Bhutan is full of spectacular photo opportunities. From the bustling markets of Thimphu to the serenity of the Phobjikha Valley and the breathtaking Himalayas, there are so many magical moments. Travelling around Bhutan is truly inspiring, and is full of surprises, happiness and beauty in every direction.
Bhutan through the Lens (12D/11N)
|City||Agats, Beriten, Ewer, Omandesep, Timika, West Papua|
|Theme||Adventure, Arts & Culture, Nature & Wildlife, Off The Beaten Track, Walking|
Day 1: Arrival in Paro – Transfer to Thimphu
On your journey into Paro, the panoramic views of the Himalayas are sensational, including Mount Everest and other famous Himalayan peaks. The approach through the Bhutanese foothills and the steep descent into the Paro Valley is a breathtaking experience.
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 met by our representative, and afterwards drive to Thimphu, the capital town of Bhutan.
The capital 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 90,000 it is perhaps still the world’s only capital city without a traffic light.
On arrival in Thimphu, check-into your hotel, then enjoy the remainder of the day at leisure. Take a rest, or explore the town with your camera. Your guide is always nearby to answer questions or assist you.
Overnight in Thimphu.
Day 2 : Thimphu
After breakfast, set out to explore and photograph the sites in the area.
Visit Buddha Point (Kuensel Phodrang), home to a massive statue of Buddha perched atop the Kuensel Phodrang. The site offers panoramic views of Thimphu Valley. For more stunning views, set your tripod up at Sangaygang view point (2685 meters). You’ll have sweeping views of Thimphu Valley and a sea of colourful prayer flags peppering the hill overlooking the Valley.
Visit the Takin Reserve Centre, also known as the Motithang Preserve, which is a home to takin, the national animal of Bhutan. The takin is an extremely rare bovid mammal of the ovine-carpine family. Apart from takin, the preserve is also home to sambars and barking deers rescued from different parts of the country.
See the Changangkha Monastery. Set on a hill overlooking the valley, this monastery was built in 15th Century by Lama Phajo Drugom Zhipo. Many parents of Thimphu take their new born babies to this monastery to be blessed by a high lama.
For insight into Bhutan’s artistic heritage, explore the Institute for Zorig Chusum. Commonly known as the 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.
Visit the National Memorial Chorten, which was built in 1974 in typical Tibetan style, in honour of the Third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, also known as “The Father of Modern Bhutan”. The Memorial Chorten is also a center of worship for residents of Thimphu and contains many religious paintings and tantric statues.
Explore the Tashichho Dzong (Fortress of the Glorious Religion), the current seat of government and home to the King’s throne room and offices. The dzong has a fascinating history, and has gone through many iterations from the original dzong, which was built in 1216AD. The current dzong was reconstructed in the 1960’s in traditional Bhutanese style, without nails or architectural plans.
After dusk, once the lights go on, you’ll have another photography session capturing night views of the Tashichho Dzong and the National Memorial Chorten.
Overnight in Thimphu.
Day 3: Thimphu – Punakha
In the morning after breakfast, drive to Punakha, stopping along the way for a photography session in the Dochula Pass. Set along the road from Thimphu to Punakha, the Dochula Pass offers spectacular views of the mighty Himalayas, and is home to 108 chhortens which are believed to bring multi-fold merit to all sentient beings. On a clear day, the view of the chhortens set against the backdrop of the snow-capped mountains is truly breathtaking.
Next, continue the drive to Punakha. As you near Punakha, you will have a fascinating view of the Punatshangchhu River and the Wangdue valley for amazing shots. You will also come across simple villagers, villages and unique farm houses for more photo ops.
Stop by the Chimi Lhakhang. Perched on a small hill in the centre of Punakha Valley, Chimi Lhakhang is dedicated to Lama Drukpa Kunley, affectionately known as ‘The Divine Madman’, who in the late 15th century used humour, songs and outrageous behaviour to dramatize his teachings. It is also known as a temple of fertility, and it is widely believed that if couples wishing to conceive pray here they will be blessed with a child.
