BHUTAN

BHUTAN

October 15 - 24, 2018

October 14 - 23, 2019

PUNAKHA FESTIVAL

Feb 22 - Mar 3, 2018*

2019 to be determined

Travel, Landscape, Architecture, Nature and People Photography

Includes

  1. -10 Days

  2. -Visa and Entry Papers

  3. -Workshop Adventure

  4. -Photographer | Guide

  5. -Photo Walks

  6. -Only 4-8 Guests

  7. -4 or 5 Star Hotels

  8. -All Meals

  9. -National Park Entry Fees

  10. -Local Transportation

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PHOTOGRAPHY ADVENTURE VACATIONS

The Kingdom of Bhutan

Thimphu, Punakha, Haa Valley, Phobjikha & Taktshang

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Come... immerse yourself in the Land of the Thunder Dragon.

Kingdom of Bhutan Photo Adventure Vacations – Inspire, Create and Learn.

Bhutan is awe inspiring from the moment you start flying over the Himalayas and land in a breathtaking valley. Bhutan is the “Land of the Thunder Dragon” and is as magical as it gets. A country where a handsome young Elvis look-a-like became King, cigarettes are illegal, chillies are a staple, rice is red and protective erotic art is painted on houses, schools and temple walls. A land that treasures Gross National Happiness more than Gross National Product. It is a small nation of about 750,000 people in the Eastern Himalayas, nestled between Tibet, China and India. It has a unique government which has intentionally kept itself isolated from modernity. Bhutan’s extraordinary Buddhist sites and undisturbed traditional culture makes it the last remaining great Himalayan kingdom.

Beginning in 2018 our Kingdom of Bhutan Photo Adventure is managed exactly like our other adventures around the world, utilizing fine 4 and 5-star hotels, excellent English speaking local guides, authentic cultural people-to-people experiences and more. We could run Bhutan for less but we choose to operate Bhutan at a level in keeping with our brand and consistently deliver the quality we have come to be known for.

This adventure is designed not only to guide you to the most photogenic locations carefully planned for the best light, but to aid you in mentally visualizing a scene before capturing the decisive moment. Our aim is to raise your awareness and spark your creativity so that you not only go home with images to be proud of, but use your new found skills to improve and expand your photographic technique in general. Apart from the technical aspect of learning your camera settings and capabilities, you will learn how to turn an ordinary image into an extraordinary image by using your own creativity.

In addition, you will become knowledgeable on how to survey the landscape, utilize and approach your environment, photograph people indigenous to the region and the cultural considerations and challenges of photographing in a foreign country. Our time together will include individual and group discussions, inspiring ideas and great fun. We cannot think of a better location to express your creativity than the exotic Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan.


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Group Size



4-8 Guests


Experience | Difficulty



Beginner, amateur, enthusiast and semi-pro photographers

DSLR, mirrorless, compact or iPhone cameras

Moderate schedule

Travel by car or minibus

Moderate elevation changes and lots of walking (hiking optional)

(non-photographers also welcome)


Photographer | Guides



Ian Robert Knight  |  February 22 - March 3, 2018 (Punakha Festival)

Ian Robert Knight  |  October 15-24, 2018

Ian Robert Knight  |  February/March 2019 dates TBD. Based on the lunar calendar (Punakha Festival)

Ian Robert Knight  |  October 14-23, 2019


Weather | Sun



March - Temps 60-70/35-47 F  16-21/2-8 C  Sunrise 6:30 | Sunset 6:00 (18:00)

October - Temps 71-82/50-66 F  22-28/10-19 C  Sunrise 6:01 | Sunset 5:34 (17:34)


Includes



Travel, landscape, architecture, people, nature and photography

Visa and entry documents

Professional photographer | guide

Private guide and driver

Small group size (4-8 guests)

Photo walks & discussions

4 or 5 star hotels (except in remote locations)

All meals

Local transportation

National Park entry fees


Accommodations



Thimphu - Le Meridien Thimphu, Ariya Hotel, TAJ Tashi or similar

Punakha - Dhensa Boutique Resort or similar

Haa Valley - Lechuna Heritage Lodge or similar

Paro - Hotel Zhiwaling or similar


Travel Information



We suggest flying out of Bangkok, Thailand (BKK), however you can also fly from Delhi, India (DEL) or Kathmandu, Nepal (KTM). There are no direct flights to Bhutan. Druk Air is the official airline of Bhutan and we can assist you in booking your flights. See below for pricing. 

Bhutan Arrival & Departure Airport: Paro, Bhutan (PBH) - Transfer time to hotel 60min

Our adventure begins with our arrival into Paro Airport.

Travel Visa: A visa may be required depending on your nationality. Go to Visa Map to find out.


