Travel in cars, not a bus.  15 days in country, all the way across Bhutan.

Who is Rainbow Photo Tours?

Bhutan Prayer Flags with our SUV
Robin Smillie of Tampa, Florida is a professional photographer who specializes in adventure tours to Bhutan for small groups. By staying small and focusing on Bhutan, he has become known in the travel business as THE expert on travel to Bhutan—as of September 2014 he has been to Bhutan 27 times and assisted over 500 travelers in realizing their dreams of going to the world's last Shangri La.  Robin supplies the Bhutanese Tourism Authority, the Ministry of Culture and Royal Druk Air with photography and stories for their publications.  Bhutan is the only destination that Robin leads tours to but he travels the world extensively with his wife Cathy.

Robin is also a retired masthead staff member of Florida Sportsman Magazine, the largest regional outdoor magazine in the country. 

While with Sportsman Robin wrote and photographed feature and travel stories that covered the Tropics from Central America to the Bahamas. Twenty two of Sportsman’s 12 annual issues featured his photography on the cover.  He was also the founder and Director of the Florida Sportsman Fishing and Boat Shows, managing 105 shows over 15 years.  Robin has won 22 awards for his writing and photography from Outdoor Writers of America, Southeast Outdoor Press Assoc., and Florida Outdoor Writers Assoc.

Robin Smillie

In April of 2001, Robin and wife Cathy went on a six-week tour of Viet Nam, Nepal, Thailand—and the most special place on the planet, Bhutan. The photo ops there were spectacular! Their tour operator was Rainbow Tours and Treks of Bhutan, one of the oldest and most reliable companies in the business, and they struck a deal to publish calendars and postcards from Robin’s photography, some of which you will see on this site.

Rainbow Photo Tours was launched in May of 2001, specifically to take like-minded photographers on tour to Bhutan.  In April of 2002, the first group of eleven photographers from around the world (U.S., Macao, Singapore, Japan, and Australia) met in Bangkok, and the first annual photographer’s Tour of Bhutan spent two weeks following the same jam-packed itinerary that you see listed for the current tours.  (Please read Past Participant Comments on the Participant Gallery pages.)

Have questions? Please feel free to emailRobin Email Robin.

Monk Friend in Bhutan


This tour is a gold mine of itinerary nuggets not found with other tours:

  • Along with numerous visits to temples, dzongs, markets, and other standard tourist fare, this tour offers several unique opportunities.
  • Travel in a car—not a bus—with only one other participant (your spouse or another single?) a Bhutanese guide and driver.
  • Each pair of travelers has their own driver and personal photography assistant or cultural guide.
  • Customize your tour to suit your interests and health restrictions—with your own car and guide you can usually go where you want aside from the planned itinerary.
  • Attend a special masked dance mini festival in the remote village of Phongmey, held just for our tour.
  • Participate in an archery tournament with local farmers.
  • After blessing by a Buddhist monk, string your own prayer flags in a high mountain pass.
  • Visit Bhutanese families in their farmhouses.
  • Take a hot stone bath at our hotel in Paro and Jakar.
  • Gain entrance and photo permission to many places where most tourists do not go.
  • Extend your tour or arrive early with customized itineraries--perhaps a better choice than a visit to neighboring Nepal, Myanmar or Tibet.

Bhutan Cultural Tour for Photographers - Video

Produced by Rainbow Photo Tours


Non-photographers Information

We accept all skill levels of photographers, from those who have a "point-and-shoot" to those who are advanced pro/amateurs with all the latest digital SLR gear.  Our goal is to put you in front of remarkable scenes and cultural experiences--this is not a workshop with evening photography meetings or critiques.  Travelers who are not keenly interested in photography will have plenty to do, always with guides and drivers at your disposal.  

Bhutan Dancer
Mimi's Story
"I went on this trip strictly to keep my photography-crazed husband company and had a fabulous adventure. Where else could I have climbed to Tiger's Nest, participated in an archery competition, danced around a campfire, been dressed in a gorgeous kira and met amazing people? Armed only with my trusty point-and-shoot camera, I still managed to get some photos that make me proud...."
~ Mimi Krystel, 2009 Tour Participant (click here to see Mimi's Photos)

To read additional tour commentaries, please click here to read the Past Participant Comments section.

Our Guides and Drivers

Bhutanese Guide with dung beetle
You can read more about our very qualified guides and drivers here.

GoTo Reservations and Cost Page
GoTo Itinerary Overview Page

More Recommendations for Rainbow Photo Tours

“Even though the roads are rough, and a little hair-raising at times, the drivers are obviously well experienced professionals, safe, courteous and capable. " —TripAdvisor Review of Rainbow Photo Tours
tiny windows in Bhutan
Tiny Windows into Bhutan

Spring and Fall Tours

Bhutan Fall Tour
Cross Country Cultural and Festivals Tour

15 Days In-country
Limited to 16 Participants