Bhutan provides a stunning array of photographic opportunities- mountainous landscapes, ancient temples and monasteries, lively, colourful festivals, a timeless Buddhist culture and fascinating people. The Bhutan Ultimate Photography Tour is a suggested itinerary designed to make the most of these incredible features. Taking place in early October, it coincides with the Autumn festival season providing a chance to capture images of the grandest of Bhutan’s festivals, the spectacular Thimphu Tsechu and the more intimate Tangbi Mani Festival in a rural setting near Bhutan’s spiritual heartland, Bumthang. This tour also visits remote villages, ancient palaces and fortresses, farm houses, temples and sacred sites throughout Bhutan’s western and central valleys.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE STUDENT EDUCATIONAL TOUR PROGRAMME
Featuring a fascinating display of dances, rituals, colourful costumes, and locals gathered in celebration, Bhutan festivals provide an excellent subject for photography. Festivals occur throughout the year, and can easily be incorporated into an itinerary. Please visit our Festivals section for more suggested itineraries.
- Photograph the colourful rituals and dances of the spectacular Thimphu Tsechu.
- Experience the intimate Tangbi Mani Festival located near Bhutan’s spiritual heartland, Bumthang.
- Explore Bhutan’s central valleys, rich with ancient historical and sacred Buddhist sites.
- Marvel at the elaborate and ancient wall paintings and carvings in Dzongs and temples.
- Discover some of the most sacred Buddhist monasteries and temples in the Himalaya.
- Incorporate a Value-Added Option such as a cooking lesson or meditation session with a monk.
Day 1: Arrival: Paro – Thimphu (65kms/1.5hrs)
Paro (alt. 2200m/7218ft) – The beautiful valley of Paro encapsulates a rich culture, scenic beauty, and hundreds of myths and legends. It is home to many of Bhutan’s oldest temples and monasteries, National Museum and country’s only airport. Mount. Chomolhari (7,314m) reigns in white glory at the northern end of the valley and its glacial water plunge through deep gorges to form Pa Chhu (Paro River). Paro is also one of the most fertile valleys in the Kingdom producing a bulk of the locally famous red rice from its terraced fields.
The flight to Paro is considered one of the most spectacular flight experiences in the world. While flying in and out of Bhutan, one can see Mt. Everest, Kanchenjunga, Makula, and other high peaks such as Chomolhari, Jichu Drakey, and Tsrim Gang.
On arrival at Paro airport, you will be met by your Bhutanese guide and driver and transferred to Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan.
Thimphu is a small, charming capital city nestled in the heart of the Himalayas with a population of about 100,000 people. It is a unique city with unusual mixture of modern development alongside ancient traditions. Although not what one expects from a capital city, Thimphu is still a fitting and lively place, home to civil servants, expatriates, monk body and also centre of government, religion and commerce. Thimphu maintains a strong national character in its architectural style.
Check into hotel.
Lunch: local restaurant in Thimphu town.
In the afternoon, short drive to visit the Statue of Sakyamuni Buddha (51.5 meters bronze statue), sitting on top of Kuensel Phodrang hill. This site offers unobstructed views of the beautiful Thimphu Valley.
Next, you will visit the Memorial Chorten. The building of this landmark was originally envisaged by Bhutan’s third king, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, who had wanted to erect a monument to world peace and prosperity. Completed in 1974 after his untimely death, it is both a memorial to the Late King (“the father of modern Bhutan”), and a monument to peace.
Later, the students will visit Bhutan’s only zoo: The National Takin Reserve. This is where a herd of Bhutan’s national animals reside. Legend has it that the Takin is a cross between a goat and a buffalo, but biologists agree that its nearest relative is the arctic musk ox. This bizarre beast looks as if it was assembled from parts of several animals and vaguely resembles an American bison tinged in golden fur. You will also see barking deer and a few other species.
Tashichho Dzong – Tashichho Dzong has been the seat of the government since 1952 and presently houses the throne room and offices of the king, the secretariat and the ministries of home affairs and finance. Other government departments are housed in buildings nearby.
Evening: explore Thimphu Town/handicrafts stall/Farmer weekends Markets.
