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Kumbh Mela, Varanasi and Kathmandu Photo Tour

PRICE :   5,950 US$2019-11-24

A once in a lifetime India Photo Tour with intense stay in Varanasi and the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal. And the one in 12 years opportunity: The Kumbh Mela in Allahabad.

The two optional extensions: The first and most phenomenal is the Kumbh Mela pilgrinage in Allahabad, one of the biggest on earth. The second optional extension to the Taj Mahal, the pink and the blue cities, Jaipur and Jodhpur

The Main itinerary India portion will include a photographic immersion in Amristar, the Golden Temple and intense days in Varanasi. When in Nepal we will be in Kathmandu

 
Please visit my personal work on Varanasi , Varanasi Once Again as well as some posts on my Varanasi at dawn . This is where I took in 2012 the picture that won and later lost the National Geographic Photo World Contest. Here a few from Kathmandu.

Have a look at the Video 

HIGHLIGHTS

 

• Experience the energy and capture the bustle of the Kumbh Mela Fair, as naga babas, shamans, pilgrims and livestock throng towards the ritual bathing areas.(Optional Extension)

• The enjoyement of  photography with intensity accompanied by a professional travel photographer who understands the secrets of  Varanasi and Kathmandu. The hidden locations.

• Organised set photo sessions, special locations, discoveries. I am photographing India and Nepal at least three times each year since more than twelve years...

• The incredible experience of the Golden Temple in Amritsar with devotees and faithful coming to take their morning prayers Our daily life in Benares, staying beside the Ganges, in contact with the people of our Gaht: pilgrims, barbers, flower salesmen, boatmen, Holy Men and the occasional tourist.

• We will cross to the other side of the Ganges, rarely visited by anyone

• Enjoy a  photographic coverage of  the old city, the temples, and witness the vicissitudes of Varanasi and Kathmandu.

• The Gath’s, some hidden temples, the religious life on the Ganges.

• The early morning and evening ceremonies next to the river.

• Strolls along the streets of the city, the photographic corners observing the cultural diversity of the different ethnical groups.

• Dusk in Kathmandu, Bodnath  amazed by the sight of dozens of the faithful praying while they walk in concentric circles around the sacred Stupa illuminated by candlelight.

• Our stay in a different Bakhtapur, enjoying the life of the people and the city at very special locations.

• Our discovery of the Budhist monasteries in a different Kathmandu, enjoying the life of the people and the city at very special locations.

 

This is a very special Photo Tour for photographers of all levels and it will be about offering the maximum photographic opportunities.  A real Photo Tour  where we will conduct a few photographic reviews and discussions, but it will be mostly about  personal photographic contact with people.  A laptop and processing software (Photoshop, Lightroom, etc..) is recommended but you will enjoy the experience without them. 

With  two optional extensions. The first and most phenomenal is the Kumbh Mela at Allahabad.  The second  optional extension is a visit to  The Taj Mahal, Jaipur, Jodhpur   the most popular cities of Rajahstan . 

On the Kumbh Mela every 12 years, millions of pilgrims come to Allahabad to bathe and purify in one of the most magnificent events in India. There will be a veritable cornucopia of photo opportunities at our fingertips, as we will camp in comfortable big  tents.  And of course you will be guided by an expert in travel photography and the region: Harry Fisch.

This is a once in a lifetime chance to not only improve your photo skills, but at the same time immerse yourself in the magic of this amazing human experience, with one of the best photographers and experts on the Indian World!

On the main itinerary we will be visiting the Golden Temple of Amristar. This architectural paean to the Sikh faith is open to everyone and welcomes those of all walks of life, as it has since it was built in the sixteenth century. It is set into the middle of a man-made lake and connected to the solemn shores by white marble walkways leading up to its gilt and glorious exterior. Once in view of it, it’s no longer a wonder that every Sikh attempts at least one pilgrimage here in his or her lifetime.

