Kingdom of Bhutan Exclusive Cultural Immersion Adventure at the Bhutan International Marathon!
The Sister Marathon Initiative’s Exclusive Marathon and Cultural Immersion Adventure in the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan is travel at its most iconic. Amidst the wonders of high mountains and deep valleys where compassion and wisdom are the benchmarks against which all things are measured, you will experience the ancient and harmonious Buddhist traditions resonating in all living things, where the King rules by “Gross National Happiness."
On our authentic Bhutan journey guests encounter the mystic Himalayas while the kindness of the Bhutanese people will unfold before our very eyes. Our seasoned leaders, guides and coaches are second to none in interpreting the environmental and cultural marvels that define this meticulously designed itinerary. In the renowned locales of Paro, Thimphu and Punakha, will we stay in intimate hotels offering a standard of hospitality unrivaled in the country.
The 6 night 7 day retreat features a diverse group of Bhutanese officials and spiritual leaders, and international runners, guest speakers and coaches who intend to bring fresh, new dialogues into each others lives.
Each day's rich slate of activities consist of scenic group runs, cooking classes, spa and meditation retreats and cultural encounters with local people and officials. As either a spectator, volunteer or runner, this once-in-a-lifetime adventure culminates with your participation in the Bhutan International Marathon or Half Marathon. To travel with the Sister Marathon Peace Initiative is to experience the mystical Kingdom of Bhutan as never before: where nature and cultural are center-stage and we are small, awed spectators, moved by wonder.
Day 1: Early morning departure from Bangkok, Thailand and Arrive in Paro, Bhutan
A noon luncheon will be hosted by the Bhutan International Marathon Committee, followed by introductions, welcome addresses and the program overview.
In the afternoon, we have the opportunity to enjoy small group activities such as Dzong and national museum tours. Private excursions with their own personal guides, or relaxing massage and physical therapy sessions, both including wondrous views and comfortable amenities, are also available for those who want them.
ADDITIONAL AFTERNOON ACTIVITIES IN PARO INCLUDE:
- A visit to the Kyichu Lhakhang. Built in the 7th century by the famous Buddhist Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo, Kyichu Lhakhang is one of the oldest temples in Bhutan. The temple is a reservoir of peace, and here you will find tranquility like never before. Next to the temple is the house that is now turned into a museum dedicated to the late Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. One can come across photographs and other artifacts belonging to the Rinpoche.
- A visit to the ruins of Drugyel Dzong, a fortress built in 1646 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to commemorate his victory over the Tibetans in 1644. Drukgyel means “the fortress of the victorious Drukpas”. The Dzong is an awe-inspiring sight with Mount Jumolhari (Alt 24,000 feet) appearing as a backdrop.
- Hot stone baths
A group dinner begins at 7:00 pm followed by select lectures.
Day 2: Tiger’s Nest Monastery Hike and Running Adventure
Clinging to the cliff walls 3120 meters above sea level, the Tiger’s Nest Buddhist temple complex is a wonder to behold. History unfolds as we hike and run to the summit, learning the stories of this holy and magical place high up on the mountain slopes along the way. The area around the monastery offers stunning views of majestic mountains and emerald green valleys. In addition, guests will have an impressive opportunity to hang prayer flags in the immediate vicinity of the monastery. Prayer flags symbolize happiness, long life, prosperity, luck and offer karmic merit to all sentient beings.
After our day of activities, we return back to the resort for a sumptuous meal of traditional Bhutanese foods including both vegetarian, vegan and non-vegetarian fare. The evening culminates with coaching lectures and small group activities including spa and hot stone baths before bedtime.
Day 3: Punakha: Race Day Preparation at Damchen Resort
After breakfast we transfer the two-hour drive through stunning valleys to Punakha.
