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Prepare yourself for something entirely different from what you may have seen in Asia, or elsewhere. Located high in the Himalayan Mountains between India and Tibet, Bhutan is the only country in the world that measures its progress by Gross National Happiness! You will have a journey through mystical mountains, sacred temples, and this richly preserved culture. Exploring Bhutan alongside the local people, discovering their unique perspectives, and enjoying the light of their inspiring spirits!
You will be accommodated in four different four-star luxury hotels in Bhutan.
Some highlights of this retreat will be learning directly with a renowned Rinpoche, receiving a traditional Bhutanese astrology reading at the National Center for Astrology, and practicing yoga and meditation under the backdrop of the Himalayas.
Arrive in the magical kingdom of Bhutan at 11:00 at the Paro Airport (PBH), where the Bhutanese guides will welcome you at the airport and drive you to Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan for an hour scenic drive. Thimphu is sprawled across the wooded western hillside of the Wang Chu and it hosts the center of government, religion, and commerce. Thimphu is the town where the traditional ways mingle with modern introductions.
Some places you will visit in Thimphu are Rinpung Dzong, which was built in 1645 to defend the valley against Tibetan invaders; The Dzong, which is now being used as an administration center and school for monks; Buddha Point, which offers your prayers to the largest Buddha statue in the country and walk around to enjoy the great view of Thimphu valley below; and Archery Contest, as to see the national sport of Bhutan come alive on the field.
After yoga and breakfast, you will visit some of Thimphu's sacred sites. The Institute for Zorig Chusum, (commonly known as the Painting School) where students undergo a six-year training course in Bhutan’s 13 traditional arts and crafts, to witness the artists creating stunning works is a rare sight to see; Takin Preserve Center, houses the national animal Takin, which is found only in Bhutan. Takin is an extremely rare member of goat family; Changangkha Lhakhang, which is one of the spiritual and most important temples in Thimphu; Pangri Zampa Lakhang, the Royal Astrology School where you will have your fortune read by the head astrologer and gain some valuable insights about what lies ahead for you; Tashichhodzong, “the fortress of the glorious religion”, which is the center of government and religion, site of the monarch’s throne room and seat of the Je Khenpo or Chief Abbot. Built-in 1641 by the political and religious unifier of Bhutan, Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, it was reconstructed in the 1960s in traditional Bhutanese manner, without nails or architectural plan.
After breakfast, you will drive to Punakha via the Dochula Pass. You will stop along the way at Metshina to visit the Fertility temple. From the Metshina Village, you will take a 20-minute stroll through the rice fields to the Divine Madman’s Monastery - Chimi Lhakhang, famously known for its fertility shrine, where couples unable to conceive come here to be blessed with his wooden phallus. Soon after the visit to the temple of fertility, you will pay homage to the magnificent Punakha Dzong ‘the Temple of Happiness’.
Today after breakfast, you will head into Punakha, the old capital of Bhutan and presently the winter residence of the central monk body. You will ascend upper Punakha via Punakha Dzong for a short hike to Khamsum Yuelley Temple located at the upper Punakha Valley. (Morning yoga and meditation session at the Courtyard of the temple)
You will enjoy your afternoon with a picturesque picnic along the riverside before venturing down Mo-Chhu River on the rafts. It will be two hours of breathtaking views as you allow the current to bring you towards the beautiful Punakha Dzong. Life jackets, splash jackets and pants, helmets, and dry bags are provided. Sandals / flip-flops are recommended. Please bring athletic shoes with you since you will be enjoying a riverside walk afterward. Don't forget to bring your camera, sunscreen, hat, and sunglasses.
After breakfast, drive to Punakha via the Dochula pass. An hour's drive from Thimphu will take you to this pass (3140 meters), where you will have a superb view of the Eastern Himalayas on a clear day with a powerful binocular telescope. The Dochula Festival will be held here at the mountain pass.
You will also visit the beautiful 108 chortens (shrintes) built on the hill by Her Majesty Ashi Dorji Wangmo for the security and well-being of His Majesty the King of Bhutan. The last stop of the day will be paying a visit to the Druk Wangyel Temple which was built to honor His Majesty, the fourth king Jigme Singye Wangchuck. On the temple's facade, you can visually follow a story of a supreme warrior figure whose vision pierces the distant future.
