Bhutan through Your Lenses
The most beautiful aspect of a trip to Bhutan is what photographs you have to take back home. “Bhutan through your lenses” focuses on giving travelers the best photo opportunities in Bhutan. This Bhutan Photography tour takes you through valleys of Paro, Haa, Thimphu, Punakha/Wangdue, Gangtey/Phobjikha, Trongsa and Bumthang covering almost all the places in Western and Central Bhutan.
The beauty of this Photography tour in Bhutan is that you get to capture both the urban and rural essence of this tiny Kingdom of Bhutan giving you a good collection. The highest motorable road in Bhutan, the chelela pass from where the views are stunning, the less visited place in Haa opened to Bhutan tourism only in the year 2002, the most developed place of Thimphu, the only Capital with no traffic lights, the most beautiful Glacial valley of Phobjikha and the most historical place of Bumthang shall take you through a journey of lifetime.
What “Bhutan through you Lenses” has to offer shall be truly an amazing experience in Bhutan.
- Personal attention by the tour operators
- Photograph the untouched Nature and unique culture, tradition, art and architecture at its best.
- Photography of breathtaking views and of places and situations not seen or experienced by many.
- A lot of opportunities to explore and capture villages, visit to village houses and interact with local people including less visited places.
- Visit Mr. Pema Tshering on Work ( subject to his availability) who cannot use his upper limbs and uses his legs for carving, painting and daily chores. (Subject to his availability)
- Then visit Mr. Kheng Sonam Dorji, a renowned musician in Bhutan. (Subject to his availability)
- Experience, understand and live the Bhutanese way of life.
- Visit to schools and interaction with school children.
- A private traditional cultural show and experience of the traditional hotel stone bath.
- Opportunities to wear National Dress and travel Bhutan as local.
- An Archery or Khuru match with the locals.
- Make personalized postal stamps.
- Learn about Bhutanese dishes and opportunities to prepare.
- Opportunity to explore the western and the central Bhutan inclusive of Paro valley, Haa Valley (Opened to tourism only in 2002), Thimphu (the capital city of Bhutan without traffic lights), Punakha Valley (the old capital of Bhutan), Wangdue Valley, Gangtey/Phobjikha Valley (The most beautiful Glacial Valley in the Himalayas), Trongsa and Bumthang (the most historical place in Bhutan).
- Wonderful day hike to the abode of gods and monks, the world famous, Taktshang Monastery (Tigers’ nest).
- Visit to the age old Lhakhang (Monasteries/ temples) and dzongs (Fortress).
- Breathtaking views of the Himalayas from the Dochula pass, Pelela pass, Lawala pass, Yotongla Pass and the Chelela pass (The highest motorable road in Bhutan).
- Wonderful hikes, experience of luxuries of time and many more.
Day 1. Arrive Paro/ Drive to Thimphu
Driving Distance: 65 Km, Driving Time; 1.5 – 2 Hr, Altitude of Paro: 2280 M, Altitude of Thimphu: 2350 M
On your journey to Paro, the panoramic views of the Himalayas are sensational, including the Everest and other famous Himalayan Peaks. The approach through the Bhutanese foothills and the landing, including a few steep turns to land at the tiny airstrip of Paro becomes more exciting as you enter Bhutan.
On arrival you will be received by your Bhutanese Guide with “Tashi Khadar” and Drive to Thimphu with stops at different places for photography. One among them shall be the Tamchog Lhakhang. The iron bridge on the way to Lhakhang shall be a good experience with its fluttering prayer flags, the flowing river and the blowing wind . The bridge is one of the oldest traditional bridges (iron Chain bridge) in Bhutan. Tamchog Lhakhang was built in the 13th century by Thangthong Gyalpo. He is also known as the Iron bridge builder. Situated on a hill top, we have to cross an ancient style bridge to reach the temple. It is owned by the descendants of Thangthong Gyalpo.
After lunch, visit the main traffic to photograph the unique traffic that does not use traffic lights. Instead a Traffic police directs the traffic with exaggerated hand motions. This could be the most unique collections to their photographs.
Then visit the National memorial Chorten to photograph Bhutanese of different age groups, the butter lamps and the moving prayer wheels. Sometimes there will be ceremonies going on which would give additional unique pictures for the collection. National Memorial Chorten was built in 1974 in the honor of our late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck.
After dusk drive to Zilukha to photograph the illuminating night view of Tashichhodzong (Subject to that the lights are put on during the time)
Dinner with your Bhutanese host s as you converse in regards to Bhutan. Traditional Cultural Show over the dinner. Overnight in hotel.
