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Travel and Photography tour in Bhutan

Bhutan Photography Tour

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Photography Tour is an amazing way to experience the temples & monasteries, mountains, landscape, people and culture in this fascinating and unique parts of the world. Bhutan is full of gorgeous photo opportunities - from bustling local markets to the serenity of Phobjikha valley, to the breath-taking Himalayas, there are so many magical moments. Travelling around Bhutan is truly amazing, full of surprises, happiness and absolutely exceptional photography opportunities.

ABOUT THIS TRIP

Group Size: Any group size (private group or Individuals)
Experience: Beginner, amateur, enthusiast and semi-pro photographers
Best Time: Late March – May & Mid Sept – Late Nov

Suggested option: You can coincide your trip with one of the most vibrant Buddhist festival celebrations that adds the most unique value to your photographic expedition. You can ask us for the customized itinerary including a festival.

THE ITINERARY

Day 1 – Arrival in Paro and Transfer to Thimphu (55 km, approx. 1:30 hour drive)
On your journey to Paro, the panoramic views of the Himalayas are sensational, including the Everest and other famous Himalayan Peaks. The approach through the Bhutanese foothills and the landing, including a few steep turns to land at the tiny airstrip of Paro becomes more exciting as you enter Bhutan.

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Bhutan’s first gift to you as you disembark from the aircraft will be cool, clean fresh mountain air. After immigration formalities and baggage collection, you will be warmly received by our representative, and afterwards drive to Thimphu, the capital town of Bhutan.

On arrival in Thimphu, check-into the hotel.

The first day in Bhutan is a leisure day; or a short walking tour of the downtown area to shoot the city streets and late day activities. Your guide is always nearby to answer questions or assist you.

The capital town of Bhutan and the centre of government, religion and commerce, Thimphu is a unique city with unusual mixture of modern development alongside ancient traditions. With the population of about 1,20,000 it is perhaps still the world’s only capital city without a traffic light.

During our welcome dinner in one of Thimphu’s best restaurants, we will have detailed discussions about the subject matters related to photography, styles, techniques, local regulations etc.

Overnight at hotel in Thimphu. (Altitude 2,320m)

Day 2 – Thimphu
There is a lot to see in Thimphu, particularly historical monuments, and uniquely styled traditional buildings.

After breakfast, full day of sightseeing & photography session covering following prominent sites:

Buddha Point (Kuensel Phodrang): Situated on a mountain top in Kuenselphodrang Nature Park overlooking Thimphu valley, this gigantic statue of Shakyamuni Buddha measuring 51.5m, considered one of the largest statues of Buddha in the world. The statue is made of bronze with a cover of gold which symbolizes indestructability. 125,000 smaller Buddha statues have been placed within the Buddha Dordenma statue; 100,000 statues of which are 8-inches-tall and 25,000 statues of which are 12 inches tall. Each of these thousands of Buddhas have also been cast in bronze and gilded. The throne that the Buddha Dordenma sits upon is a large meditation hall where hundreds of devotees meditate every day.

The area also offers excellent view of the Thimphu valley from the west. You will be busy capturing the huge statue of Buddha and surrounding view of the Thimphu valley. You also have the shots of ancient Simtokha dzong from here.

National Memorial Chorten: This stupa was built in 1974 in the memory of Bhutan's third King, His Late Majesty, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, who is popularly regarded as Father of modern Bhutan. The paintings and statues inside the monument provide a deep insight into Buddhist philosophy.

Gagyel Lhundrup Weaving Centre: Located in Changzamtog, at the south end of Thimphu, the privately owned Gagyel Lhundrup Weaving centre produces finest traditional hand-woven textiles of the region. Promoting the traditional Bhutanese art of weaving, the Centre makes sincere efforts to keep roots of the country alive through dedication and undivided attention of its weavers and handloom workers. It is a storehouse of information about traditional weaving and also famous for producing ceremonial textiles.

Takin Preserve: The Takin is the national animal of Bhutan and looks like a cross between a cow and a goat. Legend has it that the animal was created by the great Buddhist yogi, Drukpa Kunley, and it can be found only in Bhutan and nearby areas. Taxonomists place the animal in a category of its own as it is not similar enough to any other animal to fit established categories.

Institute for Zorig Chusum: Commonly known as Arts & Crafts School or Painting School, the Institute offers a six-year course on the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan. On a visit, one can see students learning the various skills taught at the school.

