COMO Hotels and Resorts announces it will open a sister lodge to its Uma Paro property in Bhutan to create a new two-centre opportunity for those seeking cultural discovery and physical adventure in this remote Himalayan region. The intimate, 11-room Uma Punakha, a new lodge opening September 2012, will give guests the opportunity to explore the enigmatic kingdom of Bhutan at a deeper level while enjoying the same understated luxury they have come to appreciate at Uma Paro.
The hotel is situated on a hillside in the verdant Punakha Valley a five-hour drive from Paro. This new pairing opens up the country yet further to COMO guests who seek to combine the company's luxury hotel at Paro with Uma's trekking itineraries.
Punakha is one of the most precious valleys to the Bhutanese for it sequesters two of the country's great historical attractions: the Temple of the Divine Madman—a 14th-century fertility temple dedicated to the Tibetan Buddhist Saint Drukpa Kuenley—and the Punakha Dzong, a fortress temple and one of the Kingdom's administrative centres where the current King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk and his bride Jetsun Pema were recently married. Uma Punakha therefore offers a gateway to this important cultural region, as well as opportunities for white-water rafting, hiking and cycling under the expert supervision of Uma's qualified English-speaking guides.
As to the lodge itself, the location towards the head of the valley is exceptionally peaceful—and an ideal place to practice yoga .Steep vehicular access to Uma Punakha is rewarded with bird's-eye views. Bright green terraced fields spread out below, graduating down towards a dramatic bend in the river, the Mo Chu. Comprised of pale blue glacial waters, the Mo Chu (female river) joins the Po Chu (male river) a few miles downstream, the confluence marked by the Punakha Dzong. Only a few local-style houses are in the viewshed, along with spreading jacaranda trees and orchards laden with apples.
The design of Uma Punakha is by Cheong Yew Kwan, a Singapore-born, Bali-based architect who was also responsible for COMO Shambhala Estate and Uma Ubud resort in Ubud, Bali, some of the villas at Parrot Cay in the Turks and Caicos—both of which are part of COMO Hotels and Resorts—and the new Four Seasons Resort in the Seychelles.
True to Yew Kwan's style, simplicity prevails, with natural light flooding interiors. There are eleven rooms in total, including nine deluxe and two one-bedroom villas with interconnecting doors to one of the deluxe rooms, making them standalone two-bedroom villas when required. The look complements the established pared-back, traditionally-influenced luxury of Uma Paro: over-size beds, wood-burning stoves and calming neutral colour schemes, punctuated with colourful flourishes of traditional handpainted Bhutanese wall designs.
Uma Punakha's open plan restaurant and lounge bar will showcase the best local ingredients and Bhutanese delicacies alongside a varied international menu. This is in line with Uma Paro's Bukhari restaurant, which is popular with in-house guests as well as some of Bhutan's royal family.
Gabriela Henrichwark, Group Marketing Director at COMO Hotels and Resorts states: 'The COMO Group was one of the first luxury hotel companies to go into the Kingdom of Bhutan, opening Uma Paro in 2004. To be able to now share the Punakha Valley with our guests reminds us what a privilege it is to operate in a place that has been so carefully preserved for future generations. We therefore want to make sure that we really get under the skin of Bhutan with our joint packages between Uma Paro and Uma Punakha."