In the evening, enjoy leisure time for exploring the Punakha town and valley with your camera. Capture the wonderful landscapes and architecture, the rosy-cheeked children playing, the uniquely dressed monks, and the locals going about their day.
Overnight in Punakha.
Day 4:Punakha – Wangduephodrang - Phobjikha
Today the session will begin at the Punakha Dzong and the surroundings. Built strategically at the junction of Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu rivers in 1637 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to serve as the religious and administrative centre of the region, Punakha Dzong has played an important role in Bhutan’s history. Punakha was the country’s first capital, and the Dzong has hosted the coronation ceremonies for each of its Kings. This lovely Dzong, widely thought to be the most beautiful in the country, is also the winter residence of the Central Monastic Body.
Next you will drive drive to Wangduephodrang and the Rinchengang Village for another session. This is small and clustered village located opposite to Wangduephodrang dzong (now only ruins remain after it caught fire in 2012). It is about a 20 minute hike uphill from the road.
Continue on to Phobjikha with stop at places for photography and to view scenery. The slopes en route to Phobjikha (Gangtey) are covered in dwarf bamboo and rhododendron, and are wonderfully scenic. Photography is must here. During winter, yak herders bring their yaks to this area.
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 after travelling through dense forests gives the impression of vast space, and is an extremely rare experience in Bhutan where most of the valleys are tightly enclosed.
Overnight in Phobjikha (Gangtey).
Day 5: In Phobjikha (Gangtey)
Enjoy a full day of photography in one of the most beautiful glacial valleys in the Himalayas.
This place is also the winter home of black necked cranes that migrate from the arid plains in the north to pass winter in milder and lower climate. You will have plenty of time to get your best shots possible here. You also have the opportunity to visit local villages and meet and photograph villagers and interact with them to get an insight into the Bhutanese way of life.
In the evening visit you will visit the Gangtey Gompa. Gyaltse Pema Thinley, the grandson and mind reincarnation of Pema Lingpa founded the temple in 1613, and Tenzin Legpai Dhendup, the second re-incarnation, built the shrine. The present Abbot, Kunzang Pema Namgyal is the ninth re-incarnation.
Overnight in Phobjikha (Gangtey).
Day 6: Phobjikha (Gangtey) – Trongsa - Bumthang
The journey to Bumthang offers another day of new experiences and of course of new additions to your growing collection of perfect pictures of Bhutan. The valleys, the winding roads, the simple villages and villagers, the monuments and the fascinating views pose for you on the way.
Stopping in Trongsa, visit the impressive Trongsa Dzong, built by Chogyal Minjur Tempa, the official who was sent by Zhabdrung to unify Eastern Bhutan. The dzong was later enlarged at the end of the 17th century by Desi Tenzin Rabgay. It is the ancestral home of the present Royal Family. The first two hereditary kings ruled Bhutan from this dzong.
See Ta Dzong of Trongsa, an ancient watchtower (ta dzong) that has now been converted into a fascinating museum, offering insight into Trongsa’s role in the history of Bhutan.
Continue the drive 68 km further across the Yutong-la pass (3,400m/ 11,155 ft), finally bringing you to the wide open cultivated Bumthang valley.
Overnight in Bumthang.
Day 7: Bumthang
After getting fuelled up with breakfast, set out for a full day of sightseeing.
See the Jakar Dzong, literally meaning the Castle of the White Bird. The current structure was built in 1667. Next visit the Lamey Goemba, a large palace and monastery built in 18th century by Dasho Phuntsho Wangdi.
Next you will see one of the oldest temples in the country, Jambay Lhakhang. It was founded in 7th century AD, by the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo. In the month of October, one of the most spectacular festivals, Jambay Lhakhang Drup, is held here.
Continue to Chakhar Lhakhang (“The Iron Castle”). The original palace was made of Iron and hence the name “Chakhar”. See Kurjey Lhakhang, a temple named after body print of Guru Rimpoche, and the final resting place for first three Kings of Bhutan.
