Bhutan Birding Explorer - 16 Days

4-Link Image of Birding

Explore the amazing wilderness of Bhutan on this bird watching adventure from Paro (western region) to the birding hotspots of Yongkala (eastern region) and Tingtibi (central region). Bhutan is home to more than 670 species of birds, of which around 50 species are the winter migrants such as ducks, waders, birds of prey, thrushes, finches and buntings. Other species are the partial migrants including cuckoos, swifts, bee-eaters, warblers and flycatchers. Not only this, it also harbours more than 16 species of vulnerable birds: the Pallas’s Fish Eagle, White-bellied Heron, Satyr Tragopan, Grey-bellied Tragopan, Ward’s Trogon, Blyth’s King Fisher, Rumped Honey Guide, Purple Cochoa, Rufous Throated Wren Babbler, Red-headed Parrot Bill, Chestnut-breasted Partridge, Blyth’s Trogon, Wood Snipe, Dark Rumped Swift, Rufous-necked Hornbill, Grey-crowned Prinia and the Beautiful Nuthatch. The country is also home to species of birds that are in danger of extinction such as the Imperial Heron and the rare Black-necked Crane.

Day 1: Arrive Paro
Day 2: Hike to Tiger’s Nest Monastery
Day 3: Birding in Chelela Pass
Day 4: Thimphu – Punakha
Day 5: Birding in Punakha
Day 6: Punakha – Phobjikha
Day 7: Phobjikha – Bumthang
Day 8: Moving to Sengor
Day 9-10: The Hotspot of Birding (Yonkola)
Day 11: Back to Trongsa
Day 12: Trongsa – Tingtibi
Day 13: Birding in Tingtibi and Gomphu
Day 14: Tingtibi – Trongsa
Day 15: Trongsa – Paro
Day 16: Depart Paro

Day 1
Paro

Flying into Bhutan offers the most spectacular views of the Himalayan ranges, including Mt. Everest (8,848m/29,028ft), Mt. Kanchenjunga (8,586m/28,169ft) and Mt. Gangkar Puensum (7,564m/24,836ft). On arrival we meet you at Paro International Airport after clearing your immigration and customs formalities. Afterwards, we begin birding along the banks of the Parochhu (Pachhu) River and look out for the Himalayan riverine species such as Ibisbill, Black-tailed Crake, Brown Dipper, River Lapwing, Plumbeous Water-Redstart, White-capped Water-Redstart, White Wagtail, Blue Whistling-Thrush, Oriental Turtle-Dove, Russet Sparrow, Eurasian Hoopoe, Green Sandpiper and the winter visitor like Black-throated Thrush, etc. Tonight enjoy a welcome drink and dinner with BGT. Overnight in Paro.

Day 2
Hike to Tiger’s Nest Monastery

Bhutan’s famous Paro Taktshang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest) is an unforgettable sight. No visit to Bhutan would be complete without a trip to Paro Taktshang (3,120m). It is stunning in its beauty and location. Today is a real highlight as you take a short hike to the Taktshang Monastery, clinging on a rock cliff at 900m above the Paro Valley floor. The monastery is one of the most revered pilgrimage places in Bhutan because Guru Rinpoche (one the founding fathers of Tibetan Buddhism) is believed to have flown to the site on the back of a flying tigress in the 8th century. An 11-km (round-trip) hike starts from the base of the mountain from the road point (Ramthangkha), which is 2-km drive from Paro town. Enjoy your rewarding hike about 4 hours (round-trip) with extra one hour to tour the monastery at a leisurely pace. There is a small teahouse halfway through from where a view of the spectacular monastery to enjoy! Gentle horse/pony rides are permitted till the viewpoint. Afterwards, there will be time to visit the Kyichu Lhakhang en route, one of the oldest and 108 temples built by Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century (so full of history and mythology). Overnight in Paro.

