Leica Photo Adventure: Bhutan | Oct 30 - Nov 9, 2024

$15,995 ($2,995 Deposit)

Only 1 Spot Left

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Workshop at a Glance

  Physical Activity
  Photographic Intensity
  Classroom Instruction
  Climate/Weather Severity
  Food and Accommodations
  Good for Non-photographers






  • Join us on a small group, all-inclusive, 11-day luxury excursion to the magical kingdom of Bhutan. Like last year, we've partnered with editorial photographer Michael Turek and the 5-star hotel brand, COMO, but we've added five additional days so that we can explore more of the country. We will journey deep into the kingdom’s heartland, exploring five distinctly different but important valleys including the bustling capital of Thimphu, the tropical Punakha Valley with its magnificent dzongs, high altitude Phobjikha and Bumthang Valleys with their amazing monasteries, and the emerald valley of Paro with its rice paddies and ancient temples. 

    We will traverse Bhutan's dramatic landscape, photograph architectural, cultural and natural wonders and experience the culture and food that make this country a traveler's dream. We'll be staying in some amazing 5-star properties including COMO Uma Paro, COMO Uma Punakha, and the Gangtey Lodge, returning daily to world-class cuisine and optional holistic wellness treatments.

    Documentary photographer Michael Turek will be our workshop leader on this trip and he will teach you how to build a visual narrative and a cohesive body of work, as if on an editorial assignment. Peter Dooling from Leica Store Miami will be your workshop coordinator and Leica Specialist, and will provide technical support and tips to help you get the most out of your camera.

    This photo adventure will give you the opportunity to experience the beauty of Bhutan at a slower, more purposeful pace. As a primarily analog photographer, Turek encourages photographers to capture their surroundings with greater deliberation and intention. Of course this is easier when shooting film, but applies to any camera system. By slowing down, participants will enjoy a deeper and more thoughtful observation of nature and discover a deeper level of engagement with the Bhutanese people. The result being more intimate visual illustrations of their experience in this unique country.


    While other cameras are certainly allowed on this trip, the focus is on Leica cameras and learning how to get the most out of them. Current owners as well as those wanting to learn more about Leica cameras are encouraged to attend.

    Here's a quick video of some of the places that we'll visit, put together by COMO Hotels:



    • Dates:

      Wednesday, October 30 - Saturday, November 9, 2024

      Cost:

      $15,995 - Double occupancy lodging (Single room available for an additional $1500). A $2995 deposit is required to hold your spot.

      Size:

      Limited to 7 attendees


      Included in the cost of the trip:

        • Double occupancy lodging in luxury, 5-star hotels (except in Bumthang) with private facilities. Single room available for an additional $1500
        • Accommodation for three nights at COMO Uma Paro and three nights at COMO Uma Punakha on a full board basis (excluding beverages)
        • Accommodation for two nights at Gangtey Lodge, Phobjikha and two nights at Mountain Lodge or Swiss Guesthouse in Bumthang on a full board basis (excluding beverages)
        • Ten days of privately guided excursions, taking in the highlights of the Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Phobjikha and Bumthang Valleys
        • The private services of an experienced English-speaking Bhutanese guide
        • Internal flight from Bumthang to Paro
        • Gratuities for local guides and drivers
        • Private airport transfers and ground transportation around Bhutan
        • All Bhutanese government visa, sustainable development fees, service charge and sales tax
        • All museum and visitor center entry fees and road permits
        • One 60-minute COMO Shambhala body treatment
        • Complimentary use of the library, swimming pool, steam room and gym at COMO Uma Paro
        • Complimentary one-hour daily yoga class whilst at COMO Uma Paro (except Sundays)
        • Photographic instruction by Michael Turek
        • Leica and Lightroom assistance by Peter Dooling
        • Loaner Leica cameras and lenses (*limited availability)

      Not included in the cost of the trip:

        • Travel to and from Bhutan
        • Additional hotel nights before or after the tour
        • Gratuities for housekeeping
        • Alcoholic beverages

      Getting There:

      This workshop will begin and end at COMO Uma Paro hotel. You will be picked up at the Paro International Airport (PBH) upon arrival and returned to the airport on departure day.

      COMO Uma Bhutan can assist you with booking flights to Bhutan on Druk Air or Bhutan Airlines (if you prefer not to make the booking yourself). However, the price of flights is not included in the package and it is advisable to book well in advance to secure seats.

