Leica Photo Adventure: Bhutan | June 15-21, 2023
$11,995 ($2,995 Deposit)
We've partnered with photographer Michael Turek and the 5-star hotel brand, COMO, to create a luxury excursion in the kingdom of Bhutan. On this Himalayan photo adventure curated by COMO, we will traverse Bhutan's dramatic landscape across both Paro and Punakha valleys, photographing architectural, cultural and natural wonders. 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.
Documentary photographer Michael Turek will be your 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 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 an 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.
This is chance to examine, appreciate and interpret Bhutan with a professional editorial and documentary photographer. With Michael’s support, participants will be able to experience Bhutan in a way that will not only hone their technical and interpretative skills as photographers, but also enormously enhance their awareness, knowledge and understanding of the places they visit and allow them to interact with the places and people in a deeper way.
If you have an interest in analog photography, this is an opportunity to work with a professional who specializes in this medium. Of course, digital photographers are welcome as well and will receive full technical support and feedback.
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 the region put together by COMO Hotels:
Highlights of this trip
- Ascend to Labana La Pass (4,210m), which is adorned with offerings to the God of the Mountains
- Visit Taktsang "Tiger's Nest" Monastery, one of Bhutan's architectural highlights.
- Visit the highest pass in Bhutan, Chele La Pass.
- Trek one of Bhutan's oldest trails and photograph the amazing mountain views.
- Engage with young monks at Chorten Ningpo, a Buddhist educational institution built on spirited ground that dates back to the 17th century.
- Visit the largest bronze statue of a bodhisattva in Bhutan, created entirely by local Bhutanese artisans at the Sangchen Lhuendrup Nunnery.
- Visit Ta Dzong, the national museum of Bhutan.
- Pay respects at Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the country's oldest temples.
- Visit the 300 year old Punakha Dzong, the winter residence of the Central Monastic Body and where many major royal events take place.
Thursday, June 15 - Wednesday, June 21, 2023
$11,995 - Double occupancy lodging (Single room available for an additional $1495). A $2995 deposit is required to hold your spot.
Limited to 10 attendees
Included in the cost of the trip:
Double occupancy lodging with private facilities in 5-star hotels (Single room available for an additional $1495). Accommodation for three nights at COMO Uma Paro and three nights at COMO Uma Punakha.
- Full board including picnic lunches during excursion days (excludes beverages)
- Five-and-a-half days of privately guided excursions, taking in the highlights of the Paro, Thimphu and Punakha Valleys
- The services of an experienced English-speaking Bhutanese guide
- All COMO Shambhala treatments in the itinerary along with one additional 60-minute COMO Shambhala body treatment of your choice
- Access to the library, swimming pool, steam room and gym at COMO Uma Paro
- One-hour daily yoga classes at COMO Uma Paro (except Sundays)
- Private airport transfers and transport around Bhutan
- All Bhutanese government visa and sustainable development fees, service charge and sales tax
- All entry fees and road permits
- In the field photography instruction by Michael Turek
- Lightroom and editing instruction 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 workshop
- Gratuities for local guide/drivers
- 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. To get to Bhutan, we recommend flying Drukair from Bangkok, Singapore, Kolkata, or Kathmandu. If you need assistance with this portion of your travel or if you'd like to book extra room nights in Bhutan, please contact Como hotels at email@example.com.
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.
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, and at times wet and muddy. The ascent to the Tiger’s Nest is particularly steep (4-mile round trip hike that ascends 1700 feet), although scrambling and technical mountaineering equipment is not necessary. Expect the weather and temperature to be mixed with the possibility of occasional showers with notable humidity in the Punakha valley. A camera backpack is strongly recommended as are hiking sticks if you like them.
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.
Turek on why he chooses film:
“Shooting on film is an entirely different experience than capturing images digitally. The limitations of film force you to be more intentional about your choices, making you feel more engaged with the scene you are photographing. Using film heightens the awareness of your own vision which promotes a deeper sense of creative concentration. Analog photography isn’t difficult. It’s far less technical than digital and much more forgiving. Instead of distracting you with the immediate feedback of a digital camera and the endless adjustments of Photoshop, shooting on film liberates your creativity and enhances your perception.”
To sign up for our photo adventure to Bhutan, checkout here on our website, email us (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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 April 1, 2023.
We look forward to seeing you in Bhutan!
Day 1 - Thursday, June 15
ARRIVAL IN PARO, CHECK-IN AND LOCAL SIGHTSEEING
Upon arrival at Paro International Airport, you will be greeted by staff from COMO Uma Paro before embarking on the 10-minute transfer to the property. After checking in and spending some time settling into your new surroundings, we will take you on the first foray into the Himalayan kingdom, with sightseeing in Paro town and a temple visit. This afternoon trip allows you to acclimatize to the rarefied air at this altitude as well as the chance to get to know Michael Turek. In the early evening, we'll gather for a welcome dinner at the hotel's restaurant.