One of the main highlights of the Paro Valley is the Taktsang Monastery (Tiger's Nest), Taktsang is one of the most important pieces of architecture building in Bhutan, Taktsang Monastery defies logic, gravity, and reason. As the legend has it, in the eighth century, Guru Rinpoche (Pamasambhava) arrived off the back of the flying tigress to subdue the local deities and meditated there for three months. Afterwards, the cliffside was considered blessed. It is the most famous of Bhutan’s monasteries, miraculously perched on the side of a sheer cliff 900 meters above the floor of the Paro Valley. It will be a challenging climb, but well worth the arduous journey. You will have an early start, to avoid the hot sun for a two-hour climb. Those who have bad knees or injuries have the option to pay extra ride up on horseback for the first leg of the hike.
You will enter the Haa Valley via the stunning Chelela Pass where you will stop at the Kila Gompa Nunnery perched on a steep cliff face at 3500 meters. This staggering site manages to house seven small temples and around 70 nuns. The views are magnificent and it is well worth the hour’s hike to get there.
After lunch with the nuns, you will make your descent on the pass and drive through the prayer strewn pass at almost 4000 meters and into the Haa Valley. The Valley of Haa lies on the westernmost edge of Bhutan, its northern boundaries with the Chumbi Valley of Tibet, dividing it from the Indian province of Sikkim. Haa is one of the 20 districts or dzongkhags of Bhutan and one of the least populated. Opened to tourism in 2002, its tourism resources remain largely undeveloped compared to Paro, Thimphu, and Bumthang. Most of its landmass is covered by dense forest and the remainder under fields of wheat and barley, with some rice paddies towards its lower reaches and the accessible side valleys. These lush meadows support the raising of yak, cattle, chicken, pigs, and horses.
Today’s program begins by driving to Yotong (2955 meters), a group of village homes clustered together in the valley by the Haa Chhu River. An old trail leads 150 meters uphill to the Gompa, dedicated to the Guru Rimpoche and his eight manifestations. Standing among a few farmhouses, this 300-year structure was built by the 16th Je Khempo (Head Abbot of Bhutan).
Dra Karpo Temple in the morning is around 20 minutes’ drive from the resort and it is a 30 minutes’ uphill walk to the temple. It is known as the ‘Abode of Gods’ in Shaba (Paro Dzongkang) and is considered one of the holiest and most sacred monasteries in Bhutan.
If you carefully observe the monastery, it is located in the heart of the cliff. Legend has it that Guru Rinpoche cleared out some rocks from the cliff to create space for his meditation. The removed rocks were stacked on an adjacent cliff nearby which you can still see to this day. The monastery dates back to 17th century and is built on a mountain dotted with underground caves. One of the caves has a small ladder for not-so fainthearted to climb down. It leads you into a large cavern that soon turns into very narrow crevasse.
After lunch, you will have an audience with a renowned Rimpoche / Trulku (spiritual teacher) about metaphysics.
You have the opportunity to wander the streets and peruse the markets and purchase wares for souvenirs, or find yourself in a spa to prepare yourself for your flight home. If you are leaving for Bangkok, you will be transferred around 14:00 to the airport. And that will be your farewell of your Bhutanese pilgrimage, until the next one.
Note: The retreat program is flexible and subject to change depending on weather, group opinions, etc.
This retreat will take place in Bhutan, including Thimphu, Punakha, Haa Valley, and Paro. The Kingdom of Bhutan is a tranquil country where you can explore the ancient cultures, beautiful landscapes, and magnificent architecture.
Bhutan, called Druk Yul by its people, is known as the “Land of the Thunder Dragon”. It is one of the world’s most beautiful, yet mysterious places. It is located on the eastern edge of the Himalayan Mountain region. A large part of the area is forested welcoming a diverse ecosystem of flora and fauna. The country stretches from subtropical valleys and plains to snow-capped mountain ranges. This landscape makes it the perfect place to trek through the majestic valleys or steep mountains to visit ancient architecture and Buddhist temples.
Bhutan has a rich culture where most of its 700,000 inhabitants practice the Buddhist religion. This secluded land has a rich history embedded into the society and shows through the festival reenactments. Bhutan’s ancient cultural traditions have continued to grow despite the current technological restructuring. Only since the mid-1970’s technology has come to Bhutan, it has become the ultimate tourist destination for adventurers, spiritual awakenings, and serene visages.
Exodus Healing and Retreats is able to cater for vegetarians and non-vegetarians on this trip.
There are options for massage in the spas at the hotels. If you would like a list of treatments, please message Exodus Healing and Retreats and they can send them to you.