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Bhutan Photo Tour

Updated August 12th, 2019

Bhutan 2019 – Just 2 places remain

October 5 – 20 2019

15 Days in Bhutan-The Road Less Travelled.

15 full days of experiencing and photographing the wonders of the isolated Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan with two highly experienced professional photographers and local Bhutanese guides.

Closed to the world for many years, Bhutan is like stepping back in time to a slower more gentle time, a place where the pace of life is more sedate and the people seem to be always smiling.  Join Adam Monk & Paul Hoelen  for a 15 day full cultural immersion tour photographing the life, culture and landscape of Bhutan.

Bhutan 2019 – Tour Highlights at a Glance

  • 15 full days in Bhutan.
  • 2 Authentic cultural festivals.
  • Maximum group of 10 people.
  • Tour begins and ends in Bangkok.
  • All your meals on Tour.
  • Travel in cars not a bus.
  • Just 2 participants to a car.
  • In Bhutan we fly one way, only half the driving!
  • Highly experienced Bhutanese guides.
  • Photo Tuition from 2 full time professional photographers.
  • Extensive photography and Lightroom Notes to keep.
  • Dates: October 5 – 20 2019
  • Tour Price: US$8,985 PP Twin Share
  • Single Supplement: US$995 PP

**“Book Now” button downloads the pdf booking form.

Bhutan Photo Tour 62

Bhutan, the Land of  National Happiness

Bhutan is a tiny landlocked nation on the Southern slopes of the Himalayan mountains squashed between Tibet (China…) in the North and India to the South, East and West.  73% of the land area of Bhutan is under forest, and its the only Nation on Earth where this figure is growing each year.  The countryside is mountainous, the roads are windy (as in lots of curves, not wind) and there is spectacular scenery around every corner, from waterfalls dropping out of the forests to glimpses of snow capped mountain peaks, ancient stone fortresses and terraced rice paddies clinging to the steep hillsides.

National Happiness Index

In Bhutan they really do have a National Happiness Index to measure the wealth and prosperity of the people, it is a country where Buddhist Monks make up more than 10% of the population, and most of the Government administration buildings are 500 year old fortresses and monasteries.  Bhutan is a visually spectacular and intimately beautiful place, as a photographer you will find continuous images to captivate you.

Bhutan Photo Tour - Jambay Lhakhang old man, Bhutan

What to expect on this Bhutan Photo Tour

Many people run Photo tours and there are just as many different ways to organise them. The tabs below will help explain how we run our Bhutan Photo Tours and why we run them this way.

A tour created especially for photographers
The itinerary created by photographers

This Bhutan tour itinerary has been researched and created by Adam Monk, by visiting and photographing each location.  It’s not just about arriving in beautiful places, Bhutan is full of those, it’s about being there at the right time for the best light and the festivals, the times of year and the weather.  

We never jam in loads of locations for each day. Rather we spend more time in fewer more unique locations, allowing you to get the feel of a place, talk to some locals and get some great images that tell a real story.

This all takes experience and practical research, something that can’t be done from behind a desk.

Tour Group Size – Small groups are better
Just 10 in the group equals a better experience

Have you ever seen those tours that turn up at a peaceful location in a huge bus with an enormous group of people?

Our photo tour to Bhutan is not like that.

Our Bhutan photography tour has a maximum group size of 10 people. Small groups are more intimate and more fun, you get to experience the life and culture of Bhutan more closely without intimidating the locals, and you won’t get in the way of each others shots.

Many people forge lasting friendships on these Bhutan photo tours and this always works better when the group is kept small.

No Hidden Extras
This tour really is all inclusive

There are no hidden extras on this Bhutan photo tour, no meals that are not included or nights you have to find your own Hotel.

The flight from Bangkok to Paro and return is included, as is the domestic flight. We arrange your Bhutan visa and even all your bottled drinking water is included.

Our Bhutan photo tour begins and ends in Bangkok, so you just have to make your own way to Bangkok and back home at the end.

The only additional money you need is for extra beverages and any souvenirs you may want to buy along the way.

Flying instead of driving
Flying means less time driving

Bhutan has one major road that runs East to West across the country and only one effective international airport in Paro, in the far West.  Most tours to Bhutan drive out from Paro towards the East and then turn around and drive all the way back, going through all the same places again…  That’s a lot of time spent in the car!

We don’t do it that way.  

