With: Thomas Kelly

February 16 - 26, 2020

Category: Creative Vision, Documentary, Landscape & Nature, Travel Package

It is no illusion, there are places in the world where life is more mysterious and intense. Lofty Nepal is one such place. Home to the mighty Himalayas, this tiny country is extraordinarily rich in natural beauty and cultural traditions. It is a place of breathtaking sights, the work of nature and man -- ancient temples whose gilded copper pagodas magnificently echo the mountains in soaring shape; the intricate artwork of the shrine, carved wood and cast bronze incarnations of the thousands of deities in the Buddhist and Hindu pantheons; the farms and fields, terraced no less intricately into the walls of the valleys; the eerie drama of ritual cremations on the Bagmati River; the holy ascetics (sadhus) who perform feats of strength, faith, and endurance.

Kathmandu, or rather the three village-cities that make up Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhaktapur are home base for much of our journey. Once holy and forbidden, walled from the world by the Himalayas, Kathmandu is today an exotic crossroads where diverse cultures and individuals meet – lamas and pilgrims, Westerners in quest of Eastern wisdom, American hippies from the 1960s, peasants and urbanites, tourists and curiosity seekers from the world over.

Thomas Kelly, world-renown photographer and Kathmandu resident, leads this Himalayan adventure for eight photographers to discover, uncover, and reveal the essence of sacred and wondrous Nepal. Our trip is perfectly timed to witness and photograph two of the region’s most important festivals – Maha Shivaratri and Losar.

The major Hindu festival of Maha Shivaratri, which literally translates to “great night of Shiva,” marks a remembrance of overcoming darkness in life and in the world. Pilgrims and sadhus gather at temples across the country which are decorated with lights and colorful decorations to offer night-long prayers and pay homage to their God, Lord Shiva.

Losar is the festival of the Tibetan New Year and is the most important festival on the Tibetan Buddhism calendar. It is a three-day celebration that mixes sacred and secular practices – parades, ancient ceremonies, traditional folk dancing, chanting, competitions, and partying Tibetan style. Prayer flags abound during this time of purification and renewal.

Our twelve-day journey starts with the Medieval Kingdom of Bhaktapur for three nights at the gracious Peacock Guest House. Here we visit markets and temples and photograph farmers, artisans, craftsmen, and towering architectural wonders. Then we circle back to Kathmandu and a 5-star stay at the Hyatt Regency for the Maha Shivaratri and Losar festivals as well as visits to Kriya Putri Bhawan and the sacred cremations along the banks of the Bagmati River. Next, we depart on an early morning flight to Phalpu and then travel by jeep for an unforgettable and meditative two days at Thupten Choling Monastery – with 300 Buddhist nuns. We attend ritual prayer sessions and photograph a day in the monastic life. Refreshed by this sacred spot and inspired by the surrounding snow-covered Himalayan peaks, we return to Kathmandu and the hot showers at the Hyatt. On the final night we celebrate our time together with a farewell dinner and final image presentation.

Limited to only eight travelers, the trip offers ample time for one-on-one photography sessions with Thomas to improve your technical skills, develop the essentials of storytelling, learn ways to approach people and elevate your portraits beyond the superficial toward the intimate, and of course review new images created on the trip.

A journey of a lifetime is the best way to describe this adventure with Thomas Kelly to his adopted homeland. Travelers must be in good physical shape to join this expedition.

Optional 3-Day Extension: Mt. Everest to Jungle Villa Resort

Thomas is offering a mountain flight over the Himalayas to view Mt. Everest then land in Bharatpur. Jungle Villa Resort is a 30-minute drive from the airport. Bestowed with nature's finest creations, the Jungle Villa Resort is one of the most popular luxury wildlife resorts in Nepal. This resort is located in the northern fringe of bio-diversity-rich Chitwan National Park, which is home to many endangered flora and fauna. Covered in four hectares of lush green forest land and beautifully designed gardens, the resort is situated on the bank of Rapti River which is ideal habitat of many species of aquatic animals as well as elephants, rhinos, and possibly a Bengal Tiger sighting. In addition to the wildlife, we walk into a traditional Tharu village and meet these indigenous people. We spend two nights at Jungle Village Resort before returning to Kathmanu and a final night at the Hyatt Regency before your flight home.

This extension is $1,340 per person, double occupancy for three nights (two at Jungle Villa Resort and one at Regency Hyatt) which is ideal for couples and friends traveling together; single supplement for solo travelers is an additional $400); breakfast daily, two lunches, two dinners; mountain flight to see Mt. Everest. Please reserve this trip extension with Santa Fe Workshops when you make your reservations for Nepal: Himalayan Festivals, Sacred Landscapes, and Beyond (indicate your request in the Comments field on the registration form). Payment for the trip extension is made to Thomas Kelly directly.

Additional Information


Amateurs, Advanced Amateurs, Professionals


Participants need to be technically self-sufficient, as this is not a workshop to learn how to use your gear or editing software. This a photographic expedition and there is no structured classroom time. There is an image review in the middle of the trip, and Thomas is available for help with picture-making ideas and building technical skills on-location.

Participants need to be in very good health as long days are spent exploring (this means hiking) Nepal, sometimes at high elevations (9,500+ feet). Participants should have good stamina and mobility. While the trip itself is not very strenuous, please note that it can involve being in the sun in potentially warm temperatures, long journeys, steep stairs, uneven terrain, and early morning wake-up calls.


Enrollment in this workshop is limited to 8 participants

View updated Payment, Refund, Withdrawal, and Transfer Policies for this International Program.


Refer to the Trip Description (above) for details on lodging, and to the Package Price description (below) on meals.


$6,195 per person, double occupancy for eleven nights in Nepal (ideal for couples and friends traveling together; single supplement for solo travelers is an additional $800); breakfast daily, ten lunches, nine dinners; airport transfers, all ground transportation, and in-country flight to Phalpu.; local guides and translators; and all entrance fees. Not included are international airfares and visas, optional tips, travel insurance, and personal expenses.

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