​There are places where you really can get away from it all. There are those where you feel you've gone back a few decades. And then there's the Kingdom of Bhutan. No ordinary place, this devoutly-Buddhist, tiny, remote kingdom, nestled high in the Himalyas, remains an untouched Himalayan Shangri-La and intends to stay that way.​

Departure date: 10 June 2016

Current tour status: Places available


Your itinerary at a glance

10 June 2016 / Depart Delhi on the Druk Air flight to Paro. Upon arrival into Paro, transfer to Le Méridien Thimphu, stay 1 night in a Standard Room.

11 June 2016 / Transfer from Thimpu through the Punakha Valley to Dhensa Punakha, stay 2 nights in a Suite.

13 June 2016 / Transfer from Punakha through the Black Mountains to the Swiss Guest House Bumthang for the Nimalung Tsechu, stay 3 nights in a Standard Room.

16 June 2016 / Transfer from Bumthang to the Gangte Valley and the Gangte Goenpa Lodge, stay 2 nights in a Standard Room.

18 June 2016 / Transfer from the Gangte Valley to Uma Paro, stay 3 nights in a Superior/Deluxe Room.

21 June 2016 / Fly Paro to Delhi to connect with your onward departure flight.​​​


From £6950 per person (single travellers)

From £4450 per person (based on two adults sharing).

Prices include:

  • Fully-escorted by Colin Prior from arrival into Bhutan, including all photography workshops.
  • 11 nights’ accommodation (8 nights luxury, 3 nights basic) with all meals included (full board.
  • Private transport throughout, including airport transfers.​
  • Arrival and departure flights with Druk Air (Delhi–Paro–Delhi).
  • Bhutanese visa fees and processing.
  • Complimentary mineral water on all days out.
  • The services of an experienced English-speaking, licensed, Buddhist guide of Bhutan.
  • Entry permits and fees to all temples, museums and monasteries.
  • Provision for overnight accommodation in Delhi to connect with Druk Air flights.
  • Two full days to shoot the Bumthang Tsechu​.

Prices exclude:

  • International flights – Guide price for round-trip international economy class flights UK–Delhi–UK is £600 per person. Please speak to your Travel Director regarding all international flight arrangements.
  • Alternative flight arrangements and upgrades can be provided, subject to availability, and may have a supplementary cost.


​​Your Itinerary

11 nights Paro - Bumthang - Paro

Day 1 / Paro to Thimphu

​Arrive into Paro on the Druk Air flight from Delhi. Your guides and drivers will welcome you at the airport for the hour-long drive to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan, where you’ll check-in for the night at Le Méridien Thimphu. On the way, you’ll enjoy a quick stop at Tamchhu Lhakhang, built by Thangtong Gyalpo, the so-called Iron Bridge Builder. This former 14th-century saint introduced the art of building suspension bridges with iron chains and the only way to reach his temple is via one of his own bridges (making for a great photo opportunity).

Depending on opening hours and time, Colin and your guides will plan an afternoon’s tour of some photogenic highlights in the capital which may include the National Memorial Chorten, Trashi Chhoe Dzong (fortress of the glorious religion) or you may wish to take your camera and just head out for a stroll.

  • Duration of drive: 1-2 hours
  • Physical difficulty: Easy
  • Overnight: Le Meridien (elevation: 2400m)

Photographic Highlights

  • Tamchhu Lhakhang
  • Thimpu architecture

Day 2 / Thimpu to Punakha


An early start for more sightseeing and photography in the capital on Day 2. The colourful weekend market may prove a great place for a shoot, and you’ll also have the chance to buy some wish-fulfilling prayer flags to hang later at the Dochula pass on your way to Punakha. With favourable weather conditions at 3140m, the pass affords sweeping views towards the main Himalayan range and you may wish to take a meditative stroll amongst the forest of fluttering prayer flags and maze of 108 memorial chortens. The route then moves through the forest with a chance of spotting monkeys and birdlife as you travel 2000 metres down into the Punakha Valley at the hilltop fertility temple of Chimmi Lhakhang. Heading upstream alongside the river, the massive architectural edifice of the 17th-century Punakha Dzong (fortress/monastery) soon looms into view and you may visit this on our way to the hotel, or just stay outside and walk to various vantage points for shots of the fortress.​

  • Duration of drive: 3-4 hours (76km)
  • Physical difficulty: Easy
  • Overnight: Dhensa Punakha (elevation: 1300m)

​Photographic Highlights

  • Thimpu Weekend Market​
  • Dochula Pass and views of the Himalayan Range
  • Chimmi Lhakhang
  • Punakha Dzong