Price



BHUTAN 10-DAY PHOTO & CULTURAL ADVENTURE

Photo Adventure Vacation | October 15-24, 2018:  $9,895

Photo Adventure Vacation | October 14-23, 2019:  $10,795


BHUTAN “PUNAKHA FESTIVAL”10-DAY PHOTO & CULTURAL ADVENTURE

Photo Adventure Vacation | February 22 - March 3, 2018:  $9,495

Photo Adventure Vacation | February/March 2019 dates TBD:  $10,395


Roundtrip Airfare from Bangkok to Paro, Bhutan:  $780


Single Supplement:  $1200

(Optional) Early Arrival Hotel Room:  $350

(Optional) Late Departure Hotel Room:  $350


Deposit:  $1000


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*All prices are per person and based on double occupancy. Please select single occupancy for a private room. For your convenience we offer optional early arrival and late departure accommodations so you can extend your stay before or after the trip. We typically stay in boutique hotels in the 4-star category. Not all destinations offer these types of properties. We look for unique hotels which offer cultural, historic and/or authentic features. Depending on the size of the group, smaller boutique hotels may have limited room inventory. In some countries or in remote locations, we may be limited to lodges or branded chain hotels. Breakfast is included only if included in our room rates.



KINGDOM OF BHUTAN 10 DAYS


Day 1 | Arrive in Paro - Thimphu

We meet at Paro Airport upon your arrival. Our driver and guide will escort us to our hotel in the capital city, Thimphu (2,400 meters/8,000 feet). After checking into our hotel, we will have informal discussions on what our guests are trying to achieve in their photography, subject matters, styles and techniques. Afterwards we explore the city, the only capital in the world with no traffic lights. In the evening we celebrate with our “Welcome Dinner”. (D)

Day 2 | Explore Thimphu

During breakfast, we’ll discuss PWA’s “10 Guiding Principles of Photography” as well as our “THE ART OF SEEING” photographic technique. We then head out with our guide, first explore the capital town, and then take a short drive north to get to the base of the hiking trail to the quaint Cheri monastery. This is where the border of the Jigme Dorji National Park begins. From here, you will walk to the 17th century Cheri Gompa (monastery). You cross the cantilever bridge and climb steeply for 30 to 45 minutes towards the monastery. Two thirds of the way up, one can rest at a Tibetan-style stupa. Ascend to the gompa where there are lovely views. Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyel (first ruler of Bhutan) built this monastery in 1620 and established its first order of monks here. A silver Chorten inside the monastery is said to hold the ashes of the Zhabdrung's father. (B) (L) (D)

Day 3 | Phobjikha Valley

We depart early for the fabulous drive to the central valleys of Bhutan through Bhutan’s rich flora and fauna. As we cross the fertile Valley of Punakha and enter into the Valley of Wangdue Phodrang, Upon arriving in Phobjikha Valley, we explore Gangtey Goemba/monastery established in the 17th century. It is situated on the hill overlooking the valley. The village of Phobjikha lies a few kilometers down from the monastery, on the valley floor. This quiet, remote valley is the winter home of black-necked cranes, which migrate from the arid plains of Tibet in the north, to pass the winter months in a milder climate. The valley is also an eco-tourism hub and you will not spot any overhead power cables. After lunch we continue our journey to the huge fortress of Trongsa which dominates the entire landscape. Trongsa Dzong is the largest dzong fortress in Bhutan, located in Trongsa (formerly Tongsa) in Trongsa district, in the centre of the country. Built on a spur overlooking the gorge of the Mangde River, the temple was first established at the location in 1543 by the Drukpa lama, Ngagi Wangchuk son of Ngawang Chhojey. In the evening we enjoy dinner and stay overnight at our hotel. (B) (L) (D)

Day 4 | Punakha

After a sunrise shoot, we return to Punakha. At Lobesa which is on the way, we will hike through rice fields to Chimi Lhakhang temple located on a small hilltop. This temple is dedicated to the great Yogi in the 14th century known as Drukpa Kuenley or popularly known as the “Divine madman” in the west. After lunch, we continue our drive towards Punakha Dzong (Fortress) situated between the two rivers Pho Chu and Mochu. This fortress is now used as the winter seat of the Je Khenpo (the Spiritual head of Bhutan). In the evening we enjoy a wonderful dinner, review images and discuss the day’s photography. (B) (L) (D)

Day 5 | Explore Punakha

On day five we will explore more of Punakha, including the nunnery, the Nalanda Buddhist Institute and hike to Khamsum Yueley Namgyal temple. (B) (L) (D)

Day 6 | Thimphu

After and early morning shoot, we return for breakfast and discuss workflow, editing technique and how to better work with the digital darkroom. Then we continue our journey to Thimphu. While en route, we will stop at Lobesa or at Dochula Pass for lunch. In the Punakha area we’ll explore more photographic opportunities and then continue on to Thimphu. After arriving at our hotel, we’ll spend the afternoon walking around, photographing, and enjoying the town. (B) (L) (D)