We drive one way and fly the other.  This halves the time spent in the car which means lots more time seeing, experiencing and photographing the unique culture and beauty of Bhutan.

This also means we don’t have to move on each day, so we spend multiple nights in most locations, so you can relax and unpack, get to know the area and some of the people a little.

When the days are full of new sights and great photo opportunities it’s so nice not to have to pack your suitcase every morning.

The Road less traveled – by car

Cars, not a bus…

In Bhutan we travel in a small group of comfortable cars, not a bus. Each car is driven by a qualified and experienced Bhutanese driver and accompanied by one of our Bhutanese guide team.

We have just two participants per vehicle, so there is plenty of room for camera gear and everyone gets a window seat. Having several vehicles instead of a bus makes for a more comfortable trip with much more flexibility for timing and locations. So you get to see more of what interests you.

Great local guides and drivers
Great guides make for a great experience

You will be very well looked after on this Photo tour to Bhutan, we have a guide or a driver for every person on tour. All our guides and drivers are hand picked certified professionals, who speak excellent english and are a vast store of historical and cultural knowledge. More important, they are all great people to hang out with.

They stay with us for the duration of the tour and become an integral part of the experience as they share the beauty of their country and culture. The Bhutanese have a wonderful sense of humour and our guides and drivers will become your friends, you won’t want to say goodbye to them at the end of the tour. There are always many hugs and a few tears at the airport as we depart.

Comfy Hotels for multiple nights
A hot shower and a good night’s sleep

We stay in clean well managed 3-4 star hotels all across Bhutan. They range from ancient royal palaces with wonderful wall murals to brand new very western style hotels.

Each hotel room has a private bathroom and a comfortable bed and each hotel has been hand picked by us through the experience of actually staying there. Of course, each hotel also has excellent food!

We  don’t stay in the 5 or 6 star hotels, even though Bhutan now has a few of those. We are here to experience and photograph the life, culture and landscape of Bhutan not to hang out around the pool…

Food in Bhutan
Food glorious food…

Our meals in Bhutan are usually Buffet style cooked fresh just for our group, with lots of choice and mostly mild Indian flavours. The food quality is always good and since a few years ago it’s now verging on excellent. But don’t expect fine dining, Bhutan is not a foodies destination like Vietnam or Japan for a simple reason. The traditional foods in Bhutan are basic seasonal farmer style meals with lots of rice and lots of chillies!

In some regions we pass through the traditional dish are meat or vegetable dumplings called “Momos” (common right across the Himalayas) and buckwheat pancakes are another favourite in the higher regions. We will have the opportunity to try many traditional Bhutanese dishes as we travel including the national chilli dish, Ema Datshi (Chilli and Cheese).

If you like Chilli, then Bhutan is your place, the Bhutanese eat chillies like a vegetable. The chilli isn’t seasoning, it is the main dish!

Being Vegetarian in Bhutan

Being a vegetarian in Bhutan is easy. As our meals are buffet style you can choose what you eat and most of the dishes available are vegetarian anyway. There will one or two seperate meat or fish dishes with every meal so just avoid those in the line-up. Vegetarians eat very well in Bhutan.

Extensive Pre trip notes
What you need to know before you go

The best way to ensure you enjoy this trip to Bhutan is to be fully prepared before you leave. “What weather should I expect, what clothes are appropriate, both for the climate and to be culturally sensitive? What is the exchange rate, how is the tour organised and what about my camera gear?

All these and just about any other questions you can think of are clearly answered in the pre trip notes.

If you have questions after reading the notes we are always available via email or over the phone to help out.

The better prepared you are the more fun you will have and then the more fun we will have.

Should you go on this Bhutan Photo Tour?

Is this Bhutan Photo Tour right for you? Does it meet your needs and fulfil your important expectations? What type of people does this tour suit, how old are they and what is their level of photographic experience? These and other questions are answered in the tabs below.

A love of culture and adventure
Photography in Bhutan

This photo tour is for anyone with a keen interest in photography and a love of adventure.  It doesn’t matter if you are a seasoned professional or a complete beginner, all levels of photographers are welcomed, and in fact the diverse experiences of the group are an integral part of what makes it so much fun.  

Our group size is always kept small so you are always assured of personal interaction and tuition, whatever your needs.  

