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Birdwatching Tour West & Central Bhutan
Bhutan has 70% forest coverage which translates to a literal paradise for birding and infinite avian delights. There are more than six hundred recorded species of birds in Bhutan of which 14 are globally endangered. Bird watching, ethno-botany, photography and other academic pursuits are thriving in Bhutan. A record diversity of flora and fauna make Bhutan a haven for those specialized in these fields. Bhutan Travelers customizes such trips so that those keen can get professional packages dwelling in these fields.
This 14-day birding tour is all-inclusive – the finest birdwatching experience in the west and central Bhutan, exploring stunning architectural gems and the sheer bliss of traveling through villages and pristine forest of Bhutan. The first leg of the birding tour is in Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, and Gangtey, and the last leg covers central Bhutan – Trongsa, Zhemgang, and Bumthang. You will spot a multitude of bird species but some of the special, to name a few, are the Great Hornbill, Satyr Tragopan, the White Bellied Heron, one of the rarest birds in the world, and the black-necked crane. You will also take a one-way domestic flight from Bumthang to Paro, a rewarding flight offering majestic views of Mount Jumolhari and Jichu Drake. End the trip with a hike to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery in Paro.
Before landing at the Paro airport, you have an opportunity to enjoy the stunning view of Mount Jumolhari and Jichu Drake and the Paro valley with the endless terraced fields below. Our representative will be waiting to welcome you. Depending on the flight time we can squeeze in one or two sightseeings today. The first on the list is Rinpung Dzong which translates to the ‘Fortress of heap of Jewels’. The dzong is a majestic fortress built in the 17th century holding treasure artworks—murals, statues, and carvings. Next, visit Kichu Lhakhang, one of the oldest and sacred temples in the country dating back to the 7th century. It has a pleasant aura and elderly pilgrims can be seen chanting and circumambulating the temple. After sightseeing in Paro, travel to Thimphu, the capital city. Check into the hotel on arrival. Overnight at a hotel in Thimphu.
Get up early and enjoy the trip to the outskirts of Thimphu where you will pass through the rich vegetation of fir, pine, rhododendron, and apple trees. First, you will visit the giant bronze Buddha statue at Kuenselphodrong overlooking Thimphu city. Then continue the journey to the northern end of the valley towards Cheri, Dodema, and Begana. These areas provide the best birding spots in Thimphu. The vicinity is filled with the sound of peaceful tweets of many birds like Ibisbills, Sandpipers, Crested-Pie kingfishers, Red-rumped Swallows, Long-Tailed Minivets, Grey Wagtails, Yellow-Billed, Blue Magpies, Spotted Nutcrackers, White-Bellied Yuhina, Red-Billed Choughs, Black-Browed Tits, Upland Pipits, and more. After spending some time here, you will then visit the Memorial chorten, dedicated to world peace and prosperity. This structure holds great religious significance and is the most visible landmark in Thimphu. Lastly, the Tashichhodzong, a beautiful medieval fortress-monastery that houses most of the Government’s office and Kings’ Throne Room. Overnight at a hotel in Thimphu.
After breakfast, drive towards the east to Dochula pass, where on clear weather you can see the breathtaking views of the whole Himalayan mountain range. The pass is also dotted with 108 chorten which is a good spot for photography. Move from the pass and en route, make a stop at Lobesa to hike through rice paddies up to the Chimi Lhakhang Temple. This temple is dedicated to the great Yogi in the 14th century known as Drukpa Kuenley, or the “Divine Madman,” who is believed to bless women who seek fertility. Continue to Punakha, the bird-rich subtropical valley that is renowned for the critically endangered White Bellied Heron. . Some other common sightings are the Red-headed Trogon, Wedge-Tailed Pigeon, Fire-capped Tit, White-Gorgeted Flycatcher, and other rare species such as Yellow-vented Warbler, Magpie Robin, Green Magpie, and Osprey. Overnight at a hotel in Punakha.
