Duration : 20 nights / 21 days
Season : April – May
Group Size : 10 Pax + 1 Local birding guide
Numbers of species likely see on this tour : 300-350
Accommodation : From basic lodge to comfortable hotel. Luxury camping.
Climate : Wide varieties of weather are to be expected, from hot and
sunny to cold at the high elevations. Occasionally, rain is to
be expected in some places.
Birds: Himalayan Monal, Satyr Trogopan, Ibisbill, Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, Ward’s Trogon, Beautiful Nuthatch, Rufous-necked Hornbill, White-bellied Heron, varieties of Wren un Babblers, and Dark-rumped Swift.
Golden Langur, Common Langur, Capped Langur, Goral, Himalayan Black Bear, and Flying Squirrel.
Bhutanese culture; visits to some ancient dzongs (fortresses) and monasteries; excellent
views of snow-capped mountains and landscapes.
Arrive at Paro International Airport, where you will be received and welcomed by an Bhutan Aries Tour & Treks representative. Transfer to your hotel to relax and settle in after your journey. In the afternoon, visit the Paro Rimpong Dzong (fortress), and in the evening, partake in some birding along the Paro river, searching for one of the biggest target birds (Ibisbill). We may also see other birds, such as the River Lapwing, the Black-tailed Crake, and the White-collared Blackbird.
Very early in the morning, drive to the cool Alpine meadow at the Chelila pass (3890m). This is the highest pass on the motorable road. Here, we should be rewarded with sightings of three different species of Pheasants — colorful Himalayan Monals, flocks of Blood Pheasants, and Kalij Pheasants. Besides these, we will also see other birds, such as Rose Finches, Grosbeaks, and Laughing Thrushes. Drive back to Paro for lunch. After lunch, hike to the Tiger’s Nest (Takshang), probably the most famous 17thcentury monastery in Bhutan. In the evening, drive to Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan. The drive will take about an hour and a half.
In the morning, drive towards the north of Thimphu for about 45 minutes, and then hike to the Cheri monastery. During the hike, we may see the following birds: Spotted Laughing Thrushes, Chestnut–crowned Laughing Thrushes, White-throated Laughing Thrushes, Rufous-bellied Woodpeckers, Brown Dippers, and White-collared Blackbirds. We should also see the Goral (mountain goat) around the monastery. Drive back to Thimphu for lunch. Afterwards, do some sightseeing in Thimphu, visiting the Textile Museum, the post office, and the Trashichho dzong.
Day 4: Thimphu – Shaten (Punakha) (5hrs)
In the early morning, drive to Punakha over the Dorchula pass (3150m). Our day starts from this pass with the breathtaking views of the eastern Himalayan range. The mixed forest of hemlock, fir, oak, and rhododendron here is good habitat for many bird species, including: Satyr Tragopans (the bird that draws many birders to the Himalayas), Firetailed Myzornis, Rufous-gorgeted Flycatchers, Rufous-breasted Bush Robins, Blackeared Shrike Babblers, and Yellow-billed Blue Magpies. Later, we descend to the Punakha valley, stopping at Lobesa for lunch. In the afternoon, before heading to our campsite at Shaten inside the Jigme Dorji National Park, we will visit the impressive Punakha dzong, which is said to be one of the most beautiful dzongs in all of Bhutan.
For the next two days, we spend the full day birding inside the Jigme Dorji National Park and along the Pho chu. Here, we have the potential to see: Red–headed Trogons, Cute Slaty-bellied and Chestnut-headed Tesias, Small Niltavas, Black-chinned Yuhinas, a trio of Forktails, several Wren Babblers, Woodpeckers, Laughing Thrushes, and with luck, Pallas’s Fish Eagles and White-bellied Herons, birds with a population of less than 200 worldwide.
Early in the morning, we will start driving to the Phobjikha valley (4 hours), and there will
be many birding stops along the way. We will be looking for Ward’s Trogons, Yellowrumped Honeyguides, and other flocks. Before reaching the Pelela pass, we’ll take the side road to the Phobjikha Valley. Crossing the Gangteyla pass, the vegetation changes into dwarf bamboo, which is good for Laughing Thrushes and Bush Warblers. Visit Gangtey Gompa, the monastery dating back to 1613. In the evening, visit the Blacknecked Crane Information Center to watch the cranes and get more information on these beautiful and endangered creatures.
After an early breakfast, we drive to the Pelela pass (4000m). Spend the morning hours birding along the old road at Pelela for the high-altitude species such as Spotted Laughing Thrushes, Himalayan Griffons, Brown Parrotbills, Finches, and Bush Warblers. Continue the drive towards Trongsa. In the afternoon, visit the impressive Trongsa dzong, which is the ancestral home of the Royal family of Bhutan. The first king, before becoming the King of Bhutan, was the Governor (Penelop) of this dzong. Even now, it is tradition that any future King of Bhutan must first serve as Governor of Trongsa before the coronation (a form of governance training).
