Oct. 24th to Nov. 6th, 2019
Bhutan is the last of the Vajrayana Buddhist countries preserving its rare and unique history and culture. We get to feel for how Buddhism, and in particular Vajrayana, permeates and is practiced in one of its native cultures. Going on a pilgrimage is a profound experience, one where a deep transformation and spiritual opening is possible.
Going on a pilgrimage is a profound experience, one where a deep transformation and spiritual opening is possible.
Pilgrimage Overview and Highlights
We will be in Bhutan for 14 days, where we will visit many sacred sites and have practice time in ancient monasteries, and also visit the cities, towns and villages of Bhutan. Local guides will provide colorful and detailed information of local life.
We have information available on flying and staying in Bangkok prior to the start of the pilgrimage. We have planned an evening gathering in Bangkok for those who can attend.
We fly to Bumthang from Bangkok, where we spend four days visiting the ancient temples and sacred sites in the beautiful four valleys of central Bhutan.
Driving back from Bumthang, we travel through the countryside, the cities and towns of Trongsa, Punakha, Thimpu and finish our pilgrimage in the historic town of Paro. We will see the diversity and beauty of the valleys and mountains of Bhutan, along with their many different kinds of flora and fauna. We get to know the local people and crafts, as well as an evening party with the ministers who are working to blend the traditional with the modern cultures, and continue promoting the ideas of gross national happiness.
We will finish the pilgrimage with a visit to the amazing Tiger’s Nest, one of the most beautiful and very famous cluster of temples in Bhutan. Built on a cliff high above the valley floor, this is where Padmasambhava, Yeshe Tsogyal, Machig Lhadron and Milarepa meditated.
See full Itinerary
“It was a deep and life-changing event for me. There is something very special about visiting sites that awakened beings have practiced in and blessed. The energy of these locations affects the heart, mind and each cell of the body. It was evident to me of the karmic connections and blessings that Lama Palden has. Again and again we would visit a monastery or a sacred site and we would find out that a tulku or teacher just happened to be there that day. We received many blessings. Since returning my dedication and commitment to the practice increased tremendously. I still feel the blessings and effect of the last pilgrimage on my life today.”
~ Sandy Shelton
Cost, Payment Information & Refund Policy
The cost of the 14 day pilgrimage is $7,500.00 for double occupancy.
This cost includes the airfare from Bangkok to Bhutan and return to Bangkok, hotels, transportation, meals, etc. for the 14 days in Bhutan.
Please check out our included and excluded costs.
1. Single rooms are available for an additional $750.
The payment for the pilgrimage may be made in 3 parts:
- • $1,500.00 is payable with registration
- • $3,000 is payable on May 15th
- • $3,000 is payable on August 15th
Payments may be by check or credit card.
- Airfare from Bangkok to Bhutan and return to Bangkok (Bangkok-Bhutan-Bangkok)
- All transportation costs, hotels (double occupancy), English speaking guides, entrance fees, taxes, and visa fee while in Bhutan
- Three meals a day in Bhutan
- Gratuities to local guides and drivers
The following costs are not included in the pilgrimage fee:
- Airfare to and from Bangkok. The pilgrimage cost does not include airfare to or from Bangkok, or hotel rooms while in Bangkok.
- Excess baggage
- Laundry, phone calls, medical, airport tax
- Travel and medical insurance which is highly recommended. See cancellation information.
- Food and other costs you may incur before or after the Bhutan pilgrimage; alcoholic beverages while in Bhutan
- Offerings for temple visits and dana for any teachers we may visit in Bhutan (no set price but at your discretion)
- Spending money for any shopping you may want to do
- Delayed Flight into or out of Bhutan: There is always a possibility of flights being delayed into or out of Bhutan. This is less likely during the time period of the pilgrimage (has not happened to us before) but it is best to be prepared. There could be additional costs if delays occur.
The pilgrimage is limited to 21 people, with the application period from January 15 to March 15.
Applications will be accepted on a first come basis. Because this is a pilgrimage and requires some walking and hiking, we will ask you to provide information on your spiritual background and physical health. We will attempt to make accommodations for all who apply.
- Complete the application here:
- Pay the application fee online or by check
- We will email you that your application and payment have been received
- If we have question, we will have a phone interview
- We will email your acceptance into the pilgrimage within two weeks of receiving your application.
Cancellation Policies and Procedures
Please be aware of these cancellation policies and procedures before applying.
Before March 15th
There will be no refunds on the $1,500 first payment after March 15th, for any reason. This is a requirement of the Bhutan travel agent, and there are no exceptions. Cancellations received before March 15th will be refunded less a $50 administrative feel.
After March 15th, If cancellation received:
- More than 30 days prior to start: last two payments refundable except for $200 fee
- 15-30 days prior to start: 50% of the last two payments will be refunded
- 8-14 days prior to start: 25% of the last two payments will be refunded
- Within 7 days of start No refund
Cancellation must be given by email to email@example.com. The date of the email will be considered the cancellation date. Please note that this cancellation policy applies in every instance. We do recommend that you purchase travel insurance.