      They will also handle the visa application processing (included in the package). It normally takes two to three weeks to process the visa.
       
      If you decide to fly to Bhutan via Bangkok and wish to spend a few days, COMO Hotels is offering a stay at their COMO Metropolitan Bangkok property at a discounted rate.

      If you need assistance with this portion of your travel or if you'd like to book extra room nights in Bhutan or Bangkok, please contact COMO hotels at res.uma.bhutan@comohotels.com or call +975 8 279 999.

      Where We'll Stay



      We will spend three nights at COMO Uma Paro and three nights at COMO Uma Punakha, returning daily to world-class cuisine and holistic wellness treatments. We'll also spend two nights at Gangtey Lodge, Phobjikha and two nights at Mountain lodge or Swiss Guesthouse in Bumthang.


      Activity Level

      Most of the locations we will visit are accessible only by hiking and although most are easy to moderate, will require good physical fitness. The terrain is uneven, can be steeply inclined in spots. The ascent to the Tiger’s Nest is particularly steep (4-mile round trip hike that ascends 1700 feet). In Northern Bhutan, the elevation is about 9000 - 10,000 ft, but you'll have several days to acclimate before we go there. Expect cooler average daily temperatures mainly in the 40s - 50s but it will be a bit warmer or colder depending on the altitude. There is historically very little rain at this time of year and the skies are generally clear. A camera backpack is strongly recommended as are collapsible hiking sticks.


      About Michael Turek:

      Michael Turek is a British-American photographer based in New York. He received his B.A. from Rochester Institute of Technology in 2004. He is an analog photographer who focuses on documentary assignments for clients including The Financial Times, The Guardian, The New York Times and The Paris Review. His book, CONTRAIL, published by Roman Nvmerals, is included in the MoMA Archives and Library. His first photographic monograph, SIBERIA was published by Damiani in 2020. He is a Kodak Ambassador and has won numerous accolades at the American Photography Awards. Turek has made repeat visits to Bhutan, and is particularly interested in the cultural fabric of the Himalayas. Turek's other clients include: Architectural Digest, Conde Nast Traveler, Dwell, The Economist, , Food & Wine, Garden & Gun, Harper's Bazaar, Outside, Ritz Carlton, Robb Report, Surface, Thomson Holidays, Travel & Leisure, United Airlines and more.

      Michael is a long-time Leica film camera shooter (M3 and M-A) and has developed a blended exposure technique that is specific to Leica film cameras. These images are all created in-camera (in a Leica M3 from 1962), on film and the pairings between the left and right side of each frame are completely random. 



      Signing Up:

      To sign up for our photo adventure to Bhutan, checkout here on our website, email us (workshops@leicastoremiami.com) or call 305-921-4433. We are happy to answer any questions you may have. A $2995 deposit, as well as the single room supplement should you choose it, is required to hold your spot. The balance will be due by July 30, 2024.

      We look forward to seeing you in Bhutan!

    • Itinerary

      Day 1 - Wednesday, October 30



      ARRIVAL IN PARO, CHECK-IN AND ZURIG MONASTERY HIKE

      Upon arrival in Paro International Airport, you will be met by our local representative and transferred to your lodge (approx. 10 minutes’ drive). Later this afternoon you will meet up with the rest of the group, as well as Michael Turek and Peter Dooling. After the briefing you will be taken on a short orientation tour to Zurig Monastery. Wind through pine forests high above COMO Uma Paro to the pretty grounds of the fortress-like monastery of Zurig Monastery, where you will get to walk through and explore the local terrain among the most rugged, mountainous and visually stunning in the world.

      Bordered by China and India, the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan is a Buddhist nation unlike anywhere else on earth; this trip offers the chance to gain unique insights into Bhutanese culture, its natural landscapes and religious traditions. Uma Paro Lodge, situated on the cusp of the Paro Valley, will be your home for tonight. With sweeping views of the Himalayas and an array of pine-clad mountain slopes, this 38-acre estate is the perfect spot to begin your journey.

      Difficulty: Easy to moderate
      Overnight: COMO Uma Paro


      Day 2 - Thursday, October 31


      DRIVE PARO TO PUNAKHA VALLEY VIA THIMPHU AND DOCHU LA

      Today you will be driven to the town of Punakha (approx. 4 hours’ drive), visiting Bhutan’s capital city, Thimphu, en-route. Located on the western hillside of the Wang Chhu River, Thimphu is Bhutan’s centre of government, religion and commerce. Whilst in Thimphu, you will visit the major attractions of the Buddha Dordenma statue. After leaving Thimphu the drive to Punakha is spectacular, winding snake-like up the 3,000m-high mountain pass of Dochu La, offering views to 108 chortens (Buddhist shrines), forests of cluttering prayer flags and, on a clear day, sweeping views of the Himalayan range.

