Sacred Bhutan

Walking and Meditation in the Land of the Thunder Dragon

Feb. 15 – March 1, 2019

Susie Harrington assisted by Kathy Cheney

COST: $5,140 plus $800 for the round-trip flight from Bangkok to Paro. Dana (donation) for the teacher is not included. For more detail, please go to the Registration and Cost tab to the right.
Information about Retreat Dana

LOCATION: We will spend our days trekking through Bhutan. Trip begins and ends in Bangkok, Thailand (see itinerary).

At this time this retreat is full. Please complete the Online Registration Form to reserve your space on the waitlist. Cancellations happen every year and at least some applicants on the waitlist are admitted. A deposit is required but fully refundable for those on the waitlist who do not get a space on the retreat. 

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    This trip is a rare opportunity to travel behind the scenes in the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, a country steeped in centuries of Buddhist life and practice. Bhutan is one of the few countries in the world that has successfully resisted the wave of globalization. The country was quite isolated from the modern world until the 1960's, and residents enjoy a culturally intact lifestyle, complete with well-preserved festivals, traditional food and dress, and traditional architecture.

    Our focus will be on the active monasteries and temples that arise from the landscape everywhere. Monastic life is active and strong in Bhutan, and we will practice in many of these monasteries, listen to the chanting monks and nuns, and meet with the local Rinpoches and Khenpos who guide monastic life. Many of the temples that we will visit are remote, inaccessible by road, and infrequently visited by tourists.

    Rice and barley terraces line a sparkling river

    On most days we will walk – visiting remote temples, exploring villages, or hiking from town to town. We will stay in comfortable and interesting Bhutanese lodges. The trip includes an overnight trek with a night of 'luxury camping', many remote temples and hermitages, and stunning views of the Himalaya range.

    This is the fifth trip/retreat to Bhutan with dharma practitioners that Susie has led. On past trips we have found a rich combination of practice, engagement, and cultural exploration and will draw on past experience to continue to enhance an already very successful trip. As in the past, we will support our journey through meditation practice and personal reflection. On most days we will practice sitting and/or walking meditation, and throughout the trip we will process our experiences through dharma talks from Susie and group discussion. The trip will culminate in an overnight trek to Bumdra Monastery and the famous Taksang (Tiger's Nest) Monastery, built directly into a vertical cliff.

    Stupa in the mountains

    You do not need to be a seasoned meditation practitioner to join this trip, although some previous meditation experience in a mindful tradition will be helpful. An interest in developing a spiritual practice and an interest in Buddhist teachings are both important pre-requisites for this trip.


    Thursday February 15: travel day.
    DAY 1: we will gather and start getting to know one another.
    DAY 2: we will fly to Paro and visit our first temple.
    DAY 3: we will drive to Chele La where we will see spectacular views and visit Kila Nunnery.
    DAY 4: we will drive to Punakha with various stops along the way.
    DAY 5: we will visit a monastic school, hike through villages and farmland, and end up at Chorten Nebu Monastery.
    DAY 6: we will drive to Phobjikha Valley to explore and visit another monastery
    DAY 7: we will drive to the Bumthang province, the spiritual heart of Bhutan, and we will stay for three nights at the Chumey Nature Resort.
    DAY 8: we will spend the morning in intensive practice, and the afternoon at Tharpaling Monastery.
    DAY 9: we will practice during the morning, and drive to Jakar for afternoon temple visits.
    DAY 10: we will visit Pema Choling Nunnery in the morning and Kuzandrak temple in the afternoon.
    DAY 11: we will visit temples in the morning and return to Paro on an afternoon flight.
    DAY 12: we will begin our overnight trek to Bumdra monastery.
    DAY 13: we will trek back to Paro visiting other remote monasteries including Taksang Monastery.
    DAY 14 (Friday, March 1): we will conclude our time with sitting, reflection, and goodbyes to our local guides after which we will catch an afternoon flight back to Bangkok.

    Prayer flags flutter over a sea of clouds

    Please click here for a more detailed itinerary pdf and description of our activities each day.


    Susie will guide practice sessions and integrate dharma teachings into the trip. She has had many years of experience as both a teacher and a guide. Kathy will take care of logistics and provide personal support. Kathy is an experienced retreat coordinator and has supported beginning and experienced meditators on retreat and in daily life. We both carry the intention of supporting you in your outer and inner journeys, and we will provide as many options as possible to accommodate the group’s interests and individual needs.

    Susie Harrington has been practicing Buddhist meditation for more than 20 years, focusing on Insight Meditation since 1995. Susie began teaching the Dharma in 2005 under the direction of her teachers Guy Armstrong, Jack Kornfield, and Gil Fronsdal. She has also practiced with and been influenced by a number of Tibetan teachers. Believing nature to be a natural gateway to our true selves, Susie frequently offers retreats in the natural world. Her teaching is deeply grounded in the body, emphasizing embodiment of our practice in speech and daily life. She is a graduate of Hakomi Therapy (a somatic psychotherapy modality). She has been an outdoor professional for over 30 years, including years as a river guide, mountaineering guide, and backcountry ranger. She teaches residential and wilderness retreats throughout the Four Corners area and internationally. This will be the fifth trip to Bhutan Susie has led.