Day 2. Thimphu
Altitude of Thimphu: 2350 M
Wake up early morning at around 5 am in the morning and drive to the Nyingmapa Buddhist Nunnery, to photograph the morning prayers and incense burning session by the nuns in the Nunnery. The nunnery is situated approx 9 km from Thimphu Town and is one of the few surviving nunneries in Bhutan.
Dive back to Thimphu and visit a school for photographs of the morning assembly and prayers. We can have beautiful collections of young Bhutanese children.
After breakfast, visit Kuenselphodrang. A place for refreshing which has the largest Statue of Buddha Sakyamuni. The area gives a very good view of the Thimphu valley from the west and has a temple of Buddha Dipamkara. Photograph the Buddha Statue, the bird’s eye view of the Thimphu Valley from west you shall also have the shots of Simtokha Dzong from here.
Then visit the Zorig Chusum (The school of 13 Bhutanese traditional arts and crafts). Photograph the students working on various arts.
Visit Mr. Pema Tshering on Work ( subject to his availability). Mr. Pemba Tshering, 33 years old from Thormashong, Tsakaling, Mongar was born with cerebral palsy. He cannot use his upper limbs and uses his legs for carving, painting and daily chores like cooking, washing clothes etc. He is a great source of inspiration. ( Subject to his availability)
Visit Mr. Kheng Sonam Dorji, a renowned musician in Bhutan. (Subject to his availability) Converse with him in regards to Bhutanese Music. A private performance if situation favours. He is the Managing Director of The Music of Bhutan Research Centre.
The Music of Bhutan Research Centre (MBRC) was founded in 2008 to document, preserve, and promote the traditional music of Bhutan. Under Sonam’s leadership, MBRC aims to break new ground by professionally researching, recording and archiving the many musical traditions of the country’s diverse regional, linguistic and ethnic groups, and by documenting the finest living master musicians in performance and interviews.
We shall have a typical Bhutanese lunch at the Folk Heritage Restaurant today.
After lunch, visit Sangaygang view point to photograph the prayer flags and the view of Thimphu valley. Besides it would be great experience to have a soothing breeze after your heavy Bhutanese meal.
Visit the Takin Preserve Center. The Takin, the national animal of Bhutan can be seen here. This particular animal is found only in the Himalayan region. Photograph the Takin.
Then drive to the Lungtenzampa Bridge to Photograph the business of the Thimphu town. School children returning home, travelers traveling, etc.
By 4:30 Pm, dive to Tashichhodzong to Photograph the flag hoisting ceremony.
Then visit the Tashichhodzong. The unique architecture outside and inside the Dzong is worth adding to your collection.
Drive back to hotel and relax.
Day 3. Thimphu – Gangtey/Phobjikha
Driving Distance: 140 Km, Driving Time; 5 Hr. approx., Altitude of Gangtey/Phobjikha: 2900 m.
After breakfast, drive to Punakha. On the way, stop at places in Hongtsho and Yushipang for photography. Then drive further to Dochula Pass.
Stop for a photography session in Dochula pass. Dochula pass is the most known pass in Bhutan; about 30 km drive from the Capital City Thimphu on the way to Wangduephodrang/Punakha. It is at around 3150 M height. On a clear day, spectacular view of the mighty Himalayas mountain ranges can be seen. The pass also has 108 Druk Wangyal Khamgzang Chhortens which is believed to bring multi fold merit to all sentient beings and which make the pass a must visit place.
Interests for photography:
- The Dochula Pass
- The Drukgyal Wangyal Chhortens
- The Himalayan Ranges
- Prayer Flags
- Flora and Fauna.
- The Dochula Temple
Lunch on the way. Dinner and overnight in hotel.
Day 4. Gangtey/Phobjikha
After breakfast, photograph the one of the most beautiful glacial valleys in the Himalayas. This is also the winter place for the endangered Black Necked Cranes. No time is enough to have all the shot possible here.
Full day photography in this beautiful and remote valley. You can also drive to Gogona Valley for photography.
- Valley and nature,
- People and culture and way of life,
- Art and architectures
- Mountains and landscapes,
- Agricultural fields and farmers
- Black necked Cranes (Only in the winter months Late October – February)
- Hike around the valley
Drive and explore the inner villages and lifestyle in Phobjikha
In the evening visit, Gangtey Goemba. Gyaltse Pema Thinley, the grandson and mind reincarnation of Pema Lingpa founded the Temple in 1613, and Tenzin Legpai Dhendup, the second re-incarnation, built the temple. The present Abbot, Kunzang Pema Namgyal is the ninth re-incarnation.
Dinner and over night in hotel.
