Nepal is best known for Everest and the incomparable Himalaya Range. It also has rugged valleys that connect the snow-capped giants from the north with the tropical jungles in the south. As it slowly shuffles into the modern era, this small, deeply spiritual enclave, still grabs on tightly to its’ colorful, ancient history while showing off its natural grandeur with a tremendous variety of eco-systems and native languages that are found everywhere you look. Nepal is a photographers dream come true. It has the natural beauty, it has ancient traditions and it has friendly people who are not camera-shy, nor camera-weary like other places. Our experience has been nothing short of ecstasy as we walk anywhere making photos of anything we like and no one really cares as they go about their business. Most Nepalis are as interested in you as you may be in them and they are not bothered if you want to take their photo, as long as you politely ask first. We are limiting this tour to 10 people so everyone has ample time to learn and get personal tips and instruction from Sergio as we go from one exotic location to another. We highly suggest you book immediately so you have a spot for an upcoming unforgettable photo journey into the heart of Nepal.
Our journey begins and ends in the capital city of Kathmandu which has a nice mix of international air carriers providing multiple daily flights. Our goal is to put you at the right place so you can make great images and have time to review and improve your photographic vision and technique throughout the trip while we take care of the logistics. The itinerary describes the day-to-day journey and the images show you the beauty of Nepal and its people. Our recommendation is…you should join us for this photo tour where we explore the chaotic streets of Kathmandu and it’s many religious temples as well as little villages where time really is in no hurry. After our initial month-long scouting trip in February/March 2013 we’ve designed this 15-day itinerary that will provide endless (no exaggeration) photo ops everywhere you go. We have a team of native Nepalis who know every nook and cranny and how to get there.
This tour is led by Sergio Ballivian with his friend and Nepali guide Lamababu Sherpa, a wonderful and caring man with extensive knowledge of all things in Nepal. All photos shown here were shot during the scouting trip, so you can imagine the possibilities! Sergio Ballivian, a Bolivian professional photographer based in Boulder, Colorado is the founder President of Explore Bolivia. He has been making photos for over 30 years and has been published across a great variety of media – books, magazines, catalogs, online, etc. He does assignments and commissioned work as well as self-assignments and has an extensive stock library represented by Tandem Stock and a few others. He has led photographic tours to Bolivia, Peru, Chile and New Zealand. An expert lightroom tutor while on the tours and a helpful hand to the amateur photographers in learning, understanding and getting better with digital photography is a wise photographer who considers the necessity of pure soul for the perfect photography. He uses laptops in the field to teach his guests the subtle details of how they shot, how they should shoot and organize, edit, process and archive their images. He is an avid photographer and his photography tour is to blend two loves- travel and photography. He enjoys capturing the photographs of grand landscapes and the images evoking the realities. He believes in the fact that people around the world have diverse points of view yet they all share one thing that is their humanity and spirit to live, wherever they may be and whatever the climate and landscape demand of them. He believes in an opportunity to experience something that is out of the ordinary.
Arrival in Kathmandu (KTM), airport pick-up and transfer to the hotel. After checking in and a brief rest, we head to the Thamel neighborhood to see the controlled chaos Kathmandu is known for, which provides endless photo ops for street photography! We have a group dinner in the evening at a local restaurant. Overnight at Kathmandu.
After breakfast, you will drive towards Swayambhunath also known as Monkey Temple, the site lying on a hill overlooking the Kathmandu valley is a sacred Buddhist destination. The maroon robed monks enchanting the holy prayers and the mega statues of Buddha indulged in different sects is a great opportunity to take hold of the practices of rich Buddhist culture. This prehistoric site is also popular for its gigantic stupa. After finishing the tour at Swayambhunath we will take you to Boudhanath, where you will grab an oppourtunity for the insightful peep into the invaluable culture attached to Tibetan Budddhist.This may make you feel like you have just been to a spiritual journey. Bouddhanath is the largest dome shaped stupa of the country where the practices of Buddhism can be observed at its best. Overnight at Kathmandu.
After an early breakfast we depart to the airport for the 30-minute flight to Chitwan National Park (world heritage site) in the south-central part of Nepal, near the border with India. After a 30-minute vehicle transfer to our lodge, we head to the elephant breeding center to see these majestic animals and understand how they live and what they do. Lunch. We head to the crocodile breeding center to see them being raised to re-populate their dwindling numbers and disperse them over various regions where they have a chance for survival. Dinner at the lodge. .
An early departure is necessary for the elephant safari. At the staging area we climb into a small 'crib' that is anchored to the back of the elephant. We are only letting 2 people on per elephant so each person has ample room to photograph (as opposed to 4 with normal commercial rides). The ride is far from 'smooth' but there are plenty of photo ops as long as you communicate to the mhaute (elephant driver) that you want to make a photo. The elevated vantage point is a great advantage and provides a good safety margin incase a Bengal tiger shows up. The elephant safari will be between 2-3 hours, and we'll be traveling through dense elephant grass that can grow up to 18-20 ft. in height and is the favorite habitat for rhinoceros and other animals. Afterward we have the opportunity to see the elephants getting a bath, which provides great photos. Lunch at Tigerland Safari Resort. In the afternoon we head into the park once again, this time via jeeps. We are only taking 3 people per jeep (plus the driver) so each person has ample room to photograph from all angles. We finish the afternoon with a canoe paddle down the Rapti Tiver where we can see crocodiles, birds and a great variety of wildlife and return to the lodge via jeep. You have an option of going on a hike with a birder/naturalist instead of the canoe ride. Dinner at the lodge. .