Centenary Farmers Market: Popularly known as Weekend market, this bustling, photography-tour-bhutancolourful market centre is the biggest where farmers from different part of the country gather to sell their farm products. Thimphu residents throng this market especially on the weekends to procure their weekly stock of fresh local produces, vegetables and fruits. With its wide assortment of products and its picturesque and colourful setting, the Farmer’s Market has become a favourite spot for photographers too. Located below the main town, near Wang Chu river, this largest domestic market for farmers in Bhutan operates from two-storey concrete structure, inaugurated in 2008 and renamed as Centenary Farmers market.

Trashichhoedzong: Also known as ‘fortress of the glorious religion’, this is the center of government and religion, site of monarch’s throne room and seat of Je Khenpo or Chief Abbot. Built in 1641 by the political and religious unifier of Bhutan, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, it was reconstructed in 1960s in traditional Bhutanese manner, without nails or architectural plans.

Sangaygang viewpoint: (2685 meters) to have view of entire Thimphu valley and walk-through hundreds of colorful prayer flags that dot the hill overlooking the Thimphu valley.

Another photography session after the dusk after lights are on capturing the night view of the following:

Night view of Tashichhodzong: We shall be taking photographs of the night view of the dzong (Fortress). It indeed looks fascinating with the lights surrounding it.

Night view of the National Memorial Chorten: The memorial chorten shall give you another different and beautiful shot due to lights around it in the night.

Night view of the Changangkha Monastery: The monastery in light looks fascinating and its also an excellent place to capture night view of Thimphu valley.

Overnight at hotel in Thimphu. (Altitude 2,320m)

Day 3 – Thimphu/Punakha (75 km, approx. 3-hours’ drive)
After breakfast, drive to Punakha. On the way, stop for a photography session at Dochula pass (3,088m).

If skies are clear, the following peaks can be seen from this pass (left to right): Masagang (7,158m), Tsendagang (6,960m), Terigang (7,060m), Jejegangphugang (7,158), Kangphugang (7,170 m), Zongphugang (7, 060 m ), a table mountain that dominates the isolated region of Lunana - finally Gangkar puensum, the highest peak in Bhutan at 7,570m.

At Dochula Pass, 108 chortens or stupas known as Druk Wangyal Chortens have been built by Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk, the eldest Queen Mother. These chortens are built in three layers, the first lowest level layer has forty-five chortens, the second has thirty-six and the top layer has twenty-seven, built around the main chorten.

Interests for photography at Dochula pass are:
-The Dochula Pass
-The Drukgyal Wangyal Chortens
-The Himalayan Ranges
-Prayer Flags
-Flora and Fauna
-The Dochula Temple
-The Meditation caves

After about 10 km drive from Dochula pass is Royal Botanical Park at Lamperi, offering excellent photo opportunities. Established in 2004 to preserve the rich natural biodiversity of the region, The Royal Botanical Park is Bhutan first nature recreational park and form the backdrop of Dochula pass. The park forms a biological corridor between the Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park and the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Park and houses a wide assortment of wild flora and fauna.

Drive onward to Punakha. As you near Punakha, you shall have a fascinating view of the Punatshangchhu River and the Wangdue valley for photography. You shall also come across simple villagers, villages and unique farmhouses for which you won’t hesitate to stop a while for a shot.

Punakha served as the capital of Bhutan and seat of government until 1955 and still it is the winter seat of Je Khenpo (the chief abbot). Blessed with temperate climate and owing to its natural drainage from Pho Chhu (male) and Mo Chhu (female) rivers, the fertile Punakha valley produces abundant crops and fruits. Located at an elevation of 1300m above sea level, Punakha enjoys mild winters and is popular year-round destination.photography-tour-bhutan

Later in the afternoon at Punakha, take an excursion to Chimi Lhakhang, located on a hillock near Sopsokha village, about 20-minute walk from the road point along the agricultural fields of mustard and rice. Prayer flags are lined all along the road from the tiny village hamlet known as Yowakha, along a stream to the monastery. Also known as Fertility Temple, this famous Lhakhang is dedicated to Lama Drukpa Kuenley, the 15th century Tibetan saint who is popularly known as ‘Divine Madman’ owing to his strange way of teaching. It is widely believed that childless couple who visit the temple are blessed with a baby hence it is also called Fertility temple.

In the evening, leisure time for exploring the Punakha town and valley, however it is pretty sure that a photographer shall not be able to be at leisure trying not to miss the moments and interests he/she shall come across. For an artist, everything is beautiful, from the faces of innocent children to the uniquely dressed monks.