Day 3
Birding in Chelela Pass

An early start and we set out for a scenic drive 36-km uphill to Chelela Pass (3,988m), the highest motorable pass in Bhutan. Soak up the most spectacular views of Mt. Jomolhari (7,314m) and Jichu Drake (6,989m). Chelela area is a habitat for three different species of Pheasants: the spectacular Himalayan Monal, coveys of attractive Blood Pheasant and Kalij Pheasant including Satyr Tragopan. Other species found include Spotted Laughingthrush, Black-faced Laughingthrush, Blue-fronted Redstart, White-collared Blackbird, White-browed Rosefinches, White-winged Grosbeak to name a few. In the evening, we travel Thimphu for an hour, the capital of Bhutan. Stop off at the 13th century Tachog Lhakhang (temple) en route, built by Saint Dupthop Thangtong Gyalpo (the iron bridge builder). Continue travelling via Chhuzom (24-km) where the Pachhu and Wangchhu Rivers join. Chhuzom (confluence) is a major road junction connecting Thimphu (30-km) to the northeast, Haa (82-km) to the southwest and Phuentsholing (141-km) to the south. Thimphu is a small city, home to approximately 138,736 inhabitants. Bhutan’s capital is not a concrete jungle that you see in other parts of the world. Thimphu is set in a lovely rural valley with beautiful natural scenery on all sides and buildings built in the traditional Bhutanese style. No traffic lights in Bhutan yet! Marvel at the police directing traffic with an intricate ballet of hand signals at the main intersections. Overnight in Thimphu.

Day 4
Thimphu – Punakha

After breakfast, we travel (71-km) about 3 hours to Punakha, once the winter capital of Bhutan until 1955. It is situated in western Bhutan with a warm and temperate climate, bordered by Gasa to the north, Thimphu to the west and Wangdue Phodrang to the east and south, and also a popular tourist destination. Stop off at Druk Wangyal Chortens (108 Stupas) before crossing over Dochula Pass (3,050m). On a clear day, you can enjoy panoramic views of the snow-capped Himalayan peaks, including Bhutan’s highest mountain (Mt. Gangkar Puensum at 7,564m). From here, explore into Bhutan’s mixed forests of hemlock, fir, oak and rhododendron, where the diversity of birds and flowering plants are in abundance. Today’s birding include Fire-tailed Myzornis, Hoary-throated Barwing, Yellow-billed Blue Magpies, a flock of Gould’s, Green-tailed Sunbird, Golden-breasted Fulvettas, White-browned Fulvettas, Rufous-winged Fulvettas, Spotted Nutcracker, Darjeeling Woodpecker, Dark-breasted Rosefinch, Red-headed Bullfinch, Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher. ). Continue our scenic journey (52-km) to Punakha and Wangdue Phodrang Valley. Arriving in Punakha (1,350m), visit the Punakha Dzong, which is strategically located at the confluence of the Phochhu (male) and Mochhu (female) Rivers. Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (founder of Bhutan) built the dzong in 1637. Jacaranda trees beautifully cover the dzong with the purple bloom of flowers in the spring. Overnight in Punakha.

