BY MARK TUSCHMAN
THE WILD EAST Fringes of Bhutan
12-17 Day Journey
Airfare RT Bangkok/India $930
Accommodation in Local Inns
Detailed Itinerary: The Wild East
SACRED DANCES Bhutan Festivals
7-14 Day Journey
Airfare RT Bangkok to Paro $980
Luxury Hotels in Deluxe Rooms
Trip Ideas: Sacred Dances
SACRED DZONGS Classic Bhutan
Airfare RT Bangkok to Paro $890
Finest Boutique & Luxury Hotels
Trip Ideas: Sacred Dzongs
Pre- & Post-Trip Travel Options:
Nothing could be more striking than the pristine, haunting beauty of the landscape of Bhutan, or the atmosphere of peace and sacredness, which pervades the land from end to end... Bhutan is a place blessed with an almost magical power to transform the mind, as if being transported into a pure realm.
Private trips designed by award-winning photographer Mark Tuschman from his previous photography trips to Bhutan. These three exceptional of photography-focused tours, canvas the vivid natural landscapes and cultural highlights of the reclusive Kingdom, Asia's final frontier.
These three trip itineraries offer entirely different and intimate, authentic, and immersive journeys in Bhutan customized to your preferences and our recommendations. In Winter, enjoy have crisp clear skies, few other travelers, and enjoy a invitation to a private shaman celebration in the scenic Haa Valley, only recently opened to travelers. In Spring explore the wild eastern fringes of the country where very few travelers venture and in Fall of 2016, witness the vibrant festivals the country is known for (with special access to the events).
Our SACRED DZONGS trip takes place under the clearest skies of the year and follows a classic itinerary through the country (with our own unique take on places to visit and activities). Exclusive highlights of this trip will be attending a private Lomba shaman festival in the picturesque Haa Valley, the Dochula festival, and viewing the rare black-necked cranes that winter in the Phobjikha Valley.
THE WILD EAST in Spring travels deep into the far eastern stretches of the country, largely unvisited by other travelers, entering from India across the border and exploring the remote eastern villages, remote dzongs, and remarkable, untouched landscapes. [VIEW DETAILED ITINERARY]
During the Fall our SACRED DANCES trip attends three of the country's celebrated festivals (tsechus) which occur during the pleasant autumn weather. We will enjoy favorable seating and access for exceptional photography during the events. [VIEW FESTIVAL TRIPS]
Read more about each of these special trips below.
Since spending a month in Bhutan as a guest of the Queen a decade ago, I have traveled to many places in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and yet when people ask me the most beautiful country I've visited, I never hesitate to tell them Bhutan. Bhutan, as you probably know, created the concept of Gross National Happiness which is evident in the safeguarding of their culture and shepherding of their environment, both a rarity in the world today. The landscape is breathtaking, the dzongs aesthetically beautiful, and the Bhutanese culture rich and sustaining. A trip to Bhutan will be very high on your list as one of the most memorable trips of your lifetime.
with the advent of digital photography, everyone has become a "photographer" yet there are few who really see and create images that are compelling and dynamic. The Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan is an untouched paradise of thick pine-forested mountains surrounding sublime valleys against the backdrop of the majestic snow-capped Himalayas.
Before departure, you will receive detailed departure notes, including recommended photographic equipment to bring, practical details such as charging batteries, image file handling and backups, and cultural considerations when traveling in Bhutan.
You will be provided exceptional access for photography during all of these trips, including typically private events and places. The body of my work has focused on people, and though you will have every opportunity to photograph the incredible landscapes of Bhutan, you will be engaging with the people of the country frequently and as often as possible. Although following a planned itinerary, the informal environment and an unrushed schedule allows for flexibility and spontaneous, authentic encounters opportunities throughout the trip.
Mark has been a freelance photographer for over 35 years. He has devoted much of the past decade to documenting global health challenges and women’s human rights issues, in collaboration with UN agencies, socially conscious corporations, foundations, and NGOs. His work has been featured at many international events, including at the Women Deliver Conference in 2013, and at the Carter Center’s Human Rights Defenders Forum in 2015. The Global Health Council named Mark Photographer of the Year in 2010, and his images won the Grand Prize in a worldwide photo competition sponsored by the Social Documentary Network and Management Sciences for Health. Mark lives with his wife, Jana, in Menlo Park, California.
In the last two years Mark has visited rural India as part of a long term project to document women’s and young girls’ lack of autonomy over their own lives. An exhibition of this project, India: Child Brides, Dowry Abuse and Girls’ Education, took place at the World Affairs Council in San Francisco and was co-sponsored by Educate Girls. Please view images from this project in Mark's India Web Gallery and interview on YouTube. His most recent project is a book fully funded on Kickstarter: Faces of Courage: Intimate Portraits of Women on the Edge and is completing a book on his images of Bhutan. Mark also loves landscape photography, with work featured in a Rangefinder.
Mark has lead several of our past trips including Myanmar, Vietnam, and Cambodia but his experience and connections in Bhutan are the most compelling. His blog and photos, including Bhutan Photo Gallery from our previous trips.
All photos by Mark Tuschman
Our other photography tours Mark and Indochina Travel have partnered on include Myanmar and earlier trips to Vietnam & Angkor, concentrating on places providing exceptional photography opportunities, including the stoic capital, Hanoi, Halong Bay, hilltribes and mountain vistas of Sapa, and the emerald green vistas of the Mekong Delta. In Cambodia, the now bustling capital city of Phnom Penh was visited, and the tour culminated in shooting at what was the center of a great civilization, the Khmer temples of Angkor. View images taken by participants.
