The Kingdom of Bhutan
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We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.
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The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes.
A place unlike anywhere else on Earth
There is a place that not many people have had the opportunity of visiting called the Kingdom of Bhutan. We had the privilege of spending time there with students in both 2017 and 2019. There are several reasons why we continue to return to Bhutan, but the main driving force is because we believe that Bhutan’s palpable, calm energy, coupled with its stunning Himalayan landscape, it’s spiritual teachings and low-volume approach to tourism make it an ideal location for us to share an incredible journey where all participants can not only reground and connect with themselves, but also learn many important life lessons.
Highlights From Our 2017 Trip
The Kingdom of Bhutan
Explore the Student Experience from our Student Learning Blogs
Beaming faces greeted us as we walked into the grade nine Dzonka class at Ugyen Academy. These new faces would soon become close friends over the duration of the day.
Explore Student Blogs
We love bringing students and staff together from different schools.
It allows for a dynamic experience where new friendships can be forged, shared learning can occur and meaningful memories can create deeply rooted connections. Students and teachers join the journey to this small Buddhist country where monasteries and dzongs (fortresses) spot the forest, where the mountainous landscape is stunning, and where the local people have a generosity of spirit that is sincerely genuine. Participants (students and teachers) travel in groups no larger than eighteen alongside an ALIVE instructor, Bhutanese guides and a dedicated professional bus driver from our partner organization Good Karma Travel.
Our Incredible Bhutanese Guides
Connection with Local School Partners
Tasty Local Meals With Lots of Options
The Kingdom of Bhutan Global Learning Itinerary and Details
Every trip will have their own itinerary, however there will be some similarities to each experience.
- Dochula Pass, a collection of 108 chortens and prayer flags.
- Memorial Chorten – The Memorial Stupa, also known as the Thimphu Chorten, is a stupa, popularly known as “the most visible religious landmark in Bhutan.”
- Centenary Park and Buddha Point, where a massive statue of Shakyamuni measures in at a height of 51.5 meters, making it one of the largest statues of Buddha in the world. As well, groups have the opportunity to travel inside Buddha, where 125,000 smaller Buddhas reside.
- Punakha Dzong – Punakha Dzong is built on the confluence of the Two rivers Pho chu and Mo chu. It is a magnificent structure and a marvel of traditional Bhutanese architecture. It is considered a pride for Bhutan
- Hike to Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest), approximately 1000 meters above the Paro valley. The oldest temple founded in 7th century by Tibetan king Songsang Gangpo.
- Learning exchange with students from a local school, overnight, sharing insights with each other about happiness, health, success and personal values.
Centenary Park and Buddha Point
Taktsang Monastery (Tiger's Nest)
Bhutan Trip Objectives
- To evaluate and examine our own perspectives and our personal values.
- To learn from and share with some of Bhutan’s Secondary School students. Everyone has a different idea of what happiness and success looks like. This will be an opportunity to exchange ideas and examine personal values from very different perspectives.
- To deepen and expand our worldview.
- To be immersed in a society that will contrast the difference in pace and values between a life centered in Western consumerism versus intentional and unhurried living.
- To appreciate Buddhist cultural traditions and spirituality, as well as environmentalism and commitment to conservation.
The Finer Details
If there are students participating from various schools, will they be split up if there ends up being a few different bus groups/itineraries?
Our intention is for students from each school to stay together with their chaperone, however, if numbers warrant it, and there is a desire to be mixed with other school’s we are totally open to that, as long as there is a chaperone with each student group. Bus groups are limited to 18 participants (students and teachers). If one school has 18 students interested, and they wish to have their own bus and their own itinerary that is do-able as well. Typically, trips end up having smaller groups from a few schools that together in one bus.
The trip is typically 10 to 12 days in length and are taken during March Breaks.
Yes. The Gold project is intended to be an opportunity for students to build upon many of the skills that they have developed during the award, and is supposed to be an experience that not only allows them to learn, but also to be of service to others. According to Duke of Edinburgh’s Canadian Guide for Gold Participants, in order to complete the Gold Project students must:
- Undertake shared purposeful activity which provides opportunities for broadening your interests and experience.
