A luxurious rural retreat at Amanfayun

A place of serenity not far from Hangzhou's West Lake

Peace and quiet might not be two things that you’d automatically associate with Hangzhou, a city so famed for its beautiful lake that it is now virtually indistinguishable from a public swimming pool during the school holidays. If you’re looking to dodge the tourists, while remaining close to the area’s most iconic sightseeing spots, then we suggest you check into Amanfayun, a luxury rural retreat hidden in a wild valley not far from the famous West Lake.


The resort – comprised of 47 stone courtyard dwellings linked by a narrow pathway – is named for the Tang dynasty village which once inhabited the site. When we visited, spring was only just blinking awake, but the place was still impossibly verdant thanks to its surrounding bamboo groves, forests, and tea plantations (guests can also organise seasonal tea-picking expeditions).


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Meanwhile, the seven surrounding monasteries lend the property an even greater sense of serenity, with monks periodically gliding down the Fayun path in billowing orange robes providing licks of vivid colour against the pastoral backdrop. Amanfayun guests can gain access to the temples – the most famous of which is Lingyin Temple, regarded as one of the ten most important in China – by presenting their room keys at the gates.


The rooms themselves are stunning, housed inside century-old structures that have been reconstructed using traditional methods, with roofs of clay tile, walls of brick, earth and light timbers, and stone floors. They’ve been given a sophisticated edge thanks to restrained interiors of open-grain elm wood furniture, dark wood Chinese lattice screens to separate the living spaces, fine art calligraphy pieces, and deliciously cosy underfloor heating.


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When we checked into our room, we balked at the lack of a bathtub – but even better, it turns out you can book a complimentary private room in the Fayun Spa’s Bath House, containing your very own circular wooden soaking tub and steam room (drinking a glass of wine in here is living life to the max). Over at Fayun Place, snacks and tea are served, and local activities can be participated in, such as knot workshops; there are also five restaurants on-site, including the excellent, recently revamped Steam House, the Temple Vegetarian Restaurant, and the Japanese-style Hangzhou House.


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A stay here may not be cheap (see room prices below), but you certainly get what you pay for. A truly unique hotel offering its guests a rugged, but nevertheless five-star, form of escapism.


How to get there One of the best things about this patch of eden is its accessibility – just an hour’s train journey to Hangzhou (gaoties run frequently from Hongqiao Railway Station and cost 73RMB for a single journey) and a 20-minute cab ride.


Village rooms at Amanfayun start at 6,555RMB, and can be booked by calling 0571 8732 9999 or visiting their website.

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