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Leadership Pilgrimage to Bhutan

A Journey of Personal and Professional Transformation

Program Postponed
Dates Coming Soon!

Join other executives, CEOs, community leaders, and entrepreneurs seeking insight, wisdom, and skillful action in their lives and work. The Authentic Leadership Center at Naropa University and the Gross National Happiness Centre in Bhutan are partnering to deliver a unique international leadership development opportunity.

  • Explore the concepts of Gross National Happiness as applied to leadership
  • Draw on a diverse range of spiritual and secular resources for reflection on our own life’s journey
  • Discover how to be more authentic, compassionate, and effective leaders

Questions? Call (720) 608-1238

Discover your own personal journey of leadership transformation and positive change

Experience a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit Bhutan and be immersed in the world-famous Gross National Happiness (GNH) program.

Bhutan’s philosophy of Gross National Happiness has guided the country’s leaders in charting a mindful and balanced path of national development that prioritizes the happiness and well-being of all life, rather than the pursuit of economic growth for its own sake.

What makes this pilgrimage different from others?

​​​​Participants will partake in an intensive program with the Centre’s leaders and senior faculty

The program includes online support and resources beginning on September 1 and three live video conference calls on September 6th, 13th, and 20th at 9am MST

These calls will prepare us for the 11-day immersion with the Gross National Happiness Centre in Bhutan from September 28 – October 8, 2017.

Following the trip, the program continues with two live video conference calls on October 18th and 25th at 9am MST, to assist in applying the experience within your organization or community, and concludes online on October 31.


Participants will learn how to apply GNH to their personal lives, work and community from well-known and highly respected faculty from the GNH Centre in Bhutan and the Authentic Leadership Center at Naropa.

Tho Ha Vinh, Ph.D

Tho Ha Vinh, Ph.D

Program Director at the GNH Centre; Buddhist teacher; author of topics on education, engaged spirituality, intercultural dialogue, and humanitarian action.

Dr. Julia Kim

Dr. Julia Kim

Senior Program Advisor at the GNH Centre; Global health and sustainable development specialist.

Susan Skjei, Ph.D.

Susan Skjei, Ph.D.

Experienced executive, consultant, and coach; Director of the Authentic Leadership Center, Naropa University

Click here to view further bio and background details.

Discover More about the Pilgrimage

Click here to view frequently asked questions.

Bhutan: A Spectacular Country and Pilgrimage

Be one of the privileged few to visit this visually spectacular country and experience their culture of gross national happiness.

The government of Bhutan has exercised a cautious approach towards tourism to their country in a conscious effort to mitigate negative impact on their culture and economy. In 2016, only 200,000 visitors were granted visas to visit Bhutan.

The Leadership Pilgrimage to Bhutan will give us a rare opportunity to visit Bhutan and experience Gross National Happiness in action. By joining us on this pilgrimage, you will immerse yourself in Bhutan’s philosophy of Gross National Happiness by engaging in life-changing experiences in both urban and rural settings.

Special Bhutan Sites and Events are Key to Leadership Pilgrimage


Our visit to Thimphu (Saturday, September 30th) will include an opportunity to experience the vibrantly colorful and sacred Thimphu Tshechu Festival, one of Bhutan’s most enlightening and inspirational festivals. Entire communities come together to honor Guru Rinpoche, the saint who brought Buddhism to Bhutan. Visitors will have a unique opportunity to witness festive Bhutanese religious mask dances, receive blessings and interact with locals to learn more about Bhutan’s ancient living culture and faith.

Punakha Dzong

Another highlight will be a visit to Punakha Dzong, (Sunday, October 1st) “the palace of great happiness or bliss”. This dzong is the second oldest and second largest in Bhutan, and one of the most awe-inspiring structures in the country. It has a rich history, having served as the capital of Bhutan from 1637 to 1907, and conducted the country’s first national assembly in 1953. More recently, in 2011, the wedding of the King of Bhutan, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, was held here.

Dochula Pass

En route from Thimphu to Punakha, our journey will stop at Dochula Pass (Sunday, October 1st). This Pass offers a stunning 360-degree panoramic view of the Himalayan mountain range. Visitors will be mesmerized by the spectacular view of snow capped mountains forming a majestic backdrop to the tranquility of the 108 chortens gracing the mountain pass.

Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest)

A visit to Bhutan will not be complete without a trek to Taktsang, or Tiger’s Nest, (Thursday, October 4th) one of the most breathtaking monasteries in the world and the cultural icon of Bhutan. Visiting this monastery is truly an unforgettable and life-changing experience. The monastery is perched high up on the edge of a cliff, 3,120 meters above sea level, overlooking a spectacular valley. This sacred site is steeped in history and legend, and every Bhutanese person is encouraged to complete the pilgrimage at least once.

We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us…

What is the Value of GNH for Leaders?

“For me GNH means elevating the humanness in whatever policy, program, proposal or interaction we are creating and implementing. Any good GNH application must start with compassion, mutual understanding and respect. Approaching things this way makes them infinitely easier to carry out, develop, co-create and implement.”

Mike Davis

Program Participant

“We take people on a deep journey of inner transformation and understanding. We encourage participants to ask the right questions about their life and their purpose. We help them to see the world with their own eyes, to return and reflect on their daily lives and to reach a realisation – a deeper calling – to help them prototype what they want to change in their lives so they can make those exact changes themselves. This type of change starts within, slowly and mindfully at first, and then rapidly transforms your entire way of being.”

Dr. Saamdu Chetri

Executive Director of the Gross National Happiness Centre

“I was recently very fortunate and privileged to visit the captivating nation of Bhutan and participate in (a program) hosted by the GNH Centre Bhutan. To say (this program) was life-changing is an understatement.”

Glen Norris

Program Participant

What are Participants Saying about Authentic Leadership?

“The Authentic Leadership course was both affirming and healing. It left me with an understanding of both my place and value in the world.”

Lesle Jansen

LLM, Lawyer, Natural Justice

“My key learning was to trust myself as a leader in life and in my work. Authenticity to me is very grounded in self trust and self love.”

Amy Green

President, Dynamic Potential Executive Coaching, LLC

Pilgrimage Schedule & Travel Details

Our experience in Bhutan extends from September 28 – October 8th, 2017. The 10-night group itinerary will include time in Paro, Thimphu, and nearby rural destinations, with an opportunity to attend a traditional festival in Thimphu as part of the intensive program.

  • You will experience how GNH is being applied in governments and businesses, and explore how these principles can transform your own personal and professional worlds.
  • You will explore the spiritual and cultural dimensions of Bhutan through festivals and visits to sacred pilgrimage sites.
  • You will learn, experience, and reflect on Gross National Happiness models and methods and discover how to apply them to your life and work in order to be a more compassionate, ethical and effective leader.
  • September 29 – October 5: Intensive program; registration fee includes hotel accommodations, planned meals and all travel to other locations.
  • October 6 – 7th: Additional sightseeing for these two days includes accommodations, food, guide, and transportation for day trips around Thimphu and Paro. Once in Bhutan, participants will be able to choose from two or three options.

Daily Itinerary & Agendas

Bhutan | Thursday, September 28th
Bhutan, Thursday, September 28th: Arrive in Paro International Airport

  • Bus to hotel in Thimphu
  • Getting to know the group
  • Overview of the program, setting intentions
  • Optional visit to Buddha Point
  • Circle sharing, interactive practices
Thimphu | Friday, September 29th - October 1st
Thimphu, Friday, September 29th: Intensive Program Begins

  • Sensing: taking stock of the new environment
  • Mindfulness practice
  • Understanding GNH and getting to know Bhutanese context and culture
  • Presentations, dialogue, site visits
  • Reflecting on our first impressions

Thimphu, Saturday, September 30th: Intensive Program; Visit Thimphu Tshechu Festival

  • Sensing: deep dive in Bhutanese culture
  • Mindfulness practice
  • Understanding GNH and getting to know Bhutanese context and culture
  • Thimphu Setchu: the most important traditional festival
  • Reflecting on Bhutanese culture and its importance for GNH

Thimphu, Sunday, October 1st: Journey to Punakha

  • Sensing: discovering Bhutanese architecture and spirituality
  • Mindfulness practice
  • Stopping at Dochula Pass (10’000 feet) with 108 chortens
  • Visiting Punakha Dzong
  • Interactive practices to deepen our experience
Punakha | Monday, October 2nd
Punakha, Monday, October 2nd: Journey to Farm Stay