Overnight: COMO Uma Paro
Day 2 - Friday, June 16
DRIVE PARO TO PUNAKHA VALLEY VIA THIMPHU AND DOCHU LA
If you choose to, your guide will arrange to bring you to a nearby monastery for a butter lamp ceremony – as a spiritual blessing and welcome to the kingdom – before embarking on your day. During this symbolic Buddhist ceremony, you will witness monks lighting lamps filled with ghee, in place of the originally used yak butter. The ceremony is meant to dispel ignorance, celebrate the fluidity of life and acknowledge the interdependency of nature.
During the journey from COMO Uma Paro to COMO Uma Punakha, you can stop off in the nation’s largest city, Thimphu, with an immersive tour taking in some of the major attractions, including the Buddha Dordenma statue, the National Memorial Chorten, a view of Trashi Chhoe Dzong and the Folk Heritage Museum (exact tour itinerary varies). The capital city sprawls across the wooded western hillside of the Wang Chhu River, surrounded by verdant rice paddies and towering peaks.
After leaving Thimphu, the drive to Punakha becomes even more 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 - Saturday, June 17
CHIMMI LHAKHANG, PUNAKHA DZONG AND KHAMSUM YULLEY NAMGYAL CHORTEN
The morning starts with a short walk across farmhouses and rice paddies to reach Chimmi Lhakhang, a 15th-century fertility temple dedicated to Drukpa Kuenley, a Tibetan Buddhist saint, perhaps better known as the ‘Divine Madman’. This site has long been a pilgrimage for couples hoping to start a family, adorned with colorful fertility symbols and bold statues.
Heading further down the valley, the 300-year-old Punakha Dzong comes into view. Built in the 17th century by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (who founded the Kingdom of Bhutan), the 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 1,000 red-robed monks.
After lunch, the tour takes you on a walk through homesteads and farmland to Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten, a hilltop shrine built by the royal family. This is a full day of exploration through the lush Punakha Valley, which, at 1,200m, is low enough for bananas and oranges to grow alongside the footpath.
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Overnight: COMO Uma Punakha
Day 4 - Sunday, June 18
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 - Monday, June 19
PUNAKHA VALLEY TO PARO, CHUZOM AND DARKARPO
Retrace your steps back over the Dochu La pass for a second chance to view the Himalayan mountain range. After reaching Paro Shaba, time permitting, drive 30 minutes to Drakarpo Monastery. The temple is precariously perched on the edge of a rocky cliff and is one of the main sacred sites in Bhutan. Here you will find the body-imprint of Vajra-yogini and a stone boot believed to belong to Guru Rinpoche, venerated widely by adherents of Tibetan Buddhism as a “second Buddha”. The final part of the drive to COMO Uma Paro is through apple orchards and rice paddies back to our mountain home, where you can spend the rest of the day in this calming setting. One popular option is to try your hand at archery, Bhutan’s national sport.
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Overnight: COMO Uma Paro
Day 6 - Tuesday, June 20
PARO VALLEY – TAKTSANG HIKE (TIGER’S NEST) – UGYEN TSEMO – ZANGTOPELRI
The historical Paro Valley is the focus of today’s activities, culminating in a visit to the Taktsang ‘Tiger’s Nest’ Monastery, one of Bhutan’s most important pieces of architecture. 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 – a steep hike passing a waterfall and ending 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 return to COMO Uma Paro, where you can recharge on your final night, enjoying the steam rooms, gym and swimming pool or indulging in one of our COMO Shambhala treatments.
Difficulty: Moderate to Hard
Overnight: COMO Uma Paro
Your 10-minute transfer to Paro International Airport will be arranged according to your flight schedule.
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.
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 April 1, 2023.
Withdrawal and Refund Policy
Enrollment is limited to 10 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.
Our main priority during our workshops is customer safety. To that end, we will follow all CDC and NIH guidelines for Covid-19 safety during our trips. We will continue to monitor these guidelines as conditions may change over time.
Please be aware that some destinations may require proof of a vaccine and/or negative Covid-19 test upon arrival.
If a participant exhibits Covid-19 symptoms during the trip, we will isolate them from the group and get them medical attention. In this event, we reserve the right to cancel the rest of the workshop.
In the event that the CDC or other government agencies have restricted travel at the time of this workshop, we will allow participants to transfer their workshop fee to another workshop or to store credit, or receive a full refund.
Medical Insurance (required)
Emergency medical insurance through a provider like Allianz or similar is required to participate in any of Leica Store Miami's international workshop.
Travel Insurance (STRONGLY recommended)
Leica Store Miami is not responsible for cancellations due to medical or personal emergencies so we highly recommend purchasing travel Insurance. Companies like Travelex and Allianz Global Assistance are reputable but you can choose any vendor you like. Just make sure that they have an A+ rating from the BBB.
You should be aware that some policies may not cover travel to Bhutan and may not cover activities such as trekking, mountain biking and rafting. Please ensure that your policy provides a sufficient level of protection and covers you for the activities involved in this package. You must carry proof of insurance (e.g. your insurance certificate) with you in Bhutan.
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.
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.
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