With Abhishek Hajela
October 13th - 19th 2023
Bhutan: A Captivating Photographic Journey
Embark on an enchanting photographic odyssey to the Kingdom of Bhutan, a realm steeped in mystique and vibrant cultural treasures. Nestled amidst the eastern Himalayas, Bhutan is a land of awe-inspiring landscapes, adorned with dramatic mountain peaks, lush valleys, and pristine forests that provide an idyllic canvas for your lens.
Capture the essence of Bhutan's unique identity as you explore its age-old monasteries, intricately adorned dzongs (fortresses), and charming villages where traditions are woven into everyday life. The vibrant colors of Bhutanese textiles, the fluttering prayer flags that adorn hillsides, and the serene expressions of monks engrossed in prayer create an exquisite tapestry of visual wonders.
Witness the warmth of Bhutanese hospitality as you interact with locals and partake in age-old customs. From the bustling markets of Thimphu, the capital city, to the tranquil landscapes of Paro and Punakha, each moment offers a chance to capture the essence of this enchanting kingdom.
The grandeur of Bhutan's festivals adds another layer of intrigue to your photographic journey. As the rhythmic beats of traditional dances echo against the backdrop of majestic monasteries, you'll have the opportunity to freeze time and capture the vibrant energy of these unique celebrations.
Day 01: Arrive in Paro, Bhutan
Early this morning board your flight to Paro, Bhutan.
The flight into the Himalayas reveals breathtaking view of the World highest peaks, taking you right into the Dragon kingdom cloud scraping airstrips at the lush green valley of Paro.
On arrival in Paro, you will be met and driven to Thimphu, which is an hour 30 mins away. We will be stopping on the way at a few interesting spots. Rest of the day is free to relax
Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan, is a captivating blend of ancient traditions and contemporary vibrancy. Nestled in a picturesque valley, Thimphu offers a unique snapshot of Bhutan's evolving identity. Stroll through bustling markets where traditional textiles and handicrafts share space with modern amenities. Explore the intricately designed Tashichho Dzong, a majestic fortress that stands as a symbol of Bhutanese heritage. Amidst the city's energetic pace, you'll find a harmonious coexistence of cultural treasures and progressive spirit, making Thimphu a fascinating gateway to Bhutan's past and future.
Day 02: In Thimpu
Today we will have numerous opportunities to capture the essence of this peaceful city. Depending on the light we will determine the order of the day. The group will shoot the 150 foot tall statue of Buddha Drodenma. The base is filled with125,000 smaller statues. The most well know structure the National Memorial Chorten (stupa) is a four story building decorated with statues and iconography and we will spend time capturing images of it. The day will be spent shooting the iconic landmarks of this city without a stop light and traffic police in white gloves. The crimson robed monks, street vendors and traditionally dressed government workers all are easily photographed. At the Changangkha Lhakhang we will encounter many pilgrims and an astrologer will determine, based in your birth date which prayer flag is appropriate. The inner murals of this 12th century temple are easily photographed.
Day 03: Thimphu - Punakha
Leaving after an early breakfast we will cross the Dochula mountain pass and the iconic 108 stupas at the top and is 10,000 feet in altitude. We will possibly drop in and immerse ourselves in the traditional villages of the Sob Sokha valley. There we will photograph people in the fields and the women cooking in their humble abodes. If the group wants more landscape shots we will do that. Our photo group will visit the Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Nunnery. The nunnery is perched on a ridge amid pine trees overlooking Punakha and Wangduephodrang. The temple complex houses a permanent learning and meditation center for nuns where apart from religious training; it provides skill training such as tailoring, embroidery, statue making and thangka painting. During the visit you can spend time in the prayer hall and listen to the nuns chanting and reading religious books.
The winding road then leads to the longest suspension bridge in this Buddhist land. The last shoot of the day will be timed for blue hour at the Punakha Dzong. Punakha Dzong is said to be one of the most beautiful dzong in the country, especially when we are there and the lilaccolored jacaranda trees bring a lush visual component to the dzong's towering whitewashed walls. This dzong was the second to be built in Bhutan and it served as the capital and seat of government until the mid-1950s. All of Bhutan's kings have been crowned here.
Day 04: In Punakha
This morning visit the dramatic Punakha Dzong, which formally served as the seat of government and is still the winter residence of the Dratsheng (Central Monk Body). This is Bhutan’s most spectacular Dzong and an excellent example of how a medieval fortress and a centre of both monastic and adminstrative functions, has adapted and evolved for modern day use.
