Day 1: Fly to Paro with Druk Air or Bhutan Airlines. Birding along the Paro River.
Day 2: Hike up to Tiger’s Nest Monastery (Taksang). Birding enroute. Approx 4 hrs walk.
Day 3: Drive to Chele La (3,822m) for morning birding and drive to Thimphu, 125kms.
Day 4: Thimphu to Punakha, birding at Dochu La (3,116m) and Lampelri Botanical park.
Day 5: Punakha to Phobjikha, the valley of the Black-necked Crane. Birding en-route
Day 6: Phobjikha to Trongsa, birding at Pele La (3,390m), (approx 100kms).
Day 7: Trongsa to Shemgang, 100kms, birding en-route. Camp
Day 8: Shemgang to Tingtibi, birding en-route, 72kms. Camp
Day 9: Tingtibi to Gomphu (46kms). Am birding around campsite and continue to Gomphu.Camp
Day 10: Gomphu to Panthang (28kms), prime sub-tropical forest birding.Camp
Day 11: Panthang to Panbang (25kms). Bird the sub-tropical forest with bamboo and banana undergrowth.Camp
Day 12: Exploring for birds, mammals and butterflies in Manas National Park.Camp
Day 13: Exploring for birds, mammals and butterflies in Manas. PM drive to Tingtibi, 85kms.Camp
Day 14: Tingtibi to Gelephu, 122kms. Birding en-route.
Day 15: Gelephu to Guwahati Airport (235kms) and connect to Delhi/Calcutta
Day 1: Flight into Paro and birding along Pa Chhu (river).
This morning we take the Druk Air/Bhutan Airlines flight to Paro, Bhutan, where we should have good views of the Himalayas, including many of the highest mountains in the world. After checking into our hotel and having lunch we will begin with a walk along the river to look for Ibisbill, River Lapwing, Indian Roller, Rock Pigeon, Oriental Turtle-dove, Olive-backed and Rosy Pipits, Black Bulbul, Long-tailed Minivet, White-capped and Plumbeous Redstarts, White-browed Fulvetta, Long-tailed and Grey-backed Shrikes, Yellow-breasted Greenfinch and Russet Sparrow.
NIGHT: Hotel Olathang, Paro, (2,300m).
Day 2: Hike up to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery (Taksang).
Birding enroute. Approx 4 hrs walk.Today you will have a fabulous first full day in Bhutan with a great mix of birding and some of the Paro Valley’s cultural treasures. The cultural highlight will be the walk up to the famous Tiger’s Nest, Taksang Monastery. The monastery is perched some 600m/2,000ft up on a cliff overlooking the valley and was said to be where the legendary Indian saint, Guru Padma Sambhava, flew from Tibet on the back of a tiger to defeat five demons who were opposing the spread of Buddhism in Bhutan. It is a steep uphill walk through woods, of about 1½-2hrs, to reach a tea house (an ascent of 340m/1,125ft). After a welcome refreshment at the tea house, one of the principle viewpoints of the monastery you will climb the further half hour’s ascent, which brings you to another viewpoint directly across from the monastery. The final section of the walk takes you from this viewpoint steeply down 100m/330ft into the gorge that separates you from the monastery and then climbs back up again to reach the monastery gate – the monastery was designed to be isolated! You will then descend back to the valley floor by your outward route back to where your vehicle will be waiting. The full walk to the monastery and back involves approximately 740m/2,440ft of ascent.
Along this hike we may see bird species such as Green-backed, Coal, and Grey-crested Tits, White-tailed Nuthatch, Yellow-billed Blue Magpie, Spotted Nutcracker, Black-faced, Chestnut-crowned, White-throated and Spotted Laughingthrushes. Up at the monastery by the rocky ledges we will scan for flocks of Snow Pigeon and Alpine Accentor while the waterfall next to the monastery often gives us the opportunity to see Little Forktail and White-capped and Plumbeous Water Redstarts.