Day 4 / Punakha to Bumthang


This morning will be yet another early start, but this time for the longest drive of the trip via Wangdue Phodrang, its bazaar and sacred incense maker. Wangdue Phodrang Dzong is located on a high promontory overlooking the Punak Chhu (river). Sadly in June 2012 it was raised to the ground by a huge fire but the artisans and craftsmen are already hard at work with the reconstruction. The pass to cross today is the Pele La (3420m) in the Black Mountains with countless yaks grazing on the dwarf bamboo found here. Winding again through deep forest there is a good chance to see monkeys before reaching a spectacular viewpoint across the Mangdue River Gorge to Trongsa Dzong. Clinging to the mountainside, this fortress/monastery was the ancestral home of the ruling dynasty and was built in such a way that in the old days, no matter what direction a traveller came from, he was obliged to pass through its gates.​



Day 3 / Punakha

For a full day to cover all the highlights of the valley of the Pazapsm, you’ll once again start the day early, with a short walk up through white-washed homesteads and farmland to Khamsum Yuley Namgay Chorten, a shrine built by the Royal Family. This temple is a startlingly-ornate and elaborate structure boasting a rainbow of Guru Rinpoche images and superb views of the lush rice paddies and orange groves of the Punakha Valley.

Downstream the edifice of Punakha Dzong awaits. Some guests may choose to spend a few hours in the dzong, so time permitting you can climb up to Talo village and sample the two- to three-hour Gilligang hike.

  • Physical difficulty: Easy
  • Overnight: Dhensa Punakha (elevation: 1300m)

Photographic Highlights

  • Khamsum Chorten
  • Punakha Dzong
  • Talo Village ​


PLEASE NOTE: Whilst photography is permitted in the courtyards of Bhutan’s sacred dzongs and temples, please respect the rule that no cameras are to be taken inside to the most sacred shrine rooms.​










​The onward journey to Bumthang is one of the most scenically-beautiful routes in Bhutan, passing pretty villages, monasteries and temples dotted across wide-open wood and farmland, plus several traditional weaving concerns, before entering Jakar, the market town serving the four valleys that encompass Bumthang. This area is truly unspoilt and is famous for the production of honey, cheese, apples, apricots and Red Panda beer – all produced by your hosts in Bumthang, the Swiss/Bhutanese Maurer family.

  • Duration of drive: 7-8 hours (210km)
  • Physical difficulty: Easy to moderate
  • Overnight: Swiss Guesthouse, Bumthang (elevation: 2800m)

​Photographic Highlights

  • Pele La Pass in the Black Mountains​
  • Grazing Yaks
  • Trongsa Dzong




Today you'll join the throngs of festival goers all dressed in their "Sunday Best" to witness the day's events in the region. 


With so many places of interest here, plus the spectacle of the Nimalung Tsechu festival – an important sacred occasion in the Bhutanese calendar and one of the main social gatherings of the year – your guides will help plan a suitable itinerary to suit your wishes and photographic interests in the spiritual heartland of the Kingdom and ensure that you miss none of the highlights at the tsechu.

There are numerous day walks and places to photograph, including Jakar Dzong (Castle of the White Bird) – probably one of the biggest dzongs in Bhutan – its surrounding walls measuring about 1km in circumference; Lamey Goemba; Wangdichholing Palace; and the impressive Kurjey Lhakhang (temple) on the western side of Bumthang Chhu (river).

Days 5 to 6
Nimalung Tsechu, Bumthang​​​​
Crossing the river, on the eastern bank, visit Tamshing temple and take a look at the very old religious paintings around the inner walls of the temple.

​Nimalung Lhakhang is located in the stunning Chumey Valley in Bumthang. Its festival - held every year in the 5th month of the Bhutanese calendar – sees the nine-metre-high and twelve-metre-wide Guru Rinpoche Thongdrol (large scroll painting) unfurled. 

Adorned in bright costumes of yellow silk lined with rich brocade, often ornamented with carved bones, monks perform dances in masks representing animals, fearsome deities, skulls, or manifestations of Padmasambhava.


Photographic Highlights

  • The Nimalung Tsechu
  • Jakar Dzong
  • Lamey Goemba
  • Wangdichholing Palace
  • Kurjey Lhakhang/span>










​​Days 7 to 9
Bumthang​ to Paro


​The dances offer a combination of moral messages, ward off evil spirits and celebrate the Buddhist faith in wonderful medieval style. Two of our favourite performances to look out for are the Dance of the Four Stags (Shacham) and The Dance of Ging Tsoling. 


The dances last for most of the day so it helps to take a break for some lunch before returning to the festival courtyard once again. Your guides will be on hand throughout to explain the meanings behind each dance and may protect you from the masked clowns called Atsaras who like to make fun of foreigners and locals alike.

  • Physical difficulty: Easy.
  • Two nights: Swiss Guesthouse, Bumthang (elevation: 2800m).​





Day 7 / Bumthang to Gangte Valley

Today the journey heads back westwards to explore the exquisite sweeping, glacial Phobjikha or Gangte Valley. With its alpine setting on the western slope of the Black Mountains, this is a designated conservation area and has a nature study centre for conservation studies and education of local farmers and students funded by the Bhutanese government, with assistance from the World Wildlife Fund. 


