Bhutan

Dates: November 1–13, 2017

Begins & Ends: Paro, Bhutan

Nearest Airport: Paro (PBH)
(Note: only two Bhutanese airlines fly into Paro; WTF will assist with itineraries and connections)

Leaders: Jeffrey Chapman & Winslow Lockhart

Maximum Participants: 10

Tuition: $7,200
(including 1 domestic flight & daily tourist fee)

Accommodation: Included
(optional single supplement: $1,100)

Meals: Included

Payment Policy: 3 Installments
     • $500 deposit to confirm participation
     • 50% due by March 1, 2017
     • Balance due by July 1, 2017

This photographic adventure begins and ends in Paro, Bhutan. Tuition includes hotels (based on double occupancy; single occupancy is available with payment of a single-occupancy supplement), government tourist fee, meals, one domestic flight (cost of flight is based on current rates and is subject to change if the airline increases prices), driver and guide tips, and local group transportation for the duration of the adventure. It does not include souvenirs, bar beverages, laundry, insurance (travel, medical, cancellation), nor any personal expenses.

This adventure is suitable for all levels of photographic experience. Participants must be in good health and able to spend each day walking and carrying their own equipment.

Add your name to the Wait List below.

Bhutan Within The Frame Photographic Adventure

Bhutan Within The Frame Itinerary

Bhutan is a small Buddhist kingdom (the last Buddhist kingdom) that famously measures the Gross National Happiness of the population (instead of the purely economic Gross National Product that is generally measured by governments as an indicator of progress). It is a land of monasteries, fortresses, and dramatic landscapes that range from subtropical plains to steep mountains with nestled valleys. The unique culture includes many breathtaking festivals, colorful masks, and phalluses that unashamedly adorn the sides of buildings. It is truly like no other country.

Bhutan Within The Frame focuses on the unique location and culture of this fascinating country, including photographing colorful festivals, monasteries, day-to-day life in the villages, and the majestic Black-necked Cranes.

This photographic adventure is about the passionate discovery and photography of people, place, and culture, with emphasis given to going deep not wide, and pursuing that most elusive of photographic necessities — our vision. It is appropriate for photographers of all levels, and you will be free to photograph independently or always with the assistance of one of the leaders.

Paro (Day One)

Your flight into Paro is one of the most spectacular in the world. The journey offers fascinating views and an exciting descent into the Kingdom of Bhutan, whose first gift as you disembark the airplane will be cool, clean, fresh mountain air. A representative will meet you and transfer you to our hotel.

We will all arrive in Paro in time for a meet-and-greet dinner and an orientation to discuss our itinerary and events for our shared photographic adventure.

While in Paro we will stay at the elegant Naksel Boutique Hotel, which blends the heritage of traditional Bhutanese architecture of elaborate hand-carved wood pillars and beautiful stonework with the comfort of modern, luxurious amenities.

Bumthang (Day Two)

After breakfast, we will transfer to the airport for our flight to Bumthang. Upon arrival, we will transfer to our hotel and check in.

In the afternoon, we will visit and photograph Kurjey Lkakhang (or Monastery), where the 8th-century Buddhist master Padmasambhava is said to have subdued a local demon, obliging him to submit to the dharma in accordance with the tantric principle of not eliminating negative forces but instead redirecting them to fuel the journey toward spiritual awakening, and Tamzhing Lhakhang, the most important Nyingma gompa in Bhutan. It supports approximately 100 monks, and, in 2012, the monastery was submitted for inscription on the list of World Heritage Sites.

For our three nights in Bumthang, we will stay at Jakar Village Lodge, which has been voted one of the nicest hotels in Asia. Each of the Lodge’s 14 rooms is beautifully painted in traditional Bhutanese style.

Bumthang (Day Three)

This morning we will visit and photograph at Lhodrak Kharchhu Monastery, which was founded by Namkhai Nyingpo Rinpoche, who was recognized from a very young age by the Dalai Lama and the 16th Karmapa as the incarnation of the Tibetan lama whose spiritual lineage dates back to one of the closest disciples of the great 8th-century Master Padmasambhava. It houses a community of almost 400 monks, who strive to preserve and revitalize the culture of Tibet. Afterward, we will head to the Jakar Dzong, which is one of the largest of the dzong (a type of fortress architecture with complexes of courtyards, temples, offices and monks quarters that is found in Bhutan and Tibet). It is in a beautiful location, overlooking the Chokhor Valley. We will stroll around the village, visiting and photographing the little artisan shops at the entrance to the town.

In the evening, we will attend the opening ceremony of the Jambay Lhakhang Festival at one of the oldest temples in the kingdom of Bhutan. It was founded by a Tibetan king (Songtsen Gampo) in the 7th century as one of 108 temples to be built to subdue the demoness residing in the Himalayas. Jambay Lhakhang is one of two of the 108 that was built in Bhutan. (The second is located in Paro.)

Bumthang (Day Four)

We will spend all day today at the Jambay Lakhang Festival. During the festival, rare masked dances and other ritual ceremonies will be performed in the courtyards of the monastery. Most of these dances trace their origin back to before the middle ages. Each sequence of dance has its own significance and is performed by monks in colorful traditional costumes.

The dances, known as the Chams, are performed by monks as well as lay people. The dancers take on the aspects of wrathful as well as compassionate deities, heroes, demons, and animals. The Chams bring blessings upon the onlookers, instruct them in the Dharma (Buddhist teachings), protect them from misfortune, and exorcise evil influences. It is believed that by attending, people will gain merit, repel misfortune, increase luck, and realize their wishes. The occasion provides time for the locals to get together to renew old friendships against the backdrop of the colorful religious ceremony.

