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Bhutan Photography Expedition
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11 days

from $11,018 AUD trip_detail hint icon

($7,495 USD)

Prices are per person, based on twin share occupancy. The AUD prices are based on USD and calculated at today’s rate of exchange. The expedition price will be finalised at time of booking.

trip_detail module icon Signature Land

trip_detail module Light icon Moderate trip_detail hint icon

Travelers should be physically fit and prepared for multiple hours of activity (e.g. hiking, kayaking, biking) each day.

Premium trip_detail hint icon

Premium expeditions are led by a National Geographic expert, an expedition team, or top guides, and tap into National Geographic's worldwide resources to allow for in-depth exploration and special access to sites and experts in the field. Itineraries are fully planned, with some free time. Accommodations are high-end or best available. Ground transportation and most meals and activities are included in the trip price.

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Expedition Overview

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EXPEDITION OVERVIEW
  • 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.
EXPERTS ON THIS TRIP

A National Geographic expert will accompany each departure to share insights and a rare behind-the-scenes perspective. Listed here are some of the experts that will be joining departures on this trip.

Itinerary

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.

Day 1: Bangkok, Thailand

Arrive in Bangkok this evening and check in to our hotel.

Day 2: Bangkok/Paro, Bhutan

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.

Day 3: Paro/Punakha

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).

Day 4: Punakha

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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.

Day 5: Punakha/Phobjikha

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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.

Day 6: Phobjikha

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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.

Day 7: Phobjikha/Thimphu

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.

Day 8: Thimphu/Paro

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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.

Day 9: Paro

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.

Days 10-11: Paro/Bangkok, Thailand

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.

EXTENSIONS

Day 1: Bangkok/Siem Reap, Cambodia

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.

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Day 2: Angkor

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.

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Day 3: Angkor

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.

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Day 4: Siem Reap/Bangkok

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 (pre-trip) or home (post-trip).

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What to Expect

This trip has an activity rating of moderate; travelers should be physically fit and prepared for multiple hours of hiking on several days. Excursions may include navigating uneven terrain, climbing stairs without handrails, and walking on paths with steep ascents\/descents. Bhutan is 8,000 feet above sea level on average. The highest elevation we reach will be 11,000 feet; we spend two nights at 10,000 feet.

Accommodations
Throughout the trip, we stay in high-end hotels with many amenities, including a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World in Paro. We spend 2 nights at a Bhutanese-style hotel, and 2 nights in a rustic lodge.

Expedition Team
A National Geographic expert and an expedition leader will accompany this trip, and we will meet local guides along the way.

ACCOMMODATIONS
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Zhiwa Ling Heritage - Paro, Bhutan

Nestled in the hills outside Paro, Zhiwa Ling Heritage, a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World is an architectural gem that unites Bhutanese culture and heritage with 21st-century comforts. In the spirit of Bhutan’s Buddhist tradition, guests can join monks at the Meditation House, experience the tranquility of the Tea House, and enjoy a yoga session looking out at the legendary Tiger’s Nest Temple.

2 /4

Zhiwa Ling Heritage - Paro, Bhutan

Nestled in the hills outside Paro, Zhiwa Ling Heritage, a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World is an architectural gem that unites Bhutanese culture and heritage with 21st-century comforts. In the spirit of Bhutan’s Buddhist tradition, guests can join monks at the Meditation House, experience the tranquility of the Tea House, and enjoy a yoga session looking out at the legendary Tiger’s Nest Temple.

3 /4

Zhiwa Ling Heritage - Paro, Bhutan

Nestled in the hills outside Paro, Zhiwa Ling Heritage, a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World is an architectural gem that unites Bhutanese culture and heritage with 21st-century comforts. In the spirit of Bhutan’s Buddhist tradition, guests can join monks at the Meditation House, experience the tranquility of the Tea House, and enjoy a yoga session looking out at the legendary Tiger’s Nest Temple.

4 /4

Dewachen Lodge - Phobjika, Bhutan

The rustic, but comfortable Dewachen Lodge has spacious rooms overlooking the remote and unspoiled Phobjika Valley. Each room is heated by a wood-burning stove, which staff light while you’re at dinner.

