On this unique tour of the tiny, far-away Kingdom of Bhutan, we travel from the western cities of Paro, Thimphu and Punakha, with their beautiful Dzongs and markets, to remote villages of the Lhuntse District in eastern Bhutan, farther into the country than most visitors ever go. We take numerous day hikes and experience first-hand the cultural diversity of the Bhutanese: medieval and modern, with large doses of mysticism. We’ll immerse ourselves in the breathtaking natural splendor of Bhutan—a region of incomparable biological richness and beauty. Its lush, temperate cloud forests of pine and rhododendron provide sanctuary for a great variety of flora and fauna. Its high valleys are covered in forests and embrace small monasteries, chortens, traditional stone houses, and markets. We travel with Bhutanese guides who have deep connections throughout the country; they freely share with us their intimate understanding of the environment and their people.
Bhutan is exceptionally beautiful, with tremendous diversity of flora and fauna. For centuries, Bhutan was isolated by its geographical situation, bound to the south by dense tropical jungles and to the north by the mighty Himalaya. As one of the world’s last strongholds of Tibetan Buddhism, it is home to people for whom compassion and happiness are more important than productivity and material wealth. In the last fifteen years Bhutan has slowly opened its frontiers to a few privileged visitors. Last year, only 40,000 tourists were allowed in the entire country and then only with a government-sanctioned travel agency. This is a fascinating time, as the Bhutanese deliberately incorporate modern technology, while reverently protecting their rich cultural heritage.
While this is a moderate tour, not a trek, you still must be in moderately good shape to participate. We will be hiking at elevations that range between 4500’ and 11,000’ on steep trails that may not be well maintained.
Sonam Jatso, my friend and co-leader on this trip, has extensive knowledge of Bhutan’s history, religion, culture, economy, and the development of the philosophy of Gross National Happiness. He is a thought leader, a social entrepreneur, a writer, a tour operator, and a student of Vajrayana Buddhism. He also has extensive network and connection with people throughout the country and is able to make special arrangements to meet and interact with Buddhist Lamas and monks, local leaders, and people in remote places.
One of the main highlights of this trip is the remote village of Kurtoe, near the Bhutan-Tibet border in Eastern Bhutan. Sonam is from that village. At a very young age, he left the village in search of modern education. Over the years, the people of his village saw education transform Sonam’s life. Every time he makes a visit to the area, people walk long distances, from all over the region, for an opportunity to meet him. He has become an inspiration and a role model for the people of his village and neighboring areas. With the introduction of democracy, they now want him to contest the election and represent them in the Parliament and the central government. At present, Sonam is in charge (CEO) of the country’s ruling party—the largest and the first political party of Bhutan.
COST: $6450 land costs Non-refundable deposit $500
DATE: May 2 to 18, 2017