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.
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 (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 - 12 Days
Days 1 & 2 — U.S./Bangkok, Thailand
Depart the U.S., cross the international date line, and arrive the next night. Novotel Suvarnabhumi Hotel
Day 3 — Bangkok/Paro, Bhutan
From Bangkok, fly to the Paro Valley (7,300 feet) in Bhutan. Transfer to our hotel and enjoy time to relax, or head to the seventh-century Kyichu Lhakhang to photograph one of Bhutan’s oldest temples in the afternoon light. Tonight, gather for a welcome dinner. Zhiwa Ling Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 4 — Paro/Punakha
After a special Buddhist blessing ceremony, journey to Punakha, the ancient capital of Bhutan. With your camera in hand, delve into the colorful and boisterous Punakha Tsechu festivities, which take place around the town’s stunning dzong. People travel from distant valleys and towns to socialize, celebrate their Buddhist heritage, and enjoy one of the most important events on the Bhutanese calendar. Capture the joyous atmosphere of the festival in photographs, and document the elaborate costumes and dances. Meri Puensum Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 5 — Punakha
Return to the dzong this morning to photograph the festival’s dramatic closing ceremonies. Then set off on an invigorating hike to Khamsum Yuelley Namgyel Chorten, a spectacularly situated temple offering incredible views of the valley below. Meri Puensum Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 6 — Punakha/Phobjika
Travel to the beautiful alpine valley of Phobjika (10,000 feet), the largest wintering site for the endangered black-necked crane. 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 7 — Phobjika
Against a backdrop of forest-clad mountains, the Gangtey Gonpa temple complex rises dramatically from a cluster of hilltop cottages. One of the oldest Nyingma monasteries in Bhutan, the Gangtey Gonpa has recently been renovated, and the fine workmanship of Bhutan’s best woodcarvers, sculptors, and painters here makes for fantastic photography. Then set off on a half-day hike, stopping to visit with a village family and meet students at a local school along the way. Dewachen Lodge (B,L,D)
Day 8 — Phobjika/Thimphu
Travel to Thimphu (7,900 feet), the capital of Bhutan. Cross the Dochu La pass (10,000 feet) en route and photograph a 200-mile panorama of Himalayan peaks (weather permitting). Upon arrival in Thimphu, visit the National Textile Museum and browse its exhibitions. Bhutan’s weavings and brocades are considered spiritual expressions and are admired for their diversity and sophistication. Taj Tashi Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 9 — Thimphu/Paro
Spend the morning exploring the country’s more modern side in Thimphu. Visit the Traditional School of Painting and the Arts to capture close-ups of students practicing the ancient arts of Bhutanese thangka painting, mask making, and wood carving. After returning to Paro, get a behind-the-scenes perspective on contemporary Bhutan during a lively Bhutanese banquet with members of the government, local dignitaries, and respected professionals. Zhiwa Ling Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 10 — Paro
Our journey in the kingdom culminates with a 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. Zhiwa Ling Hotel (B,L,D)
Days 11 & 12 — Paro/Bangkok, Thailand/U.S.
Fly to Bangkok and check into our hotel. The following morning, transfer to the airport for your return flight, arriving home the same day. Novotel Suvarnabhumi Hotel (B, L; B)
ALT indicates a departure that has a slightly different itinerary than the one shown on this page. Click the ALT icon to see the day-to-day itinerary.
Prices are per person, double occupancy. For a single room, add $1,995 in 2013 and $2,095 in 2014. There is an additional Bhutanese government tourism tariff of $400 per person. Airfare is not included in the expedition cost. Round-trip economy airfare between Los Angeles and Bangkok is from $1,205, and between Bangkok and Paro is from $960 (subject to change).
What To Expect
This is an active trip with hikes and excursions that involve stairs and uneven footing. The average elevation in Bhutan is 8,000 feet above sea level. This trip is 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 simple Bhutanese-style hotel in the Punakha Valley; and a rustic lodge in Phobjika.