Today, after breakfast, you will continue your birding tour. Stop and attentively behold the impressive Punakha Dzong, the most beautiful Dzong in Bhutan. Then head to the forests of the upper Punakha valley converging bird species such as the Bay Woodpeckers, Red-headed Trogons, Wedge-Tailed Pigeons, Fire-Capped Tits, White-Gorgeted Flycatchers, River Lapwings, Rubby Shelducks, and Eurasian Wigeon. Make sure that you keep your eye out for a variety of skulkers like Spotted Elachura and Pygmy Wren-Babbler, and two of Bhutan’s three species of Tesia. Overnight at a hotel in Punakha.
Today, you will depart for Gangtey valley, the home for the black-necked cranes. On reaching the destination, make a stop at the edge of a river channel and scan the forests for Flycatchers and Wedge-
If you travel between October and March, the famed Black-Necked Cranes can be spotted. In the afternoon, you will stop at the Black-Necked Crane Center, and if time permits, bird-watchers can take a stroll around the glacial Phobjikha Valley and enjoy the beautiful tweets of White-Throated Laughing thrushes, Mountain Imperial Pigeons, Slaty-backed Forktails, Rusty-Flanked Tree Creepers, White-Browed Bush Robins, and White-Winged Grosbeaks making their home. Once there, remember not to miss the century-old Gangtey Gompa overlooking the valley. Today you will stay at a farmhouse to experience the traditional Bhutanese lifestyle.
Drive up to Lawa La pass at 3360m and after a moment’s drive on the strip of a rough road, we eventually join the highway. Ascend to Pele La pass at 3420m with amazing views of the distant mountains such as Mt. Jumolhari and Jichu Drake. Drive past evergreen forests which slowly change to broad-leaved forests and you descend through the villages of Rukubji and Sephu. You will pass a few small villages, among them being the Chendebji village and further down through Chendebji Chorten which imitates the architecture of the famous Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu, Nepal. Stop here for a while and then drive to Trongsa. The Trongsa district being surrounded by high mountains and dense jungles provide the perfect habitat for a variety of birds. The beginning of June is the best time to sight rare birds. The Rusty-cheeked Scimitar-Babbler, White-browed Scimitar-Babbler, Grey-bellied Tesia, Crested Bunting, Steak-breasted Scimitar Babblers, Rufous Woodpecker, Long-tailed Shrike, Prinias, Common Green Magpie, Mountain Hawk Eagle, Rufous-bellied Eagle, Minivets and Common Kestrel could be sighted. Visit the Trongsa Dzong located above the Mangde Chhu river. Trongsa Royal Heritage Museum is also worth a visit, an archive of Bhutan’s glorious history. Overnight at a hotel in Trongsa.
Today we will drive to Zhemgang following the Mangde Chhu river. On the drive, we will make several stops in the densely forested valleys to enjoy some birding. In this area, species of birds such as the Rusty-cheeked Scimitar-Babbler, White-browed Scimitar-Babbler, Streak-breasted Scimitar-Babbler, Grey-bellied Tesia, Crested Bunting, Long-tailed Shrike, Prinias, Rufous Woodpecker, Blue–bearded Bee-eater, Spot-winged Starling, Common Green Magpie, Rufous-bellied Eagle, Mountain Hawk Eagle, Common Kestrel, and various minivets can be found. Bird-watchers may even be able to spot some rare species such as the highly endangered White-bellied Heron and the Collared Treepie.
Other species that you may be lucky enough to spot in this nature-rich area are the Nuthatch and Lesser Rufous-headed Parrotbill, Greater Rufous-headed Parrotbill, Lesser-necklaced Laughingthrush, and Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush. We may even spot an endemic mammal species to Bhutan – the Golden Langur, only discovered in the 1950s. Overnight at a tented camp.