Eastern Bhutan is the least explored region of the kingdom, offering authentic cultural experiences, sublime natural beauty of towering mountains and pristine forest, and in addition to small local festivals, an region where the country’s most ancient spiritual practices, including animist-shamanist religious rituals, are found.
Our trip begins in Guwahati, India, crossing in Bhutan into the pre-Himalayan ranges, exploring the remote outposts of Samdrup Jonkhar, Trashigang, Mongar, Lhuntse—one of the most isolated districts in Bhutan with spectacular mountain scapes of stark cliffs and steep gorges, en route to Jakar, where we'll spend a day visiting the highlights of the Bumthang Valley.
During this two week trip, explore the lush, breathtaking landscapes of the eastern region that feature spectacular areas for short hikes. Bhutan’s largest river, the Dangmechu, here and we'll pause in Trashigang town, set on a scenic hillside a former trading outpost for trade between Tibet. Today it is the junction of the East-West highway, with road connections to Samdrup Jongkhar and then into the Indian state of Assam. Trashigang remains the principle market place for the semi-nomadic people of Merak and Sakteng, whose unique way of dress stands out from the regular Bhutanese Gho and Kira. At trip's end, we'll pass through Paro, with an optional extra day to trek to the famed Tiger's Nest Monastery—Taktsang. Please note, this trip stays in rustic accommodations—local inns that are very basic.
The only real disappointment of our trip, is that we could not stay longer in Bhutan. The hotels you chose were wonderful, and added greatly to the experience and we enjoyed the flexibility of the itinerary which allowed for spontaneous and what were for us some of the most meaningful experiences of the journey.
Pre- or post-trip, consider lingering for a few days more in Rajasthan.
There is no better highlight during a visit to Bhutan than attending tshechu, what Bhutan's famous Drukpa Buddhist festivals are called. Bhutan Festivals, mean "day ten," as in the tenth day of a month of the lunar Tibetan calendar and these annual festivals feature vivid dances based on traditional Bhutanese themes and are the largest social gatherings in Bhutan, promoting bonding among families, townspeople and people scattered in remote villages.
Group size - smallest
The focal point of the tsechus are the sacred Cham dances (now banned in neighboring Tibet). The Thimphu and Paro festivals are the largest each year, which you will attend and photograph during this trip similar 2011 Bhutan tshechu tour (view our 2011 Bhutan trip itinerary).
Cultural highlights of this trip include hilltribe arts and crafts, markets, local life, and attendance at Bhutan's splendid annual festivals—the Thimphu Drubchen in the capital city, and the colorful-costumed dancing of the Wangdue Tshechu, and the country's largest and most celebrated festival, Thimpu Tshechu where we will have up close seating for photography alongside tour leader Mark Tuschman.
The Myanmar workshop with Mark was a remarkable experience with exposure to many locations, people and shooting environments. Our small group environment allowed each of us to work alongside Mark, who I have always admired as a photographer especially his ability in photographing people which is exceptional. I would¹t hesitate to take another workshop with Mark.
A classic two-week itinerary that take advantage of Winter's crisp clear skies for vivid landscape photography, while visiting the country's renowned dzongs in Thimpu, Punakha, and Jakar.
This trip will also encompass the popular highlights of Bhutan but also lesser known ones, such as travel to the Haa Valley for a rare shaman festival. , along with unique activities, including emphasis on customs, arts, cuisine, religion at the heart of the country, exploring rural village life, and experiencing personal encounters where few tourists venture. We will journey into the heartland of the ethereal kingdom, from the gravity defying Tiger’s Nest monastery to the bizarre temple of the Divine Madman, this trip combines spectacular scenery during short hikes, and visit to the country's renowned dzongs (monasteries).
Explore the astonishing landscapes of four distinctly different and scenic valleys; the bustling capital of Thimphu in a valley dotted with monuments, museums and markets; the almost tropical Punakha/Wangdue valley with its magnificent dzongs; and the emerald valley of Paro with its rice paddies and ancient temples; Phobjikha valley, the winter home to a few hundred rare and endangered Black-Necked Cranes that migrate from the Tibetan plateau to winter here; and finally, the emerald green Haa Valley, where few other travelers venture. In the Haa Valley, we'll be guests at a new year's shaman festival. Throughout the adventure return nightly to the understated luxury and comfort of the Uma lodges and the Taj Tashi hotels.
Personal encounters (including visiting homes, schools, and monasteries) will be a focus of our trip.
"I have known Mark for more than 20 years and have been very much taken with the beauty of his images. Initially I had contracted Mark to do a project for a biotech company that I was involved with. Later on his work really inspired me so much that I decided to make photography my second profession. Mark has 35 years of great experience, which he was willing to share with a group of us during photography trip to India. He encouraged us to understand the critical elements of the image that is attractive to our eyes and sensitize us to all the elements that make a memorable photograph, whether photographing a person or a landscape. He emphasized the critical role that light plays in photography and how we can use light as a paint brush in our photography. He made me more aware of light, composition, foregrounds and backgrounds, and gestures. He encouraged us to develop a personal style of our own and helped me create more compelling images.