In Varanasi our days will be really busy reaching the Ghats to photograph, amongst remains of wreaths and cremation ashes, Brahmins offering ritual shaving, dressed bathing women. Bearded, hirsute Holy Men, bare feet, watching stunned families bathing dressed in bright Indian saris. Groups of pilgrims down the huge wooden barges. Then the calm of our hotel, close to the Ganges, attending dinner before the night ceremony. In the calm of "our" Ganges. We will go down the sacred river in our boat and visit an “akhara”, a gymnasium where Kursty fighters train and compete. If we are lucky we will be able to make a photo coverage of their workouts.

With time to enjoy our stay in contrast to the hustle and bustle of Shamans, boatmen, pilgrims, cows, tourists, barbers, and fake Sadhus. We will cross to the other side of the river where no one normally goes, to admire the city from another perspective and witness the daily coming and going of pilgrims. We will stroll though the back streets of the ghats, the alleys, and discover temples outside the normal tourist route. We will meet people there, and wait for the certainty of the unexpected to happen.

During our incredible stay in Varanasi, our days will be really busy reaching the Ghats to photograph, amongst remains of wreaths and cremation ashes, Brahmins offering ritual shaving, dressed bathing women. Bearded, hirsute Holy Men, bare feet, watching stunned families bathing dressed in bright Indian saris.

Groups of pilgrims down the huge wooden barges. Then the calm of our hotel, close to the Ganges, attending dinner before the night ceremony.

In the calm of "our" Ganges. We will go down the sacred river in our boat and visit an “akhara”, a gymnasium where Kursty fighters train and compete. If we are lucky we will be able to make a photo coverage of their workouts.

And the World Heritage site of the Valley of Kathmandu where an ethnic, cultural and architectural variety will be seen which is unique for photography. In Nepal, we will stay overnight not in Kathmandu itself but in Bakhtapur an extraordinary, quiet and calm zone of the city and will enjoy sunset and sunrise in the best photographic locations possible

How to approach the subject, the preparation, the photographic vision, analysis of the situation. We will have the chance to shoot spontaneous and also formal portraits with proper preparation.

We will be concerned, above all, with the “making off” itself: a mix of  practical and theoretical knowledge and practical advice in order to attain a better understanding on what draws the eye and how to enhance the element that attires our attention allowing us to converse on a daily basis about technical problems, doubts or personal matters as they arise.

 

Deciding the story

Set a script of what we want to show and decide which are the important images that will support the story.

 

The vision

Learn how to train the vision and express it through a personal style. Most often this is what differentiates a photographer from another.

Some days later we fly to the World Heritage site of the Valley of Kathmandu where an ethnic, cultural and architectural variety will be seen which is unique for photography. In Nepal, we will stay overnight not in Kathmandu itself but in Bakhtapur an extraordinary, quiet and calm zone of the city and will enjoy sunset and sunrise in the best photographic locations possible, taking advantage of the special light. We will witness the prayers of the faithful, and appreciate the city and its fascinating streets. A place of monuments without precedents and the unique amalgam of Hinduism, Buddhism and Tantrism that marks the rich religious and cultural inheritance of the city.

From there we will visit the valley, the temples. The place where the Sadhus sleep before their daily activity. We will see the Himalayas and meet in our daily wanderings the Sherpa, Chettris and Newaris tribes, as well as the Rais, Limbus, Tamangs and Magars.

Bakhtapur belongs to the UNESCO Universal Heritage, and most of the city is pedestrian. We will reach Bodnath, the centre of Tibetan culture in Kathmandu, which has a thriving Buddhist community and the largest stupa in Nepal, the holiest Tibetan Buddhist temple outside Tibet. We will be at dusk and dawn in the best photographic location and will take advantage the best light, the moments in which the faithful conduct their prayers while we make close contact with people, and the great intimacy of the ceremonies, the city and its fascinating streets .

