The Kingdom of Bhutan is nestled high in the Himalayas between China and India. Its storied history, unique culture, and pristine environment are inextricably linked, and make it one of the few destinations left on Earth where people and nature exist in harmony.
Globe Aware is working directly with His Royal Highness Prince Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck and his representatives to allow select groups of guests to explore deeper into Bhutan. Reflecting our deep-seated commitment to local development and sustainability, all of our experiences and projects involve support for the kingdom's most important environmental, community and/or cultural initiatives; including wildlife protection programs with the Royal Government of Bhutan and His Majesty’s private initiative to preserve Bhutan's tangible history.
Over the past ten years, Thimphu (the capital city of Bhutan) has experienced an increase in population from 85,000 to 125,000 people. With this increase, the average age has decreased. This is largely due to young adults leaving their family farm homes in villages with the goal to partake in the capital’s growing service economy (largely tourism).
With less opportunity than demand for entry, these Bhutanese youth often struggle to earn a living. While Bhutan remains one of the safest countries in the world, locals have noticed an increase in crime and depression in this age group. At the teenage level, there is very little extracurricular activity available in Thimphu. After class, students either return to their homes or sit with friends in the main clocktower square. This lack of programs prevent the youth from finding hobbies, networking and/or developing ideas to help their personal growth.
Thimphu has not been able to develop infrastructure to keep up with the population increase for this type of community program. The ultimate goal of our program in Bhutan will be to construct and outfit a community center primarily focusing on the youth of this community. The center will provide a positive, safe, and conducive environment for recreational and social activities, programs and projects, access to information on youth related issues and access to counseling and referrals for both the youth and their families. The intention is to help the youth become productive and responsible, respecting and resilient citizens. The center will have a library, indoor games, internet, printing, binding and lamination facilities.
In addition to the community center project, volunteers will spend one morning building much needed shelters for an animal rescue mission, work alongside Bhutaese Buddhist nuns to whitewash their temples (then eat lunch with them), plant a few magnolias in a sacred forest, engage in variety of environmental projects with the Royal Society for the Protection of Nature; larger groups may also work on similar community focused projects such as; working with the Bhutan Olympic Committee to build Bhutan’s first baseball field for the youth in Thimphu; assisting with the construction of the city’s first community-based library; Restoration of the 13th Century Jamtoe Goenpa in Haa District; or help with the construction of an animal rehabilitation facility in conjunction with the Department of Forest and Park Services. Project specifics will vary on group size, needs of the community at the time of travel, availability of supplies and weather. Project specifics will vary on group size, needs of the community at the time of travel, availability of supplies and weather. Smaller groups will work on various community driven projects that also support the community, such as; Whitewash temple with resident monks, work on trail maintenance with one of Bhutan's leading environmental stewards/activists; tree planting (Bhutan is the world’s only carbon negative country in the world!); or making Tsa Tsa with monks (clay mold usually made in memory of Bhutan's deceased or to keep away obstacles, diseases and/or accidents).
Food and Lodging
Volunteers will stay in three separate 3 star hotels along the way as we move through Thimphu, Paro, and Punakha, hotels with a distinctly local flavor than many other hotels, with Buddhist artwork found throughout the hotel. All feature large, colorful auspicious symbols painted directly on the walls over beds.
All of the hotels’ rooms have free wifi, refrigerators, wood floors, flat screen TVs with international channels, modern bathroom fixtures, laundry service, room service, and complimentary coffee/tea and bottled water daily. Depending on timing, some rooms may include a complimentary 20-minute massage at Aru Spa.
A restaurant adjoins the lobby of all the hotels, offering Indian, Chinese, Bhutanese, and Continental fare, as well as salads, soups, sandwiches, and pasta dishes.
Leisure and Activities
There are many cultural opportunities to partake in while in Bhutan. Visiting remote mountain temples, taking scenic hikes, exploring the lush and untouched nature, and enjoying traditional customs in cultural exhibitions are just a few. Volunteers will have many opportunities to enjoy meals and activities with local community members in a truly immersive experience. You will spend an evening strolling through the central downtown, visit with the Takin (sacred national animal) on a short forest hike, learn how to cook famous Bhutanese dishes, such as their famous chili cheese dish!, you will visit the Bhutan Post Museum (where you can have personalized stamps made for postcards you then mail home), the Royal Textile museum, walk across famous suspension bridge, and of course hike the 8 mile roundtrip to Tiger’s Nest, entering the sacred cave beneath the monastery. You can also hire d onkey to get you 2/3 of the way there and back for an extra (modest) cost you pay directly on arrival. We always include a family farm home visit or two, you will receive a traditional Bhutanese blessing from a llama, and you will enjoy traditional Bhutanese dancing. Depending on the time of year, you will also be invited to play a softball/baseball game with the burgeoning kids team, begun in 2001 (coach is from Texas!)
Arranging your Airfare
A visa is required to enter the Kingdom of Bhutan. We ask that you book a trip at least 60 days in advance to give time for proper paperwork to be done. We will provide you with the necessary documents from the government of Bhutan, but the volunteer is responsible for applying and obtaining their visa.
Volunteers will be picked up and dropped off at the Paro International Airport according to your flight schedule. This is a Sunday-Saturday program.
Safety and Security
Widely considered one of the safest international travel destinations, Bhutan reports some of the lowest crime rates in the world. You will be accompanied by our local coordinators and government tour guides throughout your stay to guarantee you are well taken care of. Globe Aware volunteers are provided travel health insurance in the event you need to see a doctor while on site. The hospital is within easy driving distance from our program site.