The Paro valley lies beneath Jhomolhari one of the highest of Bhutan’s Himalayan peaks. Later you will visit the impressive ruins of Drugyel Dzong, named to commemorate a victory over the Tibetan invasion of 1644. This picturesque ruin stands on a hillside above the lovely village of Drugyel with imposing views of Jhomolhari from the approach roads; here we may encounter Brown Parrotbill, Common Kestrels, White-collared Blackbirds and the Grey-backed Shrike. There may also be time for further sightseeing to visit the ancient temple of KychuLhakhang, one of 108 temples built by Songtsen Goenbo an important early Tibetan king, to pin down the Bon demon who was thought to hover over the whole of Tibet. You may also see the some of the treasures from Bhutan’s National Museum. The Museum itself is closed, apparently until 2015 following the earthquake in 2011, but many of its artifacts and displays may be temporarily housed in a nearby building. The nearby spectacular Paro dzong is also worth a visit.
NIGHT: Hotel Olathang, Paro, (2,300m).
Day 3: Drive to Chele La (3,822m), high altitude birds and drive to Thimphu (125kms).
We depart early for our journey up through ancient pine and fir forests to Chele La Pass (3,822m), where there are fantastic views of the high Himalayan peaks of Jhomolhari (7,219m), Jichu Drake (6,989m) and down into the Paro and Ha valleys. Above the tree line we will look for Lammergeier, Hill Partridge, Himalayan Monal; Blood and Kalij Pheasant;Large Hawk-cuckoo, Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, Alpine Accentor, White-collared Blackbird, Dark-throated Thrush, White-throated Redstart, Black-faced Laughingthrush, Collard Grosbeak; Streak-breasted Scimitar-babbler, Chestnut-tailed Minla, Green-backed Tit, Fire-tailed Sunbird, Yellow-billed Blue Magpie, Yellow-browed Titand White-browed Rosefinch. After a hot breakfast we will continue birding in this beautiful area before gradually making our way back to Paro and on to Thimphu. We will stop near Shaba to look for Wallcreeper. In Thimphu we will visit the sewage treatment plant where there will be a wide variety of birds including Ruddy Shelduck, Ferruginous Duck, Blue Whistling-thrush, Little Bunting, Black-tailed Crake and Brown Dipper.
NIGHT: Hotel Riverview, Thimphu, (2,300m)
Day 4:Drive to Punakha (70kms), birding at Dochu La, 3,116m and Lampelri Botanical Park.
This morning we will drive to the Dochu La (3,116m) in time to see the incredible sunrise over the High Himalayas, where prayer flags line the road carrying their messages to all sentient beings. Here we will also be on the lookout forGreat Barbet, Rufous-breasted and Maroon Accentors; White-browed Shortwing, Ashy-throated and Whistler’s Warblers; Verditer and Ferruginous Flycatchers; Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher, Blue-fronted Redstart, Striated Laughingthrush, Rufous Sibia, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Rusty-flanked Treecreeper, Fire-capped Tit, Green-tailed Sunbird, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, Dark-rumped Rosefinch and Large-billed Crow.
We willbreakfast here and then bird through the broad-leafed forest where we should encounter with the rareWard’s Trogon as well as Crimson-breasted Woodpecker, Large Niltava, Grey Bushchat, Yellow-bellied Fantail, Hoary-throated Barwing, Maroon Oriole and Grey Treepie.Our descent passes through sub-tropical forests before reaching the terraced paddy fields of Punakha. It is here, on a promontory above the confluence of the Mo Chhu (female) and Pho Chhu (male) we can see the majestic Punakha Dzong. In this relatively open habitat along the newly formed Punatsang Chhu, we will stop and bird hoping to see theRusty-cheeked Scimitar-babbler, Slender-billed Orioleand Richard’s Pipit and hopefully the globally threatened White-bellied Heron.
NIGHT: Meri Puensum Resort, Punakha, (1,300m).
Day 5: Drive to Phobjikha (2,700m), the valley of the Black-necked Cranes, 94kms.
