Bhutan Photography Expedition

  • Trip Type: Land
  • 11 Days | Paro to Phobjikha
  • Group Size: Max 16

Expedition Details


Set out into the mountains of Bhutan to shoot images of exquisite temples, timeless farming villages, and the towering Himalaya. Capture scenes from a lively market or crimson-robed monks against a backdrop of whitewashed dzongs. Hike into forests where wild moss creates an otherworldly atmosphere, and photograph breathtaking panoramas of snow-clad peaks.

Trip Highlights

  • Capture images of daily life in Bhutan on hikes to local villages and excursions to lively markets.
  • Hike to Bhutan's most famous pilgrimage site, Taktsang Lhakhang, or the Tiger's Nest Temple.
  • Photograph the exquisite carvings and sculptures of the newly renovated Gangtey Gonpa temple.
  • Mingle with community leaders and government dignitaries at a banquet dinner and gain insight into modern Bhutan.

Itinerary - 11 Days

Day 1 — Bangkok, Thailand

Arrive in Bangkok this evening and check in to our hotel.
Novotel Suvarnabhumi Hotel

Day 2 — Bangkok/Paro, Bhutan

From Bangkok, fly to the Paro Valley (7,300 feet) in Bhutan. Enjoy our stunning hotel—a member of the National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World collection—and capture dramatic images of the valley from Ta Dzong before walking down to Paro’s traditional center, Paro Rinpung Dzong. After a late-afternoon photo shoot with the monks in the courtyard of the dzong, return to the hotel and gather for a welcome dinner.
Zhiwa Ling Hotel (B,L,D)

Day 3 — Paro/Punakha

In the early-morning light, photograph the traditional decorative details of the seventh-century Kyichu Lakhang. Kyichu is one of the two oldest temples in Bhutan, and is believed to be holding the left foot of an ogress whose body is so large that it covers Bhutan and most of eastern Tibet. Following a special Buddhist blessing ceremony for the safe passage of the group, journey to Punakha, Bhutan’s ancient capital. En route to Punakha, stop at the Dochu La pass (10,000 feet) and train your lens on the 200-mile panorama of Himalayan peaks (weather permitting).
RKPO Green Resort or Zhingkham Resort (B,L,D)

Day 4 — Punakha

Enjoy a full day to photograph the golden Punakha Valley, beginning with the impressive Punakha Dzong. Built in 1637 to guard the northern and southern approaches to the valley, the dzong served as the national capital until 1966. Late this afternoon, hike through terraced fields to Khamsum Yuelley Namgyel Chorten, a hilltop shrine with sweeping views of the fertile valley below.
RKPO Green Resort or Zhingkham Resort (B,L,D)

Day 5 — Punakha/Phobjikha

Travel to the alpine valley of Phobjikha (10,000 feet), considered one of the most beautiful valleys in Bhutan. Along the way, stop to photograph the changing landscape as it transitions from semi tropical to pine forest, and then to an alpine environment where rhododendron, dwarf bamboo, and Grey Langur monkeys can be found.
Dewachen Lodge (B,L,D)

Day 6 — Phobjikha

Against a backdrop of forest-clad mountains, the Gangtey Goemba temple complex rises dramatically from a cluster of hilltop cottages. One of the oldest Nyingma monasteries in Bhutan, Gangtey Goemba has recently been renovated, and the fine workmanship of Bhutan’s best woodcarvers, sculptors, and painters here makes for fantastic photography. Set off on a half-day hike, stopping to meet a family at a local farmhouse along the way.
Dewachen Lodge (B,L,D)

Day 7 — Phobjikha/Thimphu

Travel to Thimphu (7,900 feet), the capital of Bhutan and home to the royal family. As the kingdom’s only true city, as well as the center for government and much of the country’s commerce, Thimphu is a unique mix of Bhutanese and Western sensibilities. Time permitting, spend the afternoon photographing scenes of contemporary Bhutanese life in the capital. Tonight, get a behind-the-scenes perspective on the forces shaping the country’s future during a lively Bhutanese banquet with members of the government, local dignitaries, and respected professionals.
Taj Tashi Hotel (B,L,D)

Day 8 — Thimphu/Paro

After a morning exploring the country’s more modern side in Thimphu, visit the capital's colorful outdoor produce market. Late this afternoon, return to Paro for the night.
Zhiwa Ling Hotel (B,L,D)

Day 9 — Paro

Our journey in the kingdom culminates with an early-morning photo hike to the most famous pilgrimage site in Bhutan: Taktsang Lhakhang, or the Tiger’s Nest Temple (9,300 feet). Visible from afar, this stunning monastery clings to a vertical granite cliff 2,000 feet above the valley floor. This evening, celebrate your Bhutanese adventure at a festive farewell dinner. As the sun sets behind the surrounding mountains, enjoy a rare opportunity to photograph some of the country's finest dancers close up at a private masked dance performance.
Zhiwa Ling Hotel (B,L,D)

Days 10 & 11 — Paro/Bangkok, Thailand

Fly to Bangkok and check in to our hotel. The following morning, transfer to the airport for your return flight via Bangkok, arriving home the same day.
Novotel Suvarnabhumi Hotel (B,L; B)

Optional Extension

Related Trips

National Geographic Expert

Alison Wright

Alison WrightNamed a National Geographic Traveler of the Year as someone who travels with a sense of passion and purpose, Alison Wright photographs endangered cultures and people around the globe while covering issues concerning the human condition. She is also a recipient of the Dorothea Lange Award in Documentary Photography and a two-time winner of the Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Award. Alison is a National Geographic contributor and has produced ten books, including three for the National Geographic Traveler guidebook series. Her memoir, “Learning to Breathe; One Woman’s Journey of Spirit and Survival,” chronicles her inspirational story of survival and years of rehabilitation, and her ongoing determination to recover and continue traveling the world as an intrepid photojournalist. Alison’s experience and her work in post-disaster/conflict areas inspired her to establish a foundation called Faces of Hope, a non-profit that globally supports women and children’s rights by creating visual awareness and donating directly to grass-roots organizations that help sustain them through education and healthcare. Alison has traveled to nearly 150 countries, extensively photographing throughout Asia, Africa, Europe, Canada, Latin America, and the Middle East. Asia is Alison's second home, and she has been traveling to Bhutan for more than two decades. She looks forward to sharing her photographic and storytelling expertise with travelers.

Alison will join the following departure:

Oct 06 - 16, 2018


  • Oct 06 - 16, 2018 (waitlist only)

The itinerary shown describes the 2018 departure, which include a private masked dance performance in Paro. The February 2018 departure includes the colorful Punakha festival.

Expedition Cost



Prices are per person, double occupancy. For a single room, add $2,175. There is an additional Bhutanese government tourism tariff of $400 per person.

International airfare to/from Bangkok and airfare between Bangkok and Paro is not included in the expedition cost. The group flights between Bangkok and Paro is from $960 (subject to change).

In order to optimize photographic opportunities and allow for better access to our National Geographic photographer, these trips are limited to 16 travelers.

Featured Traveler Photo

Activity Level


Travelers should be physically fit and prepared for multiple hours of activity (e.g. hiking, kayaking, biking) each day.

Click here for a description of all activity levels.

What To Expect

The average elevation in Bhutan is 8,000 feet above sea level. This is an active trip, not suitable for those with cardiac, respiratory, or circulatory disorders, or limited mobility. We stay at first-class hotels in Bangkok, Paro, and Thimphu; a Bhutanese-style hotel in Punakha; and a rustic lodge in Phobjika.