Combining aman, the Sanskrit-derived word for ‘peace’, and kora or ‘circular pilgrimage’ in Dzongkha, the Bhutanese language, Amankora is a unique circuit of five lodges set throughout the Kingdom of Bhutan’s central and western valleys. Descending from 7,000-meter peaks in the north to the low-lying plains of the south, Bhutan’s rivers have forged deep valleys separated by high mountain passes. Historically isolated, each valley’s scenic beauty and topography affords visitors an opportunity for unique journeys of discovery between them.

The sole surviving Himalayan Buddhist Kingdom, Bhutan is located between the Tibetan Plateau and India, making it one of the most remote and pristine environments on earth. Spread spectacularly throughout the Himalayas, the mountain range has been regarded for centuries by mystics, ascetics, scholars and philosophers, as the source of inner sanctity. To best experience all that Bhutan has to offer, Amankora will tailor journeys that include a combination of its lodges located in the valleys of Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Gangtey and Bumthang.

Luxurious spa facilities are available at all Amankora lodges and incorporate Bhutan’s physical healing traditions as well as its extensive pharmacology – all based on the use of plants and herbs. The goal of Amankora Spa is to deepen guests’ direct experience and appreciation of Bhutan’s unique natural and cultural resources. Through smell, touch, hearing, sight and taste, the Spa strives to capture a sensation which is wholly Bhutanese. The scent of the Spa is cedarwood, which is used as temple incense by the Tibetans and is employed in Bhutan’s traditional medical remedies for respiratory, skin and arthritic conditions, and as a circulatory stimulant and relaxant.

At an elevation of 2,250-meters, Paro Valley is the entry point for most journeys through the kingdom. Paro Valley has a number of monasteries and monuments but none as dramatic as the 8th century Taktsang, or ‘Tiger’s Nest’. A highly revered monastery built on a sheer cliff face at a dizzying height of 2,950-meters; it is widely visible from the valley floor. Situated in Balakha Village, 30-minutes from Paro International Airport, the 24-suite Amankora Paro contrasts rustic elements with contemporary design. Its architecture features natural rammed-earth walls, gently sloping roofs and wood-paneled interiors. Centered by a large flagstone courtyard, a lime-washed stone pavilion houses the living and dining room areas, library and outdoor terrace – all warmed by fireplaces.

After your 4-hour expedition to Tiger’s Nest, head to Amankora Paro Spa and treat yourself to a hot stone bath filled with local herbs. Follow with traditional therapies and remedies customized to overcome fatigued muscles or the effects of jet lag. Emphasizing a harmony with Bhutan’s pristine environment and Paro’s serene natural setting, the Spa’s relaxation and sauna rooms feature local timbers and glass walls filtering the light of the surrounding blue pine forest.

Situated within a short drive north of the impressive 17th-century Punakha Dzong and Puntsho Pelri Palace, Amankora Punakha is accessed by crossing a suspension bridge over the Mo Chhu (Mother River). With its temperate climate, Punakha Valley is the market garden of the country, where produce grows year round and many Bhutanese reside during the colder winter months. Close to Aman’s lodge, a beautiful morning hike takes you to the regal Khamsum Yuelley Namgyel Chorten which dominates the upper Punakha Valley with views across the Mo Chhu and up towards the mountainous peaks of Gasa and beyond. Adjacent to the resort’s courtyard, where outdoor dining is a must during the warmer months, a former kitchen that once served the summer palace has been restored into an inviting Tea Pavilion. The two-story Spa offers yoga and meditation on its upper level with open views of the surrounding rice paddies. Two private treatment rooms, a steam room and changing rooms occupy the serene lower level.

In the picturesque, but little-visited Phobjikha Valley near the village of Gangtey, the eight-suite Amankora Gangtey is set on a forested knoll with sweeping views of the broad valley and the 16th-century Gangtey Goemba (monastery). Featuring a cozy living area with family-style dining tables, floor-to-ceiling windows overlook the valley and surrounding mountains. The Spa is simple, yet glorious, with two massage treatment rooms on the lodge’s ground floor. Treatments focus on relieving tension by concentrating on joint flexibility and re-hydration through herbs and hot oil. Not only warming, a hot oil massage also includes specialized herbs known to relieve stiffness.

Adjacent to Wangdichholing, the first and second King of Bhutan’s palace, Amankora Bumthang lies within the town of Jakar in the Choekhor Valley in an area commonly known as Bumthang. Access to Amankora Bumthang passes alongside the former royal sports ground of Bhutan’s first two kings, a traditional and much-used archery area, and circles a stately peach tree. The lodge is surrounded by an apple orchard and features pear trees along its boundary with the Palace. The valley is known for its cottage industries, which produce the highly sought after Bumthang butter, Gouda and Emmenthal cheese, honey and a variety of intriguing fruit spirits and brandies. After a long drive, there’s no better place to unwind then the Spa’s steam room. The Spa also specializes in customized oil massages, which focus on specific areas of tension to provide overall relaxation.

A two-hour drive from Paro, Thimphu lies in a steep valley surrounded by richly forested mountains dotted with ancient monasteries and temples. The town is built up from the Thumphu River and is centered by the quaint Clock Tower. The Spa at Amankora Thimphu offers royal Bhutanese treatments using local herbs, given the close proximity of the Royal Palace. As Thimphu is an active place and site of much socializing, the focus of spa treatments is to provide a peaceful haven with the addition of a little glamour through herbal applications that will leave you feeling pampered, beautiful and regal.