On the mornings we will usually start at dawn in order to be at the place when the first prayers begin. It will nearly be night photography, with candle lights. On the afternoon, again depending on the day, we will explore hidden places of the old city before dinner. Depending on the day and the photographic opportunities it will be time for a break, some organisation of our pictures and eventually a photographic analysis and discussion of the work done. Later, when the light will be appropriate, we will walk in the old city with its narrow alleys. Only then the sun enters and transforms everything.

An unforgettable photographic expedition.

This trip was my third with Harry, after two in India, and a true testament to his ability and to the opportunities he exposes us to is that I am planning trips number four and five only 10 days after my return from Ethiopia.

The trip to Ethiopia was a dream come true. It felt as though I had been dropped right into the pages of National Geographic Magazine, which I read as a child, and which instilled a thirst for travel to Africa.

Harry ‘s organization and guidance leave nothing to chance. He uses wonderful people on the ground to drive, guide, and make each experience seamless. The festivals and amazing opportunities, remote and wonderful locations are trademarks of his trips.

Harry is a genuine character, with a wonderful sense of humour, an eye for the magic in photographic situations, and a natural teacher’s ability to explain how to make use of light,
line and composition in our shots.

Thank you Harry for an unforgettable experience.

Ynda Greenberg (Toronto, Ontario)



ITINERARY

 

Note: The Kumbh Mela Optional Extension starts before the Main Tour. 


DAY 1, DELHI - VARANASI.

Morning departure to Varanasi. Varanasi arrival and check-in. 

In the afternoon we will start to get familiar with our Ghat and attend the first Arati ceremony,

In Varanasi I always choose to stay in one of the few decent hotels next to where the action is: the Ganges. Tourists are usually sent to the Cantonement area where international hotel chains are based, a good 40 minutes away from the Ganges on peak hours. In Varanasi, my choice is staying in a Hotel 5 minutes away from the photographic locations. When we have an early start - at 5:30 AM- it's great to save 35 minutes of sleep!


DAYS  2, 3 .- VARANASI

We will be in Varanasi, calmly, with time to enjoy our stay in contrast to the hustle and bustle of Shamans, boatmen, pilgrims, cows, tourists, barbers, and fake Sadhus. We will cross to the other side of the river where no one normally goes, to admire the city from another perspective and witness the daily coming and going of pilgrims. We will stroll though the back streets of the ghats, the alleys, and discover temples outside the normal tourist route. We will meet people there, and wait for the certainty of the unexpected to happen.

On the mornings we will usually start at dawn in order to be at the place when the first prayers begin at the Ganges. It will nearly be night photography, with candle lights. Later we will be walking the Gahts. Each of them is different and worshippers from different regions come to pray their particular gods.

Depending on the day and the photographic opportunities it will be time for a break, some organisation of our pictures and eventually a photographic analysis and discussion of the work done. Later, when the light will be appropriate, we will walk in the old city with its narrow alleys. Only then the sun enters and transforms everything.

On the afternoon, again depending on the day, we will explore hidden places of the old city before the Arati ceremony before dinner. We will go down the sacred river in our boat and visit an “akhara”, a gymnasium where Kursty fighters train and compete. If we are lucky we will be able to make a photo coverage of their workouts.

Our days will be really busy reaching the Ghats to photograph, amongst remains of wreaths and cremation ashes, Brahmins offering ritual shaving, dressed bathing women. Bearded, hirsute Holy Men, bare feet, watching stunned families bathing dressed in bright Indian saris. Groups of pilgrims down the huge wooden barges. Then the calm of our hotel, attending dinner before the night ceremony. In the calm of "our" Ganges.

 

DAY 4.- VARANASI/DELHI

Free morning and hotel until 12:00. Later we will be taken to the airport to Delhi. Free Day in Delhi

 

DAY 5.- DELHI– AMRITSAR

Early morning train to Amritsar. On arrival transfer to our hotel and check-in

It is difficult, even for a person without much of a religious bent, not to be moved by the Golden Temple of Amristar. This architectural paean to the Sikh faith is open to everyone and welcomes those of all walks of life, as it has since it was built in the sixteenth century. It is set into the middle of a man-made lake and connected to the solemn shores by white marble walkways leading up to its gilt and glorious exterior. Once in view of it, it’s no longer a wonder that every Sikh attempts at least one pilgrimage here in his or her lifetime.

