Bhutan Photography Tour – 13 Days
Bhutan provides a stunning array of photographic opportunities- mountainous landscapes, ancient temples and monasteries, lively, colorful festivals, a timeless Buddhist culture and fascinating people. The Bhutan Photography Tour is a suggested itinerary designed to make the most of these incredible features.
DAY 01: ARRIVE PARO – THIMPHU
The flight to Paro crosses the Himalayan Mountains, affording spectacular views of the awesome peaks, including the sacred Jumolhari and Jichu Drake peaks in Bhutan. If you arrive via Kathmandu, which offers the most breathtaking view of the range, it’s possible to see Mount Everest and Mount Kanchenjunga as well.
Upon arrival in Paro, you will be greeted by our representative, In the afternoon you can visit the Paro Dzong. It was built in 1646 and now houses government offices and religious institutions, as do all the Dzongs (forts) currently.
Then visit the National Museum, formerly the watchtower for the Dzong. It now houses a collection of fine arts, paintings, thangkas, statues, and antiques. Afterward, you will visit Kichu Lhakhang, the oldest temple in the country. Later in the evening, Proceed to the capital city (Thimphu). Thimphu is very much different from the rest of the capital cities in the world. The city does not have any traffic lights. There is only a policeman standing in the intersection directing traffic with hand motion which is something unique to see in the world. Overnight in Thimphu. Overnight Hotel in Thimphu.
DAY 02: THIMPHU
Enjoy a full day of sightseeing, including a visit to the National Memorial Chorten, 12th-century Changangkha Temple, and Drubthob monastery housing the Zilukha Nunnery.
Other sites to visit include: the School for Arts and Crafts where students are taught the 13 types of Bhutanese art, The National Library housing the collection of Bhutanese scriptures dating back to the 8th century, the Traditional Paper Factory displaying the Bhutanese paper making process, and a fascinating replica of a medieval farmhouse at the Folk Heritage Museum.
Day 03: Thimphu –Day hike To Cheri Monastery (2850m)
Today After early breakfast, drive up the valley towards the north along Thim Chhu (river) for a short hike to Cheri Monastery. Cheri Monastery is a small monastery atop a hill with a view over the Thimphu Valley. Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel built this monastery in 1620, and this is where the first community of monks in Bhutan was established. Our car will take us to Dodeda and from there will hike to Monastery. The hike will take about 1hr 20mins. Afterward, descend back retracing the same route keeping our eyes open for the goral (wild goat) often spotted on the cliffs nearby. Our car and driver will be waiting for you at the road end. After lunch, we will visit the King’s Memorial Chorten (built-in memory of the third King of Bhutan who reigned from 1952-1972), Changgangkha Monastery, the radio tower (for a great view of Thimphu Valley and the Thimphu Dzong), and the zoo, which contains the national animal of Bhutan. Then stroll and explore around Thimphu town and do some shopping in Bhutan. Overnight stay at one of the hotels in Thimphu.
DAY 04: THIMPHU – PUNAKHA
Drive over the Dochu-La pass (3,100 meters), which on a clear day offers an incredible view of Himalayan peaks before descending into balmy Punakha valley (about 3 hrs total driving time).
Punakha was the ancient capital of Bhutan. On arrival, visit Punakha Dzong, the “Palace of Great Happiness” built in 1637 by the Shabdrung, the ‘Unifier of Bhutan’.
DAY 5: PUNAKHA
After breakfast enjoy a short hike through rice fields up to Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten, built by her majesty the queen Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuk.
Take a picnic lunch on a picturesque riverside before an excursion to visit the 15th-century Chimi Lhakhang, the temple of Drukpa Kuenly who is also known as the Divine Madman. He inherited the Divine Madman title since he revolted against the orthodox Buddhism of his time.
DAY 06: PUNAKHA – TRONGSA
Transfer to Trongsa (6 hrs). Drive via the bustling market town of Wangduephodrang. Drive-up a winding mountain road through oak and rhododendron forests and over the Pele La pass (3,420m) on the Black Mountain range towards Trongsa. The imposing Trongsa Dzong can be viewed across a deep canyon to signal your approach to the town around a curving road.
On arrival, enjoy some relaxation time before visiting Trongsa Dzong, a masterpiece of Bhutanese architecture.
DAY 07: TRONGSA – BUMTHANG
Following breakfast visit the Ta Dzong museum located on the hill overlooking the Trongsa Dzong. The museums main focus is on the history of the monarchy, and is dedicated to the coronation and centenary celebrations of the Bhutanese monarchy with very rare and precious artifacts on display.
After lunch, visit Jakar Dzong, also known as ‘Fortress of the White Bird’. It was founded by the great grandfather of Shabdrung. The Dzong was initially built as a Monastery in 1549 but was upgraded after Shabdrung had firmly established his power in 1646. The Dzong is now used as the administration center for Bumthang valley.
DAY 8: BUMTHANG (ATTEND TANGBI MANI)
Transfer to the remote Tangbi Mani village for the day by vehicle and a 45 minute walk. Spend the day viewing the Tangbi Mani Festival in an enchanting rural atmosphere. You will be captivated by the dances and costumed performances accompanied by clapping cymbals, drums, horn and the unforgettable chanting of Buddhist monks.
DAY 9: BUMTHANG
Enjoy a day of sightseeing in Bumthang beginning with Jampey Lhakhang, one of 108 temples built by the Tibetan King Songtsen in the 7th Century. Continue on to Kurjey Lhakhang, famous for a rock within one of the temples that features a body imprint of the great master Guru Rimpoche.
Afterwards visit Tamshing Lhakhang, the seat of Bumthang’s famous son, saint Pema Lingpa. He built it himself in 1501. There is also a chain mail made by Pema Lingpa that devotees carry and circumambulate the inner sanctum to cleanse sins. Overnight at your hotel in Bumthang.
DAY 10: BUMTHANG – GANGTEY (PHOBJIKHA VALLEY)
Start early today for Gangtey, about 6 hrs from Bumthang. Farmhouses and temples dot the landscape and you will see local farmers wearing the traditional woven bamboo hats of central Bhutan.
DAY 11: GANGTEY (PHOBJIKHA VALLEY) – THIMPHU
Morning visit to view the Black-Necked Cranes (winter only) before departing for Thimphu (approx 6 hrs). From Gangtey the road gradually descends into the balmy Punakha valley before climbing up over Dochu La Pass and into Thimphu. Remainder of day at leisure. Overnight at your hotel in Thimphu.
DAY 12: THIMPHU – PARO
After breakfast hike to Taktsang Monastery. The walk of approximately 1.5 to 2 hours uphill takes you almost a kilometer above the Paro valley floor (for those who cannot hike we will arrange a horse for transfer up to the cafeteria).
In the afternoon drive to the almost fully reconstructed Drukgyel Dzong. The original monument (destroyed by fire in 1951) was built by Shabdrung to commemorate his victory against invading Tibetans in 1644.
DAY 13: DEPART PARO
Breakfast in the hotel, then drive to the airport for flight to your onward destination.