Day 5. Gangtey – Trongsa
Driving Distance: 80 Km approx., Driving Time; 4 – 5 Hr. approx., Altitude of Trongsa: 2300 M
The journey to Trongsa from Gangtey is another day of happiness and of new experiences. You have photographic opportunities in Pelela (the highest point between Wangdue and Trongsa) After Pelela, The main highlights are:
- The valleys and agricultural fields
- The winding roads,
- The simple villages, villagers and way of life,
- The monuments and the fascinating views,
- Water powered prayer wheels,
- Chendebji Chorten.
- Changes in vegetation and landscape.
Further near Trongsa, Stop at a place across on the other side of the Trongsa Dzong, where you get a perfect view of the Dzong. Photograph the Dzong.
While in Trongsa, visit Trongsa Dzong. The most impressive Dzong in Bhutan. The Dzong was built by Chogyal Minjur Tempa, the official who was sent by Zhabdrung to unify Eastern Bhutan and enlarged at the end of the 17th century by Desi Tenzin Rabgay. Trongsa Dzong is the ancestral home of the present Royal Family. The first two hereditary kings ruled Bhutan from this Dzong.
Dinner and overnight in Hotel.
Day 6. Trongsa – Bumthang
Driving Distance: 70 Km approx., Driving Time; 2.5 – 3 Hr. approx., Altitude of Bumthang: 2900 m.
After breakfast, drive to Bumthang, another beautiful valley to fascinate you all. On the way stop at Yotongla (The highest point between Trongsa and Bumthang). Drive further and stop at Gyetsha village, enjoy the wooden fencings, stone walls and straight road for approx. 2-3 km after so long wing roads and the villages and people.
Drive further and you will reach the Zungye village in Chumey valley, visit the Yathra weaving factory and photograph the textile and the weavers. Yathra is the most famous textile product of Bumthang. The Chumey Valley is known for the beautiful Yathra woven by the locals. Yathra is a hand woven fabric made from the wool of sheep or Yak. The wool is first spun into threads and then dyed before they are woven into Yathra with beautiful flower patterns and colors. The Yathra cloth is made into scarves, jackets, table cloths, bags, etc. Most of the women in this valley, especially in Zungye village earn their lively hood by weaving Yathra which is supplied to various towns in Bhutan.
In the evening, explore the Bumthang valley for photography of the different opportunities that you come across.
Dinner and overnight in hotel.
Day 7. Bumthang
Altitude of Bumthang: 2900 m
Describing each photography site is almost impossible here. Every sight is a pose. And every try can become a possible good shot.
After Breakfast, drive through Bathpalathang and Tamshing Village to visit Tamshing Lhakhang, one of the oldest Monasteries in Bhutan. Tamshing literally means the Temple of the good message. It was established in 1501 by Pema Lingpa and is one of the oldest monasteries in Bhutan.
Then, take a short hike through villages crossing the Chamkhar Chhu (River) to visit the Kurjey and Jambay Lhakhang on the other side of the river.
Kurjey Lhakhang: This temple was named after body print of Guru Rimpoche and is one of the most oldest and important temples in Bhutan.
Jambay Lhakhang: This Lhakhang was built by King Srongsen Gompo of Tibet. In October one of the most spectacular festival, “Jambay Lhakhang Drup” is staged here.
Afterlunch, Jakar Dzong which literally meaning the Castle of White Bird. The current structure was built in 1667.
Then drive to Tang Valley. Picnic Lunch shall be served for today. While in Tang valley, visit villages and explore the valley. Also visit the following:
Membarstho: Literally meaning, “The burning Lake”.
Ugyenchholing Palace: The Palace is another attraction in the Tang Valley. The Palace now houses the family Museum and was restored in the 19th century. The Palace contains the historic items of Tshokey Dorji (the then Trongsa Penlop (Governor)) and his household.
Tang Rimochen Lhakhang: The Lhakhang is located in the Tang Valley in a sacred place of Guru Rinpoche. In front of the temple is a rock which bears the body print of the Guru Rinpoche and two Khandoms (female celestial being). This site got its name from the tiger stripe markings on the cliff. There are two large boulders nearby the temple, which is said to be male and female Jachungs (garudas). Below the temple are the foot prints of the Guru and his consorts Mandarava and Yeshe Chhogyal.
In the evening drive back to Bumthang. Dinner and overnight in hotel
Day 8. Bumthang – Punakha/Wangdue
Driving Distance: 215 Km approx., Driving Time; 7-8 Hr. approx., Altitude of Punakha/Wangdue: 1310 m
After breakfast, drive to Punakha.