Dinner at Local restaurant or at Hotel
Overnight in Thimphu
Day 02: Thimphu Sightseeing
Morning: Today you will visit a local Bhutanese school and attend their morning assembly. The morning assembly in Bhutanese schools is comprised of the Morning Prayer, a speech given by a student in both English and Dzongkha, and ends with the national anthem. Following the assembly, you will get the opportunity to interact with the students of the school.
While visiting the school, you will also be able to do a cultural performance for the local students and faculty to observe. This would be a great way of giving a unique gift to the Bhutanese children.
Also today, you will learn about the arts and crafts of Bhutan. Bhutan is proud of its artistic heritage and produces works of excellent quality and great artistic value.
The arts and crafts are grouped in one list under the name “Thirteen Arts”, the Zorig Chusum: “Zo” means “to make,” “rig” means “science,” and “chusum” means “thirteen”. They consist of the following: painting, sculpture, carving, calligraphy, paper making, casting, embroidery, weaving, carpentry, masonry, bamboo and cane weaving, gold/silver smithy, black smithy.
You will start with a visit to the Institute for Zorig Chusum (commonly known as the Painting School), where a six-year training course is given in the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan. Here you will get to observe students undergoing their training course and view their work.
Next, you will visit the National Library. The history of Bhutan lies imprinted in archaic texts, which are preserved at the National Library. Besides thousands of manuscripts and ancient texts, the library also has modern academic books and printing blocks of prayer flags. The National Library of Bhutan is also the proud owner of the world’s largest book.
Then head over to a local Weaving Center, where you will be able to see the traditional weaving process and interact with the weavers.
Next we visit the Folk Heritage Museum, where the students can tour a real life model of a Bhutanese farmhouse. You can see how the different levels are used for various purposes. The house is complete with local artifacts and current furnishings still used by the rural people of Bhutan.
Lunch will also be served in the restaurant portion. Here is an excellent place to sample the “suja,” or butter tea.
After lunch, you will visit the Traditional Handmade Paper Factory. You will witness the process from start to finish. The paper is made from the barks of the black Daphne tree. The thicker paper is used for scriptures and the thinner ones are used for wrapping gifts and various other purposes. Did you know that in Bhutan, even the shopping bags are made of paper? Not a single plastic shopping bag in sight in the whole country.
Evening: Talk on GNH: you will sit in for a one-hour interactive session on Gross National Happiness by a Gross National Happiness expert. This expert is an experienced speaker who has given speeches on Gross National Happiness at various programs in and around the country.
The speaker will also be available for a question and answer session.
Dinner at Local restaurant or at Hotel
Overnight in Thimphu
Day 03: Thimphu – Punakha (77kms/3hrs)
Drive to Punakha after breakfast.
Punakha Altitude: 1300m/4265ft. Punakha served as the capital of Bhutan during the time of Zhabdrun Ngawang Namkgyal, the founder of Bhutan. Today it is the administrative and religious center of the district and the winter home of Bhutan’s Central Monk Body. It is blessed with temperate climate and owing to its natural drainage from Pho Chhu (male) and Mo Chhu (female) river.
Start your morning by enjoying and taking pictures of the Dochula Pass (3150m/10,000ft) with its panoramic views of the Himalayas. The pass is decorated with 108 Druk Wangyel Chorten, which were built to celebrate the stability and progress, brought to Bhutan by His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the Fourth King.
Later proceed to Punakha.
Lunch at local restaurant at Punakha.
Afternoon: Visit following Places in Punakha:
Chimmi Lhakhang: take a short hike through the rice field to Chimmi Lhakhang, the 15th-century monastery built by Lam Ngawang Chogyal on the spot where his cousin Lam Drukpa Kuenley (popularly known as “the Divine Madman”) subdued a powerful demon. This monastery is also referred to as the “Abode of Fertility” and believed that any couple who gets blessing from this temple is blessed with a child in the next year or so.
Punakha’s Dzong: The name means Palace of Great Bliss. This dzong stands magnificently on the spit of land where two rivers (Pho chu and Mo chu) meet. Punakha Dzong has special significance in Bhutanese history as the place where Bhutan’s first King, Ugyen Wangchuck, was crowned in 1907. It is also the winter residence for the Je Khenpo (spiritual leader) and the entire central monk body.
