22 Dec Off-Season Gems with Aman
Exploring a destination out of season can lead to a path of discovery and charm otherwise hidden by the bustle and busyness of peak seasons. Aman hotels around the world are magical destinations all year round, exceeding every expectation of popular sights in season, but promising something almost more special once the crowds have dispersed. Whether breathing in the rain-cleansed jungle air amid Angkor’s iconic temples or witnessing Japan’s plum blossoms delicate announcement of spring; each reveals a new side to a destination without the crowds.
AMAN TOKYO, Japan
Visitors flock to Tokyo in spring from March to May, when the parks and gardens of the capital blush pink with cherry blossoms. During the city’s quiet time, the winter months from November to February, crystal clear skies allow for views from Aman Tokyo all the way to Mount Fuji on the horizon. Day trips to the exceptional powder of Nagano for skiing and onsen (hot spring) are possible, just 60-90 minutes away by train from Tokyo Station, located a five-minute walk from Aman Tokyo. The first sumo wrestling tournaments of the year take place in January, and a number of unique festivals take place early in the year, including Hatsumode at Meiji Jingu, Setsubun (the bean-throwing festival) and the Daruma Doll Fair. Gourmet experiences also abound in the winter months, when crabs, oysters, blowfish, yellowtail, sea urchin and sea toad grace tables, and a hot bowl of ramen noodles is the ever-ready antidote to winter’s chill. Then there are the plum blossoms, which bloom almost unlauded in February and can be enjoyed in peaceful seclusion.
AMAN VENICE, Italy
While summer seduces with emerald green waters and the charm of the Lagoon islands, it is in winter when Venice lives up to her name, “La Serenissima” – the most serene one. The cooler months, October to March, offer the opportunity to ride the meandering canals of Venice on Gondolas with ease. Guests can sip hot chocolate in Caffè Florian, the oldest café in the world after strolling through galleries purged of appreciative chatter; Cicheti washed down with ombre in one of the many hidden bacari: This is when the city regains its true identity and once again belongs to Venetians, presenting an idyllic time to explore the Veneto region, home to Treviso’s beautiful city centre and Verona’s wine regions of Soave, Bardolino and Valpolicella.
Majestic, spiritual and wild – and for a long time off-limits to foreigners – Bhutan epitomises off the beaten track. Soaring Himalayan peaks add to the aura of impenetrability, and yet the country enjoys a surprisingly mild climate that makes it accessible all year long. Whether visiting at the height of summer, when the mountains host a kaleidoscope of wildflowers, or in the depths of winter, when cobalt skies prelude spectacular starscapes, the Kingdom beguiles visitors in search of both adventure and tranquility. Between November and March, temperatures range from 7 – 20°C by day, dropping to around freezing at night, allowing guests to explore the landscape at leisure before returning to roaring fires, hot cider and spiced milk tea in a cosy Amankora lodge. Enjoy the crunch of virgin frost underfoot on an early-morning walk; spot yaks on the mountain passes and migrating birds by crystal-clear rivers; hike to the famous Tiger’s Nest Monastery; and savour the sighting of endangered black necked cranes in Gangtey.
AMANGALLA & AMANWELLA, Sri Lanka
While Sri Lanka’s high season generally runs from November to April, there is no bad time to visit this tropical island nation. In fact the greater chance of cooling showers from May to October is timed with wilder seas and better surfing on the south coast, as well as the opportunity to experience Galle Fort, the tea plantations inland, and the region’s atmospheric temples without the tourist throng. It is also a time to delve deeper into the country’s cultural offerings by visiting the villages of Angulmaduwa and Dickwella from Amanwella, where the ancient arts of brass turning and Beeralu lace making are revealed, or mountain biking inland to take in daily life in peaceful villages, picnic amid rice paddies and perhaps pick up a beautifully cast brass lamp in a traditional brass workshop. Visiting antique shops, taking cooking classes to learn the secrets of Sri Lanka’s exceptional cuisine and generally exploring without the heat and crowds make the off-season a prime time to visit this remarkable country.
In the historic port of Galle, Amangalla lies within the ramparts of Sri Lanka’s 17th-century Galle Fort. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Fort’s narrow streets are lined with Dutch and British colonial era buildings. Just two hours’ drive east along the coast, Amanwella is a contemporary beachside resort overlooking a magnificent crescent-shaped beach. Offering an expansive swimming pool, several dining venues and a Beach Club, each of the resort’s 27 suites boast their own private plunge pool and terrace with beautiful views.
AMANUSA, AMANKILA, AMANDARI, Bali
One of the most lauded tropical island destinations in the world, Bali can be visited at any time of the year where balmy summer weather is the norm. The months between November and March are when crowds diminish and short-lived afternoon rain showers freshen the air turning the island’s fabled rice terraces emerald green. This photogenic time of year is also when the buffalo ‘grand prix’ races and ‘fashion shows’ of Makepung take place in November, the picturesque Ulun Danu Beratan Temple celebrates its anniversary in January and the BaliSpirit Festival makes Ubud an inspiring centre for international music, dance and yoga during the month of March.
