PhotoTreks 2017 with Lester Ledesma

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Nestled at the heart of the Himalayas, the hermit kingdom of Bhutan is a living testament to an earlier era. PhotoTreks: Bhutan will traverse three cities renown for their stunning photo opportunities. Enjoy 7 days of non-stop travel photography with multi-awarded photojournalist Lester V. Ledesma. Learn from the nightly photo-discussions, and savour the landscapes, the history and the unique culture of the Bhutanese.

Check out his website and his Facebook

Media Coverage of PhotoTreks: Bhutan by Lester Lesdema

This was a land unlike any they’ve ever seen.

From cloud-obscured mountains, to sprawling terraced rice fields and massive temple-fortresses, the “Land of the Thunder Dragon” offered challenging and oh-so-memorable subjects for the participants of PhotoTreks: Bhutan. This group of avid photographers visited this obscure South Asian kingdom last August with their hands on their cameras, and their minds set on adventure.

Tucked amidst the Himalayan mountain range, Bhutan has been called “The Last Shangri-la” - a reference to its unique culture that has stood unchanged for centuries. On these slopes, life still throbs to the rhythm of the Buddhist prayer wheel. Native Dzongka designs still dominate the local architecture, and traditional dress remains the preferred everyday attire. In fact, so isolated is this country that they didn’t have roads until the 1960s, and there was no Internet here until 1999.

Day 1

     Day 1 – Arrival at Paro, orientation at hotel

Elevation 2,320 m     Weather in Thimphu

Welcome to Bhutan, the Land of the Thunder Dragon. Touching down at Paro International Airport, you will be greeted by your guide upon exiting the arrival hall.  After driving to Thimphu for our hotel check-in, you'll have a first taste of Bhutanese cuisine at a local restaurant. A short photography orientation on Bhutan follows before we begin our exploration of the capital. The day's subjects include the very traditional Centenary Farmers Market, and the Thimphu Dzong – a castle-fortress that is the country's seat of power. In the evening we will take a look at our images for the first or our nightly photography discussions.


Day 2

     Day 2 – Thimphu to Punakha

Elevation 1,300 m     Weather in Punakha

We'll begin the day with a morning visit to the Changangkha Monastery. Built in 12th century, this is the oldest temple in Thimphu. It sits on a ridge overlooking scenic views of Thimphu, and houses the Chenrizig: an 11-headed, thousand-armed manifestation of Avolokitesawara as its central statue. Afterwards, we'll take a 3-hour drive to Punakha, and spend the afternoon at Punakha Dzong, built in 1637, the dzong continues to be the winter home for the clergy, headed by the Chief Abbott, the Je Khenpo. It is a stunning example of Bhutanese architecture, sitting at the fork of two rivers, portraying the image of a medieval city from a distance. If time permits, we'll set up to take shots of the Dzong as the evening light sets in. Dinner is followed by a slideshow of the images our participants have taken.


Day 3

     Day 3 – Punakha

Elevation 1,300 m     Weather in Punakha

Today's adventure starts at the Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang Nunnery. Situated on a hilltop overlooking the valleys of Punakha and Wangdue Phodrang, this magnificent structure houses a population of Buddhist nuns. Later on we'll have lunch and spend the afternoon at the farming village of Metshina, home to scenic rice terraces on a picturesque valley. We'll also do a light trek to the Chhimi Lhakhang, a 15th century temple built in honor of the ’Divine Madman’, Buddhist saint Drukpa Kuenlay. There will be a photography discussion session over drinks in the evening.


Day 4

     Day 4 – Punakha to Paro

Elevation 2,280 m     Weather in Paro

We'll start the day off with breakfast and a visit to the local market before starting our road trip back to Paro. One the way we'll stop by the Dochula Pass, a mountain passage which sports 108 chortens built to commemorate Bhutan’s victory over Indian militants and to liberate the souls of those who died in battle. A sumptuous local lunch will be served at Thimphu, and afterwards we will practice our street photography skills in downtown Thimphu. Later on we'll continue our road trip to Paro, with a stopover at the Tamchong Lhakhang, an ancient monastery on a hill overlooking a river. We'll arrive just in time to shoot a performance of traditional Bhutanese dances at our hotel.


