We know that serious photographers want to see the world in fresh ways. Himalayan Dragon Tours & Treks has been hosting serious photographers for a decade – we know you do not want a tour that rushes from temple to temple. You want time to see what is really there and capture it to share, or just contemplate at a later time.
Our guides give you plenty of time and space to wander around small villages and market places and will take you to private temples that allow photography inside the temple – an unusual experience for most visitors to Bhutan.
You can choose to do a private photographers tour by yourself or with just a small number of friends or you can join one of our group trips. Group trips can be lots of fun – they are very interactive and at the end of the day we often retire to a quiet cafe and sit around the computer (or digital projector if its a big group) and share our 3 or 4 “best shots of the day”.
Bhutan’s Buddhist heritage and architecture, as well as its stunning landscapes, will provide great inspiration for any photographer. Now Himalayan Dragon Tours & Treks offers you a way to deepen your insight and photographic skills in this magnificent environment.
A typical day on the contemplative photography tour:
• Begin the day with an optional half-hour meditation period.
• Following the morning meditation, there will be a brief talk, and some visual exercises.
• After the talk and the exercises, people will have time to shoot an assignment from The Practice of Contemplative Photography.
• This will be followed by the days’ touring, with plenty of time and space to wander around small villages, market places and private temples that allow photography.
• After dinner we will gather around a big screen to review and critique shots from the morning’s photo assignment. After that, we will enjoy a slideshow of people’s best images from the day’s shooting. Jump to the tour itinerary.
Contemplative Photography Itinerary: 14 days/13 nights
Day 01: Arrive by flight to Paro (Between 7 and 10am)
The flight to Bhutan takes you over Himalayas, offering glimpses of the highest glacial peaks. Upon your arrival at Paro we will meet you and transfer you to your hotel through the valley of Paro. After a short orientation to the contemplative photography tour we will have lunch and explore Paro town.
Day 02: Paro sightseeing
After breakfast, visit to Rinpung Dzong (the fortress of the heap of Jewels built in the 17th century), photography is allowed in the expansive courtyards and outside of the Dzong but not actually within the sacred shrines. After lunch visit the Drukgyel Dzong ruins, its surrounding villages and rice fields. Next we will visit Kyichu Lhakhang, built in the 7th century and one of the oldest temples in Bhutan. We will spend the afternoon and dusk wandering around Paro town. Overnight in hotel.
Day 03: Paro – Thimphu (56 Kms – 1.5 hours)
After breakfast drive to Thimphu about hour and half. Thimphu is the modern capital of Bhutan. We will visit the Grand Memorial Chorten and the Big Buddha sitting above the city. Visit to temple (Wangditsi or Zangho Pelri near market place – photography allowed in shrine room) We overnight in hotel.
Day 04: Thimphu sightseeing.
Morning Thimphu sightseeing includes – visit to Folk and Heritage Museum; Late King’s Memorial Stupa; Textile museum; Takin (National animals); weaving center; and Traditional Hand made Paper Factory. Afternoon, visit Painting School, which preserves our traditional paintings, sculpting and wood carving; National Handicraft Emporium. (some photographers may choose to omit these visits to allow more time for leisurely photography) Evening at leisure in Thimphu City.
Day 05: Thimphu – Punakha (74 Kms – 3 hours driving)
Depart to Punakha across Dochula pass (3,100m). On a clear day, the pass offers spectacular views over the greater eastern Himalayas including the highest peak of Bhutan. Dochula pass is about one hour from Thimphu, and we will stop here for one hour beside the spectacular 108 Chortens at the top of the pass. On the way to Punakha we will stop for a short hike of about an hour to the temple of the Divine Madman, also well known as the “temple of fertility”. The villages in this area are surrounded by rice fields. In the afternoon we visit Punakha Dzong built in 1638, Punakha was the capital city of Bhutan till 1955 and still the Je Khenpo, the Chief Abbot, resides there during the winter season. Overnight in hotel.
Day 06: Punakha – Bumthang (210 Kms – 8 hours driving)
Drive to Trongsa about 5 to 6 hours. Short stop at Wangdi town. Continue our journey crossing Pele la Pass (3,300m), the traditional boundary between east and west. Stop for lunch at Chendebji near a large Nepalese style stupa, then continue for about 3 hours to Bumthang. Overnight at tourist Lodge.