Day 5
Birding in Punakha

We’ll explore along the Phochhu River in search of the world’s very rare and endangered bird, White-bellied Heron. Other species sighted in the area are the Ibisbill, Slender-billed Oriole, Crested Kingfisher and possibly Pallas’s Fish Eagle. Then travel up the Mochhu valley as far as Gasa stretch, where we should find Great Cormorant, Slaty-backed Forktail, Spotted Forktail, Black-backed Forktail, Maroon Oriole, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, Darjeeling Woodpecker, Bay Woodpecker, Great Barbets, Golden-throated Barbets, Barred Cuckoo Dove, Himalayan Cuckoo, Slaty-bellied Tesia, Black-throated Yuhina, Striped-throated Yuhina, Whiskered Yuhina, Straited Yuhina, Green-crowned Warbler, Grey-hooded Warbler, Chestnut-headed Tesia, Slaty-bellied Tesia, Grey-bellied Tesia, Small Niltava, Large Niltava, White-gorgeted Flycatcher, Grey-headed Flycatchers, Nepal Fulvetta, Rufous-chinned Laughingthrush, White-throated Laughingthrush, Greater Yellownape, Lesser Yellownape, Striated Bulbul, Mountain Bulbul, Spotted Wren-Babbler, Black-eared Shrike-babbler, Spotted Wren-Babbler, Pygmy Wren-Babbler, Rufous-capped Babbler, Scarlet Finch, Orange-bellied Leafbird, Blyth’s Leaf, Black-throated Sunbird, Green-tailed Sunbird, Short-billed Minivet, Scarlet Minivet, Long-tailed Minivet, Grey-chinned Minivet, Brown-throated Treecreeper, Black-throated Tit, Ori¬ental Turtle Dove, Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch, White-tailed Nuthatch and Gray Treepie. You have another chance to spot the splendid Ibisbill along the river on the outskirts of town. Overnight in Punakha.

Day 6
Punakha – Phobjikha

This morning, our journey covers (78-km) over 2 hours of driving into the countryside of Phobjikha (2,900m), and takes us past the Wangdue Phodrang Dzong overlooking the convergence of the Dangchhu and Punatsangchhu Rivers. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (founder of Bhutan) constructed the dzong in 1638, resembling that of a sleeping elephant. The fortress was gutted by fire in 2012 and is under reconstruction. Phobjikha Valley is a must visit for nature enthusiasts and is also well-known for the winter home to the rare Black-Necked Cranes that migrate from the Tibetan plateau from late October to mid-March. Take the opportunity to visit the 17th century picturesque Gangtey Gonpa (monastery) on the hillock with amazing views of the valley. The monastery is the only Nyingmapa School of Buddhism taught here in western Bhutan. Today we could see Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, Blue-capped Rock Thrushes, Fire-tailed Sunbird, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, Bearded Vulture, Oriental Magpie Robin, Great Parrotbill, Red-headed Bullfinch, Scarlet Finch, White-tailed Nuthatch, Rufous-breasted Accentor, etc. Overnight in Phobjikha.

Day 7
Phobjikha – Bumthang

Today you’ll at first travel to Trongsa (120-km) about 3 hours via Chelela Pass (3,390m). It is not uncommon to encounter grazing yaks by the roadside along the East–West highway. Before reaching Trongsa, explore the bamboo-clad slopes of Pelela high altitude species such as Alpine Accentor, White-browed Rosefinch, Great Parrotbill, Brown Parrotbill, Black-faced Laughingthrush, Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush and Speckled Woodpigeon. On the way take a stroll along the Chendebji Chorten below the road. A nice stop to stretch your legs and walk around the stupa! This 18th century monument resembles the Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu, Nepal with eyes painted at the four cardinal points. Enjoy a scenic journey, changing landscapes from the awe-inspiring mountains to lush vegetation. From the viewpoint (Thumangdra) opposite to the Trongsa Dzong, you can take photos of the beautiful landscapes and dzong. Lunchtime is at Trongsa, the ancestral home to the present Royal Family of Bhutan (where the Institutional Monarchy of Bhutan was born). Continue your journey to Bumthang (68-km) about 2.5 hours via Yotongla Pass (3,425m). You have an option to explore the Yathra Weaving Centre in Chumig village en route, where the Bumthap women weave yak and sheep wools into the beautifully patterned fabric called “Yathra” including woollen mattresses (Drumzeedhen). Evening is at leisure where you’ll have some time to stroll along the streets of a small Jakar (Bumthang) town. Overnight in Bumthang.