Physical Fitness
Plenty of walking, but no hiking

Bhutan is in the Himalayan Mountains, but the altitude rarely causes any issues besides needing to walk a little slower.  A basic level of walking fitness is essential, but this tour is not a hiking tour or a trekking tour and you are able to set your own limits. 

We have several scenic walks planned and the climb to the top of the Tigers Nest is exhilarating and spectacular, but you go as far as you feel comfortable, there is no requirement to reach the end of anything.

This tour does involve some walks over uneven ground and lots of stairs on the way to the Tigers Nest, so you just need to let us know if you have any health issues or doubts and we will work with you to ensure you are comfortable.

Non Photographers?
Non photographers & partners are welcome on this tour

Non-photographers are very welcome on this tour, whether as a partner to a keen photographer or someone who just loves the slower pace of travel and intimate perspective that this photography tour provides.

Bhutan is an intensely beautiful place with a rich culture in architecture, history, dress, language, and Buddhism, so there is never a shortage of things to see or explore. And the great thing about travelling with photographers, is that we like to be at the beautiful locations at the best times to see them and we are not in a rush to leave.

We must warn you though, an obsession with photographing beautiful places and interesting people is highly addictive. You may begin as a non-photographer thinking it’s not for you, but by the end of the tour this may well have changed…

Tour Age Group
You’re only as old as you decide you are

The age group for our Bhutan photo tours is very diverse, we have people from 30 years old to 78 years old (he was very fit) on the same tour and it seems the more diverse the age group the better.

Photography is one thing that is not limited by age, you simply adjust the way you shoot. At 25 you may want to hang upside down off a balcony (we don’t recommend this) to get the perfect shot, but at 50 that probably won’t seem like such a great idea any more. That doesn’t mean you won’t get that perfect shot though, it has just matured.

Provided you can get around unassisted and are reasonably fit for walking, you will be just fine in Bhutan.

Photo Tuition and Camera Gear

What level of photography experience do I need, and what level of tuition can I expect on this Bhutan Photo Tour? Do you just drop me in locations or are you there to assist and guide me to the best images? What sort of camera gear do I need and how will I remember it all? See the tabs below to find answers to all these questions.

Photography tuition on tour
Our priority is you

Our group is small so you are assured of personal interaction and tuition, whatever your needs. Some people just like to be taken to the great locations at the right time of day and set free to roam. Others are looking for more guidance with everything from composition or how to approach locals for portraits, to getting the most out of their camera gear.

Most evenings we run informal photography workshops on various photography topics. Such things as low light photography, street photography, photographing movement, landscape to more technical based subjects as downloading images, key-wording and Lightroom post processing, to the all important composition and the decisive moment.  

We also look at examples of everyones images every few days, demonstrate some post production techniques and some tips for improvements. One of the best things about photo tours is seeing the diverse images different people make from the same locations.

We cater for all levels and with a small group and our diverse photographic expertise, we will ensure you get exactly what you need. Your photo guides will be shooting a few images along side you, but your images, your tuition and  your experiences will always be the priority.

What about Camera gear?
Your Camera Gear

There is really no limit to what camera gear you take other than your ability to carry it. Everything from Digital SLRs, professional and consumer, simple point and shoot cameras, even medium format digital and film.  Whatever level of camera equipment you have, we will ensure you get the most out of it.  

After you book the tour we will send out a detailed recommended gear and packing list, and we are very happy to discuss the camera gear you have and how to best make it work for you.

Any Special camera gear?

No special or exotic camera gear is required for this photo tour, it’s not great cameras that make great images after all, and we are big fans of getting the most out of what you already have.

Plus all the notes as well
Photography & Lightroom E-Books to keep

In the months leading up to the tour we will send you out all the information you will need to prepare for the adventure ahead. This includes several comprehensive E-Books on Photography techniques & workflow, plus an in depth guide to using Lightroom to manage and edit your images.

We will be running workshops on many photography topics, and we use Lightroom to demonstrate post processing tricks and techniques. These E-Books help cement this knowledge and are yours to keep.

Do you enjoy keywording?
Custom made Bhutan Lightroom catalogue

Just before tour departure we will send you a fully functioning Lightroom catalogue (you will need to have your own Lightroom software) with a complete set of Bhutan Keywords – including all the complex spellings for locations, and Smart Collections already loaded. Since keywording is rather boring (but important) having keywords already loaded makes the job very quick and easy so you can get on with the fun and creative stuff.