Thursday, October 24: Arrive in Paro, Fly to Bumthang
The pilgrimage will begin early on October 24th with the 2.5 hour flight from Bangkok to Paro on Bhutan’s airline, Druk Air. The flight is spectacular, on clear days we have a view of magnificent Himalayan peaks as we approach Paro. We will be met by our guides, have lunch and then fly to Bumthang, the most historic area of Bhutan. Depending on the flight schedules and weather, we may spend a night in the historic town of Paro; the schedule below will be adjusted accordingly.
Known as the spiritual heart of Bhutan for its many ancient and sacred sites, Bumthang is composed of four lush valleys, where many famous Buddhist yogis
lived and practiced in this area. Depending on the flight we take, we will spend 3 or 4 days in this spectacular area.
We will first visit the Jakar Yugyel Dzong, commonly known as the Jakar Dzong, located in the Chamkhar valley of Bumthang, situated on a ledge above Bjakar village. A dzong is a fortress like building that incorporates both administrative and monastic institutions, and serve as a focal point for the local community. Dzong architecture is a distinctive feature of Bhutan massive in style with towering exterior walls surrounding a complex of courtyards, temples, administrative offices, and monks’ accommodation.
- The Jambay Lhakhang, the oldest temple of Bhutan built in 639 AD, by King Songtsen Gonpo.
- The majestic complex of the Kurge Lhakhang, located on the right bank of the Chamkhar river. Kurje is one of the most sacred sites in Bhutan as Guru Rinpoche meditated here and left the imprint of his body on a rock.
- The Tamshing, one of the most historically, spiritually and culturally significant monasteries in Bhutan. Built in the early sixteenth century, it has maintained living Vajrayana Buddhist traditions for over five hundred years.We’ll also drive to the Tang Valley, one of the four valleys of Bumthang. In the Tang Valley, we will visit the Tang Rimochen Lhakhang, marking a sacred place where Guru Rinpoche meditated. We will also visit the female monastics at Anim Dratsang. On the way back we’ll visit Membaar Tsho (the burning lake) where Terton Pema Lingpa found the treasures hidden by Guru Rinpoche, Tang Rimochen Lhakhang and Membaar Tsho are pilgrimage sites for many local people. We’ll also also go Thangbi Mani Lhakhang. The Thangbi Lhakhang Temple was established in 1470 by Shamar Rinpoche ( the red hat Karmapa). There is a huge iron curtain that hangs from the entrance and is believed to have be cast by the great Trenton Pema Lingpa himself.
We’ll drive to the Tang Valley, one of the four valleys of Bumthang. In the Tang Valley we will visit the Tang Rimoche Lhakhang, marking a sacred place where Guru Rinpoche meditated. We will also visit the female monastics at Anim Dratsang. On the way back we’ll visit Membaar Tsho (the burning lake) where Terton Pema Lingpa found the treasures hidden by Guru Rinpoche, Tang Rimoche Lhakhang and Membaar Tsho are pilgrimage sites for many local people.
We’ll head to Thangbi Mani Lhakhang. The Thangbi Lhakang Temple was established in 1470 by Shamar Rinpoche ( the red hat Karmapa). There is a huge iron curtain that hangs from the entrance and is believed to have be cast by the great Trenton Pema Lingpa himself.
Day 6-7: Trongsa
Leaving the Bumthang valleys, we drive approximately 2.5 hours south to Trongsa. As we enter the Trongsa valley, we see the majestic fortress of Trongsa. Backing on mountain and built on several levels, the Dzong fits narrowly on a spur that sticks out into the gorge of the Mangde River and overlooks the routes south and west. The view from the Dzong extends for many miles. We will make a stop at the Dzong and visit the watch tower which now houses a museum, and spend the night.
Day 7: Trongsa-Punakha
The drive from Trongsa to Punakha takes approximately 6 hours and goes through breathtaking scenery. We will make a brief stop at Chendebji Chorten (stupa), which was built in 18th century by a Lama known as Shida, in order to nail into the ground a demon that had been terrorizing the inhabitants of this valley.
We will visit the beautiful glacial valley of Phobjikha. This valley is the designated winter home for hundreds of endangered black-necked crane that migrate here from the Tibetan plateaus.
We will stop to hoist the prayer flags for prosperity, long life and happiness of all sentient beings at the top of the Phobjikha Pass.
While in the Phobjikha Valley we will visit the Gangteng Monastery, an important monastery of Nyingmapa school of Buddhism, the main seat of the Pema Lingpa tradition.
The Monastery is one of the main seats of the religious tradition based on Pema Lingpa’s revelations and one of the two main centers of the Nyingmapa school of Buddhism in the country.
We then climb to Pele la Pass (3,300 m/ 10,989 ft.) With an alpine environment of rhododendrons and dwarf bamboo, the Pass is traditionally considered the boundary between West and East Bhutan. During the clear weather we can view the high snow capped peaks of Mount Chomolhari (24,355 ft.).
Descending into semi-tropical vegetation, we enter into the valley of Wangdue Phodrang, and take an opportunity to photograph the majestic fortress of Wangdue Dzong, which stands on a spur of a hill at the confluence of the Tsang Chu and Dang Chu rivers.
