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Insider Journey to Bhutan

March 16, 2023 - Jimmy Nelson’s photographs are an iconic visual document of indigenous communities. Travel with him on a 5-Valley Khamsa in Bhutan from April 10 to 22, to see the Kingdom through his lens as he brings into focus the fast-disappearing sentinels of their cultural heritage, who live in harmony with themselves and the natural world. You’ll be contributing to the mission of the Jimmy Nelson Foundation to help safeguard this heritage for future generations.

Through his art, Jimmy Nelson immortalizes the diversity of indigenous cultures but also what connects them – their pride, dignity, strength, and resilience – and ultimately inspires us all to consider what it is to be human.

Jimmy is a big believer in the importance of travel to help us learn and open our hearts to our diversity and our shared humanity. His journey actually has little to do with photography, a camera, or a lens. That’s only one medium he uses to fulfill his perpetual curiosity of discovery and quest for beauty. What it’s really about is using the world and the others in the world as a mirror so we can understand ourselves. Ultimately, the journey is never complete. It’s not about making pictures but about being alive and being aware.

The world does not belong to us. We belong to the world.

In our first ever “Insider Journey” series, Jimmy will be leading a small group in conjunction with Six Senses Bhutan on a journey to the roof of the world, one of the last land-locked Kingdoms, hidden away in the Himalayas and imbued with mystery and mysticism. You’ll discover communities where humans are still invested in living sustainably. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Jimmy Nelson Foundation.

From April 10 to 22, Jimmy will lead you on a 12-night Khamsa through Bhutan’s western and central valleys: from Paro to Bumthang, Gangtey, Punakha, and Thimpu. You’ll be staying at Six Senses lodges all the way, taking in rugged mountains, fluttering prayer flags adorned with mantras, sloping alpine forests, and temple-studded valleys on your guided circuit. But here, the focus will be as much on people as your arm-long list of must-see sights. They are our guides and custodians of ancient knowledge.

The following are just a few of the experiences planned for this special journey:

Blessings: A hike to Taktsang Goemba, better known as Tiger’s Nest and one of the most significant monasteries in Bhutan, is an iconic pilgrimage for visitors to the Kingdom. Visit an ancient farmhouse the day before the hike to meet a master pray flag maker. One of the few remaining custodians of this ancient art form, he will guide you in making your own flags, printed with sacred mantras to be hung in the pine forest on your ascent to the Goemba.

Pilgrimage Trail: Bumthang, the original capital of Bhutan, is home to some of the Kingdom’s oldest and most important religious sites. Trek or bike between Jambay Lhakhang where you can circumambulate the temple with locals before continuing to Kurjey Lhakhang to drink holy spring water to cleanse your body, speech, and mind. Your last stop will be Tamzhing Lhakhang, built by Terton Pema Lingpa, the great treasure discoverer.

Ceremonies: In Gangtey, attend an evening prayer ritual at ancient Damchen Lkahkang. Light butter lamps to dispel darkness before dining with a local family by candlelight in a traditional village cowshed.

Education: In Punakha, hike across the valley’s lush rice fields past earthen farmhouses and join local children on their way to school. Some shy, some cheeky, they’ll be very happy sharing their walk to school with you. Continue climbing through the forest to arrive above the clouds in time for a traditional vegetarian breakfast with the 50 young resident monks of Chorten Ningpo. Afterwards, you might enjoy interacting with some of them as they play football or attend English class or take a tour with the Lama to explore the monastery.

Rituals: Throughout your stay, you will be guided in auspicious Buddhist practices to gain merit and dispel bad karma. In Paro, you may perform a mandala making ritual to hone your concentration and to bring awareness to the importance of living in the moment. In Thimphu, as your journey draws to a close, your GEM will assist you in offering a butter lamp at the lodge’s Prayer Pavilion, surrounded by meditative reflecting ponds.

Finish each day squeezing the last rays of the sun into your cocktail on the terrace or in front of the wood-fired hearth in the lounge. Swap stories around long tables during convivial dinners with buckwheat noodles and momos, red rice, and hot peppers, and head to our spas for a pampering Holistic Massage and traditional Bhutanese Dotsho hot stone bath.

The Insider Journey to Bhutan with Jimmy Nelson includes the following:

  • Twelve nights’ accommodation (three nights in Paro, three nights in Bumthang, three nights in Gangtey, two nights in Punakha and a night in Thimphu)
  • Full board as described in the program including non-alcoholic beverages
  • Private Six Senses GEM guide, driver, and vehicle throughout your journey
  • Entrance to all sites, monuments and museums as described in the itinerary

For more information and to book, please email reservations-bhutan@sixsenses.com

About Jimmy Nelson

Since his first trip at 17 to Tibet in 1987, Jimmy Nelson has traveled to over 70 indigenous communities, many of which are featured in his books "Before They Pass Away" and "Homage to Humanity". Although the title for this iconic artistic document strikes some as fatalistic, the pride, strength and resilience of the people who have posed for his lens have inspired him. "Before" signals a moment of opportunity, a call for action and an appeal. To that end, he has set up the Jimmy Nelson Foundation to “Inspire humanity to create a deeper connection with their own cultural identity and each other and help safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage for future generations."

On the occasion of the United Nation’s World Day for Cultural Diversity for dialogue and development, Wunderman Thompson India created and released ‘#SOS Save Our Sentinels – The Blink Film’ for The Jimmy Nelson Foundation in May 2020. The short film is a powerful visual commentary on the cultural identity of the last sentinels of our natural reserves, the last 36 indigenous tribes standing still, in rare still photographs. Stitched together from thousands of original documented photographs of the last few indigenous tribes interspersed with the rarest footage of their ancient habitats over the last twenty years by celebrated photographer Jimmy Nelson and his team.

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