Photography Tour to Bhutan
Sorry you missed this tour! Please see details for the other small-group tours to Bhutan!
12-day photography tour to Bhutan
Itinerary dates: September 23rd – October 4th, 2009
Tour leader: Brenda Tharp
This 12-day photography tour to Bhutan is designed to take full advantage of photographing during harvest times (chili peppers and wheat) and cultural festivals (tsechus) while enjoying the Himalayas through light treks, walks and drives along the country’s one main road. There will be ample opportunity to photograph the country’s infamous dzongs (monasteries), landscape, villages and people.
The trip will be led by award winning photographer, accomplished writer and experienced tour leader, Brenda Tharp. A small-group environment ensures personalized attention and feedback on your photography. A Bhutanese guide, knowledgeable in the culture, history and religion, will accompany the group throughout the tour.
Though this is being organized through Beth Whitman, with Wanderlust and Lipstick, the tour is open to both men and women.
The group will meet in Bangkok prior to the departure to Bhutan on September 23rd. It’s recommended that you arrive in Bangkok at least a day early in case of delays. There will be a welcome dinner in Bangkok on September 22nd for anyone able to attend.
September 23rd, 2009
Day 1 – Arrive in Bhutan via Druk Air — Paro
The flight into Paro on Bhutan’s national carrier, Druk Air, is a befitting introduction to the spectacular beauty of the country. In clear weather, magnificent views of the world’s highest peaks give way to the lush Paro Valley as you land. After clearing customs and visa control you will be met by your in-country guide and driven to your hotel.
After lunch, you will visit Rinpung Dzong, Bhutan’s most well-known and finest example of a dzong (a fortress which houses an administrative center and a monastery/school for monks). You will then spend time walking and photographing along Paro’s main street and shopping district. In the late afternoon, if there is time, you will visit Ta Dzong built in the 17th century as a watchtower for Rinpung Dzong and converted into the National Museum in 1967. See antique thangkas, textiles, weapons, armor, household objects and other historic artifacts. Dinner and overnight at hotel.
This first evening will include an introductory session on photography and photographing in Bhutan.
September 24th, 2009
Day 2 — Paro — Thimphu
After breakfast, you will drive about 90 minutes to Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital (population 86,000; 7,520’): still the world’s only capital city without a traffic light! There will be time to walk around the town to photograph “city life” prior to lunch at a restaurant. Afterwards, you’ll attend the Thimphu Drupchen teschu.
September 25th, 2009
Day 3 — Thimphu — Punakha
You’ll depart very early for a drive to Dochu La Pass (10,000’), climbing steeply through a forest of pine and cedar, festooned with hanging lichen. On a clear day, this pass offers panoramic views of the Himalayan mountain ranges. After stopping to photograph around this area and to have some tea/breakfast, you’ll walk downhill and enjoy the fall colors and birdlife before once again reaching the road, where you’ll board the van and drive into the Punakha Valley. Lunch is served at the hotel.
In the afternoon, you’ll drive a short distance to Punakha Dzong, the winter seat of the Je Khenpo (head abbot) and the ancient capital of Bhutan. You will visit the spectacular temple in this complex which houses large Buddhas at the altar and thousands more around the walls. This is a beautiful complex and there will be ample opportunity to photograph the buildings and monks who live here.
The temple is located between the rivers of the Mo (female) Chu (river) and Pho (male) Chu. You will have dinner and then overnight at Hotel Meri Puensum which is perched high on a ridge overlooking the Punakha valley and river.
September 26th, 2009
Day 4 — Punakha — Wangdue
After breakfast, you’ll depart for Wangdue which is a major town and the district headquarters of Western Bhutan. You’ll be arriving at the start of the Wangdue Festival — this will be the most colorful of all the festivals you attend and there will be many wonderful photo ops of both the participants and the Bhutanese in attendance. You will spend the day here at the festival.
Dinner and overnight in Wangdue.
September 27th, 2009
Day 5 — Wangdue — Bumthang Valley
After breakfast, you will continue driving east towards the Bumthang Valley. This will be a long day of driving, about 7 hours. During this drive, Brenda will be providing photography tips and information and there will be lots of time for questions.
You’ll follow the “Central Road” across the Black Mountains, which was completed only 30 years ago, and virtually opened central Bhutan to the outside world.
The road then climbs through semi-tropical vegetation to Pele La Pass (10,900′) with an alpine environment of towering rhododendron and dwarf bamboo. This pass is traditionally considered the boundary between western and eastern Bhutan. Yak can often be found grazing here and, if clear, Mt. Jhomulhari (24,140′) is visible to the west.
Dinner and overnight at hotel in the Bumthang Valley.
September 28th, 2009
Day 6 — Bumthang Valley — Ura — Bumthang
Following breakfast, you will take an excursion to the Ura Valley. About 25 miles west of Bumthang, the road reaches the Ura Shelthang La, where, in clear whether, there is a magnificent view of Bhutan’s highest peak, Gangkar Puensum (24,600’). The road then descends into the Ura Valley by long loops across fields and pastures. Here you will have an opportunity to hike down through a lush forest and through the village of traditional homes. This is an excellent place to photograph village life. You’ll then meet up with the van.