Day 8
Moving to Sengor

We set out early for a drive about 104-km to Sengor (3,500m) via Ura (3,100m) and Thumshingla Pass (3,880m), the highest motorable pass on this journey, shrouded in thick hemlock and rhododendron forest. Stop in Ura is a quaint and beautiful village, home to Bhutan’s largest clustered settlement. The East–West highway, through Bumthang to Sengor, is frequented by some high-altitude species and may spot Satyr Tragopan, the beautiful Blood Pheasant, Yellow-Billed Blur Magpies, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, Goldcrest, Snow Pigeon, Red-headed Bullfinch, Yellow-bellied Fairy-Fantail, Rufous-winged Fulvetta, Great parrotbill, Black-faced Laughingthrush, Fire-tailed Sunbird and Golden Bush Robin. Sengor is a tiny settlement of shingle roofs and lush fields in the remote outpost in eastern Bhutan before reaching Yonkola. Overnight in Sengor.

Day 9
- 10 The Hotspot of Birding (Yonkola)

An early morning start and we are off to Yonkola (1,855m), the hotspot for birding in eastern Bhutan. Notice the scenery changes as you enter from Sengor to Yonkola, a haven for nature, bird and wildlife enthusiasts. Stop off at Namling (3,000m), Bhutan’s most sought-after birding area where many avid bird watchers spend many days here. We have set aside two days for birding here. A list of includes Satyr Tragopan, Ward’s Trogon, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Slender-billed Scimitar-Babbler, Chestnut Breasted Partridge (heard often but rarely seen), Gould’s Shortwing, Rufous-bellied Eagle, Black-throated Parrotbill, Rufous-necked Hornbill, Rufous-throated Wren-Babbler, Grey-chinned Minivet, Blue-throated Barbet, Golden-throated Barbet, Golden Bush Robin, Rusty-fronted Barwing, Scaly-breasted Wren-Babbler, Pygmy Wren-Babbler, Golden Babbler, Scaly Wren-Babbler, White-browed and Black-eared Shrike-Babblers, Black-headed and Pied shrike-babblers; Asian Barred Owlet, Yellow- throated Fulvetta, Striated Bulbul, the miniscule Chestnut-headed and Grey-bellied Tesias, Yellow-cheeked Tit, Chestnut-crowned and Black-faced Warblers, Sultan Tit, Rusty-fronted Treecreeper, Brown-throated Treecreeper, White-browed Shortwing, Pale and Pygmy blue-flycatchers, Grey-sided and Scaly Laughingthrushes, Gray-sided and Blue-winged laughingthrushes, the near-endemic Bhutan Laughingthrush (split from Streaked), White-naped Yuhina, Black-chinned Yuhina, Red-billed Leiothrix, Black-throated Prinia, Hill Prinia, Grey-chinned Minivet, Short-billed Minivet, Scarlet Minivet, White-tailed Nuthatch, the shy Sapphire Flycatcher, Large and Rufous-bellied Niltavas, White-tailed Robin, Chestnut-tailed Minla, Blue-winged Minla, the exquisite Himalayan Cutia, Pygmy Cupwing, the strange Sikkim Wedge-billed Babbler, Himalayan Cutia, etc. If lucky we will find Black-headed Shrike-Babbler (Bar-winged Wren-Babbler) or the dapper Gold-naped Finch. Overnight in Yonkola.

Day 11
Back to Trongsa

Today is a long but rewarding journey back to Trongsa via Sengor, Ura and Yotongla Pass. Follow the Nangar–Ura bypass (32-km) as it is faster. Historically, Trongsa is one of the important districts of Bhutan. Trongsa was once the headquarters for the central and eastern regions and has been the seat of Trongsa Penlop (Governor). All the Kings of Bhutan first invest as the Trongsa Penlop before ascending to the throne. Discover the massive and majestic architectural masterpiece of the Trongsa Dzong with a distinctive yellow roof. It is the largest fortress in Bhutan, built in 1648, overlooking the gorge of the Mangdichhu River. You’ll also have time to explore the Tower of Trongsa (known as Ta Dzong), an ancient watchtower rising five storeys above Trongsa town. It was built in 1652 and has four observation points resembling Tiger, Lion, Garuda and Dragon. Today the tower houses a state-of-the-art National Museum with insights into the significance of Trongsa Dzong and the Wangchuck dynasty (kings) of Bhutan. Overnight in Trongsa.