Even if you already have a Lightroom catalogue, it’s easy to merge catalogues together. How to achieve this is set out in our Lightroom E-Book.

What if I use Capture One?

Don’t worry if you use Capture One instead of Lightroom, we also give you the keyword file that can be directly imported into Capture One. Adam has been using Capture One extensively for years, so he can help you with this too.

Bhutan Photo Tour 77

The Important Details.

  • Dates: October 5 – 20 2019
  • Tour Price: US$8,985** PP Twin Share***
  • Single Supplement: US$995 PP
  • Booking Deposit: US$2,000 PP
  • 15 days in Bhutan
  • Just 10 places – 2 spots remaining

*“Book Now” button downloads the pdf booking form.

**We offer this tour in US$ only. As we pay our Bhutanese suppliers in US$ this ensures our price remains stable, with no additional hidden payments due to currency fluctuations.

*** The tour price is per person on a Twin Share (or double) room basis. To book the twin share rate you must specify a room partner, as we cannot pair you with others you don’t yet know.  The potential for snoring induced sleep deprivation discord is just too high!

What’s Included

  • Just 10 places available (Maximum number).
  • Full 15 days in Bhutan with all land content included.
  • Tour begins and ends in Bangkok.
  • First night accommodation in Bangkok to begin the tour.
  • Flights from Bangkok to Bhutan and return to Bangkok.
  • Scenic domestic flight from Paro to Bumthang.
  • Comprehensive 26 page E-Book of Bhutan pre trip preparation notes.
  • All you meals in Bhutan.
  • All your land transportation in Bhutan.
  • We travel in cars not a bus.
  • All your accommodation in Bhutan.
  • All photographic tuition and workshops for the duration of the tour.
  • Two professional photographers to help you get the best photos.
  • Charismatic Bhutanese guides and drivers.
  • Extensive 21 page Photography Techniques E-Book by Adam Monk, with complete shooting workflow.
  • In depth 36 page Lightroom E-Book by Adam Monk, with complete post processing workflow.
  • Custom made Bhutan Lightroom catalogue with all location Keywords & Smart Collections pre-loaded.
  • Bhutan Visas.
  • Clean fresh drinking water on tour in Bhutan.

What’s Not Included

  • Flights to Bangkok from your home port and return.
  • Evening meal in Bangkok (night before we leave for Bhutan).
  • Travel insurance (required as a condition of booking).
  • Camera Insurance.
  • Alcohol and extra beverages.
  • Any extras you may wish to buy along the way.
  • Tips for Bhutanese guides and staff along the way.
  • Adobe Lightroom software subscription fees.

The Tour Plan for 2019 with two spectacular festivals.

Each Year we get the Bhutan festival calendar as soon as it’s released to find the most exciting and culturally beautiful festivals for our group to experience.  The rest of the tour is then planned around the festival dates.  We don’t go to the big tourist festivals in Thimphu or Paro, where there are more foreigners than Bhutanese,  these festivals lack atmosphere and photo opportunities.  Rather we head to the outlying regions where the festivals are more authentic, where we tourists are in the minority. We always encourage the group to remember that we are guests at these festival and it is an honour to be there.

Bhutan Photo Tour 2019 – The Plan

Two Festivals for this year’s Bhutan tour

This year we are headed to two beautiful remote festivals, one is the Tamshing Lhakhang Tsechu (A Tsechu is a Buddhist religious festival and celebration) in Bumthang in Central Bhutan, and the other is the Gangtey Tsechu is the beautiful Phobjikha Valley.  

We have been to the Tamshing Lhakhang Tsechu couple of yers back, so we know this is  a gorgeous festival in a exquisite temple with some of the most beautiful painted wall murals in Bhutan. We haven’t yet been to the Gangtey Tsechu but we have been to numerous other festivals in this tiny remote temple (we were there just last year for the Crane Festival), so we know this is just too good a chance to pass up.

Beautiful things along the way

Along the way we stop at many beautiful sites of both natural and cultural wonder, there will lots of time for some slow intimate photography with loads of interaction with the  friendly locals.  The group is kept to just 10 participants, so there is always time to work on your photography and get plenty of tuition and guidance, as well as learning from each other.

Itinerary – Bhutan Photo Tour 2019: Day 1 – Day 5

Bhutan Photo Tour 2019.