Ura’s main occupation is raising sheep and yaks, and the introduction of potato farming has brought a certain degree of prosperity to the people. You’ll visit Ura Lhakhang and then return to Bumthang.
Overnight at same hotel in Bumthang.
September 29th, 2009
Day 7 — Bumthang
There is a village festival at Tamshing Lhakhang Monastery on this day. You will spend the morning at this festival, which includes dances passed down from the 14th century.
After lunch, you will be driven to an area where you can photograph the fields, harvesting and farmhouses. Bumthang is rich in agriculture and there will be many opportunities to photograph their more traditional lifestyle.
Overnight at same hotel in Bumthang.
September 30th, 2009
Day 8 — Bumthang — Gangtey
You begin driving in the morning towards Yotong La Pass, through Trongsa, to Pele La Pass, and then turn south to the Phoblika Valley (10’000 feet), considered the most beautiful valley in the Himalayas. The Black Mountains are home to much endangered wildlife including golden langurs, barking deer, tigers, panthers, bear and wolves. You will overnight in the valley, which is the winter home (mid-October through March) to the endangered black-necked cranes that migrate from the high Tibetan Plateau. Dinner and overnight at hotel.
October 1st, 2009
Day 9 — Gangtey – Wangdue
In the morning, you will be dropped off at the top of a hill to the recently renovated Gangtey Gompa. After photographing here, you will hike for about 20 minutes to the monastic school and photograph the young monks in their red robes. It is here that they are studying the Nyingmapa sect of Buddhism. You’ll walk through a small village and then down through a level forest path and along the valley floor back to the hotel. If the cranes have arrived early, there will be a chance to photograph them. There is a school here, too, where children are often out playing.
You will lunch at the hotel and then drive about 2 hours to the spectacular Kichu (riverside) Resort near Wangdue (4,000 feet). Dinner and overnight at resort.
October 2nd, 2009
Day 10 — Wangdue – Paro
From Wangdue, you will drive to Thimpu for lunch and a last chance for shopping in Bhutan’s capital city.
Depending on timing, you will then have an opportunity to meander through Thimphu on your own or to visit one or more of the following: the National Memorial Chorten (built in honor of the late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk); the National Zoo; the Textile Museum (where the art of traditional weaving is preserved and still kept alive); the handicraft emporium; the handmade paper factory; and Tashichho Dzong. Also possible is a visit to the School of Arts and Crafts, where 13 crafts are taught to young children to preserve and promote the arts and to provide job opportunities.
In late afternoon, depart for Paro and have dinner at hotel.
October 3rd, 2009
Day 11 — Paro
You will get an early start to hike 2 hours up to Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest), Bhutan’s most photographed and iconic monastery rebuilt in 2005 after a fire. You will spend time photographing the monastery and enjoying the view. You’ll then hike down and enjoy a picnic lunch near a river. You will then return to the hotel in Paro where there will be time for resting or visiting the town for some more photography or shopping. Dinner at hotel.
October 4th, 2009
Day 12 — Paro
After an early breakfast, you will transfer to the airport for a sweet farewell to the Kingdom of Bhutan and fly back to Bangkok. Though it’s possible to connect with your flight home on the same day, consider an overnight in Bangkok in case flights out of Paro are delayed.
Price includes: roundtrip flight from Bangkok to Paro, transportation in Bhutan, all meals, hotels, bottled water, visa, airport tax and tourist development fund charge. In addition, this special tour includes photography tips and instruction.
Price does not include flights to and hotel in Bangkok, evacuation insurance (highly recommended), souvenirs, personal purchases (such as books and snacks), beverages other than water or tips (suggested for Bhutanese guide and drivers).
This trip is limited to 15 people and requires a $1,000 deposit on a first come, first served basis.
Please print, fill out and send, along with deposit, to:
PO Box 16102
Seattle, WA 98116
Final payment is due July 25, 2009.
Brenda travels to experience the world. She makes pictures to capture the essence of the land and the people and to show others how wonderful this world is. There isn’t a day that she wakes up that she isn’t grateful for the opportunity to experience and photograph the world’s unique places.
An award-winning photographer, writer and teacher, Brenda’s clients have included Audubon, Chronicle Books, Michelin Travel Guides, National Geographic, National Park Service and The Sierra Club. Her stock photographs are frequently used for ads, brochures, calendars and greeting cards. Brenda is the author of the acclaimed book, “Creative Nature and Outdoor Photography”, which inspires photographers who are looking to develop their visual skills.
Brenda is looking forward to returning to Bhutan with this tour!
About Beth Whitman
Beth is the author of the Wanderlust and Lipstick guides for women travelers and the editor of www.WanderlustAndLipstick.com.
With 20 years of travel experience, Beth has a deep appreciation for cultures around the globe and has a particular affinity for developing countries. She believes that we should all tread lightly so as to leave the smallest possible footprint at our destination, whether that be carbon- or culture-related.
Though Beth encourages independent travel, Bhutan is a country in which you can only visit through an organized tour. Partnering with Brenda Tharp, she’s confident that this photography tour will leave the participants with a deep appreciation for the culture and fragile environment of this tiny Kingdom.
This is a co-ed trip so all are encouraged to participate!