The day begins with another scenic drive along winding mountain roads, climbing through oak and rhododendron forests to the high pass that drops down to the wet-lands of Phobjikha Valley. This one of the few glaciated valleys in Bhutan and an extremely important wildlife preserve. It is home to the rare and endangered Black-necked Cranes who migrate from the Tibetan plateau to winter here between October/November and March.
Situated on the western slopes of the Black Mountains, bordering the Jigme Singye Wangchuck National, covering an area of approximately 163 square kilometres (63 sq ml), Phobjikha is a protected area, managed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Nature (RSPN). It is extremely rich in faunal biodiversity and, apart from the globally threatened Black-necked Cranes, at least 13 other globally threatened species can be found within its boundaries. Near the foot of the valley, WWF has assisted in setting up the Khebethang Nature Study Centre.
A central stream meanders through the open grasslands and thickets of dwarf bamboo, with tree cover composed mainly of blue pine, birch, maple and several species of rhododendrons. Here we can expect to find mammals such as Muntjac(barking deer), wild boar, sambar, Himalayan black bear,common leopard and red fox.
NIGHT: Hotel Gakiling, Phobjikha, (3000m).
Day 6: Drive to Trongsa, (75kms), AM birding at Pele La (3,390m).
A final few hours to watch the cranes in their feeding grounds, before we continue our journey east to Trongsa. This part of our journey takes us across the western slopes of the Back Mountain National Park, climbing through mixed forests of rhododendrons and magnolias before arriving at Pele La Pass (3,390m), with magnificent views across to snow topped Jhomolhari (7,314m), marking the border between central and western Bhutan. Our descent through thickets of dwarf bamboo where brilliant Spotted Laughingthrush, White-browed Rosefinch, Rufous-vented, Whiskered and Stripe-throated Yuhinas; and Yellowish-bellied Bush Warbler can be seen with Hen Harriers frequently seen riding the thermals above.Now our descent takes us into the heart of central Bhutan’s Black Mountain region travelling through more pristine, mixed broad-leafed and evergreen forests with dense bamboo undergrowth. We will stop for birding and photography throughout this part of the route and at the village of Chendibji with its Nepalese styled Chorten, picturesquely situated alongside the river where we may encounter: Brown Dipper, White-capped Water Redstart, Bhutan Laughingthrush and Gold-billed Magpie. We will continue our journey to Trongsa, stopping briefly at the stunning view point of Trongsa Dzong.
NIGHT: Yangkhil Resort, Trongsa, (2,200m)
Day 7: Trongsa to Shemgang (100kms), birding en route.
Shemgang Road is acknowledged as one of the most beautiful birding roads in the world. Here we can be sure of finding an amazing variety of rare and special birds as well as Black (Malayan) Giant Squirrel, Golden Leaf Monkey (Langur), Yellow-throated Martin and Five Stripe Palm Squirrel. Bird species we may encounter include Crested Goshawk, Shikra, Barred Cuckoo-dove, Pin-tailed Pigeon, Asian Emerald Cuckoo, Great Hornbill, Black-winged Cuckoo-shrike, Black-crested and Ashy Bulbuls; Grey-hooded Warbler, Pale Blue Flycatcher, Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush, Grey-throated and White-hooded Babblers; Long-billed Wren-babbler, Black-chinned and White-bellied Yuhinas; Lesser Rufous-headed Parrotbill, Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch and Large Woodshrike.
NIGHT: Camp at Wangduegang, Shemgang, (1,800m).
Day 8: Shemgang to Tingtibi, (75kms), birding en route.