Overnight at the hotel in Punakha. (Altitude 1,300m)

Day 4 – Punakha/Wangduephodrang/Gangtey (Phobjikha) (85 km, approx. 3-hours’ drive)
After breakfast, photography session of the Punakha Dzong and the surroundings.
Punakha Dzong or (Palace of Great Happiness), built at the junction of the Phochu and Mochu rivers in 1637 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. This majestic dzong served as both the religious and the administrative centre of Bhutan in the past. It measures some 600 by 240 feet and has a six-story, gold-domed tower. Inside are courtyards and religious statuary that hint at the depth of history and spiritual tradition embodied here. Your guide will illuminate your understanding of this intricate culture that is exotic to us, though long established here.

Drive to Wangduephodrang:
Another Photography session at Wangduephodrang, the Rinchengang Village: it is small and clustered village located opposite to Wangduephodrang dzong (currently under restoration after it caught fire in 2012). It is about 20 minutes hike uphill from the near road.

Continue on to Gangtey / Phobjikha with stop at places for photography and to view scenery.

The slopes en route Phobjikha (Gangtey) covered in dwarf bamboo and rhododendron is just fascinating. Photography is must here. During winter, Yak herders bring their Yaks in this place.

The valley of Phobjikha (Gangtey) is one of the most beautiful spots in Bhutan. The surprise of finding such a wide, flat valley without any trees is augmented by an impression of vast space, and extremely rare experience in Bhutan where most of the valleys are tightly enclosed. This place is the winter home of black necked cranes that migrate from the arid plains in the north to pass winter in milder and lower climate.

Evening take a stroll in and around lovely Gangtey village which offers plenty of photo opportunities.

Overnight at the hotel in Gangtey. (Altitude 1,300m)

Day 5 – Gangtey (Phobjikha)
A real day for photography of the one of the most beautiful glacial valleys in the Himalayas. This is also the winter place for the endangered Black Necked Cranes. You have all the time in the world to get your best shots possible here.

You also can meet and photograph local villagers and interact with them to get an insight into the Bhutanese way of life, culture & traditions.

The annual Black-necked Cranes festival is held every year in Phobjikha on 11th November. The festival was initiated by RSPN since 1998, in an effort to promote Community based-sustainable tourism in the valley and to raise awareness among the visitors and local community on the importance of crane conservation. It is also an occasion for local people to get together, socialize, rejoice, and celebrate the arrival of crane in their valley thus the entire event is full of photo opportunity.photography-tour-bhutan

Visit & photo session also includes:

Gangtey Goenpa: Perched on a small hill that rises from the valley floor, the Gangtey Monastery is the only Nyingmapa monastery on the western side of the Black Mountain’s Gangtey valley, Bhutan and also the biggest Nyingmapa monastery in Bhutan. The Monastery is surrounded by a large village inhabited mainly by the families of the 140 Gomchens who take care of the Monastery.

Phobjikha Valley: Lying on the western slopes of the Black Mountains and bordering Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park, because of the large flock of black-necked cranes that winters here, it is one of the most important wildlife reserves in the country. The valley boasts two beautiful meandering rivers, Nakay Chhu & Gay Chhu and according to local legend, the two rivers actually represent a snake and a boar, with an interesting legend.

Overnight at the hotel in Gangtey. (Altitude 1,300m)

Day 6 – Phobjikha/Trongsa/Bumthang (153 km, approx. 6-hour drive)
The journey to Bumthang is another day of new experiences and of course of new addition to your collections of perfect pictures.

The valleys, the winding roads, the simple villages and villagers, the monuments and the fascinating views pose for you on the way.

The drive to Bumthang via Trongsa crosses Pelela pass (3,300 m), the traditional boundary between east and west. The pass is marked by colourful prayer flags while the ground here is covered with high altitude dwarf bamboo. Further stop en route at Chendbji Chorten, the stupa built in 18th century by a Lama named Shida. It is Nepalese in style with eyes painted at four cardinal points.

While in Trongsa, visit:
Trongsa Dzong: This most impressive Dzong in Bhutan, was built by Chogyal Minjur Tempa, the official who was sent by Zhabdrung to unify Eastern Bhutan and later enlarged at the end of the 17th century by Desi Tenzin Rabgay. Trongsa Dzong is the ancestral home of the present Royal Family. The first two hereditary kings ruled Bhutan from this Dzong.
Please remember, Trongsa Dzong is one of the most impressive dzongs in Bhutan. Photography is must.