  • Sensing: discovering traditional rural life
  • Mindfulness practice
  • Meeting with farmers, playing traditional games, experiencing farming activities
  • Walk in nature
  • Journaling, sharing, reflecting
Farm Stay | Tuesday, October 3rd - 4th
Farm Stay, Tuesday, October 3rd: Intensive Program

  • Presencing: reconnecting to Source. What are my deepest purpose and aspiration?
  • Mindfulness practice
  • Solo time in Nature
  • Debriefing of solo time in small groups
  • Circle sharing, interactive practices

Farm Stay, Wednesday, October 4th: Journey to Paro

  • Prototyping: from inner transformation so social innovation
  • Mindfulness practice
  • Lesson’s learned for my own leadership journey
  • How can I implement what I have learned in my daily life and in my work?
  • ournaling, reflecting, interactive exercises
Paro | Thursday, October 5th - 8th
Paro, Thursday, October 5th: Concluding Pilgrimage; Visit Taktsang

  • Concluding Pilgrimage
  • Mindfulness practice
  • Pilgrimage to Taktsang, the Tiger’s Nest
  • Reflecting back, looking ahead
  • Creating support for the next steps

Paro, October 6-7th: Two Days for Self Tour / Sightseeing
Two days of further visits to be organized according to the interests of the group and availability. Such as:

  • 2 days trek for those who are physically fit
  • Visit to traditional hospital, national arts and crafts school, national astrology school
  • Over night excursion to Ha Valley
  • Learning how to paint traditional Thankas
  • Meeting with young entrepreneurs
  • Attending Buddhist teachings
  • Further Resources: tourism.gov.bt

Paro, October 8th: Departure for Bangkok, Thailand; Bus to Paro International Airport

Travel Summary & Details

  • Participants will travel independently to the Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) in Bangkok, Thailand.
  • All participants will be required to be in Bangkok by September 27th at the latest. Information about accommodations in Bangkok will be provided (not part of the registration fee). Hotel recommendations will be provided for the entire group for September 27th
  • On September 28th, we will fly together as a group from Bangkok to Bhutan to begin our journey.

Flights to/from Bangkok

Arrival and Departure Dates for Program:

  • Wednesday September 27: Please ensure that you arrive in Bangkok, Thailand
  • Thursday September 28 at 6:30am: BhutanAir Flight B3701 departs Bangkok, Thailand
  • Sunday October 8 at 10:35am: BhutanAir Flight B3700 departs Paro, Bhutan with arrival to Bangkok Thailand at 4:05pm.

It is advisable to stay overnight in Bangkok, Thailand on September 27th in order to be ready for the early morning 6:30am flight to Bhutan on September 28th. Please check Bhutan Airlines for their flight timings and luggage restrictions. For any additional luggage you will be charged the airline rates for excess baggage. You can also take a piece of hand luggage (such as duffel bag/ handbag/ laptop).

Bhutan Airlines www.bhutanairlines.bt/

Please check in approximately 2 hours before flight time and carry 1) your passport, 2) your plane ticket and 3) your printed Bhutan Visa letter.

Hotels in Bangkok

Bangkok Airport Hotel Recommendations:

Pricing & Registration

Application Required

The number of participants will be limited to 21 and registration and participation is by application only

Participants will be accepted on a first-come first-served basis upon receipt of applications

Applications must be received prior to registration deadline in order to receive pricing as listed on registration deadlines

Applications will be reviewed as received and participants notified of a decision within one week

All costs are in US Dollars

Single Rooms are available for an additional $450

Guaranteed program block booking is not available after the close of regular registration on July 15th; applicants may still join the program via late registration, on a space available basis.

Through June 15



(shared room)

Through July 15

Full Price


(shared room)

Through August 15

Last Minute


(shared room)

Standard Registration Ending Soon








Final Registration will close on August 15th, 2017

Frequently Asked Questions

We look forward to your interest and participation in our Leadership Pilgrimage to Bhutan. We will provide extensive personal service to help you decide to join our journey. We will assist in the application and registration process and provide supportive travel information. For any questions, please contact us directly.

Faculty Bios

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