Day 1 – Oct 05 2019:  Bangkok.
Bhutan photo tour with Adam Monk

We begin the tour in Bangkok, meeting the night before in our hotel to get to know each other a little before boarding our flight to Bhutan the following day.  The nights accommodation in Bangkok, breakfast and the flights from Bangkok to Paro return, are all included, there are no hidden extras in this tour.

Day 2 – Oct 06:   Arrival & Paro Valley.

We leave Bangkok after an early breakfast in our hotel and the departure area is just a 10 minute bus ride from the hotel. The flight to Paro is 4.5 hours, so we arrive in nice time for lunch. At Paro airport we will be met by our chief guide and driver who will take us to our hotel for tonight to check in and have lunch.  After lunch we will spend the rest of the day leisurely exploring the beautiful Paro Valley.

Day 3-5 – Oct 07-09:  Bumthang, Central Bhutan.
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Today the adventure really begins when we fly to Bumthang in Central Bhutan, where we will be met by our cars, drivers and the rest of our Guide team.  The internal flight from Paro to Jakar in Central Bhutan takes us over the foothills and mountains of the Himalayas.  If we have a clear day (which is usual at that time of year) we will have spectacular views of the countryside we will be seeing on our drive back.  This short 45 minute flight is a fabulous way of putting the incredible terrain we will be passing through into perspective.  

After landing in Jakar and getting settled into our Hotel we will spend a little time investigating the beautiful region of Bumthang around Jakar and heading to the first day of the Tamshing Lhakhang Tsechu, which is just a short drive from our hotel.

Bhutan Photo Tour, Tamshing Lhakhang Tshechu in Bumthang region of Bhutan
Tamshing Lhakhang Tshechu

Tamshing Lhakhang is one of the oldest and most important Buddhist temples in Bhutan, originally established by Pema Lingpa in 1501.  After his death the temple gradually declined, and at one point was being used to store grain and house chickens…  

Due to this lack of formal use the temple murals were never repainted, as is the normal practise, so the ancient murals from that earlier age can still be viewed in all their crumbling beauty.  Tamshing Lhakhang is currently in the process of being World Heritage listed.

Two full days in Jakar

We have two full days and three nights in Jakar and the area has an enormous wealth of spectacular things for us to see, experience and photograph.  The Tamshing Tsechu actually runs for three days, so we will see plenty of that, but there is also the lovely Jakar Dzong to explore.  This Dzong (Temple Fortress) was built on a ridge overlooking the Chamkar valley in around 1549 on the site of an even more ancient temple.  It is thought to be the biggest Dzong in Bhutan with a circumference of more than 1500 metres and it has many red robed Monks hurrying about their daily business, making for wonderful contrast against the ancient white washed walls. We have a spectacular sunrise viewpoint of this Dzong from the site of our hotel just across the valley, so early mornings are a must in Jakar, especially if the valley below fills with fog.

Bhutan Photography Tour, Chamkar Valley and Jakar Dzong
Ura Valley day Excursion from Jakar

On our second day in Jakar we will take a break from the festival at Tamshing Lhakhang and head out on a full day trip to one of the most remote valleys of Bumthang.  This is a day of peace and serene nature with a full day excursion to the fourth and most remote valley of the Bumthang region, the Ura Valley.  Here we will leave the cars outside the valley and walk down the trail through beautiful autumn countryside and forested hills along the old walking trails that used to be the only link for these remote locations.  We are walking downhill, so it’s not a strenuous walk, rather it is a chance to breath the fresh Himalayan air and listen to the sounds of birds, while photographing the beautiful views across the valley along the way.  As we reach the bottom of the valley we walk into the outskirts of the traditional rural town of Ura.

Bhutan Photo Tour, the Himalayas peaking out of the clouds

The walk ends at the beautiful Ura Lhakhang Temple, where our cars and drivers will be waiting for us with a picnic lunch. The Ura Valley is Bhutan at its most real, daily life as it has been going on for centuries, and a fabulous place to experience it.  On our return journey to Jakar, if the gods grant us a clear day, we could catch a glimpse of the spectacular Himalayas with sunset on Jomolhari, one of the sacred mountains and the third highest peak in Bhutan;  which incidentally is reputed to have never been climbed.