Day 12
Trongsa – Tingtibi

We set out early leaving Trongsa behind as we continue to a region with incredibly rich biodiversity in the south central part of Bhutan, the furthest you’ll go on this trip. Our journey covers about 105-km for 4 to 5 hours to a remote Tingtibi town (500–620m) along the Gelephu–Trongsa highway, the furthest you’ll go on this trip. Today we have chances to encounter the rarely sighted Yellow-Rumped Honeyguide. Other birds found in this area are Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Rufous-bellied Eagle, Mountain Hawk-Eagle, with a bit of luck, the rare Beautiful Nuthatch, Rufous-necked Laughingthrush, Lesser-necklaced Laughingthrush, Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush, White-browed Scimitar-Babbler, Blyth’s Shrike Babbler, Pin-tailed Green Pigeons, Red-headed Trogon, the sensational Great Hornbill, Gray-capped woodpecker, Fulvous-breasted woodpeckers, Little Pied Flycatcher, Pygmy-blue flycatcher, Sultan Tit, White-browed Piculet, Speckled Piculet to name a few. One of the highlights for today is the impressive Golden Langur Monkeys, a rare monkey endemic to Bhutan. Overnight in Tingtibi.

Day 13
Birding in Tingtibi and Gomphu

Set off early to begin a full day birding in Tingtibi area for two days. Tingtibi is partly covered by two wildlife corridors namely, the Royal Manas National Park (RMNP) and the Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park. Explore an entire stretch of Zhemgang as far as RMNP. Tingtibi area has some of the best birding in the country and its elevations complement like that of Yonkola-Limithang areas. A wide variety of birds that we hope to see in this low elevation region include Great Hornbill, Rufous-necked Hornbill, the gorgeous Long-tailed Broadbill, Pin-tailed Pigeon, White-crested Laughingthrush, Rufous-necked Laughingthrush, Rufous-chinned Laughingthrush, Straited Laughingthrush, Greater Necklaced laughingthrush, Lesser Necklaced laughingthrush, the magnificent Black Eagle, crested Serpent-Eagle, Gray-capped Woodpecker, Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker, Pale-head¬ed woodpecker, Gray-throated Babbler, Spotted Wren-Babbler, Black-eared Shrike-babbler, White-browed Scimitar Babbler, White-browed Scimitar Babbler, Jungle Babbler, Golden Babbler, Pin-striped Tit Babbler, Puff-throated Babbler, Abbott’s Babbler, Long-billed Wren-Babbler, Eye-browed Wren-Babler, Scaly Wren-Babbler, Pygmy Wren-Babbler, Common Green Magpie, Common Kestrel, Chestnut-winged Cuckoo, Emerald Dove, Bar-tailed Cuckoo-Dove, Whistling Hawk-Cuckoo, Lesser Yellownape, Indian and Violet Cuckoos, Scarlet Minivet, Bronzed Drongo, Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo, Cutia, Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike, the lovely Red-faced Liocichla, Mountain Bulbul, Red-whiskered Bulbul, Black-crested Bulbul, White-throated Bulbul, Ashy Bulbuls, Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker, Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, Rufous Woodpecker, Grey-headed Woodpecker, White-bellied Erpornis, Rufous-faced Warbler, Chestnut-crowned Warbler, Grey-cheeked Warbler, Whistler’s Warbler, Black-faced Warbler, Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, White-tailed Nut¬hatch Striated Prinia, Rufescent Prinia, Lesser Yellownape, Long-tailed Sibia, Streaked Spiderhunter and many more. We should also encounter the beautiful Golden Langur monkey once again and the main target bird for the day will be the rare Beautiful Nuthatch. Overnight in Tingtibi.