Today on our drive to Shemgang, we will make a number of stops at several forested valleys along the way, where we may see the following birds: Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babblers, White-browed Scimitar Babblers, Steak-breasted Scimitar Babblers, Greybellied Tesias, Crested Buntings, Long-tailed Shrikes, Prinias, Rufous Woodpeckers, Common Green Magpies, Rufous-bellied Eagles, Mountain Hawk Eagles, Common Kestrels, and Minivets. There is also a good chance of sighting the Golden Langur, a leaf monkey endemic to Bhutan.
For the next two days, we’ll be exploring a wide variety of habitats on the ShemgangTingtibe road. The habitats range from the moss forest to the streamside lowland forest. This is also our best chance to see Bhutan’s endemic Golden Langur leaf monkey, as it is fairly common here. Here, we’ll be searching for Rufous-necked and Great Hornbills, Pin-tailed Green Pigeons, Cutias, Scarlet Minivets, varieties of Cool Laughing Thrushes, Woodpeckers, Chestnut-headed and Grey-bellied Tesias, Spotted Wren Babblers, and the very rare and sought after Beautiful Nuthatches.
After a final round of morning birding, we work our way back to Trongsa, looking for any species we might have missed before. In the evening, take some time to explore the town of Trongsa at your leisure.
This day, we will make an early start to the Yongtola pass (3500m), which is about an
hour and a half drive from your hotel. Here, we should see the Hill Partridge, Chestnuttailed Minla, Brown Parrotbill, Chestnut-crown Laughing Thrush, Black-faced Laughing Thrush, Darjeeling Woodpecker, and Gold-naped Finch. In the afternoon, visit Kurjey Monastery, the temple built over the cave where Guru Rimpoche left his body print in the 8th century. Also see Jambay Lhakhang, one of the two oldest monasteries in Bhutan, which dates back to the 7th century.
In the morning, we drive from Bumthang to Sengor, going over the Thrumshingla pass (3800m). Thrumshingla is the prime habitat for Blood Pheasants, and it also holds other high-altitude species, such as Snow Pigeons, Orange-flanked Bush Robins, Spotted Nutcrackers, Red-billed Choughs, Fire-tailed Sunbirds, Greats Parrotbills, Stripethroated Yuhinas, Grey-crested and Coals Tits, and White-browed Fulvatas. Later in the evening, we will be birding around Sengor looking for Satyr Tragopans. Sengor is known as a hotspot for Satyr Tragopans.
Today, we will hit Bhutan’s wet subtropical forest, which is one of the finest birding areas in the Himalayas. For the next day, we will be birding in the lush forested valley, searching for Short Wings, Bar-winged Wren Babblers, Black-headed Shrike Babblers, Ward’s Trogons, Slender-billed Scimitar Babblers, Yellow-rumped Honeyguides, Barbets, Golden Bush Robins, and Chestnut-breasted Partridges.
We spend two full days birding near the upper and lower Limithang road. This Yongkala-Limithang road is graded as one of the best birding sites in the world. In this
area, we may see following birds: Wedge-billed Wren Babblers, Rufous-throated Wren Babblers, Spotted Wren Babblers, Rufous-necked Hornbills, Coral-billed Scimitar Babblers, Slender-billed Scimitar Babblers, flocks of Parrotbills, Golden-breasted Fulvettas, Scarlet Finches, and many more.
After a final round of morning birding in this wonderful habitat, we head toward the town of Trashigang, one of the largest towns in eastern Bhutan. We will stop at the Korila pass, where the forest is rich in mosses and lichens. Birds we may likely see here include Steak-breasted Scimitar Babblers, Grey-winged Blackbirds, Hoary-throated Barwings, Long-tailed Minivets, and Bhutan Laughing Thrushes.
After an early breakfast in the hotel, we head toward Morong, our campsite. On the drive, there are possibilities of seeing the Hill Prinia, Barred Cuckoo-Dove, the delightful Red-billed Leiothrix, small flocks of Striated Yuhinas, Streaked Spiderhunter, Rustyfronted Barwing, Orange-bellied Leafbird, Common Green Magpie, and Red-faced Liocichla. We will also have our last chance to spy the Beautiful Nuthatch, one of the main target birds of Bhutan.
After an early breakfast at the camp, we’ll be heading to one of the lowest elevations of this birding tour. Here, we will be targeting varieties of low-elevation species that we have not yet encountered on the trip, including Pies Falconets, Dark-rumped Swifts, Pintailed Green Pigeons, Sultan Tits, Black-backed Forktails, Red-headed Trogons, Black Eagles, House Sparrows, a few species of Cuckoos, Jungle Babblers, Grey-sided Laughing Thrushes, and many more.
Today, our journey will take you through the Indian plain of Assam. The wildlife of the plains is totally different from that of the Himalayas. The species we may see on the drive include Little Cormorants, Indian Pond Herons, Egrets, Black Ibises, and Black Drongos. We will also keep our eyes open for very rare species, such as lesser and Greater Adjutants. Eventually, you will be transferred to the Guwahati airport for departure. Our staff will bid you farewell and safe journeys until we meet again.