At sunset the last, long rays of the sun illuminate the gold topped domes of the holy structure, and we’ll have a chance to photograph the gorgeous reflection off the lake as traditional religious music floats over the water.

 

DAY 6.- AMRITSAR

We will be at the Golden Temple just before sun up, when the first devotees and faithful come to take morning prayers. We will have time as the sun rises and spreads light across the area to photograph the progression of the morning’s devotions and watch the stories of the pilgrims unfold before us. After we take our breakfast we’ll head back to the Temple for time time inside of it and as well, the throngs of people in the busy central market of Amristar.

After a rest and our lunch we’ll head for the Wagah Border (1 hour by car) for the ‘Changing of the Guard’ – but not like it is in Britian! This is a protocol performed by the Pakistani Rangers and the Indian BSF which takes place every sunset at this particular point on the border. Historically it was the only crossing point between the two countries until the turn of the millennia, and so still claims significance for both countries.

The soldiers will parade up to the border from both sides with great pomp and circumstance and choreographed movements in sync with the waving of both national flags. As the sun dips below the horizon, one soldier stands at attention on either side of the gate, and the flags are lowered together in the last rays of the sun. There is a particularly powerful moment when each soldier reaches through the gate for a handshake with the other side, a potent gesture considering the history of these two great nations, before the flags are folded and the ceremony ends.

 

DAY 7.- AMRITSAR– DELHI

Morning train back to Delhi. 


DAY 8.- DELHI/KATHMANDÚ. BHAKTAPUR

In time, transfer to airport and flight to Kathmandu. On arrival, reception at the airport and transfer to hotel in Bhaktapur. We will spend the rest of the day walking the city. A medieval jewel of narrow, labyrinthine alleys, , the diamond of the ancient cities of the Kathmandu Valley. The place were we will be staying as our “base camp”. The buildings are made of brick pink and dark carved wood. Bakhtapur belongs to the UNESCO Universal Heritage, and most of the city is pedestrian. The narrow paved streets linking the three main enclaves Durbar, Dattatreya and Taumadhi are studded with temples, forming the most important architecture of Nepal

 

DAY 9,10 .- BHAKTAPUR- KATHMANDU VALLEY

We will reach Bodnath, the centre of Tibetan culture in Kathmandu, which has a thriving Buddhist community and the largest stupa in Nepal, the holiest Tibetan Buddhist temple outside Tibet. We will be at dusk and dawn in the best photographic location and will take advantage the best light, the moments in which the faithful conduct their prayers while we make close contact with people, and the great intimacy of the ceremonies, the city and its fascinating streets . Will be amazed with the sight of dozens of faithful praying while walking in concentric circles around the sacred Stupa illuminated by candlelight. We will be surrounded by more than 50 Tibetan gompas (monasteries) that have been built around Bodnath.

At dawn we will be in Pashupatinah the most important sacred destination for Hindu Nepal. A remarkable enclave of temples, statues, pilgrims and naga sadhus (naked holy men), the were public cremation ritual baths are made along the Bagmati River.

We will later approach the golden roofs of Changu Narayan, in the eastern part of the Kathmandu Valley. The Hindu Temple Pagoda style, dedicated to Vishnu in his incarnation as Narayan was built in the fourth century and is the oldest of the Kathmandu Valley.

We will remain in Bakhtapur around Durbar Square where famous scenes of films like "Little Buddha" have taken place. Agriculture continues to be developed outside of Bhaktapur and we can enjoy the view of stalls, products and harvest drying on the same floor of the streets as farmers winnow rice and wheat using wicker baskets. The artisans weave fabric and chisel wood in the same sidewalks of the streets, with furnaces in every corner. The neighbours are turning to community wells to collect water and chat with their friends.