On our third day in Jakar we will head back to the Tamshing Lhakhang Tsechu, or, you might like to explore the Chamkar Valley or Jakar Town a little more.  One of the best things about travelling in cars with lots of guides is that we have so much more flexibility to do different things in our locations.  If you are all festivaled out, you just need to convince one other participant (as you will be two to a car) and we can send you off with your own guide and driver for a morning or afternoon excursion.  This region is full of amazing and beautiful things to see, you will never be bored.

Bhutan Photo Tour 2019: Day 6 – Day 10
Day 6 – Oct 10:  Bumthang to Trongsa Valley
Bhutan Photographic Tour with Adam Monk

From the Central Bhutan Region of Bumthang we begin our trek West across the 3000m high  Yutonla pass to the steep and heavily wooded valley of Trongsa.  The Trongsa Dzong is one of the most spectacularly sited Dzongs in Bhutan, perched on the side of a sheer mountain and commanding the valley in both directions.  The Trongsa Dzong is the most spectacular that I have seen in Bhutan, it is hands down my favourite building ever.  Trongsa Dzong was built in 1648 and has many levels cascading down the mountain.  It was once the primary seat of power over Central and Eastern Bhutan as the Dzong controls the only connecting trade route in both directions.  Both the first and second Kings ruled Bhutan from the ancient seat of Trongsa, and even today it is customary for the Crown Prince to serve as the Trongsa Penlop (Governor) prior to ascending the Throne of Bhutan.

Bhutan Photo tour, Trongsa Valley View

We will spend the night in Trongsa and our hotel is just a 30 minute scenic walk (along a level road) around the rim of the valley from the centre of Trongsa town and the Dzong.  There are lots of great spots for sunset shots down the Steep wooded valley, and our Hotel has a spectacular viewpoint right across the Trongsa valley to the Dzong at sunrise.

Day 7-9 Oct 11-13: Trongsa to Phobjikha Valley – Gangtey Tshechu
Bhutan Photo Tour, Phobjikha Valley View, Gangtey, Bhutan

We will begin the morning with an (optional) sunrise shoot from our hotel balcony of the stunning  Trongsa Valley with the spectacular Trongsa Dzong clinging to the hillside, hopefully with a bit of mist forming in the valley.  Then a hot breakfast. 

After breakfast we are off again, heading through the Mangdi Valley, across Wangdue and the Sha Valley over the Pelela Pass at 3,400 metres  in the direction of Punakha.  Before reaching Punakha though we will be making a diversion, turning South and heading to the isolated valley of Phobjikha and the town of Gangtey with its beautiful 17th Century Monastery and Temple.

Bhutan Photo Tour 107

The Phobjikha Valley is unlike anywhere else we visit in Bhutan, it was formed predominantly through glacial action, so it is wide open with gentle slopes and extensive woodlands on both sides.

The Phobjikha Valley

The town of Gangtey is situated on a high promontory at one end of the valley That Is actually a remnant medial glacial moraine (The Debris Pushed Up At The Junction Between Two glaciers) left over from much colder times.   Gangtey town has wide sweeping views right down the valley on all 4 sides and is a spectacular location for our second cultural festival, the Gangtey Tshechu, which is held in the Monastery each year, and begins the day we arrive.

Bhutan Photo TourFestival dancers at Gangtey Tshechu, Phobjikha Valley, Bhutan
The Gangtey Tshechu

The Gangtey Tshechu is a very special festival that happens for 3 days a year in the Gangtey Goemba (The Buddhist Temple at Gangtey), and we are there for all three days of this festival.  

In this festival the Monks and the farmers do the dancing and the local people come from all the surrounding towns and villages dressed in their finest and most colourful traditional clothing for the festival days.  It is an amazing sight to behold and we are here for two whole days and three nights, so you will have plenty of time to take it all in.

Gangtey Town

Gangtey is a particularly beautiful town in an almost unbelievably scenic location, so there will be loads of great viewpoints as the locals dress in their finest for the festivities and the Monks come into town from the communities all around.

Bhutan Photo Tour 10 Black Necked Cranes

But there are many things to see in the Phobjikha Valley and we will divide our time between watching the dances and stories at the festival and walking in the beautiful landscape of the valley itself.  The Phobjikha Valley is actually a sanctuary for the endangered Black Necked Cranes that migrate here each year, and by the time we get there we should see the first of them coming into their winter home.  We also know a few of the locals quite well in Phobjikha, so it’s always nice to visit in the afternoon to experience village life first hand.

