It would be difficult for any photographer to take a bad picture in Bhutan! From the day I arrived to the day I had to leave, I was constantly inspired and captivated by everything around me – the stunning scenery, colourful buildings, gorgeous architecture, and the beautiful traditional dress of its citizens. Here are my favourite places to take that once-in-a-lifetime wedding picture to treasure:
DOCHULA PASS (above)
This spiritual mountain pass with 108 memorial chortens (or stupas) holding effigies of Buddha and religious text is located on the way to Punakha from Thimphu, the capital and largest city of Bhutan. Its stunning 360-degree panoramic view of the Himalayan mountain range is a favourite for tourists and locals. It is especially scenic on clear winter days. The snow-capped mountains are a majestic backdrop to the tranquillity of the chortens gracing the pass.
Best Picture Spot: At the top of the grassy mound with the many stupas below you, and the mountains behind you.
Alias Kuensel Phodrang, Buddha Point, which sits atop a hill in Kuenselphodrang Nature Park, has the biggest statue of a sitting Shakyamuni Buddha in the world that contains 125,000 smaller Buddha statues. One of the main sponsors for its construction hails from Singapore. The entire area was developed with the 51.5m statue, made of bronze and gilded in gold, and its temple as the main focal points, and was completed last year.
Best Picture Spot: At the edge of the development, which overlooks the southern entrance to Thimphu Valley.
TIGER’S NEST (OR PARO TAKTSANG)
Probably the most iconic and religious place in Bhutan, Tiger’s Nest is a must if you can manage the steep climb that takes up to three and a half hours. The winding rocky, and sometimes muddy, path up the side of the cliff, 914m above the Paro Valley, has some of the most amazing views of Bhutan. You may experience some breathlessness during the climb as the air is much thinner that high up, but if you take your time, the journey is very scenic.
Best Picture Spot: There is a viewing platform directly opposite the temple, and right before the final leg of the journey, that is the spot for a grand picture with the temple as your backdrop. The only drawback: waiting for the clouds to clear to get that shot.
TACHOGANG LHAKHANG SUSPENSION BRIDGE (above)
Built in the 15th century, this iron cable suspension bridge may not look like anything much from the road, but it’s actually a scenic treasure with many lovely angles for pictures. The bridge straddles the Thimphu River, linking pedestrians to Tachogang Lhakhang temple, and is festooned with hundreds of colourful flags.
Best Picture Spot: At the start of the bridge with the cables, flags and towering mountain range behind you.
Built in 1629, this dzong or fortress overlooks the entire Thimphu valley and is home to the country’s Institute for Language and Cultural Studies, student monks and a monastic school. Its facade and inner courtyard are fine examples of traditional Bhutanese architecture with decorative trims and religious symbols.
Best Picture Spots: Anywhere around or inside the dzong. The main staircase leading to the dzong and inner temple is a dramatic backdrop. Also, the friendly monks won’t mind being in your picture.
SANGCHHEN DORJI LHUENDRUP
If you’re in Punakha, drop by this hilltop nunnery and temple complex that is actually only a few years old. It takes about 45 minutes to trudge through the muddy padi fields at the foot of the hill, and then trek upwards to the place. But it is well worth it. You get stunning vistas of the whole valley around you and, if you climb to the top of the temple’s golden stupa, you will have a view that seems to go on forever. There is also a larger stupa in the compound that is patterned after the famous Boudhanath stupa, the holiest Tibetan Buddhist temple outside Tibet.
Best Picture Spot: A the top of the temple’s stupa, or the first level of the bigger white stupa.
If you’re staying in Paro town, it takes about four hours by car to reach this other iconic building in Punakha, where the wedding of the King of Bhutan, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, and Jetsun Pema, was held in 2011.
Best Picture Spots: Arguably one of the most beautiful dzongs in the country, I was unable to take any pictures inside, but there are many spots around the building that offer beautiful angles. Two of my favourite locations for truly romantic shots are on the bridge leading to Punakha Dzong, and by the riverbank with the dzong behind you.
This story was first published in Her World Brides Sept 2016.