 

DAY 11.- KATHMANDU .

Transfer to the airport. Connection with International Flights. 



EXTENSIONS

 

OPTIONAL EXTENSION #1 :  KUMBH MELA IN ALLAHABAD.-  $ 2,950.00

THE KUMBH MELA  EXTENSION  STARTS BEFORE THE MAIN ITINERARY

 

IMPORTANT WARNING KUMBH MELA OPTIONAL EXTENSION : 

This is one of the biggest massive pilgrinage in the world. Our camp will be aproximately 1 mile away from the first pilgrims tents.  Be prepared for HUGE CROWDS  and NO  LOCAL  TRANSPORT available from the camp to the festival ground. Travelers should be ready to walk from 5 to 10 miles walk per day.  We will make our best efforts to see and enjoy everything in your program and mantain all the services as planed but there will be times when we may adjust timing, change the order of activities or face unexpected situations.  On a Kumbha Mela every day will be an adventure, and that is part of the charm and beauty of such an exceptional event.  Be prepared to enjoy the unexpected, and in the case of delays or supply shortage , remember you are visiting a unique place in a very special moment. 

 

DAY 1, 09 FEB.- DELHI - FLIGHT ALLAHABAD

DAY 2, 10 FEB.- ALLAHABAD

DAY 3, 11 FEB.- ALLAHABAD

DAY 4, 12 FEB.- ALLAHABAD- VARANASI by car

 

The Kumbh mela is held only once every 12 years in Allahabad. Millions of pilgrims come to bathe and purify in one of the most magnificent events in India.

There will be a veritable cornucopia of photo opportunities at our fingertips, as we will camp in comfortable big tents. And of course you will be guided by an expert in travel photography and the region: Harry Fisch.

This is a once in a lifetime chance to not only improve your photo skills, but at the same time immerse yourself in the magic of this amazing human experience, with one of the best photographers and experts on the Indian World!

The activities include religious discussions, devotional singing, mass feeding of holy men and women and the poor, and religious assemblies where doctrines are debated and standardised.

Thousands of holy men and women attend, and the auspiciousness of the festival is in part attributable to this. The sadhus are seen clad in saffron sheets with Vibhuti ashes dabbed on their skin as per the requirements of ancient traditions. Some, called naga sanyasis, may not wear any clothes even in severe winter. The right to be naga, or naked, is considered a sign of separation from the material world.(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kumbh_Mela)

 

 

OPTIONAL EXTENSION #2 :  AGRA/TAJ MAHAL/ JAIPUR / -  $ 1,950.00

RAJHASTAN EXTENSION  STARTS AFTER THE MAIN ITINERARY.  THIS EXTENSION ONLY FOR A MINIMUM OF TWO PEOPLE

Please note: this extension is designed as a cultural program and does not incorporate special photography inclusions. The extension will be accompanied by the local guide.

 

 

DAY 1. – DELHI/AGRA


Early departure to Agra and checking at the hotel

Agra visit. Afternoon photography of Agra Fort and evening at Taj Mahal. is another dimension to the city. Built by Akbar in Red Sandstone when he was through with the consolidation of his power after accession to power in 1654, Agra Fort worked both as a military strategic point as well as the royal residence. Most of the buildings within the Agra Fort are a mixture of different architectural styles. The assimilation of these different styles has given the buildings within the fort a distinctive look.

Taj Mahal is best experienced at sunrise when the light reflects off the marble to give it a magnificent hue. The Taj Mahal was built by Emperor Shah Jahan over a period of 17 years from 1632, in memory of his beloved late wife Mumtaz Mahal. A world Heritage site, it is one of the wonders of the modern world and you will be enthralled with its ethereal beauty.



