Capturing the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan with Punap Ugyen Wangchuk
Duration: 10 nights
Spring (February, March, April, May), August, Autumn (September, October & November
Proposed Places of Interest:
Scenic landscapes, monasteries & fortresses, festivals, people, culture & their environment, temple and spring blossoms in the kingdom
The sole surviving Himalayan Buddhist Kingdom provides a stunning array of photographic opportunities- mountainous landscapes, ancient temples and monasteries, lively colorful festivals, a timeless Buddhist culture and fascinating people. This photography tour is a suggested itinerary designed to make the most of these incredible features.
This ten-day tour explores both the intensity of festivals and the peacefulness of the countryside and an ample of opportunities for a photographer. This photo tour is for anyone with a keen interest in photography and a love of adventure. All levels of photographers are welcomed.
Ugyen Wangchuk, the founder is a keen photographer and has spent the last two decade traveling around the country, capturing various images and is soon to launch his first book.
Travelling in company of a local Bhutanese professional photographer is a huge advantage as the travelers will be escorted to the right spot at the right time with assurance to capture the desired subjects. This is to assure maximum shooting (with value) without loss of precious time.
Day 1 – Introducing Bhutan – a teaser!
Land at Paro international airport (Altitude about 7300 feet). On a clear day, one might be able to catch a view of Mt. Everest and other eastern Himalayan range before landing. On arrival, our guide will meet you up at the exit of airport with traditional welcome scarf(Khadar) which is a symbol of purity and is believed to brings blessings and good lucks.
On the way to Thimphu, we can stop by – Tagcho Lhakhang (temple) and Wangsimo village. After checking into a hotel, you can take some rest and freshen up (for an evening in Thimphu city should you choose to stroll).
In the afternoon, we will take a 20m drive to Sangaygang and hike up to Wangditse, this walk offers fantastic view of the Thimphu valley and gives you some sense of belonging. In the evening we will take a walk around the city, meet people.
Overnight at Hotel Tashi Yoedling, Thimphu
Day 2 – Unique Thimphu city
Thimphu has some amazing collection of temples to visit. After breakfast visit National memorial Chorten, this monument is dedicated to late 3rd king of Bhutan. And is occupied mostly by elderly citizens who comes in daily for offering and prayers. Nonetheless its perfect places for portraits photography.
Then drive to the tallest Buddha statue in Bhutan. It is a tourist attraction and is visited by 100’s of tourist and locals everyday. From here one can capture panoramic view of Thimphu valley, which can be followed by visiting arts and crafts school which showcases aged authentic arts & crafts of the kingdom.
After lunch, we can go to Dechenphodrang monastery, home to hundreds of monks. The friendly and cuties little monks makes fantastic photographs.
On the way back, we will stop and take photos of the Tashi Chhodzong, the central government offices and central monastic body. And we will end the day with Lopen Gembo Dorji. He completed his studies in Buddhism and served as National Councilor, Secretary General of central monastic body. He also took few years off and choose to mediate in the mountains. He is one person you should get to know for he can help you with teachings of the Buddhism/Gross National Happiness (GNH)
Overnight at Hotel Tashi Yoedling, Thimphu
Day 3 – Exotic journey to Wangdue
We drive to Wangdue early morning and in en route we stop at Dochula pass (Altitude about 10,150 feet) for tea, coffee and breakfast facing the Himalayas.
Druk Wangyal temple and 108 Chortens/stupas are one of the best place to take a picture.
If the weather permits, we can get very good view of the eastern Himalayan snowcapped mountains. We continue our journey and drive down to Wangdue (Altitude about 3400 feet) but stop at Lampelri Botanical Park. At the park we can take photographs of plants and take a short nature walk around the lake. We can also check out the Lobesa market for another photography.
Overnight at Eco Lodge at Wangdue perched at Nyshigaykha community offering authentic Bhutanese hospitality.