The sweeping views from the terrace and rooms of the Gangte Goenpa Lodge draw the eye across the wetlands sprinkled with tiny goembas and lhakhangs (monasteries and temples) which you may wish to walk to… while keen photographers and birders should not miss a visit to the wildlife viewing hides. This valley also boasts the 16th-century Gangte Goemba in a commanding position at the head of the valley which includes its own school, meditation facilities and quarters for monks.

  • Duration of drive: 5-6 hours (130km)​.
  • Physical difficulty: Easy to moderate.
  • Overnight: Gangte Goenpa Lodge, Gangte (elevation: 3000m).

Photographic Highlights

  • Gangte Valley


Day 9​ / Gangte Valley to Paro

Another early start this morning in order to catch the light and to fit everything in. Leaving the wilds of the Gangte Valley, travelling over the Dochula for a second chance of that spectacular view of the Himalayan range, you’ll return to the Chunzom (river confluence) to catch a glimpse of the three shrines in Nepali, Tibetan and Bhutanese style, built to ward off evil spirits near the checkpoint. 

On the final leg, the route follows the Pa Chhu (river), through apple orchards and rice paddies, past quaint homesteads to your home in the Himalaya, Paro town. As this is another long drive, after check-in you’ll be invited for stroll, to spend the rest of the day relaxing or perhaps take the Zurig Hike for spectacular valley views. You can also take tea with a local farmer in his house –Farmer Tshering offering you a hearty welcome. ​

  • Duration of drive: 4-5 hours (120km)
  • Physical difficulty: Easy 
  • Overnight: Uma Paro (Elevation: 2300m) ​
Days 10 to 11


​Now fully-acclimatised to the altitude, this is where you can really stride out. Through Paro Town, past Ugyen Pelri Palace and the main archery ground, you’ll start a walk across the traditional covered bridge Nyami Zam over the Pa Chhu River and join devotees on their way up to Rinpung Dzong (Fortress on a Heap of Jewels). 

Your vehicle will whisk you up to the former watch tower of Ta Dzong, housing Bhutan’s National Museum, and you’ll also have time for an easy but spectacular walk high above the valley to the pretty grounds of Zurig Dzong overlooking Rinpung Dzong and the festival ground before descending to your lodge Uma Paro. Making your way to town, you’ll buy some offerings for a puja (pilgrimage) at Kyichu Lhakhang one of the oldest temples in Bhutan, with its magic orange tree that bears fruit all year round.

Day 8 / Gangte Valley

You may wish to join the monks at Gangte Monastery for morning prayers, meaning a 5am start for the peaceful dawn stroll down to the monastery. 

An hour later you return to the lodge for breakfast. Striking out on foot, you’ll make for your adopted temple in the heart of the scene for a blessing and to pay our respects. 

The day continues as you move from smallholding to temple to monastery on the lookout for yaks. Your guides will discuss options for today with you the evening before, but the main thing is to immerse yourself in the tranquility and beauty of this very special place.

  • Physical difficulty: Easy to moderate.
  • Overnight: Gangte Goenpa Lodge, Gangte (elevation: 3000m).

​Photographic Highlights:

  • Morning Prayers















The hike to the iconic Taktsang Goemba or Tiger’s Nest Monastery – where otherworldly forces seem to be at work to keep the monastery clinging to its perch in the rock face – provides a fitting climax to your adventure. To avoid the hot sun an early start is advisable as it’s a two-hour climb to the viewpoint. 

Descending steeply, you’ll then climb up to the monastery, passing a waterfall and entering through the main gates. Retrace your steps or alternatively (if time and energy levels allow) head further up to several remote temples and monasteries for more magnificent views over Taktsang and the valley below. Time permitting, you’ll then drive further up the valley to Drukgyel Dzong.

  • Physical difficulty: Moderate to hard.
  • Two nights: Uma Paro.​


Photographic Highlights:

  • Tiger's Nest Monastery
  • ​Rinpung, Zurig and Drukgyel Dzongs










With mainly short walks and plenty of time to acclimatise to the altitude, but some long drives on winding roads, this cultural adventure has been graded as easy to moderate so is suitable for guests of all ages, needs, fitness levels and abilities who possess a keen sense of adventure.

Day 12​​
Depart Paro & Bhutan

This morning you depart Bhutan. Druk Air departs in the early morning to avoid adverse weather conditions, so after breakfast and check-out from Uma Paro, your transfer to the airport will be arranged for between 5am and 9am depending on the flight schedule and your final destination.​











Call your Travel Director on
01244 567 000 
to book, or for further information










The walks and treks on this tour are mostly on established pilgrimage and village trails used by locals and monks, and there are no particularly difficult sections, although some of the trails are steep and rocky and can be muddy and slippery after rain. Boots with ankle support are recommended. Any reasonably fit person will thoroughly enjoy the walks and riding ponies can sometimes be hired for some tougher hikes. Your guide carries extra mineral water, snacks and a comprehensive mountain first aid kit at all times.​



Request a call back

Or get in touch 01244 567000