Entering the central valleys of Bhutan we see the breathtaking beauty and serenity of Bhutan’s rich flora and fauna, and come to the fertile valley of Punakha
Day 7-9: Punakha
Punakha is inextricably linked to some of the most momentous events in the Bhutanese history and deserves its reputation as one of the most beautiful and significant regions at the heart of Bhutanese culture. Punakha served as the capital of Bhutan from 1637 till 1907 and the 1st National Assembly was held here.
In Punakha, we hike 45 minutes gently uphill to the Khamsum Yuley Namgyal temple. Built over a period of 9 years, Bhutanese craftsmen including carpenters, painters, and sculptors consulted holy scriptures rather than engineering manuals, to construct this 4-story temple. It is a splendid example of Bhutan’s fine architectural and artistic traditions. It is the only one of its kind in the world. Built by Her Majesty the Queen Mother, this temple is dedicated for the well being of the kingdom and the benefit of all sentient beings. The site of the temple has a panoramic view of Mochu valley.
On the way back we’ll visit the impressive Punakha Dzong, built in 1637 to serve as the religious and administrative seat of the region. It was here that the dual system of government was introduced in the 17th century and in 1907, enthroned the first King Gongsr Ugyen Wangchuck. The dzong stands as the symbol for a unified Bhutan.
Day 9-10: Thimpu
In Thimpu, we will visit the memorial stupa, built in 1974 in memory of the late king, Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, by Trinley Norbu Rinpoche at the request of the late King’s mother. The paintings and statues inside the monument provide a deep insight into Buddhist philosophy. Known as the father of modern Bhutan during his 20 year reign from 1952 to 1972 Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, established the judicial system, the Tshogdu or National Assembly, the first economic development plan, building roads, schools and hospitals, and established relationships with foreign countries, culminating with Bhutan joining the United Nations in 1971.
In the morning with most of the population in Thimphu, visit the outdoor market, the most popular local market for vegetables and other food, as well indigenous
goods and handicrafts from different areas in Bhutan. We will then visit some of the other places of interest, including Buddha Point, the highest sitting Buddha in the world, Changangkha Lhakhang a 12th century monastery, and a Painting School, where the students are taught 13 types of arts and crafts. There is also a Folk Heritage Museum, a handmade paper factory, and the Tashicho Dzong as well as a Nunnery of the 16th Thangthang Gyalpo tulku.
Day 11-12 Paro
The pilgrimage will finish in the historic town of Paro. On the short drive from Thimpu to Paro, we visit the Iron-chain Bridge at Isuna, built by Lama Thangthong Gyalpo in the 15th century. Thangthong Gyalpo was a great Buddhist adept, a yogi, physician, blacksmith, architect, and a pioneering civil engineer. He is said to have built 58 iron chain suspension bridges around Tibet and Bhutan, several of which are still in use today
In Paro we will visit the National Museum of Bhutan, (Ta Dzong) which contains works of art, handicrafts, costumes, armors and rare stamps. After lunch we will visit Drukgyal Dzong built in 1647 by Shubdrung Nawang Namgyal. The Dzong was destroyed by fire and left in ruins as an evocative reminder of the great victories it was built to commemorate. On a clear day you get a magnificent view of the Mount Chomolhari, alt. 7314 m / 23,990 ft. It is a 30 minutes leisurely hike around the ruins. This is a beautiful walk.
Time permitting, we will drive south to Satsuma Chorten, built in memory of the late Dilgo Khentse Rinpoche, and then continue on to Kyichu Lhakhang. The Jowo Temple of Kyichu is one of the oldest temples in Bhutan, originally built in the 7th century by the Tibetan Emperor Songsten Gampo. In the 8th century the temple was visited by Guru Rinpoche and it is believed he concealed many spiritual treasures here.
Day 12: Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s nest)
After breakfast we will drive to the starting point of the excursion to view the spectacular Taktsang monastery (Tiger’s Nest). The trail to the monastery climbs through a beautiful pine forest, many of the trees festooned with Spanish moss, and an occasional grove of fluttering prayer flags. There will be an option to take horses over this part of the trail.
Built in the 1600s, this incredible monastery clings to the edge of a sheer rock cliff that plunges 900 meters into the valley below. The history states that Guru Padmasambhava, the Tantric mystic who brought Buddhism to Bhutan, landed here on the back of a flying tiger. Looking at the monastery, flying tigers don’t seem so impossible after all.
After the final part of the hike to Taktsang, which can be done at your own pace, we will spend about an hour walking through and meditating in the monastery complex, before starting on our hike back. On the way back, we will also visit Machig’s cave where she left her footprint on a rock. We will stop at a cafeteria for a warm lunch and beautiful views, and then we complete our hike back to Paro Valley. For many, the visit to Taktsung is the highlight and perfect ending of the pilgrimage.
Day 13 – Friday, November 6: DEPART BHUTAN
After breakfast we will say our goodbyes to the people and country of Bhutan as we go to the airport for the flight back to Bangkok.