Sacred Bhutan Retreat

Walking and Meditation in the Land of the Thunder Dragon

Nov. 23 – Dec. 8, 2024

TEACHER: Susie Harrington assisted by Kathy Cheney

COST: $6,960 plus $930 for the round-trip flight from Bangkok to Paro. 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, and the waitlist is open. 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.

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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.

    We will support our journey and enrich our experience throughout by allowing time for individual practice, sharing experiences and reflections, and opportunities to practice in the temples and monastic communities we visit. Midway through the trip, we will spend three nights at Ogyen Choling Palace deep in the Bumthang province of Bhutan. The trip will culminate in an overnight trek to Bumdra Monastery and the famous Taktsang (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 prerequisites for this trip.


    Friday, November 22 - Travel Day
    DAY 1: We will gather in Bangkok late-afternoon and start getting to know one another.
    DAY 2: Fly to Paro and visit our first temple.
    DAY 3: Drive to Chele La where we will see spectacular views and visit the Kila Nunnery temple.
    DAY 4: Drive to Punakha with various stops along the way.
    DAY 5: Hike through villages and farmland, and end up at Khamsum Yuli Namgyal Temple, a fabulous three story temple built on the top of a hill by the Queen Mother as an act of protection for her son the King.
    DAY 6: Drive to Phobjikha Valley to explore and visit another monastery
    DAY 7: Drive to the Bumthang province, the spiritual heart of Bhutan and stay in the Chumey Valley.
    DAY 8: Spend the morning at Tharpaling Monastery and hike to KiKiLa Pass.
    DAY 9: Drive to the Tang Valley, visit the Pema Choling Nunnery and arrive at the Ogyen Choling Palace where we will stay for three nights.
    DAY 10: Settle in for a day of practice.
    DAY 11: Hike to a remote cliff temple that is also a long-term retreat place.
    DAY 12: Drive to Chokhar and visit Bumthang’s most treasured temples.
    DAY 13:Take a flight from Bumthang to Paro
    DAY 14: Begin our overnight trek to Bumdra monastery.
    DAY 15: Trek back to Paro visiting other remote monasteries including Taktsang Monastery.
    DAY 16: Conclude our retreat journey in Bhutan, returning to Bangkok. (Sunday, December 8th)

    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. For nearly two decades and over ten trips Susie has been guiding groups, leading retreats and visiting Bhutan. She has developed an intimate relationship with the people and the place. 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. This will be Kathy’s 4th trip assisting on this journey. 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 Kathy Cheney was introduced to Buddhism at Spirit Rock Meditation Center and has studied and practiced meditation Insight and Soto Zen traditions since 2000. She 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 in Hawaii. She has managed meditation retreats and coordinated programs for Spirit Rock, Sacred Mountain Sangha, Abhayagiri Monastery and Aloka Vihara/Aloka Earth Room.


    Covid continues to be a factor in our world. Currently you can plan to take an antigen test within 24 hours before our first meet up in Bangkok and we will ask you to pack extra antigen tests and mask. Expect to be asked to take extra care in the 10 days before travel and to mask in airports and as much as possible while traveling. A positive Covid test would put your planned trip at risk! We will update the protocols in place for the retreat as requirements and recommendations evolve. We will be subject to any requirements Bhutan has in place at the time of our travel there.


    We will be visiting Bhutan at the very end of fall and the beginning of winter, when crowds are small, and the weather is sunny and cool. The weather is typically pleasant, although a bit of clouds or rain here and there is a possibility. Once the sun goes down temperatures drop sharply and can reach freezing overnight. You will want warm, toasty clothes for this trip. We will send a What to Bring list as the trip gets closer.

    Bhutanese food is usually locally grown, unprocessed and healthy, with lots of vegetable dishes. Rice, potatoes, and chilies are the primary staples. Meat, poultry and seafood are usually options, and vegetarians can be easily accommodated. We will most likely see Tibetan, Indian, and Chinese influences in the food, including Tibetan momos and thukpa noodles. The national dish is ema datshi, a spicy blend of chilies and yak cheese. If you have special food requirements these can probably be accommodated, especially common ones like gluten-free and no-dairy. Be sure to let us know about special food requirements well in advance.


    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.

    $6,960, plus $930 airfare for RT Bangkok to Paro, Bhutan. (Total cost is $7,890). This cost is based on double occupancy. If you want your own room, please add $900.

    What is included (basically everything!):

    • Lodging, including the first night in Bangkok
    • Three meals a day, starting with dinner on November 23
    • All activities on the itinerary
    • Transportation
    • Purified drinking water
    • Domestic airfare (Jakar to Paro)
    • Round trip airfare from Bangkok to Paro, Bhutan (This flight will be arranged for you, and you will pay the outfitter $930, through Sky Mind Retreats)
    • Bhutan Visa - (we will arrange this for you)
    • Donations to the nunneries and monasteries we will visit

    What is 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)
    • Final night stay and meals in Bangkok
    • Optional tips for local guides
    • Medical travel insurance, as required by Bhutan (See travel insurance in Cancellation Policy, below.)

    Payment Schedule

    Due with Registration: $1,000-non-refundable deposit
    plus $930 for Bangkok-Paro round trip flight
    (mailed to address on registration form and information page.)
    March 1, 2024 $1,990
    June 1, 2024 $1,990
    September 1, 2024 $1,990

    We will be making reservations for our flight from Bangkok to Paro, as soon as the minimum number of ten people have registered. (Do not make your flight reservations to Bangkok until we let you know the minimum number has been reached) Once the reservations have been made, this amount ($930) 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 it is the only national airline to serve Bhutan. Also please note that a slight increase may occur due to changes in cost by airlines. If this happens we will adjust the amount due accordingly.)


    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 $1000 deposit is non-refundable, and, once plane reservations have been made, the $930 airfare is non-refundable. Refunds can be made as follows:

    • For cancellations March 1-May 31, 50% of the first payment ($995)
    • For cancellations June 1-Aug 31, 50% of the first two payments ($1,990).
    • For cancellations September 1-September 15, 50% of first three payments ($2,985).

    After Sept. 15, 2024 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 costs 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. We suggest using the platform to compare policies and cost to see what is best for your circumstances.

    Two companies that we like are:
    Worldwide Trip Protector, or 1-800-243-3174.
    World Nomads,