This morning we spend our time birding around the camp, in this mixed broad-leaved forests at 1,800m. Our target today is the rare Beautiful Nuthatch, Rufous-necked Hornbill and Blue-winged Laughingthrush. After breakfast we make our way down to Tingtibi, stopping along the way for some magnificent birding, where we hope to encounter Grey-chinned Minivet, Striated Bulbul, Lesser Yellownape, Long-tailed Broadbill and Rufous-breasted Bush-robin. Continuing along theroute we will stop briefly in the small town of Shemgang for refreshments before continuing our way down to Tingtibi. Along the way we look for species such as Chestnut-breasted Partridge, Cutia, Silver-eared Mesia, Pygmy Blue and Blue-throated Flycatchers; Red Jungle Fowl, Black Eagle, Oriental Honey-buzzard, White-crested Laughingthrush, Blue Rock-thrush, Striated Yuhina, Common Green Magpie, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch,Blue-throated Barbet, Mountain Imperial-pigeon, Emerald Dove, Common Tailorbird, Rufescent Prinia, White-throated Fantail, White-browed Scimitar-babbler, Black-throated Sunbird, Streaked Spiderhunter, Palla’s Fish Eagle, Collared Falconet, Black andBronzed Drongos;
NIGHT: Camp at Tingtibi, (700m).
Day 9: Tingtibi to Gomphu, (46kms), birding en route.
Tingtibi is the junction of Royal Manas Park and Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park. Situated at the northern most tip of the Royal Manas Park it receives the heaviest rainfall in the country, resulting in the area being a thriving sub-tropical ecosystem which provides a haven for wildlife. Today will have an early start for birding around the campsite and after breakfast driving the 46 KM drive to Gomphu, stopping along the way in prime areas for excellent birding.
This is the beginning of Royal Manas National Park and the Bhutanese section of the Natural World Heritage Site of the Greater Manas Tiger Reserve. It is divided by the Manas River from Assam, India and is renown as an area of great bio-diversity. Within its boundaries it is possible to see up to 59 of the recorded species of mammals; 13 of which are totally protected. It is the only park where it is possible to see all of Asia’s ‘Big Five’: Asian Elephant, Asian Water Buffalo, One-horned Rhinoceros, Clouded Leopard and the Bengal Tiger as well as other rare species such as Golden Cat, Gaur, Sloth Bear, Binturong (Asian Bearcat),Himalayan Black Bear, the Assamese Macaque and three rare primates: the Golden and Capped Langurs.Manas provides the perfect habitat for orchids, as well as in excess of 900 species of vascular plants. It provides the perfect habitat for over 400 different bird species – 427 recorded during 2006 and 5 more in recent years, totalling 432. These include the rare Bengal Florican, Great Hornbill, Crested Serpent Eagle and the most recently recorded Malay Night Heron and Black Baza. Birding in these subtropical forests with their thick undergrowth of bamboo we should also find: Blue-throated and Golden-throated Barbets, Rufous-necked Hornbills, Himalayan, Ashy, White-throated and Black-crested Bulbuls, Emerald Dove, Grey-capped Pygmy, Pale-headed (rare) and Fulvous-breasted Woodpeckers, Red Junglefowl, Spotted and Eye-browed (rare) Wren babblers, Red-faced Liocichla, Yellow-vented and Rufous-faced warblers.
We continue to our Eco Communities Campsite – an enterprise which enables local villagers to participate in the Park’s conservation activities and management schemes; which also aims to raise the standards of living through community tourism programmes.
NIGHT: Eco camp at Gomphu, (1,409m).
Day 10: Gomphu to Panthang, (28kms).
We continue our descent to Panthang which lies in a beautiful valley of the Mangde Chhu and our campsite overlooking the river at Panthang. The whole 28km stretch is a prime birding area where we will stop and walk in this excellent location for birds, butterflies and orchids. The first 15 km stretch is dense broadleaved forest birding where we should find; Scaly-breasted Munia, Plaintive Cuckoo, Asian Emerald Cuckoo, Blue-throated Flycatcher, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, and Streaked Spiderhunter.
On reaching Ridibi we have the impressive confluence of the Chamkhar Chhu and Mangde Chhu, forming the Manas Chhu which we will follow to our campsite at Panthang. Around the campsite we should find; big groups of Great Hornbill, Golden-fronted Leafbird, Striated and Rufescent Prinias, Oriental Magpie Robin and Blue-throated Barbet.
NIGHT: Eco camp at Panthang, (240m).