Day 4 – Ancient & untouched Punakha valley
Visit the farmer’s market (every Sunday) after breakfast and then drive to Punakha, the old capital of Bhutan, and visit the historic Dzong. Punakha Dzong has rich architectural design of the giant fortress from both outside and inside.
After lunch, head north to take a brief hike to enchanting Khamsum Yuelay Namgyal Chhorten nestled on the hilltop of Yebesa valley. From the chorten site, we capture the scenic view of the valley and the meandering river below.
Return to the Eco-Lodge and soak up in its hospitality.
Day 5 – The fabulous Phobjikha valley
This secluded valley gets really cold at night but we’ll be cosy in a farmhouse with log fires and hot stone baths. The valley still continues with a very basic rural style and offers us a chance to really slow down and contemplate the art of photography. This is home to the potato farmers and the Black Necked Crane, the latter of which will be spending the winter in the valley and likely to be seen from a distance.
After breakfast drive to Phobjikha. Phobjikha valley is another beautiful place in the country, famous for its nature and culture site. During the winter its home for hundreds of rare blacked necked cranes, and Gangtey monastery is build on top of the gangtey hill surrounded by villager houses. We can take nature walk along the farmhouses. This glacier valley offers fantastic subject or background for the photographer.
Day 6 – Journey thought the scenic landscape
Start by taking photographs of the Gangtey monastery early, drive to Chendayji for landscape photography and lunch on the way to Wangdue. Can stop mid in between for farmers and landscape makes a good picture.
Night at Wangdue eco-lodge.
Day 7 – Esperance the essence of Bhutanese family and the village around
Take a walk to Nezergang temple or village for about one hour, we can also visit the farmhouse and have tea and see locals’ life style in the rural areas in Bhutan.
Afternoon, walk down to Nyshigaykha village and visit a local painter who also happens to paint Bhutanese mural. Instead of driving, we will take it easy today. By the end of the day, we will all sit together, review our work and come up with solutions to help each other get better/broaden up.
Back to Wangdue Eco-Lodge
Day 8 – 7 hours’ road trip thought the beautiful villages and town
After breakfast, we will drive to Haa and stop at Thimphu for lunch. We can also explore the city and find a good photography spot. This drive way to Haa valley is another scenic landscape and we will be coming across many beautiful villages on the way. Haa is the another authentic valley in the country because of the security reason it didn’t open for tourist until 2002.
Over night in the hotel
Day 9 – Drive through the Himalayan forest, landscape & mountains
Drive to Paro via Chelela Pass in the morning for the view of Himalayan Mountain. We can also walk up the hills and take various style of photographs using flower, mountains and the prayer flags. We can also walk to nunnery from the there if desired.
One last stop before reaching hotel: Dzong drakha and airport with majestic Paro Dzong surrounded by mountains, settlement and river.
Day 10 – Tiger’s nest monastery (Must visit)
Without delay, we will proceed to Paro Dzong built in the 17th century, this dzong has stunning architecture design and a good collection of mural painting for you to check out.
It takes about 3 hours from the dzong to hike up to the iconic Tiger’s Nest nestled on the rocky cliff 1000 meters above the valley.
In essence, Tiger’s Nest unfurls the advent of Buddhism’s history in Bhutan dating back to the eighth century. It was at this site that Guru Padmasambava took up uninterrupted meditation for three years, three months & three days. After which, he flew on the back of a tigress and transformed into an outrageous form, Guru Dorje Drole from Singye Dzong in the far Eastern Bhutan.
Having blessed the site by Guru Padmasambava, in a later time Gyalsey Tenzin Rabgay initiated the construction of the present stature and enrolled young monks to study Buddhism.
At Tiger’s nest, you will be introduced to small temples to offer prayers and cleanse any negative karma. Photography of Tiger’s Nest will be strategically carried out from different spots.
In the evening, treat yourself to a traditional hot stone bath to revitalize. Taking a hot stone bath is believed to cure minor physical pain and it is a commonly used therapy by the locals.
Day 11 – Departure
Your guide will see you off at Paro International airport to board the flight for your onward journey. Say Goodbye to come to come again.