I recently traveled to the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan. You can read my trip reports here:
- Review: landing at the world’s most dangerous airport
- Review: Six Senses Thimphu, Bhutan (today)
- Review: Six Senses Punakha, Bhutan
- Review: Six Senses Paro, Bhutan
- Review: Bhutan Airlines A319 Business Class from Paro to Delhi
Review: Six Senses Bhutan, Thimphu Lodge
- Location: Google maps
- Hotel website: Six Senses Bhutan, Thimphu Lodge
- Tip: get complimentary VIP perks when booking via Virtuoso
- Tip: book your Bhutan holiday with Druk Asia
Six Senses manages five individual lodges in five separate valleys in the colorful Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, which are all operated under the umbrella of one all-encompassing name: Six Senses Bhutan. Each location has been thoughtfully designed to fully immerse travelers into the local culture. The lodges, which vary in style, showcase the diversity and special character of each valley. From sunrise meditations and holistic spa treatments to private astrology readings and butter lamp lighting ceremonies to incredible hikes and treks through pristine forests, the aim is to leave enriched and reconnected. This is a review of the Six Senses lodge in Bhutan’s capital city, Thimphu.
Six Senses Bhutan features in my top 10 list of the best hotels in Bhutan.
Have you ever stayed at Six Senses Bhutan? If so, what was your experience? Leave a comment.
In this review (more info and photos below my Youtube clip & slideshow):
- Pros & things I like
- Cons & things to know
- My verdict
- Tips for future guests & save money
- Best time to visit
- How to get there
PROS & THINGS I LIKE
- Six Senses Thimphu sits 7,700 ft (2,200 m) up the mountainside, offering magnificent views of the surrounding Himalayan landscape and the shimmering lights of Thimphu in the valley below. In fact, Six Senses Thimphu calls itself the “Palace in the Sky” and is located opposite the mountain which is home to the world’s tallest seated Buddha (170 ft or 52 m tall). Six Senses Thimphu offers the best of both worlds, as it a tranquil retreat surrounded by apple orchards and pine forests, yet still within easy reach of the capital’s attractions. The lodge is a one hour drive from Bhutan’s only international airport at Paro.
- A beautifully designed welcome pavilion is located at the center of the expansive resort grounds. Inside, the light-filled, high-ceilinged pavilion houses a reception area, large lounge area, traditional bar, and the signature restaurant Namkha. There’s even an antique telescope though which you can observe the city and surroundings more in detail. Outside, the lobby building features a prayer pavilion and a large outdoor “sunken” terrace surrounded by a reflective water pond, which offers a lovely panoramic view. Here, guests can socialize around fire pits under a magical starlit sky, while traditional music is played at selected nights.
- Offering sweeping views though enormous windows, the lodge’s beautiful interiors are framed by subtle references to Bhutanese architecture, seen in the simple lines of the natural timber furniture and the presence of locally-inspired touches, such as bukharis (traditional wood-burning stoves) and vegetable-dyed, antique-washed Himalayan rug. Cultural items, handcrafted objects and intricate weavings are shown against a backdrop of wood paneling, whitewashing and natural stone. Old solid wood is repurposed into table and bench tops, while handcrafted rust-colored brick is used for structures.
- A short hike up the hill from the lobby are the lodge’s 25 suites and villas. During my visit, I stayed in one of the suites, which are all housed in five massive two-story pavilions. Designed in soft tones and simple lines, the open-plan suite featured a sitting area with a wood-burning stove, a spacious bedroom, and a bathroom equipped with rain shower, double vanity, and stand-alone tub. The expansive timber-framed windows and a large balcony provided awe-inspiring valley and mountain views. For even more space guests can opt to stay in one of the one- to three-bedroom villas, which all have private spas with traditional hot stone bathtubs.