After lunch, your sightseeing continues to Tamshing Lhakhang (Temple of the Good Message), which was established in 1501 by Pema Lingpa. Then stop by Mebar Tsho (The Burning Lake). Mebar Tsho is a sacred site to the Bhutanese. According to legend, Pema Linga believed that the lake contained treasures hidden by Guru Rimpoche centuries earlier. Local people were doubtful of this, and to prove his theory Pema Lingpa jumped into the lake holding a butter lamp. After some time had passed, he emerged from the water with a chest, and with the lamp still lit and burning. This is how this scenic, freshwater lake was given its name.
The evening ends with a walk around the Bumthang town and valley.
Overnight in Bumthang.
Day 8: Bumthang - Wangdue
In the morning following breakfast, drive to Wangdue across Yugong la and Pele la.
In the evening take a leisure walk around the Wangdue Valley.
Overnight in Wangdue.
Day 9: Wangdue - Paro
Today the drive from Wangdue to Paro will give you a unique experience for photography. The winding roads are beautiful and fascinating. The villages and Buddhist chortens (stupas) add to your collection of perfect shots. Your guide will ensure you have many stops along the way for photos.
En route you will stop at the Simtokha Dzong for another short photo session. The place of profound tantric teaching, this dzong now houses a school for the study of the Dzongkha language.
Later in the day after checking into hotel, proceed to visit Ta Dzong, originally built as a 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.
Continue to next the destination nearby, the 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!
Later in the dusk as soon as the lights are on, drive to a location near the Rinpung Dzong for a night shoot. The night view of this Dzong (fortress) with the lights around it is picture-perfect. Shoot this spectacle from many different angles.
Overnight in Paro.
Day 10: Paro
Today you will visit Bhutan’s most famous site, the Taktsang Monastery. (Tiger’s Nest) 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.
In the morning after a short drive from your hotel you will arrive at the base of the Monastery. From here we will hike for about 2-3 hours uphill. Hiking uphill is difficult but the prize that waits in reaching the top is just unimaginable. Photo opportunities along the way are plentiful, including many vantage points of the Monastery on the cliff in the distance, and prayer flags along the path.
On reaching the top, take a short rest, then take in the views downhill, the fluttering prayer flags, the rocky hill and the Taktshang Monastery – there are many astounding views just waiting to be captured. After the photography session visit the Taktshang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest Monastery).
Enjoy lunch at Taktsang cafeteria, which overlooks the Monastery, and then continue back downhill for around 2 hours to the base.
Afterwards, you will drive to the ruins of Drukgyal. It was here that the Bhutanese finally defeated the invading Tibetans and drove them back. The peak of Jumolhari ‘Mountain of the Goddess’ can be seen on a clear day from here (alt. 7,329 meters /24,029 feet).
On the journey back, you will have the opportunity to capture the following:
-Mountain Jumolhari & mountains on the eastern Himalayan range
-Farm Houses and villages
-Ruins of Drukgyal Dzong
-Prayer wheels and Prayer Flags
You will also visit one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Bhutan, Kyichu Lhakhang. Legend holds that a giant demon had covered Tibet and all of the surrounding areas with her body, thus preventing the spread of Buddhism. The Tibetan King Songsten Gampo decided to erect a temple at each one of the demon’s joints, preventing her from moving, thus allowing Buddhism to grow and flourish in the region. It is said that Gampo magically multiplied himself and sent out his emanations to various areas across the region to erect 108 temples in just one single day. Kyichu Lhakhang is considered to be one of them.
The evening ends exploring Paro town and valley.
Overnight in Paro.
Day 11: Paro with an excursion to Chelala Pass
In the morning you’ll set out for a photo session at the Chelala Pass, the highest point between the Haa and Paro valleys, at an altitude of 3810m. You’ll be rewarded with a picture perfect setting – dramatic, sweeping views of the snow-peaked Himalayan range, including Mt Jumolhari, thousands of prayer flags, and panoramic views of the valleys below.
Afterwards, return to Paro and stroll through the market place, alleys, and along the riverside taking more shots to add to your collection.
Overnight in Paro.
Day 12: Depart Paro
After your breakfast at the hotel, drive to the airport for the flight to your onward destination. Our representative will help you with exit formalities and then bid you farewell.