Day 11: Panthang to Panbang, (25kms).
Birding and Butterfly watching enroute.Today birding is along the Mangde Chhu, from Panthang to Panbang. The early part of the drive passes through is thick bamboo forest were we should find; White-throated, Black-crested and Ashy bulbuls, Rufous-necked Laughingthrush, Common Tailorbird, Broad-billed Warbler, Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler, and Common Green Magpie. In this area of pristine beauty, we also hope to spot one of the species of Langur, Jungle Cats or Barking Deer and birds such as: Orange-headed Thrush, Bronzed, Lesser Racket-tailed and Hair-crested Drongos, Chestnut-breasted Partridge, Grey Peacock Pheasant (rare), Rufous Treepie, Blue-eared and Coppersmith Barbets, Rufous-bellied Mountain Hawk,Crested Serpent Eagle and Red Jungle Fowl. Just before our campsite at Panbang, there is a wonderful waterfall where we will stop for photos and more birding. A day of remarkable sights and sounds and you will be amongst the first tourists to venture into this remote wilderness, where ancient traditions are being encouraged to engage concepts from the 21st century, in order to protect the land and all its inhabitants.
NIGHT: Eco camp at Panbang, (320m).
Days 12: Panbang and Manas National Park; with elephant treks and rafting excursions as optional extras.
Today we will explore this unique World Heritage Site and one of the oldest protected areas in Bhutan. Manas National Park has an area of 1,059 sq. km and is now linked to the Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park to the north, India’s Manas Tiger Reserve in the south as well as Phibsoo Wildlife Sanctuary and Thrumshing La National Park through biological corridors; providing a continuous gradation of protected, natural habitats from the tropical lowlands up to the High Himalayas.
Over 90% of the park area is under forest cover including vast areas of tropical and sub-tropical monsoon forests, interspersed with expanses of natural grasslands and wide riverbeds; promoting the wide variety of wild-life found within its borders. Each night we will set a camera trap hoping to catch one of the park’s rare and endangered species. With 8 different species of cats and the largest recorded tiger density in the world, we will certainly do our best to capture an image of one!
On these two days we will bird the route from our camp to the park office at Manas (13kms), where we will look for: Oriental Dwarf and Ruddy kingfishers, Puff-throated, and Stripe Tit babblers, Red-breasted Parakeet, Indian Roller, Asian Fairy Bluebird, Dollarbird, White-rumped Shama, Citrine Wagtail, Chestnut-headed Bee-eater, Hill Myna, Wreathed, Oriental Pied, Rufous- necked (rare) and Great hornbills, Hooded Pitta (rare), Silver-breasted Broadbill (rare) amongst the many that frequent this ancient landscape.
NIGHT: Camp at Panbang,(320m).
Day 13: Panbang to Tingtibi, (700m), 85kms.
Stopping for birds enroute.Today we will spend most part of the morning exploring the park for birds and retrace our way back to Tingtibi in the afternoon.
NIGHT: Camp at Tingtibi, (700m).
Day 14: Tingtibi to Gelephu over Tama La at 1,661m, 125kms.
This morning we will rise early and bird around our camp before making our way up to Tama La at 1661m. From the pass we decent down through mix temperate forests.Its also along this drive that we stop at a sheer cliff face to look for the rare Yellow-rumped Honeyguide. We will drive through the village of Surrey and further to Loderay stopping for birds and photography in prime locations.
NIGHT: Hotel Kuku, Gelephu, (250m).
Day 15: Exit Gelephu and drive to Guwahati Airport for flights to Delhi/Calcutta or connect with Indian Agent for onward India tour.
Today after breakfast we will say good-bye and let our Indian agent and drive you to Guwahati Airport for your onward connection to Delhi or Calcutta.
The list of birds for today include Lesser Whistling Teal, Brahminy Kite, Mallard, Open Bill Stork, Pond Heron, Gadwall, Eurasian Marsh Harrier, Bronze-winged Jacana, Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Black-winged Stilt, Northern and Grey-headed Lapwings; Cotton Teal, Ferruginous Pochard, Spot-billed Duck, Bar-headed Goose, Purple Heron, Little Cormorant, Darter, Little Grebe, Green and common Sandpipers.