- With wellness at its core, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Six Senses Thimpu offers extensive spa facilities, which are housed in a set of pavilions below the main lobby. The largest one across the five Six Senses Bhutan lodges, the hotel spa offers full-body massages but also Bhutanese healing practices such as the Hingsangsa Zoni bathing ritual, where you’ll be scrubbed clean with Himalayan salt and left to soak in a traditional Bhutanese hot stone bath. The spa also features a state-of-the-art gym, sauna, steam bath, mediation & yoga room, and a glorious glassed-in swimming pool (located in a stand-alone pavilion).
- Guests can choose to dine in the privacy of their suite or villa, or at Namkha, the lodge’s only restaurant. The latter is located adjacent to the lobby and means ‘sky’ in Dzongkha. The lodge’s chefs prepare delicious and healthy cuisine, always made with organic ingredients. There always a choice between Western, Asian and locally inspired dishes, such as Yaksha Kaam Phin (slow cooked Yak served with local cheese, glass noodles, coriander, and red chili), lamb Boti kebab (lamb rump with Bhutanese massala) and momos dumplings with a fiery ezay sauce. The superb à la carte breakfast is also served at Namkha and beautifully presented.
- Sustainability lives at the foundation of Six Senses Bhutan and is reflected through active management of energy, water, waste, purchasing and chemical usage. Bhutan keeps 60 percent of its land under forest cover, as mandated by its constitution. The four pillars of Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness (GNH) philosophy are: Sustainable Development, Environmental Protection, Cultural Preservation, and Good Governance, all of which are carefully woven into the operation of Six Senses Bhutan. From the use of glass bottles everywhere to focusing on seasonal, locally sourced produce from the kitchen gardens, the sustainability efforts do not go unnoticed.
- The lodge is operated by Six Senses, one of my favorite hotel brands in the world. After its launch in 1995 by Soneva CEO Sonu Shivdasani, Six Senses quickly became recognized as the hospitality industry’s pioneer of sustainable practices, demonstrating that eco-responsibility can be successfully wedded to uncompromised luxury. Six Senses resorts & spas are always located in some of the world’s most unique and beautiful places. Whether it be a Six Senses resort on a remote private island or a Six Senses Spa in an exciting urban setting, the touch-points are always decidedly the same. I have previously reviewed the following Six Senses properties:
- As you may expect from the Six Senses brand, the Thimphu lodge provides impeccable, world-class service. Similar to other Six Senses resorts, all guests are introduced to a Guest Experience Maker (GEM) at check-in, which is Six Senses’ smart terminology for a butler. The GEM looks after you during your entire Bhutan holiday (even as you move from one lodge to another one) and coordinates your needs and requirements with other Six Senses lodges, to ensure all your queries are handled to maximum satisfaction and that your experience is memorable.
- Six Senses Thimpu’s dramatic location makes for a spectacular introduction to the country as most Bhutan adventures begin here, in the country’s capital. Druk Yul, Bhutan’s official name, is known as the Land of the Dragon People. It is a stunningly beautiful country with a rich cultural heritage that has largely remained hidden until its recent emergence onto the world stage. Bhutan is a mystic land of fluttering prayer flags lining high ridges, beautiful monasteries perched precariously on sheer cliffs, and chanting red robed monks, all combining to give the aura of a long forgotten time.
- Six Senses Thimpu is just one of five intimate Six Senses lodges in the remote Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, and I highly recommend to combine a stay here with a stay at some of the other Six Senses lodges to immerse yourself in Bhutan’s spirituality, heritage and hospitality. As you journey through the vertiginous scenery of the western and central valleys, you will find meaningful and uplifting experiences at every turn. Each lodge has a unique character and all embrace the Six Senses guiding principles, which include a spa and wellness center, mindful eating, sleep and self-discovery.
CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
Six Senses Bhutan Thimpu is a luxurious retreat, offering fabulous views, a serene ambiance, spacious accommodations, world-class service, delicious food and extensive wellness facilities. There’s little to say against the resort, except for the following:
- The resort grounds are hilly, which – combined with the high altitude and thin air – can be a challenge for some guests. However, there’s nothing to worry about: it’s a pure delight to explore the hilly resort grounds by foot, and if you don’t want to walk, the lodge also provides complimentary golf cart service between the suites, villas and main facilities.
- Payments for accommodations can be pre-paid by credit card. However, visa fees and taxes need to be paid by wire as required by Bhutan government authorities. Once you have made the payment for visa and taxes, you must send the lodge a copy of the bank remittance slip, as it is required by the local banks in Bhutan to confirm a transaction. In my case, I had to transfer the payment to an account with a standard charted bank in New York and the entire verification process took 7 days (the lodge provides all the information you need for the wire transfer).
- During my visit (shortly after the lodge’s official opening), the landscaping was not finished, and as a result, the resort grounds looked sandy, barren and a bit unattractive. That said, I learned that the vegetation has matured since my stay (due to the past monsoon season), so the resort grounds should be lush and green on any future visit.
- Lunch is served à la carte, with a choice of several delicious starters, main courses, and desserts. Unfortunately, lunch is charged at a fixed price, so even if you order just a salad or burger, you will be charged for a full-three course lunch. IMHO, it would be necessary that the restaurant staff mentions this policy upfront before guests order their first lunch (which was not the case during my visit) and it would be much better if the lodge charges per ordered dish (since not every one feels like having a three course meal at lunch).
- Bhutan is one of the world’s most expensive countries for travelers. Bhutanese government mandates that tourists spend a minimum of $200 USD (in low season) or $250 USD (in high season) per person per day. This amount includes accommodations, meals, transportation, and other activities, but excludes visa costs ($40 USD per person), a sustainable development fee ($65 USD per person per day) and FIT (foreign independent travelers) surcharge (US$ 40 per day for one person and US$ 30 per person per day for a group of two people). The reason behind this strictly controlled and expensive tourism policy is that Bhutan wants to protect its natural resources and authentic culture, and ensure that travelers don’t overwhelm the country.
- Location: 9/10
- Design: 9/10
- Pool: 9/10
- Rooms: 9/10
- Food: 9/10
- Breakfast: 9/10
- Spa: 9/10
- Service: 9/10
- Value for money: 9/10
- Overall experience: exceptional 9/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
- Save money: get complimentary VIP perks at Six Senses Bhutan when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. room upgrade, daily breakfast, early check-in, late check-out, and one complimentary 60 min massage for two).
- Travel tip: most visitors need a visa to enter Bhutan. In order to get a visa, you must book a tour with a licensed tour operator. A visa costs $40 USD and visa clearance must be obtained in advance. Six Senses Bhutan will take care of arranging your visa (and I found it to be a straightforward process).
- Travel tip: book your Bhutan holiday with Druk Asia. Druk Asia is an inbound Bhutan Travel Specialist based in the kingdom of Bhutan and managed by a committed and dedicated team of professionals. Druk Asia is also the official sales agency for Royal Bhutan Airlines (Drukair).
- Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
October to December is the ideal time to visit Bhutan as the air is clear and fresh with sunny skies. January and February are colder, but from then until April the climate remains dry and pleasant (although often cloudy) and in late spring the famous rhododendrons bloom spectacularly, flooding Bhutan’s valleys with color. Heat and humidity increase from May, and from June to September the monsoon rains cover the mountains and travel to Bhutan is best avoided during that time.
HOW TO GET THERE
Six Senses Thimphu is a one hour drive from Paro Airport, Bhutan’s only international airport. Only two airlines – Drukair and Bhutan Airlines – fly into Paro, and tickets can be reserved online, with flights usually routing via Bangkok, New Delhi, Singapore, and Kathmandu. Weather can delay flights for days at a time, so it’s important to have your itinerary designed with a few days in your stopover city and (if possible) to fly on an unrestricted ticket.