Day 5

     Day 5 – Paro

Elevation 2,280 m     Weather in Paro

A morning drive north of Paro valley brings us to the ruins of Drukgyal Dzong. Built in 1647, the Dzong was destroyed by an accidental fire and left in ruins as an evocative reminder of the great victories it was built to commemorate. We'll also visit artisans (Kira weavers, traditional painters, etc) to get a taste of Bhutan's artistic heritage. In the afternoon, we'll explore the Rinpung Dzong, which the locals call the ‘fortress of a heap of jewels’. Built in 1646 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the dzong stands on a hill above Paro Township. Afterwards we'll take sunset and dusk shots of the dzong along the Paro Chhu River.



Day 6

     Day 6 – Paro

Elevation 2,280 m     Weather in Paro

We've saved the best for last: a morning trek to the Taktsang Monastery, a prominent Himalayan Buddhist sacred site and temple complex located on the cliff side of Paro Valley. According to legends, it is believed that Guru Rinpochhe flew to this location from Tibet on the back of a Tigress  and meditated in one of the caves. Guru Rinpochhe performed meditation and emerged in eight manifestations and the place became holy. Thus gaining the name tiger's nest. After a day of hiking we'll take it easy and explore main streets of Paro Town for some street photography and souvenir shopping. To cap off our Bhutanese adventure, we'll have our photographers' party at a traditional drayang nightclub.


Day 7

     Day 7 – Paro to onward destination

Elevation 2,280 m     Weather in Paro

Today we will bid fond farewell to this beautiful Himalayan country and take an early flight back to Singapore. We hope by now you would have made some friends and also kept many photos and beautiful memories of Bhutan! And we look forward to seeing you again in this beautiful land of endless Enchantments! Tashi Delek!

What's Included

Suitable Months
  • 2 - 8 February 2017
  • From SGD 3,400 per person
What's Excluded

Our Guarantee

Guaranteed Visa approval. We have yet to disappoint a single of our travellers in term of Visa issuance.

Your choice of hotels will be confirmed for your inspection before your arrival. We only book you on hotels which we love and would love again.

We will be happy to change your guide, driver or vehicle on the first two days of arrival in Thimphu if you are not satisfied with our selection. Drop us a note and our hospitality team be on the spot to assist you.

We’re here to help. Our world-class member services team is available by phone or email — there's no automated system or call center; you'll communicate with a real person.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I join even if I do not have a DSLR?
Yes of course! You can bring a point n' shoot, consumer, prosumer or even an iPhone. We'll teach you to take better pictures whatever camera you bring.

Is it worth it?
OMG YESSSS. Save for current warzones like Somalia or Iraq, Bhutan is the last frontier for countries untouched by western culture. The Bhutanese government imposes a daily tariff (we've included that in the tour fee) for tourists, and this is meant to keep its visitors to a select, privileged few.

What they said about PhotoTreks: Bhutan
"I'll never forget this tour!!! Bhutan itself was amazing! Loved the big rooms especially the one in the second destination (Punaka), but all the rooms were beautiful. Also Chencho was an excellent guide and he always accommodated our needs. Lester's photography discussions also helped us with our shots. Tiger's Nest was the highlight for me. I wish we had more days to spend in Bhutan and in Thimphu in particular to roam the city."

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Recent Customer Reviews 5.0 / 5.0 ( Read Reviews )

100.0 % of Our Travellers Recommend This Travel Plan

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Arlene Donaire
Philippines, Feb 2017

Everything was well thought out... needs were anticipated and met. Day 2. thimphu memorial chorten .... loved the "busyness" of the place, the human activity, the quality of light, the interaction with the elderly folks...

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Lauren Malcampo
Philippines, Feb 2017

My favorite part was the hardest one - the trek to Tiger's Nest! That day was hands down the best part of the tour for me. Next is Memorial Chortem. But overall, there was no "bad" day during the tour - we were blessed with good weather and the itinerary had been well thought out. I specially appreciate that Lester gave me the chance to do some landscape photography whenever the opportunity rises.

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Ched Limson
Philippines, Feb 2017

I am especially grateful that you respected our physical limitations and did NOT make us feel like "slowpokes" climbing the Tiger's Nest. In fact, you made it enjoyable with your charming sense of humor. Completing the trek to Taktsang was an achievement. THANK YOU for your patience and encouragement.

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