- Reside away from your usual place of residence for a total period of no less than five days and four nights.
- Be in the company of others who are, in the majority, not your usual companions.
There are two airlines that operate flights in and out of Bhutan. Drukair is Bhutan’s national carrier and Tashi Air (also known as Bhutan Airlines). There is one international airport at Paro, about an hour’s drive from the capital, Thimphu. There are a few different routes to Bhutan, but typically groups fly in to Bangkok, Thailand, and then carry on to Paro, Bhutan.
While in Bhutan participants travel on a bus that is dedicated to their group, with a dedicated driver who holds their Tourist Vehicle Drivers License. They will be with us for the duration of our trip.
Rooms are based on double occupancy. If numbers warrant it based on group numbers, a 3rd person may be added to a room. Hotels are booked once groups are established and the itinerary is finalized. One night will be spent on a student exchange where participants will sleep at one of the boarding schools in order to share an experience with Bhutanese students.
Wi-Fi in Bhutan can be spotty and slower than at home, but it’s still quite accessible. Most hotels have it in their lobby. Some will have it available in the rooms, and some will not. Of course staying connected is important. We will be posting photos and student blogs throughout the trip for friends and family to follow along. It’s very easy to purchase a SIM card in Bhutan and have service there, or to add on a phone plan from your provider before leaving Canada. The biggest hurdle to staying in touch is the fact that the time zones are so different.
Bhutan is 10 hours ahead of our Eastern Standard Time. Flipping our body’s time clock is not easy. We will work together as group prior to our departure to learn some prevention tips for jet lag and how to set ourselves up for success. Typically trips will return approximately five days before the end of March Break to allow participants to rest and reground prior to heading back to school.
Bhutan is the world’s last surviving Himalayan Buddhist kingdom and is one of the only countries to place humility and compassion at the centre of its constitution. The three main themes of Buddhism are detachment, ephemerality (the concept of things being transitory, existing only briefly) and change. Throughout this journey, there will be ample opportunity to learn from many local people of all ages about their spirituality and culture, and how it plays a significant role in how they live their lives. This in turn will of course allow for many reflective moments both personally and as a group.
Bhutan is among the world’s leading countries in clean energy. At the moment, Bhutan is the only carbon negative country in the world. As mandated in its constitution, Bhutan preserves (at all times) 60 percent of its land under forest cover. According to the decree of the King, cut one tree for whatever purpose, you must plant 3 new trees. Plastic bags are banned. These positive policies help Bhutan have a pristine environment and one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. Part of the pre-departure work that we will do as a group is to work to find ways that we can work to off-set our inevitable carbon emissions.
To learn more about Bhutan’s commitment to our planet watch this inspiring TED talk. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Lc_dlVrg5M
March is a good time to visit Bhutan. The valleys are beginning to warm up, flowers are starting to bloom and there are clear views of the Himalaya. Temperatures tend to vary based on altitude, but on average it’s about 10-22 degrees Celsius.
When groups land in Paro the altitude will be 2200m, groups then travel through Thimphu, altitude of 2334m, and eventually down into the Punakha region, altitude of 1242m. The highest we will go is towards the end of our journey when we trek up to Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest) which sits at approximately 3120m (just over 10,000ft).
Interested in learning more?
Please direct any of your questions to Jalynn Bosley, Executive Director, ALIVE Outdoors. Jal was the lead of our 2017 and 2019 trips and she cannot wait to return. For over 20 years, Bhutan was the #1 place on her “life travel wish list,” and the Kingdom continues to exceed her expectations. She is drawn not only to the aesthetic beauty of the religious markers in Bhutan, such as the prayer flags that continually dance in the wind, but she also has a great reverence for the stunning landscape, the culture, traditions, spirituality and the kindness of the people. She has seen first hand that Bhutan has endless incredible lessons to teach us all. She can be reached at: [email protected]