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A taste of Bhutan

January 18, 2024 - As we celebrate five years at five lodges in Six Senses Bhutan, Executive Chef Isa Raku tells the story behind the seasonal feasting and hyper-local ingredients he uses to craft sustainable menus packed with flavor, originality, and passion.

Out of this world

Bhutan, or The Land of The Thunder Dragon, is a mystical place wrapped in ethereal magic. Dotted like jewels amongst five valleys, Six Senses Bhutan comprises five uniquely designed lodges where expert chefs bring our Eat With Six Senses philosophy skillfully and deliciously to life.

Simply put, this is where food is nutritious and tastes delicious – meaning you eat fresh, seasonal, and wholesome food and leave the table feeling better than when you arrived. Executive Chef Isa lives the mantra: Natural Ingredients, Less is More, and Local & Sustainable, and that begins your journey into the flavors of  authentic Bhutanese dishes.

Each destination prides itself on its diversity and distinct character. From bountiful orchards to organic vegetable gardens and rice paddies to local Gouda cheese, butter, and home-buzzed honey, the flavors and tastes of Bhutan are a sensory and singular experience at each of the five lodges.

Eat With Six Senses: tasting the real Bhutan

Chef Isa’s sublime dining concept evolved organically. As he elaborates, “I feel inspired by Bhutan’s unique culture, rich in tradition and history and the way it blends so beautifully with our Eat With Six Senses philosophy and ethos. Take our riverside picnic experience at Six Senses Bumthang; our chefs cook fresh fish on heated river stones over woodsmoke as guests feast in a pine forest setting beside a clear fast-flowing river. There’s nothing else in the world quite like it.”

An alumnus of the Le Cordon Bleu program, Isa headed up kitchens across the globe, from Scandinavia to Australia, before seeking an out-of-the-ordinary location to help elevate his ingenuity and skills to the next level. He is exacting about living up to the values of our Eat With Six Senses philosophy. Isa and his team import almost nothing, preferring to work only with what is available. Luckily, the quality is unsurpassed, food production is mostly organic throughout the country. This commitment to sustainability means everything you eat, from a humble carrot to a buckwheat cassoulet tastes real. The circular zero-waste policy ensures every little thing is used, from the rind of a fruit to the pulp of a nut. Everything creates something else, and there’s a beauty in that.

A food-lover’s journey through Bhutan

Pickles, preserves, and plant-based menus at Six Senses Thimphu

Tucked away in a steep valley, Six Senses Thimphu rests amongst richly forested mountains, revealing ancient monasteries and temples. We’re lucky enough to be surrounded by apple orchards producing a large seasonal bounty that goes into making chutneys, preserves, and pickles that serve all five lodges.

These homegrown apples also make our benefit-rich apple cider vinegar that is the key ingredient for fire cider. Not to be confused with cider you might drink on a sunny day; this is a shot of something much more powerful. Take your daily hit during your stay to boost your gut health, immune system, and powers of positivity.

The apple cider vinegar’s ‘mother’ has become an organism in itself, birthing a range of fruit vinegars. Isa is constantly developing exciting alternatives, as he explains, “I’m trying to make balsamic vinegar, which we don’t get in Bhutan, by experimenting with pomegranate and beetroot. By aging the fruit in bamboo barrels, I think I can recreate the sweet, rich sensation of balsamic.”

A highlight at Six Senses Thimphu Lodge is an evening spent feasting on Isa’s specially devised plant-based menu in the atmospheric Dragon Room. Showcasing seasonal, homegrown, and locally produced ingredients, this is where our chefs get creative to bring you ever-changing delights depending on your preferences. It’s the perfect place for special occasions, intimate dinners, and celebratory experiences.

Offering spectacular views of Thimphu Valley and across to the giant Buddha, here you experience a comfortable escape from the bustling capital while remaining close enough to easily access the many Thimphu attractions.