Punakha Suspension bridge: Experience walking over a one of a kind long, metal suspension bridge that crosses over the Pho Chhu River.
Overnight in Punakha
Day 04: Punakha – River rafting
Morning: you will visit Khamsum Yulley Namgyel Chorten Hike: the hike is about 45 minute – 1 hour round trip hike. Khamsum Yuelley Namgyel Chorten is 30 meters (100 feet) tall and can be seen in the distance when driving or walking up from the footbridge towards the lodge. The three-leveled chorten took eight and a half years to build and was consecrated in 1999. It is dedicated to the 5th King and serves to protect him as well as the country. It is therefore filled with every form of colorful protector imaginable.
Picnic lunch by the river-side.
After lunch, an exciting rafting tour awaits you. Following a short drive, you arrive at the river entry point. After a full safety briefing, you take to your raft for a ‘soft’ rafting experience down the Mo-Chu (Female River). You will need to do a little paddling and you may get a little wet but it will all be worthwhile as this journey takes you through a wonderland of secluded scenic beauty. You drift along to the Punakha Dzong, located on a peninsula in the middle of the rivers. This rafting tour is expected to last 2-4 hours.
Dinner at local restaurant
Overnight in Punakha
Day 5: Punakha-Paro (3hrs) Sightseeing
After breakfast at hotel, you will drive to Paro and visit:
National Museum: Ta- Dzong (the watchtower) one time watch tower built to defend Rinpung Dzong during inter-valley wars of the 17th century, since 1967 Ta Dzong is serving as the National Museum of the country. It holds fascinating collection of art, relics, religious thangkha paintings and Bhutan’s exquisite postage stamps. The museum circular shape augments its varied collection displayed over several floors.
Rimpong Dzong – Regal and imposing, dzongs are arguably among the most distinctive and important structures in Bhutan. This dzong is the headquarters of the Paro district, housing the head administrator and staff, as well as a the monastic body with about 200 monks. From the dzong, hike down to the bridge and then take a short drive for an opportunity to explore the town of Paro.
Lunch at local restaurant.
After lunch, visit a traditional village in Paro. The beauty of Paro valley is embellished by cluster of quaint farm houses. Bhutanese farm houses are very colorful, decorative and traditionally built without the use of single nail. All houses follow the same architectural pattern. Visit a local farm house in this village for an experience of traditional Bhutanese life style and the warm Bhutanese hospitality.
Evening: Explore Paro town/shopping.
Dinner at farm house or restaurant or at hotel
Overnight in Paro.
Day 6: Paro – Hike to Taktshang, Tiger’s Nest (3-4hrs)
After breakfast at hotel drive towards Bhutan’s most scenic icon or the most important landmark, Taktshang the Tiger’s nest clings to the side of a steep cliff 300 meters above the Paro valley. The place was first visited by Guru Rimpoche, founder of the tantric form of Buddhism in Himalayan countries, in the 8th century. It was said that he meditated there for about three months. The original temple was built in the 17th century, but tragically, it was consumed by fire in 1998. Like a phoenix, the temple was rebuilt to its fullest glory in 2003. Takshang is considered to be the 10th-holiest site in the Buddhist world. You can visit three different temples inside the main Takshang complex.
Afternoon – enjoy a game of archery, the national sport of Bhutan or dart.
Evening: Cultural Show.
Immerse in Bhutanese culture by wearing the traditional Bhutanese costumes, Kira for woman and Gho for men to attend the colorful and lively dances and songs of Bhutan in a private cultural show. The one hour performance gives you a glimpse into the various religious and secular songs and dances. You are welcome to participate in this cultural show.
Dinner at hotel.
Overnight in Paro.
Day 7: Departure: Paro
After breakfast, our representative will transfer you to Paro airport for departure.
- Bhutan Tourist Tariff Royalty & Visa fees.
- All private excursions and transfers in superior air-conditioned vehicle.
- Local English speaking guide/tour leader.
- Experienced driver.
- Accommodation in carefully selected, highest standard goverment approved hotels & guesthouses.
- All meals in Bhutan.
- All entrance fees and permits.
- All personal expenses such as bars, beverages, laundry, telephone and tips.
- Medical / Travel Insurance.