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The Kingdom of Bhutan Thimphu, Punakha, Haa Valley, Phobjikha & Taktshang

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From$10,895
October 12, 2020
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10 Days
Availability : 12-10-2020
Paro, Bhutan

Kingdom of Bhutan Photo Adventure Vacations – Inspire, Create and Learn.

Bhutan is awe inspiring from the moment you start flying over the Himalayas and land in a breathtaking valley. Bhutan is the “Land of the Thunder Dragon” and is as magical as it gets. A country where a handsome young Elvis look-a-like became King, cigarettes are illegal, chillies are a staple, rice is red and protective erotic art is painted on houses, schools and temple walls. A land that treasures Gross National Happiness more than Gross National Product. It is a small nation of about 750,000 people in the Eastern Himalayas, nestled between Tibet, China and India. It has a unique government which has intentionally kept itself isolated from modernity. Bhutan’s extraordinary Buddhist sites and undisturbed traditional culture makes it the last remaining great Himalayan kingdom.

Beginning in 2018 our Kingdom of Bhutan Photo Adventure is managed exactly like our other adventures around the world, utilizing fine 4 and 5-star hotels, excellent English speaking local guides, authentic cultural people-to-people experiences and more. We could run Bhutan for less but we choose to operate Bhutan at a level in keeping with our brand and consistently deliver the quality we have come to be known for.

This adventure is designed not only to guide you to the most photogenic locations carefully planned for the best light, but to aid you in mentally visualizing a scene before capturing the decisive moment. Our aim is to raise your awareness and spark your creativity so that you not only go home with images to be proud of, but use your new found skills to improve and expand your photographic technique in general. Apart from the technical aspect of learning your camera settings and capabilities, you will learn how to turn an ordinary image into an extraordinary image by using your own creativity.

In addition, you will become knowledgeable on how to survey the landscape, utilize and approach your environment, photograph people indigenous to the region and the cultural considerations and challenges of photographing in a foreign country. Our time together will include individual and group discussions, inspiring ideas and great fun. We cannot think of a better location to express your creativity than the exotic Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan.

Experience | Difficulty

Beginner, amateur, enthusiast and semi-pro photographers

DSLR, mirrorless, compact or iPhone cameras

Moderate schedule

Travel by car or minibus

Moderate elevation changes and lots of walking (hiking optional)

(non-photographers also welcome)

KINGDOM OF BHUTAN 10 DAYS

Day 1 | Arrive in Paro – Thimphu

We meet at Paro Airport upon your arrival. Our driver and guide will escort us to our hotel in the capital city, Thimphu (2,400 meters/8,000 feet). After checking into our hotel, we will have informal discussions on what our guests are trying to achieve in their photography, subject matters, styles and techniques. Afterwards we explore the city, the only capital in the world with no traffic lights. In the evening we celebrate with our “Welcome Dinner”. (D)

Day 2 | Explore Thimphu

During breakfast, we’ll discuss PWA’s “10 Guiding Principles of Photography” as well as our “THE ART OF SEEING” photographic technique. We then head out with our guide, first explore the capital town, and then take a short drive north to get to the base of the hiking trail to the quaint Cheri monastery. This is where the border of the Jigme Dorji National Park begins. From here, you will walk to the 17th century Cheri Gompa (monastery). You cross the cantilever bridge and climb steeply for 30 to 45 minutes towards the monastery. Two thirds of the way up, one can rest at a Tibetan-style stupa. Ascend to the gompa where there are lovely views. Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyel (first ruler of Bhutan) built this monastery in 1620 and established its first order of monks here. A silver Chorten inside the monastery is said to hold the ashes of the Zhabdrung’s father. (B) (L) (D)

Day 3 | Phobjikha Valley

We depart early for the fabulous drive to the central valleys of Bhutan through Bhutan’s rich flora and fauna. As we cross the fertile Valley of Punakha and enter into the Valley of Wangdue Phodrang, Upon arriving in Phobjikha Valley, we explore Gangtey Goemba/monastery established in the 17th century. It is situated on the hill overlooking the valley. The village of Phobjikha lies a few kilometers down from the monastery, on the valley floor. This quiet, remote valley is the winter home of black-necked cranes, which migrate from the arid plains of Tibet in the north, to pass the winter months in a milder climate. The valley is also an eco-tourism hub and you will not spot any overhead power cables. After lunch we continue our journey to the huge fortress of Trongsa which dominates the entire landscape. Trongsa Dzong is the largest dzong fortress in Bhutan, located in Trongsa (formerly Tongsa) in Trongsa district, in the centre of the country. Built on a spur overlooking the gorge of the Mangde River, the temple was first established at the location in 1543 by the Drukpa lama, Ngagi Wangchuk son of Ngawang Chhojey. In the evening we enjoy dinner and stay overnight at our hotel. (B) (L) (D)