Trongsa (Day Five)

After breakfast, we will attend the Prakhar Duchhoed Festival. Several kinds of masked dances are performed in honor of Lama Thukse Dawa, one of the sons of the 15th-century Buddhist master, Terton Pema Lingpa, who is considered to be one of the greatest Buddhist masters born in Bhutan.

After lunch, we will drive across the Yutong La pass (at 3,400 meters) to Trongsa, stopping en route at Chumey Valley and Yathra to photograph in the weaving villages.

Once in Trongsa, we will photograph the striking Trongsa Dzong, the ancestral home of Bhutan’s royal family. It was built in 1647 as the seat of power over central and eastern Bhutan and is the largest dzong fortress in Bhutan. Both the first and second kings of Bhutan ruled the kingdom from this ancient location. The Dzong is a massive structure with many levels, sloping down the contours of the ridge on which it was built. It overlooks the gorge of the Mangde River.

We will overnight at Yangkhill Resort, which has spectacular views of the Trongsa Dzong and the Mangde River.

Gangtey (Day Six)

In the morning, we will photograph at the Ta Dzong, a cylindrical stone structure that rises fives stories and was built in 1652. Then we will drive across the Pelela pass (at 3,100 meters) on the way to Gangtey, stopping en route to photograph the Chendebji Chorten, which is inspired by the great Boudhanath stupa in Kathmandu, Nepal. It has eyes painted at the four cardinal points.

In Gangtey, we will stay at Dewachen Hotel, which is a beautiful oasis encircled by pine forests.

Gangtey (Day Seven)

In the morning, we will visit the Gangtey Goempa, which is perched on a small hill that rises from the valley floor. It is the only Nyingmapa monastery on the western side of the Black Mountains and is also the largest Nyingmapa monastery in Bhutan. The monastery is surrounded by a large village that is inhabited mostly by the families of the 140 Gomchens (Vajrayana priest) who take care of the monastery.

Later we will explore and photograph the Phobjikha Valley with its two beautiful, meandering rivers. It is the winter home of the Black-necked Cranes that migrate from the arid plains in the north to pass winter in lower and milder climates. We will visit the observation room at the Black Neck Crane Information Centre at the edge of the forest and wetland to use their high-powered spotting scopes for great views of the cranes.

Punakha (Day Eight)

After breakfast, we will drive to Punakha, taking a short excursion en route to Chimi Lhakhang, the “Temple of Fertility.” It is widely believed that couples, who do not have children and wish to, will be blessed with a child soon after praying at this temple. The nearby village of Pana will provide us opportunities to photograph the daily life and lifestyles of the villagers. And in Sopsokha we’ll all blush a bit at all the phalluses painted on the walls in the village.

In Punakha, we will stay at the splendid Dhensa Boutique Resort in the heart of the verdant and lush Punahka Valley, overlooking the Punakha River and hundreds of paddy fields that terrace down to the valley floor.

Punakha (Day Nine)

Today we will visit the regal Khamsum Yuelley Namgel Chorten, which was built to remove negative forces and promote peace, stability, and harmony in the changing world. The Chorten dominates the upper Punakha Valley with commanding views across the Mo Chhu and up towards the mountainous peaks of the Gasa and beyond. We will also photograph a the Punakha Dzong, a massive structure built at the junction of two rivers. It was the capital of Bhutan until 1955 and still serves as the winter residence of the monk body. Its full name translates as “the place of great happiness.” It is currently on the tentative list for UNESCO inclusion.

We will spend the afternoon at the village of Lobesa for a traditional farm-house excursion. Bhutanese farm houses are very colorful, decorative, and traditionally built without the use of any nails. The majority of the population continues to live as they have for centuries — in small isolated farms and hamlets, surrounded by terraced fields of rice, corn, and buckwheat. We will have plenty of time to photograph the villagers as they go about their daily routines.

Thimphu (Day Ten)

Following an early breakfast, we will drive to Thimphu.

In the afternoon, there will be an optional visit to the Textile Museum which showcases one of the most visibly distinct art forms in Bhutan. Then we will visit Simply Bhutan, which is a project developed by the Bhutan Youth Development Fund that offers a unique experience to visitors. It is a living museum, encapsulating the unique cultural heritage of the Bhutanese people.

In Thimphu, we will stay at the elegant Hotel Druk, nestled in the heart of Thiumphu.

Thimphu (Day Eleven)

This morning we will photograph at Tango Goempa, which was founded in the 12th century. It was rebuilt in the 15th century by the “Divine Madman” Lama Drukpa Kunley. The picturesque three-story tower as added in the 18th century.

In the afternoon, we will photograph at the Memorial Chorten, around which people continuously circumambulate, whispering mantras and spinning their prayer wheels.

In the evening we will have time to visit the local crafts market where we will find woven textiles, thangkha paintings, masks, ceramics, slate and wood carvings, jewelry, etc.

Paro (Day Twelve)

This morning we will drive to Taktsang Monastery, which is also known as the Tiger’s Nest. Perched on the side of a cliff 900 meters above the floor of the Paro Valley, it is one of the most famous of Bhutan’s monasteries. It is a sacred site, which all Bhutanese try to visit at least once in their lifetime.

After checking back into the Naksel Boutique Hotel in Paro, our afternoon will be free to explore before a farewell dinner in the evening.

Paro (Day Thirteen)

We will spend our final morning exploring Paro one last time, enjoying the company of new friends, and planning our next adventures before saying our goodbyes and heading home.

Although this represents the photographic adventure’s planned itinerary, it is subject to change at the discretion of the adventure leaders.

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