Explore birding in Tingtibi today. Driving through subtropical forests to mossy forests and streamside lowland forests provide a great opportunity for birding. One may spot the Beautiful Nuthatch perched on the taller trees. Some other birds we have chances of encountering are the Crested Honey Buzzard, Black Eagle, Emerald Dove, Bar-tailed Cuckoo-Dove, Pin-tailed Green Pigeon, the secretive but noisy Whistling Hawk-Cuckoo (split from Hodgson’s), Indian and Violet Cuckoos, White-throated Needletail, Blue-throated Barbet, White-browed Piculet, Rufous Woodpecker, the gorgeous Long-tailed Broadbill, Orange-bellied Leafbird, Common Green Magpie, Scarlet Minivet, Red-vented, White-throated, and Ashy Bulbuls, Bronzed Drongo, Long-tailed Shrike, Oriental Magpie Robin, Blue Rock Thrush, Striated Prinia, Rufous-faced Warbler, Yellow-bellied Warbler, the superb Rufous-necked and Blue-winged Laughingthrushes, Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush, the lovely Crimson Liocichla (split from Red-faced), White-browed Scimitar Babbler, Grey-throated Babbler, Silver-eared Mesia, Striated Yuhina, Long-tailed Sibia, the impressive Sultan Tit, Streaked Spiderhunter, and Crested Bunting. The dense jungles surrounding the campsite is home for Rufous-necked Hornbill and the endemic Golden Langur. Overnight in a tented camp.
In the morning try to catch sight of the Beautiful Nuthatch and the Sapphire Flycatcher. Bumthang, the cultural heartland of Bhutan has several of Bhutan’s greatest cultural attractions and religious structures. Some monuments we will visit are the Jambay Lhakhang, and the Jakar Dzong — each with striking architecture and long-standing tales. Most importantly, you will go around the agricultural peripheries for birding and might spot some amazing birds such as the Rose Finch, Rufous-breasted Accentor, Little Bunting, Red-Billed Chough, Black-billed Magpie, and countless more. Overnight in a hotel in Bumthang.
Today we will head to Chumey Valley, a short 40 min drive from Bumthang. We will visit the Tharparling monastery. As you climb further into the hill we may be lucky enough to spot the Monal Pheasant and the Satyr Tragopan. Other common sightings are the Spot-winged Grosbeak, Daurian Redstart, Oriental Skylark, Black-billed Magpie, and Olive-Baked Pipit. Overnight at a hotel in Bumthang.
Today we will catch a domestic flight from Bumthang to Paro. This is a spectacular 25 minutes flight offering views of Mount Jumolhari, Masangang, Tsendagang, and other snow-laden Himalayan giants. On arrival in Paro, visit the Chencho Handicraft, also known as the Traditional Weaving house. This store has a collection of local handicrafts such as traditional attire, jewelry, artifacts, and other accessories. There are also weavers in action on-site. Later explore the Paro town on your own. Overnight at a hotel in Paro.
There are several birding spots in Paro where one can spot the Ibisbill in the gravel islands of the rivers. The Black-tailed Crake can also be seen near the fast-flowing rivers of Paro. Some other species are the River Lapwing, Large-billed Crow, Brown Dipper, Blue Whistling Thrush, Oriental Turtle-Dove, Green-backed Tit, Himalayan Wagtail, and the Russet Sparrow. The Green Sandpiper, Rosy Pipit, Rufous-breasted Accentor, and Black-throated Thrush are some birds that may be spotted if you visit in the winter. Overnight at a hotel in Paro.
Today you will hike to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery, Bhutan’s most famous monastery situated at 3180 meters. Guru Rinpoche, the great spiritual master, is said to have flown on the back of a tigress to meditate in a cave where Taktsang Monastery now stands. The monastery is perched on the edge of a steep cliff, about 900 meters above Paro Valley. Lunch will be served in the Cafeteria, located about halfway up on the mountain. Explore the monastery and hike down to the valley floor. Overnight at a hotel in Paro.
Today we will bid you farewell as you catch your flight from Paro to your next destination.
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