Day 4 | Punakha

After a sunrise shoot, we return to Punakha. At Lobesa which is on the way, we will hike through rice fields to Chimi Lhakhang temple located on a small hilltop. This temple is dedicated to the great Yogi in the 14th century known as Drukpa Kuenley or popularly known as the “Divine madman” in the west. After lunch, we continue our drive towards Punakha Dzong (Fortress) situated between the two rivers Pho Chu and Mochu. This fortress is now used as the winter seat of the Je Khenpo (the Spiritual head of Bhutan). In the evening we enjoy a wonderful dinner, review images and discuss the day’s photography. (B) (L) (D)

Day 5 | Explore Punakha 

On day five we will explore more of Punakha, including the nunnery, the Nalanda Buddhist Institute and hike to Khamsum Yueley Namgyal temple. (B) (L) (D)

Day 6 | Thimphu

After and early morning shoot, we return for breakfast and discuss workflow, editing technique and how to better work with the digital darkroom. Then we continue our journey to Thimphu. While en route, we will stop at Lobesa or at Dochula Pass for lunch. In the Punakha area we’ll explore more photographic opportunities and then continue on to Thimphu. After arriving at our hotel, we’ll spend the afternoon walking around, photographing, and enjoying the town. (B) (L) (D)

Day 7 | Haa Valley

Today we drive westwards to the pristine and remote Haa valley (2,670 meters/8,811 feet), which was only recently opened to tourists. The valley is dotted with fields of millet, barley, and potatoes and full of ancient shrines. Haa Valley is the western most state in Bhutan. It borders the Indian state of Sikkim, and Tibet. The drive will give you an insight into a medieval way of life that has changed little over the centuries. Modern development has brought better education, health care & electricity to these remote areas but the local small farm-based economy that has kept the local people self sufficient over the years is largely unchanged. After lunch, we visit two famous monasteries, Lhakhang Karpo (White Temple) and Lhakhang Nagpo, (Black Temple). Lhakhang Karpo is also called Chundo Gompa, dedicated to the chief protector-deity of the valley. The central shrine in Lhakhang Nagpo is said to be almost identical to that of the Jowo temple in Lhasa, Tibet. Legend has it that local deities assisted in the construction of Lhakhang Karpo and as a result, the place came to be locally known as ‘Hay’ (meaning ‘surprise’) which later became ‘Haa’ due to varying interpretations and pronunciations over time. Dinner at our hotel and overnight in the Haa Valley. (B) (L) (D)

Day 8 | Paro (via Chele la pass) 

After an early morning shoot we will drive to Paro via the Chele-la pass (3,800 meters / 13,000 feet) through blue pine and rhododendron forests. On a clear day there are superb views from the pass of two of Bhutan’s highest and best known peaks – Mount Jumolhari and Jitchu Drake. We will stop here briefly to enjoy the lovely mountain scenery and then continue down to Paro town. We will visit Kyichu Lhakhang, built in the seventh century by Tibetan King Songtsen Gonpo and time permitting take a leisurely hike down to Rimpung Dzong. Afterwards we’ll check into our hotel, enjoy dinner and retire for the evening for a well-deserved rest. (B) (L) (D)

Day 9 | Taktshang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest)  