      Duration of drive: 3 to 4 hours (126km)
      Difficulty: Easy to moderate
      Overnight: COMO Uma Punakha

      Day 3 - Friday, November 1



      CHIMMI LHAKHANG, PUNAKHA DZONG AND KHAMSUM YULLEY NAMGYAL CHORTEN

      Today is a full day of exploration through the lush Punakha Valley, which at 1,200metres above sea level has a low enough altitude for bananas and oranges to grow. The morning starts with a short walk past farm houses and rice paddies to Chimmi Lhakhang, a 15th century fertility temple dedicated to Drukpa Kuenley, a Tibetan Buddhist saint, better known as the Divine Madman. This site has long been a pilgrimage for couples hoping to start a family.

      Heading future down the valley, continue to 300-years old Punakha Dzong. Built in the 17th century by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, who founded the Kingdom of Bhutan, this fortress once housed the country's government. It is now the winter home of Je Khenpo, the head abbot of Bhutan, along with a retinue of 1000 monks. After lunch, continue on a walk passing rural homesteads and farmlands to Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten, a shrine built by royal family.

      Difficulty: Easy to moderate
      Overnight: COMO Uma Punakha

      Day 4 - Saturday, November 2



      CHORTEN NINGPO AND KHABASA VILLAGE

      After breakfast, we'll drive to Chorten Ningpo, which dates back to the 17th century. The chorten is home to a magnificent statue of Maitreya (the future Buddha) and images of the great lamas of the Drukpa lineage. Legend has it that this magical spot was once a dense forest inhabited by evil spirits. The great oak tree outside the monastery is said to have grown out of the blazing log that the ‘Divine Madman’ threw (the tree’s bark is still black from where it was burnt).

      In 2005, the monastery began to house orphans from the nearby village, and founded a small Buddhist educational institution where the children can study traditional Buddhist scriptures and texts as well as Western subjects.

      The hike back to COMO Uma Punakha is around 45 minutes, going past the temple of Thodrup Lhakhang.

      Difficulty: Easy to moderate
      Overnight: COMO Uma Punakha

      Day 5 - Sunday, November 3


      PUNAKHA VALLEY TO GANGTEY VALLEY VIA WANGDUE PHODRANG

      Descending from our hillside hotel, we cross the river and pause briefly to admire the Wangduephodrang Dzong (currently undergoing restoration after a fire). This fortress is dramatically perched on a hill spur at the confluence of the Puna Tsang Chhu and Dang Chhu rivers. Continuing our journey, we drive steadily through the semi-tropical vegetation until we reach Phobjikha, one of Bhutan's most delightful valleys.

      Nestled on the western slope of the Black Mountains, this valley is renowned as the seasonal sanctuary of the rare Black-necked cranes, which spend their winter months here (from the last week in October to mid-February). The expansive views from your Lodge encompass the wetlands adorned with small monasteries and temples, all awaiting exploration.

      Duration of drive: 2.5 to 3 hours (82km)
      Difficulty: Easy
      Overnight: Gangtey Lodge, Phobjikha

      Day 6 - Monday, November 4




      NATURE TRAIL WALK, VISIT KHEWANG TEMPLE, NATURE STUDY CENTRE AND GANGTEY GOEMBA

      After breakfast, the tour takes you on a walk through nature forest to Phobjikha valley. You can see the Phobjkha valley so beautifully from this hike. It is one of the best hiking locations for the Nature lovers. The temple was built in the 15th century by Trulku Penjor Gyeltshen who was believed to be an incarnation of the great Tibetan nyingmapa master Kuenkhen Longchen Rabjampa (1308-1364).After picnic lunch head to the nature study center for a visit; this is dedicated to conservation studies and education of local farmers and students. This center is funded by the Bhutanese government with assistance from the World Wildlife Fund. Visit the 16th century Gangtey Goemba which sits in a commanding position over this valley and includes a school, meditation facilities and quarters for monks, and is home to the mind reincarnation of Pema Lingpa, one of the region’s historically important Buddhist treasure discoverers.
       
