“In this latest article series, we at Blue Sky Escapes have cherry-picked a collection of superlative accommodations and outstanding experiences to help guide you in crafting your perfect escape in our destinations. Here is where luxury meets the experiential in perfect harmony. Where your lodging blends seamlessly into the scenery, and the experiences you take away are keepsakes of the history, people and culture you’ve come to appreciate. First up: Nepal, Mongolia and Bhutan.”
– By Paulyn T and Loretta T
Dwarika’s Resort Dhulikhel
One of the most singular hotels we’ve ever come across, Dwarika’s Resort is a true embodiment of what it means to experience the highest level of traditional Nepali hospitality within the architectural, grand walls inspired by Newari royal palaces. Everywhere you look, there are sunken fountains, lush persimmon trees and a light scattering of religious shrines.
Apart from the 39 suites — each outfitted with brass taps, Nepalese fabrics and hardwood floors — Dwarika’s true pride and joy lies in its tireless preservation of ancient cultural heritage. Home to an astounding collection of artefacts dating back to the 13th century, the founder’s vision is reflected in every carved door, pillar and window frame.
Lying on a holistic buffet of activities and entertainment, you can go on a culinary journey through the fascinating terrains and cuisines of Nepal in a 22-course slow-dining experience. Or dip into the Vedic library. And sign up for pottery classes. There’s also an in-house Ayurvedic specialist who will appraise your physical and mental self.
Photo credit: Expedia
Reflecting the brand’s dedication to sustainability, this newly-opened boutique luxury resort is founded on solid eco-credentials such as organic farming and homemade biodegradable toiletries. The welfare of the Nepalese people is also upheld through the employment of locals and low impact operating practices.
Apart from these laudable aims, The Pavilions Himalayas is a secluded oasis set against the backdrop of the majestic Annapurna range. There are just eight tented eco-villas, each constructed with natural materials, fully retractable wraparound glass doors and ample furnishings to give guests a sense of residence and serenity.
If you’re up for a little adventure, you can kayak on the picturesque Phewa Lake, take a guided walk led by a local naturalist or embark on a short hike through a mountain trail. End the day with a dip in the hotel’s natural mountain spring pool or opt for an Ayurvedic massage using wholesome botanicals.
Here is where you can just… be.
Photo credit: Pavilions Himalayas
Raft in the Bhote Koshi River
Surrounded by mountains and cascades, the Bhote Koshi River near the Tibetan border is one of the top rivers in the world that offers an adrenaline-filled rafting expedition. A voyage on these downstream rapids through big waves, rocks and occasional drops is not for the faint-hearted: the route falls in the Class 5 category on the International Scale of River Difficulty, with Class 6 being the highest category and unnavigable.
Poke around in Pokhara
Located at the base of the Annapurna mountain region, this metropolitan city is the second largest in the country and the gateway to the famous hiking circuit. A treasure trove of outdoor activities, you can watch the stunning sunrise over the Himalayas just 20-km away, complete the Begnas Thulokote hike (also known as the “Royal Trek” which was completed by Prince Charles in 1980), or go boating on the Phewa Lake where the Tal Barahi Temple sits in the centre.
Photo credit: Flickr
On the vast steppes of Mongolia, immerse in the lives of nomadic herders without sacrificing on creature comforts in your personal felt yurt, otherwise known as a ger. Mandala Mongolia promises the epitome of luxurious backcountry accommodation, complete with an en suite shower, a king bed swathed in soft cotton, a film projector, a telescope for stargazing, and even a French coffee press.
As part of the impeccable package, discreet Gercierge staff are on standby to tend to your every whim and fancy, including serving you meals and lighting fires.
Going above and beyond, the company partners with nomadic communities and those who live in the city ger districts for extra personal touches — from handmade felt slippers, soft wool Kazakh floor rugs, and a Mongolian conch used to call for service — while actively supporting and celebrating local craftsmanship.
Photo credit: Mandala Mongolia
Three Camel Lodge
A scattering of felt-covered gers dot the wild expanse of the Gobi Desert. This is the Three Camel Lodge, an eco-lodge that was born from a desire to preserve and protect its awe-inspiring surroundings. Authentic and locally made, each ger is furnished by local artisans using time-honoured designs as modern conveniences are seamlessly integrated. The property also runs on 90 per cent solar energy and has its own organic greenhouse.
But staying here means switching off, as there are no telephones or access to the internet. Instead, there’s a bundle of activities on offer, including camel rides, star-gazing at the inky sky, meeting with nomadic herding families or participating in excavations at the Flaming Cliffs with leading palaeontologists.
There’s truly no better place to turn off, tune out and let your mind wander free.