After breakfast, our driver will drop us off for a view of the spectacular and famous Taktsang monastery (Tiger’s lair). From here we’ll take the trail to the monastery which climbs through a beautiful pine forest, many of the trees festooned with Spanish moss, and an occasional grove of fluttering prayer flags. Our hike takes us to the imposing Taktsang monastery. Built in the 1600s, this incredible monastery clings to the edge of a sheer rock cliff that plunges 900 meters into the valley below. It is believed that in the 8th century, Guru Rimpoche, the tantric mystic who brought Buddhism to Bhutan, landed here on the back of a flying tigress to subdue a demon. Guru Rimpoche is supposed to have meditated here for three months and it is considered a Mecca for Buddhists. Upon our return to the car, we drive further up the valley to Drukgyel Dzong (the fortress of the victorious Drukpas) built in 1646 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to celebrate victory over Tibetan invading forces and also to curtail further invasions from the enemy. The route is picturesque, and the site of Dzong magnificent (from here, only two-day hike to the border with Tibet). From here, on a clear day, you can get a magnificent view of the Mount Jumolhari (7,314 meters / 23,990 feet). After returning to town, we prepare for our festive “Farewell Dinner”, discuss the events of the trip, share our favorite photos and enjoy the fun and laughter. (B) (L) (D)

Day 10 | Depart Paro  

After an early breakfast in the hotel we drive to the Paro International Airport for our departure. We urge you to extend your stay in Asia and make good use of everything you will learn on our photo adventure. (B)

Includes

Travel, landscape, architecture, people, nature and photography

Visa and entry documents

Professional photographer | guide

Private guide and driver

Small group size (4-8 guests)

Photo walks & discussions

4 or 5 star hotels (except in remote locations)

All meals

Local transportation

National Park entry fees

Accommodations

Thimphu – Le Meridien Thimphu, Ariya Hotel, TAJ Tashi or similar

Punakha – Dhensa Boutique Resort or similar

Haa Valley – Lechuna Heritage Lodge or similar

Paro – Hotel Zhiwaling or similar

Travel Information

We suggest flying out of Bangkok, Thailand (BKK), however you can also fly from Delhi, India (DEL) or Kathmandu, Nepal (KTM). There are no direct flights to Bhutan. Druk Air is the official airline of Bhutan and we can assist you in booking your flights. See below for pricing.  

Bhutan Arrival & Departure Airport: Paro, Bhutan (PBH) – Transfer time to hotel 60min

Our adventure begins with our arrival into Paro Airport.

Travel Visa: A visa may be required depending on your nationality.

Roundtrip Airfare from Bangkok to Paro, Bhutan:  $780

Single Supplement:  $1200

(Optional) Early Arrival Hotel Room:  $350

(Optional) Late Departure Hotel Room:  $350

Options and Benefits

Private Guided Tours & Adventures

We offer amazing private guided photo adventures, cultural tours and vacations for individuals, couples, families and groups. We can customize any of our published adventures, as well as others, to meet your individual needs, schedule, budget and interests. This may include the finest 5-star accommodations, business-class travel, and private guides and fixers who are able to make the impossible possible. If you are not interested in a photo-centric vacation, but you love our approach to private travel, we will be happy to design and deliver an amazing adventure focused on travel, culture and cuisine.

Travel Insurance

We offer travel insurance through Travelex. The cost for travel insurance can be as low as 4% of the total trip cost, depending upon age and other factors. Knowing you have trip cancellation coverage can make a big difference should you have to cancel for some unforeseen reason. Travelex Insurance Services is a BBB Accredited business with an A+ rating.

About Photographer

IAN ROBERT KNIGHT

Travel, Landscape, Street and People Photographer

an Robert Knight is a Vancouver and Bangkok-based photographer that has a unique view of the world. Having traveled around the globe extensively (85 countries), he’s been to places that will forever flavor his imagery, and allow him to see things in ways most people would miss.

A native of Vancouver, Canada, Ian has lived and worked in China, Hong Kong and Bangkok for many years, and explored those and their neighboring countries extensively. Ian has always felt the urge to explore new places and photograph the landscapes and it’s people. Living in Asia provided an opportunity that allowed Ian to experience foreign cultures at a detailed level. Ian will always jump at the chance to see a new place, and share his images and knowledge with anyone.

Ian is equally comfortable in a studio or on location. Given the chance, he would put on his boots and lead the way. But he knows that shooting is only half the fun, and is eager to share his digital editing skills with any level of photographer. Bringing the photographs to life after the shoot is finished is just as enjoyable. His attention to detail are key to what makes his photographs unique. Ian holds a Licentiate with both the British Institute of Professional Photography (LBIPP) and the Master Photographers Association (LMPA). The licentiates were attained for his excellence in portrait photography.