Day 10 – Oct 14:  Gangtey to Punakha.

Onwards to Punhaka and the Chimi Lhakhang, crossing the Pele-la pass at an altitude of 3,400 meters.   The Chimi Lhakhang is the Temple of the Divine Madman as this Temple was built to honour the Lama Drukpa Kunley, whose outrageous and often sexual methods of sharing Buddhism are a legend all over Bhutan.

The Punakha Dzong

We will end today with a sunset shoot of the spectacular Punhaka Dzong built at the confluence of the Mo-Chu and Po-Chu (Mother and Father Rivers).  The following day we will spend exploring some of the many Temples, Monasteries and Palaces in the Punakha Region as well as the stunning Punhaka Dzong.

Bhutan Photo Tour with Adam Monk. Punakha Dzong twilight

The Punakha Dzong was built in 1637 to command the confluence of the Po Chhu and Mo Chhu Rivers (mother and father rivers).  The full title of the Punakha Dzong is Druk Pungthang Dechen Phodrang, which means the Palace of Great Happiness. In the past it has been the seat of Bhutan’s Government and is now the home Je Khempo the head of the Buddhist Monk body of Bhutan and more than 1000 Monks.

The Punakha Dzong has many levels and corridors to explore as well as two stunning Temples.  There are many great viewpoints of spectacular architecture of stark white walls contrasted beautifully with the deep red robes of the Monks as they go about their daily rituals.  The Punakha Dzong also makes for a spectacular sunset and twilight shot.

Bhutan Photo Tour 2019: Day 11 – Day 16
Day 11 – Oct 15:  Punakha to Thimphu. 
Bhutan Photo Tour with Adam Monk. Dochula Pass at sunrise

After Breakfast in Punakha we will head in the direction of Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan.  On the way there we will stop for a look at the Dochula Pass, where, weather permitting, we will be blessed with a spectacular view of the Himalayas stretching away into the mist before heading into the city of Thimphu.

Thimphu Town

Thimphu is not what you expect from a capital city, it is set in a lovely rural valley with beautiful natural scenery on all sides and traditional Bhutanese style buildings, but still with all the conveniences of a modern town.  A few years ago the local authorities installed a set of traffic lights at one of the main intersections in Thimphu, but there was such a large outcry about it that it was swiftly removed and the small police box (with policeman inside) was reinstalled into the centre of the intersection, where you will still find him today directing traffic with an intricate ballet of hand signals.

Bhutan Photo Tour with Adam Monk. Thimphu Police Box
Day 12 – Oct 16:  Exploring the Thimphu Valley.

Thimphu is the bustling city of Bhutan, but it is really just a big town filled with an amazing mix of the old and the new side by side.  The ancient culture of Bhutan is alive and well in Thimphu, and we have many options of things to see an photograph here, including the lovely old Monastery and temples of Tango or Chari just a short drive out of town.

Mountain Monasteries

It’s about 1.5 hours walk up the hill through the Pine trees to reach the historic 13th century Tango or Chari Monastery (depending on which hill we walk up) and Buddhist Collage.  Here we can spend all morning exploring and photographing the temples and Monks, before a picnic lunch at the edge of the forest and a sunset shoot of the magical Thimphu Valley with the incredible Thimphu Dzong as our subject.

Photo Tour to Bhutan, Thimphu Valley
Day 13 – Oct 17: Thimphu to Haa Valley. 

Today we begin a slow drive through the lovely Thimphu valley on roads that wind around the mountains overlooking the lush forested valleys with rushing white water rivers.  You will see the landscape change as we ascend from the Thimphu Valley up into the Haa district of Bhutan with its stunning open series of valleys situated between the town of Paro and the Capital of Thimphu, adjacent to the Chinese border.

Bhutan Photo Tour, the Haa Valley in far North Bhutan

The whole region was closed to tourism until very recently due to its very sensitive proximity to China, and in fact there is only one small, beautiful hotel.  The Haa Valley itself  is a stunning steep sided valley running North to South, with many spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and countryside filled with forests, farm land and rice paddies clinging to sides of the mountains. We spend the whole day here exploring the valley and the sights that Haa has to offer, as well as a taste of the wonderful regional food of Haa.

Bhutan Photo Tour with Adam Monk. Haa Valley
Day 14 – Oct 18: Haa Valley to Paro.