Day 7 | Haa Valley

Today we drive westwards to the pristine and remote Haa valley (2,670 meters/8,811 feet), which was only recently opened to tourists. The valley is dotted with fields of millet, barley, and potatoes and full of ancient shrines. Haa Valley is the western most state in Bhutan. It borders the Indian state of Sikkim, and Tibet. The drive will give you an insight into a medieval way of life that has changed little over the centuries. Modern development has brought better education, health care & electricity to these remote areas but the local small farm-based economy that has kept the local people self sufficient over the years is largely unchanged. After lunch, we visit two famous monasteries, Lhakhang Karpo (White Temple) and Lhakhang Nagpo, (Black Temple). Lhakhang Karpo is also called Chundo Gompa, dedicated to the chief protector-deity of the valley. The central shrine in Lhakhang Nagpo is said to be almost identical to that of the Jowo temple in Lhasa, Tibet. Legend has it that local deities assisted in the construction of Lhakhang Karpo and as a result, the place came to be locally known as 'Hay' (meaning 'surprise') which later became 'Haa' due to varying interpretations and pronunciations over time. Dinner at our hotel and overnight in the Haa Valley. (B) (L) (D)

Day 8 | Paro (via Chele la pass)

After an early morning shoot we will drive to Paro via the Chele-la pass (3,800 meters / 13,000 feet) through blue pine and rhododendron forests. On a clear day there are superb views from the pass of two of Bhutan's highest and best known peaks - Mount Jumolhari and Jitchu Drake. We will stop here briefly to enjoy the lovely mountain scenery and then continue down to Paro town. We will visit Kyichu Lhakhang, built in the seventh century by Tibetan King Songtsen Gonpo and time permitting take a leisurely hike down to Rimpung Dzong. Afterwards we’ll check into our hotel, enjoy dinner and retire for the evening for a well-deserved rest. (B) (L) (D)

Day 9 | Taktshang Monastery (Tiger's Nest) 

After breakfast, our driver will drop us off for a view of the spectacular and famous Taktsang monastery (Tiger’s lair). From here we’ll take the trail to the monastery which climbs through a beautiful pine forest, many of the trees festooned with Spanish moss, and an occasional grove of fluttering prayer flags. Our hike takes us to the imposing Taktsang monastery. Built in the 1600s, this incredible monastery clings to the edge of a sheer rock cliff that plunges 900 meters into the valley below. It is believed that in the 8th century, Guru Rimpoche, the tantric mystic who brought Buddhism to Bhutan, landed here on the back of a flying tigress to subdue a demon. Guru Rimpoche is supposed to have meditated here for three months and it is considered a Mecca for Buddhists. Upon our return to the car, we drive further up the valley to Drukgyel Dzong (the fortress of the victorious Drukpas) built in 1646 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to celebrate victory over Tibetan invading forces and also to curtail further invasions from the enemy. The route is picturesque, and the site of Dzong magnificent (from here, only two-day hike to the border with Tibet). From here, on a clear day, you can get a magnificent view of the Mount Jumolhari (7,314 meters / 23,990 feet). After returning to town, we prepare for our festive “Farewell Dinner”, discuss the events of the trip, share our favorite photos and enjoy the fun and laughter. (B) (L) (D)

Day 10 | Depart Paro 

After an early breakfast in the hotel we drive to the Paro International Airport for our departure. We urge you to extend your stay in Asia and make good use of everything you will learn on our photo adventure. (B)

NOTE: This adventure is proceeded by our Nepal Photo Adventure. Combine both for 19 amazing days in the Himalayas.


PUNAKHA FESTIVAL


The Seven-day event of ‘Drubchen’ and ‘Tshechu’ is held every year from 5th to 12th of the First Month of the Bhutanese Calendar. The Dharma King, who is the re-incarnation of Avaloketeswara; He, who is known as the protector of the Medicinal Land of Four Directions; He, who is the supreme head of Peldhen Drukpa; Let us hold aloft the Victory Banner of the one who subdued the enemies of Peldhen Drukpa from all the directions.

Looking like an anchored ship, the Punthang Dechen Phodrang or Punakha Dzong stands in the middle of the Phochu (Male) and Mochu (Female) Rivers. It was built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1637, a culmination of the prophecy made by Guru Rimpochhe in the 8th century. The name Pungthang Dechen Phodrang means ‘Palace of Great Bliss.’

The Dzong carries a very rich history of Bhutan in that it was here the Zhabdrung, the founder of united Bhutan, passed away in 1651 and also it was in this Dzong that Ugyen Wangchuck, Bhutan’s first hereditary king was crowned in 1907. Then too as the first capital of Bhutan, the first session of the National Assembly was also held there in 1953.