Day 14
Tingtibi – Trongsa

This morning our return journey takes us to Trongsa via the same route. Look out for flora and fauna on the way that you might have missed earlier. After a fairly long drive, we reach Trongsa (the ancestral home of the present Royal Family of Bhutan. The evening is at leisure to relax and enjoy, we have allowed some time for this and also to explore the idyllic Trongsa town and its surroundings at 2,200m. Overnight in Trongsa.

Day 15
Trongsa – Paro

We rise early this morning, as it is a long but rewarding day driving (approximately 250-km) over 7 hours back to Paro via Chelela Pass (3,390m) and Nobding, a small town and Wangdue Phodrang, pausing en route at Dochula Pass (3,050m). Today you’ll have the photography opportunities again of the fascinating sites you missed or didn’t get time earlier. Perhaps why not take a chance to meditate awhile in the 11 man-made hidden “Igloos – Caves” with 11 different paintings of gods and goddesses? People seeking inner peace from modern day stress come to Dochula Pass for meditation. Buddhists pursue meditation as a path towards enlightenment and nirvana. Continue to Paro, home to the famous Taktshang Monastery (also known as Tiger’s Nest), National Museum, Drukair and Bhutan Airlines. Overnight in Paro.

Day 16
Depart Paro

Your tour ends this morning after breakfast. We transfer you to Paro International Airport for your onward journey. Our guide and driver from Bhutan Green Travel will see you off. Tashi Delek (Goodbye and Good Luck!)

Peak Season – Land Only (Prices in USD Per Person)

Start Date Sundays1 person 2 people3-10 people11-15 people16-20 people
13 Sep 2020$5850 $4890 $4170 $3610 $3520
04 Oct 2020$5850 $4890 $4170 $3610 $3520
01 Nov 2020$5850 $4890 $4170 $3610 $3520
14 Mar 2021$5850 $4890 $4170 $3610 $3520
21 Mar 2021$5850 $4890 $4170 $3610 $3520
28 Mar 2021$5850 $4890 $4170 $3610 $3520
04 Apr 2021$5850 $4890 $4170 $3610 $3520
11 Apr 2021$5850 $4890 $4170 $3610 $3520
18 Apr 2021$5850 $4890 $4170 $3610 $3520
25 Apr 2021$5850 $4890 $4170 $3610 $3520
02 May 2021$5850 $4890 $4170 $3610 $3520
09 May 2021$5850 $4890 $4170 $3610 $3520
16 May 2021$5850 $4890 $4170 $3610 $3520

Our Pricing Policy

Prices are quoted and payable only in (US dollars). All prices published on our websites, brochures and marketing materials are set as low as possible. The guide prices may vary at any time subject to government actions, changes in exchange rates, increase in transportation costs or fuel prices before we have accepted your booking. However, we guarantee our prices who have already signed up for your tour.

Price includes

  • Pickups and drops from airports and hotels
  • Comfortable transport (private vehicle) throughout your trip
  • Licensed English-speaking guide & driver
  • Best accommodation in 3 star hotels with private bathrooms based on 2 adults sharing a twin/double bed (single supplements apply)
  • Comfortable farmhouse/home stay/heritage house can also be arranged
  • Camping facilities and haulage for trekking tours
  • All meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and bottled water daily
  • All sightseeing & hiking (entrance fees to museums and other attractions)
  • Baggage handling at all hotels and camps
  • All applicable internal taxes and service fees
  • Bhutan visa fees

Price Excludes

  • International and domestic flights
  • Travel insurance
  • Other personal expenses such as alcoholic drinks & beverages, laundry, telephone calls, etc.
  • Discretionary tips for guides and drivers (see FAQs)
  • Upgrade to luxury properties (4 star and 5 star hotels)
  • Single room supplement from $50 per night
  • Optional activities & additional services