Today we take a slow meandering path out of the Haa valley in the direction of Paro.  Weather permitting we will do lots of walking on the quiet winding roads that pass the cultivated fields and farm houses of Haa.

Bhutan Photo tour, rice harvest in Bhutan

It’s a place of small quiet villages of simple subsistance farming and gentle peaceful life, all with the backdrop of the spectacular steep sided valley and the Himalayan mountains!  We end the day back where we began the journey 15 days ago in the lovely valley town of Paro.

Day 15 – Oct 19:  Paro – Tigers Nest.

We have saved one of the best until last… the hike to the Taktsang Monastery and the Tigers Nest.  It is quite a long hike up, especially if you are stopping every 5 minutes to make photographs, which you will be.  It is an amazing place built right on the edge of the cliff and every step of the walk up through the conifer forest is beautiful, take lots of memory cards!

Bhutan Photo Tour, Takstang Monastery, the Tigers Nest, Paro Bhutan

You do have the option of a horse trip up to the Cafe at the half way point, but I strongly advise against this!  Firstly the walk is just too good to miss and the horse riding business here wouldn’t pass a health and safety inspection anywhere but Bhutan… People fall off all the time, and it’s a very hard landing…

Lunch on top of the world

Our wonderful guides and drivers will bring a picnic lunch up for us to a great spot on the side of the mountain, there is even hot tea.  The afternoon is free to have a hot stone bath at our Hotel, or wander a bit more around Paro town.  For those who have been missing their coffee, Paro also has the best coffee since Thimphu, and a great atmospheric little cafe to enjoy it in. This evening will be our last together, and the time to really say goodbye to our guides and hosts for this amazing adventure.  We end the evening with a hot rum punch, a speciality of the Hotel barman, and a slideshow of memories.

Day 16 – Oct 20, 2019:  Breakfast and Departure. 
Bhutan Photo Tour 82

Our last breakfast together, then pack and off to the Paro airport for final goodbyes for our flight to Bangkok.  Prepare to shed a tear or two here where you will say goodbye to our guides & Drivers, our constant companions and friends from the last two weeks. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself back in Bhutan in the very near future!

** This Itinerary is the plan, Actual tour may vary slightly due to festival dates, weather, road conditions or other things beyond our control.  Either way, we will ensure you get the best photographic tour that we can provide and you will come away with fantastic images and memories that will last a lifetime.


Like to Book the tour?

  • Dates: October 5 – 20 2019
  • Tour Price: US$8,985 PP Twin Share
  • Single Supplement: US$995 PP

**“Book Now” button downloads the pdf booking form.


Your Photo Guide – Adam Monk
Photo tour leader Adam Monk Portrait

Adam is a landscape and travel photographer with a longstanding passion for the natural environment, people and culture.  He has been travelling and photographing the worlds wild places and exotic cultures for over 30 years, and the enthusiasm just continues to grow. Adam has been based out of his own landscape photography gallery in the port city of Fremantle Western Australia for the last 13 years. His images can be found in hundreds of private and corporate collections all over the world.  

For the last 11 years Adam has been organising and running photography workshops and photography tours to some of the world’s wild and beautiful places such as The Kimberley, the Pilbara, Tasmania, Cambodia, Iceland, Greenland, Japan and of course Bhutan, where he has been visiting regularly since 2011.  This trip in 2019 will be Adam’s 9th photo tour to Bhutan, it’s a place he never gets tired of and the anticipation before each tour is just like the first time.

Your Photo Guide – Paul Hoelen

Originally born in New Zealand to a Dutch Sailor and an American Nun, Paul has managed to put his four passports to excellent use before eventually settling on the beautiful, wild island of Tasmania.  Paul is a Master of Photography in the AIPP and Fellow of the NZIPP, he has won many awards and judges regularly at a state, national and international level, runs photo workshops worldwide and writes for numerous magazines.  

Self taught, travel hungry and with a healthy thirst for adventure he thrives on the challenge and freshness of shooting a wide diversity of genres ranging from fine art nudes, landscapes, and large-scale event photography through to fashion, travel, documentary and environmental portraiture – though he’s most renowned for his exquisite landscape imagery.

Want to read what others are saying about my Photo Tour to Bhutan?

Rather than putting reviews on my web page, which of course is very biased, I have a page on Trip Advisor where some of my past participants have put their own reviews.  Read the Trip Advisor reviews Here>>

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