- Capture images of daily life in Bhutan on hikes to local villages and excursions to lively markets.
- Hike to Bhutan's most famous pilgrimage site, Taktsang Lhakhang, or the Tiger's Nest Temple.
- Photograph the exquisite carvings and sculptures of the newly renovated Gangtey Gonpa temple.
- Mingle with community leaders and government dignitaries at a banquet dinner and gain insight into modern Bhutan.
Set out into the mountains of Bhutan to shoot images of exquisite temples, timeless farming villages, and the towering Himalaya. Capture scenes of lively markets and crimson-robed monks set against a backdrop of whitewashed dzongs. Hike into forests where wild moss creates an otherworldly atmosphere, and photograph breathtaking panoramas of snow-clad peaks.
Arrive in Bangkok this evening and check in to our hotel.
From Bangkok, fly to Bhutan's Paro Valley (7,300 feet). Settle into our stunning hotel—a member of the National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World collection—and capture dramatic images of the valley from Ta Dzong before walking down to Paro’s traditional center, Paro Rinpung Dzong. After a late-afternoon photo shoot with the monks in the courtyard of the dzong, return to the hotel and gather for a welcome dinner.
In the early-morning light, photograph the traditional decorative details of the seventh-century Kyichu Lakhang. Kyichu is one of the two oldest temples in Bhutan, and is believed to be holding the left foot of an ogress whose body is so large that it covers Bhutan and most of eastern Tibet. Following a special Buddhist blessing ceremony, journey to Punakha, Bhutan’s ancient capital. En route to Punakha, stop at the Dochu La pass (10,000 feet) and train your lens on the 200-mile panorama of Himalayan peaks (weather permitting).
Enjoy a full day to photograph the golden Punakha Valley, beginning with the impressive Punakha Dzong. Built in 1637 to guard the northern and southern approaches to the valley, the dzong served as the national capital until 1966. Late this afternoon, hike through terraced fields to Khamsum Yuelley Namgyel Chorten, a hilltop shrine with sweeping views of the fertile valley below.
Travel to the alpine valley of Phobjikha (10,000 feet), considered one of the most beautiful valleys in Bhutan. Along the way, stop to photograph the changing landscape as it transitions from semi tropical to pine forest, and then to an alpine environment where rhododendron, dwarf bamboo, and gray langur monkeys can be found.
Against a backdrop of forest-clad mountains, the Gangtey Goemba temple complex rises dramatically from a cluster of hilltop cottages. One of the oldest Nyingma monasteries in Bhutan, Gangtey Goemba has recently been renovated, and the fine workmanship of Bhutan’s best woodcarvers, sculptors, and painters here makes for fantastic photography. Set off on a half-day hike, stopping to meet a family at a local farmhouse along the way.
Travel to Thimphu (7,900 feet), the capital of Bhutan and home to the royal family. As the kingdom’s only true city, as well as the center for government and much of the country’s commerce, Thimphu features a unique mix of Bhutanese and Western traditions. Time permitting, spend the afternoon photographing scenes of contemporary Bhutanese life in the capital. Tonight, get a behind-the-scenes perspective on the forces shaping the country’s future during a lively Bhutanese banquet with members of the government, local dignitaries, and respected professionals.
After a morning exploring the country’s more modern side in Thimphu, visit the capital's colorful outdoor produce market. Late this afternoon, return to Paro for the night.
Our journey in the kingdom culminates with an early-morning photo hike to the most famous pilgrimage site in Bhutan: Taktsang Lhakhang, or the Tiger’s Nest Temple (9,300 feet). Visible from afar, this stunning monastery clings to a vertical granite cliff 2,000 feet above the valley floor. This evening, celebrate your Bhutanese adventure at a festive farewell dinner. As the sun sets behind the surrounding mountains, enjoy a rare opportunity to photograph some of the country's finest dancers close-up at a private masked dance performance.
Fly to Bangkok and check in to our hotel. The following morning, transfer to the airport for your return flight via Bangkok, arriving home the same day.
- Bhutan: Angkor Wat Extension4 days from $2,195
Post-Trip, 4 Days
One of the world's great architectural achievements, Angkor has intrigued Western travelers ever since French naturalist Henri Mouhot stumbled upon its ruins in the jungles of Cambodia in 1860. Delve into this incredible site and discover the ancient world of the Khmer Empire at Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom. Examine elaborate irrigation systems, behold the enigmatic faces of the Bayon Temple, and explore temples engulfed by thick jungle roots at Ta Prohm.
This morning, fly to Siem Reap and transfer to your hotel. After some time to relax, set out to explore the extraordinary temple complex of Angkor Wat, the world's largest religious structure. Built by King Suryavarman II during the golden age of the Khmer Empire, this 12th-century temple reflects the evolution of the Khmer's belief system from Hinduism to Mahayana Buddhism. Venture into galleries where stunning bas-reliefs depict scenes of battles and the epic Ramayana poem. See some of the 3,000 apsaras, or heavenly nymphs, that are carved into the temple walls. Cap off the day by watching the sun set over this ancient wonder.
Spend the morning exploring Angkor Thom, the last capital of the Khmer Empire. In the center of this ancient city sits the majestic Bayon Temple, a 12th-century masterpiece known for its colossal carved faces. After lunch, visit Preach Khan, built by King Jayavarman VII in honor of his father. Explore the temple's myriad halls and pavilions, causeways and moats, and look for the delicate frieze of apsaras in the Hall of Dancers. Continue to the small island temple of Neak Pean, surrounded by a network of ponds that were believed to have curative powers. Later this evening, enjoy spectacular views as the sun sets over the storied towers of Angkor Thom.
This morning, venture north to explore one of Angkor's jewels, Banteay Srei. Constructed of rose-colored sandstone, the 10th-century temple features intricate carvings that illustrate ancient Hindu tales. Enjoy a picnic lunch, then continue to Kbal Spean, or "River of a Thousand Lingas." Take a lovely walk through the jungle to an area where the riverbed has been elaborately carved with Hindu images, said to bless the water before it flows into the reservoirs of Angkor. This afternoon, visit the temples of Thommanon, Chao Say Tevoda, and Ta Keo. Explore Ta Prohm, known for the giant banyan, kapok, and fig tree roots that have coiled their way into the temple structure.
After breakfast, visit the Angkor National Museum and browse an impressive collection of Khmer artifacts. Time permitting, stop by Les Artisans d'Angkor to watch local youth being trained in age-old Khmer arts. Transfer to the airport for your flight to Bangkok.