By Gaurav Kashyap and Sid Sehgal
Bhutan has long had a reputation for mysticism – a tiny land-locked kingdom in the mountains tucked somewhere between India, Tibet, China, and Bangladesh. Limited flight options, a rumored “quota” for the number of tourists allowed per year, and a daily minimum-spend requirement contribute to the intrigue. In recent years, uber-luxury five star resorts have sprung up to cater to discerning travelers seeking to experience what this charming country has to offer.
From the drop point, around 2,200m, it was a 6-hour ascent to the Bumdrak peak at 4,900m – a personal best for this highly inexperienced mountaineer. Other than a spiritual pit stop at Paro Taktsang (aka Tiger’s Nest), the descent offered little relief. Weakened with a throbbing headache from the altitude sickness, I began to count the number of indulgences I was going to partake in once I got back to civilization. It was almost the end of a week-long visit to the Land of the Thunder Dragon that included temples, forts, markets, monuments, art, and hikes.
With sore feet in muddy boots, we arrived at Bhutan Spirit Sanctuary.
The structure is impressive – in typical Bhutanese fashion, it’s far from opulent – instead it’s wooden floors & columns radiate a connection to nature. The vast courtyard beyond the big red gate offers a peaceful and serene welcome. Crossing through the courtyard and via the transformation room you enter into the capacious lobby overlooking the Eutok Monastery. The massive floor to ceiling windows give a grand view of the monastery, flanked by mountain peaks shrouded in the clouds. You are immediately surrounded by a handful of cheery, smiling staff who welcome you, almost as if you are entering their home. The lobby sits in the main structure which also includes the main dining area, with an open kitchen concept, followed by wings to the right and left which house the guest rooms.
One level below the restaurant is the highlight of the sanctuary – the Wellness Center. Complete with a temperature controlled indoor swimming pool, consultation rooms, treatment rooms, and relaxation area. The center is run by a local resident doctor who specializes in traditional medicine practices.
The entry area of the Wellness Center was particularly impressive – the walls were lined with jars of medicinal herbs unique to Bhutan which were used in the treatments, which begin with a consultation that includes feeling the patient’s pulse to determine the patient’s physical and mental state of being. The Well-Being Team consists of two in-house traditional medicine doctors, as Bhutanese traditional medicine treatments are their speciality. Besides the two doctors the team consists of well-being therapist who do Ku Nye massages.
The guest rooms are spacious, modern, well-designed with earth tones and materials befitting the surroundings. All rooms share the same beautiful view of the surrounding mountains and valleys. The rooms each come with a generous walk-in closet and storage area for luggage, and the bathrooms offer separate bathtubs and showers as well as temperature controlled flooring. Our room came with floor to ceiling glass doors that lead out to a private terrace – complete with two seats and a small table – the perfect spot for a cup of tea or a bottle of wine.
A day of relaxation and serenity would not have been complete with an equally good meal. The Bhutan Spirit Sanctuary is an all-inclusive property where guests are treated to gourmet experiences curated by Bhutanese Chef Parash Chhetri. Every day is a surprise from the chef, taking into account any dietary requirements the guests might have. They offer 4-course lunches and 6-course dinners.
While we didn’t have the pleasure of meeting the chef, we did experience his wonderful work. I appreciated the fact that the Sanctuary was particularly sensitive to any special dietary requirements I had, and they were quite flexible in accommodating unique requests. The watermelon amuse bouche with beetroot carpaccio was the perfect foil to the viscose potato and leek soup. The seasonal salad with salsa was fresh and the mushroom ravioli presented with chicken broth was as appetizing as it looked! I ended up going for the braised beef with pumpkin and greens followed by a delightful cheesecake. Filled with flavors, I came to know from the chef’s team that all the spices and ingredients used in the dishes originated from Bhutan itself! The freshness of the produce, the artistic presentation, and the perfectly balanced flavors were well beyond expectation.
As I tucked into bed, feeling complete and rejuvenated, I reflected back on the day; and perhaps the one mistake I made in choosing the Bhutan Spirit Sanctuary was choosing to stay only one night. With so much on offer, it truly offers a unique lifestyle experience above all else. It is an escape from the rigor of daily life – a sanctuary to settle into for a few days to experience a unique spiritual process of rest & relaxation.
The Bhutan Spirit Sanctuary is the only 5-star property in Bhutan with a well-being inclusive concept, whereby the rates include all meals, snacks, drinks (excl. alcohol), wellness, and special activities (pottery, archery, Bhutanese darts, cooking class).
For more information, visit: https://bhutanspiritsanctuary.com/