BHUTAN PHOTOGRAPHY HOLIDAY    8 - 17 SEPTEMBER, 2024 ** 5 PLACES LEFT ** | £3395

PHOTOGRAPHY TOURS BHUTAN

Bhutan is one of the last true unspoilt countries on earth. A Himalayan kingdom packed with unparalleled natural beauty, gentle people high with Gross National Happiness. And festivals amongst the most colourful on the planet.

Join us for 10 days culture, adventure and majestic photo-blessed scenery, touring this Buddhist stronghold of soaring, Himalayan peaks, tranquil countryside dotted with traditional farmhouses, monasteries and temples, claret-robed monks, fluttering prayer flags; and fast flowing slate-coloured rivers – ending in a party unlike any you’ve ever been to before.

It won’t be this untouched forever.

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“Creative Escapes are a good option if you want a dedicated learning holiday. Group sizes are small, meaning there’s more 1-on-1 time with tutors, less competition for spots to shoot from and plenty of supportive group critiques. Creative Escapes – the name says it all!”

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Highlights.

A place of untouched natural beauty – steep, pine-forested mountains are sliced through with deep valleys and peaks reach 7,000 metres – this is one of the only countries on the planet to actively discourage mass tourism – Bhutan gets a trickle of visitors compared to its neighbours in Nepal, India and Tibet.

Instead of GDP, Bhutan measures it’s success on peoples happiness, not earnings; the air is some of the freshest on the planet (Bhutan is the only country in the world to be carbon negative, where it produces less CO2 than it absorbs), and with TV only introduced 11 years ago, this is one of the last, original societies left.

You’ll depart hypnotised by the beauty of the Himalayas, discover how Buddhism is intrinsic to Bhutanese culture and shoot some of the stunning fortress monasteries dotted across the country. Come the end, we’ll take centre stage at the Thimpu Tsechu, the most photogenic festival on the calendar for a party to never forget.

Movement and story: shoot work from the festival with identity
Shoot planning: use time effectively and come back happy every time
Telling stories through your work – creating images with impact
Learn how to critically evaluate your work during and after the process
Techniques in formal portraiture; getting the sitter to come to you
A look at Magnum photographic style; key approaches, tricks and impact
Blending, looking beyond the obvious, objectivity, perspective and positioning
Putting you in the picture: elevating your work to the next level
Editing your work effortlessly, without looking forced

Itinerary.

The route to Bhutan from the UK isn’t direct, so to acclimatise (and get two countries for the price of one!) we opt to fly in via Kathmandu, which at 1,400m allows you to acclimatise to the heights of Bhutan in the coming days. Most international flights fly in early morning, this means you get lots of time to unwind and relax after the long flight, get chance to meet your fellow Escapers, even head out to one of Kathmandu’s famed sights, the Boudhanath Stupa, for a sunset shoot to get you in the mood. We’ll also have a briefing on the tour that night, and head to bed early as it’s a breakfast-time flight to Paro early the next day (and first glimpse – for free – as we pass Everest en route).

Touchdown into Paro on the first day into Bhutan Photography Holiday – and transfer to the city’s elegant old town. After some initial sessions on photography, we’ll take our first peek – capturing dramatic images of the Paro Fort – Rinpung Dzong – shooting photos of the young monks playing in the courtyard with the evening light, then a short hike to a traditional cantilever bridge where you can also shoot photos of the locals crossing the bridges in a the backdrop of the unique traditional architecture of the fort. At the fort – with a request by the guide – we can take a group photo with the monks and can interact with them, getting a closer insight into their daily life.

Today we will check out early from the hotel and we will drive towards Punakha, the ancient capital of Bhutan, via Thimphu, the capital city. After 1 hour and 30 minutes of drive we will reach at Dochula pass, where we will get an optional guided meditation session of 1 hour with Lam Nima Tshering from the central monk body in an 11-person cave surrounded by forest. If time permits, we’ll hike down from Dochula pass, a 45 minute of downhill stroll in least explored nature with a wide variety of rhododendron, magnolia, oak and birch trees.

Later, we’ll descend into the lush subtropical forest with charming farm houses and terraced rice fields towards Punakha – and visit Chimi Lhakhang, the Temple of Fertility to learn about St. Drukpa Kuenley, the revered ‘Devine Madman’ and Buddhist crazy wisdom. Whilst hiking down to the village you can interact and take photo of villagers working in the field; this is spectacular shooting as the sun falls over the horizon.

This morning we drive a short distance to Khamsum Yuelly Namgyel Chorten through rice terrace fields and stunning Chir pine forest. We’ll take advantage of Punakha’s subtropical climate and optionally spend some time on the river rafting after the shoot; the Mochu river offers a gentle ride with the total rafting time of 90 minutes approximately. This is fun and exciting way to see Punakha from another angle.

Then an afternoon visit to the jaw-dropping Punakha Dzong (1637, the fortress of great happiness) one of the Kingdom’s most impressive forts and its located at the junction of the Pho chu (male river) and Mo chu (female river). We’ll take our time to explore and take photographs of the architectural wonder’s courtyard, then late afternoon visit the village of Drinchengang in Wangdue, to try out portrait photography of the local people and its surrounding, observing their daily activities. A fabulous shooting day in one of the most remote parts of the planet.

This morning, we rise early to visit a monastic school called Pho chu Dumra Lobdra, joining the monks in their morning ritual – a photoshoot of the chanting monks in ceremonial dress, followed by some portraits on request – then later enjoy a traditional monastic breakfast with the monks. You’ll spend some time engaging with them and the chief lama to gain insight into their daily lives.

