Hello to our fellow travelers! Thanks to you all for your patience as we put together a plan for our journey into the kingdom of Bhutan, also known as the “Land of the Thunder Dragon”. Bhutan is nestled in the Himalayan mountains and is one of the last remaining Buddhist kingdoms in the world. Filled with awe inspiring natural beauty, monasteries, alpine forests, tranquil lakes, rugged mountains and perhaps most famously known as the country that introduced the world to the idea of “Gross Natural Happiness”.
Your instructor team has been preparing to make this summer course in Bhutan an adventure that we will always remember. Exploring together, we will visit Buddhist monasteries, hike through pristine forests, travel how locals do, live with families, eat local food and most importantly learn about life in the Himalayas by experiencing it with these communities. We have sketched out a brief tentative itinerary below to get you excited and give you an idea as to how we plan to move during the course.
Our itineraries are always flexible and especially in a remote place like Bhutan, plans may change. Rest assured, we will keep you updated on this yak board if they do. We look forward to meeting each one of you and sharing this journey of learning and exploration together.
WEEK 1: FROM KATHMANDU TO THIMPU
We will be landing in Kathmandu, Nepal and it is here that we will have our orientation, where we will be getting to know one another and learning skills to adapt to a new place. Spending a few days in Kathmandu will not only give us a much needed break from traveling but provide us some important regional context before we travel onward to Bhutan. We will stay among a Tibetan Buddhist community in the area known as Boudha, where we will get glimpses of a similar Himalayan culture. After our orientation in Nepal we will take a short, beautiful flight to touch down in the lush green rice paddies of Paro, Bhutan. From there, we will transfer to the capital city, Thimpu. We will begin to look at the interplay between the landscape and religion and begin our inquiry into the nature of happiness. We will visit a few important heritage places, explore the city and buy our Bhutanese clothes, as well as start to learn some basic Dzongkha language. We plan to spend a couple of days being hosted by the Bhutanese Nuns Foundation, a Buddhist nunnery, where we can visit some monuments and monasteries, learn some meditation techniques, and help out with a natural earth construction project.
WEEK 2: CENTRAL BHUTAN
We’ll travel by road to the central region of Bhutan which borders Tibet. Breaking the journey in the beautiful valley of Phobjikha, we will head on towards Bumthang where we will settle in for a few days. We will be hosted by our partners UWICER (Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and and Environmental Research) and learn about their amazing work protecting the unique environment of the area. We will also use their facilities as a base to explore the landscape, which is dotted with sacred Buddhist sites including hidden cliffside temples and remote village stupas.
WEEK 3: CENTRAL BHUTAN: HOMESTAY
This week we will have the unique opportunity to stay with families living in a village in Central Bhutan. This will be our opportunity to slow down to the pace of agricultural life and to understand this unique culture from the inside. We will have the chance to speak to our host families about local myths, fairy tales and Bhutanese history as well as about social change and development. We will also have the opportunity to do independent study projects, which may include anything from traditional medicine, to archery, to weaving. During this time we will also have plenty of time for group discussions and lessons on issues facing Bhutan and the world.
WEEK 4: TREK AND TRANSFERENCE
This week will we go on a multiple day hike from Jakar through the Tang Valley, hiking through beautiful, traditional villages. We may also get to see the local community-managed forests and observe villagers in their farming and foraging practices. We will then travel by road back towards Paro where we will begin the process of transference. This is where we reflect on our journey and eventually say goodbye to this unique country – not before having the chance to trek up to the iconic “Tiger’s Nest” Taktsang monastery. From there we will return to Nepal, where we will head to the medieval town of Bhaktapur to spend our final evenings together, celebrating and trying to make sense of our time together.
We can’t wait to meet you all soon – trust in the adventure, friends!