But more than anything else, Punakha Dzong is remembered in the history of Bhutan as one having withstood two major attacks made by the Tibetans. The first came in 1639 when the Tibetans with the support of the group of five Lamas attacked the dzong. The next came in 1644 launched by the 5th Dalai Lama. In both of these battles, the Tibetans were utterly defeated and their weapons and armor captured. The Puna Drubchen is then an annual festival introduced by Zhabdrung to commemorate the victories over the Tibetans.

During the festival, the ‘pazaps’ or local militia men, dressed in battle gear showcase a battle scene of this distant past recalling the days when in the absence of a standing army, men from the eight Tshogchens or great village blocks of Thimpu came forward and managed to expel the Tibetan forces out of the country ushering in a new-found internal peace and stability.

As for the Punakha Tshechu, it was started by the 70th Je Khenpo Trulku Jigme Choedra and the then Home Minister, his Excellency Lyonpo Jigme Yoedzer Thinley in 2005 on the request made by Punakha District Administration and people for upholding the Buddhist teachings and keeping alive the noble deeds of Zhabdrung Rimpochhe.

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  Options and Benefits



Private Guided Tours & Adventures



We offer amazing private guided photo adventures, cultural tours and vacations for individuals, couples, families and groups. We can customize any of our published adventures, as well as others, to meet your individual needs, schedule, budget and interests. This may include the finest 5-star accommodations, business-class travel, and private guides and fixers who are able to make the impossible possible. If you are not interested in a photo-centric vacation, but you love our approach to private travel, we will be happy to design and deliver an amazing adventure focused on travel, culture and cuisine. Click here to request a quote. Feel free to call us at 1-888-834-0288 or contact us for more information.


Travel Insurance



We offer travel insurance through Travelex. The cost for travel insurance can be as low as 4% of the total trip cost, depending upon age and other factors. Knowing you have trip cancellation coverage can make a big difference should you have to cancel for some unforeseen reason. Travelex Insurance Services is a BBB Accredited business with an A+ rating. Click here to get a free quote.


Blog & eNews



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Gift Certificates



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Give someone you know a Gift Certificate, good toward any of our Photo Adventures, Photo Tours, Private Guided Tours, Online Courses, Prints or Merchandize. Our beautifully personalized eGift Certificates are delivered to you electronically. They are fully transferable and have a 2 year expiration date. They are available in any amount from $100 to $5000. It makes a great gift for anyone who loves photography, travel or adventure. Order now, or email for more information.



Private Online Lightroom & Photoshop Tutorials



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We offer private online Lightroom and Photoshop photo editing tutorials for individuals who would like to improve their post-processing skills. Each is customized to meet your individual needs, schedule, budget and interests. We provide you with one-on-one discussions using online connectivity. Many of our Photo Adventure guests select our online post-processing as an extension to their trip. Click here for more information.


Combination Tours



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You can SAVE by combining two or more back-to-back photo adventures. Call us at 1-888-834-0288 or contact us for more information.


Loyalty Club**



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All registered guests on 6 day or longer Photo Adventures are automatically enrolled in our Loyalty Club. You will receive a $200 discount on your next Photo Adventure. After attending just 3 Photo Adventures, you’ve reached “Gold” status and a $300 discount good toward future Photo Adventures. After attending 6 Photo Adventures, you’ve reached “Elite” status and a $500 discount good toward future Photo Adventures. Elite status guests also receive other benefits such as additional discounts, special offers, room upgrades (when available), and more. Click here to learn more.



**LOYALTY CLUB: Loyalty discounts only apply to 6 day or longer Photo Adventures. The discount is applied to the Photo Adventure fee when booked directly through our website, and cannot be added to or combined with any “pay in full”, “pay in advance” or “discounted specials”. This discount cannot be combined with any other offer. Your discount will be applied to your final payment. Only one discount per person, per adventure. This discount has no cash value. Polar Adventures are excluded from this offer. Loyalty Club status will be eliminated after 3 years of inactivity.  


NOTE: We reserve the right to change hotels based on availability and pricing. Not included in your rate are alcoholic beverages, unscheduled meals, travel to and from our destinations, airport transfers, travel insurance and any optional excursions you may choose to book on your own or as a group. Breakfast is usually included unless it is not offered in our hotel package. As is standard in the travel industry, all accommodations are based on double occupancy. Please choose the private room / single supplement option if you prefer your own room. Double occupancy can only be offered if you are traveling with a guest. We reserve the right to change events and schedules throughout the itinerary due to adverse weather conditions or complications that may arise that are out of our control. Our number one priority is always the safety of our group.







 

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