Lonely Planet Writer

These boutique lodges are opening in the happiest country in the world

Bhutan is often described as the happiest place on earth and this winter there’s even more reason to celebrate as Six Senses opens the first of its five boutique lodges in November. The network of lodges are spread across a range of lush landscapes and each one is designed with its own character and experiences that capture the unique spirit of the beguiling Himalayan kingdom.

The exterior of the Six Senses Punakha, located in the lush rice fields of Punakha. Image by Six Senses

Bhutan is at once magical and mysterious. It measures ‘success’ on the happiness of its people rather than Gross Domestic Product; you won’t find any international brands here such as Starbucks or McDonalds thanks to strict government regulations that protect local businesses; its capital Thimphu is one of only two capitals in the world with no traffic lights (the other is Pyongyang); and it’s one of the few countries in the world to have negative carbon emissions.

An exterior shot of Six Senses Thimphu. Image by Six Senses

Naturally, new accommodation here is of the sustaimnable variety and from November, Bhutan is set to welcome five new boutique luxury lodges from Six Senses resorts. The lodges are comprised of a total of 82 guest suites and villas distributed across its network of resorts in Thimphu, Punakha, Gangtey, Bumthang and Paro. The first and largest of the collection, Six Senses Thimphu, will open in the capital. Dubbed ‘Palace in the Sky’, the lodge is perched on a hill overlooking Thimphu Valley and the 170-foot-high statue of Buddha.

The open-air interior of Six Senses Punakha. Image by Six Senses

The second is Six Senses Punakha, located in the relatively low-lying valley of Punakha and surrounded by rice fields. Six Senses Gangtey is located in the quaint glacial valley of Phobjikha, where guests can watch black-necked cranes roam freely as the sacred birds take up residence in winter.

An exterior shot of Six Senses Bumthang. Image by Six Senses

Further east, you’ll find Six Senses Bumthang, located in an evergreen pine forest and close to some of Bhutan’s most beautiful monasteries. The fifth resort in the collection is Six Senses Paro. Dubbed ‘Stone Ruins, the lodge is located next to the ancient stone ruins of the imposing Paro Dzong (traditional fortress) and designed to look like one itself. The focus here is on wellness and each guest will receive their own bespoke wellness plan to follow during their stay.

General Manager Mark Swinton said, “there is so much to explore in this mystical Himalayan Kingdom, with its cultural, natural and spiritual beauty making a compelling choice. With the nation’s driving force being Gross National Happiness, the Kingdom has protected its identity while progressing with the world. Compassion is a way of life in Bhutan and it extends to the protection of nature and sustainability.

The plush Six Senses Gangtey suites. Image by Six Senses Bhutan

“Six Senses Bhutan shares these values and has become an integral part of the local fabric. Activities have been designed to showcase the best of Bhutan. The emphasis on experiences and service is brought alive by our GEMs (Guest Experience Makers) who act as guides and assist guests in every manner possible to create an authentic Bhutanese and true Six Senses experience.”

Guests can meditate at the prayer pavilion in the reflecting ponds overlooking Buddha in Thimphu Valley; hike up to Chorten Ningpo in Punakha; participate in local farm activities in Gangtey and enjoy their own private dinner in the 15th century stone ruins at Paro.

The main living room of a villa in Six Senses Paro. Image by Six Senses

The Thimphu, Paro and Punakha resorts will open in October 2018 with reservations now being accepted for stays starting on 3 November, 2018. Gangtey and Bumthang resorts open in early 2019. For more information, see here.