After dusk, you shall drive to a selected location near the Punakha Dzong for the photography of the night view of the Punakha Dzong. The sight is perfect with the lights and its reflection in the water.
Dinner and overnight in hotel.
Day 9. Punakha/Wangdue
Altitude of Punakha/Wangdue: 1310 m
After breakfast, reach the Punakha Dzong at 8:30 in the morning and wait at the entrance of the Traditional Bridge. Photograph the government servants coming to the Dzong for their days work. Photograph the way they put on their Kabney and Rachu (Scarf Bhutanese have to wear in visiting important places. The prayers flags fluttering in the traditional Bhutanese bridge and the flowing river, and the Dzong between two rivers shall definitely give you very good moments to capture. Take photographs in the courtyards of the Dzong, iconography, monks, etc.
Punakha Dzong was built by the Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1637. It is built at the junction the Pho Chu and Mo Chu Rivers. The annual Punakha Tshechhu (Festival) is held here. The monk body resides in this Dzong in winter.
Then visit the Chhimi Lhakhang. The short and easy hike through the rice fields and the valley is a good sight for photograph. You also come across people working in the field during specific seasons. On the way there is a shop which sells different kinds of handicraft “Phallus”. This makes a unique photograph and souvenir collection.
Chhimi Lhakhang is located on the way to Punakha. This temple is also known as the temple of fertility and was built by Lama Drukpa Kuenley in the 15th century. Lama Drukpa Kuenley is also known as the Devine Madman.
After lunch, excursion to Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten. The hike through the Paddy Fields, villages could give you a good time and good photographs. The Monastery has a breathtaking view of the Punakha Valley to offer.
In the evening (if time permits) visit the Daley Goenpa (Nalanda Buddhist Institute) for photography of life in a Buddhist Institute. Dinner and overnight in hotel.
Day 10. Punakha/Wangdue – Thimphu.
Driving Distance: 76 Km approx., Driving Time; 2-3 Hr. approx., Altitude of Thimphu: 2350 m
After breakfast, drive to Thimphu. Lunch at Thimphu and relax in hotel for a while.
After lunch, visit the Government Post office and make personalized stamps. Post a card to your home town. This could be a good memory of Bhutan.
Then, drive to upper Thimphu and take a hike to visit the Cheri Monastery. The monastery was actually named Chagri Dorjeden Monastery. This monastery was established in 1620, by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the founder of the unified Bhutan. After driving for about 20 minutes we have to hike a steep hill about approx. 1 – 1.5 hrs. to reach the monastery. The monastery is now a major teaching and retreat center of the Drukpa Kagyu order. You shall also see Mountain Gorals during the hike.
Drive back to Thimphu and relax for some time.
In the evening visit a local resident’s house for a relaxing and communicative evening. You could also learn to prepare a Bhutanese dish here. Enjoy wine and feel like a local. Enjoy the dinner in the home with the family. Overnight in hotel.
Day 11. Thimphu – Haa valley
Driving Distance: 115 Km approx., Driving Time; 4 Hr. approx., Altitude of Haa: 2700 m
After breakfast, drive to Haa. The drive of 115 km shall be made worthwhile with stops at Places inclusive of visiting villages, interacting with people and taking photographs of rural areas and nature.
The drive from Thimphu to Haa takes you through the villages of Namseling and Kasadrapchhu until you reach Chuzomsa, where the Paro River (Pa Chhu) meets the Thimphu River (Wangchhu). You shall see the three stupas built in Nepalese, Tibetan and Bhutanese styles. They were placed here for good luck and safe passage. Then the road follows the river and passes two dzongs en route, at Betikha (34 km. from Haa) and at Dobji (65 km. from Haa. It also crosses many villages and fields until you reach the secluded Haa Valley.
Haa Valley and places to visit in Haa: Haa valley was known for its animist tradition during the pre- Buddhist era. Inhabitants of Haa then believed offering animal blood to their local deities. However, after the visit of the tantric master, Guru Padmasambhava, in the 8th century the inhabitants were transformed into peaceful Buddhist. Guru Padmasambhava subdued the local deities such as AP Chundu and made them the guardians of the Buddhist tradition. Traces of this belief system are still noticed in the form of festivals and rituals. Opened to foreign tourist only in the year 2002, it is a culturally rich valley. A few famous places to visit are:
7th century Lhakhang Karpo (White temple) and Lhakhang Nagpo (Black temple) at the foothills of a venerated three brotherly mountains known as Meri Puensum. The grand annual Haa Tshechu is also performed here at Lhakhang Karpo on the 8th-10th day of the 8th Bhutanese month.
The Haa Wangchuklo Dzong built in 1915 after the Dumchog Dzong was razed to the ground by fire is worth visiting.