PRICES & DATES

  • date Oct 18-28, 2019
  • double occupancy
    (from)
    $11,018 AUD Per Person
  • single occupancy
    (from)
    $13,656 AUD Per Person
  • extensions yes

EXTENSIONS

Post-trip Extension: 2019/10/28 - 2019/10/31

Double Occupancy from $11,018 AUD per person

Single Occupancy from $13,656 AUD per person

  • date Mar 1-11, 2020
  • double occupancy
    (from)
    $11,753 AUD Per Person
  • single occupancy
    (from)
    $14,391 AUD Per Person
  • extensions yes

EXTENSIONS

Post-trip Extension: 2020/03/11 - 2020/03/14

Double Occupancy from $11,753 AUD per person

Single Occupancy from $14,391 AUD per person

  • date Oct 18-28, 2020
  • double occupancy
    (from)
    $11,753 AUD Per Person
  • single occupancy
    (from)
    $14,391 AUD Per Person
  • extensions yes

EXTENSIONS

Post-trip Extension: 2020/10/28 - 2020/10/31

Double Occupancy from $11,753 AUD per person

Single Occupancy from $14,391 AUD per person

Prices are per person based on double or single occupancy (unless otherwise noted) and do not include international airfare to/from your destination or internal flights during the expedition. Internal flights are $900 per person in 2019 and $1000 per person in 2020. Internal flights for the optional extension are $500 per person. The AUD prices are based on USD and calculated at today’s rate of exchange and subject to change. See the terms and conditions for this trip for more information.

  • Transfers upon arrival and departure
  • Accommodation as indicated in the itinerary
  • Meals as indicated in the itinerary
  • Daily activities and excursions as indicated in the itinerary
  • All gratuities
  • Bhutanese government tourism tariff and visa
  • Airfare to and from destination, as well as internal airfare where applicable
  • Trip cancellation insurance or any other travel insurance
  • Visas required to get to and from the Expedition
  • Alcoholic beverages
Ira Block
Photographer
"

Ira Block is an internationally renowned documentary photographer, lecturer, and workshop leader who has produced over 30 stories for National Geographic magazine. He began shooting for National Geographic in the mid 1970s, and later worked with both Traveler and Adventure magazines. His photographic subjects are as varied as the destinations stamped in his passport—from dinosaurs in the Gobi Desert to gold coins retrieved from Havana's sunken treasure ships; from Incan mummies in Peru to the North Pole by dog sled; and from the Samurai culture of Japan to the Native Americans of the southwestern United States. Ira’s lens continues to capture and document amazing stories from around the globe, and he has also published photographic books, most recently Cuba Loves Baseball: A Photographic Journey. Over the years, he has taught photography for National Geographic Expeditions in New York City, London, Mongolia, Bhutan, Cuba, Nepal, and Tibet. Ira was featured as one of 12 photographers in the National Geographic Masters of Photography online course, which gives a behind-the-scenes look at their techniques and work, and his images can be seen on Instagram, where he has over 335,000 followers. Ira enjoys inspiring others to expand their photographic vision.

"
  • Oct 18-28, 2020
Nevada Wier
Photographer
"

Nevada Wier is a multiple award-winning photographer specializing in documenting the remote corners and cultures of the world. Nevada’s journeys have taken her to many of the planet’s deserts, mountains, and urban jungles, and more than 100 countries across the globe, from Colombia to Mongolia and Iceland to India. Her work has appeared in National Geographic and National Geographic Traveler magazines, as well as Geo, Outdoor Photographer, Outside, Smithsonian, and numerous other publications. Nevada is a well-known keynote speaker and workshop instructor, and her images are represented by the National Geographic Image Collection. She has also been featured in television productions such as National Geographic Explorer and National Geographic Through the Lens. Wier is a Fellow of the Explorers Club and a member of the Society of Women Geographers.

"
  • Oct 18-28, 2019
Alison Wright
Adventurer Photographer
"

Named a National Geographic Traveler of the Year as someone who travels with a sense of passion and purpose, Alison Wright photographs endangered cultures and people around the globe while covering issues concerning the human condition. She is also a recipient of the Dorothea Lange Award in Documentary Photography and a two-time winner of the Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Award. Alison is a National Geographic contributor and has produced ten books, including three for the National Geographic Traveler guidebook series. Her memoir, “Learning to Breathe; One Woman’s Journey of Spirit and Survival,” chronicles her inspirational story of survival and years of rehabilitation, and her ongoing determination to recover and continue traveling the world as an intrepid photojournalist. Alison’s experience and her work in post-disaster\/conflict areas inspired her to establish a foundation called Faces of Hope, a non-profit that globally supports women and children’s rights by creating visual awareness and donating directly to grass-roots organizations that help sustain them through education and healthcare. Alison has traveled to more than 150 countries, and while she was based in Asia for years, she has also extensively photographed throughout Africa, Europe, Canada, Latin America, and the Middle East. She looks forward to sharing her photographic and storytelling expertise with travelers.

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  • Mar 1-11, 2020