Some of the endangered species of the Indian Subcontinent can also be found in this area; Spot-billed Pelican, Lesser and Greater Adjutant Storks; Baer’s Pochard and White-bellied Eagle.
Included in Bhutan Land Cost:
- Visa and Tax
- Tour Guide who is expert in the field
- All activities as mentioned in the itinerary
- All accommodation based on sharing twin room
- All meals
- Tea/coffee and snacks
- Bottled water throughout the trip
- Ground transportation
- All necessary camping equipment
- All entrance fees for museums
Not Included in Bhutan Land Cost:
- Travel insurance (essential)
- Laundry, phone calls and alcoholic drinks
- Personal expenses
- Charges incurred as a result of circumstances beyond the control of Langur Eco Travels
- International flights
Note Regarding Single Supplements:
Single occupancy US $25 per night.
Trip Grade: Gentle to Moderate Hikes:
You should prepare for certain factors of travel in Bhutan. A few of the most important are: elevation, windy mountain roads. Average elevation on this trip is 2,400m. Pass crossings may be up to 4,000m (by vehicle).
We strongly advise that your travel insurance policies include medical assistance and (helicopter) evacuation – we believe that it is ‘better to be safe than sorry!’ Should you decline to do so, we must state that we will in no way, accept responsibility for expenses incurred, should you require medical attention/evacuation whilst on holiday with us.
It is our policy to use the best available accommodation in each location. All hotels and lodges we use are government approved and registered with the Tourism Council of Bhutan. We have our own camping crew who will set up camps, prepare hot meals and provide hot showers.
It is advised that you have layers of light clothing, perhaps some thermal underwear, a warm jumper, fleece or jacket for the evenings when the temperature can suddenly drop. Generally speaking, casual clothing is suitable throughout your stay and that the main requirement is that you are comfortable.
Laundry facilities are available at all hotels. Waterproofs and/or umbrellas – just in case! Sunglasses and sun-cream or blocks are essential. Hand wipes (wet wipes/ anti-bacterial) and tissues are useful.
BHUTAN TOUR ATTRACTIONS
Habitats Covered: High altitude up to 3,822m to low at 150m (India). Coniferous, mix broad-leafed and sub-tropical forests including bamboo and banana undergrowth, alpine pastures, wetlands, rocky slopes and rivers beds.
Top Birds: Ibisbill; Himalayan Monal; Blood Pheasant; Collard Grosbeak; White-browed Rosefinch; Fire-tailed Myzornis; Palla’s Fish Eagle; Collard Falconet; White-bellied Heron; Spot-bellied Eagle Owl; Siberian Rubythroat; Pale Blue Flycatcher; White-hooded Babbler; Yellow-vented, Yellow-bellied and Rufous-faced warblers; White-browed Scimitar Babbler; Yellow-rumped Honeyguide; Spotted Wren Babbler; Lesser Rufous-headed Parrotbill; Spotted, Blue-winged,Lesser Necklaced and Bhutan laughingthrushes; Beautiful Nuthatch; Rufous-necked and Great hornbills and White-rumped Myna.
Top Mammals: Himalayan Yellow-throated Marten; Assamese Macaque; Muntjac; Himalayan Striped Squirrel; Hoary-bellied Squirrel; Malayan Giant Squirrel; Golden, Capped and Common Grey langurs; Common Goral, Large-eared Pika; Asian Elephantand Asiatic Water Buffalo.
Other attractions: Amazing butterflies; strong Buddhist culture, temples and fortresses, spectacular mountain scenery and magnificent pristine forests.
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Flights are not included in the tour cost. You can choose one of the options below for your Bhutan connection.
Option 1. Delhi – Paro and Guwahati – Delhi = US$ 585
Option 2. Calcutta – Paro and Guwahati – Calcutta = US$ 475