The valley is also unparalleled in Bhutan in terms of the diversity of the folk culture, legends and shamanistic rituals. The shamanistic traditions is vividly practiced in almost all the communities, most notable of which is the annual ceremony to honor Ap Chundu, the guardian deity of the valley. The valley is also a paradise for nature lovers and travelling there is a very rewarding experience.
Undoubted this place shall offer you a lot of random Photo opportunities.
Dinner in Overnight in hotel.
Day 12. Haa – Paro:
Driving Distance – 65 km. | Driving time – 2.5 to 3 hrs. approx. | Altitude of Paro – 2280 m.
After breakfast, drive to Paro via Chelela pass. The winding roads climbs up the slopes giving you beautiful views till you reach the Chelela Pass. Stop at every opportunity of a great view and add to your collections.
Chelela Pass: It is the highest point between the Haa valley and Paro valley at an altitude of 3810 m. This place gives a very good view of the Himalayan Mountains, including the mountain Jumolhari. The place also gives good view down towards the Haa valley. A lots of prayer flags flutter in the place. The place has breathtaking photographic opportunities. Spend sometime here photographing the higher mountains, prayer flags and the beautiful views of the valley below.
You could choose to install your own prayer flags here or burn incense.
Drive downhill towards Paro valley, you could also choose to do a short hike to Kila Goemba to stretch your legs.
As you drive through the narrow winding road you come across pine forest and rhododendrons. You also come across the Dzongdrakha Goemba, where four chapels and a large white Nepali-style chorten perch dramatically on a cliff ledge. Finally you shall see the beautiful Paro Valley and the Air Strip of the Paro International Airport and this is certainly a place you would not want to miss for photography.
After lunch, visit the Paro Ta Dzong, which overlooks the Rinpung Dzong and was built in 1951 as a watch tower. This Dzong is Round, more like parts of a European castle. The Dzong was established as the National Museum of Bhutan since 1967 and holds fascinating collection of arts, relics, religious thangka, etc. The place also provides very good views of the Paro Valley.
Then drive to a location where you shall be taking part in a archery or Khuru (Traditional dart) match with the locals. You shall also have to opportunity to experience the Bhutanese Nationals Dress here.
Dinner and overnight in hotel.
Day 13. Paro
After breakfast, you have to reach the Drukgyal Lower Secondary School, where they have the learning centre for special children (Most of them are deaf and dumb), they have a unique way of doing their morning assembly with actions (since they cannot say their morning prayers like in other school).Photograph their morning assembly and the special children in their classes.
Then hike to Taktshang Monastery. From the base we will hike for about 2 hrs up hill. Hiking uphill is difficult but the prize that waits in reaching the top is just unimaginable. In reaching the top, the views downhill, the fluttering prayer flags, the rocky hill and the Taktshang Monastery everything awaits you here longing to be captured. Take your perfect shots precisely selecting your location and choosing what you want to photograph. After the photography session visit the Taktshang Monastery (Tiger’s nest Monastery). The primary Lhakhang was built surrounding Guru Rimpoche’s Meditation cave in the 1684 by Gyaltse Tenzin Rabgay. This incredible monastery clings to the edge of a sheer rock cliff that plunges 900 meters into the valley below. Legend has it that Guru Padmasambhava flew here on the back of a tigress.
Walk back to the base. After lunch, visit the Kyichu Lhakhang. This temple is one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Bhutan. The Tibetan King, Songtsen Gembo, to consecrate the entire region of Himalaya, in the 7th century miraculously built 108 temples. Kyichu Lhakhang is considered to be one of them. This shall also give you opportunities for photography.
Then, drive to a Village House and spend your time there. Your models now would be the people in the village house. Photograph the different activities going on in the house. Photograph the daily life in a village in Bhutan. Learn the rural day to day life in villages in Bhutan. Take a traditional hot stone bath. And participate in household activities (if you are interested) such as preparing Bhutanese dinner, milking cows, etc.
After dusk, as soon as the lights are on, drive to a location near the Paro Rinpung Dzong to take its perfect shots. The night view of this Dzong (fortress) with the lights around it makes a perfect creation to capture. You may take your shot from different possible location so that you have your perfect shot.
Dinner in and overnight in the Bhutanese village house or hotel.
Day 14. Departure
After breakfast, a small Bhutanese ritual shall be held by a monk for a safe journey home wards. Drive to airport and bid farewell to Bhutan. Take back home the priceless memories, photographs and cherish the new found friends in Bhutan. We shall certainly hope of serving you again on your next visit to this great country or the Last Shangri-La.