Monastery, and a lookout to the sacred Jomolhari mountain.

From US$184 ($219.5) a person a night plus the daily tariff of US$277 (4330.4) a person, including all meals. See zhiwaling.com.

Note that the government of Bhutan requires foreign visitors to pay a daily tourist tariff, which varies according to group size.

The tariff covers meals and three-star accommodation, extra for luxury hotels. The tariff, based on two people travelling, costs US$277 ($330/4) a person a night, through Bhutan & Beyond. See bhutan.com.au.

AMANKORA RESORT, PUNAKHA VALLEY

Walk across a chain-metal bridge over a glacial river and you'll come to a traditional Bhutanese farmhouse that is the centrepiece of Amankora's eight-room luxury lodge.

The rooms are classic Kerry Hill designs: warm timbers, hero baths and big picture windows overlooking the orchards and rice terraces of Bhutan's royal family.

This is the smallest of Aman's five Bhutanese lodges, 10 minutes from the Punakha Dzong, one of the country's most photogenic fort-monasteries. From US$900 ($1073) a person a night, plus the daily tariff of US$277, including all meals, beverages and laundry. See amanresorts.com.

GANGTEY GOENPA LODGE, GANGTEY VALLEY

Bhutan's newest luxury lodge is perched above the 16th-century goempa (monastery) from which it takes its name. The Gangtey valley spills out through the picture windows, a rich curve of farmland hemmed in by the Himalayas.

The 12-room lodge had its soft opening in June and is a short walk from the important Gangtey monastery and its beautiful village.

The monastery holds a large tsechu (religious festival) each September-October.

The Gangtey Nature Trail (1½ hours) is an easy amble through spectacular countryside. From US$273 ($325.7) a person a night, plus the daily tariff of US$277 a person, including breakfast. See easternsafaris.com.

GANGTEY FARMSTAY, GANGTEY VALLEY

Potato farmers Nangay Pem and her husband Phob Gaytshey got electricity only 18 months ago in their two-storey traditional farmhouse.

There are four guest bedrooms and an altar room upstairs, while the family lives on the ground floor. Join the family for dinner in the kitchen, seated on the floor around the bukhari (wood stove).

The couple's daughter, Sonam Wangmo, speaks good English, but you don't need a guide to translate how to play archery or to watch Phob Gaytshey, a lay monk, performing his morning prayers.

It's polite to bring a small gift: perhaps kids' books or a bag of groceries. Included in the daily tariff of US$277 a person.

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HOTEL PHUNTSHO PELRI, THIMPHU

Set off the main street of Thimphu, Bhutan's capital, it seems as though everyone in town is staying at this well-run, three-star hotel. Snag a corner room for warm sun and views up to the hills behind the city.

There's a great little salon at the entrance, good for soothing pedicures using local herbs, and a Thai restaurant is coming, thanks to an influx of Thai tourists. Meals are buffet-style Bhutanese food and its Turkish spa soothes weary hikers' bones.

Nearby, Cousins restaurant specialises in excellent momos (steamed dumplings). Included in the daily tariff of US$277 a person.

HOTEL YUOLOKE, GANGTEY VALLEY

With raked ceilings and more timber than a pine forest, this three-star hotel serves good local food, including the classic red rice and ema datse (sliced chilli with white cheese).

Set in front of its flashier sister, Dewachen Hotel, it overlooks the valley, which is a haven for endangered black-necked cranes seen in winter here from October to March.

Out of season, the nearby Crane Information Centre will get you up to speed on the revered birds, which are celebrated with a festival every November. Included in the daily tariff of $US277 a person.

The writer was a guest of Bhutan & Beyond, bhutan.com.

- FFX Aus

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