Photo credit: Three Camel Lodge
Embark on a nomadic migration adventure
Sometimes the best way to gain new perspectives on life is to step into a whole new world and experience how other people live in another place. One way to effectively do this is to settle into the tempo of nomadic life on a migration across the Mongolian steppe. Hiking or horse riding across the Altai mountains or in central Mongol, you will learn first-hand how to herd animals like sheep, yaks, camels and goats. Spend the nights camping under the starry sky in your own ger and wake to arresting vistas of expansive, awe-inspiring surroundings.
Master the art of eagle hunting
This ancient practice is exalted in western Mongolia where some 300 remaining hunters skilfully work with their feathered companions to hunt small animals like foxes and hares. Aside from visiting nesting sites and learning the skills required to train these notoriously hard to manage creatures, you can even opt to stay with an eagle hunter and his family for a night, and further witness the bond between these Mongolian Kazakh eagle keepers and their magnificent birds. It promises to be an otherworldly experience you’ll never forget of this vanishing art.
Como Uma Paro
Como Uma Paro wonderfully encapsulates everything that Bhutan is: a remote sanctuary that offers absolute relaxation, peace and quiet. Found in the pine-clad Paro Valley, let your spirit calm within the hotel’s serene setting and lose track of time as you gaze out onto the magical Himalayan landscape. This is monastic luxury you’ll never forget.
All 29 rooms feature hand-painted art, deep-soaking bathtubs and minimalist décor that tastefully reflect the remoteness of the property’s location. Their oversized villas, however, are the star attractions. With one- to three-bedrooms, all-day butler service, spa rooms, and full kitchens with daily breakfast service, you may find it hard to leave your private domain.
As far as dining goes, their in-house restaurant, Bukhari, is a royal family favourite. Elsewhere, the hotel is a perfect launch pad for exploring the famed Tiger’s Nest Monastery, while hiking trails, the vibrant Thimphu markets and museums await guests. One particular walk from the grounds takes you to Zurig Dzong, across the wooden Nyamai Zam bridge, and past the hotel’s archery area.
Photo credit: COMO Hotels
Though Amankora has five lodges spread across Bhutan, this Punakha property in the scenic south is particularly characterful. Across a suspension bridge festooned with flags over the Mo Chhu River, a traditional Bhutanese farmhouse sits. Housing a two-storey spa (yoga/meditation room included), infinity pool, game room, outdoor and indoor dining spaces and a reading nook, the hotel also has eight rammed-earth “rooms”.
‘Less is more’ is the running theme in these structures. Elegant in their simplicity, the spaces abound with traditional wood heaters (or bukharis), Terrazzo-clad bathtubs, tan-coloured wood walls and banquette window seats.
Above the trademark Aman treatment, a heady mix of unrivalled exclusivity and access is included in your stay. Guests can arrange to have a blessing from a monk, have access to on-site healers to soothe your senses, and even get an audience with visiting local personalities.
Photo credit: Aman Resorts
Bhutan Spirit Sanctuary
‘Inspirational Hospitality’ — two words that encapsulate an experience at the Bhutan Spirit Sanctuary, a luxurious getaway that will leave a healthy, wholesome impression on you.
Designed to look like a traditional Bhutanese fortress, the 22-room property sits in Neyphu Valley in the heart of Paro. Upon arrival, specialists will evaluate guests’ lifestyles and medical records, and prescribe Eastern methods to check for overall health. From there, a wellness plan will be crafted to help guide you through and to every corner of your experience here. That’s right — the hotel encourages you to stay put.
Flowing from one wellness-boosting activity to the next, a day can go by with meditation with a local monk, picking up painting tips from an in-house art teacher and getting a traditional Tibetan massage. Meals will be made from the region’s rich farms and produce. There’s also an infinity pool and hot stone baths overflowing with medicinal waters (or menchu) to wash away the last bits of stress, so you can rejuvenate yourself before returning home.
Photo credit: Bhutan Spirit Sanctuary
Meditate with a spiritual master
The Kingdom of Bhutan is a sanctuary for all who seek a calming and peaceful retreat; an ideal environment for reflective travellers looking to reset or realign their body, mind and soul. With the help of our renowned spiritual master, embark on a healing meditation session and take the opportunity to step out of your thoughts and into a world of serenity and harmony.
Dine with an eminent historian and royal family advisor
If you could dine with anyone in the world, who would it be? If you journey to Bhutan, we’d highly recommend Tshering Tashi, a local historian and former advisor to the royal family. Sit back in revel as he regales you with stories from his quest in search of the mystifying creature known as the Yeti, to the biodiversity of the Buddhist kingdom, and even to his time working for the royal family.
Photo credit: The New York Times