Day 07: Bumthang sightseeing
Bumthang is a very lush green valley and often described by Swiss visitors as reminding them of home, it also has the highest concentration of the most sacred temples in Bhutan. Morning: – visit Kurjey Lhakhang, Guru Rinpoche meditated here in 8th century; Jambey Lhakhang built in 7th century by Tibetan King Songtsen Gempo. Tamshing Lhakhang, founded in 15th century by Pema Lingpa, the treasure revealer. Kencho Sum Lhakhang. We will visit a combination of state and private temples (that allow photographs inside the temple) Later see the Jakar Dzong. Evening take a stroll through Bumthang market area. Overnight in hotel.
Day 8: Bumthang sightseeing
Extra day in Bumthang – photography time around town, or optional short hike.
Day 9: Bumthang – Trongsa (3 hours driving)
Morning in Bumthang, then back to Pelela Pass (alt. 3,300 m) to Trongsa. Visit Trongsa Dzong. Then visit Ta Dzong (watchtower museum) (option for photographers to choose more photographic time instead of museum visit). Overnight in Hotel
Day 10: Trongsa Gangtey/Phobjikha (4.5 hours driving)
Early morning departure to Phobjikha – one of the few glacial valleys in Bhutan and chosen home of black necked crane, which migrate from the central Asiatic Plateau to escape its harsh winters. The valley is wide and open and quite a contrast to the usually steep valleys that characterise Bhutan. Explore Phobjikha and also visit Gangtey Monastery, the largest Nyingmapa Monastery in Bhutan. This monastery features incredibly ornate architectural highlights. Overnight in Hotel.
Day 11: Phobjika – Thimphu (5.5 hours driving)
Morning drive north of Punakha valley, hike 45minutes to Khamsum Namgyel Chorten. Depart Punakha for lunch in Thimphu and stroll streets of Thimphu in the evening. Overnight in hotel.
Day 12: Thimphu – Paro
Morning in Thimphu at leisure. Optional visit to the fresh produce market. Vendors from all over Bhutan bring a range of colorful fruits and spices to this market in central Thimphu. Lunch Thimphu. Depart to Paro. Overnight in Paro.
Day 13: Paro.
Morning hike to Taktsang Monastery (Tigers Nest) in the Paro Valley – the most popular tourism site in Bhutan. The hike to Taktsang takes about an hour uphill to the viewpoint and another hour to the monastery. Guru Rinpoche meditated here in the 8th century. The Desi Tenzin Rabgye extended the temple in the 17th century to present structure, however it has undergone significant rebuilds due to fires. Lunch at Cafeteria, then amble down to pick up point. Afternoon in Paro at leisure. Overnight in Paro.
Day 14: Paro – Exit.
After early breakfast in the hotel drive to the airport for flight to onward destination, those staying on for the 5 day Druk Path trek will depart to trail head.
For more information about contemplative photography see this great article, visit seeingfresh.com, or take a look at The Practice of Contemplative Photography: Seeing the World with Fresh Eyes by Andy Karr and Michael Wood – we will send a copy of this book to all of our photographers joining the contemplative photography tour. What better place than Bhutan to learn the art of contemplative photography – The Bhutan Observer may be the only newspaper in the world to publish a weekly “contemplative photo”!
Whether you are a professional or a beginner we can find the right group tour for you. Most of our clients say its hard to take a bad photograph in Bhutan! In fact all of the photographs on our website have been taken by our guests.
Contact us to discuss itineraries.
Bhutan Contemplative Photography Tour:
Departure: All Season
Tour length: 14 days/13 nights
Activity type: Contemplative photography, meditation, easy walks
Note: Join us for the 5 day Druk Path Trekafter the Contemplative Photography Tour – a special extension rate of $US1,191 is available.
• Instruction in contemplative photography
• Relaxed schedule designed for photographers
• Optional morning meditation practice
• Visit the most sacred valleys of Bhutan
• Share photographs at the end of the day
• All accommodation and Bhutan Govt tourism fees and royalties
• Breakfast, lunch and dinner
• Entrance fees to attractions
• All internal land transport
• Visa application and processing
Note: flights to/from Bhutan are not included