Inspired by Bhutan’s dedication to the happiness of its people over and above economic prosperity, this seven- to 12-night, full-board journey involves experiencing this remarkable Kingdom and its people while giving back to the communities as you pass through them. Receive two or three complimentary nights, massages and flights as you partake in culturally transformative experiences and activities that in turn assist locals in the areas where each Amankora lodge is set.
Begin your journey with a visit to the Buddha Dordenma and a talk on Gross National Happiness, then explore the capital of Thimphu. As you stroll through the city’s markets and visit its museums and temples, you’ll gain insight into typical Bhutanese daily life and culture. On your second day, spend time with the children of Gawaling Happy Home, reading stories and playing games. Positive interaction with visitors goes a long way in helping them to gain confidence and open up to the world around them. Or visit the Draktsho Vocational Training Centre for Special Children and Youth, purchasing their crafts and joining a sign language storytelling session to support their programme.
Day Three and Four
Journey to Punakha and stop along the way at Dochula Pass for a picnic with breathtaking views. After settling into your suite, visit Chime Lhakhang then take some time to visit the first Retirement Home for Buddhist Monks in Bhutan. Set up by a previous Amankora guest, this landmark facility cares for monks over 60 who retire with no families to return to. Begin the following day with a morning hike up the Khamsum Chorten, before exploring Punakha Dzong. Then perhaps head back to the home and purchase a meal for a monk who will appreciate both the gesture and your company.
Day Five and Six
Travel to Gangtey and after a leisurely lunch, visit the magnificent Gangtey Goemba Monastery. Stop by the town’s meditation centre and learn more about the life of hermits, their commitment to spiritual learning and their importance in the life and culture of Bhutan. Learn too, how you can support Heartbeats for Hermits, a programme that offers meals and warm clothing to hermits in need. An early start the next day offers the chance to visit the Bayta Community School in the heart of Phobjika Valley’s nature reserve, which is dedicated to preserving endangered black-necked cranes. Assist in the development of the school’s library, reading room, counselling space, and playground.
Day Seven and Eight
After the scenic transfer to Bumthang and the chance to explore the lodge, visit the Trongsa Dzong, the Watch Tower Museum and Wangdicholing Palace, as well as Shingkhar and Nga Lhakhangs – two temples housing priceless cultural assets. Help the monks to update and digitise their archiving and storage systems, to help preserve irreplaceable masks and scrolls. Day eight will see you embarking on a spiritual exploration of Jakar Valley’s most sacred sites and visiting remote temples such as Dorji Tse Goempa and Lugi Rawa Lhakhang. Help with structural upkeep or assist with English lessons and the donation of robes and educational books to the monks – some as young as 10 years old.
Day Nine and Ten
The fertile valley of Bumthang is the breadbasket of Bhutan. Spend time visiting and supporting various farming communities in which weaving, herbal tea cultivation and beekeeping are important cottage industries. Those able can share their marketing, online commerce and visual merchandising expertise, all invaluable to entrepreneurs who include the widowed yathra weavers of Dorjibi Village. The next morning, take your complimentary domestic flight to Paro, and after settling in, visit the National Museum and Paro Dzong.
Day Eleven and Twelve
Choose between two community assistance programmes or make time to get involved in both. The first works to provide safe, drinking water to all Bhutanese and efficient irrigation systems to all farmers. While water is abundant in Bhutan, the systems are not in place to ensure that everyone has the access they need. The second initiative supports the Drukgyel Central School, and in particular, its ‘Future Farmers’ agriculture programme. On your final day, take a pilgrimage to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery, and cap off your journey with a farewell dinner in traditional gho and kira garb.
*Bumthang is not included in journeys of seven to nine nights
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