DAY 2. – AGRA - JAIPUR

Early morning sunrise sightseeing of Taj Mahal. Then, after breakfast, departure to Jaipur

Jaipur is popularly known as Pink City. With its rich & colorful past, resplendent with tales of valour & bravery, it is now one of the most important heritage cities in India. The city was founded in the year 1728 by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, the ruler of Amber. Afternoon drive to Dera Amer, situated behind the hills of the famous Amer Fort. Dera Amer is located at the foothills of the Aravali Range and surrounded by the wilderness of a reserved forest with no urban civilization in the vicinity, just a few hamlets housing the local villagers occupied by farming on the their fields bordering a pretty lake.


Overnight in the Hotel

 


DAY 3.- JAIPUR - JODHPUR


After breakfast drive to Jodhpur. On arrival, check-in to the hotel.


Jodhpur, the second largest city in Rajasthan & has landscape dominated by the massive Mehrangarh Fort topping a sheer rocky ridge. Late afternoon photographic exploration of the “Old Blue City” as well as the medieval bazaars of Jodhpur. So named because of the blue indigo used in the white wash of the houses, this area of Jodhpur is a delight for the photographers. After breakfast visit the Mehrangarh Fort (Majestic Fort), one of the most impressive & formidable structures anywhere in India. Built by Rao Jodha, this 5km long Fort is on a 125m high hill & has some magnificent palaces with marvellously carved panels latticed window.


Overnight in the Hotel

 


DAY 4.- JODHPUR - DELHI


Morning visit to Jodhpur 


Also enjoy a good lunch amid the 19th century walled orchard the Maharani Bagh Orchard belonging to the Royal family. The orchard is full of bougainvillea and fruit trees predominantly mangoes.


Afternoon transfer to airport to board in flight to Delhi.

 

 

 



Prices per person
9-10 Participants 5950 US$


Supplements
Supplement SIngle Room Main Trip 1630 US$
Supplement Single Room Optional Extension 830 US$
Rajhastan Extension 1980 US$
Khumb Mela Extension 2950 US$


Extensions
Khumb Mela extension 2950 US$


WHAT'S INCLUDED

 

Price for double room double occupancy. A limited quantity of single-occupancy rooms are available for an additional charge.

 

WARNING KUMBH MELA OPTIONAL EXTENSION ONLY : 

 

This is one of the biggest massive pilgrinage in the world. Our camp will be aproximately 1,5 miles away from the first pilgrims tents.  Be prepared for huge crowds  and no local transpòrt available from the camp to the festival ground.  

 

 

INCLUDED

 

- International flight Delhi Kathmadu

-Main Itinerary Photo Tour  with Harry Fisch. 

-All meals excepted three .

-All tips (driver, assitants, porters,etc..)  except the  guides.

-Reception at airport on arrival and departure on main trip and extensions.

-Transport as specified.

-Main trip: Lodging 1st class, 4 stars or boutique hotel in Delhi, Bakhtapur (Nepal) and  Varanasi, double room, double occupancy. Private bath and air conditioned. 

-Optional Extension Kumbha Mela (#1) :  Large good local tent, electricity, in-suite toilet,   double occupancy.

-Optional Extension to Rajhastan (#2) : Lodging 1st class hotel and tourist hotel  double room, double occupancy.  Breakfast only, English Guide, 

 

NON INCLUDED

 

-International flights (excepted the Delhi-Kathmandu one-way)

-Domestic flight  Delhi/Varanasi/Delhi  

-Optional Extension   (#1) Khumba Mela  flight  Delhi/Allahabad ( Aproximately 100 $)

-Optional Extension  (#2)  to Rajhastan  : Internal Flight Jodhpur-Delhi,  meals

-Optional Extension to Rajhastan (#2) : Photographer/Tour leader 

-Alcoholic beverages and soft drinks

-Personal extras, soft drinks, laundry, phone, etc..

-Camera insurance

-Visa.

-Airline taxes

-Any item or service not expressly defined as included.