10:00 AM Packet Pick Up (ending at 2:00PM)
2:00 PM Mandatory Pre-Race Briefing
3:00 PM Personal R&R Time
5:00 PM Private 1-1 & Small Group Coaching Sessions
7:00 PM Group Dinner & Motivational Talk
ADDITIONAL ACTIVITIES IN PUNAKHA INCLUDE:
- A visit to the Punakha Dzong. Placed strategically at the junction of the Pho Chu and Mo Chu rivers, the fortress was built in 1637 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to serve as the religious and administrative seat of the region. It was here that the dual system of government was introduced in the 17th century. And in 1907, the first King Gongsr Ugyen Wangchuck was enthroned here. Damaged over the centuries by four catastrophic fires and an earthquake, the dzong has been fully restored in recent years by the 4th King Jigme Singye Wangchuck. The Dzong allows visitors to enrich their trip with the opportunity to see the highest standards in Bhutanese woodwork. Do not miss the massive Kuenray, the coronation hall of all Bhutanese kings, the Dzongchung at the entrance to the dzong, and the cantilever bridge over the Mo Chu that has been recently renovated.
- Take a hike to Khamsum Yule Namgyel Chorten. This fascinating temple was built by the Queen Mother of the 5th King to bring universal peace in the world. The best of the spiritual artworks are painted on the inner walls. There are also paintings of Buddhist teachers and tutelary deities of the country. This is a great temple to study the symbolic meanings of the frescoes and sculptures.
- A visit to Talo Monastery. The Talo Monastery is dedicated to the most important and powerful deity in Bhutan.
Day 4: Saturday, March 4… Race Day! Full and Half Marathon.
There is no better location than the marathon route to contemplate the breathtaking beauty and at the same time the complexity and ultimate fragility of the unique and rarely visited ecosystem of Bhutan!
- 5:30 AM Bus Depart Damchen Resort Parking Lot
- 8:00 AM Race Start
- 1:30 PM Pho Chu Suspension Bridge Cut Off
- 3:00 PM Race Finish Cutoff
- 5:00 PM Awards Celebration - Punakha Dzong
Day 5 & 6: Thimphu
As the sun rises over the mountains, awaken the morning after the race to the crisp Himalyan air, rejoicing in our triumphs of the previous day’s race! After a casual breakfast, guests can leisurely travel to the capital city of Thimphu where we will spend our last two days in the country. Refreshingly cleanse along the banks of the serene Thimphu River beneath the Himalayan sky enjoying spas, hot baths and meditation. Or simply read and relax at your resort, absorbing the ever-shifting vistas in front of the river.
The range of cultural activities available in Thimphu is extensive and guests will have amazing possibilities for cultural and natural photography.
ADDITIONAL ACTIVITIES IN THIMPHU INCLUDE:
- A visit to the Motithang Takin Sanctuary where you can see the national animal of Bhutan. The Takin is a very unique animal that looks like the mix between a goat and an antelope.
- A visit to the magnificent Tashichhodzong. Tashichhodzong means "the fortress of the glorious religion." It is a majestic fortress in all its grandeur and serves as the seat of Bhutan’s government. The Dzong houses the secretariat, the throne room, the offices of His Majesty the King and the ministries of home affairs and finance. The fortress was initially erected in 1641 and later rebuilt in the 1960s by the third king, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck.
- Immerse yourself in cultural activities.
- Hike to Tango monastery and then to Cheri monastery. Join the monks for lunch followed by a) community trail cleaning project or b) meditation classes
- Circumvent the National Memorial Chorten along with the locals. The locals circumvent the Chorten daily as it is believed to bring blessings not only to yourself but to all sentient beings. The National Memorial Chorten was built in 1974 in memory of the late Third Druk Gyalpo (King) of Bhutan.
Day 7: Paro / Depart
Following a last early morning breakfast, we transfer the one-hour drive from Thimphu to the Paro International Airport where we depart for our onward flight back to Bangkok, Thailand.
Don’t miss this truly once-in-a-lifetime experience for intimate and exhilarating sense of adventure in the Kingdom of Bhutan!