Foraging and feasting at Six Senses Bumthang

Set in a pine forest above a bubbling, trout-filled stream, Six Senses Bumthang immerses guests in the beauty of its surroundings, honoring the natural environment rather than impacting it.

Bumthang is where our chefs love to forage. In spring, they make mugolio syrup from pinecones. In summer, wild strawberries, sea buckthorn, and buffalo berries are eaten fresh or turned into vinegars and winter preserves. In fall, it’s mushroom season and the health-infusing power of meaty matsutake and tasty chanterelles stand out on our menus. Isa and his team also make a plant-based umami mushroom powder to liven up their dishes throughout the year.

The lodge’s eight suites and one two-bedroom villa feature spacious balconies and calming forest views across the valley. As the gateway to the east and site of some of the Kingdom’s earliest settlements, Bumthang is home to many attractions, including ancient monasteries and sacred monuments.

Step back in time for a feudal dinner at Six Senses Paro

Designed to maximize what is surely one of the most scenic settings within the Six Senses Bhutan journey, this lodge, perched high above the valley floor, is known as Stone Ruins – you’ll understand why when you dine among them.

The Paro Chhu runs through the valley, making this area particularly fertile. This enables Six Senses Paro to maintain the largest vegetable gardens of all the lodges, where we grow everything from artichokes to rainbow chard and blackberries to quinoa. Alongside traditional crops, our chefs experiment with cultivating new varieties of fruit and vegetables using international seeds.

A highlight during your visit is the feudal dinner set in the 15th-century Dzong fortress. Our chefs roast a whole lamb over open flames as masked dancers, music, and songs tell stories from Bhutan’s history.

Live like a local at Six Senses Gangtey

Six Senses Gangtey Lodge is located in the Phobjikha Valley, central Bhutan, and strategically positioned above the black-necked crane conservation center. Winter residence of the world’s only alpine crane species, they arrive from Tibet in October.

Potatoes, a staple Bhutanese vegetable, and hearty buckwheat are the main crops in this valley. Join us at the Cowshed where our chefs don traditional attire to cook eggs scrambled in butter in the mud oven, washed down with the local moonshine, Ara, before joining the team in song and dance to finish your evening in style!

The eight suites at Six Senses Gangtey each face the valley for panoramic views, with a private outdoor balcony equipped with daybeds as well as binoculars for bird watching. There is also a two-bedroom villa with its own private spa treatment facilities designed to pamper and relax.

When life gives you lemons, drink Limoncello at Six Senses Punakha

This beautiful lodge has a rustic feel inspired by the valley’s farmhouse architecture. Considered the market garden of the country, Punakha is blessed with a unique sub-tropical climate that grows plentiful produce year round.

From wild lemon trees, we collect hundreds of local lemons every year and use the rinds to make all things zesty, from marmalade to our own Limoncello. Rice grows beneath the lodge’s terrace, where you sit and feast on a traditional nine-ingredient chili ezzay, made in a mortar the size of a tree stump and a pestle the size of a small tree!

Six Senses Punakha offers a choice of suites and villas, a pool, a boutique, yoga and meditation huts, and from here you can visit one of Bhutan’s highlights: the majestic Punakha Dzong.

Eat well, live well

Bhutan is rich in culture, tradition, and spirituality, all carefully guarded and preserved. As the world’s only carbon-negative country, we are committed to sustainability with a deep obligation to care for our environment, natural resources, and communities across the country. The way we harvest, prepare, and craft food as part of our Eat With Six Senses ethos is a huge part of upholding our commitment.

As Isa says, “Our philosophy is a positive embrace of working in symbiotic harmony with the land. It means we don’t order in fashionable food; we use what we have in season, what we preserved last season, and we plan ahead for next season. That’s what really sets us apart. Real produce and real, wholesome flavors made possible by pure air, rich soil, and Himalayan sunlight, as we bring the delicacies of Bhutan to your plate and palate.”

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