The ‘Island of the Gods’ offers beach perfection, hillside seclusion and cultural immersion in equal measures. Aman’s three Balinese resorts provide unrivalled access to these different aspects of the island, and a journey incorporating stays at all three will reveal Bali like no other. Each offers regular spa retreats with visiting specialists, as well as cultural excursions and activities tailored to personal preferences.
Situated on Bali’s southern peninsula close to Bali’s shopping and nightlife areas of Sanur, Legian and Seminyak, Amanusa rests on a hillside overlooking the Indian Ocean and the fairways of the Bali National Golf Club. A serene retreat with 35 free-standing suites and 10 villas, the resort has a Beach Club on a powder white beach and a pristine reef just offshore – ideal for snorkelling and other water sports. Nine private bales provide atmospheric venues for sunrise breakfasts, private dinners and all-day lounging.
Overlooking the Lombok Strait in Karangasem, one of East Bali’s most traditional regencies, Amankila offers easy access to untouched countryside, local craft villages such as Tenganan, and the area’s royal ruins including Ujung Water Palace. The resort’s restaurants and other facilities are connected via raised walkways to 34 free-standing suites with exceptional sea views. Guests can relax around the signature three-tiered swimming pool, indulge in the ‘Royals in Love’ spa journey, learn to surf, visit the market in nearby Amlapura or take time out at the Beach Club. This offers another swimming pool and a restaurant set back from the private beach in a coconut grove.
In the village of Kedewatan, part of Bali’s cultural capital, Ubud, Amandari is perched on an escarpment high above the winding Ayung River Gorge and follows the design of a traditional Balinese village with pebbled walkways linking the 30 thatched-roof suites and villa to the restaurant, bar, swimming pool, library, gym and Aman Spa. Amandari provides a unique setting from which to experience the cultural richness of Bali’s artistic centre, as well as its mountainous region to the north.
One of China’s top tourist destinations due to its rich heritage and natural beauty, Hangzhou is home to West Lake, a UNESCO World Heritage Site surrounded by gardens and pagodas. It’s also a city praised since the days of Marco Polo for its tea and silk, where ancient Buddhist pilgrimage routes twist through woodland to emerge at picturesque temples. A year-round destination where every season has its own unique charms, Hangzhou’s busiest times are in the spring months of March through to May and autumn, September to November, when the causeway across West Lake is bedecked with spring blossoms or aflame with leaves. June to August is quieter due to the summer heat, but to row across the lake, relax by Amanfayun’s swimming pool or sit in the cool of a peaceful temple holds its own appeal.
Winter is perhaps the least obvious season to visit Hangzhou, excluding Chinese New Year, however it does mean that from December through to February there are fewer tourists in the country, allowing Hanghzou’s temples, lakeside and tea plantations to return to their dreamy peace of old, making it an ideal time of year for travellers to visit.
Amanfayun is a cosy retreat during the winter months with a comprehensive Aman Spa and several quaint restaurants lining Fayun Pathway. Ethereal in the snow, Amanfayun is a place of stone pathways leading to sunny courtyards and peaceful abodes, like a traditional Chinese village caught in time. Situated on 14 hectares to the west of West Lake, the resort comprises 47 dwellings surrounded by tea fields.
Known for its heat, crowds and exotic colour, India comes into its own in the winter months of December to March, as travellers swarm to witness the Taj Mahal at dawn and experience the pink and blue cities of Rajasthan. But tucked away in the Aravalli Hills, Amanbagh is a verdant retreat surrounded by gardens, offering tranquil respite during the main tourist season, it is just as alluring in the fringe months. After the monsoon rains, experience the transformation of the arid Aravalli Hills into a lush green oasis during August and September. It is still warm and humid, with maximum highs of 26 to 30 degrees, but it is an ideal time for photographers to capture the colours of Rajasthan. Many holy festivals take place during these months and pilgrims walk for days to visit temples, receive blessings and collect holy water. Colourful pilgrimage processions pass through rural Rajasthan right past Amanbagh. This is also a good time to hike in the hills surrounding the resort: As there is a lot of water in the area, wildlife is often spotted on early morning walks. October and November are also beautiful, quiet months to visit, with the region still green, but the temperatures and humidity starting to drop.
Amanbagh lies within a historic garden estate once the staging area for royal hunts. Evoking the palatial elegance of the Mughal era, Amanbagh’s Haveli Suites and Pool Pavilions provide a tranquil base from which to explore the rich heritage of Rajasthan, India’s dramatic frontier region. Amanbagh’s award-winning design features domed cupolas and private courtyards.
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