After lunch & photo stop in Trongsa, continue to Bumthang across Yutong-la pass (3,400m/ 11,155 ft). The road winds steeply up to the pass from Trongsa, then runs down through coniferous forest into a wide, open cultivated valley known as the Chumey valley.

Take a short stop at Chumey, a wide fertile valley where wheat, barley, potatoes and buckwheat are cultivated. Chumey is particularly known for its famous wool weaving called ‘Bumthang Yathra’.

Overnight at the hotel in Bumthang. (Altitude 2,600m)

Day 7 – Bumthang
Bumthang comprising of four valleys namely, Tang, Ura, Chumey & Choekhor, is one of the most richly endowed districts in Bhutan, in terms of historical and cultural legacy. Choekhor valley is the largest amongst all and widely considered as ‘Bumthang valley’. The valleys are broad and gentle carved by the ancient glaciers, housing most venerated temples and monasteries in the country. The fertile valleys of Bumthang are covered with fields of buckwheat, rice and potatoes, apple orchards and dairy farms.

Describing each photography site is almost impossible here. Every sight is magnificent.

The day starts with visit of Jambey Lhakhang, the ancient temple built by Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo in 659 A.D. as part of a chain of 108 simultaneously constructed temples in order to subdue an evil demoness that lay over the Himalayan region.

Short distance from Jambey Lhakhang is the site of sacred Kurje Lhakhang comprising of three temples which are surrounded by 108 chorten walls. The first and the oldest structure of the three, was constructed on the rock where Guru Rinpoche meditated. The second building is also called the Sampa lhundrup temple and houses a colossal statue of Guru Rinpoche. The third building is known as Ka Gon Phur sum lhakhang dedicated to the happiness of all living beings in the kingdom.

Then visit picturesquely located Jakar Dzong, overlooking Choekhor valley. According to legend, when the lamas assembled in about 1549 to select a site for a monastery, a big white bird rose suddenly in the air and settled on a spur of a hill. This was interpreted as an important omen, and the hill was chosen as the monastery's site and for Jakar Dzong, which translates as 'castle of the white bird'.

Post lunch, a special visit to Tamshing Lhakhang, a major Nyingma monastery founded in Pema Lingpa in 1501. It is particularly famous for its collection of paintings which exemplify the region’s style while its mother monastery is Lhalung in central Tibet. The monastery is one of the few institutions continuing the teaching of Pema Lingpa. 

Then go for an interesting visit to Bumthang Brewery. This state-of the-art microbrewery produces Swiss-style unfiltered Weiss beer locally famous as ‘Red Panda Beer’. When launched, this was first of its kind Brewery in Bhutan, producing draught beer, apple cider, wine, apple brandy. At the Brewery, one can see the entire process of making unfiltered Weiss beer while at adjacent Swiss Farm get an insight into the cheese-making process, also taste Red Panda Beer and procure cheese, apple brandy, clover honey etc.

Evening at leisure for independent activities, exploring local market, learning the art of traditional Bhutanese cuisine or an interactive session with Buddhist monk.

Overnight at the hotel in Bumthang. (Altitude 2,600m)

Day 8 – Bumthang/Punakha (215 km, approx. 7-hour drive)
After breakfast, drive back to Punakha.

On the way at Trongsa, visit Ta Dzong, a cylindrical stone structure rising five storeys, was built in 1652 by Chogyal Minjur Tempa, a task entrusted to him by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. After more than 350 years, it has been resurrected into a classy museum, that represents a tasteful blend of tradition and modernity.

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Its immensely scenic drive and on the way photograph small towns, villages, local markets, villagers.

Evening at leisure / Photography in newly developed Wangduephodrang town.

Overnight at the hotel in Punakha. (Altitude 1,300m)

Day 9 –Punakha / Paro (125 km approx 4-hours’ drive)
After breakfast, drive to Paro along scenic highway. En route visit Simtokha Dzong, one the oldest fortress of the country built in 1629. The name Semtokha literally means ‘Atop a Demon’ and the legend associated with the dzong’s construction tells us that it was built in order to subdue an evil spirit that was harassing travellers in the region. The dzong was modelled after the Gyal Gyad Tshel Institute of Ralung (Tibet) and is quite distinctive as its Utse or central tower has 12 sides.

Driving from Wangdue to Paro gives you a unique experience for photography. The winding roads are fascinating. The villages and Buddhist chortens (stupas) adds to your collection of perfect shots. Your guide gives importance to stopping along the way for photography.