Today we have an all-day drive with a stop at Palpa, a small traditional village perched on the side of a mountain where we'll stop and make photos. Lunch en route. We will arrive in the lakeside city of Pokhara in the late afternoon. Many people consider this the most beautiful part of Nepal and we would agree. The many lakes in the region are within easy view of the giant Annapurna massif where 3 out of the 10 tallest peaks in the world - Dhaulagiri, Annapurna I and Manaslu - are situated within 30 miles from the city, as the crow flies. This is Nepal's 2nd largest city and it has plenty of amenities if you need anything. We will cross the lake to our hotel for dinner..
Without a doubt the view from the World Peace Stupa north towards the Annapurna massif and the whole Himalaya Range is hard to beat! To take advantage of this, we will depart before sunrise for a short drive up the mountain then walk the last few hundred meters to the Stupa very likely in the dark (so bring your headlamps!). As the sun rises on the eastern horizon you will see the giant Himalayan mountains catch on fire and slowly emerge from their cold slumber. The photo ops from here are endless, whether you are shooting the mountains, Lake Phewa or are in the forest below. We hike down for about 45 minutes and catch a boat and return to our hotel for a much-deserved breakfast. The rest of the morning is free for you to relax, get caught up on your photo editing or exploring the lush grounds for more photo ops. Lunch. After lunch we head to a Tibetan refugee center near Pokhara to see what these people are learning and doing as they make a living by making clothes, rugs and other items for sale and to help their families who are also refugees or may still be in Tibet. Dinner at a local restaurant. .
We drive north from Pokhara to Sauli Bazzar (via Birethainti) for a couple of hours. From the end of the road we begin our trek up and into the heart of the Himalayas to see how people live in these steep and rugged mountains. The trek takes about three hours as we slowly ascend the stone steps that wind from one village to another. Lunch en route. There are photo ops everywhere one looks, so keep a sharp eye out for anything that catches your attention. Upon arrival in Gandruk, we will check into a basic tea house - very typical of the region where one can get everything from a bed to a hot shower and a meal. Overnight at a typical Nepali tea house. .
Our route meanders through open fields, dense Rhododendron forest and pine forest as we take to the trail often paved with stones as we pass through quaint villages. It's sometimes hard to comprehend how the Nepali people manage to live on these steep and imposing mountains as they effortlessly scramble easily from a crop field to another, hop over a stone wall and race up a few hundred steps to gather or chop some wood. Since our porters are carrying our gear we only need to worry about a small day pack so you can concentrate on making photos along the way. Lunch en route. The trek is about 4 hours at a steady pace and we will arrive in Tadapani in the afternoon. After some rest, we will have dinner. Overnight at a typical Nepali teahouse. .
Today will be the longest trekking day of the trip so we need to depart early. We need to keep a steady pace and keep moving as today we will be on the trail for about 7 hours. Slow and steady is the way to do it while making photos along the way. Lunch en route. We will arrive at the hill-top village of Ghorepani with stellar views of the Annapurna Massif right in front of our eyes! We should arrive in the later afternoon, just before dinner. Overnight at a typical Nepali teahouse. Tomorrow is an alpine start (before sunrise) in order to hike about an hour to PoonHill for the sunrise, so going to bed early is recommended!.
We get up very early as we need an hour to hike up to Poon Hill so we can be there before sunrise. The trail is easy so all one needs to do is walk a steady pace and before you know it, you'll be on top looking at Annapurna rising above your head! There is an observation tower here if you want to get an eagle's view of the region. There are lots of views to enjoy and photograph here before we head down to have breakfast in Ghorepani. We continue going down and head to the village of Hile, about 5 hours down the hill. As always, there are lots of photo ops along the way so keep an eye out for them. Lunch en route. We will arrive in Hile in the late afternoon. Dinner. Overnight at a typical Nepali teahouse. .
Today is our last day of trekking and we should be done in about three hours when we arrive in Birethani, completing a small loop trek through the Himalaya mountains. Lunch en route. We will be picked-up by our vehicles and drive a couple of hours to Pokhara where we can once again indulge in modern amenities and our nice accommodations. We will check-in once again to Fishtail Resort and have time to shower, refresh and rest before dinner at the lodge. .
After a much-deserved sleep in luxury accommodations we depart to the airport in the morning and fly to Kathmandu. Upon arrival we are picked-up and head east to Bhaktapur, one of Nepal's oldest and most exotic cities, third largest in the country and listed as a World Heritage by UNESCO for its rich culture, temples, and wood, metal and stone artwork. We will have lunch here. After that, we continue east to Nagarkot, a town located on the top of a large 'hill' where we will get stunning views of the Langtang Range including Mt. Everest. Sunsets and sunrises from this location are breath-taking! Dinner and overnight at Nagarkot..
We will be ready for the sunrise (weather-willing) and hopefully get the stunning views from our hotel with little effort. We drive down the hill and visit Bhaktapur en route, then head to a village full of artisans in Kokhana. Lunch en route. We return to Kathmandu in the late afternoon. Dinner at a local restaurant. .
Today we visit Pasupatinath, a very special location where cremations are done following religious traditions and ancient customs. We'll also visit Patan, a city known for its rich cultural heritage, particularly its tradition of arts and crafts, festival and feasts, fine ancient art, and making of metallic and carved stone statues. Lunch en route. We return to Kathmandu and the rest of the afternoon is free for you to relax and enjoy Kathmandu at your own pace. Final dinner together at an appointed time. .
The morning is free for you to enjoy some last-minute shopping, finish packing and relax before we take you to the airport for your flight back home. Depending on the airline, there may be different departure schedules and we will coordinate with you for your preferred departure time..
We work with the motto "Tourism for Development". Explore Himalaya Community Service Project was conceived to empower underprivileged segments of Nepal.