    Kathy Cheney has studied and practiced meditation and the Dharma in the Insight and Soto Zen traditions. Kathy was introduced to Buddhist teachings when she went to Spirit Rock Meditation Center as a volunteer for the Family Program in 2000. Kathy has sat retreats at Spirit Rock, Gaia House and other centers. Kathy has taught meditation to children and adults in the San Francisco Bay Area and is currently living in Volcano HI, where she co-leads a meditation group. Kathy has been managing meditation retreats and coordinating programs for Spirit Rock Meditation Center since 2011 and is the Retreat Coordinator for the Aloka Vihara Nun’s retreats. Kathy will be hiking up Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii to prepare for this trip!


    A note on cost – The Bhutanese government sets the fees for travel in Bhutan and has chosen to charge more, have fewer tourists, and maintain a high quality experience for visitors and residents alike. There is a set fee for tourists, which includes local guides, lodging, meals, and transport. It is one of the ways they have opened up their country to us, without sacrificing the value they place in their own culture.

    $5,140, plus $800 airfare for RT Bangkok to Paro, Bhutan. Single supplement $700.

    • What’s Included: (basically everything!)
      Lodging, including the first night in Bangkok
      Three meals a day, starting with dinner on November 21.
      All activities on the itinerary
      Bottled drinking water
      Domestic airfare (Jakar to Paro)
      Bhutan Visa- $40 (we will arrange this for you)
      Carbon offsets for the carbon impact of flying from the U.S. to Bhutan

    • What’s Not Included:
      Teacher support for Susie. In the spirit of offering dharma teachings without charge, Susie has chosen to not be paid for this trip. You may make an offering of teacher support to her before or after the trip, and donations are tax deductible.
      Round trip airfare to Bangkok. (You will arrange this on your own.)
      Round trip airfare from Bangkok to Paro, Bhutan (This flight will be arranged for you, and you will pay the outfitter $800, through Sky Mind Retreats.)
      Final night stay and meals in Bangkok, if your flight leaves the following day
      Optional tips for local guides
      Medical insurance, as required by Bhutan. (See below.)

    We will be making reservations on Bhutan Airways, for our flight from Bangkok to Paro, as soon as the minimum number of ten people have registered. Once the reservations have been made, this amount ($800) is nonrefundable, unless someone else registers to take your place and we are able to transfer the reservation. Reservations must be made far in advance, as only the national airlines serve Bhutan. A $500 non-refundable trip deposit is also due with your registration.

    Due with Registration: $500-non-refundable deposit plus $800 for Bangkok-Paro flight (mailed to address on registration form.)
    June 1, 2018: $1500
    September 1, 2018: $1500
    December 1, 2018: $1640 - includes $40 visa fee

    Getting There
    We will begin our trip in Bangkok, the afternoon before we depart for Bhutan. Most flights from the United States arrive late at night, so you will probably arrive in Bangkok the night before. We suggest coming an extra day or two early, if you have the time, so that you can adjust to the different time zone. We can help arrange lodging if needed. More details on arranging your flights will be sent once you register. As January 2018, the round-trip cost from Denver to Bangkok starts at $950. Please wait to make your flight arrangements to Bangkok until we let you know that we have the minimum number of participants (ten) to make the trip go.

    Remember that you will need a current passport!

    After you register, we will send more logistical details about travel, vaccinations, and what to bring. Please feel free to contact either of us by phone or email if you have any questions!

    Kathy Cheney

    Susie Harrington


    Please read carefully
    Because we must make non-refundable deposits in Bhutan, we have the following cancellation policy. You will be making nonrefundable deposits for the trip expenses, and we cannot refund payments except according to the following cancellation policy.

    The $500 deposit is non-refundable, and, once plane reservations have been made, the $800 airfare is non-refundable. Refunds can be made as follows:

    • For cancellations between June 1-Aug. 31, 50% of the first payment ($750).
    • For cancellations Sept. 1-Nov. 30, 50% of the first two payments ($1500).
    • For cancellations Dec. 1-24, 50% of first three payments ($2300).

    *After Dec. 24, 2018, no refunds can be made. If Sky Mind Retreats needs to cancel the trip for any reason, all fees, including the deposit, will be returned. Plane flight cost cannot be reimbursed.

    Prayer flags with snowy peaks

    Things happen! It is required that you purchase trip insurance, which will reimburse your trip cost if you cannot travel due to injury or illness. The Bhutanese government requires all travelers to purchase medical travel insurance, and most of these policies include trip cancellation. Be aware that you usually are required to purchase the policy shortly after you register for the trip and make your first payment in order for the trip cancellation insurance to be effective. Please read carefully the benefits for different plans and you might consider the 'cancel for any reason' clause available in some plans.
    Two companies that we like are:
    Worldwide Trip Protector, or 1-800-243-3174.
    World Nomads,