Then to Thimphu, the capital city. We’ll head first to Buddha Dordenma, the tallest Buddha statue in Bhutan overlooking Thimphu valley where you can take a picture of a whole city. Here we have a private ceremony; lighting butter lamps for the wellbeing of all sentient beings – documenting the whole ceremony at the same time. It’s an important ritual; one does not simply light a butter lamp but must also pray that ‘as one lights this butter lamp one is lighting wisdom for the world and dispelling the darkness of the world’.

We’ll drive back and visit the memorial stupa built in 1974 in the memory of Bhutan’s third King, His Late Majesty, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, who is popularly regarded as the father of modern Bhutan. Here you can capture images of devout Buddhists (usually the elderly people) circumambulating the stupa, lighting butter lamps, and praying.

Thimphu Tshechu is held for three days at Tendrelthang near Thimphu Dzong. It is a religious mask dance festival performed in honor of Guru Rinpoche to celebrate his birthday on 10th day.

The mask dances known as cham – folkdances – are performed to bless onlookers, and teach the Buddhist dharma. People from all the villages nearby come to gather early in the morning at the festival ground with their family. This is a good opportunity to capture the locals in their colourful outfits, adorned in silk and heavily embroidered clothing. The photography in the festival is an interesting as the local’s dress in their finest outfits and jewellery, watching sacred mask dances in an arena and this is a great opportunity to capture the Bhutanese celebrating and enjoying life. Masked dancers will perform throughout the day, where you have a chance to capture different mask dance here you will have the opportunity to capture the bright colours and graceful movements of the Bhutanese culture.

Later we visit the big market in the town from the lunch point, it’s a walking distance. which is usually set up for festival in a temporary shelter in the street of the town to sell their products, local as well as imported from India and China – most of Thimphu’s scant population and many valley dwellers congregate on the banks of the river where weekend market is held. It is an interesting place to visit and provides opportunity to take photographs of the busy local vegetable market with vibrant colours from the fresh produce to the lively characters selling their products.

Today after breakfast you’ll witness the Festival for a few hours, but the mask dances will be different than the previous day. Later we drive towards Paro for tsa tsa – the craft of making mini stupas & prayer flags – at the farmhouse – and after the hearty lunch of local favourites you can try the craft making your own tsa tsa. During this activity you can document the process and shoot portraits of the family and farm – then during the hike to Tiger’s Nest the following day, you can leave your tsa tsa in the cave on the way and hoist your flags at the top of Tiger’s Nest monastery.

The next day we will hike up early to the famous Tiger’s Nest monastery – Taktsang – to shoot early sunrise behind the monastery. We then hike up to Taktsang on foot – a spectacular site evolving from 747AD when Guru Padmasmbhava chose a cave on a sheer rock face to meditate and, assuming a wrathfull form, Guru Dorji Drolo, astride a tigress, subdued the evil spirits the locality. Taktshang thus became one of the most important Buddhist monuments in the Himalayan Buddhist world. The steep hike here provides many different opportunities for photographs from tree covered areas to endless tone steps towards the monastery, which in itself is a stunning view clinging on to the side of a cliff.

After the refreshing hike, we will head to take a dip in traditional hot stone bath to relax your muscles where the minerals from the stone is beneficial for your joint pain and backache. Bliss.

On our final day in Bhutan, we’ll head to Chelela pass and to the famed Kila Nunnery – founded in the 9th century Chogyal Norbu and it is the one of the oldest nunneries in Bhutan. Now the monastery is set exclusively for Buddhist practitioners who want to go on retreat. We will have a hot picnic today – and you get chance to meet (and photograph) some of the 60 nuns residing here.

Later in the evening, you’ll wear the national dress and practice playing Bhutan’s national sport – archery – and some other traditional sports like khuru(dart) the Bhutanese way – and challenge your guide, driver and the locals to a game of archery. Some tips; don’t forget to adopt the habit of singing and dancing to distract your opponent, and a shot of Ara (locally brewed wine) is said to improve one’s hand and eye coordination.

The flight back west heads of early the next day, so we’ll pass by Everest once more – and have time to spend a little more time in Kathmandu before catching our international flight back home again. As with all Creative Escapes trips, we’ll give you a detailed download and review of all of your best work, indicate what style you have, plus suggest tips on what kind of equipment you need that compliments your style. With that, a farewell to new found friends and chance to reflect on the way home, your ten day adventure to one of the last untouched countries on earth.

Details.

8 – 17 September, 2024
5 Places Left

10 days. 9 nights. Starts and ends in Kathmandu, Nepal.

£3395 | Single Supplement £380

Price includes 
10 days, 9 nights accommodation at listed hotels (or similar 3* properties)
10 days tuition from our own professional photographer
The daily Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) charged by the Bhutanese Government
A licenced Bhutanese Government Guide for the duration of your stay
Access to Thimpu Festival, plus all activities including river rafting, butter lamps, hot stone bath, archery and meditation session.
All internal ground transportation, including airport transfers.
Bhutan visa processing charges and Visa fee
Multiple 1-on-1 tuition sessions

Price excludes flights and meals.

 

There are no direct flights to Bhutan from the UK, so you will need to fly via Kathmandu. Given that Paro is at 2,200m, we opt to spend the first day in Kathmandu, at 1,400m to acclimatise. Given the dates, most clients will opt to arrive a day or two before, so they can see both countries. We have an agent in Kathmandu who can make arrangements for you, should you wish to do this.

Return flights to Paro from Kathmandu are around £400, with flights from the UK to Kathmandu start at around £800.

"Fabulous locations, amazing hotels & great memories. Thanks to Creative Escapes I have moved from taking a gazillion bland photographs to images I am really proud of. Already thinking about my next trip!"


Lorraine Byrne, Dublin