      Duration: 5 to 7 hours including (1 to 2 hours Nature Trail walk or longer)
      Difficulty: Easy to Moderate                                                  
      Overnight: Gangtey Lodge, Phobjikha

      Day 7 - Tuesday, November 5



      GANGTEY TO BUMTHANG VIA PELE LA, CHENDEBJI CHORTEN, TRONGSA

      The morning drive over Pele La, with yaks grazing and a shopping stop in Sephu for woven bamboo products, leads to Chendebji Chorten, built in a style similar to Swayambhunath in Kathmandu, before continuing through the forest to a viewpoint offering a spectacular sight of Trongsa Dzong, built in 1648 as an ancestral home and district administration center. Perched on a spur overlooking the Mangde River, the Dzong had strategic views for many kilometers. The journey to Bumthang takes you through charming villages and monasteries, weaving workshops, and forests before reaching Jakar, the market town serving the four Bumthang valleys.
       
      Duration of drive: 4 to 4.5 hours (142 km)
      Difficulty: Easy                    
      Overnight: Mountain Lodge or Swiss Guest House, Bumthang

      Day 8 - Wednesday, November 6




      JAKAR DZONG, WANGDICHHOLING PALACE, KURJEY LHAKHANG AND JAMBAY LHAKHANG

      There are numerous day walks and places to visit including Jakar Dzong, Wangdichholing Palace and the impressive Kurjey Lhakhang (temple) on the western side of Bumthang Chhu (river). Jakar Dzong (‘Castle of the White Bird’) was built by Minjur Tenpa, the third Druk Desi (Temporal ruler) in 1646 A.D. It is probably one of the biggest Dzongs in Bhutan with the surrounding walls about a kilometer in circumference. Jambay Lhakhang is one of the oldest temples in the kingdom.
       
      Duration: 5 to 6 hours
      Difficulty: Easy to moderate
      Overnight: Mountain Lodge or Swiss Guest House, Bumthang

      Day 9 - Thursday, November 7



      BUMTHANG TO PARO BY A DOMESTIC FLIGHT

      A domestic flight flies to Paro from Bumthang (Approximately 40 minutes). Your vehicle will be waiting for you at the Paro International Airport to transfer you to COMO Uma Paro, a 10-minute drive. After you return to the hotel, you can spend the rest of the day relaxing in the calm setting or try your hand at archery, Bhutan’s national sport.
       
      **Please note: Domestic flight is prone to cancellation and delay for notorious weather in remote areas and sometimes operational complications which could be happen in particular in Bhutan. **
       
      OPTIONAL: DRAKHARPO MONASTERY AND ARCHERY LESSON

      After a short drive from COMO Uma Paro, begin a 90-minute walk to Drakharpo Monastery, which has a small community of monks living nearby. The main temple room is precariously perched on the edge of a rocky cliff. There are some sacred sites to view, including the body imprint of Vajrayogini and a stone boot belonging to Guru Rinpoche. The monastery is built on a mountain dotted with underground caves.

      In the afternoon, we invite you to try Bhutan’s two most popular sports on COMO Uma Paro’s own archery ground (Bha Cho). Archery is the national sport of Bhutan, and every village has its own archery range. High-spirited competitions, usually accompanied by a banquet, are part of all festive occasions. Using bamboo bows, teams of archers shoot at targets only 30 centimeters in diameter from a distance of 140 meters. Each team has a noisy crowd of supporters. Khuru is another very popular traditional Bhutanese game played in most villages.
       
      Duration: 5 to 6 hours
      Difficulty: Easy to moderate
      Overnight: COMO Uma Paro

      Day 10 - Friday, November 8


      PARO VALLEY – TAKTSANG HIKE (TIGER’S NEST) – UGYEN TSEMO – ZANGTOPELRI

      Today you will hike up to and explore Taktsang (or ‘Tiger’s Nest’) Monastery, one of Bhutan’s most important and iconic cultural sites in Bhutan. According to legend, this Cliffside is where Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) landed on the back of a flying tigress, bringing Buddhism to Bhutan from Tibet. The trip starts early in order to avoid the hot sun during the two-hour climb to the Tiger’s Nest viewpoint. We have a steep hike passing a waterfall and end among beautiful murals at the monastery’s main entrance. If time allows, there is the possibility of heading further up to visit remote temples of Zangtopelri, built in 1853, which sits on the opposite ridge, overlooking Taktsang, this is the spot to get the best pictures of Tiger’s Nest. Continue higher on the summit of the ridge directly above Taktsang Pelphung, to Ugyen Tsemo. It contains beautiful frescoes of Guru Padmakara. The view from Ugyen Tsemo is worth the climb. Then descend and have a picnic lunch.