This afternoon we especially recommend you travel northwards up the Punakha valley and take a fascinating hike through fields of vegetables and tiny hamlets to Khamsum Yulley Namgyel Chorten. This Chorten holds very special significance being consecrated in 1999 and dedicated to the protection of the former Crown Prince – today’s current King, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck.
Also visit the Pho Chhu Suspension Bridge - The 160 metres Pho Chhu Suspension Bridge is known for the longest suspension bridge in Bhutan, which gives you spectacular views of Punakha Dzong and the Pho Chhu Valley."
Return to the hotel and spend rest of the day at leisure.
Day 05: Punakha to Paro
After breakfast you will be driven to Paro.
Paro lies at an altitude of 2280m above sea level. Before the construction of roads most of Bhutan's trade came through Paro either from Tibet via Tremo la or from the south via Haa. Paro valley extends from Jumolhari on the Tibetan border to Chuzom which is the confluence of the Thimphu and Punakha rivers.
Visit Rinpung Dzong, meaning (“fortress of the heap of jewels”), which has a long and fascinating history. Along the wooden galleries lining the inner courtyard are fine wall paintings illustrating Buddhist lore such as four friends, the old man of long life, the wheel of life, scenes from the life of Milarepa, Mount. Sumeru and other cosmic Mandala.
Later take a gentle stroll around the Paro town to see the downtown shops and local life. Interact with friendly locals over a cup of tea at a local café. The town is situated right below the Dzong. Near the bridge are chortens (or prayer shrines) situated alongside the Ugyen Pelri Palace.
Day 06: Punakha to Paro
Today you will be taken for the excursion / hike to Tiger’s Nest.
Taktsang or 'Tiger's Nest' as it is often referred to for Taktshang Pelphung monastery, is one of the most venerated and famous of Bhutan's monasteries. It is located on the face of a 900m sheer cliff. It is an impressive and unmissable site, accessible only by foot, you will follow a trail decorated with colorful prayer flags along the way to protect travelers from evil spirits. Built over the caves that Guru Padmasambhava meditated in for three years, this eighth-century father of Bhutan Buddhism is said to have been brought there on the back of a tigress. One of the most sacred sites in Bhutan it offers breathtaking views to those energetic enough to make it to the top.
From the trail head at Rumtokto (2600m), the hike till the Cafeteria is a steep one hour uphill (about 350m ascent). From the Cafeteria (2940m), one can get a good close-up view of Taktshang. Savor views of the monastery over a well deserved cup of tea and biscuits at the cafeteria and continue uphill for another 45 minutes to a high observation point (3140m) where there is a Chorten. From this vantage point, the lookout to the monastery is a very spectacular and seems almost close enough to touch. It is now on the other side of a deep chasm, only around 150m away as bird flies, but takes half hour or even more to reach. Continue down the flight of cliff-hanging steps on the narrow trail to a beautiful waterfall that plunges down the deep chasm and alongside is a retreat hermitage, jammed dramatically into a rock crevice. Then climb up the flight of steep steps to the monastery. At any point on this walk, you can always return if you find it too difficult. Once inside the monastery, there are several shrines or temples with few monks in residence. After visiting Taktshang monastery's many shrines.
Enjoy a simple yet hearty and hot Lunch at the Tiger’s Nest Cafeteria with a picture perfect view of the monastery perched on the cliff on one side and the valley on the other side.
After lunch, retrace back to the road-head where you started in the morning. The return from Cafeteria is all downhill and takes just over half hour.
Day 07: Departure
Today you will be transferred to the Paro airport to board flight to Delhi.
- Bring your own laptop and storage media
- DSLR /Mirrorless Camera body(s)
- Lenses: 16-35mm, 24-70mm zoom and 70-200mm zoom; similar lenses are very good
- Light bag for easy walking with camera bodies and accessories
- Cleaning kit for cameras and lenses
- Rain/dust covers for cameras and lenses
- Charger for batteries
- Spare batteries
- Spare Memory cards
- Memory card reader
-- Accommodation based on twin sharing rooms for 06 nights.
-- All meals starting from lunch on arrival till breakfast on departure.
-- Transport: We will be using a mini van throughout the trip.
-- All currently applicable taxes.
-- International Flights
-- Anything not mentioned in the program or “Inclusions”
-- Personal expenses, medical expenses and travel insurance