Bhutan for Photographers


Situated at the eastern end of the magnificent Himalayas, Bhutan is truly a magical place, full of myth and legend.  The people of this mountainous country strive to hold onto their rich cultural heritage, despite the recent introduction of some modern influences. Visiting Bhutan is like taking a step back in time, but with your camera.  The warm friendly people of Bhutan make it an ideal place for cultural photography.  And, if you join a photo tour, you can be sure to visit sites that have been specifically selected for their photogenic qualities.  So what makes this place so special for photographers?


1. Festivals provide some of the best photo opportunities you will ever experience


A festival in Bhutan includes elaborate masked dances, unique musical instruments, colorful synchronized dances, local people dressed in their traditional best and sporting events found nowhere else.  But to capture all this you need to attend a festival that offers unlimited access for photographers.  A small or private festival is generally better than the large festivals in Thimphu or Paro.  This is sure to be one of the highlights of any photo tour to Bhutan or pick one with a festival that appeals to you.


2. The people are friendly and willing to be photographed


The people in Bhutan are very friendly and they are officially the happiest in south Asia.  Their government measures Gross National Happiness the way other countries measure Gross Domestic Product.   Many people still wear the traditional dress every day and love to have their picture taken.


3. Bhutan has a lot of historical sites


Bhutan has a long history and many of its old dzongs (forts) and monasteries are still in use today.  So you can photograph both the historical architecture and the local people who work and worship there.


4. There are monasteries, chortens and stupas everywhere


Chortens and stupas and the monasteries that maintain them are numerous and photogenic.  Some, like Tiger’s Nest, hang on the edge of a cliff while others are the only structure in a valley.


5. Monks and nuns make great models


The Buddhist monks and nuns living in the monasteries are usually willing to pose for pictures as long as they are not in the middle of a ceremony.  They make a colorful addition to photos of ancient fortresses and monasteries.


6. The country is not overrun with tourists


Bhutan has not been a tourist destination for a very long time.  Once it was open, the number of tourists were limited and even today the number of tourists visiting the country is limited by the few flights into the country.


7. It’s like stepping back in time to a simpler world


Bhutan has chosen to preserve its culture and limit outside influences.  Modern life and technology are moving in but very slowly, especially in rural areas.  The people are very hospitable people and they love foreigners.  This provides great opportunities to see and photograph people, villages and practices long forgotten in other parts of the world.


8. The mountain passes are spiritual.


Bhutan has many high mountain passes where views of the Himalayas are possible but shrines and prayer flags make them especially photogenic.  And, the ceremony to bless new prayer flags makes great images too.


9. The mountainous wilderness is a great experience.


Sixty percent of Bhutan is still covered with forests that have numerous trails – many that lead to dzongs or monasteries high in the mountains.  Hiking to a monastery that is several hours away from anything else is quite an experience and the clean wilderness around it makes very striking photos.


10. Even the sky is photogenic.


Most of Bhutan is above 5,000 ft.  The air is crisp and cool.  There is very little environmental pollution so you are less likely to have a hazy sky that so many places have and more likely to have clear blue skies.


May your travel and your photography both be rewarding!


    Roger Nelson