      After lunch you will return to the lodge, where you have the evening at leisure before the final night’s dinner. You will have time to recharge before our farewell dinner and make use of the steam rooms and swimming pools or indulge in one of the SPA treatments.

      Duration: 7 to 8 hours

      Difficulty: Moderate to Hard
      Overnight: COMO Uma Paro


      Day 11 - Saturday, November 9

      DEPARTURE

      Your 10-minute transfer to Paro International Airport will be arranged according to your flight schedule.


      PLEASE NOTE

      This itinerary is intended as a guide only. Routes and weather conditions may mean variations to the program, which may affect the availability of views and panoramas described. Please be aware that all times stated are approximate, and may vary with individual and group fitness and interest levels.

      COMO Uma Bhutan provides complimentary drinking water for all guided itineraries. If you have any special dietary requirements, please advise us in advance. Where stated, trips include lunch picnics prepared by our chefs. Please place your picnic order the day before departure through your guide or at the Activity Desk. Throughout your stay, you have the option to participate in a range of extra outdoor activities at an additional fee.



    • Payment

      A $2995 deposit, along with the single room supplement should you choose it, is due at the time of registration. Balance will be due on July 30, 2024.

      Withdrawal and Refund Policy

      Enrollment is limited to 7 participants, and once you sign up, we are counting on your attendance. If you need to withdraw from this workshop, please notify us in writing (email is acceptable) as soon as possible. This is our refund policy:

      If you cancel and we find someone to fill your seat, we will refund you the full amount you have paid towards the tuition, minus a $250 service charge. If you cancel and we cannot find someone to fill your seat, then you will be refunded according to the following schedule:

      At least 90 days before the start of the workshop: Full refund minus $250 service fee.
      Between 89 and 60 days before the start of the workshop: 75% refund
      Between 59 and 45 days before the start of the workshop: 50% refund
      Less than 45 days from the start of the workshop: No refund

      Course Cancellation and Other Terms

      Leica Store Miami reserves the right to cancel a reservation if full payment has not been received by 90 days prior to the start of the workshop.

      In the event that this workshop must be canceled due to inadequate enrollment, all fees and deposits will be refunded in full or may be transferred to another workshop within 24 months.

      In the unlikely event of illness, accident or injury to one of the instructors, Leica Store Miami reserves the right to replace that instructor with a comparable instructor.

      In the event of a natural disaster or severe weather event, Leica Store Miami reserves the right to postpone or cancel the workshop.

      Comprehensive Travel Insurance (required - you must carry your insurance certificate with you while traveling in Bhutan)

      Leica Store Miami is not responsible for cancellations or trip interruptions due to medical or personal emergencies. To protect your investment should an emergency arise before or during this trip, we require all participants acquire comprehensive travel insurance for this trip. Since Bhutan is a remote country, make sure that your policy has at least $500,000 in medical evacuation coverage along with more standard coverage for medical emergencies, trip cancellation and trip interuption. Companies like Travelex and Allianz Global Assistance are reputable but you can choose any vendor you like. Leica Store Miami is not responsible for reimbursement of non-refundable airline tickets in the event of a workshop cancellation.

      Camera Gear Insurance (STRONGLY recommended)

      We advise all of our workshop attendees to insure their camera gear against damage, theft, loss, etc. If your gear is not already insured, check with your home owner's insurance to see if they offer coverage. There are several photo specific insurance policies out there as well.

      Communicable Illness Protocols

      Our main goal on all of our tours is to keep everyone safe. To that end, we ask that everyone do their best to avoid exposure to communicable diseases like Covid-19, influenza, RSV, etc before and during our trip. If someone in our group becomes ill on the trip and we deem it to be harmful to the group, we reserve the right to remove them from group activities where social distancing is not possible.

      Single Room Policy

      If you sign-up for double occupancy room sharing and there are no other attendees to pair you with, you will be responsible for paying the single room supplement.


      Transfers

      If for any reason you wish to transfer your deposit or workshop fee, please notify us by email. You must register and complete a new workshop within 24 months of the withdrawal. We reserve the right to accept or deny any transfer.

      There are no exceptions to our Cancellation and Transfer Policy.




    Click here to email us any questions about this workshop




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