The beautiful valley of Paro (alt 2,280m) encapsulates within itself a rich culture, scenic beauty and hundreds of myths and legends. It is home to many of Bhutan's oldest temples and monasteries, National Museum and the country's only airport. Mount. Chomolhari (7,314m) reigns in white glory at the northern end of the valley and its glacial water plunge through deep gorges to form Pa Chhu (Paro river). Paro is also one of the most fertile valleys in the Kingdom producing a bulk of the locally famous red rice from its terraced fields.

Later in the day after checking into hotel, proceed to visit Ta Dzong, originally built as Watchtower, which now houses National Museum. The extensive collection includes antique thangkha paintings, textiles, weapons & armour, household objects and a rich assortment of natural and historic artifacts.

Proceed on to next destination nearby, imposing Rinpung Dzong, (‘fortress of the heap of jewels’). Along the wooden galleries lining the inner courtyard are fine wall paintings illustrating Buddhist lore – the perfect shots for your photography collection!

Night shooting - Later in the dusk as soon as the lights are on, drive to a location near the Rinpung Dzong to take its perfect shots. The night view of this Dzong (fortress) with the lights around it makes a perfect creation to capture. You may take your shot from different possible location so that you have your perfect shot.

Overnight at hotel in Paro. (Altitude 2,280m)

Day 10 – Paro, Hike to Tiger’s Nest
Today is the day for a new experience; your morning starts with a 15-minute drive to the base of the Taktshang Monastery. From here we will hike for about 3 hours up hill. Hiking uphill is difficult but the prize that awaits in reaching the top is just unimaginable.

Your Second Photography Session: In reaching the top, you shall be preparing yourself for your second photography after a short rest. The views downhill, the fluttering prayer flags, the rocky hill and the Taktshang Monastery everything awaits you here longing to be captured. Take your perfect shots precisely selecting your location and choosing what you want to photograph. After the photography session visit the Taktshang Monastery (Tiger’s nest Monastery).

Taktshang Monastery: The primary lhakhang was built surrounding Guru Rimpoche’s Meditation cave in the 1684 by Gyaltse Tenzin Rabgay. This incredible monastery clings to the edge of a sheer rock cliff that plunges 900 meters into the valley below. Legend has it that Guru Padmasambhava flew here on the back of a tigress.

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Lunch at Taktsang cafeteria overlooking the Tiger’s nest monastery, walk back downhill to the base for approx. 2 hours.

On the way back you shall be capturing the following:
-Mountain Jumolhari & mountains on the eastern Himalayan range
-Farm Houses and villages
-Village People
-Drukgyel Dzong, the rined fortress which is currently under restoration
-Prayer wheels and Prayer Flags
-Scenery
-Paro city centre

On your way back, visit:
Kyichu Lhakhang: This temple is one of the oldest buddhist temple in Bhutan. The Tibetan King, Songtsen Gompo, to consecrate the entire region of Himalaya, in the 7th century miraculously built 108 temples. Kyichu Lhakhang is considered to be one of them. This also gives you opportunities for photography.

Evening stroll through the market place, riverside armed with your camera adding perfect shots to your collection.

Overnight at the hotel in Paro. (Altitude 2,280m)

Day 11 – Paro/Haa Valley/Paro (140 km, approx. 6-hour round trip journey)
After breakfast full day excursion to exotic Haa valley via Chelela pass (3,988m).

Haa valley is one of the most picturesque places in the Kingdom. The Haa valley was opened for the first time to foreign tourists in 2002.  It is culturally rich valley and some of famous sites in this region are: 7th century Lhakhang Karpo (White temple) and Lhakhang Nagpo  (Black temple) at the foothills of a venerated three brotherly mountains known as Meri Puensum.

On the way, take a photo stop at Chelela pass.
Chele la (pass), at an elevation 3,988 meters is considered to be one of the highest motorable passes in Bhutan. About an hour's drive along a thickly-forested road, is this Pass-a botanical paradise. The pass provides stunning views of the sacred mountain Jomolhari and Jichu Drake. It is also marked by hundreds of prayer flags fluttering in the wind.

Today is also the day for photography of the Himalayan Ranges as seen from the Chelala Pass. One local person describes it “if sky is the limit what is heaven for”.

Another good shot is the fluttering prayer flags with the Himalayan ranges. Photographers love the valley as seen from the point.

Evening return to Paro.

Overnight at hotel in Paro. (Altitude 2,280m)

Day 12 - Depart Paro
After breakfast at the hotel, drive to the airport for flight to your onward destination. Our representative will help you with exit formalities and then bid you farewell.





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