A New Lodge in Remote Bhutan

  • Rooms come with luxury features including heated stone floors, freestanding bathtubs, and plush sofas.

    Rooms come with luxury features including heated stone floors, freestanding bathtubs, and plush sofas.

  • The Gangtey Goenpa Lodge's architecture was inspired by the country's rural farmhouses.

    The Gangtey Goenpa Lodge's architecture was inspired by the country's rural farmhouses.

  • Starting in the spring, the lodge will also be offering hot-air balloon trips.

    Starting in the spring, the lodge will also be offering hot-air balloon trips.

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If the prospect of Bhutan’s first hot-air balloon rides isn’t enough to lure you to the remote Phobjikha Valley, Gangtey Goenpa Lodge (doubles from US$650) has plenty of other enticements that should do the trick. First, there are the views, of potato fields and wetlands and forested hills, to say nothing of the tiered rooftops of the 17th-century Gangtey Monastery. Then there are the rooms, of which there are just a dozen, all with textured walls and dark wooden beams that take their inspiration from the valley’s sturdy farmhouses, with the added benefit of heated stone floors, freestanding bathtubs, and plush sofas. Under the open rafters of the lodge’s restaurant-cum-lounge, hearty dishes like yak steak in a red-wine reduction with mushroom risotto are served to guests refueling after a day of mountain biking, trekking through pine and rhododendron forests, or eyeballing the valley’s sacred black-necked cranes from a respectful distance. Oh yes, and riding in Gangtey Goenpa’s hot-air balloon, which, when flights begin in May, will rate as the world’s highest commercial balloon operation; Phobjikha Valley stands at about 3,000 meters above sea level. It’s  just the thing for anyone looking to gain a new perspective on this corner of the Himalayas.–David Tse

This article originally appeared in the December 2013/January 2014 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Up, Up, and Away”)

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