For years now, luxury hotel group Six Senses has impressed upon travelers the positive effects of adhering, honestly, to the values of the destinations they visit. This is undeniably evident in Bhutan, the mystifying, mountainous nation in South Asia, where Gross National Happiness factors into the daily lives of its population. Set high in the Eastern Himalayas, landlocked between India and China, Bhutan’s natural beauty and its mythological history appeal to many who dream of remote travel—but several roadblocks prevent rampant tourism. This has been to the benefit of the Buddhist nation. In building blockades, the Bhutanese have preserved their culture and lands for dedicated, respectful and patient visitors.
Perhaps the greatest barrier to entry in Bhutan is the visa and its myriad requirements. Anyone dreaming of a visit to the last great Himalayan Kingdom must partner with a tour operator, agree to daily spending requirements and fees (one of which is for sustainability initiatives), and then plan all of the trip in advance. For those who enjoy traveling on the fly or are susceptible to whims, the mandatory upfront itinerary Bhutan requires may seem daunting or restricting. And yet, with unmatched expertise, Six Senses prepared our visit, listened to our wants and wishes, carefully guided us past the barriers, and alleviated all concerns.
From booking the flights to directing our daily expenditure into an escrow account with the Bhutanese government, Six Senses handled each step and kept us informed of when and why it was happening. Of equal importance, with four properties dotted inside spectacular, diverse regions of the country—with a fifth scheduled to open in early 2020—they were able to weave together an itinerary that allowed us to see mountains, valleys, forests, rivers and people inhabiting it all. Each visit was punctuated with wellness activities, sightseeing, hikes and crafts. And those stops were determined through months of conversation with a concierge team that sought to ascertain our truest interests.
After landing in the Paro airport, we arrived to Six Senses Thimphu by night. Perched above the capital city, the lodge-style property includes only villas and suites for accommodation. Spacious, warm and comfortable, every room easily encourages relaxation and reflection—and includes a view of the city’s iconic Buddha statue in the distance. Wood and stone materials work with the land—and every attribute, accoutrements and inflection felt premium.
Direk Wongpanitkrit of Habita Architects, the firm tasked with all five properties, explains to us that “We learn the context of each site through its historical, traditional and physical context—which we normally glean from the vernacular architecture. We believe that the vernacular architecture represents the norm of each place in various dimensions. Since there is the Bhutanese regulation that we have to design ‘Bhutanese architecture,’ we had to understand their architectural language.”
He continues, “For each site, we tried to crystallize the idea into just one phrase for each place, then this would be the road map to proceed further. The ideas were from the context of each site. We came out with these themes